⭑⭑⭑⭑ (4/5 see book reviews)

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

– William H. McRaven, Make Your Bed


Make Your Bed is a short book based on a commencement speech given by the author at the University of Texas at Austin that convey the life lessons of Navy SEAL training. The title takes its name from the first chapter, “Start your day with a task completed” — on the lessons of making your bed (which is also the reason I read the book in the first place — I’m a big believer in making the bed every morning :))

Making the bed is a foundational task for a productive day, and no matter how bad your day goes: at least your bed is made—you’ve accomplished something of value, even if nothing else goes right.

Other thoughts

All the other lessons are de rigueur motivational posters in a high school guidance counselor’s office:

  • “You can’t go it alone”: Work with others to achieve your goals
  • “The only size that matters is the size of your heart”: You can make up for lack of physical strength with gumption
  • “Life’s not fair—Drive On!”
  • “Failure can make you stronger”: AKA Don’t be scared of the circus. AKA hard work makes you stronger
  • The Brene Brown esque: “You must dare greatly”
  • “Stand up to bullies”
  • “Rise to the occasion”
  • Give people hope
  • Never quit

On the other hand: Clichés become cliché because they’re universal truths – this book did not run short on cliches, but that probably indicates there’s a large amount of universal truth here.

Life is unfair

One memorable piece of this book was the chapter on life being unfair and the story of the sugar cookie. The author was told to run down to the ocean, jump in, then roll in the sand until he was completely covered — every inch and every crevice  — with sand — a sugar cookie! The person who ordered him to do this asked him if he knew why he’d done it, he didn’t. Sometimes life is unfair. What a vivid scene.

Failure makes you stronger

The story behind “failure can make you stronger” is similarly entertaining. “The Circus” is like detention for Navy SEALs (I guess) — more running, more swimming, more physically exhausting activity. Once you  end up in the circus it’s hard to get out since it’s a punishment for poor performance and the extra exhaustion makes you perform worse. Until, one day, it doesn’t.

In life you will face a lot of Circuses. You will pay for your failures. But, if you persevere, if you let those failures teach you and strengthen you, then you will be prepared to handle life’s toughest moments.

– William H. McRaven, Make Your Bed

The stories in this book are metaphors for life, but also very literal lessons. It was a short read, not the most amazing book I’ll read this year, but I thought it was worthwhile.

I realized that the past failures had strengthened me, taught me that no one is immune from mistakes. True leaders must learn from their failures, use the lessons to motivate themselves, and not be afraid to try again or make the next tough decision. – Failure can make you stronger

– William H. McRaven, Make Your Bed

Summary in a quote

Remember… start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if you take some risks, step up when times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden, and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then you can change your life for the better… and maybe the world!

– William H. McRaven, Make Your Bed


  • Title: Make Your Bed
  • Author: William H. McRaven
  • Pages: 144
  • Format: EBook
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN: 1455570249
  • Genre: Personal Development