"Make Your Bed" by William McRaven

Summary:

Make Your Bed (2017) is written by William H. McRaven, a retired four-star US Navy SEAL admiral. Throughout his 37 years of service, McRaven learned a lot about life and success through his military training and combat experience overseas.

 Admiral William McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired)

Admiral William McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired)

The book is a collection of McRaven’s ten most valuable lessons he learned from BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training). For those unfamiliar with BUD/S, here is an overview:

 

“Before becoming Navy SEALs, candidates are put through some of the most mentally challenging and physically demanding training in the world. Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S, is designed to find and develop men of the strongest character who give everything.“

 

McRaven then talks about how he applied the lessons he learned from BUD/S towards his professional and personal life. The book is based on McRaven’s now viral commencement speech at the University of Texas.
 

Lessons:

1)  Make Your Bed

Making my bed correctly was not going to be an opportunity for praise. It was expected of me. It was my first task of the day, and doing it right was important. It demonstrated my discipline. It showed my attention to detail, and at the end of the day it would be a reminder that I had done something well, something to be proud of, no matter how small the task.
— Page 6

The first lesson in the book is one that soldiers learn very early on in military training–making their beds. If not done to perfection, the soldier can expect to be punished through physical training.

This may seem silly or sadistic, but there is an important lesson behind this simple task. Soldiers are expected to make their beds correctly because it shows attention to detail and discipline. If someone can’t make their bed, how can they be expected to follow or lead others into battle? The small things must be done right before big things can be accomplished.

 

This simple task is also a reminder that something done well, no matter how small, is something to be proud of. Accomplishing a task, even a small one, will fill the person with a sense of pride and encourage them to do another task.

Also, if the soldier has an exceptionally tough day of training or combat, they will remember that whenever they return, there will be a clean bed waiting for them (Author and psychologist Jordan Peterson is also a big fan of people having their beds made and room clean).

make-ur-bed quote.png

 

2) Get Over Being A Sugar Cookie 

In all of SEAL training there was nothing more uncomfortable than being a sugar cookie. There were a lot of things more painful and more exhausting, but being a sugar cookie tested your patience and your determination. Not just because you spent the rest of the day with sand down your neck, under your arms, and between your legs, but because the act of becoming a sugar cookie was completely indiscriminate. There was no rhyme or reason. You became a sugar cookie at the whim of the instructor.
— Page 38

US Navy SEALs are some of the most elite soldiers in the world, but becoming one is filled with challenges such as having to become a sugar cookie. This is done by jumping in the cold Pacific water and then covering oneself completely in sand. The soldier would then stay in that uniform the rest of the day, cold, wet and sandy.

 

Similarly to making one's bed, this task may seem ridiculous at first but it holds a deep life lesson.

 

While training to become a SEAL, McRaven was told to become a sugar cookie. Afterwards, the Lieutenant came over and explained why the instructors make recruits perform this task.

 

The lesson to learn from becoming a sugar cookie is that life isn’t fair and the sooner soldiers learn this, the better off they will be.

Sometimes no matter how well a person prepares or how well they perform, it's possible to end up as a sugar cookie in life. Instead of complaining or being negative, one must accept that life can be unfair, but they must keep moving forward.
 

3) Don’t Back Down From Sharks

But you are also taught that if a shark begins to circle your position–stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid. And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts towards you–then summon up all your strength and punch him in the snout, and he will turn and swim away.
— Page 120

During SEAL training, recruits spend a large portion of their time swimming in the open waters of the Pacific ocean. These waters are known to be a breeding ground for many sharks–including great white sharks. However, to pass SEAL training, soldiers must complete a series of long swims, most during the daytime but some during the night, through this shark-infested area.

 

Instructors advise students that no student has ever been eaten by a shark–at least not recently, but if a shark did begin to circle a student they should stand their ground. The student should not swim away nor act afraid.

 

If the shark darts towards them, they should gather their strength and punch the shark in the snout.

 

The shark in this story is a symbol for the bullies of the world.

Sharks, like bullies, will try to scare their prey and target weak animals. To combat sharks, one must have the courage to stand up to these predators. With courage, people have the ability to defy and defeat any evil.


 

So remember: make your bed every morning, life can be unfair at times but you must keep moving forward, and stand up to bullies to make the world a better place. These simple lessons along with others are the little things that can change your life...and maybe even the world.

 

Conclusion:

There have been a lot of books by Navy SEALs in the past few years, some wrote war memoirs, others wrote about training soldiers, while others wrote about business lessons. But this book is unique because it focuses solely on life lessons and how readers can improve themselves and the world around them.

I bought this book after watching Admiral McRaven’s commencement speech (if you haven’t watched it, here’s the link) because I found his words inspiring.

 

The book expands on McRaven’s speech and provides situations where McRaven learned these life lessons and how he applied this knowledge throughout his career.

At 130 pages, the book is quite short and can be read in under three hours. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for some inspiration or need guidance in life.

Rating: 4/5 stars


 

If you’re interested in reading the book, click here or on the image below!

  • Book: “Make Your Bed” by Admiral William McRaven
  • Pages: 130
  • For: People who need some inspiration or guidance in life, those who seek life advice
  • Lesson: Learn how doing certain little things in your life can help change yourself and the world for the better