Navy SEAL David Goggins on Mindset, Testing Limits, and Pursuing Excellence
“I then saw the blood running down my leg when I urinated. My wife being a nurse informed me that my kidneys were shutting down and that I needed to go to the hospital. I told her that I had 30 miles left. She helped me up and we started walking around the track at a 35 minute mile pace. I asked her if I would complete the 100 miles in 24 hours at this pace and she said no. So, I did what I had to do and somehow by the grace of God started running again. I completed 101 miles in just under 19 hours.”
Likes I said, he’s tough.
Goggins is also a Navy SEAL who does ultra-endurance events to support the Special Operations Warrior Foundation and test his own boundaries. Oh, and he doesn’t even like to run.
That account from his blog about his first ultra-endurance race gives you a glimpse of how driven he is (Goggins has since deleted his old blog, but he has a new website now).
During that 24 hour race, he had to run at least 100 miles in order to qualify for the Badwater 135, one of the most challenging races that exists today. He found out about the Badwater 135 after literally Googling the 10 toughest races, calling the race organizer, and finding out he had to first qualify.
Goggins hadn’t even ran a marathon before that, but he wanted to run it to support the families of his comrades who had recently died in battle. He’s an incredible human being.
He pushes himself harder and deals with more pain than one would think is humanly possible in order to support his cause. Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of his accomplishments:
- Lost 105 pounds in 2 and ½ months prior to signing up to be a Navy SEAL. You didn’t read that wrong…105 FREAKIN’ POUNDS IN 2 AND ½ MONTHS!
- Finished the Badwater 135 three times. That’s just a 135 mile race in Death Valley where temperatures are between 120-130 degrees. No biggie.
- In a 48-hour race he ran 203 miles. Not too crazy, except for the fact that he tore his quad 24 hours in and yet still finished the race.
- He set the world record for pull-ups in 24 hours. He did 4,025…in 17 hours.
Oh, and you know that whole Navy SEAL thing? Yea, that only involves going through some of the most grueling training known to man. Check out Goggins’ account:
“For those of you who don’t know, Hell Week is about 125 hours of continuous training. It allows only 2 hours of sleep in the entire 125 hours. During this Hell Week it was between 45 and 55 degrees outside and the water temperature was about the same. For us Hell Week started on Sunday. One Monday it was cold and raining. This is when some of us in the class started to feel the stresses of what the week was going to bring. The thought of being cold for the next five days wasn’t very comforting. Monday was a lot of in and out of the water. It was a lot of cold, wet and miserable. Around this time you started seeing a lot of guys quit. Monday to Wednesday there was a lot of carrying logs, carrying boats, running, swimming, sitting in cold water, anything they could do to stimulate hard times they were doing. They did this to break you down, to see what decisions you would make when you were mentally and physically drained. By Wednesday we had slept about 15 minutes total. You started to see that most people make the decision to go away. On Friday we graduated Hell Week with 21. We started Hell Week with 92.”
The Navy knows exactly how long it takes for hypothermia to kick in based on how cold the ocean water is and they at times make potential SEALs stay in the water just shy of that mark. To say it’s intense is an understatement.
Goggins actually entered Hell Week two previous times before completing it because of an injury and sickness, but of course, being as mentally tough as he is, he got through it.
It takes mental toughness, physical endurance and strength, and an extreme sense of purpose to be a Navy SEAL, arguably the most elite fighting force in the world, and we can learn a lot from these people, David Goggins in particular.
Living With a SEAL
I first found out about Goggins through the book “Living With a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet” by Jesse Itzler. Goggins was referred to only as SEAL in the book, but a simple Google search revealed who this amazing man was.
After doing a little research on Goggins I was fascinated by him and wanted to learn even more. Who was this guy? How was he able to achieve so much? Could other people develop mental toughness like he has?
I dug deeper, read more articles, watched more videos and found out what made this guy tick. More importantly, I discovered some valuable lessons from Goggins that anyone can use in their own lives to push themselves further and achieve more.
“The only easy day was yesterday”
Goggins firmly believes in testing your own limits. He surely tests his. To prepare for these extreme races he pushes himself hard, getting way out of his comfort zone each day. He has said that “The only easy day was yesterday” and based on his training, I think that reigns true.
He wakes up at around 3:00 a.m., runs 10-15 miles, and then bikes 25 miles to work. Oh yea, he also has a regular 8-6 job as a SEAL. During lunchtime he typically does a second run of 5-8 miles. He bikes the 25 miles back home and may even do a THIRD run of about 3-5 miles in the evening if he is feeling good. His mileage for the week? Around 100-150 miles. Oh and he also lifts weights 3-4 times per week on top of all that. Yea, this dude doesn’t play.
“It doesn’t have to be fun. It has to be effective.”
In “Living with a SEAL” Goggins had a hilarious, but interesting quote “If it doesn’t suck, we don’t do it.” Now, I get it, people want to have fun while working out, they want to feel like they aren’t actually exercising. When I play pickup basketball it is lots fun, it doesn’t feel like I’m “working out”, so I can see this way of thinking. The problem? This doesn’t always work.
The obesity rates in America are sky high and aren’t going in the right direction. That’s why Goggins’ mantra is so important. This mindset that things will be fun and easy and we’ll get whatever we want is dangerous. It takes work.
Yes, it may suck.
Yes, it may not be fun.
However, thinking more towards effectiveness could be the shift we need to tackle problems in our life, our physical fitness in particular.
This doesn’t have to be a big downer either. There is a lot of satisfaction you get when you actually see improvement and move towards your goals.
“What have I done today to improve David Goggins?”
Goggins calls this the mirror test and explains this concept in a post on his blog (Like I mentioned, he deleted his blog, but now can be found on his new website):
“What do you really want?
Every morning when you wake up what is the first thing you think about doing? I’m not talking about work, family, etc. I’m talking about personal ambition. What is it that you desired to do? Think about that. Then, think about how long you have thought about doing it. Next, think about what you have done in the last year, 2, 3 or 4 years to get you closer to that goal. For some of you the answer may be simple. You may desire to do something and work toward that every day. For others, it is harder. Some of you may desire to do something that seems impossible to do because of obligations. Work, family, and finances can all play a role in what we desire. I will tell you this though, you will only truly want something when you work every day at getting that something.
You have to say to yourself, what is it that I am going to do today to bring me closer to my goal? For some, it may be waking up an hour earlier every day to get to the gym. For some, it may be putting back $100 dollars a month toward that dream vacation. Whatever it is that you want to do, work for it. It has to become part of your daily life.”
Ultimately, it’s about pursuing excellence every day.
“I’ve done a lot of things I thought were impossible. Nothing is impossible anymore.”
Goggins has completed some of the most difficult endurance events on the planet and gone through the incredibly difficult Navy SEAL training, but how does it do it? How does he push through and do things that most would think are impossible? A big part of it is the 40% rule.
He says that when you think you can’t go anymore, when your brain says you’re done, you’re only 40% done. You can push yourself much farther.
We can push ourselves harder. We can push ourselves longer. We can endure more pain.
The more we do, the more confidence we get to tackle another challenge and then another challenge and then another challenge. We prove to ourselves what we can do.
One last thing…
David Goggins is undoubtedly incredible, both mentally tough and physically strong, but for all he’s accomplished he is still human (At least I think so) like you and I, which means we are also capable of doing some amazing things in our lives.
We don’t have to become Navy SEALs or run insanely far distances, but we should pursue excellence – Whatever that means for each of us.
Get uncomfortable and attack whatever you’re facing today head on. You can handle it.