In Can’t Hurt Me, Goggins shares his incredible life story. Plus, he reveals a path that anyone can follow to push past limits, eliminate fear, and live life to the fullest. For Goggins, childhood was far from innocently playing outside without a care in the world. Instead, he experienced trauma from an abusive father and extreme prejudice and poverty in rural America. Statistically, Goggins was going nowhere and was destined for a life of depression and poverty. However, he defied all odds through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work. No longer was he a depressed, overweight young man with no future. Goggins committed himself to losing weight and improving his test scores. He became a U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world’s top endurance athletes. Goggins has become the only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller. However, he didn’t stop there. Goggins set records in extreme endurance events and has been named The Fittest (Real) Man in America.
About David Goggins
David Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL. He is the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete SEAL training, the U.S. Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. An accomplished endurance athlete, Goggins has completed over 60 ultra-marathons, triathlons, and ultra-triathlons. He once held the Guinness World Record for pull-ups, having completed 4,030 in 17 hours.
“You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft, that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.”– David Goggins
The Early Life of Goggins
Goggins was born in New York in 1975. He did not have a typical carefree childhood. Instead of playing outside with friends, Goggins was a slave to his abusive father. His father, Trunnis, was a self-made businessman who owned a roller-disco rink. However, instead of hiring paid workers, Trunnis would force his family to work every night of the week at the skating rink. Goggins was already working at the rink by the age of six, and he often wouldn’t finish working until midnight. Instead of taking him home, Trunnis would often leave the children to sleep in the office. Goggins would hardly sleep at night, though, as the disco was loud and would stay open until the early hours of the morning.
On top of slave labor, Goggins’ dad was extremely violent. Goggins and his mother fell victim to countless violent beatings, often for the smallest things. For example, Goggins once contracted a nasty ear infection. His loving mother took him to the hospital. However, Trunnis hated the family spending money, even when his children were ill. Upon returning, Goggins witnessed his father beating his mother senseless with a belt. When he intervened, his father would beat him too. He had to attend school hiding the bruises he had been given.
At the age of eight, Goggins’ mother decided she’d had enough. She took David and escaped to Indiana, where they started their new lives together. However, as he would soon find out, he and his mother had walked into the center of a racist part of rural America. He was the only black kid in town, and he quickly became the target of hatred. He frequently heard the n-word directed toward him. Plus, he had guns waved in his face, purely because of his skin color. Now dealing with bullying and poverty, his life didn’t seem to be getting any better.
Long-Term Impacts of Trauma
To make matters worse, Goggins began experiencing the traumatic effects of his early years. Because of the suffering he experienced from his father, he developed a nervous stutter. Plus, his hair started to fall out, and patches of his skin lost pigment and turned a different color. As an adult, David recognized that he was suffering from toxic stress. This is a condition in which young children who have undergone severe abuse experience permanent ‘fight or flight.’
The Accountability Mirror
“It won’t always go your way. So, you can’t get trapped in this idea that just because you’ve imagined a possibility for yourself that you somehow deserve it. Your entitled mind is dead weight. Cut it loose. Don’t focus on what you think you deserve. Take aim on what you are willing to earn!”– David Goggins
David Goggins remained unhappy throughout his high school years. However, everything changed one day after meeting an Air Force recruiter. This recruiter immediately impressed David when he learned that he was a para-rescue jumper. This man jumped after downed pilots to save them. Spending time with this recruiter inspired David to be part of the Air Force. However, this was just a dream. David believed he did not have the talent nor education that the Air Force requires. Specifically, David doubted that he could pass their difficult Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).
Even if David doubted his potential, just possessing this dream made him take a long hard look at himself. He decided to change himself entirely. He shaved his head, changed his fashion style, and wrote down every goal he had to obtain to pass the ASVAB. Goggins calls these easy and challenging targets his accountability mirror.
The accountability mirror played a significant role in creating the man Goggins would become. He made a habit of standing in front of the accountability mirror. Every day he would remind himself what he needed to do to accomplish his mission. Although Goggins had a tough start to life, he was aware that he could change his future. Eventually, Goggins passed the ASVAB and was one step closer to joining the military.
