Skip to content
Can't Hurt Me | David Goggins

Can't Hurt Me | David Goggins

CHALLENGE #1

My bad cards arrived early and stuck around a while, but everyone gets challenged in life at some point. What was your bad hand? What kind of bullshit did you contend with growing up? Were you beaten? Abused? Bullied? Did you ever feel insecure? Maybe your limiting factor is that you grew up so supported and comfortable, you never pushed yourself?

What are the current factors limiting your growth and success? Is someone standing in your way at work or school? Are you underappreciated and overlooked for opportunities? What are the long odds you're up against right now? Are you standing in your own way?

Break out your journal—if you don't have one, buy one, or start one on your laptop, tablet, or in the notes app on your smart phone— and write them all out in minute detail. Don't be bland with this assignment. I showed you every piece of my dirty laundry. Ifyou were hurt or are still in harm's way, tell the story in full. Give your pain shape. Absorb its power, because you are about to flip that shit.

You will use your story, this list of excuses, these very good reasons why you shouldn't amount to a damn thing, to fuel your ultimate success. Sounds fun right? Yeah, it won't be. But don't worry about that yet. We'll get there. For now, just take inventory.

Once you have your list, share it with whoever you want. For some, it may mean logging onto social media, posting a picture, and writing out a few lines about how your own past or present circumstances challenge you to the depth of your soul. [...]

Chapter 2 : Truth Hurts

No, 1 had to own it in the raw because the only way we can change is to be real ourselves. If you don't know shit and have never taken school seriously, then say, "I'm dumb!" Tell yourself that you need to get your ass to work because you're falling behind in life! 

If you look in the mirror and you see a fat person, don't tell yourself that you need to lose a couple of pounds. Tell the truth You're fucking fat! It's okay. Just say you're fat if you're fat. The dirty mirror that you see every day is going to tell you the truth every time, so why are you still lying to yourself? So you can feel better for a few minutes and stay the fucking same? If you're fat you need to change the fact that you're fat because it's very fucking unhealthy. I know because I've been there.

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 pussy. Period, point blank. Tell yourself the truth! That you've wasted enough time, and that you have other dreams that will take courage to realize, so you don't die a fucking pussy.

Call yourself out!

Nobody likes to hear the hard truth. Individually and as a culture, we avoid what we need to hear most. This world is fucked up, there are major problems in our society. We are still dividing ourselves up along racial and cultural lines, and people don't have the balls to hear it! The truth is racism and bigotry still fucking exist and some people are so thin-skinned they refuse to admit that. To this day, many in Brazil claim that there is no racism in their small town. That's why I have to give Kirk Freeman props. When I called him in the spring of 2018, he remembered what I went through very clearly. He's one of the few who isn't afraid of the truth. [...]

But if you are the only, and you aren't stuck in some real-world genocidal twilight zone, you'd better get real too. Your life is not fucked up because of overt racists or hidden systemic racism. You aren't missing out on opportunities, making shit money, and getting evicted because of America or Donald fucking Trump or because your ancestors were slaves or because some people hate immigrants or Jews or harass women or believe gay people are going to hell. If any of that shit is stopping you from excelling in life, I've got some news. You are stopping you!

You are giving up instead of getting hard! Tell 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!

There is no more time to waste. Hours and days evaporate like creeks in the desert. That's why it's okay to be cruel to yourself as long as you realize you're doing it to become better. We all need thicker skin to improve in life. Being soft when you look in the mirror isn't going to inspire the wholesale changes we need to shift our present and open up our future.

The morning after that first session with the Accountability Mirror, I trashed the shag steering wheel and the fuzzy dice. I tucked my shirt in and wore my pants with a belt, and, once school started up again, I stopped eating at my lunch table. For the first time, being liked and acting cool were a waste of my time, and instead of eating with all the popular kids, I found my own table and ate alone.

Mind you, the rest of my progress could not be described as a blink-and-you'll-miss-it metamorphosis. Lady Luck did not suddenly show up, run me a hot soapy bath, and kiss me like she loved me. In fact, the only reason I didn't become just another statistic is because, at the last possible moment, I got to work. [...]

CHALLENGE #2

It's time to come eyeball to eyeball with yourself, and get raw and real. This is not a self-love tactic. You can't fluff it. Don't massage your ego. This is about abolishing the ego and taking the first step toward becoming the real you!

