Can’t hurt me: master your mind and defy the odds is a memoir written by retired US Navy SEAL and former US Air Force TACP member, David Goggins. The book is eleven chapters long.
David starts the book off describing his brutal childhood days. Where he was subjected to forced child labour, physical and mental abuse by his biological father.
He eventually manages to leave his abusive biological father, just to be thrown into another tough reality of being penniless and his teachers shoving him aside due to him being intellectually behind everyone else.
When things had just started to look better for him and his mother, his would-be father was murdered.
It was during this depressive period of his life where he floundered in school and in life in general, a chance encounter made him aspire to join the Air Force Pararescue.
But in order to be accepted into the Air Force, he needed a certain GPA. This is when he discovered the accountability mirror technique. Where he would face himself in the mirror and set himself goals every night and hold himself accountable to achieving those goals.
Having been accepted into the training program for the Air Force Pararescue, he shares some of the events that happened during this time. Most importantly, he tells us he gave up on the Air Force Pararescue due to PTSD from his childhood days and not medical reasons.
Following his time with the Air Force, he becomes an unfit 300 pound pest control fumigator. This is when he decides he wants (and needs) to become a Navy SEAL, not just for himself.
In order to be accepted into the BUD/S training program, he needed to get fit. He describes how he pushed his body to the limits in order to achieve this.
For the next 2-3 chapters he shares details of his time in the BUD/S training program. This tough training caused him to have a change in mindset. He calls this new mindset the callous mind.
He then shares with us his time in the Navy SEALs where he learned about fundraising efforts and ultra marathons - in particular is the Badwater 135.
He shares with us the challenges he had to go through in order to participate in the Badwater 135. In the very first challenge, he had to do a 100 mile marathon. He completed this 100 mile marathon without any prior training and shares with us the cookie jar concept he came up with that helped him complete the marathon.
Following the 100 mile marathon he learned he needed to train and prepare for ultra marathons. During this training period, he notices changes in his mindset again. He calls this new change the 40% rule - where we are only utilising 40% of what we are capable of due to the mind’s governor.
The next chapter we find him (yet again) unprepared for a triathlon and more personal health discoveries take place.
Following that heart breaking chapter, we get a glimpse into his platoon and Ranger school days. And he introduces us to the idea of remaining uncommon, or rather be the uncommon amongst the uncommons.
In Chapter 10 he shares with us his side of the story what he went through to break the pull-up world record.
He finishes the book with the importance of stretching and how stretching is helping his body recover from all the stress he has put on it over the years. He also further encourages us to accept and face our demons, break down the walls and limits our minds put on us. Oh, and he is now a wild land firefighter and loving it.
- Life is not fair
- Accept this reality, own it. Do not let this become an excuse.
- Be your own hero
- No one is coming to save you. Be your own hero.
- Habits is a tool in our toolbox
- A tool we overlook is habits. Habits is the best tool for change.
- Denial is the ultimate comfort zone
- No one is more blind than someone who does not want to see.
- Motivation is useless, instead be driven
- Motivation is like a mood. It comes and goes. You cannot rely on it. Change requires consistency and being driven provides this constant desire to pursue the goal(s).
- Repetition is the way to break out of a bad habit (self-disciple)
- If we repeat something over and over again. It will become the new habit. Something we will do naturally without needing to think about it.
- Challenge 1 - inventory of excuses
- Write out all the bad stuff that happened to you (and own them, accept your past). No more excuses because of your past/background.
- Challenge 2 - accountability mirror
- Write out all the insecurities and issues (and own them). Set up goals on post-it notes to fix them. Stick these goals on the mirror so you see them every morning and night. Remove the goal once it has been achieved.
- Challenge 3 - step outside of comfort zone
- Write out all the things that make you uncomfortable or don’t want to do. Do one of these things every day. Do it again the following day. Repeat this until it becomes comfortable, then move on to do something else.
- Challenge 4 - taking souls
- Identify an enemy. Turn the tables on your enemy (the enemy here can be your boss, teacher, coach - you get the idea). Outperform the expectation of your enemy. Go way beyond them. Show them you are better than them.
- Challenge 5 - visualise your goals
- Visualise the goals you want to achieve. But don’t just visualise on the end goal, visual on the challenges you will face and visual how you will overcome these challenges. Make sure you have the answers to these questions before starting: why are you doing this? what is driving you towards this goal? where is the dark fuel coming from?
- Challenge 6 - cookie jar
- Write down all the victories you have had over the years. Note the feelings and struggles you overcame to achieve those wins. Put these into your cookie jar (not a literal cookie jar).
- Challenge 7 - remove the governor
- Push yourself physically and/or mentally 5 - 10% more than your perceived limit. Increase the limit again once your new limit becomes the norm.
- Challenge 8 - scheduling
- This is a 3 week challenge.
Week 1: Proceed as normal, but takes notes of your routine. This will be your baseline.
Week 2: Build an optimal week schedule. The schedule should be broken into 15 - 30 minute blocks. Focus on one task at a time. Remember to include time for rest/food breaks into the schedule. Takes note of the timestamps.
Week 3: You should have a good optimal schedule based on week 2.
- Challenge 9 - be uncommon amongst uncommon
- Go the extra mile to be the uncommon amongst the uncommon. Place obstacles and new challenges before yourself to help yourself stand out from the uncommon.
- Challenge 10 - after action reports
- Think about your biggest failures. Write all the good points about the failures. Note how you failed. Now, think about how you can fix those mistakes that caused the failure. Reschedule another attempt. And if it’s not possible to re-attempt. Just do the exercise to get an idea of what can be changed.
Personally, the book did not have the effect David Goggins had intended for its audience - his intention for the book was to tell the origin story of a hero and the hero of the story is you, the reader.
I found myself deep in the details of his story - a testament to how well the book was written. The gory details of the horrific events showed David had truly owned and accepted his past/background.
The later chapters made me feel as though David has become a bit of a saddist who finds pleasure in exerting pain on himself. This may be a side effect of his approach to using the negative force as fuel to propel him out of those depressed states he found himself in.
It was not as good as the hype made it out to be. A lot of the advice is general advice - but it was certainly great to see someone share their success from making use of said advice. I’ll say it is not a must-read, but a worthwhile read.
The stories are quite gory, not sure if the Clean Edition tones it down or just tones down the language. You have been warned.
These are affiliate links, see disclaimer for more information.