Can’t Hurt Me: Master your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins (Book Quotes)

Cover of Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins

David Goggins isn’t taking any of your bullsh*t. An African-American raised in a single-parent home, he and his mother escaped his abusive father at a young age. The emotional damage, however, proved to be more elusive. As a young man, Goggins perfectly embodied the expectations society had placed on him. He was unhappy, overweight, working a dead-end job. Lucky for him, Goggins discovered that mental toughness was the only path forward. Little did he know that his response to a Navy Seal Ad would mark the beginning of a journey that would radically transform his life and inspire countless others in the process. In Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, Goggins recounts his life story with raw language and compelling detail. The following reading notes are meant to be an appetizer for the complete memoir, which is well worth reading cover to cover.

Reading Notes:

—> They were the human equivalent of the hardest, sharpest sword you could imagine. They sought out the flame, took the pounding for as long as necessary, longer even, until they were fearless and deadly. They weren’t motivated. They were driven.
—> “In a society where mediocrity is too often the standard and too often rewarded,” he said, “there is intense fascination with men who detest mediocrity, who refuse to define themselves in conventional terms, and who seek to transcend traditionally recognized human capabilities. This is exactly the type of person BUD/ S is meant to find. The man who finds a way to complete each and every task to the best of his ability. The man who will adapt and overcome any and all obstacles.”
—> I was staring at hours, days, and weeks of non-stop suffering. I would have to push myself to the very edge of my mortality. I had to accept the very real possibility that I might die because this time I wouldn’t quit, no matter how fast my heart raced and no matter how much pain I was in. Trouble was there was no battle plan to follow, no blueprint. I had to create one from scratch.
—> I ran as fast as I could for as long as I could, from a past that no longer defined me, toward a future undetermined. All I knew was that there would be pain and there would be purpose. And that I was ready.
—> The first step on the journey toward a calloused mind is stepping outside your comfort zone on a regular basis. Dig out your journal again and write down all the things you don’t like to do or that make you uncomfortable. Especially those things you know are good for you.
—> #discomfortzone #pathofmostresistance #canthurtme #impossibletask.
—> The repetitive, deep bass thud of machine-gun fire penetrated our guts, the orange halo from another explosion in the near distance provided a shock of violent beauty, and our hearts hammered as we gathered on the Grinder awaiting orders. This was war alright, but it wouldn’t be fought on some foreign shore. This one, like most battles we fight in life, would be won or lost in our own minds.
—> The point is, even on miserable days you can fixate on an escape from hell that’s real. Hell Week offers no such love.
—> The instructors used our suffering to pick and peel away our layers, not to find the fittest athletes. To find the strongest minds. That’s something the quitters didn’t understand until it was too late. Everything in life is a mind game! Whenever we get swept under by life’s dramas, large and small, we are forgetting that no matter how bad the pain gets, no matter how harrowing the torture, all bad things end. That forgetting happens the second we give control over our emotions and actions to other people, which can easily happen when pain is peaking. During Hell Week, the men who quit felt like they were running on a treadmill turned way the fuck up with no dashboard within reach. But, whether they ever figured it out or not, that was an illusion they fell for.
—> Finding moments of laughter in the pain and delirium turned the entire melodramatic experience upside down for us. It gave us some control of our emotions. Again, this was all a mind game, and I damn sure wasn’t going to lose.
—> Meanwhile, Psycho and SBG and the other instructors kept close watch, looking for weaknesses as always.
—> I turned to Brown. “You know why I call you Freak?” I asked. He looked over as we lowered the boat, then lifted it up overhead like creaky robots on reserve battery power. “Because you are one of the baddest men I’ve ever seen in my damn life!”… Within seconds my whole team had life. We didn’t just lift the boat overhead and set it down hard, we threw it up, caught it overhead, tapped the sand with it and threw it up high again.
—> “Why am I here?” If you know that moment is coming and have your answer ready, you will be equipped to make the split second-decision to ignore your weakened mind and keep moving. Know why you’re in the fight to stay in the fight!
