Book Summary


David Goggins is the personification of grit. Not only did he go through three hell weeks to become a navy seal, he became an ultra-runner and finished a hundred and thirty-five mile race at Death Valley in the middle of summer. Not only did he push his body to run 135 miles for 32 hours, he routinely did a thousand push-ups before breakfast on route to breaking the pull-up world record by doing four thousand and thirty pull-ups in 17 hours. He accomplished all these amazing feats of endurance without realizing he had a hole in his heart that reduced his aerobic capacity

How did he do it? He did it by developing a calloused mind.  When Goggins was training to break the pull-up world record, he created so much friction between his hands and the pull-up bar that his palms built up thick calluses. These calluses protected his palms by hardening the skin and blunting the pain. The same principle applies to your mind.

When you create mental friction by going against your mind’s constant need for comfort and thrust yourself into intense physical and intellectual challenges, you gradually callus over your fear of discomfort and increase your pain tolerance. In a way, life is like boxing. The first time you get punched in the chin, it hurts like hell but if you keep putting yourself in the ring, after a few years you’ll have developed the mental tolerance to absorb a hundred punches from stronger opponents.

Goggins says after you’ve calloused your mind, you learn that you can take a lot more than one punch. To start callousing in your mind, you need to start craving discomfort. Every day look for opportunities to make you uncomfortable. If it starts raining outside, go for a run. If you’ve had a long day at work go to the gym and do the hardest workout you’ve done all month. If you don’t feel like studying lock yourself in a quiet room and don’t leave that room until you’ve written ten pages of notes.

By craving discomfort and seeking out painful but rewarding experiences, you’re not trying to be a masochist. You’re simply trying to master your fear of pain.

When Goggins was in his early 20s, his fear of pain and pursuit of comfort led him to a dead-end job spraying cockroaches and rewarding himself with large chocolate shakes and a box of hostess mini donuts after every shift. Soon he weighed 290 pounds and felt too ashamed to look at himself in the mirror. By avoiding pain his internal pain grew and grew. Paradoxically when Goggins started pursuing pain, by taking on challenges that would cause him to suffer like losing a hundred pounds in three months to qualify for navy seal training, he reduced his internal pain and his fear of pain. He put himself back in the driver’s seat of his life.

When you seek painful but rewarding experiences, it’s helpful to remember the secret of pain: A secret that most people never realize or simply forget. The secret of pain is that when you fear the experience of pain it grows but when you accept pain and move towards it, it shrinks.

As psychologist Phil Stutz and Barry Michels say in their book: The Tools, your experience of pain changes relative to how you react to it. If you flee from it, pain pursues you like a monster in a dream. If you confront the monster it goes away. If you get in the habit of walking towards pain you’ll gradually callus your mind and blunt your fear of discomfort.

However, regardless of how much you callus your mind, you’re bound to experience moments when the pain seems unbearable and you think you’ve reached your absolute limit. You might get this feeling after weeks of working on a project for 12 hours a day or at mile 15 of a marathon. In these moments Goggins says it’s critical to remember the 40 percent rule and use your cookie jar. When goggins would get to the hundred mile mark in a 200-mile race and feel completely exhausted, he’d remember the 40 percent rule and know that he had the capacity to run another hundred miles if he simply stopped listening to the excuses his mind was feeding him.

The 40 percent rule states that when your mind first tells you you’re done, you’re only 40 percent done. If you look deep within yourself, you’ll find that you haven’t even tapped into half of what you’re capable of. As crazy as the forty percent rule sounds, scientists can actually back it up.

A professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town, Timothy Noakes studied athletes in his physiology lab and found that when athletes claimed they had nothing left to give and reach the point of complete physical exhaustion muscle tests revealed that their muscles had the capacity to do significantly more work. It turned out that the urge to quit wasn’t due to muscle failure. It was due to an overprotective brain telling the body to stop.

Noakes says fatigue should no longer be considered a physical event, but rather a sensation or a motion. So the next time you feel completely exhausted and your brain is convincing you to quit, remember that the first sign of exhaustion is usually a false one. Know that you have a large reserve of energy that you haven’t tapped into yet.

Dig deep find your 60% reserve and tap into it 5% at a time. When you’re doing push-ups and your brain starts complaining, remember the 40% rule and squeeze out one more set then another then another then another. When you think you’re completely exhausted after a long day of work and don’t have the energy to play with your kids or work on your side hustle remember the 40% rule and tap into your reserve tank.

Oftentimes the best way to tap into your reserve tank is to grab a cookie out of your mantle cookie jar. When Goggins started ultra-running he started with a 24-hour race around a one-mile track with zero training. Goggins also weighed 260 pounds which is massive for any long-distance runner, let alone someone trying to complete a hundred mile race in 24 hours.

When Goggins reached the 70 mile mark his kidneys started failing. He had broken all the small bones in his feet and had lost every one of his toenails. The pain was unbearable. At that moment he had to dig deep to finish the race. So he reached into his mental cookie jar and pulled out a cookie from his past. He recalled the time that he had to study three times as hard to overcome a learning disability and graduate from high school. He recalled the time he had to drop a hundred pounds in three months to qualify from navy seal training and he recalled the time he got through hell week on two broken legs.

He says, “These weren’t mere flashbacks. I wasn’t just floating through my memory files. I actually tapped into the emotional state i felt during those victories and in doing so i accessed my sympathetic nervous system. My adrenaline took over the pain started to fade just enough and my pace picked up. I began swinging my arms and lengthening my stride i moved through the pain and ran a hundred and one miles.”

We all have a mental cookie jar stocked with cookies that will fuel us during periods of intense pain. Each cookie represents a time in our life when we faced intense struggle, overcame the odds and tasted success. Maybe it was overcoming a speech impediment or getting through college or dropping a bad habit like smoking.

A cookie doesn’t need to be large. If you turned off your phone this morning to study for an exam for 30 minutes that’s a cookie if you did the dishes even though you didn’t feel like it that’s a cookie as Goggins made his way around the one-mile track every step was a cookie. In each lap was a slightly bigger cookie filled with chocolate chunks that fueled him to the hundredth mile mark.

Goggins says remembering that you’d been through difficulties before and you’ve always survived to fight again shifts the conversation in your head. It allows you to control and manage doubt and keep you focused on taking each and every step necessary to achieve the task at hand

Just remember when the pain hits and tries to stop you short of your goal, dump your fist in, pull out a cookie and let it fuel you. So if you want to find David Goggins’ level grit, start by doing something that sucks every day to callous over your fear of discomfort. When the pain becomes unbearable and you encounter your first urge to quit remember the 40% rule and dip into your cookie jar to find the energy you need to push on and push through your mental barriers.

As Goggins says, “If you want to master your mind you’ll have to become addicted to hard work because passion and obsession even talent are only useful tools if you have the work ethic to back them up.”

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