I tacked Post-It notes on my Accountability Mirror, and I'll ask you to do the same. Digital devices won't work. Write all your insecurities, dreams, and goals on Post-Its and tag up your mirror. If you need more education, remind yourself that you need to start working your ass off because you aren't smart enough! period, point blank. If you look in the mirror and see someone who is obviously overweight, that means you're fucking fat! Own it! It's okay to be unkind with yourselfin these moments because we need thicker skin to improve in life.

Whether it's a career goal (quit my job, start a business), a lifestyle goal (lose weight, get more active), or an athletic one (run my first 5K, 10K, or marathon), 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, each necessary point of self-improvement, should be written as its own note. That means you have to do some research and break it all down. For example, ifyou are trying to lose forty pounds, your first Post-It may be to lose two pounds in the first week. Once that goal is achieved, remove the note and post the next goal of two to five pounds until your ultimate goal is realized.

Whatever your goal, you'll need to hold yourself accountable for the small steps it will take to get there. Self-improvement takes dedication and self-discipline. The dirty mirror you see every day is going to reveal the truth. Stop ignoring it. Use it to your advantage. [...]

Chapter 3 : The Impossible Task

I turned off the television and thought about my own life. It was a life devoid of any drive and passion, but I knew if I continued to surrender to my fear and my feelings of inadequacy, I would be allowing them to dictate my future forever. My only other choice was to try to find the power in the emotions that had laid me low, harness and use them to empower me to rise up, which is exactly what I did.

I dumped that shake in the trash, laced up my shoes, and hit the streets again. On my first run, I felt severe pain in my legs and my lungs at a quarter mile. My heart raced and I stopped. This time I felt the same pain, my heart raced like a car running hot, but I ran through it and the pain faded. By the time I bent over to catch my breath, I'd run a full mile.

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. I also knew that it would take every ounce of courage and toughness I could muster to pull of fthe impossible. I was staring at hours, days, and weeks of non-stop suffering. I would have to push myself to the very edge of my mortality. I had to accept the very real possibility that I might die because this time I wouldn't quit, no matter how fast my heart raced and no matter how much pain I was in. Trouble was there was no battle plan to follow, no blueprint. I had to create one from scratch. [...]

The typical day went something like this. I'd wake up at 4:30  a.m., munch a banana, and hit the ASVAB books. Around 5 a.m., I'd take that book to my stationary bike where I'd sweat and study for two hours. Remember, my body was a mess. I couldn't run multiple miles yet, so I had to burn as many calories as I could on the bike. After that I'd drive over to Carmel High School and jump into the pool for a two-hour swim. From there I hit the gym for a circuit workout that included the bench press, the incline press, and lots of leg exercises. Bulk was the enemy. I needed reps, and I did five or six sets of 100-200 reps each. Then it was back to the stationary bike for two more hours.

I was constantly hungry. Dinner was my one true meal each day, but there wasn't much to it. I ate a grilled or sautéed chicken breast and some sautéed vegetables along with a thimble of rice. After dinner I'd do another two hours on the bike, hit the sack, wake up and do it all over again, knowing the odds were stacked sky high against me. What I was trying to achieve is like a D-student applying to Harvard, or walking into a casino and putting every single dollar you own on a number in roulette and acting as ifwinning is a foregone conclusion. I was betting everything I had on myself with no guarantees.

I weighed myself twice daily, and within two weeks I'd dropped twenty-five pounds. My progress only improved as I kept grinding, and the weight started peeling off. Ten days later I was at 250, light enough to begin doing push-ups, pull-ups, and to start running my ass off. I'd still wake up, hit the stationary bike, the pool, and the gym, but I also incorporated two-, three-, and four-mile runs. I ditched my running shoes and ordered a pair of Bates Lites, the same boots SEAL candidates wear in BUD/S, and started running in those. [...]

CHALLENGE #3

The first step on the journey toward a calloused mind is stepping outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. Dig out your journal again and write down all the things you don't like to do or that make you uncomfortable. Especially those things you know are good for you.

Now go do one of them, and do it again.

