The following is a conversation with Jaco Willink, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL, coauthor of Extreme
Ownership, Dichotomy of Leadership, Discipline Equals Freedom, and many other excellent books,
and he’s the host of Jaco’s podcast. Jaco spent 20 years in the SEAL teams. He was the commander
of SEAL Team 3’s Task Unit Bruiser that became the most highly decorated Special Operations unit
of the Iraq War. This conversation was intense and to the point. We agreed to talk again,
probably many times, and what I find very interesting, aside from the talk of leadership,
is the conversation about military tactics of specific battles in history.
I do happen to at times mention that I’m Russian. This is what I mean, that I got a bit of that
Russian soul. But of course who I really am is an American. This country gave me the opportunity,
the freedom to become and to be who I am, to stand as an individual. This seemingly
simple freedom to be a sovereign human being in the face of all the beauty and cruelty of life
is why I love this country. Much of life can be unfair, unjust, even tragic. But this is the
country where if I’m clever enough or card enough and just get lucky enough I have a chance to dream
big and make my dream a reality. The United States welcomed me, my family, and millions of immigrants
throughout its history so that we can make something meaningful of ourselves. To love,
to dream, to create, to find joy and meaning. It lets me be the weird kid I am who wears a suit,
talks about love, and has a fascination with robots. I know some people these days have an
aversion to pride and love for their country. I don’t. I love America. I also love humanity.
I believe these two, patriotism and humanism, are not in conflict, much like loving your family and
loving your country are not in conflict. They are all manifestations of the human spirit,
longing to strive for a better world. I was born a Russian, but I believe I will die an American.
A proud American. Hopefully not too soon, but life is short. I already had one hell of a fun journey,
so I’m ready to go when it’s time. This is the Lex Friedman podcast and here is my conversation
with Jaco Willink. Is it tragic or beautiful to you that some of the closest bonds that have formed
between people are through war often. I think it’s both, both tragic and beautiful and for the
obvious reasons. What are the obvious reasons? Why is it so obvious? Well, it’s tragic because
a lot of people die and it’s beautiful because you form bonds with people that are very difficult
to break once you’ve been through them. What is it about the trauma of war that makes bonds
difficult to break? Because what you realize when you’re in a war is that the people that are next
to you, you rely on them and they’re relying on you to survive. And without them, you will not
survive. And when you realize that you need to work together as a team to, to live, that forms
a very strong bond. And there’s nothing like that team outside of the realm of war. I don’t know
because I’ve, there’s a lot of things that I haven’t experienced in my life, but I think the
pressure and the consequences of war, there could be similar situations in survival scenarios,
in various atrocities where people need to work together in order to survive. And I think you
could probably get something that was similar. There’s a very particular nature to the kind of
war that World War II was, especially for the Soviet Union, where it didn’t just influence
the lives of people. It created culture, the music, the poetry, the literature. It’s in the,
it’s in the way people think. It’s in the way people see the world. It’s in the way they talk
even still to this day. And of course, I was talking about the directly relationship between
two soldiers, but there’s something about the depth of human connection that results from the
almost like reverberations of war. Like generations later, you’re still close to other humans.
There’s a coldness towards other humans like in Russia, but once you open up, it’s depth. You
seek depth of connection versus like breadth of a career kind of thinking, how can I make friends
with this? I can move into this direction. What can this person benefit me? Instead, you seek
a depth of human connection and appreciation that brings a lot. And maybe I’m romanticizing war here,
but it feels like that’s inextricably connected to World War II for Russians. Does that resonate
at all? So if you look at military training, what they do is they take people in the military
from the civilian world. They bring them into the military and they put them through bootcamp,
which is the stereotypical thing that you see on TV. You’re going to get yelled at.
You’re going to get screamed at. You’re going to get, you’re going to get put in the mud and
you’re going to be made to do hard things together. And what does that do with those
civilians? Well, it gives them a common background. It gives them a common suffering
that they’ve been through together and they form some sort of connection, some sort of bond.
Now to make that bond a little bit stronger, after you get done with bootcamp, they send you
to advanced infantry school and you suffer some more together. And when you suffer more together,
now you’re in a smaller group too, because now it’s infantry. It’s not supply people anymore or
logisticians. It’s strictly people that are going to fight. They’re infantrymen.
So they go through a school together and now they get a little bit tighter, get done with that. And
maybe you go to an airborne division. So you go to airborne school and now you all
overcome this fear of jumping out of an airplane together and you celebrate surviving that.
Then maybe you get done with that. And now you go at an airborne division. Now you’re an even tighter
group because you’ve suffered together. What comes next is special forces training or ranger training.
And what they do is they put you in these situations where you’re going to suffer together and you’re
going to build these bonds because as I said earlier, you have to rely on each other to survive.
And by the way, not everyone does, not everyone makes it through this training. So you sort of
have these memories of people that didn’t make it. You share that connection as well.
And you can keep going down this road until you go into combat with a military unit and
military units that go through combat, have an even tighter bond. And the harder the combat that
they go through, the tighter the bond is going to be. So I think when you talk about what the
Soviet Union went through in World War II, there was a shared suffering to survive. And so the
entire nation has that common thread. And that’s probably the thing that you sense or feel when you
refer back to the bond that resonates all the way back to World War II.
So in your podcast and your writing, you talk about some of the most fascinating things I listen
to you talk about in terms of military conflict is tactics and sort of the details of combat.
But allow me to stick on World War II for a second. There’s a particular aspect to that war,
I don’t know if you can speak to it, where twice the number of civilians died than military personnel.
So the Soviet Union, especially. My grandfather was a machine gunner in Ukraine as the Germans were
marching towards Moscow. There’s this important push in 1941 where they were trying to get before
the winter to Moscow. And what Stalin was doing, he was trying to get to Moscow. He was trying to
get to Moscow. And what Stalin was doing is he was basically throwing bodies to slow the attack.
And what that meant is everybody understood that your job was, you have this heavy machine guns,
it’s very, it’s almost unreasonable to be able to be mobile in any kind of way with them.
So you’re thrown at the front and you’re just nonstop shooting and 95 plus percent of people
are just dead. All the soldiers are just dead. And then you just go back and back and you’re trying
to protect as many civilians as you can throughout this whole process, but you don’t. And so you have
millions of civilians that die along the way into this march. Is there something you could say about
this complete, perhaps it’s naive of me to say, but a war that lacks tactics, that lacks strategy
and is purely about just no consideration of human life and just throwing bodies and bullets
into a mix together where millions die. And that in particular felt much less like conflict
and much more like torture or suffering. It didn’t come off as torture only that interestingly
enough, as you probably know, my grandfather, including everybody else, volunteered. They were
proud to do this. They were proud to march to their death for country, for love of country.
