David Goggins – Embrace the Suck
Navy SEAL veteran David Goggins shares how he overcame so many debilitating obstacles to later achieve incredible military and personal honors, and the mentality that kept him going and made him push beyond his limits.
He knocked my mom out at the top of the stairs. I could see him coming down the stairs, just dragging her and she was kind of lifeless. And that’s when I got off the couch, scared to death, jumped at my father and he beat the shit out of me. We never went to school hardly at all, because we were bruised up. He also believed in us just working the family business. So going to school really didn’t happen for me at all. Knowing this [inaudible 00:00:25] back, see I also had a learning disability.
I’ll never forget in third grade, there was this teacher that was extremely rough on me and at this time in my life I did not need this. And she believed I needed to be in a special school because of my learning disability. And this what I was talking about, people always talk about, “Manage your expectations.” This teacher managed my expectations. She saw the learning disability. She saw I was socially inable to survive in this world. She saw I was messed up. So she managed my expectations.
She said we need to put David Goggins in a special school. I came from hell, and when you come from hell not knowing how to fight, this is what happens to you. What happens to you is you become a fucked up kid that can not survive in society. I’ll never forget one time during a basketball game, there was this coach, Mr. Trout. He knew me when I was a kid, in that school when I was in third grade, getting set back. Mr. Trout always loved me. This white man loved the shit out of me. I don’t know why he did, but he was my JV basketball coach my sophomore year. The visiting team was at our home stadium. It was at the end of the game and the visiting team started chanting, I was the only black person in the whole dadgone stadium.
They started chanting “Nigger. Nigger. Nigger.” That’s all I remember. At that time in my life that’s all I remember. But now at 42 years old, I can look back on that time with clear eyes and a clear mind, and see what Mr. Trout did for me. He went in that locker room where I was crying and upset and he cried with me. This white man cried with me. But at that time, I didn’t see that. All I saw was red. I saw hate. This whole town hated me. Everybody’s against me. My mind lost it and for some reason, I couldn’t sleep on my bed. And to this day, I don’t know why the floor felt so comfortable.
At 22, 21 years old, I went from 175 pounds to 297 pounds. Fat, out of shape, insecure. I was everything everybody said I was going to be. That’s what I was. And it makes you feel like shit. So I got a job spraying for cockroaches at nighttime. I’m not saying it’s a bad job, but I didn’t want to do it. So for about six months, I went around to local eateries spraying for cockroaches. This one night I came home, the first thing I do, I walk in my living room, turn the TV on, first thing I do. Then walk back to take a shower and I was listening to the TV as I was trying to take a shower.
This day changed my life. It held me accountable for what I wasn’t facing in life. They’re going through Navy SEAL training. And I sat down, I came out of the shower and I sat down. Something brought me back to sit down and watch these guys go through hell. I saw a ton of them quitting, ringing the bell. Ringing the bell means you’re quitting Navy SEAL training. I saw them putting their helmet down. This went on through the whole show and it finally got to the very end. It was about 15 to 20 guys at the very end and this one statement changed my life. They were all sitting there in their dress whites, and this CO, this commanding officer stands up in front of these men and he looks sharp. And I could tell he stood for something.
He said, “We live in a world where mediocrity is often rewarded. These men up here detest mediocrity.” When you hear a statement like that, it forces you to think about yourself. I wasn’t even fucking mediocre. I wasn’t anything. I was at the bottom of the barrel of life. I chose the four lane highway for my life. The easy route. The route that has gas stations. The route that has fucking signs that say, “20 miles to the next service stop.” All this shit. I chose that route. Most of us choose the four lane highway.
When I was born, there was also a shovel over here in the fucking corner. No one wants to go into the shovel. You don’t want to choose the four lane fucking highway. That’s the nice route. The shovel means you’re gonna fucking hurt. The shovel means you’re gonna suffer. The shovel means you’re gonna hit rock a lot of times. And we all know what digging through rock is like. When you hit a fucking root, you gotta fucking get some more tools out, but have no more tools, just a fucking shovel. I was choosing a four lane highway.
