Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds is a book by David Goggins, an American ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete, public speaker, retired US Navy SEAL member, and author. This book is his autobiography, describing the early days of his life filled with abuse and discrimination, up until his numerous achievements in the army and sports. Can’t Hurt Me was published in 2018 and was 7 years in the making.
Book Title— Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds
Author— David Goggins
Date of Reading— April, 2023
Table of Contents
What Is Being Said In Detail
Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds is as much motivational as it is an autobiographical book. It follows David’s life from his hard and trauma-filled childhood all the way to his becoming one of the world’s best endurance athletes and a motivational speaker. The author truly believes that anyone can realize their potential through discipline, persistence, and mental toughness.
He advises embracing discomfort and constantly finding ways to move forward. The book itself has structured in a way that every chapter consists of a challenge that David Goggins overcame and is proposing for the readers to take on those challenges. There are eleven chapters in the book, followed by pictures taken throughout the author’s life, while the aforementioned challenges for the readers can be found at the end of each chapter.
In Introduction, the author says that most people are living at about 40 percent of their true capabilities. He also points out that anybody can achieve the impossible, but it takes a lot of heart, will, and mind.
Chapter One: I Should Have Been a Statistic
Chapter 1 describes the abuse, poverty, and difficulties that the author, David Goggins, went through during his childhood. After slaving away for his father and being beaten up as a child, he manages to leave for a new life with his mother. Leaving, however, created new problems. They had barely enough money to get by and David suffered from toxic stress, yet he kept fighting against all odds.
Chapter Two: Truth Hurts
In Chapter 2, the author talks about growing up in Indiana as an African American, and the daily discrimination and bullying he had to face. For some time, David gave up on himself and only cared what other people thought about him while trying to fit in and fight off all the racist people in his town. In the end, he realized the futility of his behavior and instead started taking accountability for himself and his future.
Thanks to his resilience and great mental strength, he managed to jump from barely being able to read to passing the Air Force exam and getting accepted. The author suggests the readers put post-its with goals on a mirror and hold themselves accountable every time they look into that mirror.
Chapter Three: The Impossible Task
In Chapter 3 the author suggests getting out of our comfort zone on a regular basis if we want to become stronger and turn our weaknesses into strengths. After quitting Air Force, David was stuck in his comfort zone again, unhappy, and overweight – all of which pained him greatly. He decided to join the Navy SEAL, and through sheer determination and constant exercising and studying, he managed to both lose 100 pounds and pass the entrance exam in a matter of weeks. He persisted in doing uncomfortable things and pushed through the pain, which ultimately yielded unbelievable results.
Chapter Four: Taking Souls
Chapter 4 describes the Navy SEAL training and Hell Week, designed to push people to their physical and mental limits. David realized the purpose of all the exhausting and torturous tasks they went through early on. It was not about doing the impossible, it was about handling failure – not accepting defeat and refusing to quit. David says that no matter who you are dealing with, your goal is to make them watch you achieve what they could never have done themselves. In the end, this attitude helped him successfully go through Hell Week.
Chapter Five: Armored Mind
Chapter 5 introduces a technique that the author calls “calloused mind”. It means trying the hardest when you want to quit the most, which in turn energizes a person and makes them more resilient. Even after breaking his knee and suffering multiple injuries, thanks to his calloused mind and unwavering persistence, David enrolled in his third Navy SEAL training and eventually graduated. As something that helped him in some of the hardest moments, the author suggests choosing an obstacle or a goal and visualizing overcoming or achieving it.
Chapter Six: Get the Strategic Sequence Right
In Chapter 6 David recalls when he ran a marathon of 100 miles over 2 hours without any prior preparations. Early on in the marathon, he started having health issues and almost collapsed but somehow he kept going. Towards the end of the race, while he could barely even walk, he tapped into his “Cookie Jar” of past victories. The author started remembering all of the things he was proud of – like becoming a part of the Navy SEAL. Each of these cookies gave him the energy and motivation to eventually finish the marathon successfully.
Chapter Seven: The Most Powerful Weapon
Chapter 7 looks back on many of the marathons the author partook in, and he managed to finish all of them. Nonetheless, he still was not completely satisfied with his success and kept asking himself “What am I capable of?”. He desired to rise to the level of those who placed better than him on marathons. David Goggins believes that most people quit at 40% of their capabilities, and what is preventing them from achieving more is their own minds. The only way to reach beyond that 40% is to stop listening to the voice in your mind telling you to quit.
