This is a comprehensive summary of the book Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski.
Worksheet: Download this summary to read offline.
The Book In Three Or More Sentences:
Can’t Hurt Me is a book that tells a brutally honest story of the tough life of David Goggins. How he transitioned from an overweight thug to an unbreakable Navy SEAL who’s running 100 miles for breakfast. What are the lessons learned from this remarkable transformation and tips on how you can become a better, faster, and stronger version of yourself.
The Core Idea
You can make it work. Even when things are hard and you think you should stop. The human body is capable of handling a lot more than we think. Once you realize this fact, you can become whatever you want in life. You simply need to keep going, keep pushing, and become addicted to hard work. By doing so, you’ll go beyond pain and suffering and pass your perceived limitations.
- Passion and talent can only get you to a certain point. What you really need is hard work and self-discipline.
- If you get too comfortable you’ll stop improving. In life, there is no real finish line.
- We avoid the truth like a plague. But only by hearing what we need to hear most, we can realize where we’re lagging.
5 Key Lessons from Can’t Hurt Me:
Lesson #1: Self-help And Pep Talks Are Just A Temporary Fix
Watching motivational videos and listening to inspirational podcasts from the comfort of your home surely feels blissful. You just hit play, hear the other person talks about passion and goals and a little voice inside your brains starts convincing you that you’re somehow better than the other fuckers who are simply scrolling on their phones liking pictures.
But are you better?
Well, not particularly.
The self-help industry can surely inspire you and even help you pursue your goals but it won’t do the hard work for you. It’s up to you to get up and start pondering on them ambitions.
Motivation and pep talks are only useful if you have the work ethic to back them up with real labor. Or in other words, the only thing standing between you and your desired future is your willingness to get the job done.
It’s not rocket science. If you want something, you need to focus on execution. Motivational programs and life-hacks can help too, but they shouldn’t be your focus. They should come secondary.
“Motivation changes exactly nobody. The bad hand that was my life was mine, and mine alone to fix.” David Goggins
Lesson #2: You’re Either Getting Better or You’re Getting Worse
Graduating from regular school and later high school feels like the end of an era. It feels like it’s time for rest and time to lay back and wait for this big tech company to hire your ass and pay you tons of money just because you wore a robe once and you threw a hat in the sky. But that’s a fantasy.
The end of school is usually the beginning of something new. And that’s not just for school. The end of something is usually the beginning of something else.
- Finishing a single article should make you start another one.
- Finishing a race should trigger а desire to participate in another one.
- Doing 100 pushups today should mean doing 110 tomorrow.
- Writing a book should motivate you to write another one.
- Singing a single song in front of an audience should inspire you to participate in other events.
You see, one single event, no matter how big and grandiose, won’t make you successful by itself. It can improve your odds for world-fame but it’s not the dominating factor.
You need to continuously improve your results to stay in the game.
“No matter what you or I achieve, in sports, business, or life, we can’t be satisfied. Life is too dynamic a game. We’re either getting better or we’re getting worse.” David Goggins
Lesson #3 We Crave For Comfort
The story of David Goggins, the author, and main protagonist in the book is the ultimate proof that you can achieve greatness if you’re willing to take the pain.
From an overweight truck driver with more than $30,000 in debt, he became a respectable navy SEAL with a couple of ultra marathons under his belt – and other unhuman achievements.
Do you think this came easy for him?
Not a bit.
But he realized something early in his life. Something a lot of us can’t realize no matter how many books we read or how many documentaries we watch online.
That life is suffering.
Contrary to our modern understandings, life is not Netflix and chill, social media marathons, more Instagram followers, nor endless video co-ops with friends on the couch. Real life is an endless stream of uncoordinated, but continuous pain that’s coming from every direction.
The more we try to escape pain and camouflage it with things that feel comfortable at the current moment, the more we’ll distance ourselves from our sacred goals.
The only way you can improve and become a better person is by confronting the pain and accepting that there’s never an ending to it. Your whole life you’ll be fighting. It’s going to be really hard but if you’re willing to accept the challenge along the way you’ll get what you really wanted from life.
Lesson #4: Ask Yourself: Why Are You Doing This?
Despite your commitment and your physical training, you’ll hit a wall. You’ll come to a place where things suck. A place full of darkness and doubt.
