Transcripts > The Tim Ferriss Show > #187: Jocko Willink on Discipline, Leadership, and Overcoming Doubt
Greetings, earthlings. This is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss Show where it is always– or I should say usually– my job to deconstruct world-class performers, to tease out the habits, routines, tools, favorite practices, workouts, books– whatever it might be that they use that you can test. That you can experiment with in your own life. And this episode is going to be a round two. Highly anticipated with none other than Jocko Willink. Jocko did his first interview with me, which was the first interview he ever did and it took the internet by storm. Jocko Willink.@JockoWillink on Twitter.JockoPodcast.com is one of the scariest human beings imaginable– a lean 230 pounds, black belt Brazilian jujitsu, used to tap out twenty navy seals per workout. He is an intimidating and very intelligent person. I’ve spent more time with him and the more time that I spend with him, the more impressive he is to me. He spent twenty years in the US navy and commanded SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated special operations unit from the Iraq war. Upon returning to the US, Jocko served as the officer in charge of training for all west coast seal teams, designing and implementing some of the most challenging and realistic– and that perhaps psychotic– combat training in the world; his words not mine. After retiring from the navy, he co-founded Echelon Front– I think I am getting the pronunciation right– a leadership and management consulting company and authored the number one New York times best seller which was introduced, by the way, on my podcast, Extreme Ownership, which many of you have read. He now discusses war, leadership, business, jujitsu, life, you name it. In his top-rate podcast, he also does some really, really good book reviews or commentary on things that are dark in some cases like the My Lai Massacre.Jocko Podcast, check it out. And without further ado, we are going to tackle, or I should say Jocko was going to tackle, your most common most burning questions and he doesn’t dodge. So I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, Jocko Willink.
Thanks, Tim. Thanks for having me on. Appreciate it and thanks to everybody that submitted questions. I’m going to try to get to as many as I can here.
How do you shut internal doubt down and negative chatter out of your head during critical, must-do moments? How do you change emotional negative focus states when something or someone knocks you off focus?
First of all, internal doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve said this before about fear of failure. Because internal doubt, first that is a form of humility and obviously humility is a good thing. That internal doubt and fear of failure is the thing that keeps you up at night preparing. That’s the thing that’s not gonna let you cut corners. It’s the thing… that little voice inside your head that’s whispering, “rehearse again, practice again, do it again over and over again.” And that’s the voice that says to do everything you can to be ready. So I’m okay with that. I’m okay with that little internal doubt.
But this doesn’t mean that you lack confidence. I mean, as a matter fact, when you prepare correctly when you have the discipline to prepare correctly then you will have confidence. And that is definitely a good feeling to have because all that negative chatter that you’re talking about here’s the deal with that: every repetition of practice that you do, every iteration of rehearsal that you complete, every bit of study that you do, and every drill that you do, all that all that preparation is gonna drown out the negative chatter. So you gotta prepare.
Then we get to this piece here: how do you change emotional negative focus states when something or someone knocks you off focus? Well, I think this is where it’s important to have that ability to detach. And it isn’t like you’re gonna completely detach and not feel those things at all. It’s not like you going to make those emotions disappear. And it’s not like you’d want them to disappear completely because those things are normal. But what you have to do when you detach is… it’s going to allow you to see those emotions or that negative focus and see it from a distance and then understand that they are there and then make sure that they don’t overwhelm you. And so like in your head you’re going to be saying, “Okay, I see that that’s. That’s some nervousness sneaking up on me. Got it. That’s a good sign because that means my mind is focused and I’m in the game. Okay, what’s next? Oh, oh, oh, got some negative thoughts. Okay. Well, those are normal and I got to know that things are gonna go bad and that’s fine. How bad can they go? What’s the worst-case scenario? The worst-case scenario is not that big of a deal. I know I can handle the worst-case scenario if it happens so what else? What else is in my mind? What other negative thought am I having?
What about those things that you can’t control? The things that you can’t control and you are worried about those things. Well, you know what, I can’t control them. So if I can’t control them, why worry about them because the energy that you put into worrying about them actually cost you your effectiveness. It’s gonna cut into the energy you should be putting towards achieving what you’re trying to achieve. So focus on the things that you can control and make the things you can’t control a hundred percent. And the bottom line with all this with, with these negative thoughts… If I give everything I can, if I prepare as hard as I can, if I practice as much as I can, if I do have rehearsal and I do everything I can and I still come up short, good. I’m gonna learn from it. I’m gonna get better.
So that’s what I’m gonna do with internal doubt. I’m okay with it. Negative chatter I’m going to utilize it. And I’m just gonna detach a little bit to make sure I don’t get drowned out in these emotional situations. So just get your head in the game and get after. Done. Okay. Next question.
How does his love and study of literature influence his leadership skills? What were some of the best books for developing his knowledge of leadership?
