Make Your Bed

A Lighthearted Look at How a Navy SEAL Can Encourage You—and Perhaps Even Make You Laugh

Consider this: With a diploma in hand and eager to go on the world, you recently graduated from college. However, a veteran Navy SEAL gives you a commencement address instructing you to…make your bed? in place of a high five and a pep talk. Admiral William H. McRaven bases his book Make Your Bed on the type of unexpected turn of events he makes in his now-famous lecture, which you have undoubtedly seen around the internet.

Hold on for a moment. Don’t be put off by the whole making of the bed thing. This isn’t a drill sergeant giving you step-by-step instructions on how to fold your sheets into beautiful origami sculptures. It is a compilation of life lessons that McRaven learned throughout his tenure as a senior military commander and from his rigorous SEAL training.

Consider it a very mellow pep talk from a man who has witnessed some pretty intense things. In order to make things entertaining, McRaven drops the fancy jargon and sticks to the facts, interspersing humorous tales about his SEAL friends (such as the time they attempted to smuggle a rubber raft into a foreign nation—let’s just say things didn’t go as planned).

Check out Admiral McRaven’s speech on YouTube and listen his Make Your Bed audiobook for FREE.

The specifics of what McRaven is revealing are as follows:

  • Little Wins, Huge Effect. Although it might seem obvious, according to McRaven, making your bed sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you succeed at the first little task, you’ll probably continue to succeed at things. It’s a positive cascading effect.
  • Some One Can Help You. McRaven emphasizes collaboration a lot. He makes it clear that even the most skilled SEAL needs their friends to get through difficult missions. The same is true of life in general. Locate your team, those who will support you and challenge you to reach your greatest potential.
  • It’s not a sprint; life is a marathon. It takes time and work to become a CEO or win the lotto, notwithstanding your goals. McRaven speaks on tenacity and rising from setbacks—and believe me, in SEAL training, setbacks happen frequently.
  • Set an example for others. Although it may seem pretentious, this just means don’t be a hypocrite. You must be honest if you want the honesty of your team. You have to offer your all before you can expect others to contribute theirs. As they say, “actions speak louder than words.”
  • Don’t Give Up on Your Ambitions. It’s really simple this one. Follow through on your ambitions, no matter how absurd they may sound. McRaven talks about meeting people who accomplished extraordinary things in spite of overwhelming difficulties. You can achieve it if they can.
  • Discovering Your Mission. McRaven frequently discusses the need of having a motivating factor that is greater than oneself for getting out of bed in the morning. Not everything has to include rescuing the planet (though, hey, more power to you if that’s your thing). Perhaps it’s helping people, improving your town, or just doing something creative. The secret is to identify the source of your fire and follow it.

Now, this goal thing might be challenging. It may not strike you like a lightning strike. McRaven advises experimenting and looking into new avenues. Offer assistance, enroll in an arbitrary class, and start discussions with intriguing individuals. You never know where that spark may appear.

  • Accept the Suck. This is a SEAL expression that simply means that times will be difficult. Unexpected obstacles and curveballs in life put your resolve to the test. Here, McRaven’s message is clear: don’t flee the bad things. Put up a fight, dig in your heels, and confront it head-on. Since, hey, what? There might be a lot of rewards on the other side of bad things.
  • Life is going to get even worse if you are unable to laugh at yourself. Really, McRaven intersperses comedy all throughout the novel. He makes light of himself, his fellow SEALs, and even the odd cranky drill instructor. It serves as a helpful reminder to not take things too seriously. Acknowledge your faults and find the comedy in difficult circumstances. It will keep you sane and perhaps even make those around you giggle a bit.

The Bottom Bunk: Should You Read Before Making Your Bed?

Look, Make Your Bed is not going to be recognized as innovative literature and win the Pulitzer Prize. It’s a quick read with a straightforward message: don’t be a jerk, perseverance pays off, and little victories matter. However, that does not negate its value. Occasionally, a little encouragement to get off your behind and go forward is all you need. For those who need a boost of drive in a world that occasionally seems like lukewarm instant coffee, McRaven’s book serves as that reminder.

Does it merit reading, then? Yes, if you’re looking for a little pick-me-up and some real knowledge from a guy who’s seen a lot, this is the place to go. It’s a useful book to have on your bedside and dip into when you’re feeling a little disoriented or uninspired. Consider this: You would trust a SEAL to guide you through dangerous seas, but you wouldn’t expect them to pen a Shakespearean sonnet. Make Your Bed isn’t fine writing either, but it does provide helpful advice for navigating life’s occasionally rough seas.

Thus, pick up the book (or get the Make Your Bed audiobook and put on your headphone), brew a cup of coffee (or your preferred beverage), and explore McRaven’s universe. You could learn something that surprises you. Hey, at least you’ll be reminded to make your bed if nothing else. It may be a rather fulfilling way to start the day, after all.

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