Notes & Quotes: Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins

The following are my favorite notes and quotes from David Goggins' Cant Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds.
  1. I sought out pain, fell in love with suffering, and eventually transformed myself from the weakest piece of shit on the planet into the hardest man God ever created, or so I tell myself.
  2. Heraclitus, a philosopher born in the Persian Empire back in the fifth century BC, had it right when he wrote about men on the battlefield. "Out of one hundred men," he wrote, "ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior..."
  3. It's time to go to war with yourself.
  4. Glossy surfaces reflect much more than they reveal.
  5. My dad was considered the unofficial mayor of Masten, and he was a phony politician to the core. His customers were his marks, and what they didn't know was that no matter how many drinks he poured on the house and bro hugs he shared, he didn't give a fuck about any of them. They were all dollar signs to him.
  6. There was no one else in the house, and part of me expected him to pull the trigger, but by this time in my life I no longer cared if I lived or died. I was an exhausted eight-year-old kid, plain old fucking tired of being terrified of my father.
  7. I thought I'd solved a problem when I was really creating new ones by taking the path of least resistance.
  8. I rode a bus to school most days, and my first day back, I couldn't shake a memory I'd buried from the year before. That morning, I slid into a seat about the back left tire overlooking the street as usual. When we arrived at school the bus pulled up to the curb, we needed to wait for the ones ahead of us to move before we could get off. In the meantime, a car pulled alongside us, and a cute, overeager little boy ran toward our bus carrying a platter of cookies. The driver didn't see him. The bus jerked forward. I noticed the alarmed look on his mother's face before the sudden crush of blood splattered my window. His mother howled in horror. She wasn't among us anymore. She looked and sounded like a fierce, wounded animal as she literally pulled the hair from her head by the roots. Soon sirens wailed in the distance and screamed closer by the second. The little boy was about six years old. The cookies were a present for the driver. We were all ordered off the bus, and as I walked by the tragedy, for some reason -- call it human curiosity, call it the magnetic pull of dark to dark -- I peeked under the bus and saw him. His head was nearly as flat as paper, his brains and blood mingled under the carriage like spent oil.
  9. In order to change you have to work through shit. Confront it and get real.
  10. I was hanging out in Pizza Hut with Johnny and a couple girls, including a brunette I liked, named Pam. She liked me too, but we'd never acted on it. We were two innocents enjoying one another's company, but when her father arrived to take her home he caught sight of us, and when Pam saw him, her face went ghost white. He burst into the packed restaurant and stalked toward us with all eyes on him. He never addressed me. He just locked eyes with her and said, "i don't want to ever see you sitting with this nigger again." She hustled out the door after him, her face red with shame as I sat, paralyzed, staring at the floor. It was the most humiliating moment of my life.
  11. I was one of those kids who thought he was gaming the system when, the whole time, I'd been gaming myself.
  12. Even though I had plenty of friends, all of them white, I couldn't stop seeing the hidden racism scrawled all over the walls in invisible ink, which made it extremely hard to carry the weight of being the only. Most, if not all, minorities, women, and gay people in America know that strain of loneliness well. Of walking into rooms where you are the only one of your kind. Most white men have no idea how hard it can be. I wish they did.
  13. Steam billowed all around me. It rippled off my skin and poured from my soul. What started as a spontaneous venting session had become a solo intervention. "It's on you," I said. "Yeah, I know shit is fucked up. I know what you've been through. I was there, bitch! Merry fucking Christmas. Nobody is coming to save your ass! Not your mommy, not Wilmoth. Nobody! It's up to you!"
  14. That negativity you're feeling is your internal desire for change, but change doesn't come easy.
  15. If you look in the mirror and you see a fat person, don't tell yourself that you need to lose a couple of pounds. Tell the truth. You're fucking fat! It's okay. Just say you're fat if you're fat. The dirty mirror that you see every day is going to tell you the truth every time, so why are you still lying to yourself? So you can feel better for a few minutes and stay the fucking same? If you're fat you need to change the fact that you're fat because it's very fucking unhealthy. I know because I've been there.
