Top Navy SEAL's life advice: 'Make your bed'


A screen grab of Adm. Bill McRaven’s speech at the University of Texas’s commencement address this weekend.

Adm. Bill McRaven is a bad-ass — and fount of good advice.

Head of the Joint U.S. Special Operations Command, he is a 36-year SEAL who has been at the tip of the spear in the war on terror since 2001. He has commanded a squadron in the fabled Naval Special Warfare Development Group, better known as SEAL Team Six, and he oversaw planning and execution of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

He is also the most mysterious and guarded Navy four-star. While Admirals Greenert, Gortney, Locklear and company frequently appear in the media and before Congress, McRaven shies away from the spotlight. In fact, outside the special operations community, he rose all the way to four-star without attracting much notice until Operation Neptune Spear.

But students at the University of Texas at Austin got a rare treat last weekend when McRaven delivered their commencement speech. McRaven, a 1977 UT grad, riffed on the school’s motto (“What starts here changes the world.”) to deliver the 10 lessons he learned during his SEAL training. Among them: If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

“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.”

He closes the speech with the classic SEAL metaphor for failure: ringing the bell. “Don’t ever, ever ring the bell,” he says.

Take some time to watch below, or read the text here.



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  1. George c lopez III on

    Outstanding speech true words to live by . As a navy veteran I got nothing but full respect for my fellow navy seals and all they go though .. Honor courage and comment is a way of life I will always follow till the end

  2. Muhammad Rafiq. Malik on

    A very inspiring admiral. I like his philosophy of making own bed early in the morning and then you add something in it and it goes on and on. I wish I would have read his lecture but the same is not given here. Greatness of a person who spent 36 years are seal, is incredible. He must be a thoroughly satisfied person who achieved what he planned. I wish him best of luck as well as success in his future adventures.

  3. Debra Turner on

    My son recently retired from the Navy after 20 years and he had this on his facebook page. I listened to the speech and at the end I had tears in my eyes because the words were so moving. I even reminded my son of the times I told him to make his bed and I said see it was important. This is one of the greatest speeches I have ever heard, thank you.

  4. I am an ex sailor, not a seal,but a sailor—the part that really touched my heart, was the part about the munchkin crew.–I have a grandson, that will never be very tall, but Ive watched him when he’s played baseball, football etc., and I’m here to tell you that kid has more heart and sticktoitness, than any kid I’ve ever seen. Im in my 60’s now and I know I have less time left than Ive lived, but I know my grandson will be one that changes the world!!!

  5. Archangel, M. G. on

    Make yer feckin bed?! Think yet olde admiral jumped a few times without proper headgear?! Killed Osama Bin Laden?! Give me another feckin break! Personally? I’d sooner take the word of the tooth fairy! Anyone actually met Bin Laden?!

  6. Brilliant speech…long enough, short enough…serious words to live by, not given by some corporate weenie but from a man who has been there and done that…so glad i took the time to listen. And by my count anyway, now there are 14 comments, and still just one ass… number 12….please please do not reproduce…your children would also be morons.

  7. #12
    As a fellow U.S. Navy SEAL, I challage you to follow in our footsteps, or close your mouth… are letting your crocodile mouth overload your tadpole a$$.

  8. BRAVO ZULU Admiral.

    You’re still standing tall Sir and we in our Community, Love ya Boss.

    Warmest Regards,
    Don Tyson LT (SEAL), USN, Ret.

  9. am eschankubia on

    Too much kiss up. If you had never gotten to eat dead person to survive the bottomless sea wave then please stop blowing up these.

  10. Vickie Shope Rogers on

    My father who was WWII Vet taught us early in life to make our beds first thing every day and I just thought he was a strict disciplinarian but after reading this speach I know why. I tried to teach my boys same thing without really knowing why. Thank you for your inspiring words.

  11. Outstanding inspiring and moving words of a great man.

    True American Honor Courage Leadership

    one of the greatest speeches and philosophy I ever heard

    Thank you

  12. Would love to have my family spend a day with this guy! Better yet, wish we were neighbors. That warrior mentality really translates well into coping with life’s ups and downs. So good, so so good sir!!!

