Jocko Willink: Objective Strategy and Tactics, Leadership, Protocols, Dealing with Death, and the Many Lessons Learned From War -The Peter Attia Drive

Check out The Peter Attia Drive Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • The Problem-Solving Framework:
    • Define your objective
    • Put a strategy in place
    • Develop tactics
  • If you understand the principles of nutrition (how and why we store fat, what excess amounts of seed oils/sugar do, etc.), your food choices take care of themselves
  • The most important characteristic for a leader? – Humility
  • It is CRUCIAL that you speak up when you know your leader is making a mistake
  • “When you have problems and you’re caught up in something psychologically, one of the best things you can do is take some kind of action that moves you forward. What you don’t want to do is stay stagnant and dwell on what’s happening.”
  • We need protocols in life for dealing with things like death, being fired from a job, and being dumped
  • Jocko’s advice for getting over a breakup:
    • “When you get dumped, you have to recognize that the person who dumped you is NOT the person you thought they were”
    • Your idea of who that person is needs to change completely
  • Stop worrying about things that won’t matter a year from now
    • We as humans have a tendency to assign importance in the present moment to things that actually don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things
  • Cultivate the ability to detach from what’s going on and look at things from an outside perspective
    • “The better you get at life, the more you’re able to detach from inside your own emotion-filled storm of ego. The more you can get out of your head and take a step back and look at what’s actually occurring, the better decisions you’re going to be able to make.”

Books Mentioned

Intro

The Problem-Solving Framework

  • Define your objective —> Put a strategy in place —> Develop tactics
    • Most people jump immediately to the tactics without understanding the strategy
  • Similarly – Instead of worrying about the tactics of what to eat, worry about the principles of nutrition
    • Common tactics that people worry too much about include:
      • “Is keto > X diet?”,
      • “How long should you fast for?”
      • “What’s the best thing to eat after a workout?”
    • Key Point – If you ask questions that demand tactical answers, you’ll never get the bigger picture
    • If you understand the principles of nutrition (how and why we store fat, how we’re harmed by excess amounts of seed oils/sugar, etc.), your food choices take care of themselves
  • “In health and nutrition everybody wants to hear the tactical answer because it makes life easy. It takes the decision out of hand.” – Jocko
    • Don’t be like most people

You HAVE to Be Humble as a Leader

  • Especially in the business world – just look what happened to BlackBerry and Blockbuster
    • BlackBerry used to have a very large market share for cell phones (~80-90%)
    • Blockbuster probably could have gotten into the movie streaming game, but for whatever reason (probably arrogance/denial) refused to do so
  • “Humility is the most important attribute or characteristic for a leader”
    • Being humble as a leader allows your mind to stay open to the opinions of others around you
    • If you’re too arrogant, you’ll just remain stuck in your own biases
  • Related to this, Peter highly recommends Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulkz
    • “This book goes into how often we are wrong, even in times we’re convinced we’re right. It’s on the list of the 15-20 books that I’ve read that I literally couldn’t stop reading once I got into it.”

But That’s Not to Say Humility (and other character traits) Can’t Be Taken Too Far

  • If you as a leader never show any emotion, you’re just being a robot (and people don’t follow robots)
  • “Every trait that a human being has can have be negative or positive. Any trait can be taken too far.”
  • “Can you be too humble as a leader? Yes you absolutely can be.”  
  • Jocko talks about this more in his book – The Dichotomy of Leadership

More on Leadership

  • When you have a good leader that you’re in service of, you’ll know it – you’ll instinctively never want to let them down
    • You’ll do everything in your power to make them look good
    • If you work under an arrogant jerk on the other hand  – you’ll hope they fail
  • It is CRUCIAL that you speak up when you know your leader is making a mistake
    • Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer talks a little more about this, specifically in relation to the futility of the mission that cost Pat Tillman his life – someone should have spoken up 
    • But there’s some history involved – you have to support your leader and develop a sense of trust so that over time, when you do speak up – they know to take it seriously

America Has Lost Their Protocol For Dealing with Death

  • “As Americans we’ve taken all these different cultures and we’ve kind of compiled them together. In doing that, we’ve lost normal protocols that other cultures have. One of the protocols that we’ve kind of lost and mismatched is the protocol for death.”
    • Other cultures have very specific psychological and spiritual rituals surrounding a person’s passing – these are lacking in America
      • Sure, certain religions have them, but they’ve largely been polluted/mixed in with other ideas along the way
    • “When bad things happen, you NEED to have a protocol in place”