But the question on the civilian side, when more civilians die, the military personnel,
what do you make of that? It’s awful. It’s awful when a soldier dies. It’s awful when a civilian
dies. It’s awful when 10 civilians or 10 soldiers. And it’s even more awful when millions and millions
of soldiers and civilians die. I think it’s safe to say that the Soviet Union was facing an
existential threat to their existence against the Nazis. So to not fight would be to die as well,
maybe die a death a few years later, maybe die a different way. But
the choice was die now, trying or die later on your knees. And I think the choice was pretty clear.
As far as the tactics go, I mean, there is this is attrition warfare. That’s what that is. We are
going to keep, you know, you said throwing bodies at the problem. That’s attrition warfare. And the
Soviet Union had a lot of bodies, more than the Germans. And when you fight with attrition warfare,
whoever has more men and material will eventually win. It’s an awful, it’s an awful way. But that’s
the that’s that’s what the strategy was. You often talk about leadership.
Let’s put the evils of Hitler aside. The boldness of Hitler in making some of the strategic
decisions he did was considered by many military historians quite brilliant, early in the war,
or insane and brilliant. Stalin, on the other hand, I think university is seen as somebody who is
terrible military strategist, especially early in the war. He did not see all the possible
trajectories that the war could take. Is there something you could say about failure of leadership,
Stalin, also the United Kingdom before Churchill, and also FDR on the United States side, who
basically, was trying to turn a blind eye to everything that was happening over over there,
with a perspective of we just want to make, we want to keep America’s interest
as the primary interest and everything else, let other countries work out their problems.
You know, I think one of the things with Hitler was in the beginning of the war,
he listened to his friends, his family, and he listened to his friends. He listened to
his generals. And therefore, they did pretty well with that. I think as the war went on,
he believed that he was smarter than he was, and made decisions that were bad, that cost him dearly.
You know, I mean, case in point, as everyone knows, going and attacking the Soviet Union,
while you’re still fighting a war on the other front is not not a good move.
There’s an example of yeah, bad leadership, letting your ego get in the way believing that you can do
things that you that are beyond your capabilities. But, you know, as you mentioned in the beginning
with Blitzkrieg, those were really dynamic and bold moves. And they worked. And that what does
that do? That fuels your ego and makes you think that you can win.
Many people consider that war a just war. What do you think makes a just war?
I think you have the Nazis, and the Imperial Japanese trying to impose their will on other
nations and other peoples. And when that happens, I think on a grand scale, people look at that. And
believe it’s just to step in and do something about it.
Is there some gray area here?
There’s, there’s nothing but gray area.
The United States has been involved in a lot of military conflict since then.
How do you draw the line to the gray area? What, what war should we engage in and not?
I know you don’t get a lot of questions about that, but I think it’s important that you
I know you don’t get into politics much. But what the decision to go to war,
you have to look at the situation that you’re going into. And you have to make sure that you have
the will to go to war. And the will to go to war means that you are willing to kill people.
And when I say people, I don’t just mean enemy, because in war,
civilians are going to die, women and children are going to die. Every a lot of people are
going to die. And so you and you are going to kill them. Doesn’t matter what kind of
smart munitions you have. Doesn’t matter how disciplined your soldiers are. When you go into
a war, civilians are going to die and you have to understand that. And the other thing that
you have to understand is that your troops are also going to die. And it seems like sometimes
we’re a little bit naive about the calculation of what that’s going to look like.
And maybe we think, well, not that many civilians and maybe not that many of our our personnel are
going to die. And that’s where you get into sticky situations. And, you know, another thing when you
were talking about the Soviet Union versus the Nazis, that’s total war. That’s what that is. And
we don’t engage in that very often. It’s total war. It’s we will do absolutely anything to win.
And America doesn’t fight like that very often. In fact, the last time we fought like that was
World War Two. We it was total war. We will do whatever it takes to up to and including
the atomic bomb to destroy the enemy. So those are the kind of things you need to think about
before you go to war. And I don’t think we think about that very often.
I don’t think we think about that very often. You know, even the United States, the atomic bomb,
nuclear weapons is an interesting one because there’s a lot of
there’s a lot of hesitation on that. There’s a lot of critics of that decision as it was happening.
So even America, you could imagine other countries like Germany would not be so hesitant
to use nuclear weapons. It’s interesting to think about in deciding military strategy to inject
ethics into it, into morality. It’s not just about winning the war, but should we do this
and doing the calculation of human life. Usually those decisions are made by leaders,
not by the soldier that’s going to be implementing
that decision. Do you put some responsibility, I should even say blame on the leaders
and not doing that kind of calculation here? You could say that about the Vietnam War,
you could say that about even the war that you were involved with in Iraq.
Is there some criticism here that you could apply to leaders for failing not to consider
that the broader moral questions? Yes.
Natural, like all leaders will make these mistakes or should leaders not make these mistakes?
Leaders are going to make mistakes. It’s impossible to know what’s going to happen in war,
just like it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen in life.
You make decisions based on the information that you have at the time and you will make mistakes.
If you fail to admit that you made a mistake, that’s where I have a more significant problem
than someone that makes a mistake and says, hey, this is the mistake that I made. This is the
intelligence that I thought we were utilizing and it actually is not what I thought it was going to
be. And here’s the new direction that we’re going in. We don’t have enough of that type of ownership
in leadership globally. Just saying I made a mistake
that resulted in a loss at scale of human life, being able to say that.
Being able to say that. And when you don’t say that, you end up with a more loss of human life.
Can I ask you about the loss of human life? How does killing a human being change you?
What does it mean to kill a human being? What does it feel like to kill a human being?
Well, I mean, I guess you’d have to look at what circumstances a person’s in when this is taking
place. If you’ve got someone that’s in a, a fit of rage that goes and kills somebody,
you know, they’re going to come out of it and think, wow, I’ve just really messed up.
If you’ve got a, someone that is a sociopath, right? They’re not going to feel anything.
And that person deserved to die. And that’s why they died. If you’ve got a soldier who feels like
they’re trying to protect their friends, they’ll move through that. If you’ve got a soldier that’s
doing it because they want some kind of personal glory, they’ll probably not feel good about it
later. So I think it depends on the situation. I think it depends on the psychology of the
individual that’s going through it. He said, move through that.
Is there some calculation here that a soldier, when they kill another soldier,
a realization that is just another human being,
I mean, is there some heavy burden to that aspect that it’s ultimately just human on human?
I think it depends a lot on the scenario. I know that when I was in Iraq fighting,
we, we talk a lot about the dehumanization of the enemy and it’s something that the
governments will do. I mean, governments will do that to each other. I mean, the Japanese dehumanized
the Americans and the Americans dehumanized the Japanese and the Americans dehumanized the Nazis
and the Nazis dehumanized the Americans so that to remove as much of that human on human killing
aspect that you’re talking about. And what I would say is that the Japanese
human killing aspect that you’re talking about. And what I, what I’ve said is that
in, when we were in Iraq, we didn’t have to dehumanize the enemy because the,
the enemy dehumanized themselves through their actions, through their behaviors.
