“Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds” by David Goggins
Only you can master your mind, which is what it takes to live a bold life filled with accomplishments most people consider beyond their capability.
Human beings change through study, habit, and stories. Through my story, you will learn what the body and mind are capable of when they’re driven to maximum capacity, and how to get there.
I SHOULD HAVE BEEN A STATISTIC
What are the current factors limiting your growth and success? Is someone standing in your way at work or school? Are you underappreciated and overlooked for opportunities? What are the long odds you’re up against right now? Are you standing in your own way? Break out your journal and write them all out in minute detail. Don’t be bland with this assignment. Give your pain shape. Absorb its power, because you are about to flip that shit.
You are giving up instead of getting hard! Tell the truth about the real reasons for your limitations and you will turn that negativity, which is real, into jet fuel. Those odds stacked against you will become a damn runway!
When you transcend a place in time that has challenged you to the core, it can feel like you’ve won a war. Don’t fall for that mirage. Your past, your deepest fears, have a way of going dormant before springing back to life at double strength. You must remain vigilant.
Whatever your goal, you’ll need to hold yourself accountable for the small steps it will take to get there. Self-improvement takes dedication and self-discipline. The dirty mirror you see every day is going to reveal the truth. Stop ignoring it. Use it to your advantage.
THE IMPOSSIBLE TASK
The first step on the journey toward a calloused mind is stepping outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. Dig out your journal again and write down all the things you don’t like to do or that make you uncomfortable. Especially those things you know are good for you. Now go do one of them, and do it again.
We all have areas in our lives we either ignore or can improve upon. Find yours. We often choose to focus on our strength rather than our weaknesses. Use this time to make your weaknesses your strengths.
Doing things — even small things — that make you uncomfortable will help make you strong. The more often you get uncomfortable the stronger you’ll become, and soon you’ll develop a more productive, can-do dialogue with yourself in stressful situations.
Everything in life is a mind game! Whenever we get swept under by life’s dramas, large and small, we are forgetting that no matter how bad this pain gets, no matter how harrowing the torture, all bad things end. That forgetting happens the second we give control over our emotion and actions to other peoples, which can easily happen when pain is picking.
Taking someone’s soul means you’ve gained a tactical advantage. Life is all about looking for tactical advantages.
But defiance isn’t always the best way to take someone’s soul. It all depends upon your terrain. You must do your own homework. Know your terrain you’re operating in, when and where you can push boundaries, and when you should fall in line.
The ticket to victory often comes down to bringing your very best when you feel your worst.
Whoever you’re dealing with, your goal is to make them watch you achieve what they could never have done themselves. You want them thinking how amazing you are. Take their negativity and use it to dominate their task with everything you’ve got. Take their motherfucking soul!
Remembering what you’ve been through and how that has strengthened your mindset can lift you out of a negative brain loop and help you bypass those weak, one-second impulses to give in so you can power through obstacles. And when you leverage a calloused mind it can help you push your limits because if you accept the pain as a natural process and refuse to give in and give up, you will engage the sympathetic nervous system which shifts you hormonal flow.
Physical training is the perfect crucible to learn how to manage your thought process because when you’re working out, your focus is more likely to be single pointed, and your response to stress and pain is immediate and measurable.
The reason it’s important to push hardest when you want to quit the most is because it helps you callous your mind. It’s the same reason why you have to do your best work when you are the least motivated.
Only when you identify and accept your weaknesses will you finally stop running from your past. Than those incidents can be used more efficiently as fuel to become better and grow stronger.
Rather than focusing on bullshit, you cannot change, imagine visualizing the things you can. Choose any obstacle in your way, or set a new goal, and visualize overcoming or achieving it.
But visualization isn’t simply about daydreaming of some trophy ceremony — real or metaphorical. You must also visualize the challenges that are likely to arise and determine how you will attack those problems when they do. That way you can be prepared as possible on the journey.
It takes relentless self-discipline to schedule suffering into your day, every day, but if you do, you’ll find that at the other end of that suffering is a whole other life just waiting for you.
