How to Unleash Your Inner Navy SEAL

What I've learned from Jocko Willink, a real American hero.

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“What Would <insert name of who you’d like to emulate> Do?”

This question has been a popular motivational tool, prodding people to invoke the ways and wisdom of wide-ranging role models, from Olympian Brian Boitano to legendary Dillon Panther Tim Riggins.

Recently, I have homed in on a metaphorical mentor.

But I’m certain I’m incapable of walking in his shoes.

An American Hero

Jocko Willink embodies everything you’d expect of somebody named Jocko.

A U.S. Navy SEAL for 20 years, Willink rocketed through the ranks to the level of officer, at which point he commanded SEAL Team 3’s Task Unit Bruiser (what more fitting name could there be?) to help bring stability to the war-torn city of Ramadi.

From Jocko’s website:

Task Unit Bruiser became the most highly decorated Special Operations Unit of the Iraq War. Jocko returned from Iraq to serve as Officer-in-Charge of training for all West Coast SEAL Teams. There, he spearheaded the development of leadership training and personally instructed and mentored the next generation of SEAL leaders who have continued to perform with great success on the battlefield.

Since retiring from the Navy in 2010, Jocko has, among other things:

-Founded Echelon Front, a leadership consulting company

-Authored three bestselling books (“Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win,” “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual” and “Way of the Warrior Kid: From Wimpy to Warrior the Navy SEAL Way”)

-Created and co-hosted the “Jocko Podcast”

I first learned of Jocko in Tim Ferriss’ book, “Tools of Titans,” which inspired me to go back and listen to both episodes of “The Tim Ferriss Show” featuring Jocko. (Listen to them here and here.)

I also started following Jocko on Twitter and Instagram, meaning each morning I’m treated to a dose of no-nonsense motivation.

The magic is in his captions. 

For example, here’s Jocko on how to handle inconveniences:

And here he is on celebrating a three-day weekend:

And here is his explanation of the space-time continuum:

And here he is on having a case of the Mondays:

I have to cut myself off, because I could post these for days. Each caption is better than the last.

If only I could figure out how to heed their message…

I am NOT an American Hero

These hard-nosed teachings hooked me immediately, as they were seemingly the perfect antidote for my lazy, excuse-making streak.

But every time I was in a challenging situation and asked myself, “What would Jocko do?” I couldn’t escape the voice in my head that replied, “You’re not Jocko.”

This assertion was as defeating as it was undeniable.

For instance, when asked by Tim Ferriss about his morning rituals, Jocko explains the first thing he thinks about upon waking is the enemy — that adversary who’s sitting in a cave somewhere, rocking back and forth, with a machine gun in one hand and a grenade in the other — and what he has to do to prepare for their inevitable face-off.

Meanwhile, my first thought upon waking is how badly I need my hoodie to combat the central air conditioning that’s been set to 69 degrees.

That disconnect was deflating.

What was the point in asking what Jocko would do if I was incapable of doing what Jocko does?

Still, I knew he had resonated with me for a reason, and I was certain there was value I could still gain from his insights.

Finally, it hit me:

What if instead of trying to be Jocko, I forced myself to answer to him?

What if instead of asking myself, “What would Jocko do?” I asked, “What would I do if Jocko were here?”

My Own Personal Drill Sergeant

Whenever I don’t want to get out of bed or am struggling to make myself write or I don’t have the desire to finish my workout, I try to envision Jocko standing over me, imploring me to push through and do what I need to get done.

Yes, there are times when the cynic in me dismisses this dynamic as the figment of imagination that it is, and back to sleep I go.

But most of the time, simply thinking about Jocko’s message and what he stands for gets me moving. He leads the type of life I’d like to lead, and that reminder sends enough energy through my body and brain to make me relinquish my seat on the couch.

And in those treasured instances when it legitimately feels like Jocko is next to me, watching my every move and demanding my maximum effort, I mean…

What would you do if you had to answer to the badass below?

Is that someone you’d contemplate disobeying? Is that someone you’d consider letting down? Is that someone you’d even think about telling you’re too tired, or too scared, or too comatose from last night’s Big Mac to get up and, as Jocko says, GET AFTER IT?

(Do yourself a favor and watch the video…and there are plenty others worth watching on his social media feeds.)

You Are Capable of More Than You Think

It’s easy to fall into the trap of defeat, to play the victim, to see yourself as less than you are.

But in truth, you’re capable of more than you think.

You just have to put yourself in the right mindset and environment in order to reach, and exceed, your limits.

Look no further than the military.

Left to my own devices, there’s no chance I could hike into the jungle with a 60-pound pack or do a mud crawl beneath barbed wire, as live bullets zipped past my cowlick.

But put me in the charge of a maniacal, sunglass-wearing, doesn’t-know-the-definition-of-the-word-no drill sergeant, and I’m showing up early for 4 a.m. calisthenics.

That’s what happens when you’re held accountable.

And who better to hold me accountable than the dude Tim Ferriss deemed, “The scariest Navy SEAL imaginable”?


When I get down, Jocko shows up. And to this point, this (imaginary) relationship has helped.

And my hope is that it keeps helping, so that in time, my daily efforts accumulate into a lifetime of achievement.

But as always, whenever I’m in need of inspiration, I know where to turn.

For instance, here’s Jocko on becoming (a little more like) Jocko:

Now’s the Time to Prioritize YOU…

Eliminate your weaknesses and become a bolder risk-taker, decision-maker and communicator with help from my 5-step strategic video.

Click here right now to get the video!


Originally published on The Mission.

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