—> And never forget that all emotional and physical anguish is finite! It all ends eventually. Smile at pain and watch it fade for at least a second or two.
—> There is no scientific consensus on second wind. Some scientists think it’s the result of endorphins flooding your nervous system, others think it’s a burst of oxygen that can help break down lactic acid, as well as the glycogen and triglycerides muscles need to perform. Some say its purely psychological. All I know is that by going hard when we felt defeated we were able to ride a second wind through the worst night in Hell Week… The hardest part is getting to that point, because the ticket to victory often comes down to bringing your very best when you feel your worst.
—> I’d come to SEAL training to see if I was hard enough to belong and found an inner beast within that I never knew existed. A beast that I would tap into from then on whenever life went wrong. By the time I emerged from that ocean, I considered myself unbreakable.
—> I was a decent swimmer by then, and surf torture didn’t scare me because we weren’t that far from shore, but an open water, hypothermic swim a thousand yards off shore in a storm, to a boat that had no fucking idea I was heading their way? That sounded like a death sentence, and I hadn’t prepared for anything like it. But sometimes the unexpected descends like chaos, and without warning even the bravest among us must be ready to take on risks and tasks that seem beyond our capabilities.
—> Time stood still as I realized for the first time that I’d always looked at my entire life, everything I’d been through, from the wrong perspective. Yes, all the abuse I’d experienced and the negativity I had to push through challenged me to the core, but in that moment I stopped seeing myself as the victim of bad circumstance, and saw my life as the ultimate training ground instead. My disadvantages had been callousing my mind all along and had prepared me for that moment in that pool with Psycho Pete.
—> The same principle works when it comes to mindset. Until you experience hardships like abuse and bullying, failures and disappointments, your mind will remain soft and exposed. Life experience, especially negative experiences, help callous the mind. But it’s up to you where that callous lines up. If you choose to see yourself as a victim of circumstance into adulthood, that callous will become resentment that protects you from the unfamiliar. It will make you too cautious and untrusting, and possibly too angry at the world. It will make you fearful of change and hard to reach, but not hard of mind. That’s where I was as a teenager, but after my second Hell Week, I’d become someone new. I’d fought through so many horrible situations by then and remained open and ready for more. My ability to stay open represented a willingness to fight for my own life, which allowed me to withstand hail storms of pain and use it to callous over my victim’s mentality. That shit was gone, buried under layers of sweat and hard fucking flesh, and I was starting to callous over my fears too. That realization gave me the mental edge I needed to outlast Psycho Pete one more time.
—> Hell Week is designed to show you that a human is capable of much more than you know. It opens your mind to the true possibilities of human potential, and with that comes a change in your mentality. You no longer fear cold water or doing push-ups all day. You realize that no matter what they do to you, they will never break you, so you don’t rush as much to make their arbitrary deadlines. You know if you don’t make it, the instructors will beat you down. Meaning push-ups, getting wet and sandy, anything to up the pain and discomfort quotient, but for those of us knuckle draggers still in the mix, our attitude was, So the fuck be it! None of us feared the instructors anymore, and we weren’t about to rush. They didn’t like that one damn bit.
—> And when you leverage a calloused mind like I did around the pool that day and keep fighting through pain, it can help you push your limits because if you accept the pain as a natural process and refuse to give in and give up, you will engage the sympathetic nervous system which shifts your hormonal flow.
—> Remembering that you’ve been through difficulties before and have always survived to fight again shifts the conversation in your head. It will allow you to control and manage doubt, and keep you focused on taking each and every step necessary to achieve the task at hand.
—> When I first glimpsed their helmets lined up beneath the bell, I felt sorry for them because I knew the empty feeling of giving up, but seeing them face to face reminded me that failure is a part of life and now we all had to press on.
—> After Hell Week I’d felt I had become unbreakable, yet within a week I’d been zeroed out. I hadn’t levelled up after all. I still wasn’t shit, and if I was going to fix my broke-down life, I would have to become more!
—> My memories of abuse at the hands of my father, of all those people who called me nigger, didn’t vaporize after a few victories. Those moments were anchored deep in my subconscious, and as a result, my foundation was cracked.
