Welcome to the Huberman Lab Podcast,
where we discuss science
and science-based tools for everyday life.
I’m Andrew Huberman,
and I’m a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology
at Stanford School of Medicine.
Today, my guest is Jocko Willink.
Jocko Willink is a retired Navy SEAL,
an author of numerous important books
on leadership and team dynamics,
and the host of the Jocko Podcast.
During his 20-year career with the US Navy,
Jocko served with SEAL Team 3
as commander of Task Unit Bruiser in Ramadi, Iraq,
and elsewhere in the Middle East,
as well as deployments in Asia and Europe.
After retiring from the Navy,
Jocko used his experience and knowledge
gleaned from his time in the SEAL teams
as a way to develop tools that anybody can use
to develop their leadership skills,
both for leading themselves and for leading others.
That took the form of several important books,
the first of which was published in 2015
and is entitled,
Extreme Ownership, How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win.
He has also authored several books for kids
about leadership, personal development,
and how to navigate various aspects of life.
I’ve read both Extreme Ownership
and The Way of the Warrior Kid,
and I found them to be immensely useful
in terms of actionable information
and understanding of oneself
and different kinds of relationships,
both in and out of the workplace.
Typically guests on the Huberman Lab Podcast
are scientists and or clinicians.
It was some time ago that I was a guest
on the Jocko Podcast,
and during the course of our conversation on his podcast,
we quickly realized that many of the science-based tools
that my laboratory has focused on
and that I’ve used over the years
and shared on the Huberman Lab Podcast
had direct overlap and parallel with many of the tools
that Jocko and other members of the SEAL teams
had arrived at independently,
that is without knowledge of the underlying science.
And in fact, he had many more tools
that he had incorporated during his years in the SEAL teams,
as well as in business leadership,
in family and elsewhere in life,
that I quickly realized
it would be an enormously valuable conversation
to have him on this podcast
in order to share those tools with the general public.
During today’s episode,
we discussed numerous tools that Jocko has taught
and used over the years in a number of different contexts,
including tools for generating more physical energy
and for generating more focus and cognitive energy,
and for navigating sticking points,
that is how to deal with lack of motivation,
how to deal with difficult relationships
in the workplace and elsewhere,
and perhaps most importantly,
how to think about and navigate the self.
In fact, we spend quite a bit of time
talking about this notion of the self and one’s self-identity
and how self-identity plays into our ability
to engage in actions of specific types
consistently over time, where it can hold us back,
how to gain better perspective,
and how to help others gain better perspective
so that we can work better with them and them with us.
We also go deep into the likely scientific mechanisms
underlying why the tools that Jocko teaches and uses
are so effective.
In fact, one thing that you’ll immediately notice
is that Jocko was writing things down
and I was writing things down throughout the conversation.
And that just reflects the fact
that he’s not just an immensely powerful teacher,
he’s also a practitioner and an avid learner.
He’s always seeking knowledge.
So we kick back and forth our ideas about what likely does
and does not underlie different tools and techniques,
focusing of course,
mostly on what works in the practical sense in the world.
What I can assure you is that by the end of today’s episode,
thanks to Jocko’s immense generosity and curiosity,
you will come away with a large number of tools
and much richer understanding of how to navigate
and enhance mental health, physical health,
and performance in all aspects of life.
Before we begin, I’d like to emphasize that this podcast
is separate from my teaching and research roles at Stanford.
It is however, part of my desire and effort
to bring zero cost to consumer information about science
and science related tools to the general public.
In keeping with that theme,
I’d like to thank the sponsors of today’s podcast.
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And now for my discussion with Jocko Willink.
Jocko Willink, welcome.
Thanks for having me, man.
I’m super excited and super happy to have you here.
I’m glad to be here.
I know that you and I did five and a half hours
on my podcast, so schedule is clear.
And actually, and people will see the Jocko Go drinks.
This is not some sort of promotional by me,
but these are the energy drinks I drink.
So this could be called the Bring Your Own Go podcast.
It is the energy drink I drink.
And no, I’m not told to promote that
or paid to promote that.
It’s just the one that I drink.
So there you go.
No pun intended.
I was just saying to our producer a moment ago
that rarely do I sit down and do a podcast
with somebody that’s skilled in podcasting.
Lex Friedman would be the only person
that I’ve had on this podcast, I believe,
who’s also a podcaster.
Since you’re a podcaster and many other things,
I confess I’m a little bit intimidated.
Well, it’s a weird thing to actually call a skill
because it’s something that I just kind of started doing.
It’s something that you just kind of started doing.
It’s something that Lex just kind of started doing.
And I never practiced it.
I didn’t sit down before my first podcast
and think about how I should deliver things.
I just kind of did it.
So maybe it’s just luck more than skill.
Well, you and I actually go back further
than that conversation that we had on your podcast.
I think it might’ve been 2014, 2015,
and you were on the Tim Ferriss podcast.
And the time I was living with my girlfriend,
we had moved from San Diego to the Bay Area.
We were living in this little tiny apartment
in a basement in Oakland,
trying to save up to buy a place
or rent a place that was decent to live in.
And we both knew a lot of team guys.
She knew more team guys than I did in San Diego.
I dated a few, just to be direct.
Those guys were cool to me, mostly.
And I remember when I saw the photo
on the top card for Tim’s podcast, it was your face.
I said, do you know this guy from San Diego?
And she goes, nope.
But if you had to draw a Navy SEAL, that’s what you’d draw.
So I think for a lot of people,
you embody their notion of a number of different things.
Some of which you talk about,
but some of which when you open up a bit
and really get specific about work in the military
and work in daily life and what it is to be you,
but really what it is to be a human being,
some important contradictions also emerge, right?
Obviously, discipline is a theme
that people associate with you, right?
In my view, and I think in the view of a lot of people,
you embody discipline.
So today I definitely want to talk about routines,
but also mindsets, but also things that you do
and ways that you approach things
that might not contradict, but not be so obvious to people,
might be a little bit counterintuitive.
And in addition to that,
you have a lot of different aspects to your life.
In addition to running businesses, you’re a family man,
you have children and married a long time.
And so you have a lot of knowledge
from different domains of life.
So with your permission,
I’d like to dive into all of them over the next 26 hours.
I’m fascinated by this idea of sense of self.
I feel like all of us can look back
to a time early in life when we first had some experience,
could be in art class, could be fishing, could be sport,
doesn’t really matter what the exact experience was,
but where we first realized
that there are really cool things in the world,
like something that turned us on at the level of excitement
or maybe scared us or something like that.
Do you have any recollection of such an event?
Maybe not the first one,
but do you ever remember hearing
or seeing something as a young kid
and maybe you could tell us how young
and just thinking like, yeah, more of that, please.
A lot of times when people ask questions
along this line of like, when was there a moment, right?
When was there a moment that you realized discipline
or when was there a moment you realized leadership
or when was there a moment you realized detachment?
Kind of like the question here,
when was there a moment you realized,
for lack of a better way of saying it, I’m a person, right?
I’m a person with my own thoughts
and I can make things happen.
And for me, all those answers are usually fairly gradual.
There’s like a little thing that indicates
and you get a clue
and then you move a little bit further down that road,
then you get another clue
and you move a little bit further down that road
and you get another clue.
So that’s what I would say for me,
life was like when I was a little kid,
I was kind of slowly discovering that I was a person,
I was a human.
I remember my mom took me shopping.
I was probably about 10 years old
and I needed to get pants for school.
And my mom took me shopping.
And when I went into the store,
there was a girl that was,
I don’t know what they’re called in a store,
a retail sales girl.
She was probably about 16.
And I started chatting her up, right?
And I kind of recognized it a little bit,
but I sort of didn’t too.
And I just was chatting to this girl
and I was making her laugh.
I was having a good time with the whole thing
and putting on the pants and spinning around
and she was laughing.
And I remember when we left the store with the pants
and my mom was sort of talking to me
about the fact that,
well, what were you trying to do to that girl?
And I was thinking to myself,
well, I kind of liked that girl.
She was pretty.
And I don’t know why that popped into my head,
but I just remember thinking,
hey man, there’s a whole world out there
and let’s go make it happen.
Yeah, it’s a great story.
Cause I think it really speaks to this thing
that you mentioned,
which is that when we first start to realize
we have a sense of self,
it has something to do with cause and effect on the world.
Like we can have an impact in some way
on things outside of us, outside of our home.
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of psychology
and I’ve been listening to some of your content
and I definitely want to talk to you about
a study that you covered related to these.
It’s a brutal experiment with these kids
that either had stutter or didn’t have stutter.
I want to get into that a little bit later,
but what we do and how we treat people
and how we receive feedback and give feedback
has a big impact.
But I think some of that happens
just in our own relationship to things in the world.
The old Hungarian psychologist I’m learning
had this idea of two kinds of people.
They literally thought there were two kinds of people.
There are generators and projectors.
And generators are people that are just
from a very young age,
they realize they can impact other people
and they want to create things in the world.
They want to generate stuff.
And I go, wow, I can actually like build stuff
and break stuff and blow stuff up maybe,
but also help things.
And then there are these projectors
that like to just kind of reflect on what they see.
And they made the really important point, I think,
that it’s not the generators are good
and projectors are bad.
The world needs both,
that they really work in a kind of symbiotic way.
But your story captures the essence
of what it is to be a generator,
which is that by doing certain things,
you can have an impact and it feeds back to you,
and it’s likely that they receive something
from it as well.
Yeah, and where this all came to fruition
as I now piece together
as you’re talking through this stuff,
look, when I joined the military,
you join the military and you get a blank slate.
So no one cares where you came from.
No one cares what you did.
You were the captain of the football team,
captain of the soccer team.
No one cares.
No one cares what your grades were.
No one cares what you got on the SATs.
No one cares about anything.
You’re a blank slate.
And then with that blank slate,
it is, hey, if you do this thing,
if you perform this task and you perform it well,
you will get recognition.
You will get,
you will hopefully get more control over your own destiny,
which is the ultimate in compensation for human beings
to have more control over your own destiny
is the ultimate compensation.
You know, you and I were talking before we hit record,
like you can have all the money in the world,
but if you don’t control what you’re doing every day,
or at least you don’t control most of what you’re doing,
then it’s not worth it.
The reason people try and make money
is so they can have more autonomy in their life.
And so in the military, it becomes very clear.
And it became very clear to me very quickly
that if I performed well,
I actually got a lot more freedom with what I did,
even in bootcamp.
You know, if you pass an inspection in bootcamp,
you don’t have to redo your locker
or you don’t have to make your bed again
because you did it right the first time.
And so you have an extra 15 minutes.
And so for me, really, that’s when I started to realize,
oh, what I’m doing right now is gonna impact
not only what’s gonna happen to me in the next hour,
but in the next two years, three years, five years.
And I think that’s the biggest miss that we have
when we’re growing up.
And I know you had your challenges and tribulations
as you were growing up because you didn’t realize,
oh, what I’m doing right now
is gonna affect where I’m gonna be in the future.
And it didn’t happen until you were out of high school
and you went to junior college and you’re like,
oh, wait a second.
I can actually put my life together in a positive way.
When you’re 14, you’re thinking,
hey, what am I gonna do tomorrow?
That’s basically future operations
or what am I gonna do tomorrow?
I would’ve been far ahead for me at 14.
I was like, where am I gonna get the slurpee?
Which curves am I gonna hit skateboarding?
And where are we gonna play video games tonight?
Or what girls are we gonna hang out with?
That was kind of the mindset at 14.
Yeah, and then at some point you learned and so did I,
oh, the actions that I take now
are either gonna positively impact my future
or they’re gonna negatively impact my future.
And the more I focused on doing things
that are gonna positively impact my future,
the better my life became.
And I think that’s a very huge lesson to learn
that I know I didn’t figure out for quite some time.
Yeah, the idea of investments and withdrawals
or understanding that early in life
in terms of health behaviors and intellectual behaviors.
And your point about the military
is a really interesting one.
I never thought about the military that way,
that there’s this blank slate when you get in there.
And before we started, we were talking a little bit
about the kinds of mindsets and people
that the military attracts.
And I’d love for you to elaborate on that again.
You mentioned something interesting,
this notion of garrison,
interesting word in its own right.
What kind of people do you think the military attracts?
And then within the military,
do you start to see some kind of predictable bifurcations
where certain people go down one track
and other people go down another?
I have a few friends from the SEAL teams, as we both know.
And I’ve heard sometimes about the distinction
between officers and enlisted guys, this kind of thing.
But maybe the question I’m asking
is more across the board for all of military
and really for people listening,
whether or not they are interested in military or not
for their own life.
I think there’s an interesting lesson,
this idea of who is attracted to the military.
Is it like people who want to instill order on themselves
or is it people who want to instill order on other people
Yeah, there’s a really good book.
And I ended up doing about four podcasts on this book,
which is called The Psychology of Military Incompetence.
And when I first saw that title-
What an amazing title.
I know, and when I first saw that title,
I thought to myself, oh, this is some academic
that’s gonna look at the military and bash it.
But I did a little research
and it turned out that the guy that had written the book,
and I can’t think of his name right now,
he was a guy that had served in World War II, was wounded.
I mean, this guy understood what he was talking about.
And it’s really an obvious concept once you think about it.
And the basic premise is this,
the military, when you look at it from the outside,
it’s this orderly place.
It’s a place where everything has a place.
It’s a place where if you have a certain rank
on your shoulder, you will command respect
and people have to listen to you.
That’s what it looks like.
So it’s an attractive place for people
that have an authoritarian mindset,
for people that wanna just, hey,
don’t question what I’m saying,
just shut up and do what I tell you to do.
There’s people that love that.
There’s people that wanna live like that.
You’ve worked for them, I’ve worked for them.
We’ve experienced those type of people throughout our lives.
That authoritarian mindset that just want to bark orders
and have people listen to them.
And so when they, when those people are 14 years old
or 16 years old or 18 years old,
and they look at the military and they see a uniform
and they see people saluting
and they see orders being carried out
and they think that’s where I’m gonna go
and I can get the respect that I deserve.
And the military certainly attracts people like that.
And those people that have that highly disciplined
and orderly mindset can do well inside the military,
especially in garrison.
And I had to, again, we were talking about this earlier,
the word garrison.
I don’t think there’s a civilian equivalent to this word,
but it basically means the non-combat situation.
So when you’re out on the parade field,
when you’re going through schooling
where there’s no combat involved,
when you’re marching, like those kinds of things,
we call that garrison.
It’s in the rear, it’s not in combat.
And the people with an authoritarian mindset
actually do pretty well in garrison situations.
Because things are orderly
and you can predict what’s going to happen.
And you do get a certain issue of gear
and that gear is gonna be delivered on time.
And you’re gonna shoot this number of rounds
down at the range.
And everything is going to go according to plan.
That’s what garrison is.
And so those people join the military,
they’re attracted to that,
and they end up doing well in peacetime.
Now, unfortunately for them, combat is a lot different.
Nothing goes the way it’s supposed to go.
The bullets don’t get delivered on time.
The enemy has a vote on the way things are going to unfold.
And you end up in combat
in being in very chaotic situations.
So the type of person that thrives in combat
has a more open mind, has a more flexible mind,
is paying more attention to the input
that they’re receiving.
As opposed to someone with an authoritarian mindset,
they don’t listen to anybody else.
They make up their own mind, they bark orders.
With someone that has a more open mindset,
they’re listening, they’re taking input,
they’re evolving their plan.
And those type of people excel in a combat situation.
Now, unfortunately, and this is sort of the stereotype too,
you take that dog of war
and you put him back into a garrison environment,
he doesn’t do well, right?
He’s not showing up on time for the inspection.
He doesn’t have his, he didn’t get his hair cut.
He doesn’t have his weapon clean
the way it’s supposed to be cleaned
because he’s got his weapon ready for combat,
not ready for inspection.
And so you get this,
there are these two different types of people.
And of course, with those two different types of people,
there’s degrees going one direction or the other.
But what you hope for is someone
that can play the game on the garrison side
and yet when it comes time to go into combat,
they can also open their mind, be flexible, be creative.
I mean, that’s what you really want,
is you want someone that is very good at solving problems.
And to do that, you need to have a creative open mind
to figure out how we’re gonna deal with something.
So I think that’s a stereotype.
The stereotype is that everyone in the military
is sort of robotic and falling into the hierarchy
and we bark orders and people follow orders.
And that’s just not true.
There is an element of truth to it,
but it’s not the whole truth.
And certainly, if you look at history,
the people that excel in combat
are the people that maybe have
a little bit of a rebellious streak,
people that are just more creative and more open-minded.
Some of my friends from the SEAL teams
will sometimes throw out stereotypes
about the different divisions in the military.
Is there any truth to this idea
that Air Force types are one way and Marines are one way
and Navy is one way, Army is a certain way,
like sort of a general contour of personality?
Or is that just kind of inside ball joking around?
It’s a little bit of both.
I mean, certainly the Marine Corps is steeped in tradition.
And if you make a guess at what a Marine,
when you meet or if you had to guess
what a Marine is gonna be like,
you’re probably gonna be pretty close.
I mean, Marines have a incredible program
to indoctrinate their people
into the culture of the Marine Corps.
And the Marine Corps has an incredibly strong culture.
It’s a powerful culture.
I love the Marine Corps.
I’ve worked with the Marine Corps a ton
and they’re outstanding.
As a generality, certainly you could make those assumptions
about the Marines in general.
Now, does that mean that every Marine is the same?
No, absolutely not.
Same thing with the Army.
Same thing with the Air Force.
Same thing with the Navy.
You’ve got these kind of stereotypes
that exist for a reason.
You know, it’s interesting too.
It’s one of my friends named Ben Milligan
wrote an incredible book called
By Water Beneath the Walls,
which I’ve given him a huge hassle about
because it’s the worst title of all time.
But it’s certainly the best book written
about the SEAL teams history
and where the SEAL teams came from.
And it’s interesting.
It’s something that I had heard from a SEAL officer
that had given a speech years ago
at his change of command.
And what he said was,
hey, listen, he was trying to emphasize
why the SEAL teams were good.
And one of the things he said was,
you know, in the Army,
and he was talking historically,
he goes, hey, in the Army,
if you start to lose a battle,
you can just retreat and run away.
In the Navy, traditionally,
we’re fighting on board a ship.
And if that ship, if we can’t run away,
we’re fighting, if we lose, we die.
So SEALs can’t quit.
It was sort of this, you know,
little over the top expression.
But when you take that a little bit further,
when you look at the history of the Navy,
if we were in the Navy 150 years ago,
you would have to go on deployment.
You would take your ship,
and you would sail somewhere,
and you wouldn’t be able to talk to me anymore.
So you would have to understand
what it is you were trying to accomplish,
and then just go out there and make it happen.
That’s decentralized command.
And that’s something that exists in the SEAL teams
without question, very decentralized command.
And that’s one of the absolute strengths
of the SEAL teams is you’ve got leaders
at every level inside the organization
that if they don’t know exactly,
if they’re not told what to do,
they’re going to go, okay, I don’t,
haven’t been told what to do,
but I’m going to go figure it out.
And that’s one of the strengths of the SEAL teams.
We also, we have more doctrine now,
but when I came in the SEAL teams,
there was no doctrine.
It was all word of mouth.
And so the Army and the Marine Corps,
if you have to conduct an ambush,
you can pull out a manual,
and you can look up how to conduct an ambush,
platoon ambush, how to conduct it.
And it’s all written very clear,
and they’re great documents.
It’s the FM7, TAC8, Infantry, Platoon, and Squad,
I think is the Army doctrine.
I can see the little neurons in your hippocampus
firing and see it’s embedded in there forever.
And it’s a great manual.
And you can pull that thing out
and you have a place to start from.
In the SEAL teams, we didn’t have that at all.
So you would hear from your platoon chief,
this is how you conduct an ambush.
And he had heard it from his platoon chief
who heard it from his platoon chief
who heard it from his platoon chief,
and that platoon chief was in Vietnam.
So it’s getting passed down,
but you can make adjustments to it.
And you can alter the plan a little bit
because, hey, the terrain is different,
or hey, the night vision we now have.
So there’s changes that we can make
because there’s no doctrine.
So not having any doctrine in many ways is a strength.
Also, it can be a weakness.
Because if you’ve got a new platoon commander
that’s never done an ambush before,
and he has no idea what he’s doing,
this platoon chief has been out of the loop for a long time
and he doesn’t know what he’s doing,
there’s no way, there’s no reference.
So there’s strengths and weaknesses,
just like any characteristic, right?
you’ve got strength and you’ve got weaknesses,
and your weaknesses can be strength
and your strength can be weaknesses.
To get back to your original question,
are there stereotypes inside
of each of the military branches?
Sure, but are there outliers
in each of the military branches?
There are absolutely,
and that’s why you can’t judge a book by its cover.
For people listening to this who are not in the military,
maybe have some military lineage in their family or not,
but who want to understand a little bit better
about how structure and lack of structure
can both support being effective in life,
in relationships, in daily life,
in fitness, in business, in school,
I think those are the big domains, in creative endeavors.
I think it’d be useful for them to understand
a little bit about how you in particular
balance discipline and structure
with, dare I say, lack of discipline and structure.
You could actually just say the word freedom, right?
Because that’s what it turns into.
Or maybe even play.
I bring this up in part
because I’ve seen some posts that you put up
of you playing the guitar with friends or music.
One of them was a tribute to someone
who either was killed in combat or passed away.
So these moments of connection between people
sometimes are working together,
but sometimes are in relaxation and play
and these kinds of things.
And I think it was a really important post
for people to see that,
wow, Jocko Willink kicks back with a guitar,
not trying to take over stages.
Maybe you are, maybe you have a plan.
If anyone could do it, you’d probably be the one.
But what is the balance for you
in terms of structure and lack of structure?
And I’m not going to ask for your daily routine.
We know that you get up early, you train,
but I do have some specific questions
that I think would be helpful in putting some meat
on the notions about you.
And again, this isn’t to pick into your life,
but more to grab, well, it’s to pick into your life.
So a question I asked you in the lobby,
because it’s one that having seen your content
for a long time and really benefited from it,
I was curious, you get up early at about 4.30,
you train every morning, how long do you train for?
And is there any global structure to that?
And of course, everyone needs different programs,
but is it like weight training one day,
cardio training the next day?
Are you combining them?
Is it always an hour?
Is it always half an hour?
I think people would benefit
from getting a little bit more understanding
of what that looks like for you with the caveat
that everyone has different needs,
levels of background, et cetera.
But I’m intensely curious about this
and I’m certain I’m not the only one.
So do you want to talk about weightlifting
or rock and roll on the guitar?
I want to talk about,
let’s talk about the most structured first part of your day
and then let’s talk about
the least structured part of your day,
at least the part that you can share with the world.
Yeah, waking up early and I’m going to work out
and depending on what’s going on that day,
if I have an early flight,
I might work out for eight minutes, right?
I might go in and do 2000 meters on the roller,
get a sweat going hard as I can,
and then I’m done.
And cause I got to go catch a flight.
So that could be happening.
Maybe I’m supposed to go surfing in the morning.
I wake up, the waves are terrible.
And so now I’ve got nothing to do.
I planned out, you know,
to be surfing for two or three hours
and now I’m not going to go surfing.
So I’m going to go,
I’m going to go lift and I’m going to go play in the gym
and do a bunch of stuff.
I’m going to spend two or three hours in there.
I love doing that.
So the workout could be anywhere between what I just say,
eight minutes and three hours.
And it could be anything in between.
I fully enjoy the physical aspect of working out.
So if I have more time to spend in the gym, I’ll spend it.
I remember my dad saying at one point,
if I retired, I wouldn’t know what to do.
And I was thinking to myself, are you serious right now?
You know, if I didn’t have anything to do,
I’d spend six hours a day in the gym.
I’d spend four hours doing jujitsu.
Like I could fill my day.
I could fill every day with just physical activity,
things that I just like doing.
But that’s, so wake up early, get a sweat going.
And do I lift?
Do I do cardio?
Do I run?
Do I sprint?
Do I lift heavy weights?
Do I swing kettlebells?
And I enjoy all of it.
And I’m not really good at any of it.
You know, I’m not really good at any one aspect
of physical activity.
There’s people that are infinitely better at me
in every aspect of, and I’m not just talking about,
oh, this guy’s a world-class lift.
And there’s like a guy named Fred down at the gym
that can deadlift more than me.
There was a guy, when I was at SEAL Team Two,
there was a guy who was probably five, seven.
And he looked kind of chubby.
And he was older than me and he could run faster than me
and he could bench more than me.
Those guys are out there.
It was just so bothersome.
Yeah, they’re out there.
They got some engine in there related to something.