  16. If you have worked for thirty years doing the same shit you've hated day in and day out because you were afraid to quit and take a risk, you've been living like a pussy. Period, and point blank. Tell yourself the truth! That you've wasted enough time, and that you have other dreams that will take courage to realize, so you don't die a fucking pussy. Call yourself out!
  17. If you are the only, and you aren't stuck in some real-world genocidal twilight zone, you'd better get real too. Your life is not fucked up because of overt racists or hidden systemic racism. You aren't missing out on opportunities, making shit money, and getting evicted because of America or Donald fucking Trump or because your ancestors were slaves or because some people hate immigrants or Jews or harass women or believe gay people are going to hell. If any of that shit is stopping you from excelling in life, I've got some news. You are stopping you!
  18. I brainwashed myself into craving discomfort. If it was raining, I would go run. Whenever it started snowing, my mind would say, Get your fucking running shoes on. Sometimes I wussed out and had to deal with it at the Accountability Mirror. But facing that mirror, facing myself, motivated me to fight through uncomfortable experiences, and, as a result, I became tougher. And being tough and resilient helped me meet my goals.
  19. I looked at the people who were making making me feel uncomfortable and realized how uncomfortable they were in their own skin. To make fun of or try to intimidate someone they didn't even know based on race alone was a clear indication that something was very wrong with them, not me. But when you have no confidence it becomes easy to value other people's opinions, and I was valuing everyone's opinion without considering the minds that generated them. That sounds silly, but it's an easy trap to fall into, especially when you are insecure on top of being the only. As soon as I made that connection, being upset with them was not worth my time. Because if I was gonna kick their ass in life, and I was, I had way too much shit to do. Each insult or dismissive gesture became more fuel for the engine revving inside me.
  20. Whether it's a career goal (quit my job, start a business), a lifestyle goal (lose weight, get more active), or an athletic one (run my first 5K, 10K, or a marathon), you need to be truthful with yourself about where you are and the necessary steps it will take to achieve those goals, day by day. Each step, each necessary point of self-improvement, should be written as its own note. That means you have to do some research and break it all down. For example, if you are trying to lose forty pounds, your first Post-It may be to lose two pounds in the first week. Once that goal is achieved, remove the note and post the next goal of two to five pounds until your ultimate goal is realized. 
  21. They say there's always a light at the end of the tunnel, but not once your eyes adjust to the darkness, and that's what happened to me. I was numb. Numb to my life, miserable in my marriage, and I'd accepted that reality. I was a would-be warrior turned cockroach sniper on the graveyard shift. Just another zombie selling his time on earth, going through the motions.
  22. I was able to tuck this 175-pound person into those 21-inch biceps and that flabby belly. I grew a burly mustache and was intimidating to everyone who saw me, but inside I knew I was a pussy, and that's a haunting feeling.
  23. Only one-third of the men who begin BUD/S make it through Hell Week, and in all of my time in Pararescue training, I couldn't remember feeling as awful as these men looked. They were swollen, chafed, sleep-deprived, and dead on their feet, and I was jealous of them.
  24. The longer I watched the more certain I became that there were answers buried in all that suffering. Answers that I needed.
  25. The SEALs were everything I wasn't. They were about pride, dignity, and the type of excellence that came from bathing in the fire, getting beat the fuck down, and going back for more, again and again. 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. The show ended with graduation. Twenty-two proud men stood shoulder to shoulder in their dress whites before the camera pushed in on their Commanding Officer. "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."
  26. What the fuck? I mean, seriously, what the fucking fuck? When was enough truly going to be enough? Was I willing to let my sorry present become a fucked-up future? How much longer would I wait, how many more years would I burn, wondering if there was some greater purpose out there waiting for me? I knew right then that if I didn't make a stand and start walking the path of most resistance, I would end up in this mental hell forever.
  27. I turned off the television and thought about my own life. It was a life devoid of any drive and passion, but I knew if I continued to surrender to my fear and my feelings of inadequacy, I would be allowing them to dictate my future forever. My only other choice was to try to find the power in the emotions that had laid me low, harness and use them to empower me to rise up, which is exactly what I did.
  28. What I was trying to achieve is like a D-student applying to Harvard, or walking into a casino and putting every single dollar you own on a number in roulette and acting as if winning is a foregone conclusion. I was betting everything I had on myself with no guarantees.
