Make Your Bed Summary

Make Your Bed Summary and Review | Admiral William H. McRaven

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William McRaven’s Perspective

William McRaven is a retired United States Navy four-star admiral who served as the ninth commander of the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) from August 8, 2011 to August 28, 2014. From 2015 to 2018, he was the chancellor of The University of Texas System. McRaven was designated as the first director of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre (NSCC). Here he was charged with enhancing the capabilities and inter-operability of all NATO Special Operations Forces.


Make Your Bed is an outline of all the lessons that William McRaven learned during his distinguished career. The book begins by suggesting you wake up and make your bed. The following advice relates to human nature and how you can overcome adversity. Admiral McRaven’s original speech on this topic went viral with over 10 million views. He then packed all these popular ideas into one book.

StoryShot #1 – Wake Up and Do the Right Thing

 If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. As a SEAL trainee, Billy’s first task of the day was to make his bed for inspection. Making the bed correctly was not an opportunity for praise. It demonstrated his discipline and his attention to detail. It was also a reminder that, no matter what happened that day, he had done something well. He had something to be proud of.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

StoryShot #2 – Teamwork Is Key

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

In SEAL training the value of teamwork is emphasized. The need to rely on someone else may mean life or death during combat. Everywhere McRaven went during SEAL training, he and his fellow classmates were required to carry a 10-foot rubber raft and paddle it in the ocean. On the days that McRaven was exhausted or sick, the other members picked up the slack. When they weren’t feeling a hundred percent, Billy returned the favor.

You need people in your life to help you through difficult times. You cannot paddle the boat alone.

StoryShot #3 – Always Look to the Future

If you want to change the world, make sure you are moving forward. It is easy to blame your struggles in life on some outside force. It is also easy to not try because you believe fate is against you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ordinary people are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, you will fail. Don’t complain if this happens. Stand tall, look to the future, and drive on.

StoryShot #4 – Determination Is More Important Than Talent

If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart. Determination and grit are always more important than talent. Seal training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed.

StoryShot #5 – Don’t Be Afraid of Failures

If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of The Circus. The Circus in SEAL training involves lots of hours of training to become successful and for the performers to maximize their performance. Whenever McRaven or his swim buddy failed in an event, they would both be subjected to The Circus. This was additional training every afternoon at the end of the day. Two hours of calisthenics.

Every time Billy entered The Circus, he’d be even more charged the next day. This caused him to fail another event and go back to The Circus. As the circuses kept coming, their swims got better and easier. They were now stronger, faster, and more confident. In life, you will face a lot of circuses. You will pay for your failures. That said, if you persevere and let those failures teach you and strengthen you, you will be prepared to handle life’s toughest moments.

True leaders learn from failure. Use lessons learned and make the next tough decision.

StoryShot #6 – One Person Can Unite a Group

McRaven provides an example from his time fighting through hell week. Halfway through, some of the trainees were about to quit but they stopped when they heard a voice. A sleepy and raspy trainee was singing while running in the mud. One voice became two, and two became three. Before long everyone was singing. The SEAL trainees had learned an important lesson. The lesson was that one person has the power to unite the group, inspire those around him, and give them hope. 

Hope is the most powerful force in the universe. Sometimes all it takes is one person to make a difference and provide that hope. 

StoryShot #7 – Reach Deep Inside Yourself During Dark Moments

If you want to change the world, be your very best in the darkest moments. McRaven describes a time when he had the objective of swimming 2000 meters underwater to an anchor vehicle. He then had to attach the practice mine on the keel. McRaven was surrounded by darkness. We will all confront a dark moment in life. The passing of a loved one or divorces might crush your spirit and leave you wondering about your future. In that dark moment, reach deep inside yourself and be your very best.

StoryShot #8 – Take Risks and Reap the Benefits

If you want to change the world you have to take risks. McRaven had to pass an obstacle course to get through SEAL training. The first time he did it, he played it safe and inched his way down the rope instead of going head first off the tower. The second choice was much faster, but also much riskier. One week later, McRaven decided to take the risk and set a new personal best. It was a simple lesson in overcoming his anxieties and trusting his ability to get the job done. Life is a struggle and those who are scared to fail will never achieve their potential. Without daring greatly you will never know what is truly possible in your life.

StoryShot #9 – We All Have Great Courage

If you want to change the world you must have courage. Have a goal that is honorable and noble and it will give you courage. Courage is a remarkable quality. With it, nothing and nobody can stand in your way and you can accomplish any goal. If you don’t find the courage to stand your ground, the bullies in the world will strike. In life, to achieve your goals, you will have to be men and women of great courage. That courage is within all of us. Dig deep, and you will find it in great abundance.

StoryShot #10 – Changing the World Requires Persistence

On McRaven’s first day of SEAL training, the instructor took them to a brass bell hanging in the courtyard. He explained that ringing the bell will make all the pain and harassment of the training stop. But, it would mean they had quit. McRaven recommends never ringing that bell. If you persist and leave that bell, you open yourself to the possibility of changing the world.

Final Review and Analysis

Remember, start each day with a completed task. Find someone who would help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life isn’t fair, and you will frequently fail. Take risks. Step up when times are tough. Face down the bullies. Lift up the downtrodden and never ever give up. If you do those things, you can change your life for the better and you can maybe even change the world. 


We rate this book 4.1/5.

Our Score

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