I mean, I do think there are genetic differences
in terms of people’s resilience and workout,
but even just grip strength is highly,
highly subjected to like genetic influences,
maximum grip strength.
But of course there’s a huge range
in what people can develop.
But I guarantee your grip strength is greater than mine.
People ask me this all the time,
who would win in arm wrestling between you and Jocko?
I’m like, Jocko.
Who would win in Jocko?
You know, there’s a lot of technique in arm wrestling.
I have to imagine they’re putting their body behind it.
They’re putting their back in.
It’s not just that.
Like there is legitimate technique in arm wrestling.
There’s hope for me yet.
Yeah, there’s no,
like if we could bring a female arm wrestler in here
that knows how to arm wrestle,
because I don’t know how to arm wrestle either.
And she would be both of us
because there’s a lot more technique in arm wrestling
than you know, than most people recognize.
There’s all these little games that are going on.
There’s all this little arm position that you get.
So just like everything else, it’s technique.
There’s a lot of technique in arm wrestling.
That’s good to know.
I didn’t know that about arm wrestling.
I think we all start off with some genetic predispositions,
both good and bad for different things.
And then there’s, as far as we know,
there’s a huge range based through neuroplasticity
and muscle adaptation, et cetera, in what we can obtain.
So I never want genetic predisposition to serve as a barrier.
No one knows also what the upper limits
of any of these things are.
And some of the best examples we know from sport
and certainly from academia are people
who knew they were at a disadvantage
and just worked 10 times harder than everybody else
because they had an ax to grind
with their genetic disadvantage,
which is really cool at the face of it.
I’d like to take a quick break
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So you get the training,
and do you track your training in a detailed way?
Are you keeping track of lifts and-
So I write down what I do,
and I’ll write down what I do every day.
And that way I can go back and say,
you know, what was I doing back then?
Because I might go through some phase
where I’m trying to do more pull-ups,
or I’m trying to deadlift more,
and I’m trying, or whatever the thing is,
I’ll go back into,
because I get bored of deadlifting after a while.
Let’s face it, if you just want to be a good deadlifter,
you’re not going to be that fast, right?
You’re going to be slow on long runs.
So you don’t want to go too deep into deadlifting,
and you also don’t want to be so good at long runs
that you can’t deadlift, you know, a good amount of weight.
So I kind of go through phases,
and I’ll get into something for a while,
and I’ll get into something else.
So I do log down what I’m doing,
so I can look back and say, oh, dang, you know,
I’m not even close to as strong as I used to be.
Need to get back to that.
I’m fascinated by the concept of energy.
I think it’s one of the most interesting aspects
in all of biology, all of psychology, and all of life.
And when I say energy, I mean the distinction
between being back on your heels,
flat-footed, or forward, center of mass, you know?
And I get the impression,
and I think everyone gets the impression,
that you’re somebody with a lot of energy.
And I wonder whether or not you wake up
with a lot of energy,
and you feel like you have to burn it off
with this physical activity and work
and other demands in your life,
or do you find that you wake up
and your energy is kind of neutral,
and exercise and physical activity gives you energy?
Because I think this is one of the key things out there,
I think, that acts as a barrier
for people doing more with their body,
because maybe they don’t want to tire themselves out,
or maybe they don’t feel like
they have enough energy to begin with.
It also feeds into this idea that,
oh, you know, some people just have a lot of energy,
they’re really physical, and other people aren’t.
So let’s just say on most days,
do you wake up feeling like you want to burn off energy,
What does exercise mean to you?
And then maybe we can talk about
some of the underlying stuff going on there,
because I think we both might find it interesting.
I would say it’s both, right?
There’s no way I could sit here and say,
oh yeah, every day that alarm clock goes off,
and I’m like, oh yeah, let’s rock and roll.
Certainly that’s not the case.
It’s also certainly not the case that every day I’m like,
oh God, not again.
No, I’d say most of the time the alarm clock goes off,
and I don’t think a bunch.
Like when my alarm clock goes off, I don’t think a bunch.
I don’t debate with myself.
I’m not negotiating.
I just, the thing goes off,
and I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.
Sort of robotic.
Now, this much I can say.
When you go and work out, you’re going to feel better.
You will get energy from working out.
That is a guarantee.
If you go work out, you’re going to feel better.
If you go break a sweat, you’re going to feel better.
You’re going to get more energy from it.
And look, you got to go really, really hard
to where now you feel more tired when you’re done.
And even that, I mean, you got to go psycho.
I’ll do that occasionally,
but I don’t do that on a daily basis.
You know, at the end of a day, if I wake up, lift, run,
surf, and then I do jujitsu in the afternoon,
like at the end of that day, I’m tired and I feel tired.
But normal day, working out just makes you feel better.
Definitely gives you, definitely gives me energy,
I should say, because I guess I’m not everybody.
Yeah, I think it’s a very important point
because one of the things that we are learning
from circadian biology, you know, time of day effects
and sunlight and all that stuff
that we talk about in our podcast
that you’ve done intuitively, right?
This is what we kind of arrived to.
It was kind of crazy.
Last time we had a conversation is that so many of the things
that science is telling us to do
and that we emphasize on the podcast, this podcast,
you’ve been doing or are built into military schedules.
And one of them is this notion of waking up early
and getting physical early in the day.
And I suppose if we were to just throw one blanket rule
on the table to encompass the broadest number of themes,
it’s that once every 24 hours,
we each and all get a big increase
in this release of the hormone cortisol,
which everyone says, oh, cortisol, it’s terrible.
You know, he’s going to burn you out,
adrenal burnout, all that stuff.
But it’s a non-negotiable peak.
You want it to arrive early in the day
and viewing sunlight, physical activity, caffeine,
and in particular, intense exercise,
all amplify that cortisol peak.
In fact, I think the numbers I’m seeing
is just sunlight viewing gives you a 50% increase
in that cortisol.
Exercise on top of that, another 50 to 75% increase.
So this huge release in this hormone
that everyone thinks is terrible,
but actually sets this huge wave in motion
for the rest of the day, which gives you more energy,
higher levels of immune function, more focus, et cetera.
And does indeed, as you mentioned
in your example of your daily life,
sets a timer so that about 14 to 16 hours later,
you’re sleepy, which is what you want,
14 to 16 hours later, unless of course
you’re running vampire shifts in the military
or you’re on shift work, but most people aren’t, of course.
So I think the idea that movement
and exercise gives us energy, I think is an important idea.
And it’s something that I was, frankly,
I was hoping your answer would be that,
as opposed to that, you know, you wake up every day
and you just wanna just attack the world
because you have so much energy getting out of bed,
because frankly, I never feel that way.
But I always feel better after I train, always.
And of course there are times when I crash
in the early afternoon, if I train really, really hard,
but usually that’s when I over-caffeinate
to an outrageous degree, and then I don’t nourish after,
or I over-nourish.
So this is the other thing, that eating,
the whole rest and digesting, the digest word in there
is meant to, it’s there for a reason,
which is that when we eat a really big meal,
we actually need to slow down.
So I hate to get into daily schedules
at the level of nitpicking, and nutrition
is about the most controversial topic on the internet.
But do you nourish after you train?
And if you do, do you do it to the point where
you’re kind of like, okay, I’m mostly full or I’m full.
Are you trying to really nourish yourself,
or do you find that eating slows you down?
I find that eating slows me down.
And I would say, again, it’s weird how some of this stuff is
like, the main reason I got in the habit of waking up early
and working out is because if you do it before anyone else
is awake, then they can’t bother you
and you can get stuff done, right?
You go to the SEAL team and you get there
before anyone else is there, no one can say,
hey, can you help us with this?
Hey, no one sent you an email, so you get that time,
you get it done, and it’s yours, right?
I remember when you were on my podcast
I don’t wear sunglasses when I run in the morning
because I sweat and it fills my sunglasses.
It’s not because I wanna let the UV light into my eyes,
that’s not why.
It’s not for the cortisol.
I didn’t know that, it’s cool that I know it now,
but I just did it because I don’t want to sweat
and my sunglasses can’t see, so I just run without them
and put a hat on.
As far as eating, I don’t like to do physically active
things with food in my stomach.
That’s just the way it is.
And so I don’t wanna, and what really keeps that in line
for me is I’m doing jujitsu in the afternoon,
and so if I’m eating a big lunch,
by the time the afternoon rolls around,
I’m kind of, I got food in my gut,
and I just don’t like that feeling.
So no, I don’t eat a big meal until I’m kind of done
with the physical stuff for the day,
which is usually at night, six, seven o’clock at night,
which I guess there’s some bad things about that.
I eat too late.
Well, the data say, if you’re, yeah,
we could go down a rabbit hole with this
and then someone’s gonna pull up
some little clinical study
and then another one that counters that.
I mean, I think the data essentially say
that having a regular meal schedule
that allows you to sleep well at night,
whatever that means for you,
and that allows you to be active and focused
when you need to be active and focused,
that’s the ideal schedule.
I, when I’m working with clients,
like so I have a leadership consulting company,
Echelon Front, when I’m going to work with a client,
I’m not eating.
Because they’re gonna be asking me questions.
We’re gonna be diving into what’s happening
inside their business.
Like there’s a lot of stuff going on.
It’s a lot of cognitive work.
So I’m not eating before a podcast.
I’m not eating before a podcast.
Before I’m recording a podcast, I’m not eating
because I don’t wanna have a bunch of food in my stomach.
I wanna, you get a certain level of mental clarity
when you haven’t eaten a bunch of food.
So going out on missions,
I never would eat before I go out on a mission.
I would eat when I come home.
You know, you get home four o’clock in the morning,
three o’clock in the morning from doing operation,
cool, then I’ll eat.
Because then I’m gonna do a debrief for 15 minutes,
clean weapons, and then eat a big meal, go to sleep.
Yeah, I don’t wanna have food in my stomach
when I’ve gotta perform or execute anything.
So again, I think that’s just kind of a fluke
that I ended up living like that,
but that’s kind of how I live.
It’s a fortunate fluke for all of us
because so much of what you embody and what you do,
I think centers around this idea of discipline, of course,
but also energy.
It’s the intuitive sense I get
about why people are so drawn to your messaging
and what you do and how you do it.
Energy, we know, of course, is caloric energy.
I think that’s what most people default to.
They go, oh, that, how many calories are energy
and how many calories in that?
And you need calories to fuel things.
But the energy that you’re describing,
I think is the one that,
well, it really maps to Eastern traditions more directly,
the whole yin and yang thing.
Yin and yang, I always get that wrong.
So, which is the notion of neural energy.
And so there’s a particular cluster of chemicals
that has a fancy name called the catecholamines,
but that’s dopamine, epinephrine,
which is adrenaline, and norepinephrine.
And then you’ve got cortisol.
And those four hang out together
and basically give us enough energy
to run our brain and body for 50 days, 50 days.
So, the idea that you have to eat before you train,
sure, for some people that might work better than others.
But I think what people don’t realize
is that anytime we’re taking in caloric energy,
it takes neural energy in order to digest that
and put it into storage.
And so the way you describe your day of,
yeah, I also don’t eat before I train.
I like to hydrate and caffeinate.
I have been drinking these before I train.
I have to limit myself to two before,
because otherwise I’m like picking up,
I’m already quaking a little bit at the second one.
But I have a pretty high caffeine tolerance.
So, I like to train fasted also.
And then I find it gives me energy.
But then the moment that I eat a meal
that’s a little too large,
all of a sudden I’m out of energy.
And what’s the deal?
This calories are energy, right?
You’re supposed to have energy in order to think and move.
I think a lot of the world has this backwards
and this isn’t a push for intermittent fasting
or any particular style of eating really.
I don’t care if people are carnivore or vegan,
it doesn’t matter to me, whatever works.
I happen to be an omnivore.
But I think once people understand
that energy to do things is neural,
and yet of course it relies on having glycogen
and all this stuff around,
but neural energy is what it’s really about.
Then your schedule and the way you function
and the way you describe your schedule
really makes a ton of sense.
You described getting up and lifting,
running, surfing, and jujitsu in the same day.
So on a day like that, you’re hydrating, correct?
Oh yeah, definitely.
Because that’s vital.
And I know in the SEAL teams,
there’s a lot of discussion about hydration as important,
even though you guys I know are supposed to be able
to eat sand and survive on sunlight and dirt
and drink your own blood.
Hydration’s taken seriously, right?
Yeah, and different people need
different amount of hydration.
And I, unfortunately, was one of them.
I always needed to bring a lot of water in the field,
which sucked because water’s heavy.
And I have friends, one of my friends, Tony,
BTF Tony, he’d go in the field
with like a can of Copenhagen and coffee in his canteen
and go like three straight days.
He’s like a desert turtle.
He’s a desert rat, man.
He could just survive.
And I would always have to bring a ton of water.
I sweat a ton when I work out
or when I’m doing anything that requires physical output.
I’m gonna, I sweat a ton.
So I have to drink a lot of water for sure.
But not everyone’s the same, you know?
Yeah, I think if most people focused more
on hydration and movement,
they would find they have two,
I’m gonna venture a guess here,
this is not a scientific study,
but two to four times more energy
than if they focused on caloric energy and what to eat.
Yeah, and I think the cool thing about this,
you’re using the term energy.
And what’s cool about this is you or I,
I create energy, right?
I create energy by, like I said,
by going to the, by going and lifting in the morning,
by going and doing burpees.
You go do burpees, you go do 100 burpees,
like you’re creating energy.
You’re gonna be tired, you’re gonna be sweating,
but you just created energy.
So that stuff is totally true.
I’m glad there’s neuroscience to back it up.
Yeah, I’m actually thinking about
devoting some of my lab to this.
You know, one of the best examples,
another familiar territory for you is cold water.
You know, nowadays there’s a lot about ice baths
and cold baths and showers and all that.
And I always like to just say,
listen, it’s all just a reliable source
of inducing adrenaline release.
And you get out of a cold shower, you have more energy.
And that energy couldn’t have been caloric energy,
And I, you know, again, I’m,
it’s fair to say I’m obsessed by the ideas of identity,
which is a little bit how we started off,
and I wanna get back to it, and energy.
I feel like identity and energy can account for
75% of what it is to, you know, live a good life,
if you can master those.
Because then it all seems to fall into bins.
It’s like, of course you need sleep, why?
Well, to restore your neural energy, right?
At some point, you just fade out of neural energy
if you don’t sleep.
So sleep then falls into a particular bin
with a particular purpose.
And then exercise becomes not a way to like burn energy,
but as you said, to create energy.
And we actually are starting to understand why this is.
If you’ll indulge me for a second on some neuroscience,
we didn’t talk about this last time.
We have neural circuits that control deliberate action.
We have neural circuits that control deliberate actions
that we forget that we’re doing, like walking.
And then we have neural circuits
which are called central pattern generators.
And these are the neural circuits
that love to just work on their own,
and in the background, just kind of hum in the background
and take care of all the stuff like heartbeat, breathing,
and movement that is repetitive.
Like if you’re just marching
and you don’t have to adjust your cadence much,
or maybe you’re hiking even,
and step in this rock, that rock.
Once those central pattern generators get going,
it’s very automatic.
And we know that once those central pattern generators
get going, there’s the release of those catecholamines,
those three or four molecules
that then feed all the other neural systems.
They’re called neuromodulators for a reason
because they set the gain higher.
So then you go out for a run, or a jog,
or a hike, or something, or you pedal, or you row,
and then your whole system is at a higher RPM.
So when you say create energy,
neuroscientists are starting to understand what that is,
repetitive movement that allows you to forget
the motor commands that are required
to generate that movement.
So you might think about your row stroke
or something like that,
but you can do it without thinking much.
You come off of that and you now are set at a higher RPM
to do more deliberate stuff.
And none of this, again, involved
like eating enough carbohydrates
or making sure you’ve had enough ketones
or enough protein, like it’s like,
you got plenty of that stuff provided you nourish
at some point every 24 hours or so.
So I think we know a little bit about the science
behind Jocko Willink’s schedule now,
but I will ask this,
are there certain forms of exercise
like weightlifting versus cardio that you find
give you an especially big boost
in what we’re calling energy?
And here, this could be cognitive energy,
it could be physical energy,
but a readiness for the next thing.
Yeah, first, I got to back you up on this.
I love backing up your science.
So do you ever rock march,
like put on a heavyweight and rock?
Yeah, sorry to interrupt.
Yeah, Peter Atiyah got me into this.
He got me into doing a long Sunday,
instead of a long Sunday run,
throwing on a lightweight vest or a rock
and going out for like three hours.
And the first 20 minutes I find,
I always want to go faster and get it over with.
But then I’ve learned that the real pain in it
sets in around an hour.
And then the beauty sets in around 90 minutes
where you’re like, I could do this all day, all night,
and I never want to stop.
See, that’s when you were describing
how these chemicals get released.
And once you’re in that automatic mode,
because in the SEAL teams,
you’re doing maritime operations for a month,
and then you’re going to do some kill house shooting.
And so you’re not carrying a bunch of weight.
And then you go out to the desert
and now you’re putting on 80 pounds
and you’re going on like day one.
You get out there, you’re going on an 80 pound rock march.
And the first freaking 17 minutes,
the first 23 minutes just suck.
They just suck.
And what was beautiful was by the time I was,
23, 24 years old, I’m like,
oh yeah, this is going to suck for 17 minutes.
And then it’s going to be, I’m going to be a robot
and it doesn’t matter anymore.
I can just keep going forever.
So it sounds like what you’re saying
is what I experienced basically my whole adult life.
There’s going to be a little break in period mentally
where you think this totally sucks.
And then you just can keep going
for a really, really long time.
And it’s not that big of a deal.
To your question of, is there any form of exercise
that gives me that energy boost?
I would have to say like the high intensity
sort of anaerobic blast,
whether it’s on the bike or on the rower
or swinging a kettlebell hard, something like that,
that last 10, 15 minutes,
that’s a really good way to peak my mentality for the day.
Do you do the cold water thing?
I mean, you certainly do a lot of it in buds.
I mean, do you force yourself into cold water?
I have a cold bath in my house and I get in every day.
How long are you spending in there?
Usually around five minutes.
Before you train or after?
So this is something I haven’t played with yet.
And for me, I’m like such a,
I don’t like to make a bunch of effort for something.
So for me, going downstairs, getting in the ice tub,
and I guess you only need to do it before you work out,
you only go a minute, right?
Do a minute to three.
Joe and I have been texting back and forth about this.
There’s a lab at Stanford, Craig Heller’s lab
that works on cold and performance.
And the athletes at Stanford,
mainly the cross-country team and the football players
are doing cold before their training
because of the huge increase,
huge long-lasting increase in dopamine and adrenaline
that’s caused by that.
They’re finding it increases performance
mainly by waking people up and getting them focused.
It creates energy, basically.
And students, you know, everyone thinks they’re like,
oh, athletes are all super motivated.
This is no pick against Stanford athletes in particular.
A lot of athletes are excellent at what they do
because they’re very lazy when they’re not training.
This is true.
It’s true for all athletes, but a lot of athletes are.
And so they’re really good at resting and recovering
so they can train more.
But a lot of athletes have a hard time
getting into gear to train every day.
And the cold is a great stimulus, right?
It’s like a four shot of espresso kind of stimulus
without all the jitters.
I think maybe going in there for a minute
would be cool before a workout.
I will say this.
So I had like a long workout and it was a Saturday,
which means on Saturday I do jujitsu
kind of in the morning around 10 o’clock.
And I had like a long workout, went for a long run.
It was hot and I just got in the ice bath
and I sat in there for like seven minutes,
like the deep chill.
I got out and then I went right to jujitsu
and I felt awful.
I felt absolutely awful, like tight, cold.
And it took me an extra three rounds
to get warmed up again.
So that kind of left a bad taste in my mouth
for pre-work icing.
But I’m gonna try this short
because I was talking to another friend of mine.
They’re like, oh no, only go a minute before.
Maybe I’ll give that a try.
If it’s really cold, 30 seconds to a minute
is gonna get you this big release in adrenaline and dopamine.
Actually, one time I did try the chamber
that blasts cold air on you.
Yeah, the cryo.
And I did that for like a minute or whatever.
And that did make me feel pre-workout pretty good.
Yeah, I think that the whole notion of cold for metabolism,
people say, well, it’s not that big
of an increase in metabolism.
Look, as far as I’m concerned,
the main function of the cold for most people
is going to be the discipline of doing it,
the sense of resilience that you can build up over time,
just being familiar with having an adrenaline in your system
and then the fact that the dopamine increases
are huge and long lasting.
I mean, they’re like 2.5X increases.
There’s a colleague of mine at Stanford,
Anna Lemke runs our dual diagnosis addiction clinic.
She had a patient getting off cocaine addiction
who decided to use cold ice baths
as a way to kind of assist himself along the way.
You know, he wasn’t getting dopamine from cocaine anymore.
So he decided to get it from the ice bath.
The difference is, is cocaine gives you these sharp increases
and then decreases that drop you way below baseline.
So what do people do?
They go seek more cocaine.
It’s really pernicious that way.
Whereas the ice bath and cold showers
will give this long arc lasting two to three hours or more.
And that’s really something to treasure.
You know, the idea that you can basically save
on your heating bill, you know,
give yourself this huge dopamine increase.
And I think everything points to the fact
that it’s healthy and good.
But I mean, obviously it’s working for you
to do it after your training.
I think all the gym rats who want more hypertrophy,
you’re trying to get an extra, you know,
eighth of an inch on their tricep or whatever.
They freak out because they hear
that it can inhibit hypertrophy.
And then for whatever reason, there’s this-
So am I doing it wrong?
Well, I mean, yeah, clearly you’re doing it right now.
No, you’re not.
I don’t think your hypertrophy is suffering.
I actually am of the mind that
if you’re training really hard, sure.
Getting in the cold afterwards might blunt some hypertrophy.
That is what the data tell us.
Andy Galpin’s kind of the expert on that literature.
But frankly, I don’t know anyone
that trains really hard with the weights
and then gets into the cold
that looks like they’re suffering from hypertrophy.
I know a lot of people, however,
who love to point fingers at and poke at cold exposure.
This seems to be a big thing on social media.
People who don’t like the cold
love to point out the studies
showing that the cold screws up everything.
And most of them look like they need
a few sets in the gym to me.
And I feel comfortable poking at them
because I feel like all of these are just tools, right?
And in any case, I’m a big fan of deliberate cold exposure,
mostly for the neural effects.
Again, I’m obsessing over this concept of energy.
And it’s something that I can’t help but ask
is the cognitive side of this
and the effects of winning and losing.
So you obviously have a lot of deployments
and a lot of wins, whatever in the context that meant, right?
Kill the target, capture the hostage, et cetera.
And then as is the case with war,
there’ve been some cases of losses, right?
You’ve lost people.
Maybe there were targets that weren’t accomplished, right?
This kind of thing.
And you’ve posted about these
and these are always things that are hard to see,
but I think it’s really important
that you post about people that you’ve lost, right?
Because first of all, these people served.
But second of all,
that things don’t always work out
the way that we want it sometimes
to really catastrophic consequences.
There’s a theory in biology that when we win,
we somehow get more energy to win more
through the release of, no surprise,
dopamine and some related molecules.
And in fact, testosterone in both men and women
is another close cousin of the dopamine system.
Actually released from the same general,
or the patterns of release are from the same general areas
in the brain, believe it or not, and body.
But when we win, we feel like we can keep going, right?
You look at the team that wins and it’s like,
they’ll play another game.
The Superbowl winners,
or you imagine they’re jumping up and down
and they could probably play another Superbowl.
Losing, we know can,
sure it can drop things like testosterone and dopamine
for some period of time.
But when you were in the teams,
what was your observation about how winning and losing
would impact people in the short and long-term?
In other words, would you observe people
that had a quick reset button?
And could you say that was terrible?
And then transmute, I guess I’m getting
into kind of the Eastern language now,
convert that into energy to go do better the next time.
Whereas we also see people, military
and in the civilian world, that a loss,
in particular severe losses,
basically set them down the path of like less energy.
It certainly isn’t less calories.
In fact, most of the time it’s the other way.
They start consuming more calories
and that doesn’t get them going.
So again, this notion of energy,
and now I’m asking wins versus losses,
what did you observe?
And from the perspective of leadership
and maybe more importantly,
from the perspective of yourself,
how do you work with that?
How do you calibrate wins and losses?
How do you transmute losses into energy?
Because wins we know convert to energy,
but losses oftentimes can sap our energy way, way down.
I think to start with,
I think that the selection process
to get into the SEAL teams
is going to weed out a bunch of people
that can’t recover very quickly from something bad.
So you probably heard these type of stories before,
the kid that was the star of the football team,
the star of the basketball team,
the captain of this, the captain of that.
He’s been winning his whole life.
He goes to Bud’s and he quits.
Because in Bud’s, you’re not gonna win.
