This will be my review of the book Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. I believe Jocko’s birth name is John, but Jocko was a nickname that was adopted very early on in his life. Yeah, I was wondering about the name, too.
Jocky Willink is a former Navy SEAL, and a black-belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He is also a lot of other things, but being a man that is constantly trying to be an alpha, and also an aspiring BJJ black-belt, those are the two accomplishments of his that stood out to me. It goes to say with those credentials, I felt like I would like to hear what he has to say.
Anyone who is on a personal growth journey, especially working on the qualities of leadership and discipline will benefit will this book. The book contains anecdotal evidence that the application of success princples lead to great results. Jocko and Leif also take what they learn from the battlefield and teach this to high level management in various business’. The book is a mix of SEAL stories, and also training montages conducted by Jocko’s leadership coaching company, Echelon Front. In this review, I will summarize a few ideas that stood out to me and how they can be useful in life.
It ain’t easy being a SEAL
Jocko and Leif tell the story of their time in BUD/S (basic underwater demolition and SEAL) training. A lot of the grueling training requirements made me tired just from reading them. The most important idea that Jocko emphasizes in these chapters is the pure mental strength it requires to succeed in rigorous physical training. Jocko describes how a lot of physically superior recruits washed out, whereas a lot of the ones who made it through had resilience more than anything.
As I’ve aged, this is something I’ve observed time and time again: those who have the mental fortitude to be persistent go a lot further than the natural-talents. Earlier in my life, I was an aspiring basketball player. Having decent dexterity and hand-eye coordination, I could dribble and do tricks quite well. This inspired a friend of mine to start playing, and in the beginning, it was an eye-sore to behold. I would dribble circles around him. But three months later, he was on the same level as me, and by the end of the year, he was qualifying for the school team, whereas I was still playing in recreational teams, stuck at the same level.
At the time, this amazed me, and my ego was bruised. I couldn’t figure out why he changed and I stayed the same. Well, the reason was because he was defeated in basketball, but decided to relentlessly put in hours every day to become better. Simply put, there are just some people who do not take no for an answer. And in the case of BUD/S training, even when their bodies are screaming out in pain and agony, they will never say no to their SEAL team aspirations.
The ego will destroy you
We all know that one person that never likes to be second best. That person might actually be you, reader. To an extent, we all don’t want to be over shadowed by someone else. It is a painful feeling to know that we might be replaced.
It is actually okay, though, to not be the best in your arena. This is actually how we learn to be better. Occasionally, someone will enter into your field who is just simply better than you, and that is a benefit to you, as much as your ego will scream otherwise. As they say, “a rising tide raises all ships”.
What I’ve learned from Jocko’s anecdotes is that ego can be destructive. In the case of military operations, it can lead to death. But in general, all teams suffer because of the undermining attemps made by a member who is aiming to preserve his ego.
Overcome that pain of ego-death by thinking about the mission and the team before yourself.
Discpline equals freedom
The final idea that I wanted to share is the concept that “discipline equals freedom”. For example, if you wake up earlier in the morning, you will have more time to finish your work, and therefore more free time to spend with friends and family.
This can be applied to every area in your life. Save money and invest it in a disciplined manner, and you will literally have more freedom when you are older. Sometimes, discipline can be misunderstood as rigidity and stubbornness, but as I’ve noticed, having discipline as a priority, frees up the mind so that creativity can truly flow outwards.
As it applied on the battlefield, disciplined approach to a mission meant that the mission was accomplished in an efficient way, decreasing risk, and also freeing up time for R and R.
Be disciplined, and reap the rewards.
Note: Jocko has a newer book out with the title Discipline Equals Freedom. Basically, elaborating more on this topic.
Score: 4.8 out of 5.0
In the environment of war, the stakes are high, so there is no better place to experiment with principles of success. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin applied these principles, and also taught them to high level management, to generate massive results. If you want to read a book that has practical leadership principles explained in detail, read Extreme Ownership.