Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds
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David Goggins’ Perspective
David Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL and is the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete SEAL training (including two Hell Weeks), the U.S. Army Ranger School (where he graduated as Enlisted Honor Man), 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, completing 4,030 in 17 hours.
In Can’t Hurt Me, Goggins 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. But, he defied all odds through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work. No longer was he a depressed, overweight young man with no future. By committing himself to weight loss and improving his test scores, Goggins became a U.S. Armed Forces icon. He is now one of the world’s top endurance athletes. He has become the only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller. He didn’t stop there, though. Goggins set records in extreme endurance events and has been named The Fittest (Real) Man in America.
StoryShot #1: Goggins’ Father Was Violent
Goggins was born in New York in 1975. He did not have a typical carefree childhood. Instead of playing outside with friends, Goggins was controlled by his abusive father. His father, Trunnis, was a self-made businessman who owned a disco. Instead of hiring paid workers, Trunnis would force his family to work every night of the week. Goggins was already working at the rink by the age of six. Even at this age, his father would force him to work until midnight. Instead of taking him home, Trunnis would often leave him 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 forced labor, Goggins’ dad was extremely violent. Goggins and his mother fell victim to domestic abuse, often for the smallest things. For example, Goggins once contracted a nasty ear infection. His loving mother took him to the hospital. But, Trunnis hated the family spending money, even when his children were ill. After returning, Goggins witnessed his father beating his mother senseless with a belt. When he intervened, his father beat him too. He had to attend school, hiding the bruises he had been given.
StoryShot #2: Goggins Experienced Racism From a Young Age
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. But, 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. On top of that, he had guns waved in his face, purely due to his skin color. Now dealing with bullying and poverty, his life didn’t appear to be getting any better.
To make matters worse, Goggins began experiencing the traumatic effects of his early years. After 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 he was suffering from toxic stress. This is a condition in which young children who have undergone severe abuse experience permanent ‘fight or flight.’
StoryShot #3: Goggins Found His Inspiration
David Goggins remained unhappy throughout his high school years. Though, everything changed one day after meeting an Air Force recruiter. This recruiter immediately impressed David when he told him that he was a pararescue jumper who dived after downed pilots to save them. Spending time with this recruiter inspired him to be part of the Air Force. But, this was simply a dream. David believed he neither had the talent nor the education that the Air Force requires. In particular, David doubted that he could pass their difficult Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). This test includes:
- General science
- Arithmetic reasoning
- Word knowledge
- Paragraph comprehension
- Mathematics knowledge
- Electronics information
- Auto and shop information
- Mechanical comprehension
- Assembling objects
David may have doubted his potential, but having this dream made him take a long hard look at himself. He decided to change himself entirely. He shaved his head, changed his style, and wrote down every goal required to pass the ASVAB test. Goggins stuck these targets onto his mirror and called this his “accountability mirror.” These targets helped him stay accountable to himself by reminding him of his goals every day.
StoryShot #4: Accountability Mirrors Can Help Motivate You
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 daily. This action reminded him of what he needed to do to accomplish his mission. Although Goggins had a tough start in 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. He had not even seen a swimming pool until he was 12 and had always feared water. For this reason, Goggins struggled to complete any of the military’s swimming challenges as fear paralyzed him. Despite his struggle with swimming, it would ultimately be a medical test that ended Goggins’ dream of joining the military. The test revealed he had sickle cell anemia. Goggins admits that he used this as a reason to leave the military, as he didn’t want to go back into the water.
StoryShot #5: Goggins Noticed Things Had to Change
Goggins regressed after his military training. He started working as an overnight pest control technician in Indianapolis, and his health worsened as well. At one point, David Goggins weighed 300 pounds (136 kg). Again, Goggins reached a moment when 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 terrible times and was heavily overweight. On top of this, he realized he had no vision for his future.
