If you’ve ever read Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers and believe in data and probability, you know that the tales of the entrepreneur/musicians/athlete/politician that defied all odds and changed the course of history forever, are generally somewhat mythical. No, it’s not that these people (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, The Beatles, etc.) weren’t magnificent at what they did, it’s that they were born at the right time and had the right ecosystem around them for magic to happen.
With David Goggins, the myth is real. Can’t Hurt Me is about a person, David, who was born into a life of physical and domestic abuse, psychological warfare, and numerous child labor violations, among other things. Once he and his mother fled his father and brother at an early age, young David experienced murder, racism, and bullying in the Midwest. By high school, he was teetering on the edge, torn between two drastically different roads of life.
Instead, as David’s thoroughly details, he faces the mirror and for the first time in his life decides to hold himself accountable for everything, even the things outside of his control. It’s in this moment that he invents the #AccountabilityMirror (yes, there is a hashtag for social media use and inspiration) and begins challenging himself each day to work through challenges and achieve objectives.
David goes on to join United States Air Force Pararescue, failing multiple times before ultimately graduating. Driven by his own desire and inspired by a few military colleagues, David truly overcomes his fear of water in BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training; battles pneumonia and broken kneecaps during Hell Weeks; fights through brutal physical assignments on little sleep and under intense psychological duress, and eventually completes U.S. Army Ranger School (where he graduated as Enlisted Honor Man) and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training.
Along the way, David develops a knack for motivating others and learning more about himself and self-discipline, developing internal resources that enable him to overcome the mental and physical hurdles he encounters each day.
If this isn’t inspiring enough, David develops a passion/obsession for long distance running, triathlons and other ultra-distance and endurance races. He completes 100+ mile races in deserts and jungles, overcoming broken legs, quarter-sized blisters, exhaustion, and more without quitting. He also attempts the world record for pull-ups in 24 hours, failing multiple times before succeeding in the face of detractors and becoming the Guinness Record Holder (until Navy man Mike McCastle destroyed the record a couple years later).
You get the point. Goggins is one tough out, coming from nothing to become a highly sought after motivation speaker for universities, the military and Fortune 500 companies.
Being honest with myself, there were parts of the book that didn’t resonate with me as much. Each chapter of Can’t Hurt Me details a lesson and a challenge to the reader that, should they follow, will surely lead them on the path forward. I agree each challenge and objective is reachable, in theory, but not for everyone. Some people are challenged by mental and physical hurdles that require more than the #AccountabilityMirror to improve their life. While this self-help book holds motivation in every chapter, my faith in the broad population’s ability to hold itself accountable and self-improve, is lacking. What worked for David and others like him was powered by his discipline that the average Joe and Jane just don’t have.
That may sound negative, but I suppose the glass half full view is that if a reader completes Can’t Hurt Me and comes away having learned one lesson, they’re a better person and David’s mission is accomplished.
I found the story fascinating and inspiring, especially one of David’s key themes: callusing your mind. For the weight lifters and guitar players out there, you know how calluses work. Build up the protection by repetition. David’s explains it well: by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and experiencing new situations, you are effectively callusing your mind of the things that cause most people to fail: self-doubt, hesitation, negative thinking, anxiety and more. By pushing yourself psychologically and physically, David argues, you essentially make yourself a more confident and determined person capable of overcoming the odds and succeeding.
I really enjoyed this concept, as well as many others in Can’t Hurt Me. The book is an easy read, and more importantly is genuine. You can tell each thought is David’s and that he wants the reader to understand his past and vulnerabilities, not just so you can understand them, but so he can get past them.