Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins

Subtitle: Comfort as a Barrier


Posted on August 10th, 2023

By Olivia Baker

We've all heard the cliché about the importance of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable in pursuit of the goals we have. David Goggins takes this attitude to the extreme. In his mind, comfort is a barrier to reaching our full potential in life. Not only must we live with discomfort, but we must seek it out and embrace it to cultivate the mental toughness necessary to operate at 100% of our true capability. "So I sought out pain, fell in love with suffering, and eventually transformed myself from the weakest piece of s*** on the planet into the hardest man God ever created, or so I tell myself." Goggins writes in the introduction. If there are many ways to get past a barrier in life, some are climbing over it, some are running around it, some might even ask a friend for a lift, but Goggins is smashing his head against it until he breaks through it by brute force (and telling you he's better for it on the other side). Sound intense? It is certainly an approach that is not for the faint of heart.

Nonetheless, I chose Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins for the 18th installment of Runners Who Read because the proof is in the proverbial pudding. This approach to life definitely challenges my personal viewpoint, but I'm interested to hear what Goggins has to say because it has clearly worked for him—he's the only man in history to complete the grueling elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller—and his story has inspired millions of others (over 5 million copies sold to date). While few may be willing to fully accept the mission he sets forth in the opening pages of this book, many of us can learn life-changing lessons from his story of incredible strength born of weakness and the steps he took to get him there.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are you looking forward to most about reading this book?

2. What current comforts do you feel may double as barriers to achieving a goal you've set?

Subtitle: The Accountability Mirror (mini-blog #1)

Chapters 1-4

Posted on August 18th, 2023

By Olivia Baker

A mirror is simply defined as "a reflective surface, now typically of glass coated with a metal amalgam, that reflects a clear image" (Oxford English Dictionary). When we look at ourselves in a mirror, we see our reflection with no filters. No matter how we see ourselves in our minds eye or craft our image to appear on social media, our appearance is laid completely bare when we look in a mirror. This is why mirrors are a great place to start developing accountability as David Goggins discovers in his late teen years during the opening chapters of Can't Hurt Me.

It was only once he started taking the time to sit with his reflection in the mirror that he was able to clearly address who he was—a physically unhealthy, emotionally depressed, and mentally undisciplined junior in high school on the verge of flunking out—and decide how he was going to get to his goal—entering the United States Air Force. He started putting post-it notes on that bathroom mirror at home that said things like "Make your bed like you're in the military every day!", "Pull up your pants!", and "Shave your head every morning!" to hold himself accountable. The smaller notes turned into bigger ones regarding physical fitness and study habits. Eventually, having these notes on the mirror forced him to have to face himself honestly when he wasn't reaching his daily goals, but also literally see his daily transformation from who he was into who he hoped to become.

However, the accountability mirror, as Goggins called it, only works if we can set aside the images we hold of ourselves and be honest about what we're seeing. "…change doesn't come easy, and the reason this ritual worked so well for me was because of the tone. I wasn't fluffy. I was raw because that was the only way to get myself right," (pg# 55). So, this week let's all spend less time looking down at our phones, crafting an image of our lives through social media, and look up into the mirrors that show us who we truly are so we can work towards crafting ourselves into what we want to become.

Discussion Questions:

1. What sticky notes are or would be on your accountability mirror?

2. When Goggins eventually does make it into the military, he not only had a physical accountability mirror, but he found other mirrors that revealed aspects of his character in the form of water confidence training that showed him that he wasn't as tough on the inside as he thought he was, and the is first Navy Seals recruiter who forced him to come to terms with just how far he'd need to go from a physical fitness perspective to become a Seal. What people, places, and/or tasks act as mirrors that give you a clear reflection of some aspect of your character?

Subtitle: The Cookie Jar Concept (mini-blog #2)

Chapters 5-8

Posted on August 24th, 2023

By Olivia Baker

What memories do you look for inspiration to dig deep in the most challenging moments of a race? For me, I often think back to practice. When it's 100+ degrees on the track for the USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships 800m final and my body is working overtime to both keep me cool and flush lactic acid in the final phases of the race, I remember modeling this very situation with a 4x400m workout in the 100 degree heat and humidity of an Atlanta summer. Overheating and lactic-filled, I closed that last 400m in 56, and at least it was drier in Oregon. When it's 35 degrees and my bones shiver as I race down the track in the biting chill of a Massachusetts March just a few weeks after the groundhog has seen its shadow, I hearken back to a 5x1k workout I completed over Thanksgiving break in New Jersey not too long before. It was so cold that day that the usually bustling community track was empty save for me and my mom who was holding the stopwatch for me. With each successive rep, my pace quickened and my body temperature dropped. Rarely have I ever felt as cold as I did during the 30 minutes of that workout, but I got it done. Surely I could handle this cold through the end of this race. The hardest practices are always harder than even the toughest races by design. This is why practice is such a good thing to look back upon when the going gets tough, but it's not the only thing you can look back on, rather just a few of many cookies in the cookie jar.

