matt tillotson

Book notes: Can’t Hurt Me,
by David Goggins

We all make habitual, self-limiting choices. It’s how our brains are wired, which is why motivation is crap. You’re probably living at about 40% of your true capacity.

“We found hell in a beautiful neighborhood”—great opening sentence.

If in the developmental years a child repeatedly suffers from significant stress spikes, fight-or-flight becomes their operating baseline. He learned form Scott Gearen, a pararescueman who survived a parachute jump in which his chute didn’t open and he hit the ground at 100 MPH, that it’s possible to transcend anything that doesn’t kill you.

Upon realizing he was failing out of high school, he gave himself a pep talk that turned him around. — “Nobody is coming to save you.”

His bathroom became his “accountability mirror,” where he held himself to his new standard.

“If you have worked for thirty years doing the same shit you’ve hated day in and day out because you were afraid to quit and take a risk, you’ve been living like a p****. Period, point blank. Tell yourself the truth! That you’ve wasted enough time, that you have other dreams that will take courage to realize, so you don’t die a f****** p*****.”

“Tell yourself 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!”

Facing the mirror—and therefore himself—motivated him to fight through uncomfortable experiences.

His fears fed on each other. For example, as he struggled with water training in paratrooper school, he became aware he was the only black man in his unit and resurfaced pain from his childhood in Indiana.

The best Navy SEALs weren’t motivated—they were driven.

“In a society where mediocrity is too often the standards and too often rewards, their is intense fascination with men who destest mediocrity, who refuse to define themselves in conventional terms , and who seek to transcend traditionally recognized human capabilities.”

“For me, the only way to make it through that was to feed off my depression. I had to flip it and convince myself that all that self-doubt and anxiety was confirmation that I was no longer living an aimless life.”

“I ran as fast as I could for as long as I could, from a past that no longer defined me, toward a future undetermined. All I knew was that there would be pain and there would be purpose.”

“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.”

“During hell week, the men who quit felt like they were running on a dread mill 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.”

Goggins went into hell week knowing he put himself there, wanted to be there, and that he had all the tools he needed to win the game. That give him the passion to persevere and claim ownership of the experience. It allowed him to play hard, bend rules, and look for an edge wherever and whenever he could.

He hummed a song from Platoon while in the water during hell week, turning the experience upside down for he and his crew.

“Sometimes the unexpected descends like chaos, and the without warning even the bravest among us must bear ready to take on risks and tasks that seem beyond our capabilities.”

A calloused mind—one strengthened by pain and failure, can lift you out of a negative brain loop and help you bypass impulses to give in. If you accept pain as part of the process, you can push your limited and engage the sympathetic nervous system which shifts hormonal flow.

“Remembering that you’ve been through difficulties before and have always survived to fight again shifts the conversation in your head.”

“Push hardest when you want to quit because it helps you callous your mind.”

The cookie jar concept—even when you are beat down, you can think of a time or two when you overcame the odds and tasted success. Even a small victory helps.

“It’s the small sparks, which start small fires, that eventually builds enough heat to burn the whole ... forest down.”

Utilize the feeling of past successes to fuel you to new and bigger ones.

“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."

Most of us give up when reaching 40% of maximum effort.

Impulse is driven by your mind’s desire for comfort and it’s not telling you the truth.

Your initial blast of pain and fatigue is your governor talking. Once you realize this, you are in control of the dialogue in your mind, and you can remind yourself you are not as drained as you think.

“What am I capable of?” Is a powerful and dangerous question.

“Research is one part of preparation, visualization is another.”

“Who hasn’t dreamed up a possibility for themselves on lay to have friends, colleagues, or family **** all over it?”

“Accept the following as Goggins’ laws of nature:
-You will be made fun of
-You will feel insecure
-You many not be the best all the time
-You may be the only black, white, Asian, latino, female, male, gay, lesbian [fill in your identity here] in a given situation
-there will be times when you feel alone

If you want to defy trends and norms, you have to go to war with yourself and create whole new identity.

“Being open minded enough to find a way is old school. It’s what knuckle-draggers do.”

“Recognize what you are about to do, highlight what you do not like about it, and spend time visualizing each and every obstacle you can.”

Backstops tell you to turn around, reassess, and take an alternative route to accomplish the same mission.

“I never left our base in Iraq without having three exit strategies. A primary route and two others, pinned to backstops, we could fall back to if our main route became compromised.”

“Passion and obsession, even talent, are only useful tools if you have the work ethic to back them up.”

“Block everything into windows of time, and once your day is scheduled out, you’ll know how much flexibility you have to exercise on a given day and how to maximize it.”

“If you audit your life, skip the bullshit, and use backstops, you’ll find time to do everything you need and want to do.”

There is no finish line. There is always more to learn. The SEAL battle maxim: shoot, move, communicate.

“I’d gotten into the SEALs by living a Spartan lifestyle and felt my job at night was to treat, recharge, and get my body and mind right for battle again the next day.”

“I refused to compromise who I was to conform to their unwritten rules.”

Prepare your mind for opportunities that don’t yet exist.

“No matter who you are, life will present you similar opportunities where you can prove to be uncommon.”

“...what put distance between me and almost everybody else in that platoon is that I didn’t let my desire for comfort rule me.”

“I wake up everyday as if I am back in BUD/S, day one, week one.”

“...be willing to embrace ignorance and become the dumb **** in the classroom again, because that is the only way to expand your body of knowledge and body of work.”

“...your supposed superiority is a figment of your own ego.”

The military files After Action Reports (AARs) which serve as “living autopsies.” What went right, what went wrong.

“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.”

Relish failure, because if you do the forensics you’ll find clues about where to make adjustments and how to eventually reach your goal. Acknowledge the good as part of your review.

“...pain unlocks a secret doorway in the mind. One that leads to both peak performance and beautiful silence.”

His lack of stretching and flexibility led him to think he was dying. His body was seizing up on him—he couldn’t run without heart issues and his legs just wouldn’t respond to him.

“Each specific life comes with its own personalized portion of pain. In response,. Most of us are programmed to seek comfort as a way to numb it all out and cushion the blows. We carve out safe spaces. We consume media that confirms our beliefs.”

“We live a life defined by the limits we imagine and desire for ourselves because it’s comfortable as hell in that box.”

“Breaking the shackles and stretecvhing beyond our own percieved limits takes hard ******* work...and when you put yourself on the line, self-doubt and pain will greet you with a stinging combination that will buckle your knees.”

You can neutralize your negative internal chatter just by asking, “what if?”