David Goggins on Mastering Your Mind — Comp + Coffee: Ep. 36

We’ve got a very special episode today.

On today’s Comp + Coffee, we’re joined by former Navy SEAL, record-breaking endurance athlete, author, and soon-to-be CompCon keynote speaker, David Goggins!

David is joining us to talk about his incredible life and what he learned on his journey from perpetual victim to active duty Navy SEAL and world-class ultra-athlete.

We’ll also cover:

  • How to callous your mind.
  • What it means to be “uncommon amongst uncommon.”
  • Why you need a good “cookie jar.”


As always, if you like what to hear, subscribe to the Comp + Coffee podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle MusicSoundcloud, or wherever you get your podcasts!


For a full transcription of the episode, see below.


Shawn: And we’re live. And it’s just me today. Hi. I’m Shawn here to host your “Comp + Coffee”. Bill decided to finally take that trip to Tahiti. Katie’s out running some errands, but the good news is I have a guest I’m super excited about today. Today on the podcast we have David Goggins. The man, the myth, the legend.

He’s recently an author of a book called “Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds”. He’s a retired Navy SEAL. He’s a world class ultra-athlete. He’s a world record holder, and he’s soon to be a CompCon keynote. And we’ll get into why I’m excited about him doing the conversation today. If he does not inspire you, I don’t know what will.

But let me just put something out there first. David’s a very raw guy. He’s unfiltered. He’s very real. That will come through today. And there have been select words that we’ve elected to beep today out of respect for you, the listener. However, if you’re coming to CompCon, these words will not be beeped. So be prepared. Let’s take off the HR hat a little bit. Let’s be a little bit more real about how life is and let’s be present. Let’s get inspired. Let’s learn.

That’s the hope in this. The hope is that David inspires you to make a change. Could be a change in personal life, could be a change at work. And then at CompCon we’re having Dr. BJ Fogg, back him up, who says, “Okay. You wanna make a change? Here’s exactly how you do that. Here’s the habits that you need to set.” And we’re setting up coaching sessions as breakouts after Dr. BJ Fogg speaks. So if you don’t leave the morning at CompCon doing something different, inspired to make a change in your life, at your work, I don’t know what I can do to help you. But I’m super excited about both these gentlemen coming on board and having these talks.

So without further ado, I’m gonna turn it over, and we’ll start this with David Goggins. David Goggins, really excited to have you here and honored to have you on the podcast. You are a Navy SEAL, a world class ultra-athlete, world record holder, author, and I’ll add to that, soon to be a CompCon main stage keynote. Really honored to have you today. Thanks for joining us.

David: Yeah, I appreciate it, man. Only one thing. I’m a retired Navy SEAL now, so I did 21 years. But thank you so much.

Shawn: If our audience isn’t familiar with you, you know, and A, I would tell them immediately go out and read your book, “Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds”. You have a fascinating story for many different reasons, but if they’re not familiar with you, what would you…what’s the overview you would give?

David: You know what? Overview, just a quick down and dirty is a young, black kid. Even though race doesn’t matter, doesn’t…it does matter in a lot of situations. Young, black kid that got abused from his father. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually beat down the majority of his childhood. Had a learning disability, stuttered, patches of hair falling out. Got bullied in high school, got bullied in elementary school, got called [inaudible 00:03:42] more times I can physically count, which you know what? All that stuff isn’t bad if you’re encountering one situation.

When you’re growing up at a young age and your dad beats the hell out of you just because he woke up on the wrong side of the bed, he’s an alcoholic, and you don’t know right from wrong, what happens is your ability to adapt, overcome the situation is nil. My mind was fragile. My mind was weak. My mind was very soft.

So if we take that person and then move him to an environment where you’re one of five black kids at an all-white high school and the klan, the KKK marches in the 4th of July parade, 1995. It’s a very racist town. And what’s funny about that very racist town is no one wants to admit that shit now.

