Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

David Goggins is often called “The Fittest Man in the World.” He is the ONLY man in history to complete elite training as a US Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller. He has gone on to set records in numerous endurance events as an ultramarathon runner and Guinness World Record holder for press ups.  

All very impressive accomplishments but even more inspiring when you read/hear (tip: get the audible version it includes interviews after every chapter with David who provides even more insight!) through this book about his difficult childhood  — poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse. However, through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work, Goggins transformed himself from a depressed, overweight young man with limited career prospects (he was a pest controller) into a U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world’s top endurance athletes. 

We have taken some of his biggest lessons that resonated with us to share here.

Accountability Mirror

Stand in front of a mirror and be totally honest with yourself about your weaknesses, whether they’re physical, in your career, or relationships. Be unflinchingly candid and name the enemy i.e. the limitations in you that are holding you back from achieving your full potential.  Only then will you know what you need to improve and have a great basis for setting your goals.

David shares how he then pasted sticky notes around the outside of a mirror outlining not only his goals, but small steps he’d need to take to accomplish those goals. Each day, he would review those notes to keep himself accountable. He advocates keeping your goals in plain sight can keep replenishing your motivation to reach them. 

Visualize success.

Before he ever became a SEAL,David  visualised it. Not dreamed it, but really experienced succeeding in his mind: “I’d imagine myself going through BUD/S [training], diving into cold water, and crushing Hell Week.”

This isn’t a groundbreaking strategy, we know of many athletes that say the same. In fact in one study In one study, weight lifters who visualised sets of exercises in their minds in addition to their actual workouts gained more strength than those who did just the real-world workout.

When David became an ultra runner, he would drive his course, not only creating a race plan, but visualising what he would feel like at each point in the race, “visualizing success but also potential challenges,” he says. “You can’t prepare for everything, but if you engage in strategic visualization ahead of time, you’ll be as prepared as you can possibly be.”

You will feel alone. You will feel insecure. Get over it!

David calls these his “laws of nature.” When you’re striving to achieve, you’re going to feel lonely, doubted, insecure, and ridiculed. Just as with the “Accountability Mirror,” he suggests being honest with yourself: “You have to be willing to go to war with yourself and create a whole new identity.”

Easier said than done. But this is where modelling helps. Look up the people who inspire you with their success, and read about how they struggled (or continue to struggle). We share AWMB Inspiration features on this site to inspire you and show you if the women in our community can do it so can you!

The 40% Rule 

This one really connects with us.  If you’ve ever run a marathon, climbed a mountain, or given birth, you will know that when your mind says you’re done, you’re not really done, in fact David says you’re only at 40 percent of your capabilities.  Though the 40 percent rule is mostly backed by anecdote, there is some scientific research to support it. A number of studies have found that the placebo effect has a big impact on sports performance. That is, if you think something will improve your performance, it probably will. That suggests that a good portion of your strength and toughness is mental, not physical. For example, a 2008 study published in the European Journal of Neuroscience found that when you give people a sugar pill and tell them it’s caffeine, then have them lift weights, they can work significantly harder.

This really is an incredible book, his story illuminates a path that anyone can follow to push past pain, demolish fear, and reach their full potential. Highly recommended! 

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