In these moments, we usually start questioning our efforts and the reason behind our actions.
For the author, this place was usually in the middle of an ultra marathon. When the pain was highest and when the body was exhausted to a near collapse.
The question, “Why am I doing this?” Will inevitably circle your mind and anchor somewhere in such moments.
- If your a business owner you’ll ask yourself, “Why sell bags? There are other 100 shops selling similar bags?”
- If you’re a writer you’ll ask yourself, “Why write this book, there are other 100 books telling pretty much the same story?”
- If you’re a runner you’ll ask yourself, “Why run 100 miles, there’s no real point of me doing this?”
If you don’t have an answer to this question in these fragile moments you’ll surely quit. That’s why you need to be prepared well in advance. To have an answer to this question: “Why am I doing this?”
Do you want to prove something to yourself? To others? What is driving you toward this achievement?
Only once you know the answer to this question you’ll have a purpose strong enough that will help you overcome the obstacles that will surely appear on your path.
Lesson #5: Don’t Stop Challenging Yourself
There are eleven chapters in this book and ten challenges that will help you ditch the victim’s mentality forever and become a strong motherfucker.
Here they are in short:
- Challenge #1: Take note of the things that are limiting your growth and success. Probably you grew up in the wrong neighborhood or your parents didn’t give you enough candy when you were a little boy/girl. Whatever it was, list them all, don’t be shy. Use these excuses as fuel for your future success.
- Challenge #2: Take a look in the mirror and come clean with yourself. Write down all of your insecurities, goals, your secret desires, and your nasty dreams. Everything. Once you have them all in one place, take another look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Why I’m still here? Why I haven’t accomplished my goals?” Be straight with yourself and don’t try to pamper your ego.
- Challenge #3: What are the things that make you feel uncomfortable? Hard things you know you should do but you’re not doing them. Speaking in front of other people? Eating salads instead of raw meat? Reading instead of checking social media? Whatever it is, you need to do it. There’s no shortcut. If you want to level up and have a calloused mind you need to do hard things regularly.
- Challenge #4: Do you want to beat your competitors? The best way to do it is by becoming the finest at what you do. Don’t even think about sabotaging your opponents. Simply excel in your craft and push the boundaries so far that it will be really hard for others to keep up.
- Challenge #5: On average, we have around 3,000 thoughts per hour. That’s a lot! Trying to process all of the ideas circling your mind is impossible and unnecessary. You want your mind focused on one goal. So, don’t waste time on things you can’t change, focus your efforts on one particular task and pain a picture of what success will look like when you achieve it.
- Challenge #6: When things go downhill and you’re all alone, you need something to keep you going. You need a system to keep you in motion. What type of system? Write your past accomplishments and obstacles you have gone through. David Goggins refers to this as your “Cookie Jar.” Once self-doubt and uncertainty kicks-in, open the jar and take an encouragement cookie. Remind yourself that you can do better and that you actually did better in the past.
- Challenge #7: Raise your baseline gradually and continuously. For instance, if you can only run 5 miles, push yourself to run a bit more the next time you’re running – 5 or 10 percent more. It will hurt and your body will try to make you stop but if you keep going, you’ll successfully increase your baseline. Next time, do the same. In essence, every time you’re doing hard work you need to convince your mind that you can do a little more. It’s a never-ending inner battle and the more wins you stack under your belt the better you’ll become.
- Challenge #8: A three-week challenge composed as follows: Week 1) Continue doing what you’re currently doing but this time take notes of everything you do. How much you sleep? How long is your commute? What do you eat? How much time do you spend online? Be super detailed. This will be your current standard. It will most probably suck but you need to acknowledge it first before you can start improving. Week 2) Create a better schedule. Set some priorities and do things one at a time. Don’t try to multitask. Focus on one thing at a time. Week 3) Improve your schedule. Make things better and trim all the fat slowing you down.
- Challenge #9: Sustaining greatness is hard work. Even if you’re at the top of your class, staying there is not going to be easy. You need to put bigger obstacles in front of you, continuously. They will increase your stamina and help you grow stronger over time.