Okay. So the thing that I look for when I’m reading and “when I’m reading” that includes everything and let’s just talk about everything here– books, history books, literature, even poetry, and even like song lyrics, everything– I’m trying to learn about human nature. That’s what I’m looking for. And, of course, since combat is like life amplified and intensified, which is something we say all the time, a lot of times the books that are about war give some of the best insight into human nature. You know you’re talking about the stress and the fear and the courage and the breaking points and the darkness of humanity, and also the beauty of humanity. And all those can be seen in their most extreme and their most obvious form in war. And so a lot of books that I do read are about war and I have a ton of them. And again they’re not so much leadership books by definition. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know if I have any “leadership books,” but I got a ton of books that have taught me a ton about leadership.
And, first and foremost, and I said this when I was on Tim’s pod cast for the first time, About Face by Colonel David Hackworth. It’s the only book I’ve ever actually given to anyone. It’s a big book. People that have bought it… people on Twitter that have gone out and bought it… it’s a seven hundred page book. It is a big book. It spans from the tail end of World War 2 through Korea, Vietnam, and a little bit of post-Vietnam. And it’s a big book. It’s a career military guy. Colonel Hackworth was just an incredible leader. And you don’t just get that from the book. When you learn about Hackworth, if you start digging in and hearing what other people’s opinions are. People loved him. Especially, the people that worked for him, loved him. Now, obviously, he had some trouble up the chain of command at certain points, but that’s part of being a dynamic leader, I guess. And he held his ground on some stuff. So that book is just an incredible book and it’s got lessons learned on every page. And, you know, I cover most of the books that I’ve read– that it had a huge impact on me– are covered on my podcast.
So books like With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge and Beyond Band of Brothers by Dick Winters,I Remember the Last War by a guy named Bob Hoffman, another book by Hackworth called Steel my Soldiers’ Heart, a book called Platoon Leader by Jim McDonough. And another good Vietnam one: The Killing Zone by Frederick Downs. Those books I mean you could just go on and on and again it’s not always clear that here’s the leadership principle. Here’s what you should be doing. No, it’s not always clear like that, but when you understand what people are going through emotionally and you start to get a glimpse at human nature and how people react in certain situations and how their egos flare up, that’s what makes these books good because it gives you a frame of reference.
I’m still reading all time. I’m still learning, still trying to get better and still trying to take what other people have been through… How they handled it, what they did right, what they did wrong– mistakes they made– that is what I’m trying to do. Actually, I think that’s one of the things that has made my podcast become popular is because I look at these other people’s experiences and I compare them with mine. It’s always… I’m always learning. And I think that when you look at… I talk about the mistakes that I made and even the book that I wrote with Leif is… It certainly isn’t any kind of a chronicling of our triumphs. I mean if anything it’s the opposite in many cases because much of the book is about mistakes that we made. And it’s about things that we could have done better and lessons that we learned. And I think that’s why that book, Extreme Ownership, has done well. Because it’s something you can learn from and I think people learn the most– myself included– when you fail.
So read and read and read some more and pay attention to, in my mind… pay attention to the details. Again, not just the leadership, but the human element, the human interaction, the glimpses into the core of human nature. And the bigger bank you build of experiencing how humans react, the more you know. And then you take that and you overlay the experiences that you read about over what’s happening in your world and that I think a key point is to actually think about what you’re reading applies to what’s happening in your world. And then you start to pay attention to human nature in your world and see that there’s some underlying force that makes people do what they do and the better you can understand that force of human nature, the better off you’re going to be and the better job you’re gonna do is a leader. So keep reading.
What would his advice be to young men and women who are no longer in the military but are still looking to contribute? Also, has he considered running for any public office position?
So if you were in the military and you got out– either you retired or you just did your time and you got out– you know, go out and put those skills that you got from the military, put those skills to work– the discipline, the work ethic, the leadership, the ability to detach, the ability to instruct. There are industries… I’m telling you, I work with businesses all the time now and there are industries that need you. In fact, I will tell you that most industries need people like you, people like veterans. So find an industry that you’re interested in and go get busy and go get after it. Make that your next mission. If there’s no industries that interest you, which is kind of hard to believe that you have no interest, but if you don’t or if you’re looking for something maybe that has more kind of internal meaning then go out and find a really good nonprofit organization that needs help because again they need the same thing. They need people. They need leaders. They need people that are disciplined. They need people that can solve problems. They need people with the skills that you have– the skills that you learned in the military– so go and put those to work.
And I will tell you that America, as a whole, needs leadership. And so there’s no reason that veterans like I said who have a lot of those skills from being in the military and from being deployed overseas… there is no reason that veteran should make up a big portion of leaders in the civilian sector. So step up and get after it. One last thing about that is there’s a lot of companies and I work with all kinds of different companies. All kinds of companies want to hire veterans. They recognize that their success is based on the freedoms that they have so they want to pay back somehow so many, many companies are anxious and eager to hire veterans. So get out there, find what you’re interested in and make it happen.
