#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERBASED ON THE INCREDIBLE GRADUATION SPEECH WITH OVER 10 MILLION VIEWS ON YOUTUBEIf you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. On May 17, 2014, Admiral William H. Make Your Bed!
Make Your Bed Summary
Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life . . . and Maybe the World is a work of self-help psychology by William H. McRaven. The novel is a continuation of a commencement speech McRaven delivered at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014, which went viral on the internet.
Formerly a high-ranking officer of the US Navy and commander of the US Special Operations Command, McRaven relates his experiences in Navy SEAL training to the challenges of becoming an adult. The book is broken down into ten aphoristic lessons that McRaven contends apply to people in all walks of life.
McRaven begins his book with an aphorism about starting small, or “making your bed,” in order to change the world. His rationale is that though spirituality and faith can endow individuals with resilience and peace, simple actions like making your bed form a kind of praxis that cumulatively contribute to human flourishing. Make Your Bed!
McRaven then analogizes life to a body of water that we must traverse and tells his readers to find a partner to help paddle, be they romantic or not. You can have one or even multiple life partners; it is only important that you remember that success is contingent on interlocking social networks.
McRaven’s third aphorism turns to the treatment of others; he suggests that the only productive way to evaluate someone is by their compassion. In his fourth aphorism, McRaven tells his audience to toughen up and persevere even when pressure mounts or situations seem hopeless. Make Your Bed!
He bluntly terms people who give up “sugar cookies” and explains that during Navy SEAL training, cadets who ignore basic commands or forget their duties are told to roll in the sand until it covers their entire body, like a sugar cookie. McRaven qualifies his assessment, conceding that some people remain sugar cookies despite hard work.
However, he insists that the only way to face the future is to not blame our conditions on other people, and to constantly aspire to not be a sugar cookie.
McRaven borrows other examples of punitive Navy experiences, including the “Circus,” which consists of several hours of calisthenics, during which SEAL veterans harass cadets. He states that Circuses are everywhere in adult life, but are always possible to get through. He also advocates for extreme risk-taking.
In his view, since struggle and suffering are inevitable, developing a mindset of fear in response to obstacles only closes off opportunities for learning to surmount them. Moreover, taking risks is the only workable strategy for coming to know the limits of the self. McRaven writes that everyone has a huge wealth of innate courage that just needs to be coaxed out.
Next, McRaven reiterates advice he originally received from his chief petty officer. One evening before a difficult task, the officer told his recruits to be their best and overcome their psychological doubt, fear, and exhaustion. Make Your Bed!
He told them that the people who succeed in difficult missions separate themselves in a deep way from those who don’t, and attributed the difference in outcome to mental drive. McRaven states that thinking of every challenge as an obstacle that can be overcome is useful even in dark moments, such as following the death of a family member. Make Your Bed!
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About the Author
William Harry McRaven is a retired United States Navy four-star admiral who served as the ninth commander of the United States Special Operations Command from August 8, 2011 to August 28, 2014. From 2015 to 2018, he was the chancellor of The University of Texas System.