“Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins is unlike any book I’ve ever read. The story of David Goggins is something out of a Hollywood movie. A young boy with a horrible childhood and a myriad of problems overcomes it all to become part of an elite military team and a world famous ultra endurance athlete.
As a child, Goggins had a learning disability, was often ill, and was raised by a single mother. As a young adult, Goggins’ future seemed bleak. He was depressed, overweight and worked as a bug exterminator.
And yet, he would go on to join an elite military team–the Navy SEALS– break the world record for pull-ups and become one of the world’s top endurance athletes, often running races of 100+ miles.
How did Goggins turn his life around and transform from a literal zero to American hero?
He did it through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work.
However, his transformation didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took him several decades to change his life around.
Let’s start by looking at Goggins’ childhood.
Goggins’ Early Years
David Goggins was born in New York in 1975 and although he lived on Paradise Road, his childhood was anything but that.
Goggins’ father, Trunnis, ran a roller-disco rink during the day, but was also involved in shady activities such as moving prostitutes across the border. When Goggin’s mother disobeyed or argued with Trunnis, such as taking Goggins to the doctor because he had an ear infection, he would beat her for disobeying him. When Goggins tried to stop his father, he would end up catching a beating himself.
When Goggins was 8 years old, his mother put together a plan to escape from her abusive partner. Despite his cruelty, Goggins’ older brother decided to stay with Trunnis, and so, only Goggins and his mother managed to escape.
Although Goggins was able to get away his abusive father, his life didn’t get much better. He and his mother were free from Trunnis, but they now had no financial support. The two found shelter in a public housing block and paid $7 a month in rent.
Not only was Goggins experiencing poverty, but he was also diagnosed with ADHD and developed a nervous stutter. His traumatic childhood and toxic environment made it difficult to learn, and so he started cheating in school to pass classes.
When Goggins was in the 4th grade, his mother met Wilmoth, a man who was the polar opposite of Trunnis. Wilmoth was kind and laid-back. He treated Goggins’ mother well and even played basketball with Goggins.
However, a happy family was not in Goggin’s future. One night, Wilmouth was shot five times as he tried to enter his home. The cops never found the killers and once again, Goggins and his mother found themselves on their own.
Goggins’ Young Adult Years
As a teenager, David continued to struggle with school. To force himself to learn, Goggins had to read the same text multiple times and rewrite his notes over and over again. His work eventually paid off and he finished high school and was he accepted into Air Force training.
David’s dream was to become an Air Force pararescue, a special group of soldiers who specialize in parachuting into war zones and rescuing their brothers-in-arms. However, to complete his training, David would have to face one of his biggest weaknesses, swimming.
However, as a child, David rarely spent time in a pool. When it came time to the water portion of his military training, Goggins found himself overwhelmed with fear and quit the program. He knew he should have fought through his fear and completed his training, but instead he took the easy way out.
Quitting training would become one of Goggins’ biggest regrets, he started to feel sorry for himself and things began to spiral downhill. After leaving the military, Goggins was 24-years-old and working a dead-end job as a night-shift pest exterminator. He used food as a way to numb the pain of failure and weighed nearly 300 pounds.
Goggins was nearing a dead-end. He hated his job, ate junk food multiple times a day and had trouble looking at himself in the mirror. Fortunately, his life would soon change.
One day, Goggins flipped on the television and happened to stumble upon a documentary about Navy SEALS. He watched as the narrator talked about the SEALs as the most elite fighting force in the world and that only the best of the best made it through training.
Goggins was stunned and amazed by the mental toughness and determination of the men on the screen. They had to carry boats for miles, lift logs, do countless pushups, swim for hours and perform many more difficult tasks.
Goggins wanted to become one of these incredible human beings and set out on a mission to become a Navy SEAL.
Becoming A SEAL
Before Goggins could even enter training, he first had to lose over 100 pounds of weight in less than three months because of the Navy’s maximum weight limit. Many people would have quit at this point, but Goggins decided to double down and commit 110% percent to becoming a SEAL.