Chapter Eight: Talent Not Required
In Chapter 8 the author decided to run the Ultraman World Championship where he finished second. This garnered a lot of positive publicity for him, so the army gave him the task of recruiting more African Americans for the SEALs. He started holding lectures at various universities to inspire young people to break out of their comfort zone and push their limits. For him to be able to do all of this, he needed to take control of his schedule – which he implores all of the book readers to do.
Chapter Nine: Uncommon Amongst Uncommon
Chapter 9 recalls various locations where the author was sent for training with his first platoon after graduating from the SEAL training. He also managed to graduate from the Army Ranger School, after which he joined his second platoon – this time as a leader. This experience taught him valuable lessons such as that the leader fights for his men and leads by example, stays exhausted, abhors ignorance, and never looks down on his underlings. What helped Goggins the most was that he always kept pushing forward, since as he says, if you want to become uncommon among uncommon, you have to stay great.
Chapter Ten: The Empowerment of Failure
In Chapter 10 David tries to break the Guinness world record of most pull-ups in 24 hours (which was over 4 000 pull-ups. In the end, he managed to do it on the third try. During this time he often considered his past failures and analyzed them. To be able to turn your failures into successes, lay out all of your failures and consider things you did well and the things you should fix, and keep trying to implement those considerations until they work.
Chapter Eleven: What If?
Chapter 11 finishes of the book by recalling one of the author’s hardest moments. He fell sick at 38 years of age and as he explains, his body just gave up. This made him realize that he did not appreciate his victories nearly enough, and only kept pushing forward without ever finding peace. This sickness helped him overcome all his rage and acknowledge his effort, which ultimately helped him find peace. David recovered and retired from the SEALs, becoming a certified firefighter and EMT.
Most Important Keywords, Sentences, Quotes
“But the truth is we all make habitual, self-limiting choices. It’s as natural as a sunset and as fundamental as gravity.”
“Because when you’re driven, whatever is in front of you, whether it’s racism, sexism, injuries, divorce, depression, obesity, tragedy, or poverty, becomes fuel for your metamorphosis.”
CHAPTER ONE: I Should Have Been a Statistic
“As soon as our neighbors shut the door or turned the corner, my father’s smile morphed into a scowl.”
“I couldn’t concentrate on anything most mornings, except trying to stay awake.”
“I didn’t know what awaited me—what awaited us—in that small, rural, Southern Indiana town, and I didn’t much care. All I knew was that we’d escaped from Hell, and for the first time in my life, we were free from the Devil himself.”
“Looking at the long game, when kids like me grow up, they face an increased risk for clinical depression, heart disease, obesity, and cancer, not to mention smoking, alcoholism, and drug abuse. Those raised in abusive households have an increased probability of being arrested as a juvenile by 53 percent. Their odds of committing a violent crime as an adult are increased by 38 percent.”
CHAPTER TWO: Truth Hurts
“I acted all kinds of cocky and my entrance was brash as hell, but I felt very insecure going back there. Buffalo had been like living in a blazing inferno. My early years in Brazil were a perfect incubator for post-traumatic stress, and before I left I was delivered a double dose of death trauma.”
“By then, after a good eight years of cheating, my ignorance had crystalized. I kept leveling up in school, on track, but hadn’t learned a damn thing. I was one of those kids who thought he was gaming the system when, the whole time, I’d been gaming myself.”
“You are giving up instead of getting hard! Tell the truth about the real reasons for your limitations and you will turn that negativity, which is real, into jet fuel. Those odds stacked against you will become a damn runway!”
“Living with purpose changed everything for me—at least in the short term.”
CHAPTER THREE: The Impossible Task
“They say there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, but not once your eyes adjust to the darkness, and that’s what happened to me. I was numb. Numb to my life, miserable in my marriage, and I’d accepted that reality.”
“Mediocrity would have been a major promotion. I was at the bottom of the barrel of life, pooling in the dregs, but, for the first time in way too long, I was awake.”
