Today we will discuss a fantastic book, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins. The name says it all. Master your mind and defy the odds. This book is about a guy who was bullied, beaten, and abused so much in childhood. This guy was a complete mess. He was overweight, not good in school, and feeling like a failure. But one day, everything changed. And this guy turned out to be David Goggins.
Can’t Hurt Me is about how David Goggins transformed himself into one of America’s fittest athletes through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work; he went from being overweight and depressed to becoming a record-breaking athlete, inspiring military leader, and world-class personal trainer. When it comes to getting fit, a lot of us find excuses.
We’re too busy; we sleep in and don’t feel like it. But what happens when we stop making excuses? David Goggins stopped making excuses and started giving life 100%. If you’ve heard his name, it’s probably because of this former Air Force serviceman and Navy SEAL. And he also broke the Guinness World Record for most pull-ups in 24 hours. He’s a record-setting athlete who’s competed in 60 ultra-marathons, triathlons, and ultra-triathlons. He is one of the most challenging people alive.
Over the years, David Goggins has learned many important lessons he shared in this book, which we will understand in detail. There are 11 chapters in this book, and a challenge is given with each chapter, which David wants; if we are serious about our life, then by accepting those challenges, we implement them in our life.
Chapter 1. I should have been a statistic
Born in New York in 1975, Goggins didn’t have the typical carefree childhood many people experience. Instead of playing outside with friends and living innocently among his peers, Goggins was a slave to his abusive father.
His father was manipulative and abusive towards their family, especially their mom. His dad was violent and beat them all frequently. He also didn’t believe in spending money on anything that didn’t benefit himself, so none of them ever went to the doctor or dentist. The sister who taught him his kindergarten education also taught him that you shouldn’t judge a smile or a scowl because his father smiled a lot but didn’t care about them, while this sister scowled but cared so much about him.
Goggins once contracted a nasty ear infection, so, as a responsible parent, his mother took him to the hospital. Trunnis, being the businessman he is, hated when the family spent money, even when his children’s health was at risk.
At age eight, her mother took him to Indiana to prevent her child from his father. But he was the only black kid in town and quickly became the target of hatred. Because of the suffering he experienced from his father, he developed a nervous stutter, his hair started to fall out, and patches of his skin lost pigment and turned a different colour. In addition, he used to live in a severely stressful situation. Toxic stress from constant emotional and physical abuse will inhibit children’s learning and has many mental and physical problems while developing.
This was his childhood; I am sure we all had a better childhood than David. So now let’s move to his challenge to you.
Challenge #1- Task: List what is challenging you today. What problems and limitations do you encounter? What excuses are you making? Don’t hold back. Don’t be nice to yourself.
Chapter 2. Truth hurts
Life is tough, and don’t expect it to be fair. What happens to you is because of you. Hold yourself accountable for everything in life else you will lose control. If you say that people are responsible for your failure, it means people are controlling your life, which is a terrible thing to think about. People do not control your life; only you are accountable for your life.
Goggins says a new ritual was born in his life. The way was simple. He would shave my face and scalp every night, and get real, speaks to himself where he was going wrong, and speaks it louder. He set goals, wrote them on Post-It notes, and tagged them to what I now call the Accountability Mirror, where he used to shave because each day, I’d hold myself accountable to my goals.
- Make your bed like you’re in the military every day! Pull up your pants!
- Shave your head every day!
- Cut the grass!
- Wash all dishes!
The only way we can change is to be honest with ourselves. If you don’t know shit and have never taken school seriously, say, “I’m dumb!” Then, tell yourself that you need to get your ass to work because you’re falling behind in life!
If you look in the mirror and see a fat person, don’t tell yourself you must lose a couple of pounds. Tell the truth. You’re fucking fat! Accept the fact and start working out, running, or walking, but do something. Call yourself out! Develop an obsession for learning. Live with purpose.
By the time Goggins graduated, he knew that the confidence he had managed to develop didn’t come from a perfect family or God-given talent. Instead, it came from personal accountability, which brought him self-respect, which will always light a way forward.
Challenge #2 – Now, it’s time to eyeball with yourself. Write all your insecurities, dreams, and goals on Post-Its and tag up your mirror. Then, if you need more education, remind yourself that you need to start working your ass off because you aren’t smart enough! Period.
Chapter 3. The impossible task
Now, he brainwashed himself into craving discomfort. Did you get it? Let me explain- see, society has taught us that we should not suffer, suffering is evil, and live with pleasures, even though we are taught that we will get heaven after our death. But the truth is there is no heaven without dying. Se the thing is that you need to challenge yourself and put yourself into difficult situations. Unless iron gets forged, how could it be reshaped? So if Govind didn’t live up to his high standards, he had to suffer the consequences in the accountability mirror. But this kept him on track.
Goggins says facing that mirror, facing myself, motivated me to fight through the uncomfortable experiences, and, as a result, I became more arduous. And being tough and resilient helped me meet my goals.” So an important lesson here for us is to crave discomfort. Instead, find some discomforting things to do. And soon, you will become more challenging than most of the population.