So it’s hilarious. You know, I grew up, and they spray painted, “[inaudible 00:04:36], I’m gonna kill you” on my car. And thank God the only person that admitted it was the principal of the school who went out, saw it. [inaudible 00:04:45] because if not, no one in that town would even admitted it.

So I grew up rough. I grew up hard. I grew up insecure. I grew up all these different ways. But I found a way to stop feeling sorry for myself. I found a way to stop blaming other people, and I owned every single bit of all the crap that was thrown my way. I owned it all, because you know what? No one was coming back to save me. No one was coming back to give me a get out of jail free card. I was so insecure. I lied a lot. I wanted people to like me. And now, who I am now is I’m probably the most honest person on the planet Earth. I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t care how you feel about me. None of that. I am who I am, raw and authentic.

So that’s down and dirty of David Goggins.

Shawn: Yeah, and I appreciate that. That was one of the things that most struck me about your book is just that general story that you talked about there is insane, right, and… But the way that you’ve adapted to it, the way you’ve come out of it is truly inspirational and motivating. I mean, I think one of the things that…there’s two sayings that I think I hear you say a lot. One is callusing your mind, which I think is what you’re talking about there, right?

David: Right, exactly.

Shawn: And how does that come into play for you? How did that help you make that change, that shift that you talked about?

David: So what I didn’t talk about was, yeah, all that stuff led to a very insecure, piece of crap person. So I came up with a lot of different ways to change my mindset and there wasn’t, like, any books I read. There wasn’t some shrink or some mentor that came to me and said, “Hey, start doing this and start doing that.” I knew in the back of my head the only way I was gonna change my life was for me to take serious, serious in your face action.

And so I developed…like, I started looking at my hands when I worked out and I was, like, “My God, I’m getting these calluses.” And these callouses were like protective mechanisms for my hands against the bar. So I was, like, “Man, if I could do the same thing to my mind…” I had this very far out imagination. I was, like, “Man, if I can do the same shit to my brain as I’m doing to my hands I could become indestructible.”

So I was, like, “Well, how do you callus your mind? You know, you can’t just, like, run it through, like, push-ups and sit-ups, and all that stuff.” I’d go, “But maybe you can. Maybe you can. Maybe you can train yourself and start doing the things that you truly don’t like to do, the things that you cower from, the things that you get in the fetal position about in your mind. Maybe if I can start making myself do all these things, first of all, that would build some self-respect. I’d have some self-respect. Second of all, with self-respect comes the ability to stand on your own two feet and believe in something versus believe in following the damn leader, like we all like to do.”

We all love to follow the damn leader because we don’t wanna say what we think and what we believe. So I knew I had to start with…I had to change my foundation. And how do you change a foundation? For me, was you have to start battling yourself. So callusing your mind became something of just dealing with things that I didn’t wanna deal with.

So long story short, I gained…I went from 175 pounds to almost 300 pounds, from trying to find things I was good at…what I was good at was eating a lot of food, being depressed, and lifting heavy weights. I made about $1,000 a month, and I was just a depressed guy eating a lot of food and just, you know, living in my own filth.

And I knew then I had to change my life. Lost a lot of weight. Tried out to be a Navy SEAL. It took me three chances to try out to be a Navy SEAL. Lost 106 pounds in less than three months, and the journey just started. I just started pushing myself in all these different avenues that forced me out of my own pathetic way of thinking. And it…trust me, it didn’t happen overnight. There were tons of setbacks along the way. There were tons of, tons of failure along the way, tons of doubt along the way. But at the end of it all was a pretty victorious story.

Shawn: Yeah, you’re glossing over a lot there that…probably for good reason in terms of this podcast, but I would really encourage people to go read the book. When you say you’ve lost a lot of weight, became a Navy SEAL, there was so much that happened there I couldn’t put the book down at that point, honestly. It was really interesting. But I think you’re jumping ahead to one of the other phrases that I really picked up on this, which is uncommon among uncommon, right. Is that your part of the story?