When, when we know that they are torturing and raping and murdering the local populace,
they’ve been dehumanized. And so as far as looking at them and thinking, oh, this is a,
you know, a human, another human that’s, that’s on the level of, you know, my, my uncle or my brother,
I didn’t, I didn’t think of them out that way. I thought of them as,
as murdering, raping, evil, subhumans.
Yeah. Rock is different and America’s position is different. You’re right. That America has not
been involved in a war where it’s quite like two humans fighting, like teenage boys fighting
against each other. And you’ve got to remember that America
has not been involved in a war where it’s quite like two humans fighting, like teenage boys fighting
against each other. And you’ve got to remember, I mean, we’re, we’re seeing these Iraqi kids
that are living under this sadistic, sadistic terror, the Iraqi women that are being raped
and so on the one side we become the, the Iraqi populace is very humanized to us because we’re
talking to them. We’ve got interpreters, we understand we’re seeing them day after day,
the same individuals. And so we form a bond with the local populace and yet we see what the
insurgents are doing. And so it’s again, not difficult to dehumanize people that behave in
that manner. Yeah. I suppose I’m, I worry about the dehumanization at a much larger scale when
it’s not the kind of case that you’re talking about. Even now, hopefully I’m not fear mongering,
but there’s a sense in which there’s the drums of war slowly starting to build with China.
There, in the best case, it would be a cold war of, there’s a dehumanization aspect that’s
happening with China currently, which is they’re the other and they’re after stealing all of your
data. There’s a cybersecurity, it starts with cybersecurity and it worries me because it
creates the other out of a very large population that may ultimately lead to conflict.
In the worst case, hot conflict that would no longer be the situation you are in in Iraq
and more similar to the Soviet Union conflict with Germany that it’s kids and then they’re
dehumanized to where you’re at scale slaughtering them or at least hurting their quality of life
in a way that’s maybe, you know, suffering has many forms. It doesn’t have to be through just
a hot war. It could be through starvation, through camps, all those kinds of things.
And I worry about that. We kind of tend to think that these wars are behind us
and I’m not always so sure that’s the case. And at least in the way that, it ultimately starts
with hate and it, again, hopefully I’m not being too dramatic, but I see that there’s a kind of
brewing of, it starts with dehumanization that turns to hate of the other. You see that with
China, you see it a little bit with Russia and you have an early podcast with between the
where you break down the tactics of the Chechen war versus Russia. It’s fascinating. But that’s
the kind of conflicts I’m referring to. And I don’t know. There’s a, I know you’re a bit of
a musician. I love, I love Dire Straits song called Brothers in Arms. I don’t know if you
know that one. And there’s a line in it. I think they play it quite often at military funerals,
which I just recently learned, but it’s this powerful song that has a line, we’re fools to
make war on our brothers in arms. Do you think there’s some sense in which at the leadership
level, but just as human beings, we’re perhaps foolish and engaging in military conflict
as much as we have, or as fool, a very inappropriate word here.
Well, I think that using the term brothers in arms means the people that are on my side,
right? So it doesn’t make sense to start wars with people that are on your side. So that’s,
that might just be the way the lyrics are written so that it fit the song or whatever.
I think broadly what you’re asking me is, is war foolish? Yeah. And I would say the answer is yes.
And if you can avoid it, you absolutely should. But if there is a bear or a wolf that is trying
to get into your house, is it foolish to shoot that bear or shoot that wolf? I think that’s
the answer. Is it foolish to shoot that bear or shoot that wolf? I think the answer is pretty
obvious. So when you’re threatened or your family are threatened or your way of life is threatened,
then you have to do something to try and defend your family, your way of life. It should be the
last resort. You had a conversation with Jordan Peterson where he asked you a question
in terms of war being the last resort, whether you would like your kids to grow up in peace
in a time of no war. You said yes, but, and so happens Jordan didn’t let you finish. Can you,
can you elaborate what follows the but? Well, you, you and I have been talking about the fact that
struggle brings people together and, and brings out the best and, and the worst, brings out the
worst in people. War brings out the worst in people. It also brings out the best in people.
So would you want your kid to go and enter in a wrestling tournament where
you paid all the other kids off and your kid won? Or you enter them in a jujitsu tournament where
they’re a purple belt and you know that everyone that they’re going to fight against is a white
belt. And so they get the, they get the big W, they get the win, but they don’t really get tested
and they don’t really struggle. And if you don’t struggle, you don’t grow. So that’s the, but
right. Um, the, the absolute best times of my life were in combat and the worst times of my life were
in combat. And so even though I wouldn’t want any of my children to suffer through the worst of times
at the same time, the but is I would want them to have the opportunity to feel that bond that
you’re referring to earlier and to see human beings that are willing to sacrifice their
lives for their friends. You mentioned the worst. What are some of the worst aspects of
when you were in Iraq? Well, what are the things that, um, the hardest on you having my guys killed?
Is there, uh, absurd cruelty to it? Was it due to mistakes or natural consequences of, of fighting?
Is there any difference? Is that at the end is just losing? Those are brothers in arms.
There’s a million different ways to get killed in the war and you can go out on an operation and you
can do everything wrong and you can survive and you can go out in an operation and do everything
perfect and you can get killed. Is there some aspect which makes it worse when there is mistakes
made? Well, yeah, if there’s mistakes made, then you’re going to sit there and beat yourself up
eternally for mistakes that were made. But to you, the things that hurt is just losing,
losing people close to you. Yes. Are you yourself afraid of death? No.
Are you yourself afraid of death? No. Do you think about it? Does it make sense to you that this
thing ends? Like do you, uh, the Stoics contemplated death. It gives flavor to life.
It makes you appreciate, there’s something about finiteness of life that makes it, that makes it
this, uh, Jocko Discipline Go drink, sour apple that I’m enjoying is delicious. Makes it taste
better because I’m going to die one day. And I think about that a lot. Do you think about it?
Other than I know that it’s going to end. I mean, but I don’t think about it on a daily basis. I
think about the fact I think about, I know that I’m lucky to be here. I know that many people
sacrificed to give me this opportunity to be here. So, but I don’t dwell on it.
What about when you were in combat? Nothing. There’s, there’s tactics,
there’s strategy, there’s the mission. And then your mortality is not part of the calculation.
I think you get to a point where you accept the fact that you can die. Like I, I, you know,
like I said, you can do everything right. You roll out the gate, you hit an ID, a triple stack
subsurface ID and you’re dead. You’re done. And there’s nothing that’s going to stop that. It’s
going to happen. And I think if you’re scared of that or you’re thinking about that, it’s going to
inhibit your ability to do your job properly. And I think it’s also going to drive you crazy.
