“Can’t hurt me” going to make me hurt myself instead?

I have over the past few months read roughly the first part of “Can’t hurt me” by David Goggins. I would like to dissect how he approaches self-improvement and what I think about it.

Short Book Summary

«Can’t hurt me» is basically David Goggins telling his story coupled with him sharing the lessons he learned with his readers. The big message he has, is that there is so much more in us, than we deem possible. But the story he tells is at the same time heart breaking and inspiring. He uses rather aggressive language telling the same kind of aggressive stories. Stories he tells include running on broken legs and running ultra races with little to no preparation, while some methods he presents to become stronger are remembering the obstacles, we have overcome, embracing the pain and making ourselves aware of the fact that we may think that we can’t go on, but we still have 60% of our potential untouched.

What I loved about this book

It is inspiring. Goggins goes all out. He is no fake. He lives what he preaches. And that means he lives a life that seems impossible to live. And yet he does it. The book often left me with a newly ignited drive. I wanted to become better and stronger. The best version of myself. If he could do it, why not me, too? I also share his anger with the fact, that many people are blind to their own laziness, and it makes me furious that sometimes that includes me. The book clearly demands we take responsibility for our own lives and it points out victim thinking.

Problematic points about the book

Running on broken legs? Really? Athletes already have a tendency to keep training despite injuries. And even if they did not, I do not think that we should celebrate reckless behavior like that. In addition to that Goggins makes it sound like the only way to live properly is to grind like a crazy person. To disregard any common sense.

How this fits into our society

Goggins’ call to get off our lazy asses is justified. How many of us actually have the basics of our lives figured out? How many of us don’t have a long list with things that we ought to be doing, but instead we’re simply binging another TV show? In this regard the book is awesome. It calls us out on our bullshit. Our excuses. Our ignorance.

The real problem is the way he suggests we get off those asses. He did not take care of himself. Which means that anyone can simply say “my goal is not to run on broken legs” and disregard anything Goggins says.

In essence I think the most important part is that the book lacks balance. It is not a good example of how to take our lives into our own hands, even though I strongly believe the techniques presented are highly valuable. I understand how Goggins became a legend. And I will not claim I don’t admire him, but I also think that while his way may have uncovered many helpful tools to taking control of our lives imitating his path is not going to be helpful for most people.

I think the main take away of the book is that we can be whatever we want. But I think the way Goggins describes to get there is too extreme and unbalanced, making it very unhealthy. Which does not change the fact, that most of us are lazy. As intelligent beings we should not disregard every part of the message, but look at it in a more differentiated way. But in the end it is always all about balance. Everything is about whether or not you do it mindfully and cleverly. A scientist with a gun will always win against the brute who is trying to win with pure physical strength.

There is a difference between working ourselves to death and not being lazy. In the productivity world this is equivalent to the difference between being productive and being busy. You can work yourself to death being busy and never actually accomplish anything or you can do the right things in a good balance and get more done in a day while putting in less hours and being happier. There is not only two options: Being lazy or not. There is three options: Being lazy, being strategic or brute forcing our ways through life. Goggins opted for the last one, while I try to fall into the second category. But most of us could do a little more than we are doing, just don’t let it be brute force, do it cleverly. Think about the damages you might do to yourself if you go for that extra run, or put in another hour at work. If we however fall into the first category we need to find a sustainable way to get our of our laziness.

Most new years resolutions fail by the end of January. Not because the people who set them weren’t determined, but because their approach was not smart. They demanded too much too soon, or the way they distributed their habits of their time didn’t fit them. Or they need a different way to achieve the goal they want to achieve. David Goggins would say to just keep grinding. And while that is one way, most people cannot actually do that. And it’s not necessary either. While some discipline is needed, we don’t need the determination to run on broken legs. We need the determination to do a couch to 5k training to begin with. Goggins hard-core mindset does not work unless you have a set time frame to achieve a goal. And even then, if the time frame is too long, we will most likely end up failing. Most of the good habits we are trying to finally implement are open ended. And hence sustainability is key, not hard-coreness.

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