David: Yeah, so once I started realizing…and as you know, I jumped through probably 120 pages of the book because this podcast…we’d be on this podcast for the next 13 hours. That’s how long the damn audio book is. So we don’t have that much time. But the thing about it is when I started to change my mindset, and I had the belief that there was no way in hell I could be a Navy SEAL.

But through, you know, doing my live autopsy, I call it, going through my mindset, going through and start to change how I look at things, change how I look at people…I put so many people on a pedestal because they had a great mom, a great dad, a great childhood. They went to a better school, had a better education. They were smarter than me. You know, better in athletics than me. I put everybody on a pedestal.

But once I started working my fucking ass off and realizing, “My God, man. Okay.” I started leveling out the playing field. So once I did that, I made it through Navy SEAL training finally after three tries, three whole weeks, the only person to do that in SEAL history in one year. And I make it through, but as I’m going through my third and last hell week I’m starting to look at people very differently.

I’m starting to be, like, “My God, man. I’m actually being able to compete. Not only compete with these people, I’m able to actually thrive in a horrible environment. And not just thrive, I’m able to lead people that I once thought in my mind, sitting on my couch, 300 pounds, were just better than me. I’m actually in a leadership position. Oh, my God, man.”

How amazing the mind is once you start to shift it. So now once I started to shift it, these people are no longer above me, not just the Navy SEALs, anybody. I no longer put people above me, but I do still realize that I’m in a very uncommon group of people. And I was, like, “My God, man. We’re all uncommon amongst most of the people in the world. But in this group of so-called Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, wherever you may be, in Special Operations, we’re all common amongst each other.”

So I’m, like, “How can I…I need to…I wanna stand out amongst the uncommon. I don’t wanna just be, ‘Oh, I made it, I’m good.'” Because that’s what happens to most of us. Most of us have this figure of money or success, or whatever, be it in the military or, you know, in the civilian sector. We have this thing in our brain and the thing is the finish line. Once I accomplish this, I’ve made it.

And what happened with me was I came from such a horrible place, a horrible existence in my mind that there was never a finish line. I had so much crap to uncover and discover and fix that Navy SEALs alone weren’t gonna do it. So I had to continue making up different things. So I came up with this thing of uncommon amongst uncommon and that is where most people, they get very civilized after they become in their mind someone uncommon.

And that’s where I started to really make that uncommon amongst uncommon very powerful. I started to go outside the box, because to be uncommon amongst uncommon you now have to find different ways to set yourself apart. And it’s very easy to do that amongst the uncommon, because the uncommon now, for the most part, they’re settling in. They’re comfortable. And that’s all you have to do now is just turn up the gas and just act like you haven’t even done anything. And then you just take off again.

Shawn: So there’s a couple interesting points that I wanna dive into there. But I wanna get personal for a second a little bit here, which is one of the things that really resonated with me about your book and your story is that I, too, have trouble celebrating wins, and for a long time I thought there was something wrong with me that way, right.

So, like, get a new job, get promoted, finish a marathon, you know, whatever it is, I would be, like, “Yeah, cool. What’s next?” right. So I’m curious in your sense, have you learned to celebrate wins, or are you still always motivated by what’s next and just driving?

David: You know what’s funny? I celebrate wins just long enough to give myself a little bit of credit for the hard work I put in ,because I think that’s very important. Matter of fact, I know it’s important to sit back and say, “Wow.” Like, I just got through finishing a race called Leadville. This is a 100-mile race. I did it two weekends ago.

And I finished the race on the 18th of August and, you know, as I’m, like, five miles from the finish it’s like, 2:00 in the morning, and I’m actually…I’m by myself. I’m out here on this road, and I had this headlamp in front of me. I’m looking down at the ground. And I’m actually very proud of what I’ve accomplished because it’s not the race. It was the four months of 100-mile weeks I put in of training for the race that I’m now being able to reflect on and say, “Shit, man. I actually did that.”