—> In a human being your character is your foundation, and when you build a bunch of successes and pile up even more failures on a fucked-up foundation, the structure that is the self won’t be sound. To develop an armored mind—a mindset so calloused and hard that it becomes bulletproof—you need to go to the source of all your fears and insecurities. Most of us sweep our failures and evil secrets under the rug, but when we run into problems, that rug gets lifted up, and our darkness re-emerges, floods our soul, and influences the decisions which determine our character. My fears were never just about the water, and my anxieties toward Class 235 weren’t about the pain of First Phase. They were seeping from the infected wounds I’d been walking around with my entire life, and my denial of them amounted to a denial of myself. I was my own worst enemy! It wasn’t the world, or God, or the Devil that was out to get me. It was me!
—> Anyone who is of sound mind and body can sit down and think of twenty things in their life that could have gone differently. Where maybe they didn’t get a fair shake and where they took the path of least resistance. If you’re one of the few who acknowledge that, want to callous those wounds, and strengthen your character, its up to you to go back through your past and make peace with yourself by facing those incidents and all of your negative influences, and accepting them as weak spots in your own character. Only when you identify and accept your weaknesses will you finally stop running from your past. Then those incidents can be used more efficiently as fuel to become better and grow stronger.
—> I realized that each episode of child abuse that could have killed me made me tough as hell and as sharp as a Samurai’s blade.
—> Yes, it was miserable, but I fucking loved it. I thrived off of the barbaric beauty of seeing the soul of a man destroyed, only to rise again and overcome every obstacle in his path. By my third go ’round, I knew what the human body could take. I knew what I could take, and I was feeding off that shit.
—> See, most civilians don’t understand that you need a certain level of callousness to do the job we were being trained to do. To live in a brutal world, you have to accept cold-blooded truths. I’m not saying it’s good. I’m not necessarily proud of it. But special ops is a calloused world and it demands a calloused mind.
—> “Take the pain, or it won’t just be your failure. It will be your family’s failure!”
—> But visualization isn’t simply about daydreaming of some trophy ceremony—real or metaphorical. You must also visualize the challenges that are likely to arise and determine how you will attack those problems when they do.
—> Remember, visualization will never compensate for work undone. You cannot visualize lies. All the strategies I employ to answer the simple questions and win the mind game are only effective because I put in work. It’s a lot more than mind over matter. It takes relentless self-discipline to schedule suffering into your day, every day, but if you do, you’ll find that at the other end of that suffering is a whole other life just waiting for you.
—> #armoredmind
—> I was losing touch with reality in small doses, because my mind was folding over on itself, loading tremendous physical pain with dark emotional garbage it had dredged up from the depths of my soul. (100 Miles)
—> Hell Week changed everything for me. It allowed me to have the mindset to sign up for that twenty-four-hour race with less than a week’s notice because during Hell Week you live all the emotions of life, all the highs and lows, in six days. In 130 hours, you earn decades of wisdom. That’s why there was a schism between the twins after Marcus went through BUD/ S. He’d gained the kind of self-knowledge that can only come from being broken down to nothing and finding more within. Morgan couldn’t speak that language until he endured it for himself… trophies. It was an all-out war of me against me, and that’s exactly where I found myself again when I was reduced to my absolute lowest on Hospitality Point.
—> Because it’s the small sparks, which start small fires, that eventually build enough heat to burn the whole fucking forest down.
—> Yeah, I was hard on myself when I looked in the Accountability Mirror, but I also praised myself whenever I could claim a small victory, because we all need that, and very few of us take the time to celebrate our successes. Sure, in the moment, we might enjoy them, but do we ever look back on them and feel that win again and again?
—> She kept talking, shouting, crying, trying to reach me through the haze, and I heard most of what she said, but I knew if we went to the hospital they’d give me pain killers and I didn’t want to mask this pain. I’d just accomplished the most amazing feat in my entire life. It was harder than Hell Week, more significant to me than becoming a SEAL, and more challenging than my deployment to Iraq because this time I had done something I’m not sure anyone had ever done before. I ran 101 miles with zero preparation.