The thing that I thought about more was that happening to my guys. And that’s the gut wrenching
terror that you feel when, when operations happen. Can I ask you about love of country? It’s, it
continues to just how much I’ve studied Stalin recently in the past few years. It continues to
surprise me, not surprise me. It’s just tragic in some kind of way. I’m not sure exactly if I could
put words to it, but how many people and still do, but at the time were willing, loved Stalin
and were willing to die for country for the love of country. And I too, maybe because I was born
there and now I am a red blooded American. I love nationalism is a bad word, but I love the love of
country. It gives, it somehow gives a meaning like a brotherhood, like we’re in this together.
I love that’s why I love the Olympics. That’s just the, the unity of it. It takes a step out of the
selfish pursuits of any one particular ant and looks at us as a big ant colony and it’s inspiring.
It’s it’s exciting, but at the same time, it seems to get us to do horrible things.
If, if manipulated by charismatic leaders, what do you make of this love of country? Is it a,
is it a bad thing? Is it a thing that gets in the way or is it a good thing?
Well, I think like anything else, if it’s balanced correctly,
it’s great. And if it goes to some extreme level, then it becomes a negative.
And I think it, I think it’s probably sourced in some sort of animalistic tribalism that we all
have to be part of a tribe. And this is a real big tribe that you get to be a part of. And all
you have to do is kind of show up. And so when someone says, Hey, we’re going to play hockey
against the Russians, well, we’re going to cheer for the American boys.
So my, my area of work is artificial intelligence. It’d be interesting to ask your thoughts about
something, which is autonomous weapon systems. US has now officially released the report saying
that they’re open to, not open, they’re engaging in, in adding more and more autonomy and artificial
intelligence into its weapon systems because China is doing it. So there’s, these are the first steps
in something that AI folks worry about, which is a race, an AI race in the space of autonomous
weapons that can run away too quickly. Is that something, I don’t know if in general,
if you have thoughts about weapon systems that make autonomous decisions
at the small scale of just targeting where to shoot and at the largest scale of military strategy
of just being given a mission of destroy this particular target, this particular, say terrorist
human being, and then figure out what is the right bombing campaign on your own to accomplish
this task that minimizes civilian death. And then just loading that in and letting the AI system
automatically decide that. What are your general thoughts about it? Do you, do you worry about it?
Because there’s the positive effects that in the best version of that world, you kill fewer
civilians, you kill, hurt fewer of your own human beings. But at the negative side of that,
you might lose the thing we kind of talked about, which is the basic humanity, even in the individual
soldier of what is right and what is wrong and not making huge mistakes that hurt thousands
or millions of people. I guess what you’re asking me is if they could make a machine that could
do more surgical attacks on enemy individuals, would I be for it? Yes, I would be for it.
The problem is if you’ve ever used machines of any kind, their initial design may not be,
there’s unintended consequences. There’s ways in the machine actually behaves that you realize
there’s bugs in this thing. So do we not put protocols in place to prevent something from
going too far outside the boundaries of what we wanted to execute? You do. But the question is,
this is the first time in human history you can create things, machines, toaster, microwave oven,
that’s smarter than you in this particular task. I mean, it’s not yet there. What you’re learning a
lot with military strategies, humans are actually really damn smart. It’s very hard to improve on a
human. And so most actual drones that are unmanned are still piloted by humans. It’s very difficult
to do every aspect of war. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that machines will start
doing those things better in certain things, certain more precise targeting of the enemy.
The question is, so what happens when you start to rely on the machine to do some of the task
is you get lazy. You forget what it is like to do that task or more importantly, you lose the
knowledge of the intricacies of that task and you forget the ways it can go wrong. So the protocols
may not be sufficient to constrain the power of the ways that things go wrong, especially when
things are moving really quickly, especially when the ethics of the two sides aren’t perfectly
aligned. When people are some certain sides, like on the Chinese side, may be more willing to take
risks for dangerous consequences than others. So what happened on the bioweapon side
is internationally, maybe you can speak to this more, but my sense, what I was told,
there is a sense globally that bioweapons are not going to be used. They’re unethical. There’s a
sense like we’re not going to engage in this. And with AI currently, China and US said, green light,
all go ahead. It’s totally ethical. If it can decrease the loss of human life, why not?
And my worry is that it’s much easier to design weapons that are effective than design weapons
who have the depth of ethics and morals that humans do, which I think we don’t as human
beings don’t acknowledge enough that even like the cold calculated killing of others,
like precise, effective execution of a mission still has ethics in it. At every level, you know
what’s right and what’s wrong. And I don’t know if you take that away, you’re not going to make
huge mistakes that you regret. Is that something you don’t worry about?
I don’t really worry about it. But as you design something, like I said, you put protocols in place
and from what I am hearing you say, or trying to hear you say, there’s be a point where our
protocols wouldn’t be sufficient to stop the machine from doing something that was unethical.
I’m kind of worried that this is something you don’t worry about. Because a lot of people I
respect don’t worry about it. And I don’t know what to do about that. A lot of generals don’t
worry about it. A lot of people who know much more about war, like you than me, don’t worry about it.
And that worries me.
Well, that’s because you have a vision into the shortfalls of AI. And I don’t. I don’t have a
vision of the shortfalls of AI. I don’t know enough about it. As far as I’m concerned, you put
a on off switch somewhere, you put a kill switch on a system. And if it starts going awry, you hit
the kill switch, and that’s it. So if you know, when you look at me and say, well, there’s no
possible way to put a kill switch, that would be 100% effective. And here’s, you draw those concerns
to me. And we could talk through it and say, okay, well, here’s where we should draw the line.
I mean, it’s like, again, for the Soviet Union, Chernobyl meltdown, there was always the ability,
I believe, to have a kill switch. The problem is, the more power you give to the machine,
the more opportunity you give to the human supervising that machine to make a mistake
and not shut off the switch at the right time. So yes, the solution, I mean, you’re putting the
responsibility still in the human hands. And I think that’s the correct place to put it. There
should be good protocols, good leadership, good execution, competency all around. Your
protocols should consider the basic failures of human nature, the human factor of how things go
wrong. So there should be multiple people supervising the system, all those things. But
I am just very skeptical of greater and greater power in the machine that can create war, that
cannot lead to death. Yeah. And that’s why, like I said, and like you just said, you have protocols
in place that are a kill switch. And if you think about the amount of nuclear weapons that we’ve had
on planet Earth for the past however many years, and there’s been no rogue element that said,
you know what, I’m going to shoot this thing. There’s been no protocol that took place where
all of a sudden we said, oh no. I mean, there’s been escalations, but the protocols worked,
have worked so far. Now, that’s a scary thing to think about, that we rely on these protocols to
stop some rogue element out there from launching a missile that could kill millions of people and
trigger a global war. So yeah, the protocols should be strict. Okay. Can I ask a Jack O Wonka
ridiculous question? If human civilization goes extinct, what would be the reason? You mentioned
nuclear war. Do you worry about this? The reason I bring that up, a lot of people in the
AI community worry about artificial general intelligence. So super intelligent AI systems
creating a lot of damage. Autonomous weapon systems is one possibility. A lot of folks
recently, especially with this pandemic, if you want to be terrified, listen, somebody I talked
to recently, Sam Harris, he did a four hour podcast on how bioengineering of viruses is likely
to destroy human civilization. I recommend that highly if you were too optimistic about the
future of the human species. So apparently in the space of bioengineering is becoming easier and
easier and easier to engineer viruses, engineer pathogens. This is the world’s most depressing
question. Is there something in particular you worry about? Like that we should be thinking as
a human species about? Yeah, I’m sorry to disappoint you again with my lack of worry for all these
problems, but I don’t worry too much about it. You know what? We’ve made it through a bunch of
wickets so far as a species and we’ll make it through some more or we won’t. And if we don’t
make it through some of these wickets and someone decides that what they’re going to do over the
weekend is create some crazy virus that spreads and kills everybody. Yeah. You know what? I’m
usually extremely optimistic about this stuff. I am now I’m with you except we won’t. Well,
there’s always a chance we won’t, but I have a sense that human, first of all, I believe that
most people have much more capacity for good than evil. All of us are capable of evil, I believe,
but most people are much more capable of doing good and want to do good. And I also believe in
the resiliency of the human species that we’re an innovative bunch and we can respond to tragedy,
especially we respond more to tragedy as the scale of tragedy grows and our response is much
better. So that’s why I’m not worried about it, bro. What makes a great man? Let’s start at the
individual. What makes a great man? What makes a great woman? What makes a great human being?
