Tim Ferriss Show: Jocko Willink on Discipline, Leadership, and Overcoming Doubt

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Jocko is a lean 230 pounds, Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert who used to tap out 20 Navy SEALs per workout. He is a legend in the Special Operations world. His eyes look through you more than at you.

Jocko spent 20 years in the US Navy and commanded SEAL Team 3’s task unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated special operations unit in 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 perhaps psychotic — combat training in the world (his words, not mine).

After retiring from the Navy, he co-founded Echelon Front, a leadership and management consulting company and authored the number one New York Times bestseller Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win.

 How does Jocko shut down internal doubt and negative chatter during critical moments?

  • Internal doubt isn’t a bad thing.
    • It’s a form of humility.
    • It keeps you motivated and pushes you further.
    • But that doesn’t mean you aren’t confident.
  • The key is to prepare for those critical moments.
  • Having the ability to detach can help you when people get to you.
    • It allows you to get some distance, perspective and to adapt.
    • Don’t lose energy on the things you can’t control.
    • Learn from your mistakes.

 How Jocko’s love of literature influences his leadership skills and what are his most recommended books?

Jocko’s advice to young men and women who are no longer in the military but are still looking to contribute and would he consider a political career?

  • Go out and put your military qualities to work.
    • Military experience gives you a work ethic, discipline, leadership and the ability to instruct.
    • Find what you’re interested in.
    • Many industries and non-profit organisations need veterans.
  • He doesn’t think he has what it takes for a political career.
    • A political career limits your privacy.
    • If things got really bad enough, he would eventually step up.

Thoughts on “being a pawn of the industrial military complex to serve the economic interests of US corporations?”

  • By serving the U.S military, you serve its interests.
    • That includes the economic interest of U.S corporations.
  • The U.S made some horrible mistakes.
    • But by traveling you see violations of human rights that need to be stopped.
  • In America everyone has potable water, electricity and Internet.
    • Americans are privileged.
    • Anyone can pursue happiness
      • It was made possible by freedom and industries who took that freedom to create.
    • He’s honoured to have served as a “pawn”.

What are his thoughts on the United States’ use of resources?

  • America uses it’s resources to give back.
    • Those resources permitted them to free the slaves, defeat Nazis, etc.
  • He’s not taking about oil but about the blood, sweat and tears of Americans.
  • In 2014, America gave 43 billion dollars in foreign aid.

The hardest thing Jocko has ever endured.

  • The hardest thing he went through was loosing friends in combat.

What advice would Jocko give an active duty member of the military after election day (presumably if their candidate of choice is not elected)?

  • Every military personnel are sworn to defend the U.S from any enemies, foreign or domestic.
  • They also swear to follow the orders of the President.
  • If someone doesn’t obey lawful orders, they will be punished.
    • Doesn’t matter who is elected, the military will only carry out lawful orders.

The most effective way to get leaders to stop supporting ineffective practices

  • You have to be the best.
    • You have to follow every rule.
    • It will build your reputation and get you up the chain of commands.
    • When you’ve become the “top dog”, you can offer solutions for those infective practices.
  • Pick your battle because you can’t change everything.
  • Be humble and make them believe it was their idea.

How would Jocko’s life of extreme discipline translate to those involved in creative pursuits?

  • Creative pursuit requires so much discipline.
  • It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to create, just do it.
  • The time of day doesn’t matter.
    • That doesn’t mean you can procrastinate.
  • Practice makes perfect.
  • Discipline increases your skills and productivity.

After working with and training so many companies, are there any repeating patterns or common weaknesses that business owners seem to need to work on?

  • Extreme Ownership Muster Event
  • The main problems are:
  • Departments not working together.
  • Difficulties in communications.
  • Too much micro-management or not enough guidance.
  • Not being able to prioritize properly.
  • Leaders and team members not taking ownership for problems.

What is Jocko’s approach for overcoming personal challenges?

  • He struggles with everything so he continuously works on his flaws.
  • He does self-assessment and detachment to identify his weaknesses.
    • He also asks people for feedback.
  • He attacks problems.
    • Change course if there’s a better way to fix a flaw.
    • Don’t let decisions close your mind.

How can you stay motivated when every day is a struggle?

  • It’s not about motivation, but discipline.
    • Motivation is unreliable.
    • There are no short cuts.

What’s your best advice for soldiers?

  • Be aggressive and stay safe.
  • Do your best in every task.
  • Military life can be pretty miserable.
    • Relish that because you’ll miss it when you leave.
    • Smiling is contagious.

How does Jocko feel about killing (sometimes innocent) people at war? How does he feel about war in general?

  • Fundamentally speaking war is death.
    • It should be avoided at all cost.
  • It’s the job of a soldier to kill and they train for it.
  • Enemies are dehumanized.
    • Soldiers see the results from torture, rape and murder.
  • Innocent sometimes are killed and it feels horrible.
    • Americans go through great lengths to protect innocents and their essential infrastructures.
    • Locals understood and still wanted their help.

 The biggest lessons from jiu-jitsu that transcend the art of fighting and that can be applied to leadership.

  • There’s so much to be learn.
    • It teaches you about discipline, humility and detachment to avoid mistakes.
    • Don’t let your emotions get a hold of you.
  • Attack your opponent weaknesses and distract them.
    • Can be applicable when dealing with big egos.
    • Indirect warfare.


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