“How much longer would I wait, how many more years would I burn, wondering if there was some greater purpose out there waiting for me? I knew right then that if I didn’t make a stand and start walking the path of most resistance, I would end up in this mental hell forever.”
“That’s when I first realized that not all physical and mental limitations are real, and that I had a habit of giving up way too soon.”
“When depression smothers you, it blots out all light and leaves you with nothing to cling onto for hope. All you see is negativity. For me, the only way to make it through that was to feed off my depression.”
“The first step on the journey toward a calloused mind is stepping outside your comfort zone on a regular basis.”
CHAPTER FOUR: Taking Souls
“This was war alright, but it wouldn’t be fought on some foreign shore. This one, like most battles we fight in life, would be won or lost in our own minds.”
“Hell Week was a mind game. The instructors used our suffering to pick and peel away our layers, not to find the fittest athletes. To find the strongest minds. That’s something the quitters didn’t understand until it was too late.”
“Finding moments of laughter in the pain and delirium turned the entire melodramatic experience upside down for us. It gave us some control of our emotions.”
“Sometimes the best way to defeat a bully is to actually help them. If you can think two or three moves ahead, you will commandeer their thought process, and if you do that, you’ve taken their damn soul without them even realizing it.”
“Whoever you’re dealing with, your goal is to make them watch you achieve what they could never have done themselves.”
CHAPTER FIVE: Armored Mind
“I knew the rules. I didn’t have to accept his challenge, but that would have made Psycho just a little too happy and I couldn’t allow that.”
“Similar to using an opponent’s energy to gain an advantage, leaning on your calloused mind in the heat of battle can shift your thinking as well.”
“Most of us sweep our failures and evil secrets under the rug, but when we run into problems, that rug gets lifted up, and our darkness re-emerges, floods our soul, and influences the decisions which determine our character.”
“I thrived off of the barbaric beauty of seeing the soul of a man destroyed, only to rise again and overcome every obstacle in his path.“
“It takes relentless self-discipline to schedule suffering into your day, every day, but if you do, you’ll find that at the other end of that suffering is a whole other life just waiting for you.”
CHAPTER SIX: It’s Not About a Trophy
“Four hours later, at nearly 2 a.m., I hit the eighty-one-mile mark and Kate broke some news.
“I don’t believe you’re gonna make the time at this pace,” she said, walking with me, encouraging me to drink more Myoplex. She didn’t cushion the blow.”
“I felt it viscerally, and I used that concept to stuff a new kind of Cookie Jar. Inside it were all my past victories.”
“The Cookie Jar became my energy bank. Whenever the pain got to be too much, I dug into it and took a bite. The pain was never gone, but I only felt it in waves because my brain was otherwise occupied, which allowed me to drown out the simple questions and shrink time.”
“This last part. This pain and suffering. This was my trophy ceremony. I’d earned this. This was confirmation that I’d mastered my own mind—at least for a little while—and that what I’d just accomplished was something special.”
CHAPTER SEVEN: The Most Powerful Weapon
“Some criticize my level of passion, but I’m not down with the prevailing mentalities that tend to dominate American society these days; the ones that tell us to go with the flow or invite us to learn how to get more with less effort.”
“Sadly, most of us give up when we’ve only given around 40 percent of our maximum effort. Even when we feel like we’ve reached our absolute limit, we still have 60 percent more to give!”
“We don’t all have the same floor or ceiling, but we each have a lot more in us than we know, and when it comes to endurance sports like ultra running, everyone can achieve feats they once thought impossible.”
“You must recognize what you are about to do, highlight what you do not like about it, and spend time visualizing each and every obstacle you can.”
“The bottom line is that life is one big mind game. The only person you are playing against is yourself.”
CHAPTER EIGHT: Talent Not Required
“I pushed hard because I wanted my competitors to hear my splits and forfeit their souls as I built that big lead I’d anticipated.”
“On day three of Ultraman, I tried to win with sheer will. I was all motor, no intellect. I didn’t evaluate my condition, respect my opponents’ heart, or manage the clock well enough. I had no primary strategy, let alone alternative avenues to victory, and therefore I had no idea where to employ backstops.”
“That’s when it finally hit me. A two-star Admiral needed my help.”
“Wherever I went, whether the students were interested in a military career or not, they always asked if they had the same hardware I had.”