Somebody that puts others above themselves. What makes a great leader of humans?
But that sentence does a lot of work. When you’re a leader, there’s a lot of egos. There’s a lot
of tension. There’s the human factor. There’s people who are timid. There’s people who are
assholes. There’s people who are incredibly competent, but self obsessed. I don’t know.
There’s complexities of human nature. How do you get all those people to be the best version of
themselves and to lift up everyone else around them?
Okay. So now that, that question is a little bit different now. So now it’s getting into a more
specific question, but at the same time, a more broad question of what elements does it take to
make a good leader? So you’re right that different people have different personalities, different
tendencies, different levels of ego. And the, the way that I try and explain this is like a
video game. And I’m not even a video game player, but I’ve seen this before where video game
characters have various skills, various strengths and weaknesses. So maybe they’re strong, but
they’re dumb, or maybe they’re strong and smart, but they’re slow. They just give them these,
these ratings. And so that’s where human beings are. And that’s the way leaders are. And you can
have different leaders with different characteristics. And depending on how all those
characteristics match up, you can have somebody that is very introverted, but they’re a, but,
but they’re still a very good leader because when they do communicate, they do it in a clear,
simple manner that everyone understands. So even though they’re a little bit introverted,
people still respect them and listen to them because they communicate in a clear way.
You could have somebody that’s extremely charismatic, extremely charismatic and everyone
looks to them, but they’re slow in making decisions. And so now we’ve got someone that
can’t really make decisions when decisions need to get made. So even though they’re
charismatic, they’re still not a good leader. So depending on the human being that we’re talking
about, and you just mentioned earlier that human beings are, you know, more complex than anything
and do a better job at just about everything than a robot. So that’s the same thing with
leadership. You’ve got all these different characteristics and you, you match them or mix
them together. And depending on where the ratings come out, depending on how that thing does in the
end, can we almost like as a case study, look at a few people in the tech area that I’m familiar
with that I know well, we can, the only caveat being that I may have no familiarization with
them whatsoever. You may have to brief me on them. Yeah. So I’ll do my best to brief. I’ll do my best
to reduce human beings into simple descriptions. And then you can give me insights of why the hell
they’re such effective leaders based on my description, not based on your actual deep
knowledge of the human beings. So that caveat of my inability to speak both the English language
and describe humans well. Let’s talk about first, Elon Musk. So he’s known as being quite
harsh in the sense of, first of all, a very high bar of excellence.
And also willing to what he calls that kind of first principles thinking of asking the,
the questions that hurt, which is why the hell are we doing it this way?
Why can’t it be done a lot, but not just better, but a lot better. So, so let’s,
I don’t want to hear his whole character. I’ll go one at one section at a time. So we’ve got a guy
that’s harsh and, and asking the really hard questions. How can that be good? Or why is that
good? Well, first of all, it can be horrible. And there’s leaders out there that are harsh and
they’re hated and no one likes them and no one wants to work for them and they never do anything.
So what is it that Elon Musk does that makes, gives him the ability to be harsh? So I was, I was
hearing a description of me when I would give feedback to young seals that had made mistakes
during training operations. And the description was that I, same thing, like this harsh blunt force
trauma and just totally direct sledgehammer of truth that I would hit guys with. But it’s
interesting because I always talk about, you know, building relationships and making sure you’re not
offending someone. Yeah. So how do these things match up? Well, I can tell you how they match up
when I was being harsh, the guys that I was being harsh with knew without one shred of doubt that
I cared about them more than anything else. And that the reason I was giving them this feedback
is because I wanted them to be able to lead their troops. I wanted them to be able to go
accomplish their mission. And I wanted them to be able to bring their guys home from war.
So I wasn’t being harsh because it elevated my ego. I wasn’t being harsh because I wanted to
denigrate them. I was being, actually being harsh because I wanted them to accomplish the mission.
Because I wanted them to accomplish the mission. So if that’s where Elon comes from,
hey, listen, we got to make this happen. This is for the good of the world to do this.
And people know that then it works. I’ll bring this point back up with another guy,
Steve Jobs, but let me stay on Elon for a second. The other thing he does, which is interesting,
I see the value of this. It’d be great to hear you speak about it. He’s unlike many of the other
CEOs, very rich billionaires, involved in leading a lot of people. He puts a lot of time into making
sure he’s on the factory floor. He famously sleeps on the, sort of like in the middle of things.
And he puts a lot of effort. He’s also very good at it is being a low level engineer. So like,
whatever the task is, he wants to understand the details and he’ll talk to the lowest level person
in terms of like, somebody who’s like working literally on putting parts together. He wants to
understand what the problem is, what the challenge is. If there’s an emergency, he wants to understand
the actual details of the problem, not like delegating it to a manager, but like,
because a lot of CEOs, a lot of managers will talk about sort of the power and the importance
of delegation. Here, he wants to know if there’s a big problem, he wants to know the exact detail.
He wants to know the exact problem. He wants to, at the fundamental level, understand how to solve
that problem. Whether it has to do with materials, whether it has to do with the actual manufacturing,
the mechanical engineering aspect, like we’re talking about engineering. This is a guy who
wears a suit as a CEO, tweets about Dogecoin, but like an actual job, he’s low level engineering.
And that to me was always inspiring to see somebody who knows what the fuck they’re doing.
That’s what it, like he gains the respect of engineers at the lowest level.