—> Take inventory of your Cookie Jar. Crack your journal open again. Write it all out. Remember, this is not some breezy stroll through your personal trophy room. Don’t just write down your achievement hit list. Include life obstacles you’ve overcome as well, like quitting smoking or overcoming depression or a stutter. Add in those minor tasks you failed earlier in life, but tried again a second or third time and ultimately succeeded at. Feel what it was like to overcome those struggles, those opponents, and win. Then get to work. Set ambitious goals before each workout and let those past victories carry you to new personal bests.
—> I loved waking up at 5 a.m. and starting work with three hours of cardio already in the bank while most of my teammates hadn’t even finished their coffee. It gave me a mental edge, a better sense of self-awareness, and a ton of self-confidence, which made me a better SEAL instructor. That’s what getting up at the ass crack of dawn and putting out will do for you. It makes you better in all facets of your life.
—> The reason I embrace my own obsessions and demand and desire more of myself is because I’ve learned that it’s only when I push beyond pain and suffering, past my perceived limitations, that I’m capable of accomplishing more, physically and mentally—in endurance races but also in life as a whole.
—> Our governor is buried deep in our minds, intertwined with our very identity. It knows what and who we love and hate; it’s read our whole life story and forms the way we see ourselves and how we’d like to be seen. It’s the software that delivers personalized feedback—in the form of pain and exhaustion, but also fear and insecurity, and it uses all of that to encourage us to stop before we risk it all. But, here’s the thing, it doesn’t have absolute control.
—> Imagine you’re a boxer, and on your first day in the ring you take one on your chin. It’s gonna hurt like fucking hell, but at year ten of being a boxer, you won’t be stopped by one punch. You’ll be able to absorb twelve rounds of getting beat the fuck down and come back the very next day and fight again. It’s not that the punch has lost power. Your opponents will be even stronger. The change has happened within your brain. You’ve calloused your mind. Over a period of time, your tolerance for mental and physical suffering will have expanded because your software will have learned that you can take a hell of a lot more than one punch, and if you stay with any task that is trying to beat you down, you will reap rewards.
—> Because nobody quits an ultra race or Hell Week in a split second. People make the decision to quit hours before they ring that bell, so I needed to be present enough to recognize when my body and mind were starting to fail in order to short circuit the impulse to look for a way out long before I tumbled into that fatal funnel. Ignoring pain or blocking out the truth like I did at the San Diego One Day would not work this time, and if you are on the hunt for your 100 percent you should catalog your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Don’t ignore them. Be prepared for them, because in any endurance event, in any high-stress environment, your weaknesses will surface like bad karma, build in volume, and overwhelm you. Unless you get ahead of them first.
—> There is so much pain and suffering involved in physical challenges that it’s the best training to take command of your inner dialogue, and the newfound mental strength and confidence you gain by continuing to push yourself physically will carry over to other aspects in your life. You will realize that if you were underperformingOur culture has become hooked on the quick-fix, the life hack, efficiency. Everyone is on the hunt for that simple action algorithm that nets maximum profit with the least amount of effort. There’s no denying this attitude may get you some of the trappings of success, if you’re lucky, but it will not lead to a calloused mind or self-mastery. If you want to master the mind and remove your governor, 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. My work ethic is the single most important factor in all of my accomplishments.
—> in your physical challenges, there is a good chance you are underperforming at school and work too.
—> He wasn’t supposed to seek me out. There was a chain of command in place specifically to prevent conversations between Rear Admirals and enlisted men like me. Without any warning that was all out the window, and I had a feeling it was my own fault.
—> I launched right into my life story. I told those athletes what I’ve already told you, and said we were looking for guys with heart. Men who knew it was going to be hard tomorrow and the day after that and welcomed every challenge. Men who wanted to become better athletes, and smarter and more capable in all aspects of their life. We wanted guys who craved honor and purpose and were open minded enough to face their deepest fears.