  13. LT Barbara Denicola USN PDRL on

    I was a nurse in the Navy Reserves. I read this speach and was lifted up. The wisdom that he shared with these kids is phenomenal. Relating his time in basic training and what he learned from it, and appling all of it to liife’s lessons was brilliant. Loved the speech! Thank you Adm. McRaven!

  14. Jack C. Clark on

    Truly inspiring speech. Actually got chills listening to it. This speech could be well read at the beginning of every meaningful journey or endeavor as a challenge to every participant, and also at every graduation ceremony. However it will be lost on all liberals.

  15. Curt Spaugh on

    If you’re not touched and inspired by this speech, then you’re not human. America needs more men like this at the helm.

  16. George L. Lewis, IV on

    Re: “America needs more men like this at the helm”

    …especially American’s like Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Chris Stevens, and Tyrone Woods.

    When men of honor call for back up they deserve a 110% commitment!

  17. It gave me chills and brought a few tears. Inspirational. Thank you to all who serve and the families who support them.

  18. James Kennedy on

    BRAVO ZULU! Admiral! Had met some SEAL’s during my Navy career and they were special people! So special they would tell you that you were the one to be because you were a SEABEE! They always deflected the credit back to you if they knew you were also Navy! A special breed of warriors, the nations best!

  19. CDR Bobby Lowe, MC, USN (Ret) on

    Admiral, proud to have worked with you so many “moons” ago.
    You and your accomplishments make me proud to have been a sailor. God Bless!

  20. I have had the privilege of meeting ADM McRaven and his wife as they hosted the widows of fallen service-members regularly at their home. They are both a class act. Humble, classy, intelligent, kind, sincere, and obviously very skilled. Thank you, sir.

  21. GI Joe Says on

    Isn’t McRaven the crook that illegally destroyed documents requested by Congress? Why yes he is. Way to go UT changing the world one crook at a time.

  22. TP Citadel 88 on

    Great speech. The analogy to seal training and life’s hardships are invaluable. The lessons learned in failure are directly related to ones success. People who go through life with straight A’s in school, success on the athletic field, endless praise, have never been tested. Find a way to test yourself, so when it truly comes along in life, you understand how to survive it, and move forward.

  23. whodidthemath on

    They said he is 36 years old… WTF? did they watch the video? He starts by saying it was 37 years ago that he graduated from UT.

  24. AD2 (AW) C. Granade (retired) on

    One of the best, most appropriate leadership lessons ever. The lessons shared by Adm. William H. McRaven can be applied to business start ups, sports teams and so on. I could watch this 100 times and a small dose of the standards expected in the military today. GO NAVY!

  25. Robert E Peterson USAF on

    What a great commencement speech. It makes me proud to have served. As a Viet Nam vet I can attest how important good advice really is for the young. I can not count the number of times the WWII, and Korean War vets saved my life and afforded good advice. My only wish: I had listened more and complained less.

  26. Mike Latimer on

    I’m a Navy brat, my dad was in the Navy, and I was also in the Navy enlisted. I have always considered the Navy special. I tell people I bleed Navy blue. It is one great big, special family!

  27. Admiral McRaven is part of two of my favorite things in the world the University of Texas, and the United States Navy. I served four years in the Navy two in South Texas where I dated a wonderful young lady who attended UT. I especially enjoyed Task #1 Make your bed, something I was taught originally by my parents then strongly reinforced in Boot Camp. I carried that one with me through my 28 plus years as firefighter. Only a few negative comments seen here by people I can only assume have no idea what it’s like to serve.
    Thank you for your service Admiral. Hook em’ horns, and God Bless the USA.

  28. What a fantastic speech. Every young person graduating from high school should listen to these words of wisdom!!


  30. Didn’t read or hear the speach. Believe nothing you hear and only half the things you see. I see a very popular man wearing a high ranking uniform from a well respected branch of American Freedom providers. I’ll follow this guy and his advice anytime. If he shreded a single piece of paper it was only to protect his troops, you and the American People for whom he serves.
    You can find fault in anything, anytime, anywhere. Remember that when you are pointing at someone, three of your fingers are pointing back at you. Always look for the Good in people and try to be an example of that. Admiral McRaven seems to be a guy like that. I try to be a guy like that. You need to try and be like that.

