I’ve written before about my interest, if not utter fascination with human performance. In particular, I’m attracted to stories of people who find ways to push themselves far beyond what the rest of us think possible. And so, I read with particular interest and curiosity, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins.
Goggins’ story begins at the beginning with an abusive father who was something of a minor celebrity in his time, owning a roller rink cum night club, selling booze, drugs, and women, if the price was right. David worked the skate counter, his brother the concessions, his mom the door, and his dad the DJ, at least until things got rolling upstairs. At that point his father would go to the club to work the room and sell what needed to be sold. Abusive and controlling to an extreme degree, David’s mother took beating after beating after beating from Trunnis Goggins, but one time was the last time and she staged an escape, fleeing with little but a beat down Volvo and the hope of something better.
Were this a fairy tale, things would have instantly improved for David and his mom. This isn’t a fairy tale though. It’s real life. While the physical and emotional abuse stopped, David and his mother lived well below the poverty line in a rural town that dealt more than its fair share of racism David’s way and he largely cheated and conned his way through school, just so he could keep playing basketball and moving on.
Eventually David turned a mental and physical corner and, while not immediately or always successful, became a US Navy SEAL, completed Ranger School, and became an ultra-endurance athlete completing such races as the Badwater 135 multiple times and winning many others.
Goggins is completely transparent in this book, about his failures and successes. Can’t Hurt Me is raw to point of discomfort. It is profane to the point of comedy (The F-word appears 264 times. I read the book on Kindle and had to do a word count. The copious profanity is absurd.) But the book is important if you can see past the rough exterior to the gems inside.
Ultimately this book isn’t about the failures or successes of David Goggins. Those things are only used to illustrate the real thrust of the book which is about mindset. It’s the same thing that Jocko Willink, Ben Bergeron, Tim Grover and others have written about and teach.
That’s when I realized that not all physical and mental limitations are real, and I had a habit of giving up way too soon.
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 the pain gets, no matter how harrowing the torture, all bad things end. That forgetting happens the second we give control over our emotions and actions to other people, which can easily happen when pain is peaking. During Hell Week, the men who quit felt like they were running on a treadmill turned way the fuck up with no dashboard within reach. But, whether they ever figured it out or not, that was an illusion they fell for.
Choose any competitive situation that you’re in right now. Who is your opponent? Is it your teacher or coach, your boss, or unruly client? No matter how they’re treating you there is one way to not only earn they’re respect, but turn the tables. Excellence.
In so many ways it seems the citizens of our great country, to generalize, have become mentally weak and physically soft; selfish to an extreme degree. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the percentage of obese US adults has increased from 27.4% in 2011 to 30.9% in 2018. Adolescents suffering from obesity have grown from 10.5% in 2001 to 14.8% in 2017. Even the baseline numbers are staggering. Somehow our grocery stores are predominantly full of high fructose corn syrup sweetened products and we don’t seem to care. Masks worn for public safety, to prevent the spread of an infectious, deadly virus to our family, friends, and neighbors are a point of contention for many, a point of political polarization. I do it myself…all too often I skip a workout or eat something I shouldn’t. I make excuses to the point of distraction. I am as bad as everyone else. But to quote Jocko Willink yet again, we as a country need to “get mentally tougher.”
Our minds are fucking strong, they are our most powerful weapon, but we have stopped using them. We have access to so many more resources today than ever before and yet we are so much less capable than those who came before us. If you want to be one of the few to defy those trends in our ever-softening society, you will have to be willing to go to war with yourself and create a whole new identity, which requires an open mind. It’s funny, being open-minded is often tagged as new age or soft. Fuck that. Being open minded enough to find a way is old-school. It’s what knuckle draggers do. And that’s exactly what I did.
David Goggins and his book, Can’t Hurt Me, for all his flaws is about nothing but mental toughness; to “callous the mind” as Goggins calls it. To his credit, his book does not hide or sugar coat his struggles. It does not give the impression that his rise from poverty and racial oppression to the man he is today was a walk in the park. To the contrary, his story is raw, gut wrenching and, at times, hard to read. But the point is, David Goggins did callous his mind and overcame his circumstances.
That’s when I first realized that not all physical and mental limitations are real, and that I had a habit of giving up way too soon.
He did it through dedication, through trial and error, and through sheer force of will. Statistically, Goggins should be the poster child for a child left behind. Instead, he is an inspiration for those who feel deep down that they are capable of more.
How much longer would I wait, how many more years would I burn, wondering if there was some greater purpose out there waiting for me?
I recommend the book, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins to you without hesitation, but with a warning. This book will challenge you. It will make you question your excuses. It will make you see the world and your place in it differently. Again, I recommend it to you, but you better be ready for what you read. How long will you burn?
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