I don’t know if that’s scalable, but that’s always been inspiring to me. And I wonder how many people
it’s inspiring to. Maybe you could speak to the value of doing that, of no matter how high your
level of leader is, to be able to do the low level shit. Yeah. And that’s a common trait that good
leaders have. And maybe he doesn’t necessarily know how to do everything, a good leader,
but they go down there and talk to the frontline troops and say, Hey, what is the issue that you’re
dealing with? Or, you know, how can I support you? How can I give you help? And one key point that
you said is, he said, when there’s a problem, he gets in there. So there’s things happening
at his companies that they’re working. And so he doesn’t have to die. I’m not saying he never does,
but he doesn’t have to spend as much time working on or looking at some subsystem that’s functioning
well. He’s got a good leader in there that’s handling it. And he checks in with that leader.
And the leader says, yeah, it’s working perfectly. He says, great. When there’s a problem, that’s
when he might have to get down there and dig into some details so that he fully understands it. So
that he, when he digs down in the details, and this is important, he’s coming from an altitude
where he has a better, bigger perspective, not necessarily better, but a bigger perspective.
So if you sit there and work on a problem, whatever, for eight hours and you’re staring
at, you know, if you were planning a mission and you were planning it for eight hours,
you’re staring at the maps and the charts and you’re figuring out where all the troops are
going to be located. And I come in after eight hours and I look at your plan from a distant
perspective, there’s a good chance I’ll be able to see holes in your plan that you couldn’t see
because your perspective was too close. So that’s good for me to be able to come in from a higher
perspective and have a look at it. But also there’s times where I need to get down there and
actually look, you know, if you’re looking at a problem and you say, look, I can’t figure out
boss, I can’t figure out how to get to this target. And I’m looking at it from a distance and
I don’t see, I might need to start digging in and looking and saying, Oh, here’s a route that we
can take that actually makes sense. Let’s try that. So I think it’s a good example of someone
going up and down in altitude to look at problems, understanding what’s happening with the frontline
troops. And at the same time, being able to go back to the strategic level. And I can, it’s
probably this way. The reason that he’s successful is because he doesn’t get stuck down there.
Yeah. Because if he felt the need to micromanage each and every part on a Tesla,
it wouldn’t be, it would be very unlikely that he would have the capacity to do that.
It wouldn’t be, it would be very unlikely that he would have the capacity to do all that.
Now he can hand over some broad chip design and say, Hey, this is what the function needs to be.
And he gives it to Lex and Lex goes there with your team and you figured out and you make it
happen. If he had to actually do that all himself, most likely not possible. So that’s what leaders
should be doing. They should go elevate and, and, and then get down in the weeds when they have to,
and then go back up. The sad thing, this is the part that makes me not want to do a startup
is basically his whole life is dealing with emergencies. Just like you said, he’s not
dealing, this is not shooting the shit about details of engineering. It’s dealing with like,
in this, in the case of the company, life and death, like something that can just completely
damage the production line, right? So he’s constantly dealing with emergencies, putting out
fires. And I don’t know if there’s something to be said about that psychology of that, of how,
like he, he’s spoken himself that he’s worried whether his mind can hold up much longer.
So hopefully in the near future, he will start to form more decentralized command where he has some
subordinate leadership that he fully trusts. And most important that he has properly trained
so that they can handle these day to day fires at least 80% of them. So only 20% of the time,
does he actually need to go in and solve a problem. If he’s not doing that right now,
then that’s going to end up being a problem anytime. So I work with companies all the time.
And that’s, what’s interesting about this is I go and work with a CEO or with a,
with a C suite of a company. It takes a little while to figure out what’s going on. I’m kind of
going off of the things that you’re telling me almost anecdotally, right? Yes. But let’s
say that what you and also, I don’t know how familiar you actually are with the inner workings
of his companies, but if we were to assume that what you’re saying is accurate, then my advice
would be, Hey, listen, you need to start putting a little bit more time and effort into training up
some subordinate leadership that has the trust, knowledge, and expertise that you will be able
to turn over some of these, some of these details to for two reasons. Number one, so you can let
your brain, you know, you can, you can survive a little longer as he put it, but also all the
time that you spend as a leader, looking down and into your organization is time that you’re
not looking up and out. So when you’re not looking up and out, you’re not seeing what
the competitors doing. You’re not seeing where the market’s going. There’s problems that,
that, that can come from that. So if right now he’s spending too much time looking down and in,
and you mentioned, you know, you said, I don’t know if I want to do a startup. When you do a
startup, you’re going to be looking down and in for a while. It’s going to take a while. You’re
going to have to do all this work yourself. You’re not going to have the finances to put
people manpower behind these things. So that’s probably he, maybe he’s in that mindset a little
bit because he’s done so many startups over the years. And so he’s in the he’s habitually in the
weeds. So my advice would be, all right, let’s start looking at formulating some subordinate
leadership that has the, like I said, the expertise, the trust that you can, you can start
to turn over some of these more minute details to them so that you can start looking up and out.
Yeah. I think he’s done that more successful in some places than others. The SpaceX, a lot of
people give the credit to Gwen Shotwell for the CEO, the COO of SpaceX as, as a very successful
person that runs shit, but in Tesla, not as much. So I wonder if you can comment on something
a lot of people worry about, and this applies to a lot of tech companies, which is a lot of people
worry about that if Elon disappears, the, the, the innovative spirit, the company is as we know them
today will collapse, will stagnate and will basically fail to do what they’ve been doing for
so many years successfully. Is there some aspect to what makes a good leader that if you disappear,
it’s still the thing still lives on and not just lives on, but thrives.
Yeah. So what we have to do in those situations is we have to establish a strong culture inside
that organization. And if you’re there’s, there’s, there’s reasons why this happens, right? If I have
a big ego and I form a company and I love the fact that everyone looks at me and says, Oh,
Jocko made this company and he’s the creative force behind this company. And that fuels my ego
and it makes me feel good. And you know, I’m working with you, Lex. And every time you come
up with an idea, I say, Lex, you need to stay in your box. Yeah. Right. So I’m not creating a culture
that rewards that sort of creativity. And eventually when I die, I won’t have
have educated my team on how to maintain that creative aspect. So again, hopefully inside
that organization, he’s, he’s encouraging and growing that culture where creativity is rewarded,
where, where it flourishes, even when he’s gone, that’s what we have to hope for.
He is, but I also seem to notice that there’s not many people like him.
Um, people become complacent too easily. I’ve been disappointed by people a little bit.
It’s like, success makes people soft. With Elon, it seems like success doesn’t have any effect.
It’s like the reverse effect. It doesn’t, it’s like, what’s the, it’s always like,
what’s the next biggest thing, right? He’s living that exponential growth,
which I think that’s the problem that you have to have somebody who’s constantly
trying to find the 10 X solution, like trying to constantly improve things.
And, uh, restlessly that, I mean, that probably has to do with finding the right people,
not just creating the culture, but creating a culture with the right set of people.
Speaking of which Steve Jobs, there’s, uh, two things I want to mention there.
One, once again, the harshness, but a very different kind.