As Goggins explains throughout the middle chapters of Can't Hurt Me, every obstacle that we have overcome, small victory we've experienced, and any odds we've beaten represent cookies in the jar that we collect and can then draw upon for energy to complete future difficult tasks. Initially a reminder of the joy and gratitude he felt when getting to take a cookie out of the jar his mother managed to always keep stocked despite struggling to make ends meet, Goggins created an internal cookie jar stocked with moments of triumph to remind himself of those feelings when the going gets tough. Times like when he entered a 24 hour race with not a lick of training and needed to complete at least 100 miles to qualify for future races. At mile 70 when he had fallen off pace, fractured both his feet, became severely dehydrated, and experienced the beginning phases of kidney failure, he reached into the cookie jar and remembered completing BUD/S Navy SEAL training, particularly Hell Week in which he pushed through bacterial pneumonia, two fractured shins, and 130 hours of training on less than 4 hours of sleep. "I actually tapped into the emotional state I felt during those victories, and in so doing accessed my sympathetic nervous system once again. My adrenaline took over, the pain started to fade just enough, and my pace picked up," he writes on page 167. Remembering what we've been through can fuel us through our current struggles and that extends beyond physical challenges to mental and emotional as well. So this week, let's all spend some time reflecting on the variety of cookies in our jars from past successes and then use them to fuel the future ones.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are some of the experiences in your Cookie Jar that you draw upon during your toughest challenges?

2. This week's quote comes from chapter 7 explaining Goggins' 40% rule. "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 the limit, we still have 60 percent more to give! That's the governor in action! Once you know that to be true, it's simply a matter of stretching your pain tolerance, letting go of your identity and all of 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…" (pg# 187). Do you agree with David Goggins that most of us are only tapping into 40% of our true potential? Why or why not?

Subtitle: The After Action Report (mini-blog #3)

Chapters 9-11

Posted on August 31st, 2023

By Olivia Baker

"In life, there is no gift as overlooked or inevitable as failure." - David Goggins, pg# 286

In the final chapters of Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins, we learn that even the "hardest man that God ever created" is, in fact, human after all and capable of reaching physical limits. Despite having willed his way through BUD/S training on two fractured feet, conquered Army Ranger training as a Navy SEAL, and covered 100 miles in 24 hours without an ounce of cardio training by sheer mental fortitude, not every task that he simply set his mind to was he able to accomplish. He applied 9 times, was screened twice, and failed both screenings to join DEVGRU (the top Navy SEALS force). He also failed twice by hundreds of pull-ups before succeeding at breaking the 24-hour pull-up World Record. Whether he eventually succeeded at his task or not, the way that Goggins handled these failures shows that they can still be used as stepping stones to success because in the war against yourself, failure callouses your mind in a different way from succeeding at these physical challenges. It makes you smarter.

One of the things that is standard protocol in the American military is the After Action Report (AAR). After every real world mission or field exercise an AAR serves as an accounting of the things that went right and wrong, and analysis of what could be improved regardless of the outcome of the mission. Goggins takes this concept into the civilian world, putting together a written AAR after every attempt he makes in pursuit of a goal, determined to learn from each effort. Not only do his AARs better prepare him for a future attempt at a particular challenge, but they reveal lessons that can be applied to a plethora of potential trials that may come and they can do the same for us. Failing at reaching the 24-hour pull-up world record taught him practical tips like how to best protect his hands, pace himself, and fuel during future attempts, but also allowed him to learn the greater life lesson of how to bounce back from public failures, unshaken by the haters.

In the end, when you go to war with yourself in the game that is life in this ever-hardening world, the physical limit is almost arbitrary, the ultimate goal is a mind calloused to whatever may be thrown your way. As Goggins says "Life will always be the most grueling endurance sport, and when you train hard, get uncomfortable, and callous your mind, you will become a more versatile competitor, trained to find a way forward no matter what," (pg# 227). So this week, let's find a moment to look back and take an honest AAR of our recent efforts, and then use them to better prepare us for what difficulties may be ahead.

Discussion Question:

1. Take an honest After Action Report of a recent life event. What lessons can you take that will make you a more "versatile competitor" at life?

2. This book is filled with so many great quotes and nuggets of advice. Rather than highlighting one here, for this week, the space if open for you to drop your favorite quotes. If you had to choose one or two quotes from this book to keep with you as mantras to remind yourself, which ones would you choose and why?

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