Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by William H. McRaven
McRaven sounds like he’s a pretty badass action hero, a good commander, and an all-American hero. He’s not a good speaker. His voice is almost painful to listen to, with no inflection, as if every word were an extreme effort. Despite the fact that this audiobook is less than two hours long, at least half of it is a repetition. He gives the speech, talks about the speech, and then gives the speech again. The added material was mostly fond recollections of when he was tormented and made to suffer at Navy SEAL training. If the measure of a man is his willingness and ability to endure suffering, this guy is the tops. But I don’t see the world that way. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but with alarming frequency, what doesn’t kill you still damages you permanently and you’re never quite as whole as you were before. I’m not super fond of the idea of suffering building character, however often my parents told me that as a child.
I’d heard about this book and it got glowing reviews on audible, so I picked it up when it was on sale. I generally like self-help books, listicles, and things of that nature, so I thought I would like it more than I did. I was hoping for some kind of amazing epiphany, or at least a good tip or two.
Some of his points, such as “make sure you accomplish one thing every day” and “surround yourself with friends because you can’t achieve greatness alone” are good points. Other points are less so, like “sing when you’re in the mud” and “never give up.” Singing when you’re in the mud isn’t the kind of thing that really translates easily to civilian life. And “never give up” is how people waste their lives doing unachievable goals, or die in the attempt of things that were impossible to begin with. Sometimes when things aren’t working, it’s valuable to take a step back and re-evaluate if the thing you want to achieve is really the best way to get to your end goal. Sometimes you’re holding Jack-high garbage. Sometimes you dig furiously in pursuit of clams without realizing you’re digging in a bed of oysters. Life is more subtle than “never give up.”
McRaven is an amazing guy who has had an adventure-filled life, and I bet he has enough material for a fascinating memoir. This, however, is not a fascinating memoir. It’s tantalizingly interesting bits and pieces loosely tied in with some stoic advice. Even though I paid less than ten bucks for this audiobook, I don’t really think it was worth the money. Even though it was less than two hours long, it could have been shorter by 20-30 minutes and not lost anything. His name and his fame sold the book, but the content isn’t there.