Book Review: Can’t Hurt Me

As I sauntered through the brightly lit Barnes and Noble, desperate to find something that would bring me wisdom to get me through a tumultuous time in my life, I picked up a book I had meaning to read for quite some time: Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. I had heard of Goggins, and had even seen some of his interviews, podcast appearances, and tough-as-nails social media posts. At a time when I felt like just about anything could hurt my fragile little self, I felt it was the perfect time to finally purchase and tear through this novel. I added it to my stack, and began leafing through the book on my first attempt at solo-dining in a dim English pub in Los Angeles.

To make a long story short, David Goggins is one crazy motherfucker. He’ll tell you himself, as he does several times throughout the book. The man has run a hundred miles straight with zero training, has run on broken legs and through near-kidney failure, and completed 4,030 pull-ups with rhabdomyolysis. His achievements would terrify even the toughest warrior, as he reaches maximum capacity in just about everything he puts his calloused mind to. Despite receiving criticism for his methods and fiery speeches, his borderline insanity (as many would consider it) was actually incredibly inspiring, pushing me, for example, to take concrete action steps to reach my goals and to continue challenging myself in order to grow stronger. 

Throughout the book, Goggins details his personal struggles, including domestic abuse, racism, insecurities, and physical strife, among others. What makes him notable is the fact that Goggins chose not to use these challenges as excuses, but rather to further motivate himself to go beyond his perceived limits and accomplish what was once believed to be impossible. In addition to his aforementioned physical feats, Goggins also successfully completed three Navy SEAL Hell Weeks, Army Ranger training, and Air Force Tactical Air Control training–the first and only man in history to do so. While his accolades may make him seem like a freak of nature, Goggins specifically details the mental blocks he encountered during each of his escapades–ones that he admits to fighting to this day. He repeats the notion that he could have easily chosen to be a victim, which would have made him a “statistic.” Instead, he challenged himself to see what he was actually capable of, and used his past struggles to harden his mind. Additionally, rather than preaching a load of woo-woo nonsense like many individuals in the “self help” and motivation space, the illustration of his struggle and strife during each and every stage of the book allows the reader to see oneself in Goggins, despite his at times intimidating persona; this effectively proves his belief that many of us are not rising to our full potential, and that the comfortable victim-mentality keeps us mediocre. His philosophy draws upon the wisdom of ancients surrounding the paradoxical necessity of suffering for a good life, whether or not Goggins realized it while experiencing each one of the moments detailed in the book. In short, Goggins doesn’t just talk the talk–he walks the walk (or, runs the run) in the truest sense of the phrase. 

Not only do Goggins’ stories serve as inspiration, but he further assists his readers in reaching greatness (however they might define it) in a variety of applications by providing practical exercises to complete after each chapter. These exercises help facilitate change by allowing readers to organize their thoughts, identify their weak points, and emerge from their constant, average state. These exercises, in line with Goggins’ outlook surrounding suffering, giving readers the opportunity to take responsibility for their past experiences and excuses, facilitating them to break out of old patterns of behavior, break through to their fullest capacity, and establish a sense of self-sufficiency.

In terms of style, this book is incredibly engaging. I found myself not wanting to put the book down and audibly reacting to its contents. If you’ve ever heard Goggins speak in an interview or online, that is exactly the voice communicated in the memoir; his no-BS, impassioned attitude and word-choice would make his fellow SEALs blush. But I loved every word of it, “motherfuckers” and all. Despite the vulgarity, the book is flowing with wisdom, including the following gems:

  • “No matter how they’re treating you, there is only one way to not only earn their respect, but turn the tables: Excellence.” 
  • “…it’s only when I push beyond pain and suffering, past my perceived limitations, that I’m capable of accomplishing more–physically and mentally.”
  • “From this point forward, accept the following as Goggins’ laws of nature–
    • You will me made fun of
    • You will feel insecure
    • You may not be the best all the time
    • You may be the only black, white, Asian, Latino, female, male, gay, lesbian or [fill in your identity here] in a given situation
    • There will be times when you feel alone
    • Get over it!”

(If these quotes don’t light a fire under your ass, I don’t know what will.)

In a time when my life turned a bit upside down and felt out of my control, this book brought me back to center, allowing me to reevaluate my current situation. Rather than continuing to wallow and feel sorry for myself, it helped me get my ass into gear and take concrete steps to achieve my goals, challenge myself in ways I had not previously, and to more effectively take responsibility for myself and my reactions to things that may hurt me. It inspired me to apply to a teaching credential program to pursue what I actually want career-wise, in addition to pushing me to begin jiu jitsu, pledge to run the 2022 L.A. Marathon, and plan a solo-trip this August. It also forced me to outline daily and weekly action steps I can take to execute what I would like to accomplish, stay organized, and enjoy the process along the way. It’s helped me eliminate excuses, such as “not having time” to do the things that make me uncomfortable, but ultimately serve my wellbeing. And perhaps most importantly, the steps I’ve taken in response to this book have helped put me on a path towards greater self confidence and independence, helping me begin removing any baggage I’ve been carrying.

Having read Goggins’ memoir, I can definitively say that I am better off than I was before. The wisdom contained in this short book is something I feel everyone needs to consume. Even if you’re a bit resistant to Goggins’ character, I promise you, will be better off for it. I will shout it from the rooftops if I have to–Read. This. Book.

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