Make Your Bed is a really short book that packs a punch. It is written by retired Navy Commander William H Raven. He talks through his unique experience of being a Navy SEAL and the rigorous training that he went through and how that prepared him for life.
The book is the result of the talk he gave at the University of Texas. The stories are gripping and worth a read. The key lessons are listed here
Start Your Day with a Task Completed
You Can’t Go It Alone
Only the Size of Your Heart Matters
Life’s Not Fair—Drive On!
Failure Can Make You Stronger
You Must Dare Greatly
Stand Up to the Bullies
Rise to the Occasion
Give People Hope
Never, Ever Quit!
It's the title of the book and it talks about how important it is to begin your day with a task completed. It doesn’t have to be the same for everyone. It can be something else if making your bed isn't your thing.
For me, it's meditation. On days that I do meditate in my bed on waking up, I immediately get up and start my day. If I don’t, then I linger in bed reading Twitter, reddit and generally have a slower start to the day.
Making my bed correctly was not going to be an opportunity for praise. It was expected of me. It was my first task of the day, and doing it right was important. It demonstrated my discipline. It showed my attention to detail, and at the end of the day it would be a reminder that I had done something well, something to be proud of, no matter how small the task. It is daily life that needs this same sense of structure. Nothing can replace the strength and comfort of one’s faith. If you want to change your life and maybe the world—start off by making your bed!
Life is a multiplayer co-operative game. You live your life with help from others. Your friends and family can help you succeed. You can help them succeed. So keep making new friends and keep being useful.
None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments. Like the small rubber boat we had in basic SEAL training, it takes a team of good people to get you to your destination in life. You cannot paddle the boat alone. Find someone to share your life with. Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.
This tells us that talent isn't as important as determination and perseverance. Never write someone off based on their background or natural abilities. With hard work and perseverance, they can easily reach the top even if they're not naturally gifted.
Proving that determination and grit were always more important than talent. In 1969, Tommy Norris was almost booted out of SEAL training. They said he was too small, too thin, and not strong enough. But much like the young sailor in my class, Norris proved them all wrong and once again showed that it’s not the size of your flippers that count, just the size of your heart. Don't underestimate anyone based on their size, background, etc
The story that drives home the point that sometimes, life will be unfair for no apparent reason. You can only control what you can, and the rest is up to chance. The more you are prepared for such an eventuality, the better you can deal with it.
There were a lot of things more painful and more exhausting, but being a sugar cookie tested your patience and your determination. Not just because you spent the rest of the day with sand down your neck, under your arms, and between your legs, but because the act of becoming a sugar cookie was completely indiscriminate. There was no rhyme or reason. You became a sugar cookie at the whim of the instructor. Because, Mr. Mac, life isn’t fair and the sooner you learn that the better off you will be.” It is easy to blame your lot in life on some outside force, to stop trying because you believe fate is against you. It is easy to think that where you were raised, how your parents treated you, or what school you went to is all that determines your future.
One failure can cause other failures to happen. But the main idea is to not succumb to it. You will need to work harder to go from a lower base to reach the top. But since you're now battle tested, you can go higher than what you would've been able to achieve without the failures.
What made The Circus so feared by the students was not just the additional pain but also the knowledge that the day after The Circus you would be exhausted from the extra workout and so fatigued that you would fail to meet the standards again. Another Circus would follow, then another and another. It was a death spiral, a cycle of failure that caused many students to quit training. The Circus, which had started as a punishment for failure, was making us stronger, faster, and more confident in the water. While other students quit, unable to handle the occasional failure and the pain it brought, Marc and I were determined not to allow The Circus to beat us. Basically one failure can beget another, unless you work hard to break the loop. 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. 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. You can’t avoid The Circus. At some point we all make the list. Don’t be afraid of The Circus.
It is simpler to take the easy path to success. But that path is slower, and you may not win in the end. It's important to take bold bets, learn from setbacks, and keep pushing ahead.
It was a simple lesson in overcoming your anxieties and trusting your abilities to get the job done. 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.
Reinforcing the point about being brave in the face of obstacles. These can be circumstances or people.
Our goal, which we believed to be honorable and noble, gave us courage, and courage is a remarkable quality. Nothing and nobody can stand in your way. Without it, others will define your path forward. Without it, you are at the mercy of life’s temptations. Without courage, men will be ruled by tyrants and despots.
People are often evaluated on how they are able to handle a crisis. In the toughest times it is important to show up for yourself and for others.
No matter how dark it gets, you must complete the mission. This is what separates you from everyone else. At some point we will all confront a dark moment in life. If not the passing of a loved one, then something else that crushes your spirit and leaves you wondering about your future. In that dark moment, reach deep inside yourself and be your very best.
Be the source of hope and energy for people around you. Be that one person.
Once again, we had learned an important lesson: the power of one person to unite the group, the power of one person to inspire those around him, to give them hope. If that one person could sing while neck deep in mud, then so could we. If that one person could endure the freezing cold, then so could we. If that one person could hold on, then so could we.
Quitting in this context means never stop trying. There might be circumstances where you need to quit something that isn't working to try something new, which in startup parlance is called 'pivoting'.
Of all the lessons I learned in SEAL training, this was the most important. Never quit. It doesn’t sound particularly profound, but life constantly puts you in situations where quitting seems so much easier than continuing on. Where the odds are so stacked against you that giving up seems the rational thing to do. Never once! They were proud of their service. Life is full of difficult times. But someone out there always has it worse than you do. If you fill your days with pity, sorrowful for the way you have been treated, bemoaning your lot in life, blaming your circumstances on someone or something else, then life will be long and hard. If, on the other hand, you refuse to give up on your dreams, stand tall and strong against the odds—then life will be what you make of it—and you can make it great. Never, ever, ring the bell!