In the coming pages, I'll be asking you to mirror what you just read to some degree, but there is no need for you to find your own impossible task and achieve it on the fast track. This is not about changing your life instantly, it's about moving the needle bit by bit and making those changes sustainable. That means digging down to the micro level and doing something that sucks every day. Even ifit's as simple as making your bed, doing the dishes, ironing your clothes, or getting up before dawn and running two miles each day. Once that becomes comfortable, take it to five, then ten miles. Ifyou already do all those things, find something you aren't doing. We all have areas in our lives we either ignore or can improve upon. Find yours. We often choose to focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses. Use this time to make your weaknesses your strengths.

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, and soon you'll develop a more productive, can-do dialogue with yourself in stressful situations. [...]

Chapter 4 : Taking Souls

I believed it was, because I'd tasted Hell Week. Brown and a few other guys had too, and we knew how easy it was to think about quitting when confronted with levels of pain and exhaustion you didn't think possible. One hundred and thirty hours of suffering may as well be a thousand when you know you can't sleep and that there will be no relief anytime soon. And we knew something else too. Hell Week was a mind game. The instructors used our suffering to pick and peel away our layers, not to find the fittest athletes. To find the strongest minds. That's something the quitters didn't understand until it was too late. 

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.

I went into Hell Week knowing I put myself there, that I wanted to be there, and that I had all the tools I needed to win this fucked-up game, which gave me the passion to persevere and claim ownership of the experience. It allowed me to play hard, bend rules, and look for an edge wherever and whenever I could until the horn sounded on Friday afternoon. To me this was war, and the enemies were our instructors who'd blatantly told us that they wanted to break us down and make us quit! Having their schedule in our heads would help us whittle the time down by memorizing what came next, and more than that, it would gift us a victory going in. Which would give us something to latch onto during Hell Week when those motherfuckers were beating us down. [...] 

I turned to Brown. "You know why I call you Freak?" I asked. He looked over as we lowered the boat, then lifted it up overhead like creaky robots on reserve battery power. "Because you are one of the baddest men I've ever seen in my damn life!" He cracked a smile. "And you know what I say to these motherfuckers right here?" I tipped my elbow at the nine instructors gathered on the beach, drinking coffee and talking bullshit. "I say, they can go fuck themselves! " Bill nodded and narrowed his eyes on our tormentors, while I turned to the rest of the crew. "Now let's throw this shit up high and show them who we are!"

"Fucking beautiful," Bill said. "Let's do it!"

Within seconds my whole team had life. We didn't just lift the boat overhead and set it down hard, we threw it up, caught it overhead, tapped the sand with it and threw it up high again. The results were immediate and undeniable. Our pain and exhaustion faded. Each rep made us stronger and faster, and each time we threw the boat up we all chanted.

"YOU CAN'T HURT BOAT CREW TWO!" 

That was our fuck you to the instructors, and we had their full attention as we soared on a second wind. On the toughest day of the hardest week in the world's toughest training, Boat Crew Two was moving at lightning speed and making a mockery of Hell Week. The look on the instructors' faces told a story. Their mouths hung open like they were witnessing something nobody had ever seen before. Some averted their eyes, almost embarrassed. Only SBG looked satisfied. 

Next, take inventory of your mind and body on the eve of battle. List out your insecurities and weakness, as well as your opponent's. For instance, if you're getting bullied, and you know where you fall short or feel insecure, you can stay ahead of any insults or barbs a bully may throw your way. You can laugh at yourself along with them, which disempowers them. If you take what they do or say less personally, they no longer hold any cards. Feelings are just feelings. On the other hand, people who are secure with themselves don't bully other people. They look out for other people, so if you're getting bullied you know that you're dealing with someone who has problem areas you can exploit or soothe. Sometimes the best way to defeat a bully is to actually help them. If you can think two or three moves ahead, you will commandeer their thought process, and if you do that, you've taken their damn soul without them even realizing it. 

Our SEAL instructors were our bullies, and they didn't realize the games I was playing during that week to keep Boat Crew Two sharp. And they didn't have to. I imagined that they were obsessed with our exploits during Hell Week, but I don't know that for sure. It was a ploy I used to maintain my mental edge and help our crew prevail. 

In the same way, if you are up against a competitor for a promotion, and you know where you fall short, you can shape up your game ahead of your interview or evaluation. In that scenario, laughing at your weaknesses won't solve the problem. You must master them. In the meantime, if you are aware of your competitor's vulnerabilities you can spin those to your advantage, but all of that takes research. Again, know the terrain, know yourself; and you'd better know your adversary in detail. 