    USS Hancock CVA 19
    72 thru 75

  31. I suspect that those of you who dissed this person and his speech are probably on the government dole and the Colorado, et al, weed.

  32. So much said in so little time! I’m sure the class of 2014 will never forget this night and his wisdom and knowledge. God Bless America; God Bless the class of 2014; God Bless the Admiral and all the Seals. We love you all.

  33. When I was in San Diego in 1973 Boot Camp and ‘A’ school, one of the guys I was in Boot with went to SEAL training. He had an opportunity to invite me over on one of his liberty days. I was mesmerized by what I saw – their obstacle course was nothing short of frightening for starts. {This guy’s statement: He closes the speech with the classic SEAL metaphor for failure: ringing the bell. “Don’t ever, ever ring the bell,” he says.} – I saw the bell, it’s kind of like looking at a war memorial – silence, you don’t know what to say. I don’t know how those guys go through that training; I’m sure the failure rate is high. Being at SEAL training base is a fond Navy memory of mine.

  34. Barry L Lewis on

    I am thankfull for men and women like the

    Admiral who make our nation safe God Bless you and God Bless the USA.

  35. This great American is someone to look up to each and every day. He himself and others who have served for our country are great role models for the youth who have no ideal what it took to become a Navy Seal much less serve our country. Thanks for your service!

  36. This speech should be shown to every boot when going through Basic, regardless of branch. It has been over 50- years since I went through boot camp and it still moved me. Bravo Zulu Sir

  37. Lynne Demmery on

    When I first separated from my husband a good friend gave me the same good advice… Its now 4 years later and I’m still doing it.

  38. Joseph Collins on

    Bravo Zulu Admiral! Well said!! In addition, we may have crossed paths when you were a BUDs student and I was a Rescue Swimmer student at NAB Coronado in 1977. Much respect then….more respect now.

  39. Iam a very proud X-Marine.This speech made me even prouder of my fellow service men and women,andmy country.For those of you who have never served,and complian about America,go RING THE BELL AND LEAVE.For everone else who is proud to be an American,GOD BLESS YOU.

  40. Doris Johns on

    What a great speech. With a Social Degree; I was truly touched, especially with the amount of people that just one signal person could affect by trying to make a difference. Memories hit home when you mentioned that by simply making your bed in the morning gives a person a sense of accomplishment and prompts a person to do more; my parents taught me this as a child. What a difference in my life that this one simple task that was taught me and it only took me a minute! Bless you sir for making my day and I do pray that your words will touch everyone and they will remember that we are the expert of our own lives and we can make a difference not only of ourselves, but for others! Making a difference, I respect and admire you tremendously!

  41. Raul Santos on

    Cool Admiral! But I guess making up your bed to start your day to some is not what it all really makes you to be proud of to beginn the day and accomplish another and another, as for me, I pause to pray each morning, then followed by making up the bed then the normal routine very morning, my mom taught me that, with all due respect, I may not be a graduate of a prominent university like Admiral McRaven who rose to the top rank but I always have a sense of pride, now I have 3 college grad children who maybe future millionaires and what not….Thank you Admiral and I appreciate your great service to our nation…great in spring speech.

  42. To “whodidthemath”, you may think your math is correct, BUT your F***king reading skills suck. He is “36 years a SEAL, which means he’s still man enough to kick your stupid, critical, non-productive a**.
    USN (ret)

  43. barbara lanier on

    Excellent words of encourangement, thank you. I especially liked, “you can’t change the world, alone”

  44. james strain on

    I served my country in the US Army for 23 years. I believe the greatest gift I was given was the leadership training I received and perfected in the US Army. Because of my many lessons and the internal drive and desire developed in the Army I do not believe in failure never never fail and never give up attitude. I have always believed I was capable of achieving any goal I set out to achieve. Today I am a successful VP in the health care field. Education alone will only get you so far but you drive desire and ability to never ring the bell it what it takes regardless of the setting you are working in or goal attempting to be reached. SFC James Strain retired US Army A2C2 ATC Flight Medic Forward Controller Combat Medic….

