Can’t Hurt Me
by David Goggins
After reading the autobiography of Malcolm X I wanted to include more autobiographies in my reading. It’s calming to read about the challenges people face and their victories. I also wanted to get a “pump me up I can handle anything!!” type of book in the roster. This one came as a recommendation from a friend here whose company I enjoy and whose book recommendations have always been on point.
In my previous life, if someone recommended a book to me I would buy it, place said book on my nightstand, and proceed to read a few pages here and there for 15 minutes before bed. It was shameful. Now, an inmate can hand me a 300 plus page story and I can leisurely make my way through it in 2-3 evenings. With the days getting shorter and cooler there’s even more time to read and secretly, I really like it. Not sure I will feel the same way come February, but it is working for now.
Goggins grew up as an overweight, depressed young man who had no plans or hope for his future. Through an immense amount of hard work he became one of the most fit and accomplished people in the Armed Services while simultaneously gaining notoriety as an accomplished endurance athlete.
In a way, his stories line up with some interesting philosophical thoughts on suffering. I recently wrote abut pleasure & pain, as well as how people try so diligently to avoid pain. Pain, however, is a constant in life. Even the most hedonic of people experience “pain” albeit a milder version because no matter how good life gets, there’s always a minor amount of pain. Especially when we adjust to our surroundings and unnecessarily create new expectations and desires. Why do we run away from suffering? Why is suffering bad?
I willingly choose to “suffer” when I go mountain biking. The vast majority of America would not want to ride a bicycle uphill in the mountains while gaining thousands of feet of vertical elevation. Many of my close friends and I find joy where others find pain. We willingly engage with it and show up smiling, ready to suffer. Why can’t people do that with the suffering we experience in life?
Goggins is basically in love with suffering in it’s most extreme forms. He is also a master of mindset. Those two ideas can change just about any bad situation and after reading his book I realized that I recently started employing similar tactics in here. All the challenges I face start and end in my mind and suffering doesn’t inherently have to be bad.
What are you dealing with? What’s limiting your growth? He uses these questions to fuel himself, not to make excuses. Because the old adage, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is true, but it requires work. Any job worth doing is worth doing well. Any task worth doing is worth doing well. This will end, and as I’ve said before, I will need to answer to myself about not only what I accomplished, but more importantly what type of attitude I had when I was here. This book is a fantastic reminder of the downside of a negative attitude and the upside of unbridled positivity and resilience. This isn’t a battle, I’m not at war, but the only person I can now lose to is really myself, to my own mind.
For example, he decided that he wanted to run an ultra-marathon – within 3 days of race day. He ran 100 miles with zero training, although he was very physically fit at the time. I will spare the gory yet honorable details of physiological malice it caused him, but he actually did it. He’s the only person in the world to make it through Navy Seal, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. This experience is not like any of those, and any triumphs I want to achieve will be more self-directed, but I can approach this with the same attitude.
Goggins had a miserable childhood and was set up for failure and every point through it and his young adult life, but he kept on pushing through. There are many quotable parts in this book and instead of writing twenty of them down I’ll leave everyone with one that I found very motivating.
“The ticket to victory often comes down to bringing your very best when you feel your worst”
That attitude, that idea, is something I keep on the front of my mind any time I am having a bad day. Although, the number of bad days or down moments has decreased drastically. They are becoming a rarity.
I’m hesitant to say anything bad about this book but there are two things that left me concerned. First, he exercises too much and uses it as an escape from his personal battles. Exercise is a good, it’s good to take care of our bodies and challenge ourselves, but there is a point. It is also good to be still, to be with your thoughts, and recognize what you use to escape hard topics when you should face them. That’s what the dark and cold means for me this winter…being still with what’s uncomfortable, marinating in it, becoming comfortable with it. Second, he has a daughter and she’s mentioned one time in the book. It’s great to run 100 miles races or train to do 4,000 pull-ups in 24 hours, but it felt odd that someone could have a fairly in-depth autobiography that includes information right up to the date it’s published and in its entirety it includes a mere several sentences about your wife and one sentence about your child, that she was born.
That being said, Goggins inspires you to take be willing to challenge yourself physically, to know you can manage far more in life with a strong mind, and that winning or losing is up to you. It is a decision you make, it rests on your shoulders. This is a book to come back to for inspiration. Thumbing through the pages again this evening gets me excited both for more reading and coming back to the idea that every challenge you face begins and ends in your mind.