Once you're in the heat of battle, it comes down to staying power. If it's a difficult physical challenge you will probably have to defeat your own demons before you can take your opponent's soul. That means rehearsing answers to the simple question that is sure to rise up like a thought bubble: "Why am I here?" If you know that moment is coming and have your answer ready, you will be equipped to make the split second-decision to ignore your weakened mind and keep moving. Know why you're in the fight to stay in the fight! 

And never forget that all emotional and physical anguish is finite! It all ends eventually. Smile at pain and watch it fade for at least a second or two. If you can do that, you can string those seconds together and last longer than your opponent thinks you can, and that may be enough to catch a second wind. There is no scientific consensus on second wind. Some scientists think it's the result of endorphins flooding your nervous system, others think it's a burst of oxygen that can help break down lactic acid, as well as the glycogen and triglycerides muscles need to perform. Some say its purely psychological. All I know is that by going hard when we felt defeated we were able to ride a second wind through the worst night in Hell Week. And once you have that second wind behind you it's easy to break your opponent down and snatch a soul. The hard part is getting to that point, because the ticket to victory often comes down to bringing your very best when you feel your worst. [...] 

Nine months earlier, I had topped out at 297 pounds and couldn't even run a quarter mile. Back then, when I was dreaming of a different life, I remember thinking that just getting through Hell Week would be the biggest honor of my life so far. Even if I never graduated from BUD/S, surviving Hell Week alone would have meant something. But I didn't just survive. I was about to finish Hell Week at the top of my class, and for the first time, I knew I was a bad motherfucker. 

Once, I was so focused on failing, I was afraid to even try. Now I would take on any challenge. All my life, I was terrified of water, and especially cold water, but standing there in the final hour, I wished the ocean, wind, and mud were even colder! I wacompletely transformed physically, which was a big part of my success in BUD/S, but what saw me through Hell Week was my mind, and I was just starting to tap into its power. [...]

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. 

That may mean acing an exam, or crafting an ideal proposal, or smashing a sales goal. Whatever it is, I want you to work harder on that project or in that class 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.

If your coach doesn't give you time in the games, dominate practice. Check the best guy on your squad and show the fuck out. That means putting time in off the field. Watching film so you can study your opponent's tendencies, memorizing plays, and training in the gym. You need to make that coach pay attention. 

If it's your teacher, then start doing work of high quality. Spend extra time on your assignments. Write papers for her that she didn't even assign! Come early to class. Ask questions. Pay attention. Show her who you are and want to be. 

If it's a boss, work around the clock. Get to work before them. Leave after they go home. Make sure they see that shit, and when it's time to deliver, surpass their maximum expectations. 

Whoever you're dealing with, your goal is to make them watch you achieve what they could never have done themselves. You want them thinking how amazing you are. Take their negativity and use it to dominate their task with everything you've got. Take their motherfucking soul!

Chapter 5 : Armored Mind

I remember my very first day in the gym back in Indiana. My palms were soft and quickly got torn up on the bars because they weren't accustomed to gripping steel. But over time, after thousands of reps, my palms built up a thick callous as protection. The same principle works when it comes to mindset. Until you experience hardships like abuse and bullying, failures and disappointments, your mind will remain soft and exposed. Life experience, especially negative experiences, help callous the mind. But it's up to you where that callous lines up. If you choose to see yourself as a victim of circumstance into adulthood, that callous will become resentment that protects you from the unfamiliar. It will make you too cautious and untrusting, and possibly too angry at the world. It will make you fearful of change and hard to reach, but not hard of mind. That's where I was as a teenager, but after my second Hell Week, I'd become someone new. I'd fought through so many horrible situations by then and remained open and ready for more. My ability to stay open represented a willingness to fight for my own life, which allowed me to withstand hail storms of pain and use it to callous over my victim's mentality. That shit was gone, buried under layers of sweat and hard fucking flesh, and I was starting to callous over my fears too. That realization gave me the mental edge I needed to outlast Psycho Pete one more time. [...]