Now, the other part of the question, as far as running for political office and I say this all the time. This is kind of a canned answer. I don’t think I have the stomach for it– the corruption and the sliminess of the whole thing– not to mention just the complete loss of privacy and the scheduling and the whole meeting of people that I don’t like and having to be civil to them– the whole thing. It’s like I said I don’t think I have the stomach for it. I mean I guess that perhaps at some point that feeling could be overridden if things got bad enough, you know, I would definitely have a sense of duty. I’m a very patriotic person and if the nation truly needed me then, of course, I would serve.
But until that time I’m gonna go ahead and just steer clear of any political endeavors.
Any considerations regarding being a pawn of the industrial military conflicts to serve the economic interests of U. S. corporations? Would he do it all over again? What’s next? Make up another excuse, invade an African nation for resources?
So, of course, when you are serving in the U. S. military, you are you are serving– at least you should be serving– the interests of the United States of America. Absolutely. And embedded in those interests there are absolutely the economic interests of American corporations. And obviously, the economic power of the United States is a key component of America’s power and influence in the world. So, yeah, when you are a military member, you could be considered a pawn in the military machine. But, the fact that matter is, I’m actually honored to have served as a so called upon pawn in that system. I will tell you this– and I’ve said this before– America is is far from perfect. And we have committed some horrors in our history and even today we make mistakes in the world. But when you travel the world and you see how much of the rest of the world lives, how much they live in disarray, and you see the oppression and you see the poverty and you see the corruption and you see the abject violations of basic human rights then you realize how blessed or lucky or maybe even spoiled we are to live in America.
And to start… let’s just start with potable tap water– drinking water– In America, we just have that here. We have it everywhere– any home, any apartment, even the prisons. You turn on the tap and you get good, clean, disease-free drinking water. And that is not the norm in the rest the world. And on top that we have power; we have electricity going into just about every home. That means just about every home has heat in the winter time and have air conditioning in the summertime. And let’s just take it a little bit further: what about the access to the internet? The access to the internet here is widespread. There’s like something like seventy percent of the adults in America have a smartphone. Seventy percent! So you can gain access to knowledge here unlike any other time in human history.
And our healthcare system. Yeah, I know it’s not perfect, but I’ll tell you what if you view our healthcare system from a third world hospital, which often doesn’t even have the simplest of medical gear, you’d realize it might not be perfect, but it’s pretty damn good. And then beyond that let’s look at the food that’s available. Never mind starvation and malnutrition. Our issue in America is actually too much food and in much the world so as people literally starving to death. America offers an amazing opportunity to build and to create and to be what you wanna be and to be who you want to be. Unlike anywhere else in the world, the ability to pursue happiness. Happiness and all those things. All of it is possible because of the unbridled individual freedom that America offers. And you know what else, it’s also possible because of industry. Because of the incredible corporations and businesses and individuals. Because of people that took advantage of that freedom and work their asses off to build this nation. So to have been a pawn in that. To have done my small share of work to allow this beacon of light and of hope and of freedom to continue. I’m honored that I had the chance. And would I do it all again? You’re damn right I would without question.
And then there’s another piece of this question from Mister Marquez. It says, “What’s next? Make up another excuse, invade an African country or African nation for resources?” Well, luckily, we have plenty of resources in our own nation and luckily for the rest of the world we have used those resources over and over and over again not to take, but to give, to give freedom to the slaves in our own country, to defeat and destroy the brutal Nazi regime in Germany and free the people of France and much of Europe. We used our resources to defeat imperial Japan, who was rampaging through Asia, invading and enslaving people with no sign of stopping. We used our resources trying to stop the spread of communism in Asia. And remember that when I’m talking about resources I’m not just talking about oil and steel and wood, I’m talking about blood. I’m talking about hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of American men and women that gave their lives in the cause of freedom.
And what resources did we take when we paid with our blood? We took nothing. We took no resources from the Germans; we help them rebuild into an economic superpower. We took no resources from the Japanese; we helped them rebuild into an economic superpower. The Japanese and the Germans both have some of the highest standards of living in the world. We took nothing from Korea or Vietnam. We took nothing from Afghanistan and even Iraq. We took nothing. And we only gave and we continue to give. In 2014, the US government gave forty-three billion dollars in foreign aid and then there was another twenty-five billion on top of that from America from religious organizations and universities and colleges and private voluntary organizations and even the big American corporations.