  45. Roger Froehlich on

    A wonderful code of conduct for all to live by. I trained at Coronado in 1963 as a Marine LCPL going through the Amphibious Reconnaissance School and then had the great fortune of meeting two of the earliest Navy SEALs while attending the Marine Corps Escape, Evasion, and Survival school at Bridgeport, CA. Lt. Jack “Blackjack” Macione, one of the original members of SEAL Team Two, became a lifelong friend and I – as all Americans – have the very greatest admiration for all that the SEAL Teams represent. Admiral (SEAL) McRaven is the very best of the best! Semper Fi!

  46. Guppy Scott on

    It’s properly called and referred to as a “CAP”, as in ‘cap, combination. Right-handed people tend to don it a little askew to starboard if not paying close attention. he probably had it off for the Prayer. When wearing shoulder-boards with 4 stars, I guess it doesn’t much matter which way the scrambled eggs are pointed. It also helps if your head shape is oval.

    Folks, he’s the real deal.

  47. Georgeann Razor on

    My father was in the United States Navy for 26 years retired Lieutenant he would have loved this video.

  48. Dear Admiral

    What a wonderful speech you gave to the yang men and women who in their next step in life should place as scope. To make a better world, to become next generation leaders with proud taking the right decisions.
    For this they need courage ,stamina and a little bit of luck.

    In every single word of your speech days and moments where jumping in front of my eyes from my UTD training in little Creek as a member of the class 7102 and company commander of it. Opstical coerce ,mudflats, swimming with the sharks in PORTO RICO, Sourabachi hill, Log PT.

    This calls was the last one of the EAST COAST.

    When ever you will pass from Athens Greece and you have some time to spend you have an open invitation for diner.

    Rear Admiral John J.Theophanides HN (rt)

  49. Thank you sir,.. I going to make my ex fiancés son listen to this.. it inspired me and I 55 yrs old , retired from the police K9 unit…. oorah sir

  50. Simply awesome! I am a retired engineer/project manager, this speech is like the Admiral says for everyone. Great advise for youth. Discipline is what builds character.
    Thank you for the wise words.

  51. I disagree with some of our nation’s foreign entanglements, but I also have a profound appreciation for the patriots who protect us from the world’s a-holes. Admiral McRaven, thank you for what you do on our behalf, and thank for your universal, apolitical message. Superb. I teach high school English and can’t wait to assign this speech to my seniors next year.

  52. Patrick Cannon on

    Wow! What a great speech. He taught, he trained & he led. That is what you look for in a leader and commander.

  53. Don Whisnant on

    Semper Fidelis, Admiral! Would you be interested in running for President? Sure could use some solid leadership in Washington.

  54. After listing to the Admiral speech ,am very proud of all of the men an woman in the service. I just wish I had some one like the Admiral to beside me when I was in the Navy. I to worked beside the great Navy seals in my 20 years supporting them with their training an missions that they worked on and carried out their missions. Never once did I hear a Seal “say I don’t think we do this” It was always lets go and” DO THIS”. WEEL DONE ADMIRAL

  55. Mike Louy, LCDR, USN, Ret. on

    Dear Admiral McRaven,

    Your graduation address at UT was highly inspiring. May I be so bold as to thank you for your 37 years of inspirational leadership and service on behalf of ALL HA(L)-3 Seawolves who joined hearts, minds and arms with our Seal brothers in Vietnam.

    My Aviation Officer Candidate School Class 12-63 drill instructor SSGT Jospeh P. Monteleone, USMC taught me how to make my rack and shine my brass. That attention to detail saved my life more than once.

    I hope to meet you some day in Pensacola.

  56. Admiral McRaven,

    The Life Lesson’s you presented to the World can be an inspiration to us all. Families with small children should take note. Thank you for such an substantial speech especially to our youth.

    From a mother of a recent Navy Seal graduate! God bless you son for deciding to make a change in the World.

  57. c. winstead on

    My hat is off to you Admiral McRaven. You told it like it is. I too make my bed the first thing when I get up in the morning. I learned it from my Mom and was reinforced in the Navy. I was a short timer only 21 years. I tried to instill the same thing with my 4 kids. I hope some of it rubbed off they all graduated from college with at least a Master’s and a couple PHD’s. Brovo Zulu Run for president and you will have my vote.