You’re certainly not gonna win everything.
They’re gonna find what you’re not good at
and they’re gonna exploit that and you’re gonna lose.
This is what happens.
So a lot of guys that may lose
and it disrupts their motivation,
they’re probably just gonna quit.
And so that’s why you get this massive attrition rate
with guys that are studs.
I mean, we’re talking division one athletes,
division one athlete, division one wrestlers,
division one football players,
division one runners and swimmers.
They all come to Bud’s.
They all quit, not all of them quit,
but there’s plenty of examples
of the highest level of collegiate athlete
in sports that translate very well
to what you’re doing in basic SEAL training and they quit.
And sometimes it’s because they don’t know how to lose.
They don’t know how to recover from a loss.
And they’re just, so I think already,
and once you get to a SEAL team,
you’ve got people that are, generally speaking,
gonna be pretty resilient
when it comes to dealing with a loss.
Not only that, I mean, you just get used,
you talk about losing people.
You’re friends with this guy.
You meet this guy in SEAL training.
Hey, this guy seems like a stud.
Oh, he’s just gonna quit.
And you’re gonna lose five, six, seven people, eight people.
People quit so fast, you don’t even keep track of them.
So you’re just gonna lose.
You’re just gonna get used to it.
So there’s that.
Now, once you’re in the teams
and what you’re talking about is,
now you start taking much more significant loss.
You’re not losing a race,
you’re losing one of your friends.
And this is what, from a leadership perspective,
you have to pay attention to.
So when you’re a leader in any organization,
you’re basically in charge of a mob.
When it comes to what their morale is,
they’re a mob and they feed off of each other
just like a mob rioting in the streets,
going, oh, we can break this window.
Let’s break all the windows.
They move this mob mentality.
And that happens with morale inside of a team.
And you as a leader can’t get caught up with the mob.
You can’t let that happen.
You have to detach yourself from the mob mentally
so that you don’t get caught up in their emotions
and their morale.
Because if you get caught up in their emotions
and you get caught up in their morale, you can’t correct it.
So we go out on a mission.
The mission goes great.
We get into a gunfight, kill a couple bad guys.
Everyone’s okay, high fives.
Everyone’s feeling great.
You come back to base.
Hey, we don’t need to debrief.
That was perfect.
Hey, we don’t need to get our gear maintained.
We can just go to bed.
That’s when the leader has to say, oh, we’ve got the mob
and the mob is becoming slightly arrogant.
Hey guys, real quick, that was a good op,
but there’s some things we could improve on.
You got to bring that mob back
and bring them back to center line.
Same thing in the other direction.
You go out on an operation, it doesn’t go well.
You go out on an operation, you take casualties.
Now you come back to base.
You see guys moping around.
You see the spirit starting to break and same thing.
If you’re part of that mob, you’ll be with them.
Your morale will be breaking.
Your spirit will be breaking.
You got to look at them and say, oh, I see what’s happening.
Hey guys, listen up.
That was tough.
Didn’t go the way we wanted it to go.
We need to learn some lessons.
Here’s some things I can do better.
What can we do better to make sure
that that never happens again?
What can we do to make sure we have the opportunity
to go out and avenge our brother on the battlefield?
What can we do to move this thing forward?
So as a leader, when it comes to winning and losing,
you’re generally going to be the person
countering what the mob mentality is.
Because when the mob starts winning,
they want to keep winning and they might get arrogant.
When the mob is losing, they might start to lose more
because their attitude goes down the drain.
So that’s what you have to pay attention to
from a leadership perspective.
For me personally, I think,
I know what I did when I lost guys
was focus on, all right, we need to celebrate the life.
We need to mourn the loss.
And then we need to go to work.
We need to get our gear back on.
We need to lock and load our weapons.
We need to get back out there.
I know that that’s what we need to do.
You know, so often,
the best way to contend with problems,
with issues, with adversity is action,
is by taking action.
The more you sit and the more you wait
and the more time you spend with that adversity,
with the upper hand inside your head,
the worse it’s going to get.
So for me, always taking action, making something happen.
It doesn’t have to be huge.
It doesn’t have to be some mammoth triumph
that you’re going to go and pursue.
But if you say, hey, listen, this is what happened.
Didn’t go the way we wanted it to.
We’re going to get our gear back on.
We’re going to go back out.
We’re going to do this other mission.
And that’s what I think.
I think taking action,
and it’s in your personal life too.
You know, something doesn’t go the way you wanted it to go.
You didn’t get the job you wanted.
You didn’t get the hire.
You didn’t get the promotion.
You can go home and sit there and dwell on it.
That’s not getting you any progress.
Or you say, okay, you know what?
Let me do a quick analysis.
Why didn’t I get that promotion?
Oh, it’s because I didn’t get this qualification
or I hadn’t jumped through this gate.
What do I need?
Let me look into how do I get to jump through that gate
so next time I will get the promotion
and you start taking action.
So action for me is a cure
for a lot of problems that we have in life.
I love this because the image that’s arising in my mind,
I’ll share it with you and tell me where it agrees with
and maybe violates what you’re telling me.
But what I was imagining
when you were talking about leadership and the mob
is, you know, a bunch of candles, but not wax candles.
These are oil candles.
And you’re talking about a win.
So, you know, it could be an op, go out and win.
It could be a team.
It could be an individual taking an exam
and they get an A plus.
It doesn’t matter, but they’re riding high.
I mean, those wins we know crank up those catecholamines.
And it’s as if the intensity
that flame starts going up as a consequence, that’s natural.
But the oil in the candle is continuing to burn down.
Like you need to celebrate wins,
but you’re burning that oil.
And so what we’re really talking about here
is how to moderate and then reclaim energy.
And I was imagining you as the leader who’s like,
okay, guys, great.
But listen, you’re burning that oil, right?
That oil is what got you the win.
Let’s not just clamp it like we can do a few fist bumps
and maybe celebrate in some other ways,
but then let’s take the energy we got
and put it to the next thing rather than just go crazy.
Drugs of abuse, in particular,
drugs that tap into the dopamine system,
namely cocaine and amphetamine.
And just because there’s no way to avoid this
if we’re being true to the biology,
the energy, the dopamine system was designed
for foraging for all sorts of things.
Food, so people that overindulge food or seek out food.
Sex, people that overindulge in these things.
Those things, and again,
this sort of leans to Eastern philosophy a bit,
but there’s Western neuroscience or neuroscience,
we should just say, to support it.
You start to deplete these dopamine systems.
The baseline starts to drop.
And so I’m imagining that the leader, you in this case,
is saying like, listen, let’s tone it down,
use the energy that we’ve gained and put it to good use
rather than just burn it up, enjoying it.
And then of course, after a loss when those,
I sort of think of the candles going dimmer.
But the oil reserve is still there.
And it’s like, how do you start to tap back
into the oil reserve?
Well, you have to actually ramp the candle up again.
You can’t just sit there waiting
for the intensity of the flame to come back.
You actually have to do something
in order for that to happen.
So maybe this isn’t the best analogy
because it lacks sort of like the,
exactly what is the person turning the intensity
up and down on these candles.
But that’s what comes to mind.
And in Eastern traditions, there’s this idea of chi,
of energy, energy to fight, energy to seek mates,
energy to seek food, energy for sex,
energy for all of it is the same energy.
And I actually believe that the energy
that they’re referring to are these catecholamines.
I really do.
Now there are other energy systems too,
relating to child rearing, pair bonding, oxytocin,
all the kind of like fuzzy warm stuff
that’s super important.
I mean, we wouldn’t exist as a species the way we do
if we didn’t honor that energy system also.
And that energy system that we normally think of as love,
as opposed to forward center of mass,
synergizes with this system, right?
So when you’re working with and training with
and people that you love, this could be your brothers,
your sisters, whatever, your family,
there is, I think there’s an amplifying effect
on this whole thing, right?
If it’s just for more dopamine, just for more money,
just for more wins, just for more trophies.
I’ll never forget this as an aside,
when I was a kid, I had this weird experience
where Tony Hawk’s dad rescued me
from a skateboard contest in Linda Vista,
the Linda Vista Boys Club, everyone else left.
I was left there alone, I was 14
because of my home life at that time, et cetera.
And he was like, where are you going?
And I’m like, I’m gonna take the bus to Lancaster.
I know this guy.
And he was like, no, no, you’re coming to our house.
I was like, okay.
So he took me at Tony’s house
and I went into Tony’s room that he had grown up in.
Tony lived in Fallbrook at that time.
And the room wasn’t filled with trophies.
The room was trophies.
And I remember just thinking like, holy cow.
Like, and when I think about that
and I think about what a healthy person
Tony turned out to be,
because I happened to be blessed to know him a little bit,
it’s amazing because a lot of people
that had those trophies, whatever domain of life,
they converted all that into ways
to just burn the oil down in their candle.
He’s a guy who’s still going in his fifties, right?
So, hey man, that’s a little aside story,
but I think this notion of energy to me is so important
because as you said, when we move toward action
and we complete something,
the oil in that candle starts to get replenished
and the flame burns hotter.
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What you’re talking about,
and I’m very interested in this now,
and I don’t know if this has already been measured or not,
but what essentially we’re talking about
is a confidence level, right?
So if I go out and win, I feel good about it.
And let’s say I’m doing a jujitsu tournament
and the first match I go out there
and I submit the guy in 30s,
take him down, submit him in 30 seconds.
I’m feeling good.
I’m feeling like confident, right?
So what does that mean?
My dopamine is up because I got that victory.
My testosterone is up because I got that victory.
My confidence is up because I got that victory.
Same thing, other direction.
If I go out first match and I lose to somebody,
my dopamine goes down, that chemical thing goes down,
my confidence goes down.
And what I have to do is I have to learn
how to maintain a level of confidence
because if I get overconfident,
if I win that first match, win the second match,
I’m gonna kill this next guy
and I go out and I’m sloppy and I don’t care.
That’s when I get caught.
If I get totally, if I lack confidence,
I go out there and there’s nothing I’m able to do
to beat this guy that’s gonna be horrible.
Of course, I’m gonna get smashed.
So it’s a similar thing that we’re talking about.
I just wonder how much, if you start measuring,
because they say, hey, if you win,
your testosterone goes up, right?
And then if you win more, your testosterone goes up high,
your dopamine goes up high.
Your confidence is going up,
but you can get to a point where your confidence is too high
and now you’re getting sloppy and now you don’t care.
You mentioned cocaine.
You see like videos of people that are all coked up
and they, hey, I can do this.
They think they can do everything.
They’re overconfident, right?
They’re over, they think they can kick your ass.
That’s like too much dopamine, too much ego,
too much confidence.
The other side of the spectrum is someone
that’s on some kind of downer drug
and they don’t feel like they can do anything.
They’re lethargic, their confidence is low
and they’re just depressed.
So there’s an interesting tie-in between dopamine,
ego, confidence, and probably testosterone
that you get from winning and from losing.
And once again, as a leader, from a leadership perspective,
you can’t get wrapped up in that.
You can’t get wrapped up in that.
You have to detach from it.
You have to be able to take a step back.
And then if you’re good, even as a competitor,
you’ll say, oh yeah, that last match was easy,
but I need to prepare for the next match.
I can’t bring over confidence.
Look, I don’t want a lack of confidence.
It’s a balance, right?
It’s that flame on the oil burning lamp
that you’re talking about.
You want that steady flame.
You don’t want too much getting to burn out of control.
You don’t want too little, the flame will go out.
Yeah, earlier we talked about this notion
that some of these older Hungarian psychologists had,
which this notion of generators versus projectors.
And their idea was that people sort of divide
into these different categories and the world needs both.
That one is better than the other,
but the world absolutely needs both.
And there is this idea now based on some neuroscience
and some other psychology that I’ve been kind of
lathing into, which is that generators
know how to tap into the system and they love this system.
I think back to your story about being taken
to shop for pants and it turns out to be a trip to shop
for a number of different experiences for you, right?
A really telling experience.
Having an action effect on the world
and something coming back to you
that still sits with you inside.
In fact, there’s a dopamine circuit there
still related to this young woman
or then a young woman at that time.
Some people are generators and I think that they
are more attuned to this dopamine system.
And so as we’re having this conversation,
I’m guessing that about the estimate is that
somewhere between 50 and 65% of people are going,
yeah, I get it.
More workouts is gonna give me more energy.
I need to do more of that.
I need to, when I’m back on my heels,
I need to think about the things I can complete, et cetera.
And then the other 45% or so or 35% might be saying,
I don’t really get it.
Now the idea is that the projectors
can tap into these same circuits.
Everyone has these catecholamine circuits,
dopamine, et cetera,
but that they tend to be more of observers in the world
and they like being partnered with
and symbiotic with these people.
Now this starts to take on kind of like
stereotypical masculine feminine things,
but this exists on both sides.
It really does.
There might be some biases, right, by biological sex.
There may not be, right?
We could argue that it’s probably an argument
that will get us into more trouble than to answers.
It doesn’t really matter.
The point is that some people are perfectly happy
to be in the company of people winning
because they feel good to see other people winning.
They like to be a support staff.
That’s what makes them feel good.
Other people would rather stick hot forks in their eyes
than not be the person engaged in the activity.
Maybe not every activity, but the activity.
So we’re talking about the generators and the projectors.
I think that in the context of moderating these systems,
it’s so key.
I mean, it’s key to have a long arc in a career path,
military science, or otherwise.
I think it’s key in every domain of life.
And I think for me,
one thing that I’ve learned both the hard way
and I’ve also benefit from the positive experience of,
I think in relationships,
this could be romantic relationships,
but also friendships and in family,
because there are generators and projectors
almost always in those kind of symbiotic relationship,
romantic couple or a family that,
some kids are more generators,
some are more projectors just by something, who knows?
Maybe it’s hardwired, maybe not.
As the leader of your family,
I’m going to assume one of the two leaders,
but as a leader in your family,
I’m not going to make any assumptions here,
as the leader of your family,
and also as a father in particular,
how do you apply these same sorts of ideas
when your kid is kind of down
because it’s hard to be a 14-year-old
or because it was a bad day or when they’re up, right?
I think the upstates are as interesting as the downstates.
Like, yes, like got the degree, got the win.
How much do you let them celebrate before you’re like,
hey, listen, you just got yourself
another couple milliliters of oil in your candle.
What are you going to do with that?
You going to burn it or are you going to save it
for the next thing so you can climb the staircase?
Well, clearly it’s a very similar thing
to what I just talked about.
You know, if your kid is doing well
and wins the wrestling tournament and is like,
yeah, I won the wrestling tournament
and what do they want to do?
They want to eat a triple cheese pizza, right?
I mean, they want to go crazy.
And you as a leader and as a parent and as a friend
need to say, hey man, I mean, you did good.
That was awesome.
You had a great day.
But let’s start thinking a little bit about next week too.
How about we just have a few slices of pizza, right?
As a reward.
So this is the same in any situation
that you could be in interacting with other human beings.
You want to be the person that kind of modulates
the confidence and the ego or the way you put it,
you know, the dopamine and the celebratory activities.
So no matter who you are,
and this goes with yourself as well.
You know, you do something, you have a success
and you say, oh, that’s great.
But all glory is fleeting and I need to get back to work.
And look, and do people go too far with that sometimes?
Sometimes people, they don’t stop and celebrate at all.
And those are the kinds of people
I think that get burned out eventually
because they never say, hey, that was awesome.
We had a big win.
Cool, high five.
They don’t even say that.
So I think, you know, as a leader, as a friend,
as a parent, as a spouse,
you want to be able to modulate that, help modulate that.
Don’t shut it down.
You know, your kid walks off the wrestling mat
for a high five and you say, you could have won by more.
No, I’m not talking about that.
Or your kid walks off the mat after losing,
you say, you got what you deserve.
No, you’ve got to be the counter,
the counterweight to the emotions that other people have.
And I think that when you’re doing a good job
as a leader, as a friend, as a spouse or whatever,
you’re doing a good job as a counterweight.
I think that’s a good way to look at it.
You want to provide some balance for people
to make sure that they don’t get out of control.
And you notice when people have a downfall,
it’s normally because they’ve surrounded themselves
with people that there’s no counter to,
there’s no counterbalance.
You know, if you were my best friend
and I went out drinking last night and had a great time
and partied all night and met a girl and you’re like,
heck yeah, let’s do it again tonight.
Eventually, where are we going to be?
We’re going to be in the gutter somewhere.
But if you say, hey, dude, that was awesome.
But hey, remember we got school on Monday, right?
And you kind of pull me back.
That’s, we got to find balance in life and ourselves.
And then we got to, as much as we can,
provide balance for other people
because people are emotional
and they get caught up in what they’re doing.
And you want to keep people balanced.
I think one of the reasons people are really drawn
to your message, and I put myself in that category.
And I remember 2014 was a very different picture for me.
It doesn’t really matter what the contour was,
but was things were working,
but they weren’t working the way I wanted them to.
And I remember arriving at your content first
through the Tim Ferriss podcast,
then eventually the Jocko Willing podcast,
Joe Rogan podcast.
Those are the big two ones that kind of like
introduced me to you and your content.
And it was really a case of,
at the time I didn’t have a lot of friends
that were doing similar things to me
or that matched my daily routines in a way that,
I could kind of synergize with in this way.
I think one reason why you are so helpful to people
is that not everybody has these friends.
You can have the friend that’s like,
let’s go out and tie one on again.
A lot of people don’t even have that friend
or they have a friend,
but they’re not really close with that person.
There’s some ideas nowadays about,
like 80% of males don’t have a close friend
that they could call.
I don’t know.
I mean, I’m guessing girls and women feel the same too,
that a lot of stuff is superficial
and there’s a lot of communication,
but not a lot of connection, right?
And so I think that you and a few other people
in the, let’s call it social media public face,
public facing space,
serve as archetypes of like the friend
that’s going to tell you when you’re up, great,
but let’s clamp it after a while
or that when you’re down, let’s get going.
And here’s how you get going.
And so I do want to highlight that
because I think it’s really important and it’s,
but one reason why people are drawn to your message
and the message of some other people
who are out there trying to do similar things,
but you in particular,
because yes, you have this military background,
very intense military background, wartime background,
but also you bring it into the daily routines
that certainly apply to everybody.
Most everybody can access non-heated water, right?
One would hope.
There’s another dimension to this
that I want to just bring up and get your reflections on
as it relates to military work, school, relationship,
family, et cetera,
which is this somewhat counterintuitive idea,
but then once you hear it, it makes perfect sense,
which is that even though the catecholamines
are responsible for drive
and that that’s what we’re really about
when we’re forward center of mass
and we have to control the level,
the intensity of the candle and the level of the oil.
And I don’t know what those actually map to exactly.
We could probably figure it out if we really parsed it,
but that’s the idea here, the analogy.
In a kind of surprising way,
we know that for sure one way to restore levels
of motivation, drive, enthusiasm,
and to some degree confidence that things could be different
is through deep rest, things like sleep, right?
When things are really, really hard,
when kids are just like, they’re like falling apart,
you know, it’s like you put them to sleep,
they wake up and they’re like delightful.
They’re like running around in their pajamas
when they’re little and a teenager wakes up
after a good night’s sleep,
they might be a little like surly, but we’re back.
Adults are like this.
The world is falling apart.
You go to sleep, wake up, okay,
I might be able to manage this kind of mindset.
So sleep and then the other one is we know that play,
the sort of the kind of physical activity
or mental activity where it might be a little competitive,
but the stakes are low.
And it’s really more about connection with the activity
or connection with somebody else.
Like we’re gonna play a game of whatever,
you know, I won’t play chess with Lex
because he’ll kick my ass.
I won’t do jujitsu with either of you
because you’ll beat me up.
Both of you kindly, but you’ll do it.
But, you know, like we were to play a game,
it’s just us, yeah, we might be a little competitive,
but the stakes are low, right?
We know that play and social connection and sleep
are basically the reservoir or the location that you go
to refill the oil in the candle every single time.
And so for you,
where do those things play into your routine?
You know, you mentioned you can go hard all day
and then in the evening,
is it dinner with family typically if you’re at home?
And what does that look like?
I know we’re kind of parsing it.
I don’t want to carve into your personal life too deeply.
Obviously there are boundaries there,
but what does that look like?
Is it everyone at the table phones away
and you’re talking about the day or is it, you know,
yeah, share with us a little bit of what that looks like.
Cause I think it is an important contour
to what you’re about and what we’re talking about
that most people just don’t have a window into.
Yeah. So, well, first of all, I mean,
just the refilling the tank with games.
I mean, that’s what jujitsu is, right?
You’re going to go and you’re going to have social connection
You’re going to talk to people that you know,
you’re going to joke about whatever,
then you’re going to roll.
You’re going to have a good time rolling.
You’re going to get a little sweat on,
you’re going to feel good.
Then you’re going to high five.
Like there’s huge, that that’s there.
And your brain is kind of off, you know, when you’re,
when you’re training jujitsu at a certain level,
you’re not going to be thinking anymore.
Same thing with surfing.
You go surfing and you catch a wave.
I mean, you’re, you’re not thinking about,
oh, I need to put my balance over here.
No, it’s happening and you’re having a good time.
So I would say that restoration for me
comes from those two things for sure.
And then, yeah, I mean, my wife and my kids,
when I get home, my kids are older now
and they’re out of the house except for one.
And when I was in the Navy, when they were young,
I wasn’t around at all.
You know, there wasn’t any,
like we would rarely have dinner together
because I was gone, coming home late.
You’re working all the time.
You can never get all your work done.
I’m training jujitsu.
Like it was, we rarely ate dinner as a family
when I was in the teams.
And now when I’m home and we can eat together for sure,
you know, my daughter that’s still at home,
she’s going to, you know,
we sit out there and eat dinner
and talk about just normal things that people talk about,
like, you know, how to conduct a night ambush or,
no, I’m just kidding.
Let’s talk about normal, you know, daily things
and what’s going on.
And, you know, my daughter that’s, she’s 13 right now.
And she talks to me about all kinds of stuff, you know,
and it’s awesome.
Yeah, I’m definitely enjoying that aspect
of being around more than I was when I was in the teams.
And I just, we didn’t have dinner.
We didn’t happen.
So I would take my kids to jujitsu.
I taught jujitsu classes when I could,
when I was in the teams.
Would do like workouts with them in the morning
if I had time, on the weekends for sure.
Stuff like that with my kids.
That’s kind of what I did.
But now, yeah, we, my wife is awesome.
And she is a great cook now
because when we first got married, it was questionable.
I just was harassing her about this the other day.
Like she got, she’s an unbelievable cook now
and it’s awesome.
And when we first met, by her own admission,
she will tell you she was not, she’s from England, right?
And so they’re just not cooking what we’re liking.
No, the food over there, at least when I was growing up
and the few times I made it over there,
the food was pretty dreadful.
I mean, there were some exceptions to that,
but, and they drank a lot over there.
So I’ve been to some scientific meetings over there
where they would start with like sherry in the afternoon
and then beer after work.
It was outrageous.
I mean, the amount of alcohol intake was just absurd.
And again, I’m not trying to, I did an episode on alcohol.
A lot of people were angry about that episode
because it basically said,
once you get past two drinks a week,
you’re starting to head into territory
that can deplete your health.
So you gotta do a lot of other things to offset it,
but they drink a lot.
Yeah, the Brits drink a lot.
I have spent time over there with my father-in-law,
my brother-in-law, and we definitely drank a lot.
So I’m glad I don’t live there and had to drink with them.
I’m glad I don’t have to drink with them all the time.
I’d probably be dead.
You were straight edge growing up, right?
Yeah, I mean, when I was a kid
and then when I joined the Navy, I started drinking.
That’s part of the culture that I bought into.
And I wanted to be a good SEAL.
And I’m looking around at the guys
that were considered good SEALs.
Oh, so we’re drinking?
Okay, that’s what we’re doing.
And that’s what I did.
I think my looking back now,
I didn’t really, I didn’t think of it
as a big deal at the time.
I wasn’t like, well, first of all,
even when I was growing up and I didn’t drink
and didn’t smoke, didn’t do drugs,
I wasn’t like a guy putting an X on my hand.
Although my friends and I, we all didn’t drink, didn’t smoke.
So we definitely, look, I was listening to minor threat
when I was a kid.
I mean, I get it.
But I wasn’t a guy running around
telling everyone I was straight edge, you know?
But I was on that path for sure.
And then when I got in the SEAL teams,
it’s like, okay, this is a different culture.
I’m not used to it.
I didn’t really even understand what drinking was.
I mean, I never had been drunk.
So got in the SEAL teams.
I was like, okay, well, you know,
once I turned 21, okay, this is,
hey, these guys, we’re gonna have fun.
And I kind of just, okay, that’s what we’re doing.
