Book Review: Make Your Bed by Admiral William McRaven Brighten Project Leadership Development

Make Your Bed | Book Review

book review Jun 19, 2023

VICTORIA BROWN | Brighten Project


Make Your Bed: Small things that can change your life and maybe the world

by Admiral William H. McRaven



Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven is an inspiring and practical book that encapsulates the wisdom Admiral McRaven accumulated through his experiences as a U.S. Navy SEAL and Special Operations Commander.  This is one of my favourite personal growth books, and I read it many years ago, and it has been really helpful revisiting it again to write this review. I hope I inspire you to go and grab your own copy.

The book is based on a commencement speech he delivered at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014, which received wiiiiiiiidespread attention and praise [um hello, millions of Youtube views]. The core idea that runs through the pages is the transformative power of engaging in simple, everyday tasks - beginning with the act of making your bed every morning. Admiral McRaven wants us to realise the significance of focusing on small daily tasks, with the belief that they can build into habits and practices that bring about substantial change in our own life and potentially the world. He does this great thing through the book, linking everything back to "changing the world" which is incredibly inspiring but feels achievable - I suppose because we all do leave our mark on the world, and this book forces you to think about how BIG do you want to go with it.


The book goes through 10 lessons to help you change the world [aka thrive at life]. If you want to change the world:

  • Start off by making your bed
  • Find someone to help you paddle.
  • Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.
  • Get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.
  • Don’t be afraid of the circuses.
  • Sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.
  • Don’t back down from the sharks.
  • You must be your very best in the darkest moment.
  • Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
  • Don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

I don't want to spoil the book by actually telling you the meaning of each lesson, so I've just given you his funny, super niche titles for the lessons. For each lesson he creates a rich backdrop filled with stories from his military life and then brings the learnings back to the overall lesson, and ties it up nicely with how it's relevant for you in your civilian life.


So there's nothing ground breaking in this book, it's all common sense told but delivered in such a power visceral 4K HD style, supported with stories from McRavens past. What makes it so powerful is that these are simple ideas, simple enough that anyone can understand and apply them. There were some key principles and themes that resonated the most for me, and I've no doubt that when you read the book, whatever you need to hear will resonate the most for you - but hopefully this is still interesting and helpful!

THE POWER OF DISCIPLINE // The standout insight for me is the sheer impact and power of disciplined consistency in our lives. Admiral McRaven’s emphasis on starting with something as simple as making your bed is symbolic; it represents a commitment to go about your day with purpose and diligence. This seemingly mundane task creates a chain reaction of productivity and confidence. The book drives home the idea that through discipline and perseverance, we can build a strong foundation that helps in weathering life's storms. I really love the idea that somedays do feel chaotic and we may have little impact over the world around us, but if we started the day by making our bed, we always have one teeny tiny thing that we've done, and at the end of the day it's our little gift to ourselves to get back home to a room with a bed that's been made.

THE GIFT OF RESILIENCE // It's a gift not only to ourselves, but to those around us to be unwavering and strong. To accept that the world sucks, and life isn't fair - but to also realise that we don't need to focus on that. We should be focusing on what we can make from our circumstances, and how we can use our strength to be  the best for ourselves, but also for someone around us that might need us to be strong. 



🛏️ "If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed."

🚀 "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."

🤩 "Life is unfair, and you should stop wasting your time and energy complaining about it. That’s how it is, do something about it instead of complaining."

🙌 “I had numerous setbacks, and in each case, someone came forward to help me: someone who had faith in my abilities; someone who saw potential in me where others might not; someone who risked their own reputation to advance my career. I have never forgotten those people and I know that anything I achieved in my life was a result of others who have helped me along the way."

❤️‍🔥 “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."



  • What small habits can I develop that might establish a positive ripple effect through my day and ultimately my life?
  • How am I handling failures or setbacks, and am I learning and growing from these experiences?
  • What habits do I have in place that are purposeful and intentional to help me achieve my leadership goals?


Through simple acts and a disciplined approach to daily living, McRaven illustrates how we can all build resilience, face life’s challenges head-on, and, in the process, contribute positively to the world around us. The book is a quick read but comes with a pretty epic boost of inspiration to create more discipline for yourself and your goals.

This is a must have for any leaders bookshelf >> Amazon Books: Make Your Bed by Admiral William Mcraven





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