Make Your Bed Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Make Your Bed encourages you to pursue your goals and change the lives of others for the better by showing that success is a combination of individual willpower and mutual support.

Read in: 4 minutes

Favorite quote from the author:

Make Your Bed Summary

Video Summary

YouTube video

In 2014 Admiral William H. McRaven gave the commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin. While encouraging the students to improve the world, he gave many life lessons that could be of help.

He had learned most of them during his Navy SEAL training – 6 months of runs in the sand, obstacles courses, unending calisthenics and continuous harassment by veterans, who wanted only the strongest to get to the end of it. 

As a cadet, McRaven learned that success doesn’t depend on social status, race or religion. It’s not how good your parents were to you or which school you went to that determines your future. It’s a combination of the little actions and help from others that makes people successful.

The admiral’s speech went viral on Youtube and later became a book.

In Make Your Bed: Small things that can change your life… and maybe the world, McRaven stresses that life is unfair, as everybody knows. In fact, what defines great men and women is how they deal with life’s unfairness. People like Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking are just a few examples.

Here are my 3 favorite lessons about leveraging self-discipline and teaming up for a meaningful life:

  1. Making your bed first thing in the morning can lead to many tasks completed by the end of the day.
  2. If you want to change the world, never ever ring the bell.
  3. Find someone to help you paddle if you want to make a real difference in the world.

Do you want to be prepared for life challenges? Let’s see what we can learn from a Navy veteran who has held impressive key roles inside and outside the military!

Make Your Bed Summary

If you want to save this summary for later, download the free PDF and read it whenever you want.

Download PDF

Lesson 1: Making the bed can boost your productivity and even give you hope in the bad days.

As a US SEAL cadet, McRaven had to make his bed to perfection first thing after waking up.

If he failed to follow the bed-making code, he had to perform the sugar cookie ritual, which has nothing to do with treats, as you can imagine. It’s more about diving into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean and then rolling around on the beach until you are covered with sand head to toe.

But why is making your bed so important?

While it may seem trivial when big assignments are waiting for you outside, starting off with this small task makes you feel a little proud and ready to deal with the rest of your tasks. And if you have a miserable day, coming back to a bed made – by you – will make you feel tomorrow will be better.

After a serious injury, McRaven spent many months lying on a hospital bed that had been wheeled into his government quarters. When he was finally able to stand up unaided, the first thing he did was adjusting the bed. 

It was his way of showing that he was recovering and moving forward.

Lesson 2: If you want to make a difference in life, never give up, learn from failures and keep improving yourself.

During the SEAL training, McRaven and his fellows had to withstand uncountable challenges of strength and courage. Giving up at any time was very easy: they just had to ring a bell hanging in the center of the compound and they would be free, immediately.

Never ring the bell if you want to achieve big goals in life.

You may have heard of the Circus, another legendary punishment known to make many cadets quit the SEAL training. It’s two hours of additional calisthenics, paired with non-stop harassment by SEAL combat veterans.

During the training, McRaven was part of a swim team that constantly came in last place and had to face the Circus many times a week. At the moment of the graduation test though, they came in first: all those hours of calisthenics had made them stronger. 

Life is full of Circuses. You fail, you keep training yourself, you get stronger.

Once McRaven’s team had to swim 4 miles in the dark. Scary enough in itself, but that night there were even reports of big white sharks near the coast. Since it was the only way to complete the SEAL training, they swam anyway.

If you want to achieve your full potential in life, don’t let fear stops you.

Lesson 3: Life is a struggle. To accomplish great things you need to fight. But you can’t do it alone: you need teammates.

SEAL cadets also have to overcome Hell Week, 7 days of endurance tests when many of them call it quits.

During their Hell Week, McRaven and his fellows had to spend a whole night sitting, covered in cold mud. In the middle of the test, some of them seemed ready to give up. Then one man began to sing. One by one the others followed him. Suddenly the mud felt less cold and the dawn closer.

Sometimes life gets very hard: the loss of someone you love, a disease or something you are not prepared for may crush your spirit. These are the moments when you need to dig inside yourself and bring out all your strength. But you also need the help of your friends and family.

Years ago the author was badly wounded in a parachute accident and he had to go through months of recovery and rehabilitation. He’s sure he would have surrendered to self-pity and depression if his wife hadn’t been there to support him.

In McRaven’s view, life is like a small rubber boat: you cannot paddle it alone. It takes a team of good people to get you where you want to go. So, as he says,

“Find someone to share your life with. Never forget that your success depends on others.”

Make Your Bed Review

Make Your Bed is an inspiring book that exhorts us to think big while taking care of the small things. You are supposed to meet 10000 people in your life, but even if you affect the ones of only 10 people and they do the same for someone else, the world is going to be a better place within a few generations. Each of us can make a difference.

Audio Summary

Listen to the audio of this summary with a free account*:

Who would I recommend the Make Your Bed summary to?

The 17-year-old discouraged about what he can do in life since he lives in a poor neighborhood, the 36-year-old who doesn’t like his life and blames it on his parents, and anyone who feels unlucky, demotivated or just lazy.

Last Updated on December 5, 2022

Rate this book!
This book has an average rating of 4.1 based on 21 votes.

Clara Lobina

Clara is a SEO content strategist, writer, and proofreader from Sardinia, Italy. She is a cofounder, head of content, and COO of Botteega, a delivery service for local goods from high-quality shops and farmers. Clara wrote a total of 16 summaries for us. When she's not working on her own or her client's blogs, she teaches and does yoga. My favorite project of hers is Come L'Acqua — "Like Water" — a personal growth and mindfulness blog (in Italian).