And then I drank a ton while I was in the SEAL teams.
And then as I, man, I retired from the SEAL teams
and went out, we basically went to every bar
that we would normally go to as SEALs.
I think we closed out the night at the Packed Shores in OB.
And went home that morning.
I woke up the next morning, worked out.
And then I just kind of stopped drinking
because, and now I just definitely,
I mean, now I just don’t really drink anymore.
So that’s that.
Yeah, when I had my lab in San Diego for five years,
that’s where my lab started.
I definitely saw a lot of team guys in bars.
You guys would come in and take over bars.
These were literal takeovers.
You basically, I wouldn’t leave
because I wouldn’t like give them the satisfaction
or me the dissatisfaction, but it was a little frustrating.
You know, you’re in there, you’re having a decent time.
And then just this enormous pack of team guys comes in
and sort of like, all right,
maybe it’s time to close out the night, you know?
Sometimes, I was friends with enough of them that, you know,
but if you’re not really a part of it,
you’re not really a part of it.
And I always knew that and understood that.
One thing that I think really comes through now,
especially, but throughout our discussion
and all the things I’ve seen of you,
and it gets me back to this thing
that came up at the beginning,
I’d really like to return to,
is that you seem to have a very strong
sense of context and self.
I’ll just say it.
I’m not a psychologist.
I’m not here to play one,
but you know, what you just described was that,
okay, in one context, you know,
it made sense to be straight edge.
I mean, you mentioned minor threat, great band,
but when it came time to,
you know, you run around with your friends then,
and it made sense to be, you know,
without alcohol or drugs or anything at that stage.
And then you get into another context.
It’s like, okay, I can do this.
I can drink and still perform well
and do all the things I need to do.
And then when that closes out,
I’m gonna do something else.
And some people are like that
because they’re kind of a chameleon, right?
They’re switching themselves depending on the context,
and they’re kind of getting accents
when they’re in one location or another,
but that’s not you at all.
I can tell with certainty that’s not you at all,
that there seems to be a very strong sense of self
so that when we have a sense of self that’s firm,
we can go into different contexts.
We can even change our behavior,
but we don’t lose who we are,
which means we can always return to it.
The image in my mind is like,
I’ve done a little bit of scuba diving, not a lot,
but during some of the more advanced training for us,
sorry, this wasn’t SEAL training, of course,
was, you know, following a line in the dark,
like a night dive, and you’re following a line.
And, you know, sometimes you’re navigating with tools,
but sometimes you’re following a line underwater.
And this idea that like, you can let go of that line,
but you remember where it is, you can return to it.
And that’s kind of how I imagine the sense of self
because in different contexts,
most healthy people modify themselves a little bit.
We act differently at a wedding or a funeral
than we do in class or out, you know, with our friends.
Of course, it’s an important part of being a human,
a functional human.
So it seems to me that from a pretty early stage,
you had a pretty good sense of self.
Now, I don’t know if you sit in your room and meditate
on like, who is Jocko Willink,
and like touch that central cord of self.
I’m guessing you don’t.
But as I say this, I have to ask,
was there something in your upbringing, your parents,
or was it just kind of how you always imagined yourself
as like, yeah, this is who I am.
Like, no matter what happens around me,
like, I kind of know who I am.
Even if I’m engaging in some of the behaviors
that I might not do in another context,
I know who I am.
Because I actually think that many people
do not have a very firm sense of self,
or their sense of self is so rigid
that they can only operate in this like narrow trench
of one domain of life, and they end up very, very isolated.
So I’d love for you to kind of share with us
what your recollections are,
kind of like the first time you realized kind of like,
yeah, like I’m good in a bunch of different places.
I’m safe or I’m whatever.
Because I think this also relates to confidence.
You know, I’m glad you are giving me the benefit
of the doubt on going in the teams and being like,
oh, hey, man, it looks like guys are drinking
and I haven’t really drank before.
And it seems like these guys are having a good time.
Let’s go have a good time with these guys.
And that’s kind of what I did, right?
As far as, and you know, I look at it now,
and unfortunately for me, you know,
I look at alcohol now as just, I’ve seen so,
I’ve seen it destroy so many people
that I’ve now kind of look at it and go, man,
I don’t think people should drink.
And look, I get it.
I’m kind of an example.
Like I used to drink and go out and have a good time.
And it wasn’t that big of a deal.
It didn’t negatively impact me in some dramatic way.
But I have so many friends that it is horrible for,
it is all but ruined their lives.
And you know, it’s totally legal,
it’s totally legal, which is kind of bizarre.
So I think that figuring that out when I look back in it
and the culture in the SEAL teams was very,
there was very alcohol centric.
And part of that is because, you know,
that you got like, it’s just like a fraternity
is alcohol centric or a football team is out
because you got a bunch of young dudes
that are gonna drink and have a good time.
So it’s just sort of a young dude kind of thing.
And unfortunately it ends up ruining a lot of people’s lives
and they make bad decisions and they do stupid things
and it’s just not good.
And I think the culture is moving away from that
a little bit in the SEAL teams.
You know, my alcohol brief used to say,
you know, I used to tell my guys,
if you go out, you get a DUI,
you get put in jail for a fight,
you get hurt because you’re doing something drunk,
you just did Al-Qaeda’s job for them.
You just did Al-Qaeda’s.
They wanna take you off the battlefield
and you just took yourself off the battlefield.
You can’t go on deployment now.
And that would always hit guys.
And I think that that’s, you know,
the SEAL teams kind of leaning in that direction more,
realizing the negativity of alcohol.
I wish I would have realized that earlier.
I wish I would have been a better leader
and recognize that at an earlier stage
and recognize that just because
I was kind of getting away with it,
meaning it didn’t really,
I didn’t wake up in the morning going,
man, I can’t wait to get drunk.
I never really had that feeling.
I wish I would have realized
that there’s other guys that do.
And, you know, there’s people that can operate
and be functional and it doesn’t really impact their lives,
but there’s a lot of people that don’t.
And I don’t think it’s worth the dice roll
to start drinking.
I just don’t think it’s worth the dice roll.
What do you get out of it?
So I think that overall,
that’s why if when I think about alcohol,
I just think about all the lives that it’s ruined
and I don’t like it.
And I wish I would have done a better job of saying,
you know what?
This is probably not good and we shouldn’t do this.
And unfortunately I didn’t.
And I try and convey that message as much as I can now.
And it did bring me back to my roots
because when I was a kid,
it was like alcohol is weak.
And you look at these guys,
they don’t know what they’re doing.
They’re acting like idiots.
I’m not gonna be like that.
And so, you know, as I got older,
once I got on the SEAL teams,
I kind of went back to that.
As far as kind of where I became me,
I just actually have to kind of give a lot of credit
to the music that I grew up listening to
and the attitude that we had back then,
listening to hardcore music,
being able to stand up against what other people were saying
which is what you’re doing when you’re in that scene.
And the whole DIY nature of it,
hey, we can just do this ourselves.
We can just make this happen for ourselves.
We don’t need anybody else.
We can do this.
And that hardcore attitude and sticking by your friends
and standing up and getting in fights
and like, that’s what you’re gonna do.
That’s kind of my attitude.
And I got interviewed for a documentary
that they’re making about Harley Flanagan
and the Cro-Mags.
And, you know, when I was a kid
and actually through my whole life,
like that music is the soundtrack to my life.
And so I always would have that music running in my head.
But to your question, I had something in me
that when I heard that music for the first time,
I was like, okay, here it is.
You know, here it is.
This is, you know, I hear the Beatles.
I hear the Grateful Dead.
I hear the Rolling Stones.
I hear the whoever.
And you go, okay, that’s fine.
But when I heard hardcore music for the first time,
when I heard the Cro-Mags, when I heard Agnostic Front,
when I heard the Bad Brains,
I thought that was just like, it was part of me already.
And then it was the attitude.
And again, you can listen to my podcast
with Harley Flanagan.
The way I viewed Harley Flanagan,
the way I viewed the Cro-Mags
was not the way they actually were.
I mean, you know, Harley was doing drugs.
I mean, horrible drugs.
He was on heroin, everything else.
But his image was like straight edge, kind of spiritual.
They had all that stuff going on.
And I thought, okay, well, that’s who they are.
But I didn’t know.
I’m like a kid living in the woods in Connecticut.
I’m just kind of hearing what I’m hearing.
Listen to the lyrics.
Listen to the lyrics of Minor Threat.
Listen to the lyrics.
And you go, okay, this stuff, I agree with this stuff.
And I just think that that kind of set a datum in my head
of being okay with being outside,
being okay with saying no,
being okay with being a rebel,
being okay with not going along
with what everyone else is doing.
And that became very important when I was in the military.
And I looked at what leadership might be telling me to do
and might think to myself,
hey, that doesn’t seem like a good idea.
And having the wherewithal to say,
hey boss, I’m not sure this is a good idea.
Not to be a jerk about it, but just to say,
there might be a better way to get this done.
What do you think of this?
Or, hey boss, can I ask you a question about that?
So I think if I had to trace it back,
having Black Flag, My War, Side 2 on my record player
for like a year and a half straight,
that’s gonna leave a mark, man.
And I think it left a mark on me.
I love what you just said.
And when I say love, I really mean it
because as we both know, we share a common love
for certain music, in particular, Minor Threat
and some stuff from the punk rock scene.
In particular, for me, the Northeast punk rock scene,
the Bruisers, Al Bar from the Bruisers.
Now people know him as the lead singer
for the Dropkick Murphys, but before that was the Bruisers.
We run the risk of going deep down a rabbit hole
of music that most people may or may not be familiar with.
Although most people have heard of the Dropkicks,
but yeah, I’m right there with you.
I mean, I remember the first time hearing
Stiff Little Fingers or Rancid
and even Bouncing Souls, right, from New Jersey.
Not even Bouncing Souls, sorry, Brian and Greg.
No, the Bouncing Souls and going, yes, that.
That’s me, that’s it.
But as you said, it was already kind of in you.
It’s like a recognition.
And I bring this up and I want to highlight it
not because we share this, although I do find that
to be an amazing kinship that we felt right away
and it was like we’d probably riff
for 25 hours just on that.
But it brings me back to this idea
that certainly is not my idea.
Actually, the first time I heard about it
was from Robert Greene, who wrote the book Mastery
and some important writings, various, what was it?
I think it was the, I forget how many laws of power,
but those books, Robert Greene.
Mastery is actually a book that I highly recommend
people read because it talks about mentorship
and finding mentors and the fact that we’re supposed
to break up and move on from mentors
and that mentors aren’t always people that we know
or that know us, et cetera.
Amazing book, really.
But he was the first person I ever heard
describe this idea that if we think back long enough,
there’s some seed moment, maybe it was shopping
for the pants, it sounds like it was,
but also music where you see something
and it’s like, yes, that’s me and I’m that.
And then that becomes a sort of soundtrack or visual image
or something for your life that you carry forward with you.
The neuroscientist in me wants to say
that that is the first time that we really tap
into this dopamine system in a way that is unique to us
because every child responds to food
with a little bit of dopamine when we’re hungry,
responds to warmth when we’re cold,
responds to a warm, dry diaper after we just wet ourselves,
which we all did.
I don’t know, maybe Jocko, you changed your own diapers.
But I’m guessing that someone changed your diaper
at one point, not an image path we need to go down.
But the idea is that we all have these universal sources
of kind of having our needs met,
going from discomfort to comfort and back again,
which is basically childhood.
But at some point, something comes along
that we really feel is unique to us.
And it may be the thing that everyone else likes.
Maybe it’s top 40 or whatever it is.
Maybe it’s the shoe that everyone’s wearing
and that seems good.
But I do think that there are certain people
who are kind of 10 or 20 or maybe even 180 degrees off
from what everyone else likes.
And they’re like, that thing is what’s really cool.
And it’s a felt thing.
And so along the lines of felt things,
as opposed to things that everyone values,
what are your sources of motivation?
And I’m going to guess that some of them are internal.
We could point to head or we could point to heart,
doesn’t really matter.
But like when you think of sources of motivation,
do you have a palette of them that you can dip into?
Do you even feel the need to dip into them?
Or is it really just all about action steps
throughout your day?
Or if I can even venture into the somewhat harder stories
that I’ve heard you talk about,
do you sometimes think back and you’re like,
listen, I’m going to do this because there are a bunch
of guys that are dead now that can’t.
And so I’m going to do it because I can.
What are the paints on your motivation palette, if you will?
Well, you probably heard me say that motivation
isn’t something that I am going to count on
because it’s just an emotion that’s going to come and go.
And it’s just like feeling happy.
You feel happy right now.
Maybe you won’t feel happy in 15 minutes.
You feel sad now.
Maybe you won’t feel sad in 15 minutes.
You feel motivated right now.
You might not feel motivated in 15 minutes.
Therefore, I can’t rely on it.
So I’m not going to put any,
I’m not going to put any money on just being motivated
because it doesn’t really matter to me.
So the daily actions that I take aren’t from motivation.
They’re just from discipline.
Like I said earlier, I’m not going to get up
and go through some big debate about,
well, do I really feel like doing this?
No, I don’t feel like doing this, but it doesn’t matter.
So I’m just going to go do it.
Now, if we start to look at sort of a broader
movement through life and continuing to try
and move forward and move on,
my buddy Seth died and he was the Delta platoon commander
in tasking the bruiser.
And he died in 2017 and it was in a parachute accident.
And it was, I mean, it’s definitely unexpected.
And also he’d already been through multiple deployments,
was with us, with me in the Battle of Ramadi.
He then went back into Sadr City
and led a ton of very dangerous operations.
And then he did other deployments
and was kind of done with his deployments, kind of done.
And now he’s just talking about when he’s going to retire.
And he’s a couple of years away from retirement.
And I’m talking about,
hey, we’re going to work together again.
And it all seems like we’re on a pretty good path
to just move forward.
And then he ends up dying in a parachute accident.
And he’s a guy that was really just kind of,
you’re not going to be able to replace any,
there’s a uniqueness to him that you’re not going to find.
And I’ve got some stuff that he wrote.
He was an incredible writer.
And I’ll like try and write something like him.
I can’t, we can’t do it.
Cause he had a bigger vocabulary
and a more articulate way of writing.
And so I can’t write anything as well as he wrote it.
He was incredible at guitar.
He played guitar, played ukulele, like sick,
like an incredible at playing guitar.
And he’s a total knuckle dragger,
like a total meathead knuckle dragger.
You know, his nickname was unfrozen caveman
because he just, he just, you know,
looked like a big caveman and yet he spoke French
and, you know, could recite French poetry
and was really good at learning languages.
And he was an artist.
And he had, you know what synesthesia is?
Do you know what that is?
Emerging of the senses, so people that can see colors and.
So he didn’t know what it was.
I’m sorry, see colors.
I hope most people can see colors.
I’m sorry, that can hear colors
and can associate particular colors with sound
or like particular keys on the piano.
It’s pretty rare.
Some people think they have it,
but true synesthesics are pretty rare,
but they don’t have to fight for this trait.
It just kind of emerges for them.
He didn’t know it.
But one day he was talking to me
and he was embarrassed to tell me.
He’s like, you know, what’s weird is,
when I think of numbers, I have colors in my head.
And I go, what do you mean?
And he says, hollow was zero.
And I remember seven is yellow.
I don’t remember any of those,
but he just rattled off like one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight, nine.
You know, he says, you know, hollow, white, clear,
all of, you know, just rattled off these colors.
So he had that synesthesia
and it gave him some kind of weird ability
to memorize numbers.
So, you know, he’d be in a bar and talk to some girl
and he’d say, what’s your number?
And he would know it for two years.
He would just know it.
And that also made him incredibly good at playing guitar
because now like the scale and the fret board of a guitar
is this, it’s a mathematical thing
that he has all in this weird,
this weird coloration scenario going on.
So there’s, so he’s this guy and, you know,
and very, a very emotional guy,
a very emotional guy who would, you know,
I was talking earlier about being a balance for someone.
I had to balance this dude out on a daily basis sometimes,
you know, he’d be so mad about something, you know,
one day he’d be, I hate the teams.
I hate all these guys.
And I’d say, yeah, I get it, man.
And the next day, I’m never getting out of the teams.
You know, he would oscillate that bad.
And I would tell him, hey, bro, you’re oscillating again.
And just would do anything.
And he loved his guys and would do anything for his guys.
And so when he died,
you know, we’re at his, we’re at his,
it’s not his funeral, it’s before the funeral.
It’s like the open casket thing, the wake thing.
And myself, his brother, Alex,
Leif Babin, who I wrote Extreme Ownership with,
and JP Donnell, who’s one of my brothers
who works with us at Echelon Front now,
is with us in Ramadi and was very close to Seth.
And we’re like, everyone kind of cleared out for us.
And we go in there and I think JP gave him,
JP had one of those memorial bracelets
with guys’ names on it that had died.
And JP gave that to him.
And I think Leif gave him some surf wax
because also Seth was a surfer.
And I gave Seth his black belt
because he started training jujitsu with me
and he had his purple belt.
He’d gotten his purple belt, I gave him his black belt.
And everyone was just quiet.
And, you know, JP was telling this story the other day.
And I just said, we will not fail him.
Meaning that him, Mark, Mikey, Chris, Seth,
and countless other guys, they’re not here.
They don’t have the opportunity to do the things we do.
They don’t have the opportunity to get up in the morning.
So that’s what it is, man.
I won’t fail those guys.
Thanks for sharing that.
Yeah, I think anyone listening to this
feels what I feel right now,
which is it’s very clear that the depth of emotion
for people that we care about
and lose has everything to do with our love for them.
There’s just no question about it, right?
That grief and love are so intimately tied.
They are a direct reflection of one another.
And I hesitate to kind of stay on hard themes,
but I think it’s really important for a couple of reasons.
Last time we spoke, it was in your office and your podcast.
And after we wrapped up,
we started talking about some people we know
and some things that had happened in your community
and kind of spooled into some discussions
about things that happened in nearby communities
and civilian culture.
And one of the things that’s so perplexing,
I think, to people, including me,
but maybe with time less so,
and this actually came up last night in a discussion
at home because of some recent events, not close to me,
but just that some people go through things
where there’s loss.
They go through life and there’s hardship.
I think most people experience some hardship,
certainly some more than others.
And every once in a while and far too often,
and even in the SEAL Team community
and even in the various communities
within the SEAL Team community
where one would never expect it, right?
These are highly trained, tight community, hard guys, right?
That’s the language we sometimes hear.
But as you pointed out,
these are people often that have tremendous emotional depth.
And I’m so glad that you brought that up
because I think we sometimes think of emotion as weakness,
but there was a time not long ago, 40, 50 years ago,
where emotions like jealousy and intensity,
you think the character Sonny and the Godfather,
like he would get so pissed,
he would fight with his own fist, right?
That’s a pretty emotional response,
where intensity and emotion
were kind of interchangeable words, right?
At some level, I’m going to be direct.
There’ve been a lot of guys coming out of the SEAL Teams
I’ve been surprised to hear that kill themselves.
And yesterday there was a major suicide.
I didn’t know this guy in particular,
we actually followed each other on social media,
but I admittedly was not close to him, didn’t know him,
didn’t know him at all.
In fact, his name was Twitch or something.
I mean, he was this guy, he was a public facing figure.
But listen, happens all too often.
And it even happens in former operators.
And suicide is something that fascinates me
and intrigues me and scares the hell out of me.
Because for the life of me,
I cannot map it to any specific thing
in the brain or body that we’re aware of.
And yet I’ve had several friends commit suicide,
had my undergrad advisor commit suicide.
The point is not them or their story.
The point is what in the world dictates
whether or not somebody who has a community
who’s doing well and then less well
decides to off themselves to end their own life
versus decide I’m going to keep going.
I mean, I’m raising this as a question,
I wish I had an answer.
I used to have ideas like, oh, it’s time perception.
These people are feeling so miserable
that they feel it’s going to go on forever.
But then you start reading the literature on suicide
and I’ve started to go into this.
For those of you that can stomach it,
and I don’t know that I want to recommend this movie,
but I’m just going to say it exists.
The movie, The Bridge,
where they fixed the camera on the Golden Gate Bridge
for a year.
It turns out one person a day on average tries to jump off.
You talk to a guy who survived it.
By the way, he jumped off the moment he went off there.
He thought, I wish I hadn’t done that.
This kid with bipolar disorder,
especially males 20 to 30 times higher incidents of suicide.
The point is that there’s something that happens
in the brain where somehow people also will get the idea
and you hear this,
that this is like something they’re excited to do
or that they’re going to right the world somehow
by doing this,
or that somehow it’s like a gift to themselves.
Again, I’m not encouraging anybody to do this.
I want to be very clear,
but these are the things that you hear.
And sadly your community has lost a number of people
And yet there are a lot of guys that thrive.
And so more as a template for trying to understand
mental health and depression and suicide,
what are your thoughts on why some people
seem to thrive and some people just go all the way down?
Clearly there’s a, that’s a very complex question.
And there’s probably a lot of different answers.
And I certainly am not one to be able to answer
However, probably where my thought has gone on this lately,
because I’ve known some guys that have killed themselves
and I’ve been totally shocked,
but, and just been completely and totally shocked
that guys that I knew killed themselves.
Guys that you would think,
oh, this guy would never do this in a million years.
And that’s the feeling I’ve had a lot about a lot of the
guys that I know that have killed themselves.
I had a woman on my podcast named Sarah Wilkinson,
and she’s an awesome woman.
And she was married to a SEAL.
His name was Chad.
I didn’t know him.
He killed himself.
He, and to hear her describe the story,
the shocking thing about the story is that the guy that she
knew, the guy that she married
was not the same guy that killed himself.
Something happened to him that made him a different person.
And look, they’re getting all this information now
about CTE and the brain trauma that you go through.
And people are exposed to that.
And I think, if you’ve ever seen George Foreman,
he seems totally normal and good to go, right?
And Muhammad Ali, not so much.
And I’ve known fighters and you can look at any number
of boxers that have had a career and some of them are fine.
And some of them have some real significant,
what is it?
Pugilistic, there’s a pugilistic syndrome, right?
They’ve been punched too much and they have problems.
So different people, you can expose different people
to blast impact and it’s gonna have a different impact
And I think that, again, to hear Sarah explain that story
and what she saw from her husband and how different he was
when they got married compared to where they ended up,
it’s totally different, a totally different person.
I had another friend of mine on who named Marcus Capone
and his wife came on with him and she said the same thing.
Like the guy that she married was not the same guy
that was ready to kill himself.
And he didn’t, thankfully, it was a different person.
And it’s not, look, if Fred is married to some woman
and Fred and Jessica grow apart over time
and he ends up with some other girl,
it’s still the same guy, right?
It’s still the same guy that is now, look, they grew apart,
they’re getting divorced, we get it.
But the way that both of them described their husbands
as being different people,
that’s what stuck with me more than anything else.
So I, again, I’m throwing this out there
only because it’s what I’ve observed
through the people that I know
and seeing and hearing those stories
of people being totally different.
And I’ve known a few people.
One of my friends, Dave, killed himself.
I never would have guessed in a million years
that Dave would have killed himself.
It just, it doesn’t compute, it doesn’t compute.
And so my suspicion is there has to be something going on
mechanically or chemically with the brain
that causes them to get into a mode
where they’re depressed and they don’t see a way out
and that that’s the way they feel now.
And again, what’s interesting about this
is we already talked about the fact that the selection,
the selection process weeds out guys
that are gonna take a loss
and not be able to get up again.
No, you’ve got SEALs.
SEALs can take a loss and get back up again.
That’s what you learn how to do in bed
or that’s what you, you don’t learn how to do it.
You have it.
And if you make it through that training,
you have that ability to take a loss.
All right, cool, shake it off, get back up, keep going.
They’re gonna do that to you.
So now you’ve got guys that are taking a loss
and they don’t see a way out anymore.
In fact, to such a point
that they’re gonna take their own lives.
It’s, my suspicion is at some point
they’re gonna figure out that this exposure
to the adrenaline, the explosions all the time.
I mean, you go out to a range, just in peace time,
you go out to a range and you shoot a Carl Gustav
and you’re a range safety officer.
So you go out there with every guy
that’s shooting a Carl Gustav.
It’s a big giant, like bazooka looking weapon.
And every time you shoot it,
it kind of rattles your cage a little bit.
Well, if you’re a range safety officer and you’re out there
and you’re gonna watch everyone in the platoon
shoot three of those, it’s gonna have an impact.
Then you go overseas and you’re a breacher
or you’re part of a breach team.
I mean, I had a time where one of my guys
where we’re doing an assault on a compound,
I’m on the ladder, like most buildings in Iraq
have a wall around them.