  58. Mac McDonald on

    Roberto AKA El Gato made it all the way through UDT Coronado … it was Hell Week and to the last second of the end Roberto Rang that bell. Why CHALLENGE Roberto (my brilliant Friend with a sense of humor) tough and in his own way accepted the challenge + did ring the bell…. at the last seconds. He served in The Mexican Army and joined the American Navy. Roberto and me mate Jerry were UDT and they were my Friends of absolute loyalty. Roberto returned to UDT Coronado to go through the whole program again and this time to not ring the bell. i understood him.. it was like when they say in boot camp for you not to try to escape and that escape is impossible… or someone says you are unsuitable and they want to jettison you out of a career you are fully 100% dedicated to accomplishing… and you refuse to admit you are unsuitable….oh thatz ah challenge …. it’s just an urge you get to say yeah i can do it and there were many others who probably thought the same… One fella i do not recall Washington or maybe i do recall… he wanted to be a Navy Supply Officer… he was in honor company enlisted with us… he used to walk right out of recruit training and through the gates visiting and walking Rosencrans Blvd and returned before dawn. it was like hey thatz smart… he played it off but the risk for failure was penalizing… Roberto and Jerry are my friends for life… they respected my background and knew i wanted to serve as a Navy Corpsman perhaps PA someday and that i was a U.S. Marine Sergeant. i hate that bastid Snowden. Traitor. Putin would have given that sneaky bastid a milkshake if Snowden did to RUssia what Snowden Falcon and The Snowman did to your U.S.A. Some spies are permitted to return to their home country to receive their full retirement WTF is that… why did the Communists not return prisoners? Answer because you are the property of the government Communist. They on their rules own you and do what they want with you. You could be a shot down Congressman persona non grata hauled away in into an underground gulag… they do not care. They have their own rules. UNderstand this clearly Poland Katyn (Slaughter House) Forest and Cambodia Pol Pot Puppetry and the thinning out of populations of select people Officers Veterans and more intelligencia are the exercises of what happens to you when you are under a Communist thumb and control. They say Friends Forever Enemies Never… it’s as serious as UFO’s Serious Business. Gen MacArthur spoke the truth; “All Wars Are Private.”what we do today echoes for eternity. Better to have a 100 Friends than one enemy. Let Freedom Ring. UDT hut. Queen Ann Salute. Hospital fold. I love you AMERICA.

  59. That’s the man that I would go to war with to hell and back a true leader he would make a great president simple. And these are the men that are present forces to resign due to his own persona dislike of a strong America does not fit his vision making us into a third world country

  60. I absolutely agree with this intelligent, successful, courageous man! Having a ship shape bed starts the day on the right foot! Adm. McRaven, thank you for the great advice and thank you for serving our country!



  62. Brenda Garten Bautista on

    This man is the type of man who I love to see still exists. Nice to know good, confident, self respecting men still exist. As a woman of honor, loyalty,humility, grace, I like to believe I will, someday, in the near future, meet a single man of the caliber this man seems to be.

  63. This Admiral is an inspiration to all who cherish being an American. He is the consummate role model. Unpretentious, and genuinely dedicated to the service of our country.

  64. Allan H Weagle EA on

    As a retired Army NCO I can not agree with his advice more. As for the negative comments. I would like to reiterate a event of years gone by. I was stationed at Eglin AFB in Florida when a young Captain reported for duty. He informed an E8, who had been through three wars WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, on how he had graduated high in his class, had received a Masters from MIT and what great things he was going to accomplish in the military. The E8 looked at him and told him the first rule of combat was “Every man is an Idiot until he proves himself otherwise”.
    I my eyes the Admiral has proven himself otherwise- the nay sayers have not.

    Allan H Weagle EA Army Retired

  65. Honor, courage and commitment are key words linked to every Service; however, they mean little if not supported by respect, trust, and sincerity. Admiral McRaven embodies these traits, along with many others that all Americans – young and old, should aspire to embrace. His dedication to our Nation is not from his time in the Navy alone, it is sustained by every single person that he has influenced and touched along his journey…our great service men and women, the graduates at UT that just heard his enlightening words, and all the others that have had the opportunity to cross his path.