After this shift, Goggins stumbled upon a TV documentary that would change his life. This documentary covered the lives of the Navy SEALS and how they were the most lethal fighting force. 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, seeking to be accepted into their training.
StoryShot #6: Making a Change Took Huge Commitment
Goggins was knocked back when he learned the upcoming cohort’s training program would be closing in three months. At the time, he was 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. But, 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, it took true bravery to overcome his fear of water. Goggins would head to the gym for circuit training that included at least five sets of 200 reps for all major muscle groups. He would then go on the exercise bike, then have his dinner, and then jump back on his exercise bike. This training regimen, 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 successfully became a Navy SEAL on his third and final attempt.
StoryShot #7: Pushing Through When Things Get Tough
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. Goggins knew from his Navy SEAL 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 Navy SEALs’ who had been killed in a military operation in Afghanistan. Goggins didn’t take this run lightly. Instead, he chose to run the toughest foot race in the world: The Badwater 135. His training was only 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. Though, Goggins managed to finish the race by remembering the forty percent rule.
StoryShot #8: The Forty Percent Rule
Most people would have given up in Goggins’ position. But, when you are struggling to finish a workout, he recommends you remember that you almost certainly still have 60 percent left to give. As humans, we tend to give up after exerting 40 percent of our maximum. For instance, you might anticipate the maximum number of miles you can run right now is four. In reality, the maximum will be closer to ten miles. That’s why, even though Goggins had only ever run 26 miles, he believed 100 miles was possible. He had only ever given 40 percent of his effort.
Once you feel as if you’ve given all you’ve got, Goggins recommends that you keep going. He believes that when you push past this point, 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 functioning through California’s Death Valley and finishing the race at an elevation of 8,374 feet. This race takes place in July when this area is at its hottest.
This time, 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.
StoryShot #9: Become Uncommon Amongst Uncommon
After completing the Badwater 135, Goggins was passionate about completing more races. He would enter himself into multiple ultra-running races monthly. As with many aspects of Goggins’ life, he was thrown a curveball. 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 curveballs that life throws at you. Despite all his setbacks in life, Goggins was one of only 36 African-Americans to become a Navy SEAL. He was one of the only prolific African-American ultra runners at the time. Goggins described this journey as him becoming uncommon against uncommon. He had become the best of the best. But, 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 key takeaway here 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.
StoryShot #10: Callous Your Mind By Experiencing Pain
Our culture has become hooked on quick fixes and life hacks. Although these hacks might occasionally bring success, they will limit your self-mastery. So, if you want to master your mind, you have to become addicted to hard work. Passion, obsession, and talent are only useful if you have the work ethic to back them up. Goggins suggests that you callous your mind. ‘Callousing’ your mind involves intentionally exposing yourself to discomfort and pain. Instead of settling for less than your best, Goggins recommends finding ways to callous your mind to get the hard but rewarding work done.
StoryShot #11: Stop Making Excuses For Yourself
Goggins was destined for a life of depression, chronic pain, and PTSD after childhood. Despite this, he managed to overcome these obstacles by working hard and committing himself to achieve his goals. Goggins started as a clinically obese cockroach exterminator who could hardly read. He got up early, worked hard to lose weight, became knowledgeable, and trained as a Navy SEAL. Goggins explains you have to stop making excuses for yourself. Having a family to look after or a demanding job is part of life rather than an excuse.
StoryShot #12: The Morning Is the Most Crucial Part of the Day
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.
Final Book Review and Analysis of Can’t Hurt Me
David Goggins experienced a traumatic childhood that impacted his adult life. Though, he did not let these traumatic experiences define him. Instead, he worked hard and utilized clear goals to become outstanding. He recommends that you create your own accountability mirror so you can become uncommon against uncommon. This might not mean you will break the pull-up world records or run 100 miles, but he believes that all your wildest dreams are possible through hard work, commitment, and remembering the 40% rule.
We rate this inspiring book 4.7/5.
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