Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds Book Cover Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds
David Goggins
Lioncrest Publishing
10th December 2018

How one man overcame an abusive childhood and tragedy, and transformed himself from an overweight, depressed pest controller to become an elite Navy SEAL and one of the World's top endurance athletes. This is really a story about developing mental toughness and an outlook that seeks out and embraces challenge.  
Can't Hurt Me - David Goggins


Before I begin…

I’m going to start reviewing all of the books I listen to, and if you want to see a complete list of the books I’ve recently read and recommend, you can see them here:
View all my book recommendations

Before I get into reviewing this book, I need to start with the fact that I listened to the Audio Book version. This is important because at the end of chapters, there are essentially annotations where you hear directly from David, discussing what they’ve just spoken about in more detail with narrator and ghost writer Adam Skolnick. I got a lot more insights from this, and hearing from David himself was really interesting over just the content of the book itself. It reminded me of watching a DVD with directors commentary. I prefer audiobooks anyway because they fit so well into my lifestyle, but I think this really separates this from the standard book.

Another consideration is that in places this is a very raw and unfiltered. If you are offended by profanity, then this probably isn’t going to be a good choice for you. I was curious about other peoples reaction to this book, and I was surprised when I saw how many people had said they couldn’t get past the first few chapters because there were so many f-bombs. They definitely lost out by not sticking with it, but again I thought this was worth pointing out.

David Goggins – Can’t hurt me

So Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds was recommended to me, but it was suggested more as a workout, training and diet book. Seeing that David was a Navy SEAL, this was interesting to me, but it’s definitely not what this book is about. This is more of an autobiography, with key actionable lessons that can be taken away from each chapter, with levels of accountability built into it. As such it didn’t meet my expectations at all, but I found it fascinating to listen to, often remaining in my car for an additional 10-15 minutes after arriving at my destination because I wanted to hear what happened next.

David Goggins has had a really nightmarish start to life; without wanting to reveal too much of what is in the book, he basically had to escape tragedy and abuse, lived in poverty, was surrounded by racism, and every time things start to look up, tragedy hit again. Ultimately this lead him to a place where he was depressed, overweight, and not really going anywhere. It was one day after going back and visiting his mum, that he saw a documentary about Navy SEALs, and the infamous 24-week BUD/S training program including “Hell Week” which changed his life. He knew immediately, that this is what he wanted to do.

Now just to even get considered to take part in the training, David faced huge obstacles. One of which was that he was hugely overweight (297 lbs) and on his first attempt, struggled to run quarter of a mile before giving up. The maximum weight David could be to get into training was 191 lbs, which meant he had to lose 106 lbs in 2 months! As crazy as this sounds, this isn’t even close to the most difficult challenge that David had to face on his journey to become a Navy SEAL.

On his journey David realised, and I’m really oversimplifying here for the purpose of review, that real strength comes from the mind. He had lots of demons to face from his past that he needed to work through, as well as the physical challenges that lay ahead. Within the book he provided a series of challenges to help develop your own mental toughness, some of which I already did intuitively. One such example is the “accountability mirror”, where each night he would look into the mirror and hold himself accountable for everything he had done that day, and recognise what he needed to do to continue progressing.

David Goggins 40% rule

One of the biggest takeaways for me from this book however, was the 40% rule. During Hell Week in BUD/S training, the instructors are trying to break you both physically and mentally. Only the strongest survive. In one particular training evolution, David was treading water with only one leg, and is naturally negatively buoyant, so was quickly burning through energy and oxygen to stay afloat. At his instructors command he would then have to dive underwater and perform a series of knots before returning to the surface. His instructor had a nasty habit of trying to splash water into his mouth on instructing him to dive, preventing him from taking a big gasp of air before diving. While underwater, David found that although his mind was screaming that he needed to return for air, he was capable of much more. This is something that happens again and again in the book, and is something that David coined as the 40% rule. Basically when you hit your “perceived limit”, he believes you are actually at about 40% of what you are truly capable of. Once you learn this, you can start to gradually push yourself past this limit through training. This is something I have experienced myself in far less extreme circumstances, but resonated with me completely as I was listening.

The book doesn’t just focus on David’s SEAL training, it also goes further into how he trained for other elite forces too such the Army Rangers, how he attempted to break the world pullup record (most pull ups in 24 hours), and how he became an Ultra runner. This initially started off as a new challenge, but also a way to raise money for the families of Navy SEALs that were KIA. The Ultra running part of the book is really next level. What’s interesting is how candid he is about how poor his planning and preparation was for some of these challenges (he brought only crackers and protein shakes to a 24 hour ultra run), but this in itself again provides valuable lessons and insights with the book. The fact that he was able to complete the race despite this is even more impressive, as he tackled the challenge through grit and mental toughness alone.

So at the end of the book, I was left feeling a little inadequate and certainly lacking in excuses. However I was feeling driven, knowing how “easy” I have it compared to him and many others out there. One of the things he says in his book is that “motivation is crap”, because it comes and goes. Anyone can be motivated when things are easy, but being motivated when things are hard is difficult. Instead he focuses on trying to re-wire his thinking, and to always be “uncomfortable” and to seek out challenge. When I think about, I lead a very comfortable life, so adding in things that make me uncomfortable (such as taking cold showers every day) helps build that mental toughness.

David Goggins on Joe Rogan

I highly recommend this book. You can also find out more from his YouTube channel, Facebook page, and he has appeared a few times on the Joe Rogan show podcast, such as on the one below. After reading his book, I wanted to hear more so podcasts like this certainly add to his story.