    As a retired Sailor, it is awe-inspiring and gratifying to know that this man — Sailor, SEAL, and a great American “has the watch”.

  66. Brilliant speech by a brilliant leader. The armed forces could use a legion of Admiral McRavens. He is the best American leader since General Schwarzkopf. Presidential material in my opinion.

  67. This has got to be the best commencement speech ever given. Very motivational although some tasks he speaks of seem to be impossible. This is a story of hope and triumph, and one that I will listen to over and over again throughout my remaining years.

    Thank you Admiral Bill McRaven.

    Ernie Ash

  68. It should be noted that this style is associated with Art Nouveau or the ‘new art’ movement, so we’re talking early 20th century creations. If a plasma television wall mount doesn’t sound like something you’d want to use, there is one more option. This will draw up the cooler air and push warmer air down into the room.

  69. The best speech I’ve ever heard, you sir are a great motivational speaker, and a true American Hero. Thank you for your service, and to all that have served.

  70. David Swett on

    I am a 63 year old man, diabetic for 53 years with countless complications. I continue to workout regularly, was active in sports throughout my life, and spent 30+ years working with abused children and adolescents. I have lived my life according to all ten principals the Admiral spoke of, have always had such tremendous respect for the military, and admired those whom would not only put themselves in harms way for me; but do so by subjecting themselves to the most grueling training available.

    I just listened to the admiral’s commencement speach feeling chills of pride in hearing these words from one who has endured so much. I find myself inspired again, and jape everyone in America could hear his words. I know I will share them, and I hope each person I share them with will do likewise with their friends.

    Admiral Bill Mc Raven, I salute you as well as thank you for your exceedingly inspiring words. They have touched my heart, and I will bet the graduating class of UT will NOT forget their commencement keynote speaker!!

    David W. Swett

  71. Jonathan McNelis on

    To all who have heard or read Admiral McRaven’s speech to the UT graduating class, believe that he gave them sage advice. Share that information with someone. Bravo Zulu, Admiral McRaven. ACCS(AW) USN, Ret.

  72. Amd. McRaven, I haven’t been so moved since I first heard Jack Kennedy speak. I am 69 years old, both my wife and myself are Navy veterans of the Vietnam era. I have forwarded your comments to 10 of my friends, all of them have children. My hope is that they play your words for their kids and maybe sit with them as they listen Further, I have placed a printed copy of your words into a letter with the instructions for it to be given to my grandson, Maddox Robert Owens, age 5 months, on the occasion of his 13 birthday. I have done this because I may not be around in about 13 years. If you are ever in Cincinnati or Cape Coral Florida I would consider it a true honor to shake your hand. Thank you for renewing my faith in America. I was begining to feel that we as Americans, had lost or ability to not only say the wright thing but to show the world , by your career and example, the traits of honesty, integrety and idealism.

  73. Debbie Veselka on

    I had the honor of hearing Admiral McRaven give this speech at the UT commencement ceremony on the campus lawn as my son was graduating that night. This was absolutely the best and most inspiring commencement address I have ever heard in my life. As a parent, we work hard to raise our children to be dedicated, strong, courageous, giving, supportive, and compassionate towards others in this world. The Navy should be commended for developing this fine leader, along with his parents who clearly did an outstanding job in raising their son. The world needs more leaders like him. From the comments above from the men and women who also serve our great country, I can see he has indeed changed each of you and will continue to change the world in the most positive way. God bless our troops, God bless Admiral McRaven, and God bless the United States of America. Please pass the link to his speech to at least 10 of your friends, and let’s assist him in changing the world one person at a time. Hook ’em horns!

  74. LANE KUNATH on




    A GREAT SPEECH and thank you Sir for you sevice and have more years to come and hope more like you willl come to lead

    Richard Strickland Sr.
    High Springs Fl.
    June ,2
    Gunner Sgt.
    116th Feld Aritillery
    54 to 60

  76. Thank You so very much Adm. Your words have really inspired me to make the best out of life. Even when the sharks come! I have faced many ” sharks ” in my life but I know now what I have to do to get over them…STAND MY GROUND! Once again, thank you for your encouraging words sir!
    The only easy day was yesterday!

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