Now, like I said, that doesn’t mean that America’s perfect– far from it. Our past is chequered with horrible mistakes that we’ve made as a nation. We’ve caused massive hardships and incredible suffering, but we also evolved. And we’ve become a benevolent nation, good nation. And I know this because I saw it with my own two eyes. I saw the people of Iraq who wanted freedom from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein who then wanted protection from the violent terrorist extremists who cheered us in the streets when we killed insurgents and who wept when we left them and, unfortunately, who were murdered when we abandoned them because of the politics in our own country. They wanted us in Iraq. The people of Iraq– the normal citizens– they wanted our protection and they wanted our positivity. And they wanted freedom like much of the world does. And I was honored to have done my small part to provide the opportunity for freedom around the world and to protect that precious freedom which is all too often taken for granted here at home.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever gone through and what do you foresee as the toughest thing on the horizon you’ll endure?
Well, the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through is losing my men in combat. I say, “my men,” but they weren’t my men, they were my friends and they were my brothers. And barring the loss of any members of my direct family, I don’t think I’ll ever have to endure anything as soul-crushing and devastating as losing my friends in combat.
What advice would you give an active duty Navy SEAL or other military personnel following the election if Hillary is elected or if Trump is elected?
Well, the fact of matter is either Hillary or Trump will be elected. And the SEALs, just like the rest of the military, will do what the military always does and what they are sworn to do. If you don’t know what that is, I wrote down here the Oath of Enlistment and I’ll read it to you so you know what it’s what it says it says:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
So that’s the at the oath that you swear to when you join the military. You’re going to obey those orders. Now there is a little bit of a caveat and that is in the Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 92 because it gets a little bit more specific. The article’s entitled _Failure to Obey Orders or Regulation_:
Any person subject to this chapter who–
- violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation;
- having knowledge of any other lawful order issued by any member of the armed forces, which it is his duty to obey, fails to obey the order; or
- is derelict in the performance of his duties; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
So, the keyword there is a “lawful order” and they made this perfectly clear during the Nuremberg Trials when the Nazi war criminals claimed that they were just following orders. Well, in America that doesn’t cut it. They have to be lawful orders. So regardless, if Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Obama, Bush, Nixon JFK, or Reagan, it doesn’t matter. The military will carry out the lawful orders the president and that’s that.
Jocko, in your book you speak about leadership down and up the chain of command. What, in your opinion and experience, is the most effective way to get leadership up the chain to wake up and break the cycle of rubber stamping ineffective practices, especially in law enforcement?
So this is a big question. I’ll tell you first things first, the first thing you have to do is be awesome. That’s what you gotta do, seriously. You gotta be the best police officer you can be– and this goes for any job– you got to build the best possible reputation and that means you gotta follow the rules, even the stupid, inconsequential rules– all of them. Become the front runner, the top dog. Now that doesn’t mean you become the loudmouth or the attention grabber, but you become the best legit police officer you can possibly be. Not only is this going to build your reputation, it’s also going to start to build your relationships up the chain of command. That’s what you’re trying to do. You are trying to build some relationships here and the reason for that is you need to build up the capital– the leadership capital, the respect capital– so that you can ask some legitimate questions and when the time comes you go and you ask those questions.
Actually, I shouldn’t say, “ask questions” because that gives them a set up to provide you with the answers and you already know the answers and you don’t agree with so instead of asking questions you take the reputation that you built is a badass and you raise points and when you raise points you have solutions. And you have solutions that you’ve already socialized with the team, that you’ve already maybe even tested or you’ve at least tried. In other words, these are solutions that you know are going to work.
And also pick your battles. You’re gonna have to eat some stupid stuff. You’re gonna do some lame things, but you gotta pick your battles. You’re not gonna be able to change everything so you gotta pick the most impactful issues to deal with and the other ones just you support those and you follow those like a good soldier because that gives you more capital when you do raise issues. And here’s the other piece: when you raise issues up the chain of command and this is a piece that people mess this up all the time. When you raise these points up the chain of command and when you give the solutions, you have to do it from a point of humility. You can’t be looking for the credit. You can’t be looking for the ‘atta boy. You gotta come across… and you’ve got to, not just come across, you got actually be the humble person, putting forth some suggestions on how to do things better. I’ll tell you, the absolute black belt move is when you get them to think that it’s their idea and that they came up with that and that they made up that solution. That’s the ultimate black belt move. That’s what you’re looking to achieve.
And that is how you win and that is what I did with my career. I worked as hard as I could. I followed everything they told me, but when something stood out, I was able to attack it, address it, and get the problem solved or changed because I built up that capital. So build your reputation, build your relationships, build and vet your ideas and your solution and then present it with humility.
How would his life style of extreme discipline translate to someone living a seemingly unrelated life– artists, writers, ect.– who might find more productivity in pockets of leisure or late at night?