Why We Need Protocols to Handle Life’s Many Situations, From Death to Marriage

  • This is what Jocko plans his next book to be about
    • “I’ll likely be writing a book of protocols so people know what to do when things happen”
      • “When you have no idea what to do, it’s a REAL problem”
  • We lack protocols for dealing with:
    • Death
    • Breakups/being dumped
    • Being fired from a job
    • A child’s death
  • “When you have problems and you’re caught up in something psychologically, one of the best things you can do is take some kind of action that moves you forward. What you don’t want to do is stay stagnant and dwell on what’s happening.”
    • It should be as easy as – “This horrible thing happened. Let me get out the book and follow the protocol.”
  • But you also need protocols for the good things in life:
    • Like getting married or buying a house – what happens after?

How to Cope with a Breakup

  • “When you get dumped, you have to recognize that the person who dumped you is NOT the person that you thought they were”
    • Your idea of who that person is needs to completely change
    • “The person you thought was your everything DOESN’T EXIST”
  • “It’s one thing when your heart is broken…it must be much worse when your child’s heart is broken” – Peter
    • Here’s what Jocko would tell his son if he had just been dumped:
      • “The girls that I went out with in high school, I can’t even remember them. They don’t even exist. You might think she’s the whole world, but she’s not. I know this situation seems like it’s everything, but it literally means nothing.”

Relationship Advice

  • “When you’re in an relationship and things are not going the way you want them to, most likely it’s YOU that’s doing something wrong”
  • In general – Always try to consider if you’re actions are moving the relationship in the right direction
  • Peter used to carry around a piece of paper in high school, college, and medical school with two lists:
    • One listed the qualities he believed to be absolutely essential in the person he was going to spend the rest of his life with
    • The second was a list of things he would by no means tolerate in a partner
    • “Every relationship you go though should allow you to add at least one thing to those lists. The best relationships will add to both of them.”

Stop Worrying About All the Things in Life That Won’t Matter on Your Death Bed

  • We as humans have a tendency to assign importance in the present moment to things that actually don’t really natter in the grand scheme of things
  • One of Peter’s favorite TED Talks was this one given by Rick Elias 
    • Rick was one of the passengers on the U.S. Airways flight that landed in the Hudson River. He ended up surviving, but for a few minutes was staring death in the face.
      • “When you’re about to die and then miraculously don’t, you get a gift… a do-over in life. Rick describes so eloquently all the time he waste on things that didn’t actually matter.”
    • (Peter is also a fan of this commencement speech given given by David Foster Wallace)
  • Peter leaves listeners with a question to ponder:
    • How many times are you sitting at the dinner table and your mind is somewhere else, worrying about something that won’t matter a year from now?
  • “That is the problem of civilization. We have lost track of what problems really are.”– Peter

How can we better recognize life’s acute problems for what they truly are?

  • Go fight overseas, doing so – “You realize life is a gift. Without question life is a gift.”
  • Cultivate the ability to detach from what’s going on and look at things from an outside perspective
    • Doing so allows you to really see what matters and what doesn’t
      • “Good leaders realize what’s important and what’s not. A bad leader gets wound up about something that doesn’t matter.”
    • “The better you get at life, the more you’re able to detach from inside your own emotion-filled storm of ego. The more you can get out of your head and take a step back and look at what’s actually occurring, the better decisions you’re going to be able to make.”

That’s Jocko For You

  • With 4 kids and a wife, Jocko says he would return to combat if he had to
    • “I would not be willing to do it” – Peter 
    • “The U.S. Military is filled with men and women who are willing to set aside everything they have, including their lives, because they believe in a higher ideal”
    • Peter adds – “There must be something really amazing for you to be willing to take that risk. That amazing thing, is it a sense of purpose that goes so far beyond anything you can contemplate as a civilian?”
      • “Yes, yes it is” – Jocko

Additional Notes

  • Navy SEALs typically carry 60-100 lbs. of gear on their backs
  • Jocko joined the Navy SEALs despite their 50% casualty rate
    • “When you’re young, you don’t think you’re the one that’s gonna die. You don’t think it’s going to happen to you. I think that if I’m on a commercial aircraft and it blows up in the sky, I’m going to be the guy that lives. I’m going to get in a freefall position, track to and land in a pool, break my leg, and it’s gonna be cool. That’s what my mentality is.”
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