Brayden Haws

July 5, 2021

Can't Hurt Me


Most people who know me know that I like to read a lot. I usually churn through multiple books in a month and try to take away a few key learnings from each. But I have to say, that out of all the books I've read, I cannot remember a book that has ever impacted me in the way that Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins has impacted me. It has changed my entire way of thinking about the trials in life and how I approach them, embrace them and learn from them.

No summary can do the book justice, just go read it, you won't be able to put it down, I read it all in one day and have read it a few times since. But for these purposes here a quick summary: David grew up in incredibly trying circumstances (abuse, familial instability, racism), initially failed in his dreams in both athletics and a military career, only to later learn to push himself to new limits and become an elite military operator and record breaking endurance athlete. He did insane things like going through Navy Seal training multiple times with pneumonia and broken legs, ran 100 miles in a day with no training, and attempted (and eventually succeeded) to break the world record for pull-ups (4,030).

Goggins' thesis is that most of us only use 40% of our potential. But through a willingness to take on trials and discomfort, preparation, facing our fears, learning from our failures and sheer will; we can all tap into our true potential and do things that others may deem impossible.

The book is laid out in chapters, each covering a section of Goggin's life, at the close of each chapter he leaves us with a challenge or mission that is meant to help us challenge ourselves and break through that 40% wall. I have been carrying out these challenges myself and am leaving some thoughts below. But my parting shot on all of this is if you want to get better, push yourself and see just how far you can go; then read the book, do the challenges and get to work.

Can't Hurt Me Challenges
  1. What's Holding You Back
    • Break out your journal and write down everything that is holding you back in life. Every hardship you have ever faced, every limiting factor, every time life dealt you a bad hand. Go deep and be as detailed as possible. What may at first seem to be a list of excuses for why you can't do great things will quickly become motivation and fuel that push you to your limits.
    • I write everyday in a personal wiki in Notion. I went through this exercise myself, it took multiple days and was hard but once it was all out there it showed me that I had already faced and gotten through and helped me see I could do a whole lot more.
  2. Make an Accountability Mirror
    • Write your dreams and goals on Post-It notes and tack them to your mirror. This way you have to face your goals and yourself each day and reflect on if you are doing all you can to reach those goals. Once you do reach one, take that Post-It down and replace it with an even loftier goal.
    • I actually use a whiteboard in my office for this. It is on the wall directly in front of my desk so I have to see my goals all-day, everyday. And then each day I write down how I am progressing towards those goals. It helps me see where I am progressing, which motivates me and also tracks where I am failing which helps push me back on track.
  3. Get in Your Discomfort Zone
    • Write down all the things you don't like to do or that make you uncomfortable. Once you have identified those things, go do them, and then do them again, and again, and again. Do them until they no longer make you uncomfortable, do them until you have mastered them. Going through the path of most resistance will help you grow in ways that are not possible in any other way, and turn your weaknesses into strengths.
  4. Dominate Like You Never Have Before
    • Pick out a competitive situation (could be physical, at work, at school) and dominate it. Work harder and more intently than you every have on anything. Your goal should be to not only meet the expectations of the task (both your own and those of others) but to completely blow past them and do more than is needed.
  5. Armor Your Mind
    • In general our minds skew towards comfort. As soon as things get tough we are good at talking ourselves out of doing it or into looking for an easier way. To combat this, we need to armor our minds. We do this by picking out a task, and visualizing ourselves achieving it. We should visual in detail: all the steps it will take, all the pain we expect to experience. We should then use that visualization to guide us through the task. The visualization and preparation will act as our armor so when things get tough we won't give up but will keep pushing.
  6. Fill Your Cookie Jar
    • When things get really tough we need something to fuel us on, to get our minds out of that tough moment and remind us what we are capable of. This is where the "cookie jar" comes in. Our cookie jar is where we store all of our greatest achievements. When things get especially tough we can open the jar up and pull out a memory of something great we have done, to help fuel us forward. Once again you should take time to write all your achievements out so you have time to reflect and can reference easily in the future.
    • I found it especially helpful to write down the times where I didn't succeed at first. The best "cookies" are the ones where you failed 2 or 3 times prior to breaking through and achieving your goals.
  7. 40% Rule
    • This is where the 40% I mentioned above comes in. The whole idea here is to keep going past where you would usually stop and where your mind wants you to stop. If your usually run 5 miles a day then don't stop at 5, keep running until your mind is panicking and begging you to stop, but still refuse to stop and go a little further. If you do this with commitment and determination you will quickly learn that you can do much more than you thought possible. This doesn't just apply to physical activity, you can use this same principle in your work, in your relationships and anywhere else you want to go in life.
  8. No Wasted Time
    • One of the biggest reasons we fail and do not reach our goals is because we do not optimize our time. The goal here is to track how we currently use our time, identify where we waste time and then build our optimal schedule. We should build out a schedule that optimizes our time and is intentionally targeted at reaching our goals.
    • For myself this comes in a few forms. I have a detailed calendar for work, not just meetings and sessions with clients but also time blocked out to work on critical tasks and to deep dive on key items. Outside of work I keep a daily to-do list that I update each night. And I also have a daily habit tracker that lays out key activities (exercise, spiritual study, writing) that I need to do each day to get closer to my goals. By having my work day planned out and a list of things to get done outside of work, I find it easy to fill my time with meaningful activities and avoid wasting precious time.
  9. Uncommon Among The Uncommon
    • Doing all of the above will help you reach new heights and do things you may have never thought possible. But the real challenge is to not let those wins make you complacent. So instead of saying we're good enough we have to keep challenging ourselves, even if that mean's creating new ways to challenge ourselves. The idea is to continually put obstacles in front of yourself, make things more challenging than they need to be. Doing so will help you continually grow stronger and stronger.
  10. Empowerment of Failure
    • Time for more writing: write down your most recent failure in as much detail as possible. Call out what was good about the situation and what went well and then dive into everything that went wrong. Write out how you handled the failure both in the moment and in the time following. Then play back through the failure and write down everything you would do differently knowing what you know now. Then make another attempt. If you fail again repeat the above, if you succeed then you are on to the next task. Either way you should approach everything you do with a pattern of preparation, training, execution and reflection.

About Brayden Haws

Healthcare guy turned tech wannabe. Doing product stuff at Grow. Building Utah Product Guild⚒️. Constantly tinkering on my 🛻. Occasionally writing poor takes on product strategy and technology⬇️.

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