Make Your Bed Book Summary, by William H. McRaven

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1-Page Summary of Make Your Bed

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… and Maybe the World is a self-help book that teaches people how to be successful in life. It’s based on a commencement speech by William H. McRaven, who was once one of the most important leaders in the US Navy. The book is broken down into ten lessons that teach readers about success and getting through difficult times in your life.

McRaven begins his book with an aphorism about making your bed in order to change the world. He believes that spirituality and faith can give people resilience, but simple actions like making your bed are also important because they form a kind of praxis that contributes to human flourishing. McRaven then analogizes life to a body of water we all must traverse, saying we need partners who help us paddle through it. You don’t have to be romantic with them; you just need someone who will help you get where you want to go.

In his third aphorism, McRaven talks about how to treat others. He says that the only way to evaluate someone is by their compassion. In his fourth aphorism, he tells people not to give up when things get rough or hard and that they should be tough enough to persevere through difficult times.

McRaven tells the story of how he and his fellow SEALs would punish their trainees by making them do hours of calisthenics, or what they called “Circuses.” He says that in real life, Circuses happen all the time—you just have to push yourself through them. He also believes that taking risks is an important part of growing up because it helps you learn your limits. Taking risks allows you to find out who you really are.

Next, McRaven reminds us of advice he received from a colleague. That person told him that when doing difficult tasks, it is helpful to overcome psychological doubt and fear. He said that the people who succeed in these kinds of situations are mentally stronger than those who don’t and attributed this difference to mental strength. Even in dark moments like following the death of a family member, thinking about challenges as obstacles can be useful.

The final message of the book is to never give up. McRaven uses the example of a bell that rings when you’re too tired to continue in SEAL training. He says that life is about ignoring that bell and pressing through difficult situations, even if it doesn’t seem worth it at times. So his book isn’t just for military trainees – it’s also a guide on how to live your life well.

Full Summary of Make Your Bed


Admiral William H. McRaven expanded on a commencement speech he gave in 2014 at the University of Texas, and his book is about how to overcome life’s challenges by building upon small accomplishments, forming strong human networks, avoiding superficial judgments, recognizing that life is fundamentally unfair, learning from failure, taking risks, standing your ground when challenged, rising to challenges and holding onto hope.

The author gives examples of his experiences as a Navy SEAL to illustrate 10 important lessons he learned from the training. He also shares some stories about how he overcame obstacles, completed near-impossible tasks, persevered through great hardship and pushed himself beyond his limits by applying those lessons. For example, in one chapter, he talks about how he had to go through 6 months of grueling training where they went from being beginners (tadpoles) to officers (frogmen). In another chapter, McRaven recalls an incident when he was injured during a parachute jump that left him bedridden for 2 months. Another time when he was fired from his squadron in 1983 and yet another time when Saddam Hussein spoke with him after the Iraqi leader was captured.

Key Takeaways

Making your bed every morning is a way to start the day on a positive note and move forward toward bigger accomplishments. Quitting isn’t an option, because you’ll face hardships in life that will require perseverance. Everyone faces challenges and obstacles, so it’s up to you to overcome them with hard work.

People should be team players and support each other. People need to overcome their fears so they can help others and work together when needed.

Life is unfair. That’s the way it is, and there’s no use complaining about it. However, life can be made easier by challenging yourself (like Navy SEAL training).

Key Takeaway 1: Making one’s bed in the morning is the first step on the path toward bigger, more important accomplishments.

McRaven writes about how making one’s bed in the morning is a simple task that can be done every day, and it will help you accomplish other things throughout the day. He emphasizes this point by referring to it in his title and mentioning it first out of 10 lessons. Although he does not cite scientific research, studies suggest that there are psychological benefits to starting your day with an easily attainable goal like making your bed.

Charles Duhigg (2012) describes the power of making a bed every day. It has a beneficial effect on other aspects of one’s life, such as budgeting and being more productive. People who make their beds each morning are more likely to be successful than those who don’t. Making a bed is an example of what he calls “keystone habits,” which have a positive influence on other areas of people’s lives. Exercise is another keystone habit that helps people eat better and smoke less frequently.

Keystone habits are just small wins that can inspire bigger success. For example, making the bed every day is a keystone habit because it’s easy to do and has symbolic value. It inspires people to keep their rooms clean, which will lead them to be more successful overall.

Key Takeaway 2: Quitting is not an option. One must persevere through hardships.

Admiral McRaven frequently mentions the importance of perseverance and not giving up on things in life, which he attributes to Navy SEAL training. He also talks about the research that has been done on willpower over the years.

Until the 1980s, psychologists believed that willpower was an inborn trait. However, research later showed that it could be taught and strengthened. It’s not a limited resource; instead, it can be used up like a reserve of energy.

There are many different ways to overcome difficulties when you’re trying to obtain a goal. One way is to visualize your goals and then use them as motivation. Another way is to view the activity that’s difficult for you as something that you need less willpower for, rather than more. A great example of this would be if someone wanted to go work out every day but didn’t want it to feel like a chore or an obligation, so they made it into a habit instead by going every morning before work without fail.

Key Takeaway 3: Everyone faces challenges and obstacles in life. People are responsible for their own success in overcoming those challenges.

Admiral McRaven emphasizes the importance of taking control of one’s life. He believes that people who do this are more successful than those who don’t, which is a common opinion in social psychology.

A social psychologist found that people who feel a sense of control over their life are more successful. They have fewer willpower withdrawals, and they do not need to be forced into doing things like losing weight or managing finances.