So the way we would conduct these raids,
put the ladder up, the assault,
the breach team would climb over the ladder
and I would go right behind the breach team
and I would stand on the ladder.
So I’m looking at the building, observing,
making sure there’s no one waking up,
make sure there’s no threats.
And then as I’m watching this guy in particular,
he puts the breach on the door, explosive breach.
So he’s gonna blow the door up.
He’s got his little team with him.
He puts the breach on the door.
He starts to back away and there’s like an obstacle.
There was like a freaking table or a lawn chair
or something and he couldn’t get around it.
And I’m sitting there, it’s dark.
I mean, it’s the middle of the night,
it’s two o’clock in the morning.
And I’m like, I wonder what he’s gonna do.
I see him kind of stuck for a second.
And then I just see him lay down and I’m like,
oh, he’s just gonna take this thing.
And sure enough, three or four feet away
from this breach point, he lays down
and just clacks off this explosive charge.
And I jump over the wall and as I’m going in,
I’m trying to get the rest of the platoon
to go and commence this assault.
I look at him, he looked like he just got
hit in the head with a baseball bat.
And guess what he did the next night?
Another breach on another target.
Guess what he did the next night?
Another breach on another target.
So you get guys that have that exposure,
which is, I mean, every SEAL is eating a breach.
I mean, you’re eating flashbangs,
you’re eating breaches, you’re shooting 50 cals.
Like you’re eating some traumatic brain injury.
But then you must have some people
that have some sort of genetic propensity
to have this negative thing happen.
And I can only guess, man,
that this has something to do with it.
Because otherwise, we wouldn’t be hearing
so many of these stories.
And of course, we’re just talking about the SEAL teams.
We’re not talking about the military writ large,
which is in the same exact boat.
I’m also nervous about the social contagion of suicide
within the veteran community.
I’m nervous about that.
It’s one of the things that makes me apprehensive
about talking about it.
But obviously I’ve talked about it.
I’ve had people on my podcast to discuss these things.
But I am worried about that social contagion of,
man, you know, Fred did it.
You know, he got all this attention
and he doesn’t have to deal with anything anymore.
I’m gonna do it too.
There’s gotta be some level of that going on as well.
So it’s a horrible situation.
Yeah, the social contagion part is one that hits home
from a different dimension.
The high school I went to, which is,
name isn’t important, but Gunn High School,
G-U-N-N, Gunn High School,
is famous for being one of the better public high schools.
Not that I attended as much as I should have.
I can tell you more about the curbs in the parking lot
than I could tell you about the classes I took.
And that’s just not encouraging people
to not attend high school.
It took a lot of really hard work to climb back up
to where I should have been when I graduate.
But it has an infamous reputation,
or I should say a reputation as an infamous school
because it’s one of the highest suicide rates
in any of the schools in the country
because there’s a train tracks that run through town
and there was a kind of a contagion
of kids throwing themselves on the train tracks.
This was happening a lot.
This was written up in various newspapers, et cetera.
Fortunately, it seems to have died down.
Again, I’m also hesitant to like talk about this
because no one wants to spark this,
but there does seem to be something about
lack of ability to see into a future, obviously,
or the future that people are seeing into is so dark
that somehow they lose touch with the idea
that emotions come and go.
You said it about emotion, about motivation.
Emotions come and go,
but somehow people lose touch with that.
And then I will venture a guess,
and here I’m hoping someone’s gonna figure this out
at some point so we can have a more concrete conversation
about the mechanisms and what to do about it.
But I think there’s also something about identity,
about loss of a place to put one’s energy,
something useful in the world.
If you’re a generator,
what you’re talking about here are guys
that are generators, right?
They are not projectors.
They live to have effective action on the world for good,
and then end up killing themselves.
In youth, it’s a little more complicated
to put a finger on, you know,
because what’s going on there.
We assume depression,
but then in learning more about suicide,
there’s also this kind of like excitement
for certain people about solving something
that seemed unsolvable any other way.
And again, I’m certainly not encouraging this.
I’m strongly discouraging people
from taking their own life, obviously.
But something about time
and the loss of perception about time.
And one thing that we know for sure,
here we can really hang our hat on something,
is that if you do the forensics on somebody
that was suicidal, attempted, or took their life,
in the preceding days and weeks,
their sleep-wake schedule was completely whacked.
They exit the normal routine of most people.
They isolate through inversions of time.
And I do wonder sometimes whether or not
the vampire shifts, as they’re sometimes called,
the nighttime deployments, and the back and forth.
I mean, that’s a lot for a system to take.
Shift workers kill themselves
far more than non-shift workers.
So I do think there’s something there.
And again, I’m not saying everyone needs to be in bed by nine
and up by four, and you know,
although that would be a great schedule for most people.
But I do think that there are some universal laws
of what makes the human body and brain healthy.
And if you violate those laws long enough,
with CTE or with disruption in your schedules,
you run the risk,
especially if there’s a predisposition there.
And then other factors start to layer in.
Again, and I have to apologize
because I don’t have any real answers
or more biology or psychology to firmly throw at this,
except the warning for people who are bipolar
or know somebody with bipolar.
They are 20 to 30 times more likely to kill themselves.
And males in particular are more likely to use methods
that will kill them the first time, as opposed to survive.
There’s a big sex difference there.
Yeah, you throw alcohol in there too, you know,
and Marcus has run an organization now
where they’re taking vets down to do the psychedelic,
what they call it, a journey.
This is Veterans Solutions.
Yeah, they’re a great organization.
And I should mention very bipartisan organization.
I attended one event on Coronado
and there were people from the far left,
the far right politicians and everything in between
talking about how critical this is.
So this is not a political issue.
This is a mental health issue.
Yeah, and even when I reflected on Marcus talking to me,
he was talking about how he’s kind of
in this downward spiral.
Part of the downward spiral, he’s drinking every day.
And I’m thinking to myself, man,
like I didn’t think of it during the show.
I kind of was thinking about it afterwards.
I was thinking, man, like if you’re drinking all the time,
you’re on a downward spiral.
Like that’s one thing you should just stop.
Let’s stop that immediately.
So I just wanted to throw that out there.
I think when that’s another sign from the outside,
looking in, if someone’s self-medicating with alcohol,
it’s not a good place, not a good place.
They’re not in a good place
and they could probably use some help.
I appreciate you saying it.
Again, we did this episode on alcohol.
I went into it totally open-minded.
I’ve never been a big drinker.
I’ve had it.
I can drink or not drink.
Was never really into drugs at all.
You know, dabbled a little bit when I was younger.
I regret it, frankly.
Brain is plastic early on.
I didn’t need that.
Never did hard drugs,
never touched cocaine, amphetamine, or anything like that.
So, and if I had, I would say, right?
I think I’m comfortable enough in my position in life
that if I had, I’d certainly say.
But I think that it’s pretty clear
that alcohol is bad for us.
It’s certainly past a certain, you know,
to drink, we limit people,
especially with the propensity for alcoholism
or who are dealing with other issues.
That’s especially the case for not drinking, right?
And I guess, you know,
we’ve gotten into some hard territory here,
but I think if this conversation
cues up an awareness to anybody, which I hope it would,
either people that are in that space
of wondering if they should continue or not,
or that know somebody who might be,
I do think that the takeaway is very clear,
which is that, you know,
there are ways to avoid these traps
and to avoid making these traps worse.
And I think we, regular sleep-wake schedules,
and I wrote this down,
that, you know, you, in particular,
I’ve said several times,
rather than looking for sources of things outside you,
like a job or a relationship, which are all great,
but as sources of energy or motivation or inspiration
to use positive action as a source of energy,
I think is just, if I could like put that up
on a billboard in Times Square, I would, right?
And I put your name next to it,
which is that positive action is a source of energy
that then you can recycle into more things.
I think going back to the fundamentals, right?
Yeah, and positive action is
when you have to contend with something,
when there’s something that you’re afraid of, right?
Step into it, move towards it,
that’s how you’re gonna solve that problem.
You don’t solve problems by running away from them.
You solve them by moving towards them
and figuring out what’s going on.
And I mean, alcohol is obviously a clear way
to avoid the problem, at least for the next four hours.
And you wake up and that problem is still there
and that’s not good,
but when you’ve got some kind of a problem and listen,
then we could go down the whole path
of talking about the indirect approach,
which is a theory of combat, which I completely believe in,
but it also applies to interacting with other people.
If you have a problem with some other person
to think to myself, well, I got a problem with Andrew,
I’m gonna go confront him on it.
And that might not be the best solution.
In fact, it’s probably not the best solution
for me to go confront you with the problem
because now we’re gonna have a confrontation.
It might be better for me to take an indirect approach
and not confront you,
but instead engage in a conversation with you
about something that’s maybe adjacent
to the problem that I have.
And then eventually that builds our relationship
to a point where you start to recognize,
oh, I bet Jocko feels something about this thing
and we can move towards a solution
instead of me trying to punch you in the face
with some truth that I believe
versus the truth that you believe.
And now we’re engaged in combat and that’s bad.
There’s gonna be casualties.
I’d rather take an indirect approach
and build a relationship where we can solve problems
in a more positive way.
I love that.
And I love it because it really speaks to the power
of thinking carefully and being patient
and a little bit slower at times.
I also heard you say something earlier
that’s still flagging in my mind,
which is not thinking too much.
I think it seems to be a time
where thinking too much is very dangerous.
And again, we can keep the discussion
that we were having about mental health
or we could even just call it what it is, mental illness.
I think everyone would agree suicide
is some reflection of an unhealthy state.
We can keep that in the backdrop as we talk about this,
but this isn’t necessarily only about that.
You seem to have an ability to engage in things
without thinking too much
and yet also to sit back and be pretty observant.
And you’ve talked about third-personing of the self.
I’d love to talk a little bit more about this,
even though it’s a topic you’ve delved into before.
And in particular, the topic of meditation.
I’ve been reading more about meditation.
I’ve meditated for different stretches in my life,
different amounts of time.
And there are two basic forms of meditation
that I only recently learned about.
One is a focused attention meditation,
sitting, closing your eyes, focusing on your breath,
body, body surface,
or even a visual target in your environment and just focus.
And we know that that enhances one’s ability to focus.
If you do it too late in the day,
it also enhance your ability to not fall asleep, right?
A lot of people don’t realize
that meditation too late in the day,
if it’s a focused meditation,
you’re just ramping up the activity
in the prefrontal cortex.
It’s a great tool for getting better at focusing.
But then there’s also this type of meditation
called open observer meditation,
where you purposefully don’t include a target in your mind
or in your vision or in your hearing.
And you just sit there, eyes closed, eyes open,
and you go into a place of whatever comes up,
but you don’t hover there too long.
The goal is to not hover on any one thing,
which sounds like deliberate attention deficit disorder,
but it’s actually a pretty cool method, it turns out,
for restoring our ability to engage in focus,
but also for one particular thing
that you mentioned earlier,
which is creativity and creative problem solving,
which of course requires accessing,
let’s just say more colors on the palette
than your vision might be on,
realizing, oh, there’s also all these other colors
over here in the periphery that I’m missing
because I’m hyper-focused.
Do you meditate?
If you do meditate,
is it more of an open monitoring or a focused meditation?
And if you don’t do a kind of standard meditation,
are there times throughout your day
and your routine and your week where,
as I’m describing in this,
it maps to something that kind of feels like
open monitoring or focused meditation?
Yeah, so no, I don’t meditate.
I haven’t ever, I don’t think I’ve ever
actually meditated for one second in my life, and I…
And I refuse to.
No, no, it’s not that at all.
I know Sam Harris sent me his app,
and we were gonna do a podcast,
and I said, dude, I’ll do it for two weeks,
and we’ll do a podcast,
and I’ll be more enlightened and everything,
and I didn’t even give Sam Harris two weeks,
so I still owe Sam Harris two weeks
on his app of meditation so we can see how it impacts me.
But no, I’ve never done it before.
I’ve never tried to do it.
And that being said,
if the goal is to take a step back
and detach from what’s going on,
I do that all day, every day.
So that is something that I’ve talked about,
and it’s something that I tried to teach.
I tried to teach the young SEAL leaders
not to get caught up in what’s happening
right in front of them,
but to take a step back,
detach from the situation,
detach from their emotions,
see more of what’s happening.
You know, you’re talking about
seeing more colors of the palette.
Well, on the battlefield,
I want people to be able to see more angles,
more maneuvers, more opportunities,
more of what the enemy might do,
That’s what I always tried to achieve.
And so I’m sorry, I apologize.
I can’t give you any good discussion on meditation
because I haven’t tried it.
No apology necessary,
but I will ask when you go surfing
and you’re sitting in the water waiting for a wave,
are you focused on one particular location on the horizon
or are you kind of in kind of a open monitoring,
just enjoying, just bouncing up and down in the water?
Like where is your attention during activities like that?
Yeah, so surfing, oftentimes surfing,
you’re a monkey mind
and you’re just not thinking about anything.
Same thing with jujitsu.
Also with surfing, you know,
if you’re waiting for a wave,
your mind is just going.
I mean, it’s in another universe sometimes
as you’re sitting there waiting
because you’re just looking out at the horizon
and your mind, I mean, my mind,
I’m thinking about all kinds,
like I have to come home sometimes and like write notes
because I thought of this.
I thought of an idea.
I thought of a perspective.
That happens to me at jujitsu.
That happens to me talking to people
where someone’s talking about something.
I’m like, oh, I got a good idea right now.
I’m gonna go write that down.
I have to go and write it down.
I have notes in my phone, you know,
like pages and pages and pages of notes in my phone
of ideas that I had and I write them down.
Do you voice memo things?
No, I type them.
I only need to type like seven words on,
and then I have the whole ideas in my head.
Yeah, I put a lot into the notes in my phone as well.
And it probably looks like gibberish to a lot of people,
but I go back through them when I’m on the plane,
especially problems I was challenged with 10 years ago
And I look like, oh my, I’m dealing with the same thing,
different situation, same me, right?
There’s that, we had a amazing psychiatrist on the show,
but I’d love to hear a conversation between the two of you.
His name is Paul Conti.
He was trained at Stanford and Harvard.
He’s an amazing guy.
Actually talks openly about the tragedy
that his brother killed himself,
which was what drove him into psychiatry.
And he’s an interesting guy
because he’s obviously highly educated, incredibly smart.
Wrote a book on trauma,
but he has incredible knowledge
about a number of other areas of psychology,
including narcissism, sociopathy.
He’s worked in a lot of really interesting domains
with interesting people
that everyone listening on this podcast would recognize.
Of course, he’s not going to reveal who those people are,
but, and he talks about the fact that
you can look at different people, right?
He was actually the one that shared with me
this notion of generators and projectors
and directed me towards that literature.
But when he came on the podcast,
he talked a little bit about that stuff,
but he talked mostly about trauma.
But then we were talking about ways
in which people engage in the world and different archetypes
and how you start looking at stories throughout history
and you start seeing the same themes over and over, right?
Westerns, this idea of a guy rides into town
and does some repair work,
defeats the sinister person
or things that are imposing on the town,
then rides to the next town.
It’s always like it ends with it.
It’s going to keep continuing.
But then when we got into this discussion of relationship,
he talks about, he said this on the podcast,
of a patient who said,
I’ve been in 10 abusive relationships.
And he’d say to that patient,
no, you’ve been in one relationship 10 times, right?
Which is essentially, it’s all about your issue, right?
That’s not you.
I’m not, I purposely didn’t point at you
for those listening.
And I think that those features of ourselves
that we bring from condition to condition
can be negative or they can be positive.
One thing that’s interesting,
and here I’m not trying to solve
or understand the SEAL team community per se,
but I think they represent an important archetype
because they are selected for this ability
to take hard conditions and failures
and turn them into wins.
That’s one of the selection criteria, seems to be.
They’re finding who has that capability.
I see a lot of, and happen to know a few people
from the SEAL teams who get out and do really well.
You know, the great businesses,
you’re a shining example of this.
And you have a family and you got German Shepherd too.
Yeah, we’ll talk about animals in a little bit.
You got a dog and it’s like you surf and you train.
And like, I’m sure you have your dark places,
dark moments and challenges like anybody else.
But things look to me like they’re going pretty well.
And then I also know people from the SEAL teams.
Okay, they don’t go down the path of suicide, fortunately,
but it’s sort of like,
they don’t do as well as I would have thought.
And I’m certainly not picking on this community.
I also see this from people who are professional athletes.
I know kids that were phenomenal in high school.
I mean, these were like early admission
to all the Ivy League schools,
because that was what happened in the town
that I grew up in.
And I look at them now and I’m like, wow, like gosh,
it didn’t, somehow it’s not working out.
And I think it’s important for people to hear that,
yes, winning creates the propensity for more winning.
But then why do you think it is that
in a community where people are trained to solve problems,
adapt and make things work,
some people flourish outside the military
and some flourish less.
And some we already talked about really,
go down the dark traps.
What do you think is the quality
that allows people to be really adaptable in particular?
Because most of us live in a landscape
where we have to deal with people who are not us,
like people that are not good at what we’re good at.
And sometimes that’s an asset, sometimes it’s not.
You seem to be particularly good
at like understanding the human animal
and working with that.
So again, this is a broad question.
We’re going very broadband here
and we’ll get narrower again in a little bit,
but I’d love your thoughts on like, why is it,
how is it, what determines whether or not
somebody thrives in novel environments?
I have to start off by just by saying
that I wrote a note as you were talking,
I just put SEAL and then I put the not equals sign,
because you can’t say that a SEAL equals anything.
I mean, there’s guys that have been in the SEAL teams
that are murderers, like there’s-
Like real life murderers.
Like murderers, like rapists and murderers
that went through SEAL training, rapist, murderers,
and they’re in prison for the rest of their lives.
Like that’s a thing.
There’s people that have been in the SEAL teams
that got kicked out of the SEAL teams for drugs.
And I mean, you name it and we’ve got that,
and we’ve got guys that are just lazy
and we’ve got guys that it just-
And physicians, you could say this about physicians.
There’ve been sociopathic serial killer physicians
and then there are ones that are in third world countries
right now that would not accept a billion dollars
to stop serving people at the level of the basic medicine
that they deserve.
Yeah, there’s the SEALs that get out
and just volunteer to go help
in the worst places in the world.
So you’ve got a full spectrum of people.
So to say a SEAL equals success in any domain,
the only domain you can say that they’re successful
is they made it through basic SEAL training.
Because guys make it through basic SEAL training
and they’re not good SEALs, right?
That happens, you know?
So you get guys that make it through basic SEAL training
and they make it through SEAL qualification training
and they make it to a SEAL team
and they get kicked out of the SEAL teams
because they’re not good SEALs.
They weren’t meant to do that job.
So all they’ve proven by making it
through basic SEAL training
is they can kind of suck it up for a while.
And there’s also guys that make it through
basic SEAL training because they learned
how to maneuver through the system.
They learned what to do
and what the minimum requirements were
and how they could skate through this.
There’s guys like that.
It’s not a huge number, but they’re absolutely there.
We see them in science.
You know, people that go to a lab,
figure out who the director of the lab
is at the level of psychology.
And this is actually one of the more
dangerous aspects of science.
It actually negatively impacts all of society.
I’ll just say it.
And any scientists will know what I’m talking about.
They find the big famous labs.
They figure out who that leader of the lab is
and they get that person the data they want.
They might not make the data up,
but they will certainly discard the data that don’t fit.
That which is one way of making data up by exclusion, right?
It’s not literally like painting pictures of cells
that aren’t there or something,
but that happens a lot.
And those people often go far.
They rarely go all the way
because pretty soon their reputation, you know,
expands to the point where people go like,
yeah, no one can repeat that result like that.
But these people sit in very high positions,
not at Stanford, right?
I will say, I don’t know any of my colleagues at Stanford
that meet those criteria,
but you see them and you see what they’re doing.
And they’re basically solving a social engineering thing.
They just happen to be doing it in science.
Now, why anyone would do that in science, I don’t know,
because you don’t get rich in science.
You certainly don’t get famous,
but for whatever reason,
they figured it out that that’s where they’re going to do it.
And I’m sure you see it in law firms.
I’m sure you see it in every single domain of life.
Now you pointed out that there’s some people
that make it to the Ivy League schools
and they graduate from an Ivy League school
and then they don’t do well.
And to me, that’s a very similar to someone
that might make it to the SEAL teams,
do well in the SEAL teams,
and then they get out and they don’t do well.
It’s probably because of what I talked about earlier
when I went to Navy bootcamp.
Here’s what you got to do.
If you do it well, you’ll be rewarded.
Well, if you’re in high school and your dad,
your mom and dad say,
hey, if you do good in high school,
you’re going to get into this Ivy League school
and you get into that Ivy League school.
And here’s what you need to do in high school.
You need to get good grades.
You need to be part of the glee club.
You need to, whatever the things are that you got to do,
you got to speak a different language.
You got to go volunteer in Guatemala in the summertime.
You got to do these things
and then you’ll get into the good college.
Once you get in the good college,
you got to get this degree.
Once you get that degree.
So they’ve had a path laid out for them of boxes to check
and they go and check the boxes.
And then when they get done,
no one has put any more boxes out in front of them
so they don’t know what to do.
And that can certainly happen from someone in the SEAL teams
or someone in the military that what they’ve been,
hey, this is your mission.
This is what you got to do.
Here’s what you need to do to do it well.
Check the box, check the box, check the box, check the box.
And it’s time to retire.
There’s no one putting a box in front of them to check.
And so unless someone,
some guys get out of the SEAL teams
and they go into a big corporate structure
and they kick ass
because there’s someone in the corporate world saying,
hey, here’s what you got to do next year.
And they do great.
And that’s super good for them.
And they actually really like it.
I was talking to a guy the other day.
He’s like a full-on in a corporation.
He’s doing a great job.
He likes what he’s doing.
So, but I think you get some guys
that they don’t really have the open mind
to see where opportunities are.
And they, you know,
one thing that’s nice about the SEAL teams is it’s,
there’s a lot of,
you get a lot of freedom of maneuver, right?
You can really do a lot of stuff that you kind of want to do.
And so when they look at the corporate world,
they don’t see that.
And they think, I don’t, I’m not going to do that.
But then they’re not quite sure how to take the next step.
So I think that’s why you might see some guys
that aren’t super successful
because they don’t really know what to do.
And they don’t really have a mind
that’s open to look for opportunities.
And also you got some guys that success for them
is they’re going to hang out with their family
and they’re going to, you know, get in good shape.
And they’re going to run some triathlons or competing,
whatever they’re going to do, they’re going to go do it.
And that’s what they’re looking to do, you know,
which is also awesome.
Go take time, go enjoy your family, man.
You gave enough to your country.
Go hang out with your kids.
That’s success as far as I’m concerned too.
I agree there.
I know far too many people who are successful
in their professional lives,
but who have very diminished personal lives
and it is not a pretty picture.
You know, you mentioned the parent kind of driving the kid,
do this, do that.
In that scenario, I sense tones of fear.
It’s all about not being a failure.
It’s not actually about love of your craft
or what you enjoy.
Pretty early in my science career,
I learned that there are certain people
who are just ambitious.
They just like to win.
And I used to joke around, it’s not polite,
but I used to go, you know,
we should all just tell that person
that like the new cool thing is like
trying to understand the biology of like,
and I would say like feces or something,
and they’d probably work on it.
And they’d be like, yeah, it’s like the greatest thing
because they actually don’t care what they’re working on.
For them, it’s just the hunt.
And I learned that actually people like that
can serve an important role because like,
well, there’s actually a whole microbiome.
There are actually labs that do work on feces.
So forgive me, my colleagues that work on microbiomes,
but in all seriousness, you know,
people who are just ambitious can be very effective
because you put a problem in front of them
and it’s like a dog they’ll just retrieve.
It’s like, they’ll just go
as opposed to love of retrieving.
For retrieving sake, it’s like you give that same dog,
the analogy here would be give that same dog a high jump
and they’re like into high jumping, right?
Or whatever it is, or diving underwater.
But I think of people more like animals
and more like different dog species.
As your case was with music,
particular music and communities,
or the example of shopping for the pants
and that experience of like the first time
you tap into something that really feels
kind of unique to you.
You’re like, there’s something here.
To be able to find work that includes that,
but also is hard and also allows you to evolve over time.
I mean, I think that’s the real gift
that I think most people are seeking.
And of course there’s no shortcut to that
except perhaps one, which is to be able to sense
the difference between ambition
and there’s no better word for it.
Let’s just call it what it is, which is love.
Like I love this.
And the reason I think that love is so powerful
and here I’m sounding like Lex Friedman,
but I don’t mean interrelational love.
I mean like sort of that being able to sense
what that feels like is that I do believe
that it allows us to tap into an enormous number
of things that fear alone and ambition alone
and just being a hard driving person alone
will not allow us to tap into.