This is why they started to pick up that fucking shovel that we all decide not to take. I had to make a change in my life. So I said you know what? I have to join the military. I went on to Navy SEAL training. Became the only person, I believe in history, to go through three Navy SEAL hell weeks in one year. I completed two of them. Hell Week is 130 hours of continuous training. You might get two hours of sleep. The first few weeks get you ready for this hard one week of training. I had to become obsessed. No matter what was in front of me, I had to figure out a way to overcome it.
So when things hit you in life that you’re afraid of, or you’re not good at, the first thing you’re gonna say to yourself is, “Why am I here anyway? This isn’t for me. The water’s too cold. The sun’s too hot. I’m getting up too early, why am I doing this to myself?” That’s what the normal mind says. I had to start training my mind to think about, “How the fuck can I get through this?” Not giving myself a way out. Never giving myself, creating a wall around all the fucking ways out in my mind. I had to slowly start to build this fucking wall so my mind knew this motherfucker is not gonna give himself a way out of here.
In my first Hell Week, I had a huge setback. I was broken, my legs were broken. I had double pneumonia. I got rolled back to day one, week one of Navy SEAL training. I got through that second Hell Week. During that second Hell Week, I actually broke my knee. I continued to limp around for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t make it anymore. Got rolled back to day one, week one. I’ll never forget standing there in front of Captain Bowen. He was the CO in charge of Navy SEAL training at the time and he had no mercy on anybody. If he believed in managing your expectations I wouldn’t be here today. He challenged me again.
I was challenged my whole life, not by the mindset of managing expectations, by exceeding expectations. Not by managing them. I’m standing there with crutches. I’m sitting in his office, he looks at me, he goes, “Goggins, this is your last time we’re gonna put you through Navy SEALS training. This will be your third Hell Week in one year. We’re not gonna put you through a fourth. So this is your last time.” I’m sitting here thinking, “How am I gonna get through this?” I’m badly jacked up, my legs are broken, my knee is messed up, and he goes, “You have a couple of months to get better.” A couple of months isn’t gonna do it. I won’t get healed up in a couple of months. But I realized I’m gonna get through this shit. I’m gonna find a way to get through it, cause why? I put barriers in my mind.
So my third Hell Week, I went in there with pretty much, I would put a black sock on first. I would get duct tape and I’d duct tape my ankles all the way up to my calf every single morning. And then I’d put another black sock over it. And what that did, that prevented me from moving my ankle. So I didn’t really, I wasn’t flexing my shin as much. And I started running with just my hip flexors and this helped me through. And this Hell Week, it was a bad Hell Week, we had a guy die on Thursday morning of Hell Week. I went on to become a Navy SEAL. Greatness is not something that you meet once. It’s something that you meet thousands of fucking times in your life. And you don’t reach it if you’re not constantly in constant fucking pursuit of fucking greatness.
So if my mind were to say right now, “I’m great.” I just lost. We’re gonna grow. We’re not gonna triple down on our strengths. We’re not gonna do that crap. We’re gonna work on our weaknesses so we grow. We need friction to do that. Without friction there’s no growth. Without friction there’s confusion. Confusion is “David Goggins, how did you become who you are today?” I put a bunch of fucking friction in my life and I grew. That’s how I did it. You know how you get mentally tough? It’s a lifestyle.
Instead of hitting that fucking snooze button in the fucking morning, and not making your bed and not cleaning your house, you don’t hit the snooze button. You get up. You don’t want to go run? You go run. You don’t want to go swim? You go swim. You don’t want to make your bed? You make your bed. You don’t want to clean your house? You clean your house. You don’t want to study? You fucking study. That’s how you start to callous your mind. So that became my life. If you say you’re gonna wake up at 4:00 in the fucking morning to go run? Wake up at 4:00 in the … It’s gonna suck. It’s not gonna be fun. Do something that sucks every single day of your life. That’s how you grow. Embrace the suck.