IT’S NOT ABOUT A TROPHY
When your body is broken and beaten, when you’re confronted with agonizing pain and starting into the unknown, your mind will spin, and that’s when those questions become toxic. If you aren’t prepared in advance, if you allow your mind to remain undisciplined in an environment of intense suffering, the only answer you are likely to find is the one that will make it stop as fast as possible.
Even if you’re feeling low and beat down by life right now, I guarantee you can think of a time or two when you overcame odds and tasted success. It doesn’t have to be a big victory either. It can be something small.
The engine in a rocket ship does not fire without a small spark first. We all need small sparks, small accomplishments in our lives to fuel the big ones.
Crack hour journal open again. Write it all out. Remember, this is not some breezy stroll through your personal trophy room. Don’t just write down your achievement hit list. Include life obstacles you’ve overcome. Add in those minor tasks you failed earlier in life, but tried again a second or third time and ultimately succeeded at. Feel what it was like to overcome those struggles, those opponents, and win. Then get to work.
THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON
We are all leaving a lot of money on the table without realizing it. We habitually settle for less than our best; at work, in school, in our relationships, and on the playing field or race course. We settle as individuals, and we teach our children to settle for less than their best, and all of that ripples out, merges, and multiplies within our communities and society as a whole.
Sadly, most of us give up when we’ve only given around 40 percent of our maximum effort. Even when we feel like we’ve reached our absolute limit, we still have 60 percent more to give! Once you know that to be true, it’s simply a matter of stretching your pain tolerance, letting go of your identity and all your self-limiting stories, so you can get to 60 percent, then 80 percent and beyond without giving up. I call this The 40% Rule, and the reason it’s so powerful is that if you follow it, you will unlock your mind to new levels of performance and excellence in sports and in life, and your rewards will run far deeper than mere material success.
We each have a lot more in us than we know, and when it comes to endurance sports like ultra running, everyone can achieve feats they once thought impossible. In order to do that we must change our minds, be willing to scrap our identity, and make the extra effort to always find more in order to become more.
We must create a system that constantly reminds us who the fuck we are at our best, because life is going to pick us up when we fall. There will be forks in the road, knives in your fucking back, mountains to climb, and we are only capable of living up to the image we create for ourselves.
Prepare yourself! We know life can be hard, and yet we feel sorry for ourselves when it isn’t fair. From this point forward, accept the following as Goggins’ laws of nature: You will be made fun of; You will feel insecure; You may not be the best all the time. You may be the only black, white, Asian, Latino, female, male, gay, lesbian or [fill in your identity here] in given situation; There will be times when you feel alone. Get over it!
There is so much pain and suffering involved in physical challenges that it’s the best training to take command of your inner dialogue, and the newfound mental strength and confidence you gain by continuing to push yourself physically will carry over to other aspects of your life. You will realize that if you were underperforming in your physical challenges, there is a good chance you are underperforming at school and work too.
The bottom line is that life is one big mind game. The only person you are playing against is yourself. Stick with this process and soon what you thought was impossible will be something you do every fucking day of your life.
TALENT NOT REQUIRED
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 the attitude may get you some of the trappings of 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.
If you audit your life, skip the bullshit, and use backstops, you’ll find time to do everything you need and want to do. But remember that you also need rest, so schedule that in.
The whole point of the twenty-four-hour mission is to keep up a championship pack, not for a season or a year, but for your entire life! That requires quality rest and recovery time. Because there is no finish line. There is always more to learn, and you will always have weaknesses to strengthen if you want to become as hard as woodpecker lips. Hard enough to hammer countless miles, and finish that shit strong!
If you get injured or other complications arise that prevent you from working on your primary passion, refocus your energy elsewhere. The point is not to allow a setback to shatter our focus, or our detours to dictate our mindset. Always be ready to adjust, recalibrate, and stay after it to become better, somehow.
