Make Your Bed

by William H. McRaven

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: February 23, 2024
 4 min read
Make Your Bed
Make Your Bed

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What are the big ideas?

  1. Starting your day with a small task like making your bed can give you a sense of achievement and set a positive tone for the day.
  2. Success often comes from working with others, so it's important to find good team members and friends.
  3. Judge people by their kindness and what's in their heart, not just by what they look like or have.
  4. Don't give up when things are tough. Learn from your failures and keep trying.
  5. Never quit, even when life is really hard. Keep going and always try your best.


Starting with Simple Actions to Initiate Change

  • If you want to change the world … start off by making your bed.
  • Nothing can replace the strength and comfort of one’s faith, but sometimes the simple act of making your bed can give you the lift you need to start your day and provide you the satisfaction to end it right.

The Importance of Teamwork and Collaboration

  • If you want to change the world … find someone to help you paddle.
  • 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.

Judging People by Their Character Rather Than External Factors

  • If you want to change the world … measure a person by the size of their heart.

Embracing and Learning from Life's Challenges

  • If you want to change the world … get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.
  • Sometimes no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, you still end up as a sugar cookie. Don’t complain. Don’t blame it on your misfortune. Stand tall, look to the future, and drive on!
  • If you want to change the world … don’t be afraid of The Circus.
  • 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.

Confronting Fear and Taking Risks

  • If you want to change the world … slide down the obstacle head first.
  • 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.

Facing Challenges with Courage and Determination

  • If you want to change the world … don’t back down from the sharks.
  • In life, to achieve your goals, to complete the night swim, you will have to be men and women of great courage.

Being Your Best in Difficult Times

  • If you want to change the world … be your very best in the darkest moments.
  • At some point, we will all confront a dark moment in life. In that dark moment, reach deep inside yourself and be your very best.

Maintaining Hope and Perseverance in Adversity

  • If you want to change the world … start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.
  • We will all find ourselves neck deep in mud someday. That is the time to sing loudly, to smile broadly, to lift up those around you.

The Crucial Decision to Never Give Up

  • If you want to change the world … don’t ever, ever ring the bell.
  • Life is full of difficult times. But someone out there always has it worse than you do. Never, ever, ring the bell!


  1. How does starting your day with a simple task like making your bed set the tone for the rest of your day?
  2. Can you think of a time when working with others significantly contributed to your success?
  3. How do you assess the value of a person in your life or at work? Is it by their heart or external factors?
  4. Have you ever faced a situation that felt like a failure? How did you move forward from it?
  5. When was the last time you faced a big challenge ("The Circus") and how did you grow from that experience?
  6. Can you recall a moment when taking a risk led you to discover your potential?
  7. Think of a difficult time in your life. How did you manage to be your best during that dark moment?
  8. When have you felt like giving up, and what motivated you to keep going instead?

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