Book Review: Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven

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“Make Your Bed” is a book written by William H. McRaven, a former US Navy SEAL. In the book, he shares his top 10 experiences and the valuable lessons he learned during his time in the SEALs and his preparation for service.

McRaven believes that small actions can have a big impact on your happiness, and he cites making your bed every morning as an example. He emphasizes that sometimes the simplest solutions can be the most effective.

The author’s wisdom extends to topics like accepting failure and persevering through challenges, which he shares in the book. As a naval officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, McRaven’s experiences and lessons offer valuable insights for anyone looking to improve their lives.

This book review will tell you what important lessons you can learn from this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Key Insights

Lesson 1: Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t assume that life is fair.

Have you ever judged someone based on their appearance, only to be proven wrong later on? This is a lesson that teaches us to look beyond the surface and not make assumptions about people. The same principle applies when it comes to trusting strangers. Before putting your faith in someone, ask yourself how much you really know about them.

An example of this lesson in action comes from the story of Admiral William McRaven, who considered joining the Navy SEALs while in college. At the recruiting center, he met Tom Norris, a small, bald man who didn’t fit the typical image of a tough SEAL veteran.

However, McRaven soon learned that Norris was a war hero who had been shot in Vietnam while trying to save others. Despite the odds, Norris went through a difficult recovery process so he could continue serving his country on the FBI hostage rescue team. This experience taught McRaven not to judge people based on their appearance, as there is often much more beneath the surface than meets the eye.

Another valuable lesson that McRaven learned during his time as a SEAL is that life isn’t always fair or logical. He and his fellow SEALs would undergo punishing dives into the Pacific Ocean followed by rough beach landings, known as “sugar rushes.” Sometimes, this punishment would be given even if they hadn’t broken any training rules.

This taught McRaven that the world can be unpredictable and unreasonable at times, and it’s important to accept this reality rather than fight against it. It’s better to pull yourself together and move on, rather than waste time trying to avoid the truth.

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Lesson 2: Don’t fear making mistakes; instead, use them as an opportunity to learn and turn them into successes.

Everyone wants to succeed, but failure is inevitable in life. It’s a negative experience that can bring feelings of disappointment and discouragement. However, with the right mindset, setbacks can be turned into opportunities for growth and learning.

One way to approach failure is to use the energy it generates to become more resilient and focused. The author, who was once part of the Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL team, experienced this firsthand. Despite consistently finishing last in their swim team, they persevered and went through a grueling endurance test called “The Circus,” which helped them improve their performance. Although it was a difficult experience, they managed to come in first place in the final swim, thanks to their newfound resilience.

Taking risks is another important aspect of dealing with failure. The thrill of taking risks is comparable to living a carefree life, but it’s necessary to achieve big victories. If you let your fears and worries control your actions, you won’t get very far. It’s important to be willing to take risks and learn from setbacks, as they can lead to greater success.

The author faced a significant challenge in 2004 while working in Iraq. Intelligence indicated that a group of hostages was being held in an enemy compound that was about to move. The best chance to rescue them was to raid the compound during the day, but this was a risky plan. The team’s helicopters were too big to fit inside the compound, and the mission was complicated by the fact that they would be flying during the day. Despite these initial fears, the team went ahead with the plan and successfully freed the hostages.

In summary, failure is an inevitable part of life, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. It’s important to approach setbacks with resilience and a willingness to take risks. Failure can be an opportunity for growth and learning, and can even lead to greater success in the future.

Lesson 3: No matter how tough things get, summon the courage to keep pushing forward towards your goals.

Life is full of challenges and difficulties, ranging from bullies and fake friends to navigating through shark-infested waters as a Navy SEAL. It can be tempting to avoid these challenges, but it’s important to confront your fears and not let them hold you back. Whether you’re striving to become a Navy SEAL or pursuing other goals, maintaining your determination and sense of adventure will help you succeed.

Becoming a Navy SEAL requires facing and overcoming a range of fears. For example, McRaven and his swimming partner had to swim four miles in complete darkness, even with dangerous sharks like great whites and leopard sharks in the water. But McRaven’s goal of completing SEAL training helped him overcome his fear of sharks and continue pursuing his dreams.

It takes courage to keep going when life gets tough, whether you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one or a life-threatening illness. These situations can be overwhelming, but it’s important to face them head-on. McRaven has witnessed many battlefield deaths, and these have been some of the darkest and most difficult times in his life. However, he has also been inspired by people’s ability to persevere and keep going, even in the face of tragedy.

For example, when one of the Navy’s Special Operators was killed in Iraq, his twin brother was there to support him and stand strong. The twin brother explained that he acted this way to honor his deceased sibling. This type of resilience and determination is what helps people overcome their fears and achieve their goals.