And the second is team building. So on the harshness, he is much harsher than Elon
in a way, in the following way. And I’m having a sense that you will not like this,
but I’d like to defend it is he loses his shit quite a bit. He was famously, at least,
especially early on being very emotional. He was letting passion dominate the discussion.
There’d be a lot of firings. There would be a lot of mean things said to people.
I don’t know what you make of that. How much as a leader,
are you allowed to just lose your shit in your love for the thing you’re doing?
And how effective is that?
As a leader, you shouldn’t be doing that very often.
So you can look back at me and say, well, Jocko, here’s the most profitable company that’s ever
existed. And so you’re wrong. Well, going back to that multiple multitude of characteristics that
human beings can have. Well, it’s the same thing with businesses. It’s the same thing with companies.
Steve Jobs was off the charts in some of his traits, his ability to understand design,
his ability to understand human interface with computer systems. So, so far off the charts
that despite his bad temper, emotional behavior, the company still thrived.
That can happen. You can have people that are horrible leaders that develop something
that’s so universally outstanding that you end up with a company that’s successful.
The reason, I mean, I get asked that a bunch, people always ask me, because I say, look,
you shouldn’t be losing your temper as a leader. Well, what about Steve Jobs? He used to yell and
scream all the time. Great. When people say that to me, I say, oh, okay. Are you as good at design
as Steve Jobs was? Are you as good at marketing as Steve Jobs was? He had a certain amount of skills
that were off the charts. And so he was able to be successful despite the fact that he would lose
his temper, treat people horribly. That’s not good. It’s not good. And it would have been even
more successful if he wouldn’t had those characteristics. Now you might say, well,
he, his anger is what pushed things. Well, let me ask you this. What leader wins the leader
whose team is afraid, who the team who execute, executes the mission because they’re afraid of
their leader or executes the task because they’re afraid of their leader or the team that loves
their leaders so much that they don’t want to let them down. They don’t want to let them down.
Or the team that loves their leaders so much that they don’t want to let them down. Which team wins?
You’re implying a confidence that love is more powerful than fear, but I’m not so sure. This is
the Machiavelli question. You’re saying ultimately it’s always better to lead by inspiration and love
than by, by putting the fear into the team. What I’m, what I’m saying is that I’ve seen
countless times is me leading through my authority, leading through my rank,
leading through punitive measures is infinitely worse than me and you working together as a team
to win. On the second point of Steve Jobs is he has this idea of philosophy of eight players
where you have a group, like the power and the productivity of a group of what he called eight
players is invaluable. So you want to get a team of people who are the best at what they do.
But the most important aspect to him was that a single quote unquote B player on the team destroys
the entire productivity of the team. Is there something that it brings true to that? So he was,
I guess this could be a temper thing, but vicious about firing and removing the, uh, what he felt
was a toxic B player in a team. So eight players feed off of each other, unless there’s one B
player present. It depends on the nature of the B player. Is the player, is the player a B player?
Is the player a B player because he’s a little bit lazy? Is he a B player because he doesn’t have a
good vision? Is he a B player because he’s got a big ego and always thinks he’s right
and now creates conflict in the team. So there’s a bunch of different B players.
Look, if you’re working for me and you’re kind of a B player, but guess what? You’re a grinder and
you get stuff done. I want you on the team. You might not be the smartest person I have,
but I know that you’re committed to the team and I want you on the team. So you’re a B player,
but that’s okay. Now, if you’re Lex with the giant ego, I’d rather have, I’d rather have Lex.
That’s not quite as smart. Cause I got other people that are smart. I got other people that
are smart on the team. Look, you’re going to need some smart people on the team, but a team
is made up. It’s a team. And so you take these different components of a team. And if you have
complimentary components, you’ll end up with a superior team. Then just basing it on the level
of, and what’s an A player sometimes in the seal teams, they would get something called the stacked
platoon. And what that would be is someone, you know, some senior person in that platoon would
manipulate and maneuver to get the quote best guys that he could in that platoon. So, you know,
the most experienced guys, the person that had great, great reputations. And sometimes those
platoons would be great. Sometimes they would implode because what you end up with is a bunch of
A players. And now no one wants to follow anyone else. No one wants to agree with anyone else.
Everyone wants to do it my way. Not it’s my way, not Lex’s way. Lex is stupid. No,
you’re stupid. We end up with problems. So can one person derail a team? Absolutely.
Under good leadership, one person should not derail a team.
This could be a tech thing too. There’s some multiplying effect of just pure excellence,
no matter the personalities. I think for Steve Jobs, he doesn’t, the ego doesn’t matter. None
of that matters. What matters is the quality of the output, the genius of the result.
And that somehow multiplies itself. And the egos actually, like one of the problems with egos
is like, what does ego usually say? It says, I’m much better than you. When you have people that
are really good together, it’s very hard for the ego to flourish because you’re like constantly
being shown that you’re not as good and there’s a competition. So like, I think to his, his idea was
that like, if you get people that are really good at what they do, it turns out that you’re not as
good at what you do. It turns as opposed to you being complacent and not doing much and thinking
you’re better than everyone else and your opinion is better, is you almost getting in that competitive
race. You know that magic that happens when you’re at the end of a marathon and you’re just like
head to head, like you’re just going full steam with a person that is as good as you. There’s no
place for ego there. Which is great. Which is great. Let’s use that example. You and I are racing,
the end of the marathon. We’re both highly competitive, highly competitive. We have massive
egos and we both want to win. We both want to win so bad that we, we give everything we’ve got.
That’s totally positive, right? Isn’t that totally positive? Now imagine this same thing.
We’re in a race, we’re in a marathon, we’re in the last hundred meters. It’s you against me
and, and our egos are huge and we’re pushing to win and you start to pull ahead of me
and my ego is so big and I hate losing so much that I somehow accidentally
push my knee up against your foot on a backstride and throw you onto your face.
So that’s what ego, ego is an awesome driver unless you let your ego control you and you let
ego drive your decision making process, in which case it turns into an incredible problem. So
you might have someone that is excellent. You might have someone that’s outstanding. You might
have some someone that’s tens across the board, but their ego is so big that big that they can’t
work with other people. They can’t accept anyone else’s ideas. They can’t compromise on something
because they think their idea is better all the time and that is going to be problematic
and I don’t want them on the team. Now as a good leader, guess what I’ll do? I’ll put them into a
situation where I can utilize their best aspects, but not have their ego destroy the team. So I
might say, Hey Lex, you know what? I actually want you to take lead on this part of the project over
here and since you’re so smart and you work so hard, I know you’re going to pull ahead of everyone
else. So you grind on that. Once you get that result, give it to me and I’m going to disseminate
it to the team. So I, I, I isolate you from wrecking yourself and the rest of the team with
your giant ego. So then, uh, looking at a completely opposite person was this a fascinating
person to me is Sandra Pichai, who’s the CEO of Alphabet CEO of Google. I admire the
the, uh, in a romantic sense, the madness that is, uh, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk.