And I actually, you know, I actually woke up every morning and, you know, I don’t have to do this thing anymore. I’m 44. I’ve done over 30 100-mile races. I’ve done a 205-mile race. I did 4,030 pull-ups. I did Rangers, Seal. I was in Delta Force. I did all this shit. So I no longer have to do it. But that’s what you celebrate. And you’re celebrating that, “Man, at this point in my life with a successful book, a successful life, I no longer have to go back to scratch.”

But I still go back to scratch, so I celebrate that for a second knowing that what makes me who I am is the fact that I don’t celebrate my victories too long. A lot of us get in this habit…and it’s important to celebrate your victories, but don’t sit there and put your head so far up your ass that you choke yourself out and you can’t breathe anymore. So it’s very important to celebrate it, but celebrate just long enough for you to realize, “Okay. This is great. Let’s learn from this. Let’s gain some stuff in this. Let’s gain some more power, some more knowledge, and let’s keep on going forward.”

So that’s what…that’s a separator in life. The separator in life is these people have these long resumes who have accomplished a lot and are still hungry enough to say, “Okay. This resume’s full. Let me build on another one now.” And we need people to be different. We need people to be authentic. We need people to be real, because it’s those people that change the whole, you know, trajectory of life for other people.

And so when it’s possible, when it’s capable, [inaudible 00:16:51] what we can do. If everybody just follows the leader and sits there and celebrates these victories for so long, “My God, you graduated college. Let’s celebrate for the next four years,” because you don’t know what the hell you wanna do next. That’s what happens to people.

So, you know, anyway, long story short, I celebrated just long enough for me to say, “Okay. Get off your ass. Let’s get back out there again.”

Shawn: One of the things you just said there. You basically said that you wouldn’t have this successful life, you wouldn’t have this book. Do you think those two things work together? In other words, if you weren’t continually driving, looking for what’s next, do you think you would be where you’re at today?

David: No way, no, the book would be one chapter. The book would read that I came from hell, I overcame hell. I lost a 106 pounds, and I became a Navy SEAL. While that’s an amazing story, that’s how most stories end. Most stories end with, “One thing happened bad and then I overcame it, and then this is where I’m at.” You hit the peak of your life and that’s it.

If you read my book, I’m constantly ebbing and flowing, because I’m constantly trying to find more of myself, which is why every time you turn the page in the book there’s a different story, a different failure, a different…”God, I never saw this coming. I thought you overcame all that shit.”

If you continue to put yourself in a situation to fail what happens is greater knowledge, greater ability, greater strength, greater motivation, greater drive, greater obsession. And so even though I’m so misunderstood in a lot of areas of life, this is what makes me unique. And if you’re not unique and you’re not special, all you are is just a person that just falls in line.

Shawn: Well, yeah. And even in your book it happens. You have setbacks happen that are out of your control. Right?

David: Right.

Shawn: So I think one of the things that I find most interesting about this, about the story that you tell, and really what I find motivating about it is this doesn’t have to be just athletic pursuits. A lot of what you’re doing is, like, physical, athletic, but what you’re doing is when you’re preparing for those things, you’re preparing for one of those setbacks to happen in life when stuff doesn’t go your way.

David: Exactly. Exactly.

Shawn: How have those two things crossed over? Have you experienced that where, like, you kind of in the moment and know that where something’s really difficult in life and you’re, like, “You know what? I’m the one that trains for ultra-marathons. I’m the one that became a Navy SEAL. I’m the one…” Like, and has that motivated you in other aspects of your life to overcome?

David: Oh, yeah. I call it my cookie jar. So it’s just like a…it’s a reminder. A lot of times in harder times is, you know, we forget how badass we are. And once again, it’s not about kissing your ass, but you…sometimes you’re in situations, man, and you don’t have a damn cheering squad. You don’t have, like, your mom, your dad, your wife, your husband, your best friends, your family. You gotta be your own damn cheerleader.