Obstacles at work and school can also be overcome with your calloused mind. In those cases, pushing through a given flash point isn't likely to lead to a sympathetic response, but it will keep you motivated to push through any doubt you feel about your own abilities. No matter the task at hand, there is always opportunity for self-doubt. Whenever you decide to follow a dream or set a goal, you are just as likely to come up with all the reasons why the likelihood of success is low. Blame it on the fucked-up evolutionary wiring ofthe human mind. But you don't have to let your doubt into the cockpit! You can tolerate doubt as a backseat driver, but if you put doubt in the pilot's seat, defeat is guaranteed. Remembering that you've been through difficulties before and have always survived to fight again shifts the conversation in your head. It will allow you to control and manage doubt, and keep you focused on taking each and every step necessary to achieve the task at hand. 

Sounds simple, right? It isn't. Very few people even bother to try to control the way their thoughts and doubts bubble up. The vast majority ofus are slaves to our minds. Most don't even make the first effort when it comes to mastering their thought process because it's a never-ending chore and impossible to get right every time. The average person thinks 2,000-3,000 thoughts per hour. That's thirty to fifty per minute! Some of those shots will slip by the goalie. It's inevitable. Especially if you coast through life. 

physical training is the perfect crucible to learn how to manage your thought process because when you're working out, your focus is more likely to be single pointed, and your response to stress and pain is immediate and measurable. Do you hammer hard and snag that personal best like you said you would, or do you crumble? That decision rarely comes down to physical ability, it's almost always a test of how well you are managing your own mind. Ifyou push yourself through each split and use that energy to maintain a strong pace, you have a great chance of recording a faster time. Granted, some days it's easier to do that than others. And the clock, or the score, doesn't matter anyway. The reason it's important to push hardest when you want to quit the most is because it helps you callous your mind. It's the same reason why you have to do your best work when you are the least motivated. That's why I loved PT in BUD/S and why I still love it today. Physical challenges strengthen my mind so I'm ready for whatever life throws at me, and it will do the same for you. [...]

By then I'd learned how to hold myself accountable, and 1 knew I could take a man's soul in the heat of battle. I had over. come many obstacles, and realized that each of those experiences had calloused my mind so thick, I could take on any challenge. All of that had made me feel like I'd dealt with my past demons, but I hadn't. I'd been ignoring them. My memories of abuse at the hands of my father, of all those people who called me nigger, didn't vaporize after a few victories. Those moments were anchored deep in my subconscious, and as a result, my foundation was cracked. In a human being your character is your foundation, and when you build a bunch of successes and pile up even more failures on a fucked-up foundation, the structure that is the self won't be sound. To develop an armored mind—a mindset so calloused and hard that it becomes bulletproof—you need to go to the source of all your fears and insecurities. 

Most of us sweep our failures and evil secrets under the rug, but when we run into problems, that rug gets lifted up, and our darkness re-emerges, floods our soul, and influences the decisions which determine our character. My fears were never just about the water, and my anxieties toward Class 235 weren't about the pain of First Phase. They were seeping from the infected wounds I'd been walking around with my entire life, and my denial of them amounted to a denial of myself. I was my own worst enemy! It wasn't the world, or God, or the Devil that was out to get me. It was me! [...]

CHALLENGE #6

Take inventory of your Cookie Jar. Crack your journal open again. Write it all out. Remember, this is not some breezy stroll through your personal trophy room. Don't just write down your achievement hit list. Include life obstacles you've overcome as well, 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 past victories carry you to new personal bests. If it's a run or bike ride, include some time to do interval work and challenge yourself to beat your best mile split. Or simply maintain a maximum heart rate for a full minute, then two minutes. If you're at home, focus on pull-ups or push-ups. Do as many as possible in two minutes. Then try to beat your best. 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! 

If you're more focused on intellectual growth, train yourself to study harder and longer than ever before, or read a record number of books in a given month. Your Cookie Jar can help there too. Because if you perform this challenge correctly and truly challenge yourself, you'll come to a point in any exercise where pain, boredom, or self-doubt kicks in, and you'll need to push back to get through it. The Cookie Jar is your shortcut to taking control of your own thought process. Use it that way! The point here isn't to make yourself feel like a hero for the fuck of it. It's not a hooray-for-me session. It's to remember what a badass you are so you can use that energy to succeed again in the heat of battle! 

Chapter 7 : The Most Powerful Weapon

ran my last two miles at a sub-seven-minute pace, finished the race in just over 3:08, and qualified for Boston. Somewhere on the streets of Las Vegas, my wife and mother would deal with their own struggles and overcome them to finish too, and as I sat on a patch of grass, waiting for them, I contemplated another simple question I couldn't shake. It was a new one, and wasn't fear-based, pain-spiked, or self-limiting. This one felt open. What am I capable of? 

