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What David Goggins "Can't Hurt Me" taught me about mental toughness

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

Being physically, emotionally, racially, psychological and verbally abused as a child would usually be enough to break most people - however David Goggins used his past pain to turn him into a Mental Savage and build brick hard mental toughness.


For the month of July my mental toughness community for early stage and aspiring entrepreneurs were tasked with reading the former Navy Seal's biography about how he learnt to build mental toughness. Here our 3 lessons I learnt whilst reading the book.

Own Your Pain

I previously touched on some of the generic sources of Goggin's pain, however this article can't fully express what he went through. I thought the book was graphic but David admitted that "a lot was left out". Goggins was servery abused my his father, witnessed his mother being abused by his father, made homeless, witnessed death and could "barely read" whilst at the age of 8 . Despite all of this Goggins doesn't want our sympathy and that's the whole point.

No doubt we all have our stories of past pain and trauma, and Goggin's understands this but he still urgently pleads with us throughout the book that we need to learn to own our pain.

Owning your pain means accepting why you are the way you are. It is realising that your environment has shaped you, and opened doors for you to have certain dispositions but that the truth may set you free. At its core owning your pain is not letting your past force you into victimhood but instead propel you into becoming victorious.

This constant perspective shift builds mental toughness.

Take Opportunities to Give Back

Something that stuck out to me was Goggins taking opportunities. Goggins was given an opportunity to help increase the numbers of black Americans applying and be enrolled into the Navy Seals.

Due to military careers having a negative reputation, most likely due to the historic abuses the US state has implemented against black people - many young black Americans did not consider this a viable career option.

Goggins was specifically requested by an Admiral to help change. Goggins grabbed the opportunity and spent over 4 years authentically sharing his life experiences to would be Seals across Amercian HBCUs; Colleges; High Schools etc. He perfected his narrative and if you know any thing about his life the audiences were gripped by his stark accounts of past pain, yet inspired by how he managed to over come them.

He both managed to increase the application & enrolment rates, as well as help to break down perceived barriers and communicate the life changing benefits of pursing a life of mental toughness (whether through the Navy or not).

It's one thing to own your pain, but it can be emotionally and mentally draining to authentically share it in public. Goggins taking the opportunity to give back both helped the people he was speaking to, as well as him further build his mental toughness.

New Terrains

After 3 Hell weeks, years in active service in the US Navy in warfare, training and instructing, David Goggins sought to further push his body thus mind to its limits.

He done this by entering the extreme sport of "Ultra Marathons" (typically anything over the distance of 26.2 miles, however David's ones were closer to 100 miles).

Goggins once again put himself out of his comfort zone (military) into a whole new terrain. If you want to build mental toughness you MUST be okay with experiencing new terrains this could be waking up 30 minutes earlier, learning a new language or skill, doing that extra set in the gym, quitting fizzy drinks or not binge watching that Netflix series.

Goggins has now "competed in more than 60 endurance races, has placed 3rd at the Badwater 135 Death Valley- considered the world’s toughest foot race, and regularly placing in the top five in other ultramarathons. He also held the Guinness World Record for the most pull-ups done in 24 hours completing 4,030 in 17 hours." (Goggins website, 2021).

As you can see David Goggins has not been afraid to seek new challenges for himself. If we don't challenge ourselves (whether saying no to things or yes to things) we can never expect to build our mental toughness. Realising that building mental toughness is a lifelong race is the first step to building mental toughness.


People think Goggins is an alien. In reality he is a human being like you or I, but who has been intentional about building his mindset. Although we may not replicate the exact process Goggins done to achieve his current mindset, we can equally be intentional with our lives to build mental toughness regardless of the level.

If you’re an aspiring or early-stage entrepreneur and want to build your mental toughness & self-discipline, then join our community now.

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