Whether you’re pursuing a career as a Navy SEAL or simply trying to overcome a difficult situation, remember to stay strong and keep going.

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Lesson 4: Aim to inspire hope and guide others towards a brighter future.

Have you ever experienced a conversation with a friend that changed your perspective and gave you a burst of energy? It’s incredible how much one person can influence another. It’s important that we all strive to inspire hope and show others the path to a brighter future.

You may have heard of “Hell Week,” a seven-day endurance test that determines whether or not someone will become a Navy SEAL. Trainees must endure grueling conditions, including spending long periods of time in cold mud. During one of these Hell Weeks, a cadet was on the verge of quitting.

However, another man began singing, and soon, three of them were singing together. It only took one person to restore the cadet’s faith and motivation. Even in the toughest moments, one person can make all the difference.

It’s crucial to remember to keep moving forward, especially during challenging times. Life can be tough, but it’s also beautiful. We can’t have the good times without the bad. When things get tough, it’s important not to wallow in self-pity or blame others. The quality of your life is entirely up to you and the effort you put into it. If you don’t put in the work, you’ll only have regrets.

Adam Bates, a soldier who was injured by a landmine in Afghanistan, showed incredible determination and resilience. When Admiral William McRaven saw him in the hospital, Bates was severely burned and missing a leg, yet he communicated confidently through sign language.

This type of positive attitude is what makes McRaven so proud of his troops. Even in the face of incredible challenges, they’ve always managed to maintain a positive outlook. If Adam Bates can do it, so can you. Keep fighting and don’t give up.


1. Encouragement for All Ages

One of the most appealing aspects of Admiral McRaven’s Make Your Bed is its accessibility to a wide range of readers, regardless of age or occupation.

This compact book, with just over 125 pages, delivers a powerful message that encourages everyone to face life’s challenges head-on. The straightforward, relatable stories, derived from the author’s 37 years of service as a U.S. Navy SEAL, offer valuable life lessons that can be easily applied to various situations.

2. Military Lessons for Everyday Life

McRaven’s book is unique in that it shares stories from a military perspective without overwhelming non-military readers with jargon. The stories emphasize that life is full of pain, defeat, and unfairness, but these experiences serve to strengthen our character.

He demonstrates that adversity can inspire boldness, courage, and the ability to triumph. The author’s engaging writing style makes it feel like he’s having a conversation with the reader, making it easy to digest the material and relate it to one’s own life.

3. A Quick and Inspiring Read

For those who want to get into reading more or are looking for a quick, engaging book, Make Your Bed is an ideal choice. Its concise chapters each contain a different story that offers valuable lessons, and the book can be completed in just a few hours.

Despite its brevity, the book has generated significant buzz and landed on best-seller lists, proving its appeal to a diverse audience. Ultimately, McRaven’s real-world advice transcends the military context, providing practical and actionable guidance for facing life’s challenges.

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1. Regimented Lifestyle Advice May Not Suit Everyone

While Make Your Bed is designed to offer practical life advice, some readers may find the lessons too regimented or rigid for their tastes. The book draws heavily on the author’s military SEAL training and service, which may not resonate with those who prefer a more flexible approach to life.

In some instances, the author’s “superior person” persona and motivation to perform to perfection may seem unattainable or unrelatable for readers who are not drawn to military life.

2. Biographical Elements May Feel Like Boasting

Some readers may feel that Make Your Bed leans too heavily on the author’s personal experiences, giving the book a somewhat biographical feel. This could lead to the perception that the author is boasting about his military career, which may detract from the intended message of the book.

Moreover, certain lessons presented in the book may not feel entirely applicable to “real life,” making it difficult for some readers to relate the advice to their own experiences.

3. Lack of Organization and Takeaways

Despite the book’s motivational elements, some readers may feel that the organization and structure of the book could be improved. The book may have benefited from a clearer layout or a more straightforward presentation of key takeaways, which could make it more accessible and valuable for readers.

While the stories within Make Your Bed are engaging, the overall organization may detract from the book’s potential as a go-to source of inspiration and motivation.


Make Your Bed is a must-read for those on the journey of personal development. With insights from a former U.S. Navy SEAL, the book offers invaluable lessons on overcoming fear and reaching one’s full potential.

If you’re seeking to improve your attitude towards life and unlock your potential, this book is an excellent resource. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn from the experiences and wisdom of a true achiever.

About the Author

Admiral William H. McRaven is a four-star retired US Navy SEAL. McRaven saw a lot during his 37 years of service, both in training and in battle. He commanded troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Buy The Book: Make Your Bed

If you want to buy the book Make Your Bed, you can get it from the following links:

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