Now, I would argue that in these creative pursuits you actually require even more discipline. And I would venture to guess that the biggest reason that creative types, people in creative industries, the reason that they don’t produce isn’t because they don’t envision and it’s not because they don’t have talent, I can just about guarantee that in most cases it’s a lack of discipline. I’m always saying that the weights in the gym aren’t going to lift themselves. You gotta go lift them. It’s the same thing with a book. That book is gonna write itself; you gotta write it. And the painting isn’t gonna paint itself; you gotta paint it. And if you don’t feel like writing or drawing or painting or composing, that doesn’t matter, you do it anyways. You grit down and you force the words onto the paper or you force the brush onto the paper or you force the notes out of the instrument. That’s what you have to do. You have to make it happen. You have to force yourself to do it and it’s not always going to be good. You might go back and you might write a thousand words and you might delete 950 of them. But you got fifty words; fifty words that you didn’t have before. Fifty words that you’ve created that are solid. Fifty words closer to reaching your goal.
Now, as far as the time of day goes, to me, it doesn’t matter. If you have some kind of time a day where things seem to flow better or whatever, great take advantage of it. I think people think because I wake up early, which I do, that I believe that everyone must do that. But, honestly, that’s not true. It’s the principle. It’s about the principle, not about the specific time. And I got to throw a big “but” on that because although you can maybe work different times or maybe you stay up later or maybe you do better work at two o’clock in the morning or three o’clock in the morning and so there’s no way you’re getting up at four thirty, that’s okay. But that doesn’t mean over sleep and it doesn’t mean procrastinated and it doesn’t mean hit the snooze button and it doesn’t mean staying up late diving into the depths of useless YouTube videos and claim that that is you being creative. Do not lie to yourself; there’s a decent chance that being creative is actually being lazy in your mind. Do not fall into that trap. It’ll tell you something else: in order to gain skills, in order to master your craft– any craft– you have to practice. You have to practice and practice and practice over and over and over again and again and that requires discipline. That requires discipline and that is another example of how disciplined will equal freedom. The more you practice your craft, the better you get at it, the more freedom you have to create. So build the structure and follow it. Put the discipline into your life and the discipline, it will increase your skills and it will increase your productivity. The discipline will set you free. Now going on to the next question here.
Will the Muster Event be a once a year thing only? After working with and training so many different companies, are there any repeating patterns or common weaknesses that business owners seem to need to work on?
Please encourage Jocko to do another Joe Rogan podcast.
Right on. Joe knows I’m standing by. We’ll make it happen at some point. It was great to be on his show. We’re just now getting around two with Tim so maybe Joe’s around the corner so we’ll we’ll have to wait and see on that one.
All right, to get to the question here. For those who don’t know, the Extreme Ownership Muster is a leadership event that we’re having in San Diego, California. I’m doing it with my business partner, the co-author of the book, Extreme Ownership, Leif Babin, who’s a SEAL that I worked with for many years and my brother. We’re holding this thing in San Diego, California on October 20th and 21st. What the event is, it’s going to be about combat leadership. That’s what it’s gonna be about. It’s going to be about combat leadership and we’re gonna teach the fundamental principles of combat leadership and how to apply them on the battlefield, in business, and in life– all three. You’re going to see when you come… you’re going to see how all three of the applications are the same. These fundamental combat leadership principles don’t change regardless of whether you’re out hunting down bad guys or whether you’re hunting for a sale. They don’t change and the response to the event has been it’s been awesome. And we got a ton of people coming to it, which likely means it looks like we’re gonna do another event possibly– we gotta carve the time out of the schedule– but it looks like possibly this spring of 2017. It’s likely gonna be somewhere on the east coast. If it’s gonna be some on the east coast, there’s probably a pretty good chance will be looking at New York City. Not set in stone that we’re gonna do it. Not set in stone when we’re gonna do it. We might wait another year. I don’t know yet. It’s just up in the air. We have so much stuff on a plate right now that we’ve gotta figure out if we can fit it in, but if we do it again maybe we’ll head up the east coast and, you know, New York City. Get some.
Now the next part of the question is: Are there any repeating patterns or common weaknesses that business owners need to work on? And the answer is yes, absolutely there are. And we see the same issues from company to company and from leader and the same issues that we see in the civilian sector are the same issues that we saw all while we were working with training SEAL platoons. The core problems that we see is what we wrote about in the book, Extreme Ownership. That’s one of the reasons we wrote the book was because we’d work with these companies. People would ask if you have this stuff written down anywhere and I eventually we wrote it down.
Now, what are some of those issues that we run into? I mean you got departments and divisions that aren’t working together to cover move. You got communications not being made in a simple, clear, concise manner. You got either too much micro-management, which leaves the troops to take no initiative, or you’ve got not enough guidance and the troops now don’t know which direction to head into. Or you get a company that’s trying to take on too many projects or too many initiatives at the same time and they don’t prioritize and execute so they end up getting none of them done. And then obviously the most impactful one is when you have leaders and team members taking ownership– real ownership, extreme ownership– of everything in a world. To make sure that problems get uncovered and owned and resolved because if leaders and members of the team if they don’t take ownership of the problems then guess who solves the problems, nobody. So these are fundamental problems that I saw when I was training SEAL platoons and it’s the same thing I see now. It is the same solutions that we applied to these same problems. Learning the tactics– the fundamental tactics– of leadership is what we get down to. And we’ll see you at the Muster.