  29. For me, the only way to make it through that was to feed off my depression. I had to flip it and convince myself that all that self-doubt and anxiety was confirmation that I was no longer living an aimless life.
  30. "You cut corners and you are not gonna fucking make it," I said, out loud, as I drove back to the gym. "There are no shortcuts."
  31. I knew that 190 men usually class-up for a typical SEAL training and only about 40 people make it all the way through. I didn't want to be just one of those forty. I wanted to be the best.
  32. I celebrated my victory the way any SEAL candidate should. I put the fuck out. The following morning and for the next three weeks I spent time in the pool, strapped with a sixteen-pound weight belt. I swam underwater for fifty meters at a time and walked the length of the pool underwater, with a brick in each hand, all on a single breath. The water would not own my ass this time.
  33. The pain was excruciating, and I fucking loved it.
  34. When most people picture BUD/S they think of First Phase because those are the weeks that tenderize new recruits until the class is literally ground down from about 120 guys to the hard, gleaming spine that are the twenty-five to forty guys who are more worthy of the Trident. The emblem that tells the world we are not to be fucked with.
  35. Sometimes the best way to defeat a bully is actually to help them.
  36. Nine months earlier, I had topped out at 297 pounds and couldn't even run a quarter mile. Back then, when I was dreaming of a different life, I remember thinking that just getting through Hell Week would be the biggest honor my life so far. Even if I never graduated from BUD/S, surviving Hell Week alone would have meant something. But I didn't just survive. I was about to finish Hell Week at the top of my class, and for the first time, I knew I was a bad motherfucker. 
  37. In that moment I stopped seeing myself as the victim of bad circumstance, and saw my life as the ultimate training ground instead.
  38. When you indulge in negative self-talk, the gifts of a sympathetic response will remain out of reach. However, if you can manage those moments of pain that come with maximum effort, by remembering what you've been through to get to that point in your life, you will be in a better position to persevere and choose fight over flight. That will allow you to use the adrenaline that comes with a sympathetic response to go even harder.
  39. Physical challenges strengthen my mind so I'm ready for whatever life throws at me, and it will do the same for you.
  40. 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. 
  41. When we're comfortable we can't answer those simple questions that are bound to arise in the heat of battle because we don't even realize they're coming.
  42. In that moment, the cost of missing out on so much excellence in this eternally fucked-up world felt incalculable to me, and it still does. I haven't stopped thinking about it since.
  43. 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 crack of dawn and putting out will do for you. It makes you better in all facets of your life. 
  44. We've only given around 40 percent of our maximum effort. Even when we feel like we've reached our absolute limit, we still have 60 percent more to give!
  45. Chase pain like it's your damn job!
  46. Research is one part of preparation; visualization is another.
  47. Word had gotten out at work about what I was getting myself into, and while I had some support from fellow SEALs, I got my share of negativity too, especially when they found out I still couldn't run. But that was nothing new. Who hasn't dreamed up a possibility for themselves only to have friends, colleagues, or family shit all over it?
  48. That's one reason I invented the Cookie Jar. We must create a system that constantly reminds us who the fuck we are when we are at our best, because life is not going to pick us up when we fall. There will be forks in the road, knives in your fucking back, mountains to climb, and we are only capable of living up to the image we create for ourselves. Prepare yourself!
  49. Our minds are fucking strong, they are our most powerful weapon, but we have stopped using them. We have access to so many more resources today than ever before and yet we are so much less capable than those who came before us. If you want to be one of the few to defy those trends in our ever-softening society, you will have to be willing to go to war with yourself and create a whole new identity, which requires an open mind. It's funny, being open minded is often tagged as new age or soft. Fuck that. Being open minded enough to find a way is old school. It's what knuckle draggers do. And that's exactly what I did.
  50. If you were underperforming in your physical challenges, there is a good chance you are underperforming at school and work too.
