Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10

Available at: Amazon

Related: Extreme Ownership, Atomic Habits


I consider this more of a biography than a tactical non-fiction book, though there are challenges to complete at the end of each chapter.  Would recommend reading more for entertainment and motivation than tactics.  Read Atomic Habits for more practical advice on forming habits that last.

Goggins’ story is crazy - his physical achievements, especially in light of his childhood and starting point (very overweight) - are incredible.  It’s an interesting book, and shows what is possible for human achievement if you’re driven enough.


Challenge #1

  • Break out your journal and write down all of the following:
  • The current factors limiting your growth
  • The long odds you’re up against
  • The things you’ve been hurt by
  • The things that have caused you pain
  • You will use this list to fuel your ultimate success.
  • Once you have the list, share it with whoever you want, or acknowledge and accept it privately.
  • This should be difficult, but ultimately it will empower you to overcome.

Challenge #2

  • Write all your insecurities, dreams and goals on Post-Its and tag up your mirror with them.
  • Be brutally honest - if you need more education, remind yourself you need to start working your ass off because you aren’t smart enough!
  • Whether it’s a career goal, a lifestyle goal, or an athletic one, you need to be truthful with yourself about where you are and the necessary steps it will take to achieve those goals, day by day.
  • Each step should be written as its own note.  That means you have to do some research and break it all down.

Challenge #3

  • Dig out your journal, write down all the things that you don’t like to do or that make you uncomfortable.  Especially those things that you know are good for you.
  • Now go do one of them, and do it again.
  • 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.

Challenge #4

  • Choose any competitive situation that you’re in right now.  Who is your opponent?  Is it your teacher or coach, your boss, an unruly client?
  • No matter how they’re treating you there is one way to not only earn their respect, but turn the tables: Excellence.
  • Whatever it is, I want you to work harder on that than you ever have before. Do everything exactly as they ask, and whatever standard they set as an ideal outcome, you should be aiming to surpass that.

Challenge #5

  • Time to visualize! 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. 
  • Make sure to visualize the challenges that are likely to arise and determine how you will attack those problems when they do.
  • This also means being prepared to answer the simple questions. Why are you doing this? What is driving you towards this achievement? Where does the darkness you’re using for fuel come from? What has calloused your mind?
  • Don’t forget that visualization is just the first step.  You must put in work and accomplish these things.

Challenge #6

  • Take inventory of your Cookie Jar.
  • Crack open your journal and write out all your achievements, including life obstacles you’ve overcome like quitting smoking or overcoming depression or a stutter.  
  • 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.
  • Set ambitious goals before each workout and let those victories carry you to new personal bests.
  • When the pain hits and tries to stop you short of your goal, dunk your fist in, pull out a cookie, and let it fuel you!

Chapter 7 - The Most Powerful Weapon

  • 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! That’s the governor in action.
  • The 40% Rule can be applied to everything we do.
  • But nobody taps their reserve 60 percent right away or all at once.  The first step is to remember that your initial blast of pain and fatigue is your governor talking.
  • That’s why the line “fatigue makes cowards of us all” is true as shit.
  • That’s one reason I invented the Cookie Jar. We must create a system that constantly reminds us who the fuck we are when we are at our best, because life is not going to pick us up when we fall.
  • 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 a given situation.
  • There will be times when you feel alone.
  • Get over it!
  • Our minds are fucking strong, they are our most powerful weapon, but we have stopped using them.

Challenge #7

  • The main objective here is to slowly start to remove the governor from your brain.
  • Whether you are running on a treadmill or doing a set of pushups, get to the point where you are so tired and in pain that your mind is begging you to stop.  Then push just 5 to 10 percent further.
  • This gradual ramp-up will help prevent injury and allow your body and mind to slowly adapt to your new workload.  
  • It also resets your baseline, which is important because you’re going to increase your workload another 5 to 10 percent the following week, and the week after that.
  • The newfound mental strength and confidence you gain by continuing to push yourself physically will carry over to other aspects in your life. 
  • The bottom line is that life is one big mind game.  The only person you are playing against is yourself.  

Chapter 8

  • 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 this 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.
  • My work ethic is the single most important factor in all of my accomplishments. Everything else is secondary, and when it comes to hard work, whether in the gym or on the job, The 40% Rule applies. To me, a forty-hour work week is a 40 percent effort.
  • There are 168 hours in a week! That means you have the hours to put in that extra time at work without skimping on your exercise. It means streamlining your nutrition, spending quality time with your wife and kids. It means scheduling your life like you’re on a twenty-four-hour mission every single day.
  • Perhaps you aren’t looking to get fit, but have been dreaming of starting a business of your own, or have always wanted to learn a language or an instrument you’re obsessed with. Fine, the same rule applies. Analyze your schedule, kill your empty habits, burn out the bullshit, and see what’s left. Is it one hour per day? Three? Now maximize that shit. That means listing your prioritized tasks every hour of the day. You can even narrow it down to fifteen-minute windows, and don’t forget to include backstops in your day-to-day schedule.
  • 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. Listen to your body, sneak in those ten- to twenty-minute power naps when necessary, and take one full rest day per week. If it’s a rest day, truly allow your mind and body to relax. Turn your phone off. Keep the computer shut down. A rest day means you should be relaxed, hanging with friends or family, and eating and drinking well, so you can recharge and get back at it. It’s not a day to lose yourself in technology or stay hunched at your desk in the form of a damn question mark.

Challenge #8

  • Schedule it in!
  • This is a three-week challenge.
  • In week one, go about your normal schedule, but take notes.  When do you work? Are you working nonstop or checking your phone (use Moment app)? How long are your meal breaks? When do you exercise, watch TV, or chat to friends? How long is your commute? Are you driving? Get super detailed and document it all with timestamps.  This will be your baseline.
  • Most people waste four to five hours in a given day, and if you can learn to identify and utilize it, you’ll be on your way toward increased productivity.
  • In week two, build an optimal schedule. Lock everything into place in 15- to 30-minute blocks. Some tasks will take multiple blocks or entire days. Fine. When you work, only work on one thing at a time, think about the task in front of your and pursue it relentlessly. When it comes time for the next task on your schedule, place that first one aside, and apply the same focus.
  • Make sure your meal breaks are adequate but not open-ended, and schedule in exercise and rest too. But when it’s time to rest, actually rest. No checking email or bullshitting on social media. 
  • Make notes with timestamps in week two. You may still find some residual dead space. By week three, you should have a working schedule that maximizes your effort without sacrificing sleep.

Challenge #9

  • 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.  This may sound appealing but will require everything you have to give and then some. Believe me, this is not for everyone because it will demand singular focus and may upset the balance in your life.
  • That’s what it takes to become a true overachiever, and if you are already surrounded by people who are at the top of their game, what are you going to do differently to stand out?
  • 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.

Challenge #10

  • Think about your most recent and your most heart-wrenching failures. Break out the journal.  You’re going to write your own belated After-Action Report (AAR).
  • 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 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. If failure happened in childhood, and you can’t create the Little League all-star game you choked in, I still want you to write that report because you’ll likely be able to use that information to achieve any goal going forward.
  • 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!
  • And if you fail again, so the fuck be it. Take the pain. Repeat these steps and keep fighting. That’s what it’s all about.

Chapter 11

  • Whatever failures and accomplishments pile up in the years to come, and there will be plenty of both I’m sure, I know I’ll continue to give it my all and set goals that seem impossible to most. And when those motherfuckers say so, I’ll look them dead in the eye and respond with one simple question:
  • What if?

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