- Challenge #10: Write a detailed report of your past failures. The author calls these After Action Reports. Describe all the details – the preparation process, what happened, what were your thoughts when this occurred, etc. Once you have it all written down, examine it and take a moment to make a list of the things you can fix. Study the damn list and schedule tasks ASAP. Pay special attention to your thought process when you failed at things. That’s the most important factor for your success. Or as David Goggins writes in the book, “Dominate your thought process. This life is all a fucking mind game. Realize that. Own it!”
- What are you doing to stand out? Surround yourself with people who are better than you and do everything humanly possible to outperform them. Once the task is complete, find another group of people, better than the former. Repeat. Life is a never-ending race. Your goal is to be the best in your field.
- Write things which you don’t like doing: Stepping outside of your comfort zone is a common thing you’ll find inside self-help books, like this one. But sergeant Goggins adds something extra. He prompts you to write down your discomforts (step 1) – all the things that make you feel uncomfortable. Once you’re done with the writing, proceed to step two. Step 2: Do something that sucks every day. Even small things like washing the dishes or arranging your clothes. Once you’re used to these things, find others that are uncomfortable. These tasks will make you stronger in the future.
- Study your failures: What do you do after a defeat? You go to the store to purchase a big bowl of ice cream and you go home to cry and to eat till collapsing? Do something productive instead. Take some time to analyze your defeats. Take into account everything. From the preparation stage to your thoughts during the execution of the task. The author calls them After Action Reports. Quitting for good or blaming others after a failure is something a lot of us do but deep down we all know why we failed. Because we overlooked something and we didn’t prepare enough.
- Give your pain shape: We all have stories and a list of excuses we use to feel better about ourselves. Things like, “I’ll never become a basketball player because I’m too short;” Or, “I grew up in poverty.” But instead of playing the victim you can channel these things and use them as fuel. As propellant to motivate yourself daily.
- Accountability Mirror: Don’t have an accountability partner? Someone to help you stay committed to a certain task? Nor did David Goggins. But he found a way nevertheless. He confessed in front of his mirror before going to sleep. So, create a ritual. Every morning or before going to sleep, take a look at the mirror. Get real with yourself. Let it all out. Don’t massage your ego, be brutally honest with yourself. Later, write down your goals and tag them on your Accountability Mirror so you can see them. Now repeat this every day.
Commentary And My Personal Takeaway
Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins is a brutally honest story of a guy who is physically tormented by his father. About an ordinary boy, who despite all the obstacles, limitations, barriers, becomes one of the strongest athletes. Along with that, he’s also an ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete, motivational speaker, and author.
The tips inside the book are nothing really new about becoming better: get uncomfortable, go beyond your comfort zone, work hard, set goals… The common things you’ll find in a motivational book.
Yet, the story told by David Goggins is really well written. Full of ghetto language, adventures, and a detailed description of how he overcomes a lifetime of struggle. David Goggins proves to everyone that they were wrong about him and becomes the ultimate machine.
Though the techniques mentioned in the book are nothing new, as mentioned, while reading you’ll undoubtedly get motivated to improve your life.
I mean, the author is constantly pushing his body past the point of sanity in order to accomplish a goal. You can’t not be motivated, inspired and also feel extremely guilty for skipping your workouts when you hear about him running 100 miles in less than 24 hours.
The major takeaway for me?
The mind and the body can take more than you think they can. Don’t stop because you’re tired. Stop when you’re done with what you’re doing, and then some.
“Yeah, I know shit is fucked up. I know what you’ve been through. I was there, bitch! Merry fucking Christmas. Nobody is coming to save your ass! Not your mommy, not Wilmoth. Nobody! It’s up to you!” David Goggins
“In that moment I stopped seeing myself as the victim of bad circumstance, and saw my life as the ultimate training ground instead. My disadvantages had been callousing my mind all along and had prepared me for that moment… Life experience, especially negative experiences, help callous the mind.” David Goggins
“Only when you identify and accept your weaknesses will you finally stop running from your past. Then those incidents can be used more efficiently as fuel to become better and grow stronger.” David Goggins
“Don’t stop when you are tired. Stop when you are done.” David Goggins
Do yourself a favor:
Join Going Further: A 13-day email series on how to keep progressing in a world tirelessly pushing toward regression. Great for people who feel stuck in the endless loop of not doing.