Things like adaptiveness, creativity.
And I think there’s a really obvious reason for it,
which is that the one thing we know about our species
is that we want to make more of ourselves
and to take good care of our young.
Whether or not everyone has kids or not is irrelevant.
The point is that every species not only wants to do that,
but need to do that.
And the feeling of love is really what allows us
to be adaptable.
I don’t think there’s anything that trains up adaptability
as much as being around kids.
You just have to be adaptable, right?
Because one moment they’re up, then they’re down,
then they’re disappointed.
So, you know, and you shared a really important story
about loss of somebody that clearly you loved
and that clearly loved the community he worked in.
It wasn’t just that you guys loved him,
it’s that he loved you guys.
And I think that being able to tap into these feelings
of love for things, for people and for experiences,
I think is so critical.
And, you know, I don’t meditate much these days,
but I have heard of this like love and kindness meditation
and I would sound so soft to me.
I was thinking like, gosh, what am I supposed to do?
Then float, like levitate at the end
and like wear a, you know, a moo moo or whatever it’s called.
I don’t know what’s the thing.
But I, my friend who I’m fortunate to call a friend,
not trying to name drop here,
but I’m very fortunate to call Rick Rubin,
a music producer, a friend.
And he was the one who started turning me on
to different forms of meditation.
The ones I mentioned before in this idea
that there are forms of meditation,
which put us in touch with what he calls the source.
Now this is really getting a little mystical,
but I think this all maps back to the same thing,
which is that there are sources of dopamine
and the other neurotransmitters in us
that give us kind of a superpower to adapt to anything.
And I think it’s at least includes love
because that’s the most adaptable emotion by definition,
because of what’s required for evolution.
So the question therefore is in yourself
and in your observation of people that you’ve worked with,
did you ever sense that just being hard driving
was kind of, it was great, but it was limiting.
Like, did you ever sense that like
by liking the people you work with,
you could perform much better?
Even if they perhaps were not as hard
to kind of borrow the common parlance around this,
they weren’t as hard as everybody else,
that because you like each other so, so much
that you can kind of do anything.
Well, if you have a team of 10 people
and you all have a great relationship and you get along well
and you’re going against my team and we all hate each other
and who’s going to win?
The team that loves each other is going to win, I would hope.
It’s not even close.
As a matter of fact, if you work for me
and you don’t like me,
what kind of performance are you going to give me?
It’s going to be tough.
What if you love me and I’ve looked out for you
and I’ve done everything for you and I’ve taken care of you,
what kind of performance are you going to give me?
I’m like a dog, I’d die for you.
So yeah, and you know, earlier you asked about
the human animal and human nature.
And this is part of leadership.
I got asked this question the other day by a,
I was working with a company and the guy says, you know,
how do I identify,
what are the characteristics of someone that can execute
and how do I identify those characteristics in a person
so that I can get those people?
And I said, well, first of all,
the characteristics are the characteristics
that everybody’s, you know, obviously someone that’s driven,
someone that can communicate well,
someone that’s going to make things happen.
Those are pretty simple to know.
We know what they are.
How do you identify them?
It’s pretty simple as well.
I give you a task.
I give Andrew a task.
It’s a pretty simple task.
If you get it done, cool.
Give you a little bit more complex task.
Do you get it done?
I give the same task to Fred.
He doesn’t get it done.
He comes back with a bunch of questions.
He slow rolls it.
He’s got all kinds of excuses and problems.
I give you an even more complex task.
You come back, you get it done.
And then I’m going to realize, okay,
Andrew’s the guy that makes things happen.
He’s a guy that can actually execute.
And it’s a little bit what you said.
I mean, there’s certain breeds of dogs,
but even that is,
they’re not as different as human beings are, right?
And there are some, so now there are some guys,
I’ve got Andrew who will make things happen.
Here’s the problem with Andrew.
When I say, hey, Andrew,
here’s this nebulous idea that I have.
Can you turn this into a reality?
And you’re like, where do I start?
I’m not sure where you want me to go.
Meanwhile, I gave it to the guy
that didn’t make anything happen
with specific tasks that I gave him.
And he comes back and says,
I say, hey, I got this nebulous idea.
Can you see what you, he goes, oh yeah.
And all of a sudden he takes it and he says,
hey, I figured out a way to make this happen.
So you might have someone that’s very good at executing,
but they’re not very creative.
I might have somebody that’s very creative,
but they’re not very good at executing.
So what do I do?
I build a team where I’ve got Andrew and Fred
and they work together.
And Fred comes up with good ideas
and we bring them to Andrew and Andrew goes and executes him.
So that’s what we’re doing from a leadership perspective
is we’re letting people’s nature execute
and we’re putting people into roles
where their nature is beneficial.
I’m not gonna take someone that’s shy and introverted
and put them out in the lead sales role.
I’m not gonna take somebody that’s boisterous
and extroverted and put them into a cubicle
where they’re gonna be looking at spreadsheets all day.
Clearly, I’m not gonna do that.
So what we have to do as leaders
is we have to find the right people for the right role
and we place them into those roles.
Now, does it mean that I abandon all hope
that the guy that’s an introvert
will ever develop more communication skills?
No, I’m still gonna work with him.
And over time, we’ll get him a little bit moving
in the right direction,
but I’m not gonna take somebody that’s a total introvert
and turn them into a lead sales guy.
That’s not going to happen any more
than I’m gonna change a tiger stripes.
So that’s what we have to do
is we have to help people.
As leaders, we have to help people find the role
and find the thing that they’re good at.
Now, does that mean if I have someone that loves their job,
they’re gonna do better at it?
Does it mean that if I have somebody that’s driven
just by achievement,
that they’re gonna be good at their job?
No, in fact, well, they can be.
There’s gonna be certain roles I can put them in, right?
If I’ve got a sales number I need to hit
and Andrew’s super into achievement,
he wants to be the golden child
and wants to have his picture on the magazine
that we put out about our industry,
cool, I can throw this task at you
and you’re gonna go and get it.
The problem is if there’s something
that’s gonna take more perseverance
and the reward isn’t that high,
or it’s a long-term goal,
you’re probably not the right guy for the job.
So liking your job is absolutely critical.
And if you love your job,
you’re gonna be able to most likely excel at it.
Now, you could be an unfortunate person
that loves your job and is not good at it.
That happens occasionally, right?
I mean, it’s like, sure it does, but it seems pretty rare.
It reminds me of your skateboarding career.
You loved skateboarding, but you just weren’t that good at it.
I wasn’t that good at it.
But you know what I loved more than skateboarding?
I loved the community I was in.
I loved the community I was in.
And I probably would have gone to the industry side
or worked on a company side
and not been on the actual skateboard side
or just skateboard for fun.
So there’s a guy in the skateboard community,
his name’s Jim Thiebaud,
and he’s kind of the not so hidden secret in that community.
He’s an amazing guy.
And he sort of early on left professional skateboarding
to run a company, Real Deluxe,
a bunch of other companies.
He’s an amazing guy.
And he told me, we’d become friends recently,
and he said he realized he wasn’t gonna be
one of the big guys,
but he knew he wanted to be in this community.
And so he found his place.
And I think everyone in skateboarding looks to Jim
as like the guy who cares,
he truly cares about the sport and about the people.
And so he learned to kind of just wrap his arms
and his heart around the whole thing, and it just works.
And so I do think everyone has a certain place
in a community or in a team.
I think that as you’re describing this,
I have to imagine that people are listening and thinking,
like, wow, this team thing is awesome.
Like, it’s just amazing.
I wish I had that, right?
I’m fortunate to have that in my podcast.
I’ve had that in my lab, certainly in my podcast team.
I always say, these guys go, I go.
Like, it’s not just people that press buttons
and run equipment, take photos.
Like, they go, I go.
Like, they go, it’s over.
And I’m fine with that.
I actually love that because it’s, yes,
it’s about the podcast and about the information
and getting it out there,
but it’s as much about the team and working together
just like it was with skateboarding.
So hopefully I’m better at podcasting
than I was at skateboarding.
I end up getting broke off, as the skateboarders say,
and skateboarding too often.
But I want to ask, like, in your family life,
do you look at that as a team?
Like, do you think like, this is my team
and they’re different and how can we synergize?
Yeah, and you’ve got to look at every team like that.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the team
and who’s going to be good at what?
And how do you put people in positions
where they’re going to be able to excel?
I mean, what’s his name, Thibaut?
Imagine if he had a mentor that was only saying,
listen, you got to be a pro skater.
This is your only opportunity.
There’s nothing else.
And he didn’t have the ability to take a step back
and say, you know what, man?
Like, I’m not that, I’m not going to be good enough,
but I really love this industry.
So luckily for him, he figured that out.
And you know, you talked about the superpower
of being like loving your job.
The one thing I claim to be a superpower
is the ability to take a step back and detach,
which I guess is going back to your meditation thing.
But being able to take a step back and look at your life
and say, man, I’ve been skateboarding longer than that guy
and he’s better than me.
And I’ve been skateboarding longer than that other guy
and he’s better than me.
I’m probably not going to be,
this is probably not the right job for me.
What could I do where I could use my skillset?
And obviously he had some entrepreneurial spirit
and was able to figure that out.
So being able to be a part of a team,
and it goes to what I was saying earlier about the mob,
being able to be part of a team,
part of the mob, part of the gang,
but still have the ability to take a step back,
detach from that and assess what is the best way
for this team to move forward.
I mean, you could have this brilliant idea
that from now on, you’re going to make all of your podcasts
about the molecular structure of whatever.
And you know, the rest of the team
probably need to pull you aside and say,
hey man, like I know you really care about that
and that’s awesome.
But everyone really wants to hear about this other stuff.
So let’s tie it in together.
Let’s expand what you,
the specific thing you want to talk about.
So being able to take a step back,
detach and see the bigger picture,
to me is the true superpower of life, of life.
And it’s a lot harder than it sounds.
And you know, this goes back to
when you start talking about people that are having,
going through struggles in life, right?
And I’ve described this before as,
you know, if I’m looking at you
and you’re in a bad state, right?
You’re depressed, you’re sad, you’re moping around,
you’re not getting anything done.
And I’m looking at you from the outside
and I’m thinking for me,
I see this storm cloud around your head, right?
I see the storm cloud around your head and you’re in there.
And all you see,
no matter what direction you look is storm.
All you see is darkness.
I’m outside and I’m looking and I’m like,
hey man, this guy’s got a great education.
He’s healthy, he’s got a good team around him.
Like he’s got all these things going for him.
But you in that state,
you literally cannot see anything
but the darkness of the storm.
And that’s what’s so scary
about when people enter that mode,
is you can look,
I can look at it from the outside and be like,
Andrew, you just got to move like four feet forward
and you’re going to be through this thing.
You might hear me say that and you go,
no, Jocko, I’m looking ahead.
There’s nothing but darkness.
So helping people move forward,
take action and be able to get that perspective,
detach and get outside themselves,
get outside their own heads.
You know, Tim Ferriss said,
get out of your head, get into your body.
That’s one way to do it.
Take action, go do things.
But it’s very scary.
And I’m sure you’ve had this experience
where you’re talking to someone that you know
and they’re bogged down in whatever problem it is,
whatever stress they’re under.
And you’re looking at them going,
hey man, it’s going to be okay.
Like you can clearly see that whatever they’re,
whatever is bothering them and dragging them.
Now you can clearly see,
you know, a lot of times it’s a relationship, right?
The girl, the guy, they got dumped.
And you go, hey man, that person was a disaster anyways.
You’re better off without them.
And they cannot compute that.
They are stuck there.
Or maybe it’s the school that they didn’t get into
or the job that they didn’t get.
And they get so wrapped up in that,
they can’t get out of that storm.
And it’s so, it’s such a helpless feeling
to sit there and tell someone,
hey, you just move a little bit towards me
and you’re going to get out of this storm.
And it’s so much easier said than done.
And that’s why trying to engage with people
and trying to give people that superpower of detachment
where they can take a step back and say, you know what?
You’re right, man.
That girl, she wasn’t who I really thought she was.
I should move on.
But easier said than done.
And that’s one of the biggest challenges I think
that we have as friends and in parents and teammates
is helping people learn to detach,
learn to see the bigger picture,
learn to see that the problem that you have,
that your whole world is actually not that big of a deal.
You know what I wrote?
I’ve written a bunch of kids’ books.
And one of the things that triggered me to write kids’ books
is realizing that, you know, one day my daughter came home.
It’s my oldest daughter.
And she came home from school and she’s like,
she says, I’m stupid.
What do you mean you’re stupid?
I’m stupid, I’m dumb.
Why do you think that?
No, whatever grade it is
when you’re supposed to know your times tables.
I don’t know my times tables.
I said, oh, well, how much have you studied?
She kind of gave me the confused look.
What do you mean studied?
I said, have you studied yet?
Have you made flashcards to learn them?
And she didn’t, she hadn’t.
She thought she should just know them
from, you know, the teacher went over what they are.
Now she should know them
like some other kids in the class did.
And so I’m sitting there going, oh yeah, cool.
We’ll just, you know, we’ll make some flashcards.
And she made flashcards
and she learned her times tables in 45 minutes
and we were good.
But what struck me was, to me, I was like, oh, no big deal.
To her, it was her whole life.
And then I got to see that with my other kids.
You know, somebody said something to them in the recess yard
and I’m like, oh, screw that kid.
They don’t know what they’re, don’t worry about them.
But when you’re, that’s their whole world.
And that unfortunately doesn’t only apply to kids.
It applies to adults as well.
And they get this problem in their world
that seems so insurmountable and so massive
because that little ecosystem that they’re stuck in
is their world.
And they run into this problem in that
and it’s disruptive in that world
and they don’t know how to get out of it.
You know, I did a podcast talking about these ecosystems
that people get into, right?
And there’s all these ecosystems.
You’re in an ecosystem.
We’re both in a shared ecosystem of podcasting.
And we could be like, oh my gosh, you know,
Lex just came out with a new podcast
and it’s been the biggest success.
And what can I do to catch up with Lex?
And all of a sudden I could get really by,
you could get really by, we could be bothered by that
and think, man, I’m a failure.
Meanwhile, there’s people that don’t listen to podcasts.
There’s people that don’t even know what a podcast is.
And yet it’s our whole world.
If we let it be, you’re in the academic world.
Hey, you go, you’re a professor at Stanford,
which is a big deal in that world.
I know people that don’t give a rat’s ass.
They couldn’t, they don’t know where Stanford is.
I get that all the time.
They don’t know where Stanford is.
It’s no big deal.
In the SEAL teams, same thing.
Somebody has a problem in the SEAL teams
and they think this is the whole world and I blew it.
And now what are they gonna do?
When you’re facing a significant problem in life,
a relationship, a problem with a job,
you gotta remember that you’re in one ecosystem.
And if you step outside of that ecosystem,
no one really cares.
And you could go move into a whole
totally different ecosystem and find happiness there.
But at least utilize that to get out of that storm cloud
that you’re in.
And you’re gonna find that there’s plenty of light
out there in the world.
Move towards that and it’s gonna be
a much better situation.
In the spirit of authenticity,
everything you’re saying hits directly home for me.
I don’t know what people’s perceptions of me are.
I actually try not to spend too much time
thinking about that and just really try
and stay in touch with the source.
And I really do believe in this notion
that our love of things is what can generate energy.
And I try and use action to generate energy.
But I happen to also love exercise.
So that’s an easy one there for me.
But I try and stay in that mode.
But to be quite honest, I’ve spent much of my adult life
and probably too much of my teenage life in 20s.
You’re not quite an adult, right, in your 20s.
At least I certainly wasn’t.
In challenging relationships
that admittedly were challenging
because of my role in them also, of course, right?
And each and every time I remember thinking
moving on from this is like this insurmountable thing.
In part because I’m a caretaker and I cared
and it wasn’t just about me and a selfishness.
It was about wanting to right all the wrongs
of that person’s past.
Like I found myself trying to be a time machine for people.
I found myself trying to fix their family lives.
I found myself doing all of that
and also ignoring all the things I needed to focus on
in terms of bettering myself
and making sure I was showing up correct and on and on.
And there are data in the world
in the form of these people that know me very, very well
that I think would say that and a whole lot more, right?
The point isn’t those specific relationships,
but each and every time,
someone would come along and say like,
listen, if this isn’t good for you, it’s not good for them.
Or this is a bad situation
or this isn’t serving either of you well.
But I was like myopic, like this big
and not even so distraught view of the world,
like sans spec of the world and trying to solve
because that’s my nature.
Like I’m gonna solve this, I’m gonna solve it,
I’m gonna solve it.
And sometimes things were solved for some period of time
and sometimes they weren’t.
And I think one thing that just as a confessional,
like I will say,
I could really learn the art of detachment.
I could really learn to focus on that more
if that’s the proper language for it.
I think I’m pretty good at adapting.
I think I’m pretty good at finding good people.
I’m certainly love my team
and that all feels like natural synergy,
although it’s hard work in lab and in the podcast.
But I think the sort of tendency that I have
as a problem solver is to assume
that every problem can be solved
and therefore staying on this problem
until it is solved is the answer.
And maybe the art of detachment
and getting some perspective would help
because if I look back,
I certainly don’t regret the experiences that I’ve had,
but I wasted far too much time.
And frankly, I probably wasted far too much
of other people’s time trying to solve problems
that could not be solved.
And I think without going into this in any more detail
and of course you’re not,
you can send me a bill at the end, by the way.
I think this is-
Confessions are free, man.
Yeah, so I think that being a problem solver is great.
Being forward center of mass is great.
I think learning the systems of the brain and body
and understanding psychology and learning about oneself,
you know, the Oracle had it right,
know thyself in ways that you can maneuver functionally
in your life and career and relationship, et cetera, great.
But I think there’s also a downside to being overly fixated.
It was like my bulldog Costello
used to be like chewing on something,
chewing on something.
Next thing I know he’s chewing on his foot
and you’re like, hey,
and you’d have to like rip him off his own foot
and he’d be like.
Because that chew reflex was just so strong
that sometimes it would turn on himself.
That’s kind of how it feels.
Yeah, I wrote a book called
Leadership Strategy and Tactics.
And one of the things that I wrote about in that book
is like understanding what’s important and what’s not.
And this is very similar to what you’re talking about.
Looking at a problem
and taking a step back and going,
well, A, is this important or not?
And B, is this solvable or is it not?
And C, what’s the ROI on getting it solved
and what’s the effort it’s gonna take
to get this problem solved
and how much is it really gonna impact my world
and my life if I focus on it?
So knowing and understanding
when something’s important or not is a very good skill.
And again, it’s a skill that’s directly related
Because when you’re in that relationship,
this is another thing I’ve been telling people lately,
the solution to your problem
is not gonna be found in the problem.
It’s not gonna be found in there.
You have to get out of the problem
so that you can look at it, make an assessment,
and you can assess how to solve the problem
or whether you need to solve the problem or not.
I mean, there’s a lot of things in my life right now
where I shrug my shoulders and go, okay.
Okay, someone’s saying this.
Okay, roger that.
But carry on, no factor, move on.
And then occasionally you go,
okay, this is something I need to contend with.
This is something I need to deal with.
This is something I need to shape or adjust or move
or solve, to use your word.
The reason I laugh when I say that is because
problems, you have to get in there.
But if you take a step back, you can usually say,
oh, little adjustment here, a little adjustment there,
and that thing’s gonna sort itself out.
Detachment is a superpower, man.
Certainly is, and it’s certainly one
that I need to focus on more.
I’m grateful for you bringing that up.
This is the biologist in me, but what is your process
for engaging detachment or for disengaging?
Is it an active process where you go,
you know, I’m gonna detach from this.
I’m gonna put myself in a situation that is pulling on me.
There’s this gravitational force,
and I’m gonna, I don’t know, create some imagery
in my mind of walking away from it.
Do I physically walk away from it?
Do I outsource it to somebody else?
What are some tools for detachment?
Yeah, this is one of those situations
where you and I had a discussion about the science
and the practical application aligned.
So my original experience with detachment was,
and this is one of those moments where, you know,
I said a lot of times things are just small moments
over time and you make a little adjustment.
This is one of those moments in my life.
And I wrote about leadership strategy and tactics
where I recognized like in a moment what detachment was
and how helpful it was.
I’m on an oil rig doing a training mission.
My whole platoon is in a skirmish line
looking at a large area of the oil rig
that we’re supposed to be clearing.
Again, this is not combat.
This is in the 90s.
There’s nothing going on.
We’re just doing training.
And I’m standing in this skirmish line.
And by the way,
I’m the youngest and most junior guy in my platoon.
And I’m standing there looking down the sight of my weapon
and I’m waiting for someone to make a call
and tell us what to do.
And I wait for five seconds and I wait for 10 seconds
and I wait for 20 seconds and no one’s saying anything.
And we’re waiting for a leader in my platoon to make a call
to tell us what to do, to tell me what to do.
And finally, after like 30 seconds,
which seems like an eternity, I can’t take it anymore.
And so I take a step like a foot, a one foot step,
12 inches, I take a step off the skirmish line.
I look to my left, I look to my right.
And what I see is every other guy in my platoon
is staring down their weapon,
staring down the sight of their weapon,
which means their field of view is tiny.
It’s like a 20 degree field of view.
You’re looking down the scope of your weapon
or the sight of your weapon.
And that’s how big their field of view is.
And I’m looking and I’m thinking,
oh, there’s my platoon commander.
He’s looking down the scope, the sight of his weapon.
There’s my platoon chief.
He’s looking down the side of his weapon.
There’s my leading petty officer.
He’s looking down the side of his weapon.
There’s my assistant platoon commander.
He’s looking down.
So everyone in the platoon is looking down the side
of their weapon, which means they all have
a very narrow field of vision.
Well, when I take a step back and look to my left
and look to my right,
guess what kind of field of vision I got?
I got a massive one.
I can see the whole scene
and I can see exactly what it is we need to do.
And at that moment, look, as a new guy,
you need to keep your mouth shut.
You don’t say anything.
And I’m thinking, well, but no one else is saying anything.
So I muster up all the courage I can.
And I open my mouth and I say, hold left, clear right,
which is a basic tactical call.
Nope, nope, nope.
This is not a patent level genius maneuver.
It’s just a normal call to make in a situation
that we were in.
And I say, hold left, clear right.
And I’m expecting to get kind of slapped,
told shut up, new guy.
But instead, everyone just repeats the call,
hold left, clear right, hold left, clear right.
And we execute the maneuver
and we finish the clearance of this oil rig
and we’ll get done.
We get to the top of the oil rig,
which means we cleared the whole thing.
We’re on the helo deck at the top and we go into a debrief.
And now I’m expecting, okay, now I’m gonna get told,
hey, what were you doing?
You need to keep your mouth shut.
And instead the platoon chief goes,
hey, Jonko, good call on the cellar deck down there.
And I was kind of like, yeah, that’s right.
But then I thought to myself, hold on a second.
Why, if I’m the youngest, most junior guy in this platoon,
why was I able to see what we needed to do
and make that call?
Why did that just happen?
And then I realized it was because I took a step back
to use your term.
I broadened my field of view,
which allowed me to think more clearly
because instead of being hyper-focused
and narrowly focused, I broadened my range of vision.
I took a breath before I made my call, right?
I had to take a nice breath to speak clearly.
And I realized that taking a step back and detaching,
I got to see infinitely more
than even the most experienced guys in my platoon.
And I started doing it all the time.
And I started doing it in land warfare.
I started doing it in urban combat.
I started doing it in all these tactical training scenarios.
These are just training.
This is the nineties.
I started doing these training scenarios
and it always allowed me to see what we needed to do.
And then I started doing it
like when I was having conversations with people.
I’m having a conversation with my platoon chief
and I can see that he’s starting to turn a little red
in the face and we’re about to argue about something.
I said, oh, wait a second, I’m taking a step back.
Look and vote.
He’s getting mad right now.
And he’s the platoon chief.
You better just deescalate this thing real quick.
And I’d say, hey, you know what, chief, that sounds good.
Let me go take a relook at the plan or whatever.
And so I started to do this kind of with my normal life
was to not get wrapped up in my own emotions,
not get wrapped up in the gunfight
that was happening right in front of my face,
not to get wrapped up in the details of what was going on,
but instead take a step back, detach, look around,
and then you can make a much, much better decision.
And it’s not, it’s exponential.
If you’re looking down the sights of your weapon
and you take a step back and you look around,
it’s exponential how much more you can see.
Now, listen, if you are the only person in a gunfight,
it’s gonna be harder for you to do that
because you’ve got to be focused
on whatever you’re shooting at.
But when you have 16 guys or 20 guys,
they’re all looking in the same direction.
It’s very easy to be the guy that goes on
and take a step back, look around, make a call.