SEAL training had pushed me to the brink several times, but whenever it beat me down I popped up to take another pounding. That experience made me hard, but it also left me wanting more of the same, and day-to-day Navy SEAL life just wasn't like that. Then came the San Diego One Day, and now this. I'd finished a marathon at an elite pace (for a weekend warrior) when I had no business even walking a mile. Both were incredible physical feats that didn't seem possible. But they'd happened. 

What am I capable of? 

I couldn't answer that question, but as I looked around the finish line that day and considered what I'd accomplished, it became clear that we are all leaving a lot of money on the table without realizing it. 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. We're not talking some bad weekend in Vegas, no more cash at the ATM kind of loss either. In that moment, the cost of missing out on so much excellence in this eternally fucked-up world felt incalculable to me, and it still does. I haven't stopped thinking about it since. [...]

But how do you push yourself when pain is all you feel with every step? When agony is the feedback loop that permeates each cell in your body, begging you to stop? That's tricky because the threshold for suffering is different for everybody. What's universal is the impulse to succumb. To feel like you've given everything you can, and that you are justified in leaving a job undone. 

By now, I'm sure you can tell that it doesn't take much for me to become obsessed. Some criticize my level ofpassion, but I'm not down with the prevailing mentalities that tend to dominate American society these days; the ones that tell us to go with the flow or invite us to learn how to get more with less effort. Fuck that shortcut bullshit. The reason I embrace my own obsessions and demand and desire more of myself is because I've learned that it's only when I push beyond pain and suffering, past my perceived limitations, that I'm capable of accomplishing more, physically and mentally—in endurance races but also in life as a whole. 

And I believe the same is true for you. The human body is like a stock car. We may look different on the outside, but under the hood we all have huge reservoirs of potential and a governor impeding us from reaching our maximum velocity. In a car, the governor limits the flow offuel and air so it doesn't burn too hot, which places a ceiling on performance. It's a hardware issue; the governor can easily be removed, and if you disable yours, watch your car rocket beyond 130 mph. It's a subtler process in the human animal. 

Our governor is buried deep in our minds, intertwined with our very identity. It knows what and who we love and hate; it's read our whole life story and forms the way we see ourselves and how we'd like to be seen. It's the software that delivers personalized feedback—in the form of pain and exhaustion, but also fear and insecurity, and it uses all ofthat to encourage us to stop before we risk it all. But, here's the thing, it doesn't have absolute control. Unlike the governor in an engine, ours can't stop us unless we buy into its bullshit and agree to quit. 

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! Once you know that to be true, it's imply a matter of stretching your pain tolerance, letting go of your identity and all 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, and the reason it's so powerful is that ifyou follow it, you will unlock your mind to new levels ofperformance and excellence in sports and in life, and your rewards will run far deeper than mere material success. 

The 40% Rule can be applied to everything we do. Because in life almost nothing will turn out exactly as we hope. There are always challenges, and whether we are at work or school, or feeling tested within our most intimate or important relationships, we will all be tempted to walk away from commitments, give up on our goals and dreams, and sell our own happiness short at some point. Because we will feel empty, like we have no more to give, when we haven't tapped even halfofthe treasure buried deep in our minds, hearts, and souls. [...]

I had hit the wall many times before, and I had learned to stay present and open minded enough to recalibrate my goals even at my lowest. I knew that staying in the fight is always the hardest, and most rewarding, first step. 

Of course, it's easy to be open minded when you leave yoga class and are taking a stroll by the beach, but when you're suffering, keeping an open mind is hard work. The same is true ifyou are facing a daunting challenge on the job or at school. Maybe you are tackling a hundred-question test and know that you've bricked the first fifty. At that point, it's extremely difficult to maintain the necessary discipline to force yourself to keep taking the test seriously. It's also imperative that you find it because in every failure there is something to be gained, even if it's only practice for the next test you'll have to take. Because that next test is coming. That's a guarantee. [...]

CHALLENGE #7

The main objective here is to slowly start to remove the governor from your brain. 

First, a quick reminder of how this process works. In 1999, when I weighed 297 pounds, my first run was a quarter mile. Fast forward to 2007, I ran 205 miles in thirty-nine hours, nonstop. I didn't get there overnight, and I don't expect you to either. Your job is to push past your normal stopping point. 