So if you can’t find strength while you’re alone in your own head about how to get over these obstacles…and strengths can’t be false. It has to be real strength. So what that means is this. It has to be something real. Like, I did these races. I taught myself how to read at a fourth grade reading level as a junior in high school.

You know, people always think it’s about, “Oh, my God. You did this. You ran this. You did, you know, this many pull-ups. You were a Navy SEAL.” [inaudible 00:20:39]. Yeah, no. forget all that. I taught myself how to read as a junior in high school. I was humiliated. I was afraid. I had so many different issues going on, social anxieties, and I overcame…

So my biggest trial was learn how to just be a functioning human being that didn’t lie, that stood on his own two feet. Forget all these damn awards. These awards mean nothing. Those awards would never came without me being able to stand on my own two feet and have a voice, and be able to read and write and articulate what I’m trying to say without sounding ignorant.

So, you know, all these cookies jars…the cookie jar’s a reminder of what you went through in your life and how badass you truly are in those dark times.

Shawn: And I think what you’re saying there, too, is you’re able to focus on a task at hand, right. You’re not…so apply this to, like, the world that a lot of our listeners are in, the business world. You can motivate yourself to get that promotion. You can motivate yourself to advance your career. You can motivate yourself to get more skills, like you were just talking about there, but it’s also focusing on that goal, right. Isn’t that a critical part of this?

David: It is the most critical part and…but you can only…the way I think…and trust me, I’m not the know-it-all. I am not about multitasking. I have to focus on one single thing. People think that, “Oh, my God. You are such a great multitasker.” No, you’re not. You half-assed a whole bunch of shit. You’re getting a lot of stuff done, but you’re not getting it done to the best of your true ability.

So for me to do what I’ve done in everything I’ve done, I had to say, “This is the only thing I’m doing right now.” So right now I’m talking to you on the phone. I’m not thinking about anything else. All I’m thinking about is this single conversation. Once this conversation ends, I will move on to the next thing in front of me.

But, you know, a lot of us, we limit ourselves in our abilities because we are so trapped in thinking, “I have to get so much done right now” that we’re half-assing what’s truly important to us. We [inaudible 00:22:58] to say, “Hey. I need to singularly focus on this task at hand.” And it’s hyper-focusing. Hyper-focus on one thing at a time.

Shawn: Yeah, and I think honestly that’s one of the things I most appreciate about, you know, the message that you’re sending here is we live in a world where there’s our phones, there’s literally industries, the phones, the apps that are designed to distract us, that are designed to compete for our attention, but…and I’m gonna steal your phrase here…to be the uncommon amongst the uncommon you have to have a goal and you have to focus on it, and you have to go out and relentlessly pursue that.

That might be athletic in nature. That could also be, “I wanna advance my career.” That could also be, “I want to help my company better this way this year.” Right? The same philosophy applies.

David: Exactly. Exactly.

Shawn: And so what I think is cool is you’re practicing what you preach, right. One of the reasons I’m really excited about you as a CompCon keynote is you’re not in the pure business of motivation, right. You go do this stuff every day. Every day you’re living this life, and it’s not any kind of façade or front. This is who you are.

David: You know what? And I talk about that a lot, you know, in my speaking engagements, in social media. There’s so many people, especially in my…I’m not even that person, man, but, you know, I’m not here to motivate you. Hopefully, I’m going to inspire you to be better, because motivation is crap because so many people are so fake. And they’re talking about something, expecting you to do something, expecting you to be something off of what they say, and they’re not living that way.

They’re preaching the stuff they’re not living. So, you know, I’m glad you said that. I’m a firm believer in that you have to practice what you preach. And so all I’m doing is…it’s very easy for me to talk to people, because I’m just telling you how I live my life. I’m telling you what is…some of the things that helped a very, very, very insecure kid that was in, literally, the sewer. And this applies to you as a business person, as an athlete, just as a person that wants to better themself as a human being.