So when you talk about the mechanics,
when I teach this to people now,
the mechanics of it, take a step back.
Literally, you’re at, you know, you and I are at a meeting.
There’s a bunch of people
that starts to get heated argument.
I will literally push my chair back away from the table,
change my perspective, open, widen my field of view.
And the other thing, like in the SEAL teams,
you don’t wanna sound panicked on the radio
for a couple of reasons.
Number one, because when you panic on the radio,
it’s gonna cause other people to panic.
Number two, if you panic on the radio
and you sound panicked, everyone’s gonna make fun of you.
So, you know, when you get back from the mission,
everyone’s gonna go,
yeah, you sounded like a baby out there.
So what would I do before I would key up my radio?
Take a breath.
And so here I’m manually slowing down my breath.
I’m broadening my field of view.
So if you’re in a meeting or you’re in a, you know,
you’re at the supermarket parking lot
and someone starts to yell at you, take a step back,
take a breath, broaden your field of view,
detach from those emotions that you’re having
and make some space.
And that’s how I go through the mechanics of detachment.
Now, I can tell you right now,
I mean, when you do this all the time,
which I kind of do this all the time,
I don’t really have to like step back,
but when you’re starting to be able to try and do this,
absolutely, make a mechanic.
And I’ll tell you,
here’s another like weird little nuanced thing.
Lift your chin up and put your hands down.
Now this is not in a combat situation, not in a fight,
but here’s the thing, when I get defensive,
what am I gonna do?
I’m gonna raise my hands up and put my chin down.
It’s like a fighting mode.
So if you and I are having a discussion
and I’m starting to get heated and I’m starting to like,
oh, he’s not listening to me,
instead of me putting my chin down and put my hands
like up to where I can put them in your face a little bit,
no, I’m actually gonna take a step back.
I’m gonna say, put my chin up.
It changes my perspective a little bit more,
changes my visual perspective,
just by changing the angle of my head.
Take a step back, put my hands down.
I’m not being in a defensive mood.
I actually wanna hear what you have to say.
And if I start listening to what you have to say
and not talking, it’s very hard to be detached
when you’re talking.
It’s another key component.
You wanna detach, shut your mouth.
So I’m in meetings in a bunch of different companies.
I’m running, I own a bunch of different companies.
I’m in a meeting in my companies.
I’m not the one that’s doing all the talking.
In fact, I’m doing mostly listening.
When I’m in task unit bruiser, my task unit,
I’m not sitting there giving the entire brief.
No, I’m letting the platoon chief and the platoon
commanders give those briefs.
And that way I’m detached.
I’m listening to what they have to say.
I’m more capable of seeing what holes there are
in their plans by not moving my mouth,
not talking, I’m listening.
So those are some of the methodologies that I use
and that I advise people to use in order to effectively
start down the pathway of being able to detach
in various scenarios.
I love it.
Again, I’m saying I love it because I do love it.
And thank you.
I think it’s a wonderful technique.
We’ve talked before on your podcast and some of my listeners,
maybe not all to this podcast,
we’ll be familiar with the fact that when we narrowly
focus our gaze on one target, a number of things happen.
Our visual world becomes constricted, of course,
but also that we start slicing time more finely
and the dopamine system tends to start doing a kind of a
anticipation and trying to guide and direct things
in that narrow tunnel of view.
Whereas when we literally take on panoramic vision,
so not necessarily moving our head around,
although one could, but broadening our field of view
or looking at a horizon, especially if we’re walking,
but getting that kind of,
not kind of getting a broader field of view,
we slice time differently.
Things don’t feel as imposing on us.
This is the physiological substrate underlying
what you’re describing.
And I think it goes a step further because in that open
larger aperture of visual understanding,
there’s an open larger window of cognitive understanding
and new options start to surface, right?
I mean, I think this is,
I’ve long been fascinated by the fact that this actually,
I’ll tell this real quick story.
In 2015, I was, I went over to Spain
to do some mountaineering with Wim Hof.
Okay, this wasn’t because I wanted a podcast.
I didn’t have any social media.
I just went over there because I’d heard this guy, Wim,
contacted him and somehow arranged a trip for myself.
And I went over there and we did some crazy,
dangerous mountaineering that I had no business doing.
Almost ripped my left leg off in a stunt
that was organized by others there
that I never should have done.
In any case, one day, look,
and Wim is like crouched on the ground next to like a curb
in this parking lot before a hike.
And he’s down there on the ground with a little stick.
And I was like, what are you doing?
And he’s like, look.
And there were ants climbing up this thing.
And he’s like, they’re mountaineering this curb.
And I thought, wow, this guy’s different, right?
But then I realized we were about to do the same thing
up this big face.
And I thought, wow, like he’s able to think
at these different scales and see similarities.
I thought, that’s pretty cool.
I would have never stopped to look there.
And I still remember it, right?
And was it profound?
Was it interesting?
Yeah, in the sense that things are happening
at all scales all the time.
We think we know the scale to pay attention to.
And we think that that’s the one that matters most.
And I think it’s fair to say that in a gunfight,
like there is a scale that matters most,
but new options, new perspectives actually come
from that broader field of view,
which is what you’re describing.
And later that day, it’s interesting
because this group going up,
some of them were really challenged in the climb.
And Wim went back to this example
of how the ants would stack on top of one another.
And he used an analogy from that
to help people through this climb.
And there’s a beautiful pool at the top, et cetera, et cetera.
Anyway, I think that these examples are in fact meaningful,
especially the ones that you gave,
because they don’t just relate to military.
I mean, you can imagine around the dinner table,
I’ve had this, you know, kids are there and partners there.
And sometimes it’s really nice to sit back
and just kind of hear it all and bask in it all.
But oftentimes like new information will surface.
Like you said, you know,
like all I’m hearing is worries out of this person,
or they’re not even really here.
They’re all talking about what we’re going to do next,
next time, next time, next time.
And kind of like you re-anchor people to like,
hey, like maybe let’s focus on what we’re doing here.
Or sometimes people are hyper-focused
on what’s happening there,
and they need to think about something in the future.
I love this.
I need to practice detachment
in a number of different domains of my life.
One thing that I’m realizing
after hearing you describe the process,
I really need to do is I need to start taking
some time away from my work,
maybe even a little bit of time parallel to relationship
to sort of get better perspective on it.
Because I think the problem-solving nature in us
really makes us myopic, really makes us nearsighted.
Yeah, that’s, you see this a lot.
I mean, I get to see this a lot.
We do events with companies, businesses,
and we go offsite somewhere where they’re detached.
They’re just, they’re de facto detached
from their day-to-day business.
You pull someone out of their business for two days,
and all of a sudden they start seeing the solutions.
What they never see them,
it’s a lot harder for them to see them
when they’re in the firefight.
You get them out of the firefight.
It’s hard for them to see it
when they’re in that acquisition that they’re doing.
How are we gonna merge these two cultures?
This is gonna be impossible.
Boom, pull them out.
All right, let’s talk about the two cultures.
And let’s talk about what possible outcomes are.
And all of a sudden, when you get them to take a step back,
the solutions will appear.
And it is true in a gunfight.
Now, listen, if it’s a one-on-one gunfight,
even then, the ability to take a step back
and look around or use your peripheral vision,
you have to be able to do this.
It’s gonna increase, it’s exponential how much it,
that’s why it’s like a superpower.
It’s like cheating.
It’s like cheating.
You know, I was speaking of Seth Stone.
Seth Stone took over, he became a task unit commander,
a troop commander when we got back from Ramadi.
And so now he’s the guy in charge.
And now I was running the training.
And a couple months into his training, he broke his neck,
broke his vertebrae in his neck.
His spinal cord was okay.
So he was, you know, the guy with the big neck brace on
and he couldn’t do any arduous training.
And his SEAL task unit, which is two platoons,
was going through their land warfare training.
And he couldn’t do it.
He couldn’t carry a rucksack, couldn’t carry a machine gun.
So he couldn’t do it.
So I said, hey, I’m coming out, let’s go out
and you can observe your guys and see how they’re doing.
And so there we are, we’re out in the desert.
His troop is going through field training exercise
or full mission profile.
So it’s like a big fake operation.
There’s a fake target, there’s fake bad guys.
We’re using these laser,
these high-speed laser guns to shoot.
And we’re kind of standing on this little berm.
And at a certain point in the operation,
his whole task unit, like 40 guys,
gets pinned down in this little ravine.
And so we’re kind of standing in the ravine with these guys
and no one’s making any decisions.
And the enemy with these laser guns
are starting to maneuver and starting to,
they’re killing guys,
because these laser guns, you can die.
And Seth like hits me on the arm.
He’s like, can I tell him what to do?
And I was like, no, let him figure it out.
So another 30 seconds pass,
another guy gets killed with laser.
He hits me again, bro, let me say something to him.
And I was like, no, let him figure it out.
Another minute goes by, two more guys are now dead,
just laser dead, but they’re dead.
And he hits me again and he’s like, bro, let me tell him.
And I go, all right, go ahead and tell him.
And so he just crouches down next to one of the guys
and bangs him on the shoulder.
And which is again, it’s just a fundamental basic call.
And the guy shouts it out, peel right.
And they start peeling right.
And another minute later,
they’re all out of the kill zone and everything’s okay.
And then Seth looks at me and he goes,
man, this is so easy way up here.
And I said, bro, look at where we are.
We’re in the ravine with the guys.
Now we’re on a knee and the guys are laying down,
but it’s not this, we weren’t on some elevated position.
And I said, hey, it’s not that we’re in an elevated position.
It’s just that we’re detached and looking around.
And he goes, oh my God.
And I said, hey, you remember when you
and I went through this training?
And he goes, yeah.
And I go, this is what it was like for me all the time.
I was constantly just looking around.
So that’s why it seems like a magic power, right?
It’s like a superpower.
Cause you know, Seth’s down there with his gun
and he’s shooting.
Hey bro, move your guys over to that,
go to that ridge line right there, set security, boom.
And he, how did Jocko see that?
Jocko must be a tactical genius.
No, I’m not a tactical genius.
I’m just taking a step back and looking around.
And this, and like you just said,
it applies to everything that we do.
If you’re having a conversation
with your significant other and you start to see
that they’re getting frustrated about something.
Now look, if you’re in the conversation, 100%,
you’re gonna get frustrated too.
Next thing you know, you’ve got a,
you’ve got an emotional argument going on.
Whereas if you take a mental step back and say,
wait a minute, why are they frustrated right now?
Oh, because I’m trying to solve their problem
when really what they’re looking to do is vent.
Okay, got it.
Let them vent.
Oh, that sounds horrible.
You know, what do you think you’re gonna do?
Instead of saying, well, if that’s the problem,
here’s what you should do.
Cause people are always looking for that.
So yeah, this thing, this ability is,
and it’s something that can absolutely be trained.
And that’s, what’s cool about it.
It can absolutely be trained.
It’s not a natural gift.
It’s, some people will be better at it than others,
but it’s something that you can train.
And I used to see guys develop it.
And I see people develop it now in the business world
where they’ll report back to me.
You know, we had a meeting with the union today
and the union started escalating what they wanted to do.
And I just took, I detached and we ended up deescalating it.
Now we got a solution.
So this is an absolute skillset that can be learned.
And that’s what makes it especially nice
because there’s some people, look,
if you’re very articulate,
born very, some people are born more articulate
than other people.
Some people are born with an ability to simplify things
more than others.
And you can train, you know, you could become
You can become, you can learn to simplify things more.
And some people are gonna be naturally good at detaching,
but everyone can get better at it.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
It is a beautiful thing.
And I’m highly incentivized to do this.
I mean, there are areas of my life
that are going really well
that I also want to apply it there.
I think that I’ve tended to rely on people close to me
as a way to access this detachment.
I will be very direct in saying that, you know,
I am not the leader of my podcast.
There is a leader.
It is not me.
I’m part of the team, but it is not me.
And I often rely on his input.
And sometimes that input is solicited
and sometimes it’s not.
One place, for instance, where you see people
getting really myopic is on social media, right?
And, you know, and I’ve experienced this, you know,
I’d love to say that I’m always non-reactive.
And I think in general, I take the stance
that I have filters.
So I have filters.
I know why I’m there, right?
I’m interested in being a teacher and a giver
and informing people about the beauty
and utility of biology.
That’s why I say it’s not a mission statement.
It’s a fact.
That’s what I care about.
Anything that doesn’t fit through that filter,
I don’t really have any business doing.
But occasionally I like to, you know, make a joke
or something, but occasionally something comes through
and I find myself thinking, wait a second,
and you get sucked into that tunnel.
And sometimes it’s observing other people in tunnels.
And when you’re not in the tunnel,
it’s so obvious what’s happening, right?
You’re watching, in some cases,
people just dragging their lives,
in some cases sinking their entire careers.
I mean, the former chair of psychiatry
at Columbia University in New York
made an absolutely foolish, truly insensitive,
totally inappropriate tweet.
That’s my opinion.
And I think it was the opinion of all the people
that fired him from his job.
This person was at the apex of his career,
lost his job for saying something terrible.
And in retrospect was like, said something like,
I don’t know what I was thinking, you know?
And so this guy’s a psychiatrist.
So he lives in the study and the treatment of the mind,
which just goes to show that everyone I think
is susceptible to being pulled into these tunnels.
And fortunately everyone is susceptible to learning
to teach themselves how to ratchet themselves out of it.
So I love this idea of a teachable skill.
I’m certainly gonna practice it in one-on-one
and in group situations and in a variety of situations.
I think that the tunnel has a gravitational pull.
There’s like an allure to that tunnel.
And I always just go right back to the neurochemistry.
I think that there’s something about solving a problem
inside of a tunnel, like an animal on a chase, you know?
But at some point, you know,
that animal could get picked off by a, you know,
or run over by a truck because it was,
didn’t have enough situational awareness.
I’m definitely gonna practice this through opening the gaze,
you know, and broadening gaze.
And I think I also do for a couple of days off
from things to just walk and think about work.
On these retreats, do people work on work?
Are they just there to do other things?
And that’s where the ideas surface.
We’ll do a little bit of both.
So we’ll do some stuff that is focused on work,
but then we’ll pull out and do things
that are completely unrelated to work
to, for that very reason.
Whether we do something physical,
whether we do something, some kind of a mental exercise,
but we do things that are completely unrelated to their work
and take those breaks in order for them to free their mind.
And you know what bothers you about social media?
This is, when you say like,
there’s some things that kind of like make you mad.
No, I mean, not me, but you know, could be,
no, of course, of course, like I’m a human, you know,
little things, little things.
It’s not the things that are obvious.
It’s actually not direct critique of me.
It’s when people exploit misunderstandings
to try and create a greater misunderstanding
that doesn’t exist.
That’s what gets me, because to a scientist,
that’s like the most irritating thing.
I don’t know what the analogy would be in the SEAL teams,
but it’s like someone like hijacking something
that like, they didn’t mean that,
but then they kind of, they distort the argument.
The word gaslighting gets thrown around a lot now.
A lot of people actually think that anytime
someone states a boundary, like, no,
I don’t believe that’s that, that that’s gaslighting.
Trust me, the psychiatrists who are all professionally trained
tell me that is not gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a very particular thing
where you’re trying to alter someone’s reality
in a very active, almost like sociopathic way.
So I just want, that’s a little editorializing right there.
What bothers me is when people hijack,
you know, sometimes someone in an argument
isn’t as sophisticated with their language as somebody else.
So someone will hijack that lack of sophistication
and try and flip them on their back.
That sort of thing really gets under my skin
because I feel that creates unnecessary divide.
There are a few other things, but you know,
I always joke in my lab, and I’ll say it right now,
you know, I have 3,000 pet peeves,
but I also have like 3,000 flaws
to match each one of those pet peeves, so.
Yeah, I, whenever I’m, and this is not just social media,
but it’s just life, you know,
when somebody says something about me
or to me that I don’t like,
what I realized years ago is like,
the reason I don’t like it is
because there’s some truth in what they’re saying.
And the best thing to do is to say either to yourself,
if you’re by yourself or to them,
is to say, yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re right.
I am kind of a knucklehead sometimes,
or yeah, you’re right.
I sometimes do jump to conclusions,
or yeah, yeah, you’re right.
I was completely wrong about that.
And that is just so much more liberating and healthy
than saying, you don’t know what you’re talking about,
or no, I don’t.
Just going into that defensive mode
and trying to close your mind
instead of opening your mind up
to listen to what somebody else has to say
and say, yeah, that’s a good point.
You’re spot on with that one.
Next question, next comment, let’s go.
One thing I appreciate about you on social media
is the limited number of words in each of your responses.
It’s a great thing,
and forcing you to be efficient and concise
actually is a huge advantage.
It also forces you to be precise,
at least about category, right?
I think there’s something to be said for that.
Well, there’s a good example.
So I was on Twitter the other day,
since Twitter’s getting a lot of traction right now.
There’s a lot of mayhem going on in Twitter.
The other gun fight.
And somebody asked me, somebody said,
hey, I’m going to bootcamp soon.
What advice do you have for me?
And I wrote back, enjoy, boom.
And like you said, I mean, it’s Twitter.
I’m responding to a bunch of people.
And then somebody else chimed in and said,
might as well not even answer Jocko.
That’s not helping this guy at all.
And look at your face, for those of you that are watching.
Your face just got a little bit mad, right?
You got a little bit defensive for me.
Yeah, well, I think that’s my nature.
I don’t like seeing other people sort of attacked.
I think that’s just my nature.
And I had a split second of who the hell is this guy?
And then I said, you know what, he’s right.
And then I tweeted again back.
Like I said, sorry, man, you’re right.
What I should have said was,
hey, read the book, Leadership Strategy and Tactics.
It’s a good book for someone that is going to be
in an environment that’s gonna be challenging.
And we’re gonna be faced with leadership challenges.
And enjoy bootcamp, because if your mindset is,
this sucks and this is terrible,
it’s gonna be terrible and it’s gonna suck.
And if you go with a mindset of,
hey, this is a cool experience and I should enjoy it,
you’re gonna have a much better time.
That’s my full answer, I’m sorry I didn’t give you.
And it’s perfectly fine.
That guy was right to critique me.
And he was right in saying that.
And there was a bunch of,
but what’s funny is a bunch of other people
came to my defense and said, this guy, that’s really great.
So, but my point is, instead of me getting defensive
and crazy and letting it drive me crazy,
opened my mind a little bit,
listen to what they have to say,
accept that there’s gotta be some level of truth in it.
And there was, I gave a guy a very, very terse response.
And I could have expanded on it more.
And I did, no big deal.
A few minutes ago, I was thinking to myself,
I wonder where your mind is at,
like in the few moments before you fall asleep.
Like, are you able to make yourself go mind blank
It’s something I’ve been practicing more
because I tend to, again, ruminate.
I like to drill into problems, obviously.
Yesterday I did a solo episode,
which when we do those,
they’re usually anywhere from five to 20 hours of prep.
And then the recordings, I won’t say how long they take,
but I love going into the tunnel, right?
The tunnel is like, that’s where the juice is for me.
And finding the structure,
and I have the benefit of an amazing producer
who helps me sort through it.
And when I kind of like came out of this thing
and then went home, couldn’t eat.
So I was just like, I don’t want dinner.
And then I was explaining a call I had
with a colleague the other day.
And you know, my partner, my girlfriend,
she was just like, you know, like, okay,
like I’m going to sleep.
And I was like up and like texting
and like thinking of writing notes out.
And I thought, oh yeah, I’m like Costello,
like chewing on the stick.
And like they chewing into my paw, I need sleep.
I need to go to sleep.
So I think I have a bit of a harder time disengaging clearly
and this is why I never touched cocaine or amphetamine.
Because I think that some of us have a love
of the dopamine circuitry that I always sensed
if I were to have tried drugs like that,
that they might’ve been the thing
that would like hit my neural circuits just right.
You know, some people talk about alcohol that way.
I’ve read books by alcoholics,
like the book Dry and a few other,
Rich Roll talks about this,
that he drank alcohol for the first time in college.
And it was like this elixir that filled his body
that made him feel right for the first time.
Like, that is not how I feel after a couple of drinks.
I feel a little relaxed, but I can do without it.
But this drilling into something is really,
that’s my, I guess maybe that’s my,
I don’t think it’s a superpower,
but I have some strength there.
But I think it’s also the thing
that can cut on the other side.
Yeah, when you started off this conversation early,
you talked about, you know, getting up in the morning
and do you just get up and you have these,
and I was about to go down the path of like,
it’s at nighttime when I’m trying to go to sleep
and I have some random thought about something
that can be a hard, I have a visual thing that’s going on.
It seems like I’m on a roller coaster
and I’m going in like a new idea comes
and I’m just like on this awesome ride
and it’s not gonna stop and I can’t,
I don’t know how to stop that.
I don’t know.
I mean, I think it goes with people who are very driven
and like to master different crafts.
I have a colleague, his name is Karl Deisseroth.
He’s a bioengineer.
He has five children and he’s a psychiatrist.
He’s like an incredible,
like one of these people that does a ton,
very likely will win the Nobel prize.
I mean, he’s an amazing scientist, amazing guy.
And he does this practice that he does,
which is not a meditation,
which is he sits for an hour late at night
after his kids have gone to sleep
and he forces himself,
forces himself to think in complete sentences
with punctuation about some problem.
I tried doing that for about five minutes and I fell off,
but it’s something that he’s cultivated in himself,
which helps him in his career, right?
I don’t think this,
this is certainly not something I recommend.
If I did that at one or two in the morning,
I think that would be bad for my sleep
because falling asleep actually requires
drifting into these kind of liminal states.
It’s one of the reasons why I’m a big proponent
of things like non-sleep deep rest
or these yoga nidra practices,
which are basically body scans
where you’re trying to learn to detach
from the sensory world.
And they’re very effective.
Certainly for me,
they’ve been very effective at teaching me
to kind of turn off thinking,
which is an interesting notion in its own right.
But I like the idea of detachment
by stepping back and getting perspective.
My father is much better at that.
He’s a very calm guy in the world of confrontation.
I always knew it when I was a kid,
he would blink, which meant like something was gonna happen.
Like I was gonna get it.
And now, but I’ve always noticed he can control
his responses and his behavior.
Others of us in the family,
aside from New Jersey,
we’re more like go to loggerheads.
So I don’t know.
This raises a question.
And I think it’s one that I and several other people
I talked to in anticipation of this podcast were asking.
I think one reason why people are drawn
to people who have been in the SEAL teams
and you in particular are that,
I think everybody, not just males,
but females too.
I think everybody wants to know
their calibration point on their level of toughness.
I think people wonder.
I think when people talk about buds and all that,
I think a lot of people wonder, would I make it through?
I’ve certainly wondered it.
I haven’t spent hours on it.
I went my path.
I’m happy for the path I went.
But I think people wonder,
do I have this thing that supposedly buds selects for?
And if I don’t, how tough am I or not tough am I?
I think that we all can look at other people physically.
And I’m not somebody that does a lot of this.
I know some people are really obsessed by this.
Like, oh, that person has like an eight pack
with a like veins on there.
Like, I don’t understand that.
That’s not me.
But I understand some people do that
even to the point of pathology.
But I think most people wonder like, how resilient am I?
And they can look to experiences that they’ve survived
and say, whew, I made it through or I’m resilient or not.
But is there a way that like we can,
certainly that we can train it by doing hard things,
cold showers, this kind of thing,
or like small examples of those.
But do you think it’s even an important question to ask?
And if it is, you know, how does one go about thinking?
Like where, like how resilient am I?
Should we put ourself into situations of discomfort
just to test that?
Because I will say, I think a lot of people look to
SEAL teams and team guys in particular
as kind of a calibration point of like,
okay, they know how to do hard things.
They were selected for the ability to carry logs
and get into cold water over and over and roll in the sand
and go without sleep for a week or so.
Like, but that’s probably not what they were doing
when they were on deployment.
It’s clearly a pressure test for something else.
Yeah, it’s a strange, strange thing.
The basic underwater demolition SEAL training.
And quite frankly, going and getting wet and cold
and being miserable is actually nothing
compared to like being on deployment.
And a good example that I use to compare this to
is when I was on deployment in 2006 in Ramadi,
there was, as you were driving off base to go to the city,
to go into the city and conduct operations,
as you drove out of the compound,
on your right was this area
that was called the vehicle graveyard.
And the vehicle graveyard was exactly what it sounds like.
It was probably 75 or 100 vehicles that were blown up,
destroyed, burned in various twisted conditions
that had been dragged back through the city
and put into this vehicle graveyard.
And as you drove by that vehicle graveyard,
you know, without question,
that every one of those twisted vehicles represented
one, two, three, four, five American casualties.
American casualties, wounded, horribly wounded, killed.