Although Goggins was close to joining the military, there was one huge obstacle he would have to overcome. Goggins did not see a swimming pool until 12 years old and had always had a phobia of water. Hence, Goggins struggled to complete any of the military’s swimming challenges as he would instantly become paralyzed by fear. Instead of quitting, Goggins’ dream of joining the military was stopped by a medical test. This test revealed he was predisposed to sickle cell anemia (a blood disease).
Turning His Life Around
Working as an Exterminator
After leaving the military, Goggins regressed. He started working as an overnight exterminator in Indianapolis, and his health deteriorated considerably. At one point, David Goggins weighed 300 pounds. Again, Goggins reached a moment where he realized he had to change. At 4 a.m. one evening, Goggins sprayed a nest of cockroaches occupying a filthy restaurant only to be swarmed by hundreds of the cockroaches. After running away and swatting insects off his body for minutes, Goggins started to question where he had ended up in his life. He was working a horrible job at horrible times and was heavily overweight. On top of this, he realized he had no vision for his future.
Becoming a SEAL
After this horrible shift, Goggins stumbled upon a TV documentary that would change his life. This documentary covered the lives of the Navy SEALs. Plus, it spoke about how they were the most lethal fighting force with the world’s most challenging training. He watched these SEALs struggle through mud, sweat, and tears. He was astounded by their mental toughness and determination. Before the show had even ended, Goggins was already on the phone. He was contacting every SEAL recruiter around the country, trying to be accepted onto their training.
Goggins was knocked back, though, when he learned that the upcoming cohort’s training program would be closing in three months. Plus, that he was currently 107 pounds heavier than the Navy SEALs allowed. If he wanted to join the SEALs, he would have to lose more than a pound per day for 90 days. However, instead of giving up, Goggins took on the challenge. He woke up every morning at 4:30 a.m. and would ride on his exercise bike for two hours. Then, he would drive to his nearest swimming pool and swim for another two hours. As you can imagine, this took true bravery to overcome his fear of water. Then, Goggins would head to the gym for circuit training that included at least five sets of 200 reps for all major muscle groups. Then, he would spend the rest of his day on his exercise bike before and after dinner. This training regime, coupled with a new accountability mirror, helped him to lose the required weight in time for the program. He joined the SEALS’ BUD/S 6-month training program, where only 30 of the toughest 120 candidates would become a Navy SEAL. After months of impossibly hard physical and mental challenges, Goggins was successful on his third and final attempt.
The Forty Percent Rule
Long Distance Running
After the success of overcoming the incredibly difficult SEAL training, Goggins found himself craving more challenges. He needed to find a way to push himself further. In 2005, Goggins found the answer in the form of long-distance running. One morning, Goggins woke up and started long-distance running for the first time. He didn’t stop that morning until he had run one hundred miles. Many of us could never even imagine running that far. However, Goggins knew from his Navy SEALs training that the biggest obstacle to these incredible physical feats is your mind.
Goggins then became interested in the idea of ultra-marathon running. His first taste of this sport was running to raise money for the families of his fellow Navy SEALS. They had been killed in a military operation in Afghanistan. However, Goggins didn’t do this run lightheartedly. Instead, he chose to run the toughest foot race in the world. His training for the Badwater 135 was just twenty minutes a week on a cross-trainer in the gym. Before this, he had never run farther than 26 miles of a marathon. Hence, at his 70-mile mark, Goggins was not looking good. At this point, he had lost control of his bladder and bowel movements due to sheer exhaustion. He was experiencing double vision and was running on broken bones in his feet. However, Goggins managed to finish the race by remembering the forty percent rule.
Giving Forty Percent More
Most people would have given up in Goggins’ position. However, he recommends that you almost certainly still have 60 percent left to give when you are struggling to finish a workout. As humans, we tend to give up after exerting 40 percent of our maximum. For instance, you might think the maximum number of miles you can run right now is four. In reality, the maximum will be closer to ten miles. Even though Goggins had only ever run 26 miles, he believed 100 miles was possible. He believed this was possible because he had only ever given 40 percent of his effort.