Whether you are running on a treadmill or doing a set ofpushups, 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. If the most push-ups you have ever done is one hundred in a workout, do 105 or 110. If you normally run thirty miles each week, run 10 percent more next week. 

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 about to increase your workload another 5 to 10 percent the following week, and the week after that. 

There is so much pain and suffering involved in physical challenges that it's the best training to take command of your inner dialogue, and the newfound mental strength and confidence you gain by continuing to push yourselfphysically will carry over to other aspects in your life. You will realize that ifyou were underperforming in your physical challenges, there is a good chance you are underperforming at school and work too. 

The bottom line is that life is one big mind game. The only person you are playing against is yourself. Stick with this process and soon what you thought was impossible will be something you do every fucking day of your life.

Chapter 8 : Talent Not Required

Could they run a hundred miles in one day? What would it take to reach their full potential? This is what I'd tell them: 

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. Ifyou 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. [...]

CHALLENGE #8

Schedule it in! 

It's time to compartmentalize your day. Too many ofus have become multitaskers, and that's created a nation of half-asses. This will be a three-week challenge. During week one, go about your normal schedule, but take notes. When do you work? Are you working nonstop or checking your phone (the Moment app will tell you) ? How long are your meal breaks? When do you exercise, watch TV, or chat to friends? How long is your commute? Are you driving? I want you to get super detailed and document it all with timestamps. This will be your baseline, and you'll find plenty of fat to trim. Most people waste four to five hours on 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 fifteen- to thirty-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 you 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. 

Ifyou are going to work hard you must also rest your brain. 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. 

Chapter 9 : Uncommon Amongst Uncommon

No matter who you are, life will present you similar opportunities where you can prove to be uncommon. There are people in all walks oflife who relish those moments, and when I see them I recognize them immediately because they are usually that motherfucker who's all by himself. It's the suit who's still at the office at midnight while everyone else is at the bar, or the badass who hits the gym directly after coming off a forty-eight-hour op. She's the wildland firefighter who instead ofhitting her bedroll, sharpens her chainsaw after working a fire for twenty-four hours. That mentality is there for all of us. Man, woman, straight, gay, black, white, or purple fucking polkadot. All ofus can be the person who flies all day and night only to arrive home to a filthy house, and instead of blaming family or roommates, cleans it up right then because they refuse to ignore duties undone. 

All over the world amazing human beings like that exist. It doesn't take wearing a uniform. It's not about all the hard schools they graduated from, all their patches and medals. It's about wanting it like there's no tomorrow—because there might not be. It's about thinking ofeverybody else before yourselfand developing your own code ofethics that sets you apart from others. One of those ethics is the drive to turn every negative into a positive, and then when shit starts flying, being prepared to lead from the front. [...]

A true leader stays exhausted, abhors arrogance, and never looks down on the weakest link. He fights for his men and leads by example. That's what it meant to be uncommon among uncommono It meant being one of the best and helping your men find their best too. It was a lesson I'd wish sunk in a lot deeper, because in just a few more weeks I'd be challenged in the leadership department and come up well short.  [...]

In Iraq, it was impossible to get long runs in, so we lived in the weight room. We did hundreds of deadlifts and spent hours on the hip sled. We went way beyond overtraining. We didn't care about muscle fatigue or breakdown because after a certain point we were training our minds, not our bodies. My workouts weren't designed to make us fast runners or to be the strongest men on the mission. I was training us to take torture so we'd remain relaxed in extraordinarily uncomfortable environments. And shit did get uncomfortable from time to time. [...]

CHALLENGE #9

This one's for the unusual motherfuckers in this world. A lot of people think that once they reach a certain level ofstatus, respect, or success, that they've made it in life. I'm here to tell you that you always have to find more. Greatness is not something that if you meet it once it stays with you forever. That shit evaporates like a flash of oil in a hot pan. 

Ifyou truly want to become uncommon amongst the uncommon, it will require sustaining greatness for a long period oftime. 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 ifyou are already surrounded by people who are at the top oftheir game, what are you going to do differently to stand out? It's easy to stand out amongst everyday people and be a big fish in a small pond. It is a much more diffcult task when you are a wolfsurrounded by wolves. 