  51. Our 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.
  52. Schedule your life like you're on a twenty-four-hour mission every single day.
  53. It's up to you to find way to eviscerate your bullshit.
  54. In my mind I was training for opportunities that didn't even exist yet.
  55. Know matter who you are, life will present you similar opportunities where you can prove to be uncommon. There are people in all walks of life who relish those moments, and when I see them I recognize them immediately because they are usually that motherfucker who's all by himself. It's the suit who's still at the office at midnight while everyone else is at the bar, or the badass who hits the gym directly after coming of a forty-eight-hour op. She's the wildland firefighter who instead of hitting her bedroll, sharpens her chainsaw after working a fire for twenty-four hours. That mentality is there for all of us. Man, woman, straight, gay, black, white or purple fucking polkadot. All of us can be the person who flies all day and night only to arrive home to a filthy house, and instead of blaming family or roommates, cleans it up right then because they refuse to ignore duties undone.
  56. A true leader stays exhausted, abhors arrogance, and never looks down on the weakest link. He fights for his men and leads by example. That's what it meant to be uncommon among uncommon. It meant being one of the best and helping your men find their best too.
  57. When it comes to mindset, it doesn't matter where other people's attention lies. I had my own uncommon standards to live up to.
  58. A lot of us surround ourselves with people who speak to our desire for comfort. Who would rather treat the pain of our wounds and prevent further injury than help us callous over them and try again. We need to surround ourselves with people who will tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear, but at the same time not make us feel we're up against the impossible.
  59. Most wars are won or lost in our own heads, and when we're in a foxhole we usually aren't alone, and we need to be confident in the quality of the heart, mind, and dialogue of the person hunkered down with us. Because at some point we will need some empowering words to keep us focused and deadly.
  60. In life, there is no gift as overlooked or inevitable as failure.
  61. 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!
  62. We are all guilty of allowing so-called experts, or just people who have more experience in a given field that we do, to cap our potential.
  63. Achieving goals or overcoming obstacles doesn't have to be fun. Seeds burst from the inside out in a self-destructive ritual of new life. Does that sound like fucking fun? Like it feels good? I wasn't in the gym to get happy or do what I wanted to be doing. I was there to turn myself inside out if that's what it took to blast through any and all mental, emotional, and physical barriers.
  64. Nobody who cares about us actually wants us to get hurt. They want us to be safe, comfortable, and happy, and not 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!
  65. 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.
  66. All I'd ever wanted was to become successful in my own eyes. That didn't mean wealth or celebrity, a garage full of hot cars, or a harem of beautiful women trailing after me. It meant becoming the hardest motherfucker who ever lived.
  67. Doubt and fear were popping in my brain, reminding me that only a handful of people had ever finished the Frozen Otter, and that no lead was safe in that kind of cold. Weather, more than any other variable, can break a motherfucker down quick. But I didn't listen to any of that. I created a new dialogue and told myself to finish the race strong and worry about amputated toes at the hospital after I was crowned champion.
  68. Karl [Meltzer] didn't run like that. He moved like a goat, bouncing on his toes and running along the edges of the trail. As soon as his toes hit the ground he fired his legs into the air. That's why he looked like he was floating. By design, he barely touched the ground, while his head and core remained stable and engaged.
  69. They say it takes sixty-days to build a habit. For me it takes a hell of a lot longer than that, but I eventually get there.
  70. I grew up beat down and abused, filtered uneducated through a system that rejected me at every turn, until I took ownership and started to change.
  71. I was the sum total of the obstacles I'd overcome.
  72. The kid I always judged so harshly didn't lie and cheat to hurt anyone's feeling. He did it for acceptance. He broke the rules because he didn't have the tools to compete and was ashamed for being dumb. He did it because he needed friends. I was afraid to tell the teachers I couldn't read. I was terrified of the stigma associated with special education, and instead of chastising my younger self, I understood him for the first time.
  73. I released myself and everyone I ever knew from any and all guilt and bitterness. The long list of haters, doubters, racists, and abusers that populated my past, I just couldn't hate them anymore. I appreciated them because they helped create me.
  74. In this life there are countless trails to self-realization, though most demand intense discipline, so very few take them.
  75. Pain unlocks a secret doorway in the mind. One that leads to both peak performance and beautiful silence.
  76. One of my mottos these days is peaceful but never satisfied.
  77. 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.