Goggins woke up at 4:30 A.M. every day and exercised for two hours on a stationary bike. He then spent two hours in the pool and hit the weight room afterwards. He would also bike for another two hours after dinner. Working out practically became a full-time job for Goggins.
Remarkably, Goggins’ hard work paid off and he was accepted into the SEAL training program.
However, he would still have to endure his hardest training yet. Goggins participated in three Hell Weeks–where he experienced 5 ½ days of grueling exercise, soaked in water and covered in sand, all while getting barely any sleep during the program. In his third Hell Week, a man actually died during training.
Fortunately, Goggins made it through training and became a SEAL.
Becoming An Endurance Athlete
Goggins spent several years as a SEAL, but soon found himself craving new challenges. He searched for the toughest challenges known to man and found the Badwater 135, a 135-miles race through California’s Death Valley–one of the hottest places on Earth.
To even qualify for the Badwater race, the race organizers required Goggins to run in a 100-mile race. Although he had never run more than 26.2 miles before, Goggins accepted the challenge and signed up.
Through sheer motivation, willpower and incredible driver, Goggins finished the race in 19 hours, he even ran an extra mile to make sure the judges counted his laps correctly.
Goggins would later describe the race as the most pain he had ever experienced in his life–he was urinating brown piss from experiencing kidney failure and lost his bowel movement while running and defecated on himself. And yet, he would also remember that race as the moment his life changed forever–if he could run a 100-mile race with no training, he could do anything.
Goggins would go on to compete in the Badwater 135 and finish in 5th place, completing the race in 30 hours. He continued to look for the most difficult challenges he could find–he competed in Ironman triathlons, ultra marathons, and even broke the world record for pull-up attempts.
Be Like Goggins
Several times throughout the book Goggins admits to readers that he wasn’t born strong, smart or with a hard work ethic. Early on in his life, he took the easy way out by cheating in school, running away from his fears and taking the easy way out as much as possible.
And where did that get him? Nowhere.
Goggins shares that it is only when changed his mindset and realized that the key to success was working harder than anyone else, did his life change for the better.
The secret to Goggins’ accomplishments is his willingess to work and suffer. By punishing himself physically, Goggins was also able to push himself mentally and vice-versa.
Goggins says that too many people get comfortable in their lives, they start to make excuses for working hard, such as not having time to exercise, or even worse, they simply decide not to. But Goggins doesn’t accept excuses.
Goggins didn’t make the excuse of not having time to train when he had a full-time job as a SEAL, he made time to train.
Goggins would get up at 4 A.M. and go for a 6-10 mile run. He would be home by 5:15 A.M., shower and eat breakfast. He would then bike 25 miles to work and arrive at his desk by 7:30 A.M. He would work till lunch time, and lift weights during his break. Once he was done with his day job, he would bike another 25 miles and arrive home at 7 P.M.
As Goggins says, most people program themselves to seek comfort, carve out safe spaces and spend as little time possible doing things that are hard or straight up suck. Although these things may feel good temporary, in the long-term it makes people weak.
Towards the end of the book, Goggins tells readers to ask themselves one question, “What if?”
Just as Goggins asked himself,
What if I lost 100 pounds in 3 months?
What if a kid afraid of water became a Navy SEAL?
What if I ran 100 miles without any training?
What if you set out to do a so-called impossible goal and actually completed it.
So ask yourself, “What if?”
“Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins might be my favorite book of 2019 and the year isn’t even halfway over. David’s story is beyond amazing, if one were to simply look at his achievements, you would took the guy isn’t human. But after reading his book, you realize he is just as human as everyone of us–except he simply chooses to strive for excellence and challenge himself over and over again.
Words cannot convey of important and inspiring this book is–I read the book, listened to the audiobook (which I recommend because Goggins shares bonus stories on the audio version) and watched dozens of podcasts about Goggins, and yet I’m still blown away him.
Just from reading his book, I’ve been motivated to run 5 miles every week–I’ve ran in 20 degree weather, in the snow and in the rain, and have been doing so for almost 4 months now. I’ve even signed up for several races.
This book will motivate you to push yourself to a new level and will make you a better person because of it. Get it, read it and learn from it!
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After reading 100+ books, which ones do I recommend? Find out here.