It all starts with this very, very fundamental…everything in life is the fundamentals. You don’t go out and play tennis, basketball, football, baseball, business without the basic fundamentals. And we are missing that in life, the basic fundamentals of life. That’s all it is. How do you shoot a basketball? How do you hold a tennis racket? How do you conduct your everyday life?

And we talk about being, you know, uncomfortable. I don’t even talk about that shit anymore. I’m talking about not being lazy, not sleeping in, not expecting that you deserve this, deserve that, the world’s against me. It’s about basic everyday things that we have to do as humans, fundamentals. Get the fundamentals straight, get your mind right, get all these surface things. Don’t go down deep. Fix who you are as a person, and that’s where it starts.

Shawn: Yeah. No. that’s a perfect message, and that’s one of the reasons I’m super excited about this. I will no longer say, “You motivated me to…” I will say, “You inspired me in a couple of different ways,” which was, yeah, when you’re at work, one of the things that your story, your life showcases is that, you know, for me, for example, when I’m at work it’s, like, “Yeah.” It made me self-aware of times when I knew I had to get something done and I was either procrastinating or distracted by something else or let interferences come in. I’m gonna be better off, my team’s gonna be better off, my company’s gonna be better off when I’m focused, and I get that done as well as I possibly can.

But then there was even the smaller ways, right, like go out for a run. Well, if I’m tired, I don’t have to stop. I can keep going. It’s just my mind saying, you know, “Hey…” Now I’m not gonna go to the point of injury. I’m not gonna go do a 100 miles without training, like some people.”

David: Right. That’s not real smart.

Shawn: But, you know, it did help me push a little bit more and every day you get a little bit better, right, which I found really…I’ll use the term inspirational about it.

So let me ask you last question here. If you had one thing to say to our audience that’s gonna see you in a few weeks, what would you wanna tell them to prep for your talk?

David: Honestly, I would tell them to just honestly take some time alone and think about one thing. What do you want out of the rest of your life? And that’s one thing I would tell them to…before I come and speak to you, I don’t like people to be on their phones. You’ve been thinking about, “Oh, God. I wish this guy would hurry up and stop talking.” Really take time, shut the world out, and learn something. Learn something. All of us, we’re all teachers.

And for me, what changed my life was…I’m gonna be up there speaking, you know, for, you know, an hour, whatever it may be. It only takes about 30 seconds to two minutes for someone to totally have a life-changing event. It takes one thing that one person says. So in this one-hour speech, I want people to focus so hard on what I’m saying that they’re trying to see…don’t…some stuff may not even resonate with you, but I guarantee you something I say will change your life, will change the way you see things, will change the way you see yourself.

But you’re never gonna catch that 30 second or two-minute little clip that I’m saying, something’s gonna sit in your mind if you’re not focused, if you’re not listening, if your mind is preoccupied with life. Take your time to get better. Don’t waste my time or waste your time just sitting there. That’s the only thing I can say.

Shawn: Yeah, no, good lesson, overall, to always be present. Right? But honestly, one of the reasons I’m super excited about it is…and that’s a hell of a promise that it’s gonna change your life. And I believe you because it did to mine, too, but if it’s an inspiring story or something inspires you here, what we’re doing then at CompCon, too, is backing you up with a Stanford professor that’s a behavior change expert.

So if they…if you inspire them, if you do your job, you inspire them to change something about their life, he’s gonna tell you exactly how you create habits so that you can go out and run 100 miles, so that you can get promoted at work, so that you can be focused, be present, avoid the distractions, right. I’m super excited about that combination for that reason. I think it’s gonna be really interesting.

David: That’s great, man. I look forward to it, you know. Thanks again.

Shawn: Yeah. Appreciate your time, David. Really look forward to meeting you at CompCon and hearing you talk.

David: All right, man. Hey, I’ll see you soon. Thank you.

Shawn: All right, thanks a lot.