Don’t Choose the Easy Way Out: Refuse to Quit

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Make Your Bed" by William H. McRaven. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What can you learn from Make Your Bed author McRaven about refusing to quit? How can you apply these lessons to your own life?

If Navy SEAL Admiral McRaven could take away one lesson from the SEALs, he said it would be the refusing to quit. He learned that quitting is the easy way out, but it didn’t make life easier. 

Keep reading McRaven’s story to learn why he refuses to quit.

No Matter What, Refuse to Quit

When life gets tough or things don’t go your way, it is much easier to give in and quit than continue forward. Life is full of moments in which the odds of success seem so small, you can’t imagine ever winning. Throwing in the towel seems like the most logical thing to do. You can do that. You can feel pity for yourself, blame others, and complain about how unfair the world is. If you do these things, your life will be a long and uncomfortable journey. 

When you reach the precipice between quitting and continuing, hold steady and take another step forward. Refuse to quit. Stand your ground and work despite the odds. As long as you keep moving forward, your life will be in your control. No one can stop you from doing what you love. Only you can quit, and you will likely regret it forever. Never, ever, under any circumstances quit. If life is going to beat you, make sure you go down fighting. 

Never Ring the Bell

Admiral McRaven, Author of Make Your Bed, stood at attention with 150 other SEAL hopefuls the first day of training. A commanding officer strode across the courtyard and stood next to a bell. He told the men what they could expect from the next six months. He would push them to their limits. He would make sure they understood pain. He would make them feel worthless and humiliated in front of each other. He would do everything in his power to get them to quit. 

Then, the officer rang the bell. He said if any of them ever decided the training was too much, they could ring the bell three times. Ringing the bell would release them from all their pain. However, he said, if they rang the bell, they would likely regret it for the rest of their lives. Quitting is the easy way out, but it didn’t make life easier. 

On graduation day, only 33 of the original 150 trainees remained. Of all the lessons McRaven learned during his training, “never ring the bell” was the most significant. This lesson stayed with him during his career and helped him through difficult times. He also witnessed countless other service members refuse to quit, which inspired others to do the same. 

One of the most significant examples of refusing to quit came from a young soldier who’d stepped on a mine his first week in combat. McRaven visited him in the Afghanistan hospital and saw that the 19-year-old boy had lost both his legs and suffered massive burns to the rest of his body. 

The boy couldn’t speak, but he knew sign language. Using a reference sheet, McRaven was able to hold a small conversation with the soldier. Before the boy drifted back to sleep, he signed four words: I will be okay. A year later, McRaven saw the young man standing with prosthetic legs. He was in uniform and back in the fold of his unit. He was joking around with fellow soldiers and looked every bit as okay as he promised he would be. 

McRaven knew this young man refused to quit, even when faced with several medical procedures and months of rehabilitation. He stayed strong and stayed the course, and he made it through to the other side. 

Don’t Choose the Easy Way Out: Refuse to Quit

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of William H. McRaven's "Make Your Bed" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Make Your Bed summary:

  • Why making your bed each morning gives you a small victory to start your day right
  • The 10 lessons Admiral William H. McRaven learned during his time as a Navy SEAL
  • Why quitting is easy, but regrettable

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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