Book Review: “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins

“Out of every one hundred men, ten should not even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior….” – Heraclitus

David Goggins was on a mission to become the One Warrior, and he certainly did not have an easy road to get there. If you’ve heard any of David’s interviews on podcasts you know that he does not hold back with the “f-bombs”, but if you’re okay with that this book will leave you highly motivated. While reading this book I found myself immediately applying some of the “mind games” David would play on himself in order to work harder and stamp out the voice that is in all of our heads trying to get us to take the easy road. This book came at a good time for me as I prepared to ramp up my own training for a BJJ tournament on April 3rd. 

Here are some of the big ideas I am taking away from “Can’t Hurt Me”:

  1. The best you can do is play the cards you are dealt.
    • This lesson has been codified many times over, but it is one that still – for me – never fails to inspire and ground me in perspective. David shared his upbringing below the poverty line, being exposed to abuse, racism, drugs, which all led to a poor self-image. This poor self-image ultimately led him to becoming obese as a young adult working a dead-end job. As he titled the first chapter “I should have been a statistic”, this story shows that the odds were against this man. At a certain point, he decided to do the only thing he could – and that was taking control of his future. 
  2. Use physical challenges to build a stronger mind. 
    • I’ve written about some of the hard things I have done over the years, how it can serve as a mental reset on what you are capable of and build confidence. David Goggins refers to this as a “calloused mind”. The calloused mind is one that has been exposed to hardship and is now prepared for more. His examples seem superhuman, but if you look at it objectively – they are on a progressive basis. His physical training started slowly and ramped up. One thing he doesn’t mention directly in the book, but you do pick up on, is that as he became mentally stronger in the physical domain it spilled over into his career as he became the top recruiter for the Navy SEALs.
  3. The most important things you hear are the words you tell yourself.
    • Throughout all of David’s accomplishments he describes different forms of self-talk that either defeated him or lifted him. He shares his practice of “the accountability mirror” which helped him change his self-image from an obese man to a future Navy SEAL, along with the practices he implemented while running 100+ mile races, completing BUD/S, and breaking the single day pull-up record. If this is an area you are interested in, this book would pair nicely with With Winning In Mind.

All the above notes were taken from memory to solidify the concepts and retain the information. Below are general notes taken directly from the book.

  • When you indulge in negative self-talk, the gifts of a sympathetic response will remain out of reach. However, if you can manage those moments of pain that come with maximum effort, by remembering what you have been through to get to that point in your life, you will be in a better position to persevere and choose fight over flight. That will allow you to use the adrenaline that comes with a sympathetic response to go even harder 
  • Very few people even bother to try to control the way their thoughts and doubts bubble up. The vast majority of us are slaves to our minds 
  • Goggins’ laws of nature to get over when pursuing a goal:
    • You will be made fun of.
    • You will feel insecure.
    • You may not be the best all the time.
    • There will be times when you feel alone.
  • In the military, after every real-world mission or field exercise, we fill out After Action Reports (AARs), which serve as live autopsies. We do them no matter the outcome, and if you are analyzing a failure like I was, the AAR is absolutely crucial.