Challenge # 3 – Here, the challenge for you is stepping outside your comfort zone regularly. Dig out your journal again and write down all the things you don’t like to do or that make you uncomfortable. Especially those things you know are good for you.
Chapter 4. Taking souls
This chapter discusses mindset, mental toughness, setbacks, and perspective. There is a saying; it’s all in your mind. Everything in life is a mind game.
David recalls Hell Week during his SEAL training which was both physically draining and mentally demanding. As most SEAL recruits tend to be physically fit, the Hell Week program is structured to expose each recruit’s character, determination, and mental strength. According to David, the Taking Souls concept was crucial in psyching and reenergizing his team.
There was an instructor named David called psyche Pete; he was cruel to David and his team. As his team leader, David did not want to show any weakness and worked hard to ensure the group was motivated. Even though he was nursing a knee injury, David still participated vigorously in the exercises and led his team to win each race.
Challenge #4 – Choose any competitive situation that you’re in right now. Who is your opponent? Is it your teacher, coach, boss, or an unruly client? No matter how they treat you, there is one way to earn their respect and turn the tables, and that is Excellence.
Chapter 5. Armoured mind
Hell Week is designed to show you that a human is capable of much more than you know. It opens your mind to the possibilities of human potential, and with that comes a change in your mentality. You no longer fear cold water or doing push-ups all day. You realize that no matter what they do to you, they will never break you.
To develop an armoured mind, a mindset so calloused and complex that it becomes bulletproof, you must go to the source of all your fears and insecurities.
His leg was broken, his instructor was cruel to him, and everybody thought he could not afford to complete the hell week, but this man, David Goggins, showed everybody what an armoured mind could do. He wanted a challenge; he used to search for and take on challenges. His performance stood above many others because he saw challenges as something he wanted. That’s the mark of a leader and a person who makes a dent in whatever they’re doing.
He says If you accept the pain as a natural process and refuse to give in and give up. You must put effort, work, and friction into anything you want to change and improve. Your disadvantages will make your story even better.
- Imagine visualizing the things you can change.
- Set a goal and visualize overcoming or achieving it.
- Imagine what this success will look and feel like.
- Visualize the obstacles you will encounter along the way.
- Incorporate visualization into your daily encounter with your accountability mirror.
- Accomplish something you previously thought was impossible, and understand why you are pushing yourself towards specific goals.
Chapter 6. It’s not about a trophy
Meet David Goggins, who attempted to run a 100-mile marathon using the cookie jar method when he had not run more than 1 mile in the previous six months. Goggins was a part of the US Navy Seal. Sure, he was fit, but he was not a runner.
In this chapter, Goggins discusses a cookie jar method to motivate ourselves. The cookie jar method is a technique of using your past achievements to motivate yourself when you’re struggling. You list all your victories along with obstacles and challenges you overcame. Together they serve as an imaginary jar to remind and motivate yourself of your achievements.
Challenge #6 – Take inventory of your cookie jar and your past wins and successes, whether big or small. Not just achievements but also obstacles you’ve overcome. The most powerful tool we have is our mind.
Chapter 7. The most powerful weapon
We habitually settle for less than our best; at work, school, relationships, and on the playing field or race course. We pay as individuals, and we teach our children to settle for less than their best, and all of that ripples out, merges, and multiplies within our communities and society.
I woke up at 5 am and started work within three hours of cardio already at work while most of my teammates hadn’t even finished their coffee. It gave me a mental edge, better self-awareness, and a ton of self-confidence, making me a better SEAL instructor. Getting up early makes you better in all facets of your life.
Challenge #7 – There is so much pain and suffering involved in physical challenges that it’s the best training to take command of your inner dialogue. The newfound mental strength and confidence you gain by continuing to push yourself physically will carry over to other aspects of your life. The bottom line is that life is one big mind game. The only person you are playing against is yourself. So make yourself better, wake up early and do some physical training; it will make you physically strong and strengthen you mentally too.
Chapter 8. Talent not required
Goggins says my work ethic is the most critical factor in my accomplishments. Everything else is secondary, and when it comes to hard work, whether in the gym or on the job, the 40% Rule applies. A forty-hour work week is a 40 per cent effort. It may be satisfactory, but that’s another word for mediocrity. So don’t settle for a forty-hour work week. There are 168 hours in a week! That means you have the hours to put in that extra time at work without skimping on your exercise. It means streamlining your nutrition and spending quality time with your family. It means scheduling your life like you’re on a twenty-four-hour mission every day.
Most people waste four to five hours on a given day, and if you can learn to identify and utilize it, you’ll be on your way toward increased productivity.
Challenge #8: Compartmentalize your day instead of being a multitasker
Week 1: document your week in full detail and what you spend your time on.
Week 2: build an optimal schedule and lock everything into place in 15 to 30-minute blocks. Put your entire focus into each thing. Make a note of timestamps.
Week 3: you should have a working schedule that maximizes effort without sacrificing sleep.
