This months book review is ‘Can’t Hurt Me……Master your mind and defy the odds’ by David Goggins. 

Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL and the only member of the US Armed Forces to complete SEAL training, Army Ranger School and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. 

He is also one of the greatest endurance athletes in the world, having completed more than 70 ultra events and held a Guiness World Record for 4,030 pull ups. 

Early Days

Whilst the book ends with all these accomplishments, this is very much not where it starts. Goggins had to overcome poverty, prejudice, physical abuse and childhood trauma, and this is all before leaving school! 

It took self-discipline, mental toughness and hard work to turn him from a depressed, overweight young into the man he became. 

He had a hard time growing up, with a tough childhood and physical abuse against him and his mother at the hands of his father who was a bit of a gangster. Eventually his mother and the kids left the father. 

His mother later met someone else and they were all about to move in together, but the night before, he was gunned down at his house. 

Goggins joined the Airforce first but during the training he had to be withdrawn with Sickle Cell. He then moved to Tactical Air Control Party where he served the rest of his 4 years, liaising between ground and air support. 

After being discharged, he ballooned in weight from 175 to 300 pounds! 

The Turnaround

He had a job catching rats at night in hospitality venues. One night he saw a TV programme on the Navy SEALS and decided then he wanted to enrol. He tried, but kept getting turned down at every enrolment centre. Then he contacted the Naval Reserves and in there he found someone who would help him. But, he needed to lose 106 pounds in 3 months and pass the ASVAB test. 

He went home, watched Rocky the movie and decided to go running and sort his life out. He then lived a life of run, cycle, swim and study! He lost the weight and passed the test to get in. 

The Accountability Mirror

Goggins developed what he called his ‘accountability mirror’, to ensure that every day he holds himself accountable for the goals he sets. 

Training began. Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training (BUD/S) is a 6-month stint split into physical training, dive training and land warfare training. The first phase reduces the field to just 20%, and towards the end of the first physical training, there is what is described as ‘hell week’ which is covered in all its detailed glory in the book. 

This time he lasted further into the training, but unfortunately, he had to pull out again with a fractured kneecap. 

He was invited back to training again as he had been withdrawn on medical grounds, but was told he would have to start right at the beginning again at week 1, day 1! He did decide to return, and third time lucky he passed! 

The 40% Rule

After this military career, he retired as Chief in the Navy. He could have just decided to call it a day but instead he then went on take up ultra running and took on many of the hardest runs in the world and pushed himself to the very limit, and many of the races or training took its toll physically and mentally on him and indeed after one race, he ended up with kidney failure!! 

Goggins talks about something called the ‘40% Rule’ in which he feels most of us only tap into 40% of our capability. 

Races included completing the Badwater 135, which is a 135-mile run from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney and considered the world’s toughest foot race, the Hurt 100 and the Ironman World Championships. All in all, he has completed over 70 of these huge races, and the book covers a number of these in detail. 

The Inspiration

He then found out he had an Atrial Septal Defect, something he’d had from birth, but undiagnosed. After 2 heart surgeries, it was fixed and he was again back competing in major events again, something he continues to do today. 

A book of major highs and major lows, but a great story of what mental toughness can bring.