Make Your Bed is based on Admiral William H. McRaven’s commencement speech for the graduating class from the University of Texas at Austin (available here).
In it, McRaven shares the ten lessons he learned from Navy SEAL training.
They are simple lessons that deal with overcoming the trials of SEAL training, but the ten lessons are equally important in dealing with the challenges of life—no matter who you are.
- Make Your Bed Summary
- Start your day with a task completed
- You can’t go at it alone
Only the size of your heart matters
Life’s not fair—drive on!
Failure can make you stronger
You must dare greatly
Stand up to the bullies
Rise to the occasion
Give people hope
Never, ever quit!
If you want to change the world … start off by making your bed.
Nothing can replace the strength and comfort of one’s faith, but sometimes the simple act of making your bed can give you the lift you need to start your day and provide you the satisfaction to end it right.
If you want to change the world … find someone to help you paddle.
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.
If you want to change the world … measure a person by the size of their heart.
If you want to change the world … get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward. (If a Navy SEAL fails to follow basic requirements (such as making their bed perfectly), they’re instructed to roll around on the beach until they’re covered head to toe with wet sand—referred to as a “sugar cookie”).
The common people and the great men and women 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 still end up as a sugar cookie. Don’t complain. Don’t blame it on your misfortune. Stand tall, look to the future, and drive on!
If you want to change the world … don’t be afraid of The Circus. (In Navy SEAL training, “The Circus” is another two hours of additional calisthenics, combined with non-stop harassment by SEAL combat veterans who want only the strong to survive the training.)
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.
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.
If you want to change the world … slide down the obstacle head first.
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.
If you want to change the world … don’t back down from the sharks.
In life, to achieve your goals, to complete the night swim, 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 abundance.
If you want to change the world … be your very best in the darkest moments.
Advice from one of McRaven’s chief petty officers: “Tonight, you will have to be your very best. You must rise above your fears, your doubts, and your fatigue. No matter how dark it gets, you must complete the mission. This is what separates you from everyone else.”
At some point, we will all confront a dark moment in life. If not the passing of a loved one, then something else that crushes your spirit and leaves you wondering about your future. In that dark moment, reach deep inside yourself and be your very best.
If you want to change the world … start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
We will all find ourselves neck deep in mud someday. That is the time to sing loudly, to smile broadly, to lift up those around you and give them hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
If you want to change the world … don’t ever, ever ring the bell.
Of all the lessons McRaven learned in SEAL training, this was the most important. Never quit. It doesn’t sound particularly profound, but life constantly puts you in situations where quitting seems so much easier than continuing on. Where the odds are so stacked against you that giving up seems the rational thing to do.
Life is full of difficult times. But someone out there always has it worse than you do. If you fill your days with pity, sorrowful for the way you have been treated, bemoaning your lot in life, blaming your circumstances on someone or something else, then life will be long and hard. If, on the other hand, you refuse to give up on your dreams, stand tall and strong against the odds—then life will be what you make of it—and you can make it great. Never, ever, ring the bell!
If you like Make Your Bed, you may also enjoy the following books:
The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday
Buy The Book: Make Your Bed
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