This means not only getting into Wharton Business School, but being ranked #1 in your class. It means not just graduating BUD/S, but becoming Enlisted Honor Man in Army Ranger School then going out and finishing Badwater. 

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. 

Chapter 10 : The Empowerment Of Failure

So did I hang my head in shame and misery? Fuck no! To a failure is just a stepping stone to future success. The next norning, my phone was blowing up so I left it in my hotel room went for a run in Central Park. I needed zero distractions and time enough to go back through what I'd done well and where I'd fallen short. 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're analyzing a failure like I was, the AAR is absolutely crucial. Because when you're headed into uncharted territory there are no books to study, no YouTube instructional videos to watch. All I had to read were my mistakes, and I considered all variables. 

First of all, I should never have gone on that show. My motivation was solid. It was a good idea to try to increase awareness and raise money for the foundation, and while I required exposure to raise the amount I'd hoped, by thinking of money first (always a bad idea) I wasn't focused on the task at hand. To break this record, I needed an optimal environment, and that realization blasted me like a surprise attack. I didn't respect the record enough going in. I thought I could have broken it on a rusty bar bolted to the back of a pick-up truck with loose shocks, so even though I tested the bar twice before game day, it never bothered me enough to make a change, and my lack offocus and attention to detail cost me a shot at immortality. There were also way too many bubbly looky-loos buzzing in and out of the room, asking for pictures between sets. This was the beginning of the selfie era, and that sickness most definitely invaded my motherfucking safe space. [...]

Most wars are won or lost in our own heads, and when we're in a foxhole we usually aren't alone, and we need to be confident in the quality ofthe heart, mind, and dialogue ofthe person hunkered down with us. Because at some point we will need some empowering words to keep us focused and deadly. In that hospital, in my own personal foxhole, I was swimming in doubt. 1 fell 800 pull-ups short and I knew what 800 pull-ups felt like. That's a long fucking day! But there was nobody else I'd rather have been in that foxhole with. 

"Don't worry," she said. "I'll start calling those witnesses up as soon as we get home." 

"Roger that," I said. "Tell them I'll be back on that bar in two months." 

In life, there is no gift as overlooked or inevitable as failure. I've had quite a few and have learned to relish them, because ifyou do the forensics you'll find clues about where to make adjustments and how to eventually accomplish your task. I'm not talking about a mental list either. After the second attempt, I wrote everything out long-hand, but didn't start with the obvious issue, my grip. Initially, I brainstormed everything that went well, because in every failure a lot of good things will have happened, and we must acknowledge them. 

The best takeaway from the Nashville attempt was Nandor's eon of a gym was the perfect environment for me. place. His dung yeah, I'm on social media, and in the spotlight from time to time, but I am not a Hollywood person. I get my strength from a very dark place, and Nandor's gym wasn't a phony-ass, happy factory. It was dark, sweaty, painful, and real. I called him the very next day and asked if I could come back to train and make another run at the record. I'd taken a lot of his time and energy and left behind a mess, so I had no idea how he'd respond. 

"Yeah, motherfucker," he said. "Let's go!" It meant a lot to have his support again. 

Another positive was how I handled my second meltdown. I was offthe mat and on the comeback trail before I even saw the ERdoc. That's where you want to be. You can't let a simple failure derail your mission, or let it worm so far up your ass it takes over your brain and sabotages your relationships with people who are close to you. Everyone fails sometimes and life isn't supposed to be fair, much less bend to your every whim. 

Luck is a capricious bitch. It won't always go your way, so you can't get trapped in this idea that just because you've imagined a possibility for yourselfthat you somehow deserve it. Your entitled mind is dead weight. Cut it loose. Don't focus on what you think you deserve. Take aim on what you are willing to earn! I never blamed anyone for my failures, and I didn't hang my head in Nashville. I stayed humble and sidestepped my entitled mind because I knew damn well I hadn't earned my record. [...]

CHALLENGE #10

Think about your most recent and your most heart-wrenching failures. Break out that journal one last time. Log offthe digital version and write them out long-hand. I want you to feel this process because you are about to file your own, belated After Action Reports. 

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 your 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 the failure happened in childhood, and you can't recreate 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 evetything 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 ifyou fail again, so the fuck be it. Take the pain. Repeat these steps and keep fighting. That's what it's all about.

Next article The Obstacle is the Way | Ryan Holiday