Chapter 9. Uncommon amongst uncommon
Goggins loved going to Ranger School because no matter who you were in the outside world, you started from the beginning all over again. No matter what we achieve in life, we can’t be satisfied. Life is too dynamic of a game; we are getting better or worse. We should celebrate our victories, but once it dies down, we must make new goals and routines and start at zero the next day.
Challenge #9 – Do whatever you must to stand out amongst the people around you. If the people around you are already doing good and on top, do what you must be #1.
Chapter 10. The empowerment of failure
Goggins was about to pass Delta training but blew it because he was unfocused for a little bit. After his failed world record pull-up attempt, he did an After Action Report (AAR). This is crucial to do a post-mortem of your work no matter how the mission went, acceptable or not. It will show you a new direction.
We must surround ourselves with people who tell us what we need to hear, not what we want. But at the same time, it does not make us feel like we’re against the impossible. Failure is just a stepping stone to future success. Most wars are won or lost in our heads, and when we’re in a foxhole, we usually aren’t alone; our thoughts are always with us, so observe them consciously, and don’t let them ruin you.
When Roger Bannister tried to break the four-minute mile in the 1950s, experts told him it couldn’t be done, but that didn’t stop him. He failed repeatedly but persevered, and when he ran his historic mile in 3:59.4 on May 6, 1954, he didn’t just break a record; he broke open the floodgates simply by proving it possible. Six weeks later, his record was eclipsed; by now, over 1,000 runners have done what was once thought to be beyond human capability.
Challenge #10– Write out all of your failures. Note everything positive that came from your losses. Describe how you handled your failures. Then, go back through and list the things you can fix. This is your After Action Report (AAR). Go to your calendar and schedule in time to give it another attempt ASAP.
Chapter 11. What if?
The Buddha famously said that life is suffering. I’m not a Buddhist, but I know what he meant, and so do you. To exist in this world, we must contend with humiliation, broken dreams, sadness, and loss. That’s just nature. Each specific life comes with its personalized portion of pain. It’s coming for you. You can’t stop it. And you know it.
It’s not the external voice that will break you down. It’s what you tell yourself that matters. The most important conversation you’ll ever have are the ones you’ll have with yourself.
Challenge #11: When you feel like giving up, ask yourself, What if I don’t? What if I defy all the odds? What if I keep pushing myself? And see what your inner self tells you. You will come up with a more determined mindset. Use this what-if approach in every aspect of your life.
1. Seek out pain, and fall in love with suffering. Goggins says I sought out pain, fell in love with suffering, and eventually transformed myself from the weakest piece of shit on the planet into the hardest.
2. The worst conditions are the best training conditions. From then on, Goggins says I brainwashed myself into craving discomfort. If it were raining, I would run. Whenever it started snowing, my mind would say, Get your fucking running shoes on and get ready for a run.
3. Be the one warrior. “Out of every one hundred men,” he wrote, “ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. But, ah, but the one, one is a warrior.
4. Master your mind. Only you can master your mind, which is what it takes to live a bold life filled with accomplishments most people consider beyond their capability.
5. Turn adversity into fuel for your metamorphosis. 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.
6. Confidence comes from personal accountability. Goggins says By the time I graduated, I knew that the confidence I’d managed to develop didn’t come from a perfect family or God-given talent. Instead, it came from personal accountability, which brought me self-respect, which will always light a way forward.
7. Yeah, you need to train more. Goggins says I loved waking up at 5 am and starting work with three hours of cardio. It gave me a mental edge, better self-awareness, and a ton of self-confidence, making me a better SEAL instructor. That’s what getting up early will do for you. It makes you better in all facets of your life.
8. Write down what makes you uncomfortable and do it. Dig out your journal again and write down all the things you don’t like to do or that make you uncomfortable. Especially those things you know are good for you. Now go and start doing them one by one.
I hope that you liked this summary. We hope by following all these lessons & challenges; you will be able to achieve great heights in your life.
Can’t Hurt Me Book Review
As a reader of Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, I found this book to be a raw, powerful, and inspiring account of overcoming adversity and pushing beyond personal limits. Goggins shares his incredible life story, from experiencing abuse and poverty to becoming a Navy SEAL, ultramarathon runner, and world record holder.
The book is filled with gripping anecdotes and brutal honesty, showcasing Goggins’s unwavering determination and resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. His story is a testament to the power of mental toughness and self-discipline in achieving extraordinary success.
Throughout Can’t Hurt Me, Goggins provides practical advice and strategies for building mental strength and overcoming obstacles. As I applied these techniques, I noticed a significant improvement in my own resilience, motivation, and ability to tackle challenges head-on.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from this book is the concept of the “40% rule,” which suggests that when we think we’ve reached our limit, we’ve only tapped into 40% of our true potential. By embracing this mindset, we can push ourselves further than we ever thought possible.
In conclusion, Can’t Hurt Me is a must-read for anyone seeking to develop mental toughness, conquer self-imposed limitations, and achieve extraordinary success. David Goggins’s remarkable story and actionable advice can transform your mindset and, ultimately, your life.
Our summaries are also available on all Podcast platforms, named “Kitabein,” which recently won India’s best educational podcast award.