Too many of us have become multitaskers, and that’s created a nation of half-asses. This will be a three-week challenge. During week one, go about your normal schedule but take notes. I want you to get super detailed and document it all with timestamps. In week two, build an optimal schedule. Lock everything into place in fifteen-to thirty-minutes blocks. Some tasks will take multiple blocks or entire days. Make notes with timestamps in week tow. You may still find some residual dead space. By week three, you should have a working schedule that maximizes your effort without sacrificing sleep.
UNCOMMON AMONGST UNCOMMON
A true leader stays exhausted, abhors arrogance, and never looks down on the weakest link. He fights for his men and leads by example. That’s what it means to be uncommon among uncommon. It meant being one of the best and helping your men find their best too.
No matter what you or I achieve, in sports, business, or life, we can’t be satisfied. Life is too dynamic a game. We’re either getting better or we’re getting worse. Yes, we need to celebrate our victories. There’s power in victory that’s transformative, but after our celebration, we should dial it down, dream up new training regimens, new goals, and start at zero the very next day.
We can always become stronger and more agile, mentally and physically. We can always become more capable and more reliable. Since that’s the case we should never feel that our work is done. There is always more to do.
Most people in the world, if they ever push themselves at all, are willing to push themselves only so far. Once they react a cushy plateau, they chill the fuck out and enjoy their rewards, but there’s another phrase for that mentality. It’s called getting soft, and that I could not abide.
A lot of people think that once they reach a certain level of status, respect, or success, that they’ve made it in life. I’m here to tell you that you always have to find more. Greatness is not something that if you meet it once it stays with you forever. That shit evaporates like a flash of oil in a hot pan.
If you truly want to become uncommon amongst the uncommon, it will require sustaining greatness for a long period of time. It requires staying in constant pursuit and putting out unending effort.
Torch the complacency you feel gathering around you, your coworkers, and teammates in that rare air. Continue to put obstacles in front of yourself, because that’s where you’ll find the friction that will help you grow even stronger. Before you know it, you will stand alone.
THE EMPOWERMENT OF FAILURE
A lot of us surround ourselves with people who speak to our desire for comfort. Who would rather treat the pain of our wounds and prevent further injury that help us callous over them and try again. We need to surround ourselves with people who will tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear, but at the same time not make us feel we’re up against the impossible.
Most wars are won or lost in our own heads, and when we’re in a foxhole we usually aren’t alone, and we need to be confident in the quality of the heart mind, and dialogue of the person hunkered down with us. Because at some point we will need some empowering words to keep us focused and deadly.
Break out that journal one last time. First off, write out all the good things, everything that went well, from your failures. Be detailed and generous with yourself. A lot of good things will have happened. It’s rarely all bad. Then note how you handled your failure. Did it affect your life and your relationships? How so? How did you think throughout the preparation for and during the execution stage of your failure? You have to know how you were thinking at each step because it’s all about mindset, and that’s where most people fall short. Now go back through and make a list of things you can fix. This isn’t time to be soft or generous. Be brutally honest, write them all out. Study them. Then look at your calendar and schedule another attempt as soon as possible. As you prepare, keep that AAR handy, consult your Accountability Mirror, and make all necessary adjustments. When it comes time to execute, keep everything we’ve learned about the power of a calloused mind, the Cookie Jar, and The 40% Rule in the forefront of your mind. Control your mindset, Dominate your thought process. This life is all a fucking mind game. Realize that. Own it!
We are all our own worst haters and doubters because self doubt is a natural reaction to any bold attempt to change your life for the better. You can’t stop it from blooming in your brain, but you can neutralize it, and all the other external chatter by asking, What if?
What if is an exquisite fuck-you to anyone who has ever doubted your greatness or stood in your way. It silences negativity. It’s a reminder that you don’t really know what you’re capable of until you put everything you’ve got on the line. It makes the impossible feel at least a little more possible. What if is the power and permission to face down your darkest demons, your very worst memories, and accept them as part of your history.
You’ll feel pain, but if you accept it, endure it, and callous your mind, you’ll reach a point where not even pain can hurt you. There is a catch, however. When you live this way, there is no end to it.