“Everyone is on the hunt for that simple action algorithm that nets maximum profit with the least amount of effort. There’s no denying this attitude may get you some of the trappings of success, if you’re lucky, but it will not lead to a calloused mind or self-mastery.”
“The point is not to allow a setback to shatter our focus, or our detours to dictate our mindset. Always be ready to adjust, recalibrate, and stay after it to become better, somehow.”
CHAPTER NINE: Uncommon Amongst Uncommon
“Most people think once you’re a SEAL you’re always in the circle, but that’s not true. I learned quickly that we were constantly being judged, and the second I was unsafe, whether I was still a new guy or a veteran operator, I’d be out!”
“I was getting there too, but even when it wasn’t my turn to lead, I helped out because in those sixty-nine days of Ranger School I learned that if you want to call yourself a leader, that’s what it takes.”
“A true leader stays exhausted, abhors arrogance, and never looks down on the weakest link. He fights for his men and leads by example. That’s what it meant to be uncommon among uncommon.”
“We are all fighting the same battle. All of us are torn between comfort and performance, between settling for mediocrity or being willing to suffer in order to become our best self, all the damn time.”
“A lot of people think that once they reach a certain level of status, respect, or success, that they’ve made it in life. I’m here to tell you that you always have to find more. Greatness is not something that if you meet it once it stays with you forever.”
CHAPTER TEN: The Empowerment of Failure
“I expected to make it too, but I couldn’t be upset by their decision. Delta brass weren’t looking for men who could pass a class with a C, B+, or even an A- effort.”
“You can’t prepare for unknown factors, but if you have a better pre-game focus, you will likely only have to deal with one or two rather than ten.”
“Most wars are won or lost in our own heads, and when we’re in a foxhole we usually aren’t alone, and we need to be confident in the quality of the heart, mind, and dialogue of the person hunkered down with us.”
“In life, there is no gift as overlooked or inevitable as failure. I’ve had quite a few and have learned to relish them, because if you do the forensics you’ll find clues about where to make adjustments and how to eventually accomplish your task.”
“I would remain in constant pursuit. I wouldn’t leave anything on the table. I wanted to earn my final resting place.”
CHAPTER ELEVEN: What If?
“They say it takes sixty-six days to build a habit. For me it takes a hell of a lot longer than that, but I eventually get there, and during all those years of ultra training and competition I was working on my craft.”
“I fought through it the best I could. My coworkers didn’t know anything about my decline because I continued to show no weakness. My whole life I’d been hiding all my insecurities and trauma.”
“My eyes welled with tears. Not because I was afraid, but because at my lowest point I found clarity. The kid I always judged so harshly didn’t lie and cheat to hurt anyone’s feelings. He did it for acceptance.”
“It was a lonely journey from there to here. I missed out on so much. I didn’t have a lot of fun. Happiness wasn’t my cocktail of choice.”
“For hours, I floated in that tranquil space, surrounded by light, feeling as much gratitude as pain, as much appreciation as there was discomfort.”
“But it’s not the external voice that will break you down. It’s what you tell yourself that matters.”
Book Review (Personal Opinion):
I have found this book truly inspiring. Reading about what can be achieved with the sheer power of will in the worst of circumstances should truly inspire anyone who hears or reads David Goggins’ story. It kept my attention from the first chapter up until the last, and I often found myself reading a lot longer than I had planned because I could not put the book down. I suggest this book to anyone in need of motivation or ideas about staying focused and productive.
This Book Is For:
- People with military careers
- Individuals in search of motivation
If You Want To Learn More
David Goggins talks about experiences covered throughout his book in this video.
How I’ve Implemented The Ideas From The Book
I really liked the Cookie Jar concept – writing down your victories and then remembering them during difficult times. I have implemented it on a smaller scale for now and I find it very helpful. I write down all of my small victories in my journal during the day or week, like handing in my tasks on time or successful meetings with clients, and use them as a motivation to keep going for a while longer.
One Small Actionable Step You Can Do
As previously mentioned, the book contains challenges and advice from the author, which can all be used on even small goals and everyday tasks. One of these challenges is positive self-talk. If you tell yourself affirmations such as “I am capable” or “I am worthy” on a regular basis, it will rewire your mind to think positively and become more resilient.