Norman Garmezy, a developmental psychologist, studied locus of control in children and theorized resiliency as the key to happiness. He found that people who have an internal locus of control are more likely to be successful and happy than those with an external one. Maria Konnikova traced this concept from Garmezy’s work to George Bonanno’s studies on how people interpret trauma or setbacks differently depending on their personality types. People who view challenges as opportunities for growth are more resilient and rebound faster after tough experiences than others do.

Key Takeaway 4: Fears must be overcome.

In Navy SEAL training, as in life, success hinges on one’s ability to overcome fears. The Navy created a four-step program to help trainees combat the psychological and physiological effects of fear. This program helps them pass the pool competency test, which is notoriously difficult because they must fight their survival instinct in order to succeed.

The Navy’s mental toughness program helps people deal with the stress and anxiety of a dangerous situation. It involves four steps: goal setting, visualization, positive self-talk, and arousal control. The first step is goal setting because it keeps your brain busy so that you don’t panic in a stressful situation. The second step is visualization because it prepares you for what to do if this happens again. The third step is positive self-talk because it helps keep your mind calm during this time of crisis. And finally, the fourth step is arousal control which focuses on breathing slowly to help slow down heart rate and oxygenate blood flow to the brain.

The four-step mental toughness program helped recruits pass the pool competency test. This shows that it’s effective and can help you succeed in your career.

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Key Takeaway 5: It’s important for people to be team players and to support others so that when called upon, they can help complete difficult tasks and provide support in times of need.

McRaven emphasizes the importance of teamwork in his life. He describes how he couldn’t have gotten through difficult training exercises without the support of his team, and how they supported him when he was injured.

Teamwork is an important part of life, especially in the workplace. A recent article in Harvard Business Review states that professionals spend about 75% of their time communicating with coworkers. Google has found that successful teamwork depends on a team’s dynamics rather than individual traits or work habits. Critical factors for success include valuing one another’s contributions, interpreting one another’s social cues, and fostering interactions that feel authentic and nonthreatening.

Key Takeaway 6: Life is inherently unfair at least some of the time.

McRaven encourages his readers to accept that the world is fundamentally unfair. He illustrates this by describing random punishments and maiming during training exercises, as well as other SEALs who were injured. In addition, natural disasters destroy people’s lives indiscriminately all over the world.

Despite the unfairness of the world, it’s natural to see justice and equity where there is none. In a recent study by The Atlantic, researchers found that job seekers who were altruistic often got jobs because they believed their good deeds helped them get those jobs. On the other hand, children whose lives aren’t as lucky are less popular than others and hiring managers overlook candidates who have been laid off.

According to McRaven, it’s important not to believe that life is fair. This mistake is called magical thinking. It can also occur at the organizational level; for example, employee award programs can backfire if they’re seen as being unfair by employees who previously had good attendance records.

Key Takeaway 7: Navy SEAL training, like life, can be incredibly difficult, but its challenges can be overcome.

McRaven’s personal life is better because of his experiences as a Navy SEAL. The most important lessons he learned in the military are applicable to anyone who wants to be successful, whether they’re building their own business or running a company. He recalls that basic training was very difficult and physically demanding, but it made him stronger and more resilient.

According to Admiral McRaven, the odds of a basic SEAL training candidate completing training are just one in four. To get an idea of how difficult it is, we can look at some statistics about the requirements for being accepted into SEAL training and what happens during basic training itself. Only 6% of applicants will ultimately complete Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL (BUD/S) Training after six months. In addition, recruits must swim 150 miles and run 1,300 miles over sand dunes on beaches while carrying heavy equipment as part of their physical conditioning and endurance building exercises. Hell Week is also particularly grueling because candidates are deprived of sleep for five days straight while being subjected to water torture techniques such as having their heads dunked underwater repeatedly or having ice-cold salt water poured down their throats when they do fall asleep despite all efforts not to do so.

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Book Structure

Make Your Bed is a mix of self-help and memoir, with 10 lessons about life. Nine of these lessons are not small things that can change your life; making a bed may be fairly characterized as such. The second through tenth lessons veer away from concrete suggestions into the broad terrain of platitudes, such as size doesn’t matter and being courageous.

The advice in this book is more compelling than the actual text. It’s also more original, as McRaven expanded on his famous commencement speech by sharing personal stories from his time as a Navy SEAL. The advice will appeal to anyone who has an interest in military culture. McRaven takes readers behind the scenes of fascinating training exercises and elite military operations, weaving SEAL jargon about “frogmen” and “sugar cookies” into his conversational account.

The author’s speech and the book are structured around a literary device called extended metaphor. An extended metaphor is an analogy between two seemingly unlike things. A lot of graduation speeches use extended metaphors to explain life lessons; one famous example is David Foster Wallace’s 2005 address at Kenyon College about fishbowls.

About the Author

William McRaven is a retired Navy SEAL who has 36 years of experience. He writes from a military perspective, sharing stories from his time as an active-duty soldier and how he’s changed the world with his actions. His credibility comes from the fact that he was one of the architects of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in 2011. When McRaven speaks about changing the world, he does so as someone who has done it by killing terrorists and rescuing hostages.

McRaven’s perspective is that of a retired person giving advice to the younger generation. He believes that challenges are inevitable, and one must focus on how to best handle them. McRaven is inspired by those who have endured extraordinary adversity without indulging in self-pity. It’s also worth noting that he graduated from University of Texas at Austin, where he originally delivered his commencement speech.

Make Your Bed Book Summary, by William H. McRaven

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