Book Review: ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ by David Goggins
Updated: Jan 7
“It takes great strength to be vulnerable enough to put your ass on the line, in public, and work toward a dream that feels like it’s slipping away. We all have eyeballs on us. Our family and friends are watching, and even if you’re surrounded by positive people, they will have ideas about who you are, what you’re good at, and how you should focus your energy. That shit is just human nature and if you try to break out of their box you’ll get some unsolicited advice that has a way of smothering your aspirations if you let it. Often our people don’t mean any harm. Nobody who cares about us actually wants us to get hurt. They want us to be safe comfortable, and happy, and not to have to stare at the floor in a dungeon sifting through shards of our broken dreams. Too bad. There’s a lot of potential in those moments of pain. And if you figure out how to piece that picture back together, you’ll find a hell of a lot of power there too!” – David Goggins, ‘Can’t Hurt Me’
The above quote was from author David Goggins' attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records pull up record, which he did it on his third attempt. He reviews each attempt and changes he made to training and attempt location (turns out the Today Show is not a great place to try to break a record). But more than that, this quote applies to every person I know.
Think back on your own experiences, races and adventures you’ve signed up for. Did you do everything you could to meet that goal? Then, think about the reactions from people when you told them what your goal was. Was it always favorable? Think back to a time that you didn’t meet the goal you’d set – but decided to try again. What were the reactions from your supporters? Was there a naysayer in the group? How did their opinion affect you? Did you think about those opinions every time you trained? Did some of your friends and loved ones remind you of their doubts every time you saw them?
Keep those thoughts and memories in mind as you read on.
Bottom-line up front (BLUF): most humans are using only 40% of their capabilities.
If you’ve never heard the name David Goggins, here’s a little about him. He’s a retired Navy SEAL. He also completed Army Ranger School and Air Force Tactical Controller training. He’s the only person that’s done all of those. He’s a triathlete, ultrarunner and former Guinness World Record Holder.
Goggins’ book, for me, was a great read. He’s straight-forward and to the point. His communications are blunt and often, harsh. That’s just the type of book I need to read.
1. Lots and lots of swearing in this book.
2. Some of his thoughts probably shouldn’t have been written down.
3. His life is very extreme, but he’s committed to his version of excellence.
I’ve had friends ask me if Goggins is actively trying to kill himself. Well, kind of. Examples: he tears his hands open at each attempt of his pullup record and on his second attempt, has rhabdomyolysis. He runs his first 100-miler on three days’ notice and clearly, with no training. He runs the Hurt 100 and finds out what happens when your CamelBak breaks early on and you don’t have other ways to hydrate aside from aid stations. It’s presented as ‘here’s the crazy stuff I’ve done – probably you don’t want to do it that way’. He does encourage you to do epic things that will push you past the current 40% capability you may be using – all while being deliberate in setting your goals and pushing past your perceived limitations.
Using his own life as a back story, Goggins provides a challenge for the reader at the end of each chapter. They’re intense and very focused, even if you are using more than your 40% of current capabilities. But those challenges, if you choose to accept them and take the time to work through them, will help you break though that 40% capability glass ceiling. You’re going to have to bust out paper and pencil, sticky notes and bad memories, and then get very, very real about where you are with your goals and dreams. Some would say that maybe Goggins is looking for others to join his crazy train but he’s just asking you to board your own life train and live your life – right up to all that you’re capable of. He’s asking you to be vulnerable, to set and reach your goals and to do so by stepping WAY, WAY outside of your comfort zone.
If nothing else, pick up the book and read through the challenges at the end of the chapters. I suspect you’ll end up reading the whole book because the back story is so sad, awful and awe-inspiring. While you’re thinking about those challenges, think back to what I asked you to keep in mind earlier – did you do everything you could to meet the goals that you set? If not, then this book may provide some clarity as to why you didn’t and help you set and reach those goals using your mind and body as your greatest tools.