And there you are in a vehicle
about to roll out into that city
where what you’re looking at can easily be you
in the next three minutes.
And you’re gonna do that today.
You’re gonna do that tomorrow.
You can do that the next day and the day after that
and the day after that.
That compared to, and by the way,
this isn’t just SEALs that are doing that.
This is Marines.
This is the Army guys that are over there.
This is what everyone is doing.
And they do it.
They do it.
I talk about Mark Lee, who’s one of my guys,
first SEAL killed in Iraq.
And he was the lead turret gunner in the lead Humvee.
And like in Vietnam, if you were the point man of Vietnam,
if you were on an infantry patrol,
you were the point man of Vietnam, you were at risk,
booby traps, ambush.
So they rotated you out.
Like you didn’t have to stay up there all the time.
You do an hour up as point man,
they get someone else up there.
And that guy, the lead turret gunner in a Humvee column
of four or five or six vehicles,
if you hit an IED, that’s the vehicle
that’s gonna hit it, right?
If you go into an ambush,
that’s the guy that’s gonna get hit.
It’s the guy that’s standing up in a 50 caliber turret.
That’s the guy that’s gonna die.
And Mark was, you know, he was a new guy.
So he’s in that lead turret, 50 cal.
And he never asked to get rotated out.
And I remember, he’s a very, like to say very,
he was extremely charismatic, funny, gregarious comedian.
And, you know, we got all kinds of stories about Mark,
but one of them, you know, we were in Vegas
and we’re all gambling.
And like, I come down from my hotel room
and like, I see Mark across the, he’s playing blackjack.
You know, he sees me, he goes,
hey sir, when are the new Cadillacs coming out?
And like, he’s just lighting up everybody,
just having a fantastic time.
But I remember one night, you know,
he’s getting ready to roll out.
And if I wasn’t going out with the platoons,
I’d like go out, you know, like see the guys off,
give them a hand salute as they’re leaving.
And I’m like, how are you feeling tomorrow?
How are you doing, Mark?
You good to go?
And he’s like, feeling lucky, sir.
You know, like that was his attitude.
And he’s a guy that’s gonna drive by that vehicle graveyard,
drive right out on that city.
And he’s gonna do it the next day
and the day after that and the day after that.
And so, and like I said,
that’s what the Army guys are doing.
That’s what the Marine Corps guys are doing.
They’re doing it.
And so as much as the mythology
around basic SEAL training goes,
to me, that experience in combat
and what guys do is infinitely harder
and infinitely more important.
Now, all that being said,
basic SEAL training is a very strange laboratory
for human beings.
It is a very strange laboratory for human beings.
And it’s a,
it’s kind of crazy the way it works.
It’s very, it’s obviously extremely difficult,
but there’s no, like, I wouldn’t put money,
you could put odds on somebody making it through.
You know, like, hey, that guy seems like
he’s gonna be good to go.
But I wouldn’t put a bunch of money on it, right?
And I wouldn’t take like 100%.
I would never take 100% bet on anybody
because there’s no one that’s 100%
gonna make it through that training.
And there’s just random, you know,
some people say, well, it’s because of your why.
There’s people that make it through SEAL training
because their ex-girlfriend said they couldn’t make it.
There’s some other guy that makes it through
because they promised God that they would make it.
There’s some other guy that made it through
because, you know, their dad said they could never.
There’s like every one of these examples
you can come up with.
And it’s good enough for some random dude
to make it through.
And it doesn’t matter what your pedigree is,
doesn’t matter where you’re from.
There’s guys from Iowa, there’s guys from Florida,
there’s guys from wherever that make it.
And there’s guys from Iowa and there’s guys from Florida
and there’s guys from wherever that don’t make it.
Guys from farms, guys from Silver Spoon in their mouth,
and you just can’t predict it.
And I mean, it has to have something to do with the fact
that how bad you actually wanna do it.
That’s, it’s a strange thing.
And I wouldn’t, you know, I wouldn’t try and,
you know, if I was in the world,
if I didn’t do that training,
I wouldn’t be trying to figure out if I could make it
or not, because you don’t know, you don’t know.
It’s a very strange thing.
And it’s so mythical almost right now, right?
It’s mythical that how hard it is.
And this is not too many people make it through, man.
Yeah, from all the folks that I’ve talked to
or they’re gone through, been instructors there,
some we both know, seem that that 15% number
is unlikely to change as long
as they keep the process the same.
It just seems like about 15% of people
seem to have something in them
that can perhaps grow during that training,
but that it is being identified
and selected for rather than somehow being built up
across at least that phase of the early phases of training.
And then at some point they build on that capacity.
And, you know, this gets to this really
somewhat controversial issue, frankly,
like are people wired differently?
And listen, I started off in neural development
and I’ll tell you that there are some universal properties
of neural development in all surviving humans,
like that you’re going to breathe
without having to think about it.
Your heart’s going to beat
without having to think about it.
But beyond that, there’s a lot of variation
in natural levels of dopamine and serotonin.
There’s nature, plays a powerful role, and nurture.
And what’s interesting though,
is we can’t always predict from parents
what nature is going to do.
Recently we had someone on the podcast,
I’m excited for you to listen to it,
perhaps you will if I send it to you,
is a guy who talks about inheritable acquired traits.
You don’t expect that because you work out
that your grandkids will be more muscular
and have better endurance.
But there’s actually some evidence
that that may be the case.
And you go, well, how could that be?
We got two kinds of cells in your body.
It turns out you have what are called somatic cells,
which are all of them,
and then you have the germ cells,
which are your sperm and your wife’s eggs.
Well, why wouldn’t the DNA of the sperm cells
and the egg cells be modifiable by experience
if all the other cells aren’t?
And it turns out there’s some evidence
that maybe it’s not the DNA, but that the RNA are.
Think about that.
That means that whether,
and we’ve known this,
that people that have been in a famine
several generations later,
their implications for blood sugar regulation
in their great-grandkids.
So the idea that experience and acquired traits
can change us actually has some validity.
And this gets into really complicated things
because people go, oh, this is like the giraffe
that had to crane its neck
and then gave birth to longer neck giraffes.
And it’s like, well, not exactly,
but also not entirely untrue either.
So I love the idea that there are inherited traits
and that nature and nurture play a role,
but that hard work may actually transmit
Yeah, there’s, in SEAL training,
you have kids that come through that they call legacies,
which means that they have a dad,
I think dad, brother, whatever,
and they do have a better chance of making it,
but it’s not a guaranteed chance at all.
And my personal opinion is like,
I think a legacy kid would have a better chance
of making it just due to the Thanksgiving dinner
that you’re gonna have to go through
for the rest of your life with your family.
If you don’t.
Yeah, if you’re even invited,
which you might be on your own.
But yeah, maybe there’s something to that as well.
But I think that’s just more the pressure
that someone must feel like,
hey, there’s no way I’m gonna be allowed back in my home
if I don’t make it through this training.
So I’m gonna have to just go ahead and suck it up.
But not everyone makes it.
And it’s a bummer when that does occur.
Well, for people who are not thinking
about going through SEAL training
or who missed the opportunity
or who are not interested in that for whatever reason,
do you think there’s value to doing things each day
that suck a little bit,
or from time to time doing something
that puts one into a state of deliberate discomfort?
Yeah, I mean, 100%.
I mean, even in order to improve yourself,
you gotta impose some discipline on yourself, right?
If you wanna get stronger,
you’ve gotta do things that require strength.
If you wanna be tougher,
you gotta do things that require you to be tougher.
I think that’s pretty straightforward.
Does that mean doing things that are not pleasurable?
So for instance, you and I have done some long podcasts.
And a few weeks ago, I did a series,
we were doing a series with Andy Galpin,
all about exercise and exercise science.
And we did six podcasts in that week,
the most I’ve ever done,
which made doing four or five the next week
not so bad, but I loved every second of it.
And I love every second of podcasting.
And so it didn’t suck, but it built up a greater capacity.
I guess I’m asking specifically about things
that really feel like a splinter.
Is there any value to that?
Because I have to say there are some people I know,
some of them are former team,
they are team guys,
I guess you don’t say former team guys.
They were out, they’re out of the teams now,
but they’re team guys forever,
who seem to not be rattled by little things.
Those guys in particular,
they don’t seem to be rattled by little things.
And then I know people that,
they get the wrong size coffee at a coffee shop
and they dissolve into a puddle of tears, right?
So there does seem to be something to this whole
mental resilience thing and flexibility thing.
And I try and do something that’s uncomfortable
to me about once a week,
something I really don’t like.
It doesn’t matter what that is,
but I try and do something that’s kind of like unpleasant
or do something in a way that’s unpleasant.
I guess the example would be getting into the cold water
the first thing in the morning
and making that decision from under the blankets
is a rough one for me.
But then it gets easier.
And then you wondered,
is it still serving the purpose that it’s building me up?
So should people seek truly like bad experiences
provided that they’re done in a safe way?
Yeah, yeah, I think that you’re gonna,
just like you would develop your legs by doing squats
and you would develop your back by doing pull-ups,
I think you would develop your resiliency
by doing repetitions of things
that require you to be tougher.
That actually sucks.
And the reason I ask this is because I think
a lot of people think, well, I work out every day,
but then you probe them a little bit
and they’re like, but I love exercise.
And then, well, then that doesn’t quite qualify
as something that makes you tougher, right?
Or they think, oh, the last reps of a set are really tough.
But if you love hitting failure on a set,
cause that’s kind of what I seek in the gym.
I love that aspect of the training.
That’s actually where I know I’m getting better.
It no longer serves as resilience training.
It more just serves as training.
In any case, I think that the point is clear
and I appreciate your answer.
I have to ask about something.
This is gonna seem like a total divergence, but it’s not,
which is animals.
Because first of all, they’re a love of mine
in terms of understanding the animal kingdom
and placing humans into the animal kingdom.
Second of all, I know you’re a hunter.
And also I know you own dogs.
And the question I have is, do you ever look at people
or did you ever work in teams of guys
when you were on active duty?
Kind of see that the differences, you mentioned before,
this person’s really good at problem solving.
This person’s a little bit more creative.
Do you ever wonder whether or not people
embody different kind of animal archetypes?
Because I do.
Well, that thing where people say that dogs
or owners look like their dogs,
dogs look like their owners.
I think that’s, I’ve seen all kinds of examples.
You can go on the internet and find a bunch of examples
of dogs that look like their owners
and owners that look like their dogs.
So I think that’s true.
And I think, you know, my dog’s awesome and-
Tell me about your dog.
Which kind of dog is it?
My dog is a German Shepherd.
His name is Odin and he’s an awesome dog.
You know, like, and he’s got a personality,
but he’s got an interesting personality.
So like he doesn’t like to like cuddle, right?
Like my kids will be like, oh, he doesn’t like to cuddle.
No, even, you know, when we go to bed at night,
he goes to, you know, four feet away
from the foot of my bed.
Even if I was like, hey, jump up.
I’ve told him, jump up in here.
You know, we want to pet you.
He’ll jump up in there.
And he just like kind of goes in that low crouch position
and then sort of waits until I say free dog.
And then he goes back down and he goes four feet away
from the foot of the bed and sits there.
Cause he’s, that’s his, that’s his personality
is to protect and set security and do his job.
And that’s what he’s like.
And so, you know, you’ve got other dogs that are,
you know, they’re not good.
They’re at a totally different mindset.
So yeah, dogs have definite personalities.
And look, I also have, it’s not all genetic.
So two of my friends got dogs that were brothers.
What are they called?
Do you know what that is?
Yeah, those are hard to get in the US.
They’re not, they might not even be legal
in the United States.
So don’t tell me who these people are.
Not that I care, but I’m not gonna report them.
I won’t tell you who they are.
But these two guys,
and those two guys had different personalities.
The one guy is a very happy-go-lucky,
likes to smoke pot, likes to hang out.
Very, just a chill kind of playful guy.
The other guy’s not.
He’s the opposite in every category.
So, and they both got these dogs.
And you fast forward, fast forward like a year,
the dog that was owned by the playful guy,
his dog was just a big puppy licking it,
just wagging the tail.
The other dog, you had to keep it in a cage
or it would murder everything in sight.
And these dogs were brothers from the same litter
and they were completely opposite.
And so I think it has a lot more to do with,
with nurture than it does to do with nature.
But that being said, when you look at,
when you look at mouse,
I mean, mouse have a personality that is very distinct
compared to a German shepherd.
Now look, there’s outlying mouse,
there’s outlying German shepherds,
there’s outlying, you name whatever kind of golden retriever
or whatever dog is known for being more playful.
Like you get around a mouse,
mouse are mouse and they’re that way.
Have you been around mouse before?
The Belgian Malinois.
Yeah, a few of them.
My neighbor has one and that thing,
that is not terribly friendly, but it’s a security dog,
so I don’t expect it to be.
Yeah, I know that they use them for work in the teams.
And I’ve heard that you have to keep a close eye
on your relationship with them
because if you get lax about it, they’ll bite you.
Is that true?
The first time I saw one,
we were doing like a drill with using dogs
for the first time
and one of the team guide dog handlers came out.
And so we hit this target building
and they kind of pre-briefed us like,
hey, you get this target building
and this guy’s gonna be a runner, a squirter.
And so we pull up in the Humvees, assault team jumps out,
I’m kind of staying external,
I kind of want to see what’s gonna happen.
So the squirter goes running off
and the dog handler like, whatever,
tracks his dog on this guy and then releases,
it gives him whatever commands,
you know, whatever the commands are.
That thing is like totally primed,
like unlike anything you’ve ever seen in your life,
it is just primed, it’s tracking that guy.
He hits that release on that leash
and that thing takes off at a thousand miles an hour.
It jumps like, I’m not kidding, 15 feet,
maybe 10 feet in the air away
and just chomps onto this dude, the dude goes down.
It was freaking awesome.
I’ve seen some videos of those Malinois,
I guess I didn’t, forgive me,
because before I didn’t know what you’re referring to,
but Belgian Malinois, those dogs like running up trees,
jumping over little rivers.
Yeah, it’s crazy, incredibly powerful animals.
Yeah, well, the idea that they mimic their owners
has me a little concerned
because my last dog I had to put him down
was my Bulldog Costello, he’s a Bulldog Mastiff.
I got him because I went to pick out a puppy basically
and there were eight of these Bulldogs,
all of them were running around
and then there’s one in the background
just eating out of all of their bowls
and I was like, I want that one,
big Bulldog, biggest one in the litter,
laziest creature, not just dog,
but laziest creature that ever existed,
but if you need to activate, he would.
He was just very efficient with his energy
and I don’t think I have a Bulldog personality
and that’s why I got him to kind of balance me out,
never retrieved, never did anything,
stole and destroyed every toy,
every dog park in San Diego, who’s kind of famous there.
I had to bring $5 bills to pay people
for all the balls and things he would destroy.
So anyway, my apologies to all the dog owners,
not really, I miss them.
Did you train your dog or did someone else announce?
And was he trained to be a security dog
or a kind of family dog or kind of a mixture?
I mean, the true working dogs,
unless you have the time and effort to put into them
or you buy them that way,
you don’t want one of those dogs
that I was just describing in your house.
They’re not for a house.
Unless there’s like, there’s that level,
my dog’s not that level.
Did you apply some of the same principles
that you use in leadership of humans with your dog?
Yep, there are a lot of similar principles,
but there’s also, you know, there’s some differences.
There’s like, they’re pack animals, right?
And they respond to, you know, the pack leader.
It is funny, you know, my dog obeys me
as if it’s the command of God and my wife,
he’s kind of like, maybe I’ll do what you say.
So they pick up on that kind of stuff.
Dogs are very intuitive.
I love this idea that I was told early on
that they can feel your emotions.
I think they actually can sense how we feel,
not just by the intonation of our voice,
but I hope someday someone will figure out
in a non-invasive way,
because I don’t like the idea of people doing experiments
on dogs in an invasive way,
kind of like what they’re picking up on.
Like for instance, we know that sharks are paying attention
to the amount of activity in the lateral line of fish.
Fish have these stretches of neurons
that they call the lateral line
that allows them to school
and know the distance to different things
and be able to steer around coral.
They feel proximity.
It’d be kind of like if you’re turning a coin,
and they can even recognize
specific lateral line signatures.
So it’d be like you and Mark Lee
walking together through the dark,
but maybe people sift around,
but you’re like, you don’t have to look at him, that’s Mark.
You kind of learn him into like a fish can do that.
Sharks can sense whether or not the lateral line
is I would say vibrating,
but firing at a particular frequency to know,
oh, that fish is like a little bit slower than the rest.
I mean, they’re, you know, hunting animals,
just they develop these incredible senses.
And I think humans have some of these kind of senses
in more rudimentary way.
We’re just not forced to use them
unless of course, you know,
you are become a hunter of animals or a hunter of humans,
and you tap into these neural circuits
that are very primitive and hardwired in everybody.
But of course they’re honed in warriors.
Where I could spiral off into animal biology
in ways that truly would take us 26 hours.
I don’t want to do that.
I’m almost hesitant to ask this question,
but I’m going to do it anyway.
Many times online, you are asked whether or not
you will run for office.
And I want to say that I think it’s a true compliment.
I don’t think people are asking
just to kind of entertain themselves.
I think that this country certainly,
and a lot of the world is desperate
for certain kinds of leaders and people to have experience
in high risk, high consequence, chaotic situations,
and have shown prowess at leadership in multiple domains.
And you are certainly one of those individuals.
And so they ask for that reason among others.
And I’ve heard you give your answer.
You can repeat it again here,
but as a more broad theme
that I think people are interested in,
do you think it’s an important criteria
or it would be great to see people
in positions of leadership who’ve had wartime experience?
And do you think that some of the shifts that we’ve seen
in terms of patterns of leadership over the last,
let’s just make it real broad
so that this isn’t related to any particular person
or stretch of history,
but over the last, let’s just say 25 years,
reflect the fact that we haven’t seen a lot of that,
at least at the top tiers of leadership?
Yeah, I think it’d be excellent if people,
if the president had military experience, for sure.
I think that then they understand
with the way the military works better.
They understand that it’s civilians
that control the military,
because a lot of times people that are civilians
don’t understand that the civilians control the military.
And I think that you do get to appreciate
what war actually is and what the costs are.
I think that I’ve seen in the same vein
of people asking me to run for political office,
I’ve seen comments saying,
oh, that’s what we need, a warmonger in office.
And I’ve responded to a few of those.
I think if there’s any group of people
that don’t want war, it’s people that have seen it,
people that understand what the sacrifices are.
And I think that being in the military,
people understand that better.
So yeah, I think it’d be a great qualification.
I don’t think it’s mandatory.
I mean, clearly it’s not.
We’ve had a bunch of presidents
that haven’t ever served anything.
Really, we’ve had a bunch of presidents
that haven’t ever served anything but themselves.
So yeah, hopefully we’ll get some more people
that have some experience in the military,
some combat experience would be especially nice.
And that would be good, in my opinion.
Well, I’m certainly not one to tell people what to do,
and I’m certainly not gonna tell you what to do,
but should you ever choose to run,
I would certainly be very enthusiastic about that.
And I will just say that with that stated,
I hope people do hear what you just said.
I share that sentiment.
People who have led others besides themselves,
I think is the key statement there.
Yeah, and look, I just,
I have friends that are politicians,
and I really appreciate what they’re doing.
And it looks miserable to me.
I don’t like what I, good for them.
I’m happy that they’re in there
trying to make a difference.
And I guess this is me being selfish
of me saying, look, I don’t think I could stomach that.
And I also think that right now,
I’m trying to help out.
Like for instance, we have,
obviously you’ve got the leadership consulting
and national on front.
We’re trying to help businesses grow.
I’ve got Origin USA,
we’re bringing manufacturing back to America.
We’ve got 400 and 450 employees right now
that are here in America,
working and growing that business.
Obviously the supplements.
So everything that I’m doing here right now
is to try and move the needle
with America bringing manufacturing back,
helping the economy as much as I can right now.
So that’s kind of what I’m doing right now.
And my standard answer,
which you alluded to is if things got bad enough,
then I would do what I had to do.
But I don’t think people appreciate my level of bad,
I’m talking real bad.
So it’s not there yet
and hopefully it never will get there.
I’d rather surf and hang out with my friends
and hang out with my family than do that.
And hopefully America can find some level of balance.
I think that’s the problem that we’re having right now.
And a lot of these things that you talked about,
specifically the thing you talk about with social media
is not very good for political balance.
It’s actually horrible for political balance.
And a lot of it has to do with
just the way that those conversations are had.
A lot of it has to do with ego as well,
because I don’t ever want to admit
that I’m wrong about anything.
And if I can find something
that I think you might be wrong about,
it’s so satisfying to my ego
to just call you out on that thing and attack you.
And I think that’s what a lot of people are doing right now.
Now, that being said also,
I also usually say this as well.
I travel around the country all the time.
I work with companies of all sizes,
work with people in every different industry,
and they’re not sitting around arguing with each other
about the political scenery.
They’re talking about, hey, how can we grow our business?
How can we take care of our workers?
How can we take care of our clients?
How can we take care of our customer?
That’s what people are focused on.
And when you jump on social media,
you can get sucked into the political scene very easily.
And that being said also, we do have to pay attention
because we as citizens have to make sure
that America stays on the correct path
within the guardrails of what this country is based on.
So we do have to pay attention,
but I will be doing my part as a civilian
until there’s total mayhem and chaos in the streets.
Then I’ll probably just be a benevolent dictator
that takes over.
It should be an interesting one,
but hey, you would be the man to lead under any conditions.
But thank you for stating your threshold.
Certainly you’ve earned the right to make
whatever decision is that feels right for you.
And I want to say that I agree.
I feel like we are a country that still includes
a ton of generators and a ton of projectors
that are interested in projecting the good
and growing the good.
I do believe both those phenotypes are important.
I also want to just say thank you for being a generator
of so much useful knowledge.
In science, we have a saying,
which is somebody is an N of one.
This is a rare thing to hear about oneself
or to hear about somebody,
because what it means is that somebody is in a category
in which pretty much everything that they do
and they say matters and serves a purpose,
which is a useful and important building purpose.
And I will look at you and tell you
that you are an N of one.
You certainly would meet that criteria under any conditions.
And it’s evident in the many companies that you’re running
and the leadership that you’re doing,
and also in your online presence.
I mean, that’s how I initially came to learn about you.
I’m now fortunate to have two lengthy conversations with you
and a few interspersed as well.
And I think of myself as a reasonable
to perhaps good observer
of like how people behave in different domains.
And every time you post or every time you speak
or every time you go on a podcast or host a podcast,
it’s clear that not only are you prepared
and not only are you approaching it
with a spirit of seriousness that it deserves,
but sometimes also lightness that it deserves,
but there’s always an element of give
and that you’re trying to encourage people
to do better for themselves.
So as somebody who’s greatly benefited from the knowledge
that you’ve put out there
from the very first Tim Ferriss and Joe Rogan episodes
to your own podcast, I want to extend a personal thanks.
I also want to extend great thanks for coming on here today
talking to a geek scientist,
but who also happens to be a fellow punk rocker
because that spirit and the heart that’s behind it,
I think some people think it’s all about noise and chaos.
It’s actually about being really true to yourself.
That’s how I think about the punk rock spirit
is really about being true to yourself
and realizing that the thing that you like,
while it might be quite different,
is actually if that’s you,
you have to live in that vein and stick with it.
It certainly served me well
and it sounds like it served you well,
but mostly I just want to extend an enormous thank you.
As a civilian, thank you for the work you did
in the military,
but also teaching people about the military.
I think a lot of people don’t realize
what it’s about at any level
and learning about your experience there
and what you’ve observed,
bringing other people’s experiences from the military
more broadly is super important
and sharing this and being able to entertain
some of my scientific riffs.
So thank you.
Well, I appreciate it.
It’s kind of weird.
You say all these nice things to me.
I definitely don’t deserve them.
I’m kind of a regular dude that just kind of showed up,
I guess, at the right time
and told some stories about some guys that were true heroes
and just trying to share my perspective,
but it’s not just my perspective.
You know, I’m talking about stories that I lived,
but there’s plenty of people that have done way more
than I’ve ever done
and sacrificed infinitely more than I ever sacrificed.
So I’m thankful for being here.
I know that you put all kinds of information
and I the same back at you.
You know, I have greatly benefited from the information
that you put out and so I thank you as well
and appreciate coming on here
and appreciate you spreading the word
about how people can be better yourself.
So thanks for having me.
I appreciate it, man.
Appreciate you and appreciate this time
and let’s do it again.
Thank you for joining me for today’s discussion
with Jocko Willink.
I hope you learned as much as I did
in terms of actionable knowledge to use
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If you’d like to learn more about Jocko’s work
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