Once you feel as if you’ve given all you’ve got, keep going. It’s when you push past this point that you grow and break down those limitations and barriers that are holding you back. In the end, Goggins completed his race in just 19 hours. He even ran an extra mile to make sure he had truly finished. This qualified him for the 2006 Badwater 135 ultra-marathon. This time he would be running through California’s Death Valley and finishing the race at an elevation of 8,374 feet. The California Death Valley race takes place in July, which is when this area is at its hottest.
Goggins trained by carefully studying the terrain and running in the extreme conditions that he would experience on race day. When he finished, Goggins completed Badwater 135 in just thirty hours and finished in fifth place. Because of the forty percent rule, he was able to push his limits and accomplish something incredible.
Uncommon Against Uncommon
After completing the Badwater 135, Goggins was passionate about completing more races. He would enter himself into multiple ultra-running races every single month. However, as with a lot of Goggins’ life, he was thrown a curve-ball. During one of his races, Goggins noticed an irregular heart rate. A trip to the hospital revealed a lifelong condition: a hole in his heart. The condition is a serious one and deprives the body of oxygen and can lead to sudden death. For the past decade, Goggins had been training as a Navy SEAL, putting his body through the impossible. Miraculously, his condition hadn’t killed him.
David Goggins emphasizes the importance of responding well to the curve-balls that life throws at you. Despite all of his setbacks in life, Goggins was one of only 36 African-Americans to become a Navy SEAL. Plus, he was the only prolific African-American ultra runner. Goggins described this journey as him becoming uncommon against uncommon. He had become the best of the best. However, after identifying this irregular heartbeat, Goggins had to find another way to push himself. The next challenge would provide him with a world record. Specifically, Goggins read about the world record for the most pull-ups in 24 hours. The record at this time was 4,021, which meant he had to complete five pull-ups a minute for more than 12 hours. After training for this world record attempt, Goggins was able to break the record on January 20th, 2013.
The lesson to learn from this chapter is that you should find your way of becoming uncommon. For example, being the first person in your family to go to college. Then, become uncommon against uncommon by excelling in this uncommon position.
The Power of Our Minds
“Our culture has become hooked on the quick-fix, the life hack, efficiency. Everyone is on the hunt for that simple action algorithm that nets maximum profit with the least amount of effort. There’s no denying this attitude may get you some success, if you’re lucky, but it will not lead to a calloused mind or self-mastery. If you want to master the mind and remove your governor, you’ll have to become addicted to hard work. Because passion and obsession, even talent, are only useful tools if you have the work ethic to back them up.”– David Goggins
Stop Making Excuses
Goggins was destined for a life of depression, chronic pain, and PTSD after childhood. However, he managed to overcome these obstacles by working hard and committing himself to achieving his goals. Goggins started as a clinically obese cockroach exterminator who could hardly read. He got up early and worked hard to lose weight, become knowledgeable, and trained as a Navy SEAL. Goggins explains that you have to stop making excuses for yourself. Having a family to look after or a difficult job is part of life rather than an excuse. Tell your daily stressors, “you can’t hurt me.”
Mornings are Crucial
Goggins describes the morning as the most crucial part of the day. If you can win the morning, then you can win the day. Typically, Goggins will get up at 4 a.m. Then, he goes on a six-to-ten mile run. He usually gets back from his run at 5:15 a.m. and will shower, eat breakfast, and get ready for work. Goggins cycles 25 miles to work and arrives at his desk by 7:30 a.m. During his lunch break, Goggins will either have a gym session or go for another six-mile run on the beach. Then, he cycles back home after work. Each day without fail, Goggins will have cycled 50 miles, run ten miles, and worked a nine-to-five job. This routine shows that you can always find time to make positive habits part of your life.
In addition to working hard and getting things done, Goggins also recommends taking everything one step further. For example, instead of stopping long-distance running once you have run a marathon, you should be thinking about the next accomplishment. For example, run another marathon and improve your time. If you become satisfied with your accomplishments, then you will stop moving forward.
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