—> From 2007–2009, I was on the road for 250 days a year and spoke to 500,000 people at high schools and universities. I spoke at inner city high schools in tough neighborhoods, at dozens of historically black colleges and universities, and at schools with all cultures, shapes, and shades well represented. I’d come a long way from fourth grade, when I couldn’t stand up in front of a class of twenty kids and say my own name without stuttering.
—> Everything was going well in my life. My career was spit-shined and gleaming, I’d made a name for myself in the sports world, and I had plans to get back onto the battlefield like a Navy SEAL should. But sometimes, even when you are doing everything right in life, shit storms appear and multiply. Chaos can and will descend without warning, and when (not if) that happens, there won’t be anything you can do to stop it.
—> The sole reason I work out like I do isn’t to prepare for and win ultra races. I don’t have an athletic motive at all. It’s to prepare my mind for life itself.
—> Most people think once you’re a SEAL you’re always in the circle, but that’s not true. I learned quickly that we were constantly being judged, and the second I was unsafe, whether I was still a new guy or a veteran operator, I’d be out! I was one of three new guys in my first platoon, and one of them had to have his gun taken away because he was so unsafe.
—> Navy SEALs were treated like rock stars at the bases we visited around the world, and some of the guys partied like it. In fact, most SEALs enjoyed their share of big nights out, but not me. I’d gotten into the SEALs by living a Spartan lifestyle and felt my job at night was to rest, recharge, and get my body and mind right for battle again the next day. I was forever mission-ready, and my attitude earned respect from some, but our OIC tried to influence me to let go a little and become “one of the boys.”
—> All over the world amazing human beings like that exist. It doesn’t take wearing a uniform. It’s not about all the hard schools they graduated from, all their patches and medals. It’s about wanting it like there’s no tomorrow—because there might not be. It’s about thinking of everybody else before yourself and developing your own code of ethics that sets you apart from others. One of those ethics is the drive to turn every negative into a positive, and then when shit starts flying, being prepared to lead from the front.
—> If you truly want to become uncommon amongst the uncommon, it will require sustaining greatness for a long period of time. It requires staying in constant pursuit and putting out unending effort. This may sound appealing but will require everything you have to give and then some. Believe me, this is not for everyone because it will demand singular focus and may upset the balance in your life.
—> I tried to bull my way through, but tension and lactic acid had overwhelmed my system and my upper body was a lump of dough. I had never hit muscle failure before in my life. I’d run on broken legs in BUD/ S, run nearly a hundred miles on broken feet, and accomplished dozens of physical feats with a hole in my heart. But late at night, on the second floor of the NBC tower, I pulled the plug. After my 2,500th pull-up, I could barely lift my hands high enough to grip the bar, let alone clear it with my chin, and just like that, it was over. There would be no celebratory breakfast with Savannah and Matt. There would be no celebration at all. I failed, and I’d failed in front of millions of people. Afterward, I was eye to eye with my haters and acknowledged that my margin for error was small. I weighed 210 pounds, much heavier than anyone else who had ever tried to break that record, and my probability of failure was high.
—> “People have been running for decades, and running long distances, but 4,000 pull-ups, the human body isn’t designed to do that. So to get a chance to witness something like that was pretty neat.”
—> Show no weakness remained my motto, but that didn’t mean I felt strong.
—> In life, there is no gift as overlooked or inevitable as failure. I’ve had quite a few and have learned to relish them, because if you do the forensics you’ll find clues about where to make adjustments and how to eventually accomplish your task. I’m not talking about a mental list either. After the second attempt, I wrote everything out long-hand, but didn’t start with the obvious issue, my grip. Initially, I brainstormed everything that went well, because in every failure a lot of good things will have happened, and we must acknowledge them.
—> Another positive was how I handled my second meltdown. I was off the mat and on the comeback trail before I even saw the ER doc. That’s where you want to be. You can’t let a simple failure derail your mission, or let it worm so far up your ass it takes over your brain and sabotages your relationships with people who are close to you. Everyone fails sometimes and life isn’t supposed to be fair, much less bend to your every whim.