What does Jocko struggle with or maybe better to say what is he at work on? He comes across bulletproof and just pushes through on everything. Would like to know his method for identifying weaknesses and putting structures in place to resolve, correct, improve. Would like to know his approach to his personal challenges.
Well, first of all, I can assure you that I am far from bulletproof and when you ask what I struggle with, I struggle with everything. I’m not naturally gifted at pretty much anything. I’m not naturally strong. I’m not naturally fast. Certainly not the sharpest tool in the shed. So I constantly have to work on my weaknesses. And, if you want to know what my weaknesses are, we don’t have enough time on the podcast to list all my weaknesses. That’s just the way it is.
Now, as far as my method for identifying weaknesses, it’s pretty simple. I constantly do a self-assessment and detaching and looking at what I’m doing and what I can do better and I ask people that are close to me, people that I trust, ask them if they have any feedback for me, ask them if there is anything I could do better or where I can improve. So that’s pretty simple. Do a self-assessment. Ask other people. And find out what your weaknesses are, what you could do better.
And then the next part of the question is what do I do to put structures in place to resolve, correct, and improve. I just attack those problems. Weakness witness identified, roger, attack the weakness. Problem identified, roger, attack the problem. I’ll tell you I’m not a guy that spends a bunch of time over analyzing, over planning or diving deep into meditation on how I’m going to attack a problem. I simply attack the problem. Now that doesn’t mean that I blindly attack and it doesn’t mean that I hold a course without checking on my progress. As I attack a problem, I’m gonna continually assess and make sure that I’m on the right course, that I’m headed in the right direction and making sure that it’s the most efficient path. And I will absolutely change course if I see something I can do better and because I have that kind of attitude it allows me to move quickly to execute and then initiate change and alter the course as I go if it’s needed. It’s the same attitude that I had when I was in SEAL teams. I could be very decisive, very quickly because the decisions themselves did not close my mind. The decisions did not close my mind. I would make a decision and I would continue to reassess and readjust as needed. But also as we moved forward towards a solution. So, you got a problem, step one identify the problem, step two attack it, step three reassess and adjust and keep attacking. Get that thing solved.
How to stay motivated when every day is a struggle to accomplish goals?
Well, I can tell you very easily this isn’t about motivation. And accomplishing your goals is not about motivation. It’s about discipline. I already talked about that once today and I’ll say it again… I probably talked about it more than once. I talk about it a bunch. I talk about it all the time. It is about discipline. Motivation is fickle. Motivation comes and goes. I mean, you think about motivation, something as simple as being hungry can sap your motivation, right. That’s ridiculous. You can’t rely on that. You have, “Oh, my blood sugar went down. I’m I’m not motivated anymore. Oh, I didn’t get enough caffeine I’m not motivated.” No wrong answer. Motivation is unreliable and when you’re counting on motivation to get your goals accomplished, you’re likely gonna fall short. So don’t count on motivation, count on discipline. You know what you have to do. Go make yourself do it. Make yourself do it everybody wants some kind of magic pill or some lifehack or something that eliminates the need to do the work. Well, I will tell you what, you need to do the work! You gotta hold the line. You gotta make it happen yourself. You have to make it happen. It’s not gonna happen on its own. You have to make it happen.
So dig in. Find the discipline. Be the discipline. And accomplish the goals period. That’s it.
What is your best advice to today’s active duty force, regardless of the branch about career oversight, deployments, differences between all sorts service members?
Okay, so the basic question is the best advice. Well, the advice besides be aggressive and stay safe. That’s my number one. I would tell you for me the biggest component for success in the military, in my opinion, is to do a great job in whatever you’re doing and I know that sounds pretty obvious, but I saw a lot of guys over the years who always looking for the next ticket to punch or the next good deal or the next job that they had to get to take to make a promotional or whatever. And, for me, for the most part, I just took what they gave me and I did the best I could at. And I’ll tell you not only do this keep the Navy happy because the Navy really had a trooper that was getting after it. It also kept me happy because I wasn’t sweating the promotion or the evaluations or any of the political stuff. I was just getting after it to the best of my ability and if you do that, in my opinion, if you do that your career will take care of itself. You’ll get the good jobs because people would want you in those good jobs.
