Make Your Bed is based of a commencement speech by William H. McRaven, a former Navy Seal, where he shares 10 lessons from SEAL training that are universal enough to apply to every person’s life.
Make your Bed – A Commencement speech that went viral
The speech that the book is based on struck a cord with people and the speech went viral and got millions of view. In Make Your Bed he expands on each lesson with stories from life in America’s toughest military training regime.
Life Lessons from a former SEAL
The lessons are simple and commonplace enough, but that doesn’t diminish their value. The accompanying personal stories solidify what the mottos signify.
If you want to change the world:
1. Start off by making your bed
Start off your day with a completed task. Life is chaotic, your day will be filled with things that are beyond your control. Starting your day with completing something simple sets the trajectory for the rest of the day.
2. Find someone to help you paddle.
You can go through life alone. Collaborate with people, make friends, find a partner. Teamwork is required. Don’t forget that your success depend on others.
3. Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.
Determination and grit is more important than talent. SEAL training showed McRaven that its not the size of you wallet, your skin color , body type that matters, but the size of your heart.
4. Get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.
Life is not fair. The sooner you realize this fact the better. In SEAL training the instructors, at random and without justification, ordered you to turn yourself into a sugar cookie: to run into the water and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until you were fully covered in sand. You had become a “sugar cookie.” You stayed that way for the rest of the day—wet, cold and sandy.
5. Don’t be afraid of the circuses.
At Seal training the ones that failed to perform at drills were punished with extra training sessions. A vicious circle designed to make recruits give up. The extra hours of training made the recruits even more exhausted and their chances of succeeding next day’s training was diminished, causing even more extra training. This scheme was called the Circus.
But if the recruits persisted their rounds at the circus something happened. They started to perform better. The extra training paid off, and now they where the ones finishing on top, leaving others behind.
The lesson: Don’t fear failure but embrace it wholeheartedly
6. Sometimes you have to 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.”
To get to the next level you sometimes have to take calculated risks and overcome your fear and anxieties.
7. Don’t back down from the sharks.
As a Seal he had to swim in the ocean at night an he knew there where shark in the water, maybe deep down. Maybe closer than that.
But his mission and purpose was stronger than his fear. Belief in your goals gives you courage. And courage allows you to face sharks.
Bullies are everywhere. You need to be able to push towards your goal even if there are sharks. Don’t let bullies hold you back.
8. You must be your very best in the darkest moment.
Rise to the occasion. In the darkest moments you reach deep within and bring out your best.
9. Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
During Hell Week, the most challenging part of SEAL training—- a week of constant drills, no sleep and never ending harassment from instructor — the easiest way to make the suffering stop is to quit. And you are urged to do so constantly. “Just quit, you can sit here by the fire with us.” “It’s warm here.” “Look, we have food and warm clothes, all you have to do is say the word.”
At the worst part of hell weak, when you could tell that many were at the brink of giving up, on of the recruits started singing. Others chimed in. They where In This together, stood in unity, and wouldn’t let anyone crush their spirits
Hope can be a powerful way to inspire the people around you that tomorrow be better and that the pain won’t last
10. Don’t ever, ever ring the bell.
You will face adversity, unbearable suffering, obsticlales that seem insurmountable. Don’t fall into the victim mentality, don’t pity yourself. If you do you will never overcome your shortcomings and succeed with your goals.
Takeaway: Life on the extremes
The lessons in this book are universal, and apply to your life even if you are not a navy seal.
I think the reason we, regular people, don’t learn these lessons as well as someone who went through something as challenging a seal training is because we spend less time at the extremes. It’s at the extremes that universal truths make themselves known in a clear and simple way. That’s why we can learn so much from these stories.
Because it’s the same at the other extreme, when we slow down to zero, no thoughts, no actions, just stilllness, other truths become obvious.
The issue I have this book is not the lessons themselves, but that the short format just don’t allow for the message to really sink in. A week after finishing it I realized I forgot most of the book. Probably because it just let me stick my toe into each topic. It’s a good book, and you might have a different experience from me, but I still want to leave you with some alternative reading that I found more lasting and impactful.
You will find links to the full review of each of these books in the description below
1. 12 rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson
12 Rules for Life also contain life lessons but it had a much more lasting impact on me than Make Your Bed. The rules are also less self-evident. Each chapter is a journey where you’re not really sure where Jordan Peterson is heading. But he drives the point him each time.
2. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
This book really was a game changer for me when it comes to mindset, grit and determination.
David Goggin is also a Seal, this book tells the story of him going from being fat and lazy to becoming one of the toughest men alive. A great book for anyone who wants to set the bar higher yourself.
3. A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine
A book to live by. In this book William Irvine takes stoic philosophy and turns it into practical advice for everyday living.
Find more great book to read on my book reviews page and the Great Books List
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