Little Things That Can Change Your Life… And Maybe the World
You want to change the world.
Start off by making your bed.
Don’t believe us?
Then, let us rephrase that in the words of a decorated United States Navy admiral:
Who Should Read “Make Your Bed”? And Why?
In “Make Your Bed” Admiral William H. McRaven shares the 10 most valuable life lessons he learned by being a part of the US military.
As he says himself, they are universally comprehensible and applicable, so it doesn’t matter who you are or whether you like the military or not.
“Change in the world can happen anywhere,” emphasizes McRaven, “and anyone can do it.”
About William H. McRaven
William H. McRaven is a retired US Navy admiral.
He last served as the commander of the United States Special Operations Command (2011 – 2014), a position he got after serving for three years as the Commander of Joint Special Operations Command (2008 – 2011).
Back in 1995, “Spec Ops,” the first of the two books he has so far authored was published.
In 2012, he was played by Christopher Stanley in the Academy Award-winning movie chronicling the manhunt for Osama bin Laden, “Zero Dark Thirty,” and a year later he appeared as himself in the documentary “Dirty Wars.”
“Make Your Bed PDF Summary”
William H. McRaven is 1977 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and a decorated United States Navy admiral.
How are these things related between themselves, or, for that matter, to this book?
Well, McRaven retired from the Navy – after more than 37 years of service – on August 28, 2014.
About three months before that, as still the Commander of United States Special Operations Command, he addressed the Class of 2014 at the University of Texas at Austin.
The commencement speech went viral and has been viewed, in different versions, more than 10 million times.
We link it below.
But, before you watch it, we feel obliged to add a “spoiler alert” tag: it’s basically this book in 20 minutes minus some of the anecdotes and stories:
As you might have already heard (in case you decided to watch McRaven’s speech before going on to read this summary), Admiral McRaven was inspired to share the 10 most valuable lessons he learned as part of the US military by the slogan of his alma mater: “what starts here changes the world.”
The question is – he adds after pointing this out – what the world will look like after it is changed.
So as to make sure that it looks better (of which he has no doubt to start with), he makes ten (once again: universally applicable) suggestions, which, chiseled and polished up a bit, make up the titles of the ten chapters of his book.
So here they are, “the 10 lessons [McRaven] learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.”
Key Lessons from “Make Your Bed”
1. Start Your Day with a Task Completed
2. You Can’t Go It Alone
3. Only the Size of Your Heart Matters
4. Life’s Not Fair – Drive On!
5. Failure Can Make You Stronger
6. You Must Dare Greatly
7. Stand Up to the Bullies
8. Rise to the Occasion
9. Give People Hope
10. Never, Ever Quit
#1. Start Your Day with a Task Completed
One of the first things you’ll learn if you want to take part of the basic training for being a member of the US Seal team is – the proper way to make your bed.
And that is lesson #1: always start your day by making your bed.
How will that change the world, you ask?
Well, it’s actually not the making of the bed that matters; it’s the discipline you put into it and, more importantly, the fact that, by making your bed, you are starting your day on a high note: already with a task completed.
The bonus: no matter how bad the rest of the day is, you’ll always come home to a made bed.
#2. You Can’t Go It Alone
Even a superhero has a sidekick – and you need plenty of them. To use McRaven’s example: if you want to steer a boat faster, you’ll need to find people to paddle with you.
And if you suffer a near-fatal parachute incident, you’ll need a partner to carry you through the pain and the depression (yes, that actually happened to McRaven):
None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments… It takes a good team of people to get you to your destination in life. You cannot paddle the boat alone. Find someone to share your life with. Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.
#3. Only the Size of Your Heart Matters
“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man,” wrote a fairly obscure poet sometime in the early 20th century; “but sooner or later the man who wins/ is the one who thinks he can!”
McRaven has, basically, the same advice: the best team during his Navy training was actually the one who was most often the butt of the jokes on account of the size of its members’ flippers.
But, it’s not the size of the paddles that counts; it’s the size of the heart. The passion and the perseverance.
So, please, don’t judge a book by its cover. Judge it by its content.
#4. Life’s Not Fair – Drive On!
“The universe,” writes Neil deGrasse Tyson, “is under no obligation to make sense to you.”
In other words, there’s a big chance that life is not going to treat you fair.
But blaming your lot on some outside force is both easy and wrong. What’s right is learning how to accept and rise above the unfairness.
“The common people and the great men and women,” concludes McRaven, “are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness.”
#5. Failure Can Make You Stronger
During his SEAL Navy training, McRaven was part of a swimming team which always finished last.
The Circus, i.e., an endurance test which has made many cadets give up.
However, in the case of McRaven, the failure to win the swimming races only made him stronger: for the graduation test, he was part of the winning team.
So, keep calm – and fail forward.
#6. You Must Dare Greatly
Don’t be afraid to take risks:
Life is a struggle and the potential for failure is ever present, but those who live in fear of failure, or hardship, or embarrassment, will never achieve their potential. Without pushing your limits, without occasionally sliding down the rope headfirst, without daring greatly, you will never know what is truly possible in your life.
#7. Stand Up to the Bullies
As part of their training, McRaven and his teammate were once commanded to swim four miles through potentially shark-infested waters. Refusing the task meant not completing the SEAL training.
So, as afraid as they were, they didn’t.
You’ll encounter many sharks – whether bullies or personal fears – on your path to greatness.
Stand up to them.
#8. Rise to the Occasion
Sometimes it’s inevitable that you’ll lose a loved one.
Unfortunately, no amount of shouting and screaming, no amount of sulking or depression, will ever change that.
Being a soldier, McRaven has learned this the hard way.
What you’re left with is to rise to the challenge and endure.
#9. Give People Hope
Sometimes, all it takes is just a little pat on the shoulder.
Or a song.
For example, during McRaven’s Hell Week (the dreaded seven-day endurance test which makes or breaks a SEAL), one of the guys was about to call it quits, when another started singing a song.
Soon, everybody joined in.
And even though it was past midnight and they were all covered in cold mud, somehow, they felt a bit more hopeful.
And they persevered!
#10. Never, Ever Quit
Don’t give up!
If a Navy SEAL who has lost both legs can find some meaning in life, certainly you can too, no matter how bad your day is.
No matter what happens, it’s your job to be unbroken.
Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app, for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.
“Make Your Bed Quotes”Without daring greatly, you will never know what is truly possible in your life. Click To Tweet True leaders must learn from their failures, use the lessons to motivate themselves, and not be afraid to try again or make the next tough decision. Click To Tweet In life, you will face a lot of Circuses. You will pay for your failures. But, if you persevere, if you let those failures teach you and strengthen you, then you will be prepared to handle life’s toughest moments. Click To Tweet I realized that past failures had strengthened me, taught me that no one is immune from mistakes. Click To Tweet Hope is the most powerful force in the universe. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Though certainly not groundbreaking (far from it), “Make Your Bed” is as inspirational as is William McRaven’s brilliant commencement speech.
Meaning: it’s one of those books you just can’t buy only one copy of.
Take our word for it: we’ve given at least six of them as gifts.
And had we known you personally, we probably would have gifted one to you as well.