And the other thing I would say is this: a big piece of being in the military is a gut check. It’s hard work. It’s either too hot or too cold. It’s not enough food. It’s not enough sleep. It’s not enough water. It’s hurry up and wait. It’s planned for months to do nothing and then don’t plan it all to do something for months. Then, on top of all that, you throw the politics and the egos and the bureaucracy. And when you mix all that together it can be pretty miserable. But I will tell you this all that misery, relish it. Relish every moment of it because those hard things, those rough things, those are a part of the experience of the military and its experiences like that I promise you will, for some twisted reason, you will miss them when you leave. So don’t hate them, don’t avoid them, dive into them and kick them in the ass with a smile on your face because another thing is that smiles contagious and you’ll elevate the morale of your whole unit when you wear that smile. So have fun and kick ass at what you’re doing. And for those of you out there on the front lines like I said be aggressive. The best way to mitigate risk on the battlefield is to be aggressive. Do not be reactive. Step up and get after it. And, by the way, to all you active duty folks, thank you for what you’re doing and for the vets are listening, thank you for what you did.
(This is to Tim, I guess) Unfortunately, you, Rogan and Harris all pussy footed around him. I realize he’s probably an intimidating presence, but ask him how he feels about killing people, especially possibly innocents? And don’t let him use, “the doing my job, bad guys, collateral damage narratives.” Ask him how he feels about it? He’s intelligent enough to cope with being pressed for an authentic answer.
So Paul wants to know about killing people and possibly killing innocent people and how I feel about that. First of all, the nature of war is death. The nature of war is killing. That is what war is. And of course, there’s all kinds of other components to war. There’s economic and cultural and diplomatic and strategic, but at its fundamental core war is about death and war is about killing. And in the question here I’m told I’m not allowed to use the narrative of doing my job, but there’s a reason why that narrative exists. Because death and killing actually is the job of a soldier. We train for that job and when the time comes we do our job and we are good with it.
Now part of that comes from the training and part of that also comes from the dehumanization of the enemy. Yes, that is a true statement. The enemy becomes dehumanized to the soldier. That’s one of the reasons why soldiers are generally okay with it. In the past, the military had to help that process along. They had to help the soldier dehumanize the enemy and it still does do that to some extent, but I think in the wars that we are in now we don’t need any help dehumanizing the enemy. The enemy dehumanizes himself. You see, we in the military, we witness what they do. We see what they do. We see the results of the torture and rape and murder. We see families beheaded. We see people skinned alive. We see young people– kids– forced to carry out suicide bombings. Now, with the internet in action, the whole world can see the completely despicable and brutal behavior of these sub-human savages– burning people alive, throwing people from buildings, drowning people in cages, ten-year-old sex slaves. It’s absolutely disgusting and abhorrent. I will tell you that I have no problem whatsoever killing all of these vile creatures, all of them.
Now you also ask about killing innocents. Killing innocent people. And as I already stated the nature of war is death and in war, innocent people sometimes are killed. Then you wanna know how I feel about it. Well, it is horrible. It is horrible. It is awful when it does occur and yes it does occur. And let me tell you that America goes through great lengths, extreme lengths and, in doing so, encourage incredible risk to prevent killing innocent people on the battlefield. When I fought with the 11AD in the Battle of Ramadi in 2006. The entire strategy was developed to minimize not only the killing of innocent people but also to minimize the amount of infrastructure that was destroyed so the buildings and the power and water, all that. And again, American troops took incredible risks to mitigate the risk to civilians. But war is messy. War is confusing. War is imperfect. War is hell. Despite all the efforts that we made, despite all the good intentions and the precautions and the planning, sometimes innocent people are killed and it’s horrible. I mean it’s horrible for the family of the slain and it’s horrible for the military man that pulled the trigger or dropped the bomb or threw the grenade. It’s horrible for the mission because in places like Iraq and Afghanistan we are there to protect the local populace so it takes us backward strategically as we try to win the hearts and minds of the people. But, you know what, it doesn’t defeat us. It doesn’t beat us and it doesn’t even turn the local populace against us and I’m speaking now from my experience in the Battle of Ramadi. And let it be perfectly clear that the local population in Ramadi absolutely wanted us there. They wanted us on the ground in their neighborhoods. They wanted us to help them get rid of the insurgents that were terrorizing them– literally terrorizing them. And when innocent people were killed for whatever reason, we apologized and we did what we could to help and we met and we broke bread and we explained what had gone wrong and we asked what we could do to help and we paid them money and we help them repair their buildings; we did whatever we could. And I will tell you this never gets represented the press, but most of the time the local populace they understood it was a war. They understood it was a war against evil and they understood that that meant violence. They understood that in our efforts to help them get rid of the cancer that ravaged their city… well, they understood that there would be bloodshed in removing that cancer. War is hell. It is best to be avoided at all costs so that innocent lives are not lost.