—> Luck is a capricious bitch. It won’t always go your way, so you can’t get trapped in this idea that just because you’ve imagined a possibility for yourself that you somehow deserve it. Your entitled mind is dead weight. Cut it loose. Don’t focus on what you think you deserve. Take aim on what you are willing to earn! I never blamed anyone for my failures, and I didn’t hang my head in Nashville. I stayed humble and sidestepped my entitled mind because I knew damn well I hadn’t earned my record. The scoreboard does not lie, and I didn’t delude myself otherwise. Believe it or not, most people prefer delusion. They blame others or bad luck or chaotic circumstance. I didn’t, which was positive.
—> It takes great strength to be vulnerable enough to put your ass on the line, in public, and work toward a dream that feels like it’s slipping away. We all have eyeballs on us. Our family and friends are watching, and even if you’re surrounded by positive people, they will have ideas about who you are, what you’re good at, and how you should focus your energy. That shit is just human nature, and if you try to break out of their box you’ll get some unsolicited advice that has a way of smothering your aspirations if you let it. Often our people don’t mean any harm. Nobody who cares about us actually wants us to get hurt. They want us to be safe, comfortable, and happy, and not to have to stare at the floor in a dungeon sifting through shards of our broken dreams. Too bad. There’s a lot of potential in those moments of pain. And if you figure out how to piece that picture back together, you’ll find a hell of a lot of power there too!
—> To be clear, I wasn’t angry with Hyland—I don’t even know him! I went there to find the edge I needed to keep going. I got personal with him in my head, not out of overconfidence or envy, but to drown out my own doubt. Life is a head game. This was just the latest angle I used to win a game within that game. I had to find an edge somewhere, and if you find it in the person standing in your way, that’s potent.
—> In one day, I’d lifted the equivalent of 846,030 pounds, nearly three times the weight of the Space Shuttle! Cheers spread to laughter as I pulled off my gloves and disappeared into the back room, but much to everyone’s surprise, I was not in the mood to celebrate. Does that shock you too? You know that my refrigerator is never full, and it never will be because I live a mission-driven life, always on the hunt for the next challenge. That mindset is the reason I broke that record, finished Badwater, became a SEAL, rocked Ranger School, and on down the list. In my mind I’m that racehorse always chasing a carrot I’ll never catch, forever trying to prove myself to myself. And when you live that way and attain a goal, success feels anti-climactic.
—> And if you fail again, so the fuck be it. Take the pain. Repeat these steps and keep fighting. That’s what it’s all about. Share your stories from preparation, training, and execution on social media with the hashtags #canthurtme #empowermentoffailure.
—> I don’t know if you could call what I felt on that bed “enlightenment,” but I do know that pain unlocks a secret doorway in the mind. One that leads to both peak performance and beautiful silence.
—> One of my mottos these days is peaceful but never satisfied. It was one thing to enjoy the peace of self-acceptance, and my acceptance of the fucked-up world as it is, but that didn’t mean I was going to lie down and wait to die without at least trying to save myself.
—> The Buddha famously said that life is suffering. I’m not a Buddhist, but I know what he meant and so do you. To exist in this world, we must contend with humiliation, broken dreams, sadness, and loss. That’s just nature. Each specific life comes with its own personalized portion of pain. It’s coming for you. You can’t stop it. And you know it.
—> We are all our own worst haters and doubters because self doubt is a natural reaction to any bold attempt to change your life for the better. You can’t stop it from blooming in your brain, but you can neutralize it, and all the other external chatter by asking, What if?
—> What if is the power and permission to face down your darkest demons, your very worst memories, and accept them as part of your history. If and when you do that, you will be able to use them as fuel to envision the most audacious, outrageous achievement and go get it.
—> My passion still burns, but to be honest, it takes a bit longer to channel my rage. It’s not camped out on my home screen anymore, a single unconscious twitch from overwhelming my heart and head. Now I have to access it consciously. But when I do, I can still feel all the challenges and obstacles, the heartbreak and hard work, like it happened yesterday. That’s why you can feel my passion on podcasts and videos. That shit is still there, seared into my brain like scar tissue. Tailing me like a shadow that’s trying to chase me down and swallow me whole, but always drives me forward.


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