BL&T No. 168: David Goggins on Doing What You Don't Like To Do

Personal Growth

This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.

Borrowed & Learned

I recently started listening to David Goggins's book Can't Hurt Me. It's a one-of-a-kind audiobook because it includes breaks throughout where he provides commentary on his life and the concepts covered in the book. I'm about halfway through, but I couldn't wait to explore the concepts here.

I didn't know much about Goggins before starting the book, but each time I listen, I feel inspired, in awe, or eager to challenge myself in new ways. You have to read the book to understand how brutal of an upbringing Goggins had. However, the real lessons lie in how he eventually overcame becoming a victim of circumstance, instead viewing his adversity as a gift, driving him to crush one hurdle after another.

Goggins breaks the book down into ten challenges for the reader. These challenges provide a framework for building mental toughness, helping the reader become the version of themselves they want to be deep down inside.

Notice I didn't write the "best" version of themselves. While Goggins is all about the reader harnessing their true potential, he's more interested in them being honest with themselves about where they are now and who they want to become. This idea reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Path of Least Resistance. In it, author Robert Fritz explores how our perception of possibility can hinder our vision. However, to achieve what we want, we must separate what we want from questions of process and possibility.

"If you find yourself limiting what you want based on what seems possible to you, you are censoring and inhibiting your vision." (The Path of Least Resistance, Robert Fritz)

Related: Shaping "The Path of Least Resistance" to Create the Life You Want

If we're not truthful about where we are and what we want, it's impossible to take the first step in achieving our vision. At one point in Goggins's life, this meant acknowledging how he had become overweight and unmotivated. That wasn’t the life he wanted to live.

At the time, he had been discharged from the Navy Seals and gained over 100 lbs. He was working as an exterminator and was not in good enough shape to even run a mile. After a bad encounter with cockroaches, he finally admitted that his true desire was to be a Navy Seal, although it seemed out of reach. After being turned down by countless Seal recruiters, he found one who didn't laugh in his face. The task? Lose over 100 lbs and get fit in less than three months. Oh yeah, and also be prepared to pass the ASVAB, or Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery, a written exam required to enlist.

The task seemed impossible to Goggins, but once he accepted what he was after, he could immerse himself in his vision and do what it took to conquer it. And that he did.

One of the ten challenges Goggins poses to the reader that stood out to me (so far) is forcing ourselves to step outside our comfort zone and do the things we don't want to do. Much of Goggins's story is about facing hard truths and working hard to rewrite them. Rewriting them required discomfort.

In his journey to become a Seal, Goggins became a guy who would go back to the gym after dinner if he had missed one rep in his workout and do it all over again so he could sleep soundly at night.

A guy who believed he had to earn the right to watch TV, designing at-home study-while-on-stationary-bike workouts to do so.

A guy who, when he got the news he had passed the ASVAB, got in uniform, laid in an ice-covered pond, then ran 20-some miles in the cold.

When Fritz talks about our idea of possibility getting in the way of our vision, I think it's about more than our limiting beliefs. It's about our willingness to weather the storm and put in the work. Maybe the work is not as intense as running while your shirt turns to ice, but it's whatever undesirable tasks are between you and your vision.

In my personal life, there are countless examples where I've been guilty of falling into comfort and many others where I've sucked it up and got it done. None of us can be perfect every time, but knowing when we fall short is powerful.

In the months leading up to my son Mylo's birth, I remember parents telling me I'd never have time to exercise anymore. I knew they'd be right if I kept working out in the evenings and thought making time would be easy. I had already invested in a home gym, knowing that not eliminating a car ride would remove some friction.

Even then, without a child, there were times when things would come up after work, and I'd have to skip my workout or squeeze it in late at night. That bothered me. The thought of a child adding more friction made it even worse, especially knowing that my "why" for staying healthy and fit is primarily to be there for my family and able to keep up with my kids as I get older.

To avoid this fate, I knew the answer was to wake up early and get my workout in before the day began. I started practicing this new routine until it stuck. Although I've become accustomed to the routine, I'd be lying if I said I ever enjoy peeling myself out of my warm bed before the sun comes up, but once I get going, I never regret the choice. I always remember what's driving me.

People often cite exercising, dieting, and staying healthy when exploring concepts around discipline and determination. Maybe because we all know they are important but easy to avoid. Naturally, my mind went there when listening to Goggins's story, but I also thought about my experience at Barrel and how embracing discomfort has made us resilient over the years.

What I appreciate most about working alongside the other Barrel partners is we all agree that throwing in the towel is never a solution, no matter what we're dealing with. It forces us to be honest with ourselves about whatever situation we're in and what it will take to make progress forward. Sometimes, that means restructuring the team. Other times, it's having a difficult conversation with an employee or each other.

In Q3 of this year, I remember looking at our new business pipeline and feeling like the mountain we had to climb was steeper than ever. From outbound cold outreach to different marketing tactics, we hadn't shied away from experimentation, but nothing seemed to be driving great results. However, one practice that consistently had positive returns was reaching out to two people in our network weekly, known among the partners as Two Contacts.

One day in August, our CEO/co-founder Peter emailed all the partners, suggesting we no longer reach out to two contacts (four for Peter and his co-founder, Sei-Wook, at the time) but increase it by two each month until the end of the year. Like waking up early to squeeze in a workout, this seemingly simple task is not what I would call easy.

To do it right, you think strategically about who you want to reach out to, figure out how to connect with them, and then craft a personalized message. If they respond, there's follow-up involved in making time to catch up. Starting next week, we'll reach out to 44 people in our network each week between the four of us.

We don't do this because it's fun or we have extra time but because we know it's one more action that keeps driving us toward our vision. Just last week, I reached out to a prospective client who decided to put an engagement on hold earlier this year. Today, I had a call with their entire e-commerce team to revisit the potential engagement. All because I reached out.

The hurdles Goggins had to overcome are more extreme than many of us will ever face, but it's all relative. For Goggins, it was getting through the Navy Seals hell week for the second time, only to be sent home due to injury. As an agency, it may be spending time and energy on a proposal only to lose the opportunity. Goggins didn't let that stop him. He went for a third hell week, taking the lessons learned from the first two to help him succeed. We do the same. We keep on keeping on because there's no other way.

Admitting where we're at right now is the first step. Next, it's getting real about what we want and preparing for the bumpy ride ahead. After that, it's just about consistently showing up, putting in the effort, and embracing all the necessary, but uncomfortable things we know we need to do.

And the beautiful part is, as you embrace the discomfort and push through the challenges, you might come to enjoy it—just like Goggins came to love the pain. I find myself not just enduring the early morning workouts but looking forward to them. The outreach to contacts, initially a daunting task, becomes a fulfilling routine, knowing it's a crucial step toward our vision.


What's my current reality, and how can I turn it into a launching pad for where I want to go?

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