But sometimes war cannot be avoided and sometimes war should not be avoided. Sometimes in order to protect the innocents, war is the only choice. I am thankful that there are men and women in the military that have got courage and strength and the moral fortitude to stand up and face the evil and also withstand the awful burden of killing and of death.
Now I think this is the last question here…
What are the biggest lessons learned from jujitsu that transcend the art of fighting itself and can be applied to being an effective leader?
So I am a practitioner of jujitsu and it is a pretty incredible thing to train. For those of you who the train jujitsu, you know what I’m talking about. For those of you that don’t train jujitsu, go train jujitsu because there’s so much to be learned from jujitsu about leadership and about life. I mean, for instance, I talked about discipline a lot today. In jujitsu, you’re gonna learn about discipline because it takes discipline to get on the mat day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. You won’t always feel like training as fun as jujitsu is. There are going to be days you don’t feel like training, but you have to find the discipline and you have to do it. You’re gonna learn about discipline in jujitsu. You’re also gonna learn about humility because in jujitsu you will get humbled. You’ll get beat by people that are smaller than you and weaker than you and they will smash you. They will literally submit you and that is humbling and there is no escaping it. And those are very important be good because– I’ve said this before– is that those are lessons that some traditional martial arts would try and teach you almost as theoretical lessons, you know, like you must be disciplined, they’ll tell you that in theory. But in jujitsu, like I said, without discipline there’s no progress. In a traditional martial art, they say, you know, you must be humble. Like I said, in jujitsu, you actually get humbled. Jujitsu teaches you a lot about life. That’s one of the things that makes it so powerful.
Back to the question: what does it teach about leadership? It absolutely teaches you some key things about leadership. I’ll give you a couple of the most important elements. First of all, detachment. I’ve mentioned this word a couple times today. In jujitsu, I’ll tell you right now if you let your self start to get frustrated or you let yourself start to get angry or just emotional, in general, you’ll start to make bad decisions. And when you start to make bad decisions that is the beginning of the end. You have to be able to detach from that emotion, that frustration, and you gotta focus on doing the right thing at the right time. It’s absolutely necessary. And that’s the same thing in a combat leadership position or in any leadership situation, you cannot get caught up in all the chaos and all the mayhem, you can’t let your emotions get ahold of you. So you have to be able to detach, to step back and breath and see the full picture of what is happening, without the cloud of emotion and all that mayhem obscuring your vision so you can make good decisions and jujitsu will teach you to do that.
Now another piece of jujitsu that transfers directly into leadership is the idea of indirect warfare, right. So, in jujitsu, the whole premise is to attack the weaknesses of your opponent. You don’t want to attack their strengths. I mean just fundamentally you attack the weak areas of their body like the joints or the neck you’re; you’re not attacking the strongest parts of their body. If you attack where your opponent is strong… So if you have an opponent that’s very good at defending one type of position or one type of hold, you’re just going to wear yourself out if you’re attacking that and eventually you’re gonna run out energy and that they’re gonna get the advantage. So you can’t just attack the strength, you have to attack the weak points in jujitsu. Now on top of that, you also have to distract your opponent and you have to make them defend some area so you might maybe attack one area so that they put their defenses there, but it’s just a faint. Because what you’re really going to do is attack an area where they’re not defending. You’re going to attack their weak areas.
It’s the same thing with leadership. The clearest example of where this is directly seen in leadership is when you’re dealing with people’s egos. You take a person that has a big strong ego, you don’t attack that ego head on. That will just make that person get ultra-defensive. If you attack their ego, they’re gonna get defensive immediate. Now you are going to have an even harder fight so what you do is you bypass the ego, maybe you even massage their ego a little bit so that they let down their guard, so that they let you into their head a little bit and then tactically and quietly you sneak in and plant the seeds of what you’re trying to get them to do, of where you’re trying to lead them. Soon enough, without seeing it, those seeds are gonna grow and your idea and you’re planning and your leadership comes to fruition and that is indirect warfare. It’s the same thing in jujitsu. It’s the same thing in business. And it’s actually the same thing on the battlefield, as well. We don’t attack enemy strengths unless it cannot be avoided. So take up that jujitsu, start training and apply those lessons across the board in your life.
And I think that’s it for questions for now. Thanks to everybody for listening and thanks of course to Mr. Tim Ferriss for having me on. Tim has been, for those of who you don’t know, always been a huge supporter since I met him and I really appreciate Tim everything you have done for me. And everything that kinda stems from that has been awesome– the interaction from everybody through social media– Twitter and Facebook and all that– and everyone that’s listening and giving me feedback on the podcast that I have and the book that I wrote with my buddy, Leif, and it’s just awesome connect with so many people. It’s awesome to know that there are so many people that are in the game. So many people that want to get after, just like me, looking to get better, looking to do better, looking to be better. So thanks to everybody, for everything, and like I said especially thanks to Tim for kicking this whole thing off. So until next time. This is Jocko. Out.