5 Things I Learned From a Former Navy SEAL

Discipline, Ownership & Execution

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

I love consuming content — whether it’s a book, podcast or article, it’s easier than ever to follow and learn from successful people. These are people that can become virtual mentors for you to follow and guide you on your path.

One person that has genuinely changed my life in the last 12 months is Jocko Willink. For those who do not know Jocko, he is an ex-Navy SEAL who now runs a Management Consulting firm, award-winning podcast and bestselling book, “Extreme Ownership”. Through these outlets, Jocko talks about his thoughts on the military, leadership and fitness.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from him in the past year:


Jocko is renowned for his discipline and believes this trait “can be your best friend” and “is the root of all good qualities”. Every single day, he wakes up around 4 am, works out, reads and focuses on self-improvement. And when I say every day, I mean every single day regardless of weekends, holidays, travel or any other situation that causes people to drop their normal routines. He has daily pictures to prove it.

Jocko often says that “Discipline Equals Freedom”. Although it seems counterintuitive, what he means is that if you are disciplined in things that you have to do, you give yourself the freedom to do what you want to do. If you’re disciplined in working out in the morning, you have the freedom to enjoy yourself and spend time with your family in the evenings.

Challenge: What is one thing that could allow you to live more freely if you were more disciplined?

Extreme Ownership

This is the name of the book that Jocko co-authored with fellow SEAL, Leif Babin. The main theme of the book is that you must “own everything in your world because there is no one else to blame.”

This philosophy equates to all areas of life including business, relationships and personal health. When something goes wrong, there is no room for excuses or finger-pointing. Everything starts and ends with you, especially when you’re the leader.

Challenge: Next time something bad happens, take 100% responsibility. Even if you are tempted to blame it on other people or circumstances, don’t do it. You’ll notice a complete change to how others react to the situation and how they view you as a leader.


“Good” is one of my favorite “Jocko-isms”. When Jocko was leading a SEAL Task Unit, he recalls that his team would frequently come to him with a major problem — they didn’t have enough resources, they were exhausted, etc. His solution was always the same: “Good”. But that doesn’t make sense, right? Why would it be good to have a lack of resources? Because it forces you to find an alternative solution or focus your attention on something else that’s positive.

He believes that every struggle can make you stronger and every challenge is a “good” opportunity in disguise. Get injured? Good, you can spend more time reading. Got fired? Good, you can find a better opportunity elsewhere. I think you get the picture.

“All of your excuses are lies.”

Challenge: Next time an obstacle crosses your path, say “good” and keep moving forward.


Jocko realizes that everyone (including himself) tends to use faulty judgment when they let emotions and ego get in their way. By removing these variables, the correct decision becomes much clearer. A tactic he often uses is to “detach himself” from the situation to see things more clearly. For example, when faced with a difficult decision he will mentally remove himself from the situation and pretend he is only a bystander and offering unbiased advice. This will allow him to see the situation in a new light and oftentimes highlight where he went wrong.

Ever notice how you can give your friends great advice but it’s tougher for you to follow your own words of wisdom? That’s because you’re letting emotions and biases come into play when the decision affects you personally. Remove the emotions and make the correct decision.

Challenge: Find a decision you’re struggling with and detach yourself to see the correct path more clearly. Pretend you’re giving the advice to a friend and follow through on it.

Get After It

Though Jocko is a firm believer in being prepared, he strongly advocates for taking action above all else. It’s common for people to suffer from analysis paralysis and end up over-complicating every decision and never moving the ball forward.

When posed with tactical questions, Jocko’s response will be simple. “How do I become a better leader?” “Lead”. How do I become stronger and add more weight to my squat?” “Start squatting”. How do I become more educated? “Read more”. Doing is better than thinking. Get after it.

“You already know what the right thing to do is. You just gotta do it.”

Challenge: Set yourself a list of tasks for the day and don’t go to bed until you accomplish them. Focus on execution and the rest will fall in place.

Everyone can afford to be more disciplined and mentally tough in their professional and personal lives. Follow Jocko’s advice and you’ll get there. Just 1% a day.

Originally published at

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


How to Unleash Your Inner Navy SEAL

by Brent Stoller

The Navy SEAL Trick You Need to Know to Be a Good Leader

by Richard Feloni

The Navy SEAL Secret for Effective Planning

by Alyssa Pagano

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.