So to me, the opposite of that is Sandra Pichai, who’s, uh, like everybody loves him.
And, uh, he’s also a great listener. So he always brings people together. And so he went,
the, the, the energy of that person in the room is like the basic energy. If I were to summarize it,
it’s like, I want to hear all the voices in the room. That’s the energy he brings. And, uh,
it’s almost like he doesn’t want to impose a final decision. He wants to hear all the voices
and somehow always the decision just falls out. I don’t know what to say about that.
What to say about that style of leadership, but it’s always surprising to me how
that love brought a lot of people together and still, I mean, some of the greatest things Google
has done over the past several years, uh, could be attributed to that continued innovation,
bringing out the best out of people. There’s of course, bureaucracy, which I could criticize
at the end of the day, which always happens with big companies. I would argue actually
the dictatorial style of Steve jobs and, you know, Musk helped fight the bureaucracy,
which is one criticism I would give of being a listener and being kind is sometimes you can’t
cut through the as effectively, but he. He’s one of the only people I’ve ever heard of
who everybody loves. He’s inspirational figure to millions, especially in the, like in India,
he’s a celebrity in the best kind of way. Is there something you could say about that kind
of leadership where you’re never the asshole. You’re never the dictator. You’re always the
listener and, um, the compassionate empathetic glue that brings the team together basically
would love. Yeah. That’s that’s great leadership. If you have to choose for Google, uh,
for large companies, is there something to be said about what is more effective?
The dictator, uh, ruling by love or ruling by fear?
First of all, everything’s a dichotomy, right? And so to think that all the time, you’re always
going to be able to just bark orders at people and they’re always going to listen to you. And
you’re always going to get the best result. That would not be smart to think that every single
time you’re going to come to a 100% consensus amongst the troops. And that decision is going
to reveal itself without you nudging it along. That would also be short sighted and naive. So
what you, what a good leader does is they, they, they stay balanced. And as much as they can,
they listen to what the troops have to say. They take that feedback. Maybe they quietly nudge things
and, and I’m sure he does that. I’m sure he does some nudging that maybe no one even picks up on.
You know, I like to say the best forms of leadership is leadership with minimum force required.
So if I can go into a room as a leader and not say one single thing and the team can come to
the right consensus and move in that direction, that’s my preferred method. Maybe I have to give
them a little bit of a nudge, a 10% nudge in one direction. Okay. That’s better than me walking in
there and giving them 100% dictatorial direction of exactly what I want to have happen. Now,
occasionally, if we have an emergency situation, people are starting to be frazzled and they’re
not sure which direction to go. Then sometimes as a leader, you have to walk in and say, all right,
everyone here’s where we’re going. And people get on board. Why? Because for many years or months or
however long you’ve trusted them to come up with a plan. And when you trust, when you, as a leader,
trust your team to come up with a plan, the team starts to trust you and you get leadership capital.
And as you build leadership capital, occasionally you need to cash in some of that leadership
capital. You need to spend some of it. And maybe it is, hey, listen, here’s the direction we’re
going right now. We’ll debrief it later, but we got to make a move. And the team who trusts you
says, Roger that boss, we got it. And all of them actually do this
interesting thing. I’d love to hear your opinion on it. Sondra certainly does it to a large degree,
which is it’s in the process of delegation, trusting a person to do a really difficult thing,
like tossing it up and saying like, I trust you can get this job done
for some, even if your resume does not support that. I’m actually kind of amazed that human
beings when they’re given the trust to get the job done, they step up very often. That’s kind
of an amazing property of human nature. People often ask me issues about leadership. And I always
say that one of the best tools for teaching leadership and for teaching a bunch of other
lessons is leadership itself. So when it happens all the time, when you elevate someone into a
leadership position, they do step up and they do make things happen. So that’s not surprising to me.
You do have to mitigate risks. So saying, Hey, you know, Lex, I know you’re,
haven’t been in the military before. I know you have very limited weapons experience,
but I want you to run a target assault on a real mission in whatever country that would not be
good. That would not be a good move on, on my part. Now, if I said, all right, Lex, you know what,
I want you to get some leadership experience. I’ve got a training mission and it’s going to
be using paintball and I’m going to put you in charge of it. I got no problem doing that.
Some of that is judging human character is like, there’s potential, there’s something in this
person that they are, they have enough demons or whatever the hell it requires to have that fuel.
They’ll figure it out. They’ll hate themselves if they don’t. And they’ll find the right,
they’ll find the tools that find the path to achieve the, whatever the level of perfection
they can. It’s been really surprising to me. It’s been making me rethink the whole hiring process
because I often now I’m thinking and looking, so I’m looking for people, both for the startup,
but just for my own life to help. And I almost want to see evidence of excellence,
but maybe you want to just based on just judgment of human character without evidence of excellence,
have people step up. Like Joe Rogan with Jamie, that’s a funny side of it. I didn’t understand
how little Joe knew about Jamie when he hired him. And Jamie stepped up and now runs one of
the most successful podcasts ever. And that’s an incredible kind of, and he’s one of the best
producers in the world now, not to let it get to his head. And by the way, the funny thing about
him. And one of the best Googlers in the world. One of the best Googlers. The funny thing about
Jamie, this is okay. You might not like this, but what I, what I like, I’m constantly exceptionally
self critical to a point of like self hating. Sometimes I deeply appreciate every single moment
I’m alive, but everything I’ve ever done, I feel like a shit. And when I talked to Jamie about
everything he’s done, he’s just in every way he carries himself. He’s so self critical. He’s so
he’s so like worried that it’s wrong. It’s bad. That anxious energy. I love it. Cause that’s how
you lead to growth and progress. Like you might, like a therapist might say, that’s probably not
good for your like wellbeing. Fuck it. It’s good for the what’s good for your wellbeing is to create
awesome things. That’s ultimately what leads to happiness is to, to create the best thing you can
in your life. And so when I see that in somebody like Jamie or anybody I talked to, when you’re
really self critical, that’s a good sign to me. Is that ridiculous? It’s not ridiculous at all.
And it goes back, you know, you were, you were the way you were phrasing these questions about what
makes a good person and what makes a good leader, the way you phrase them kind of eliminated the
normal answer that I give the normal answer that I give. You asked me what makes a good leader,
what makes a good person is, is being humble. So when you’re going to hire someone for your,
for your startup or whatever company you’re creating, that is a key characteristic to look for
is someone that has the humility like, like young Jamie to say, yeah, you know, I, I could have done
this better and here’s what I can improve. And here’s what I need to work on. When you have
somebody that thinks they know everything out of the gate, you’re, you’re already got someone
that’s going to be hard to deal with. They’re going to be hard to coach. They’re going to be
hard to mentor. When you have somebody that’s truly humble, you barely, again, it’s minimum
force required because when you say to Jamie after a show, how do you think that went,
he says, well, you know, I did this wrong and I didn’t have this set up in time. And
you don’t, you don’t barely have to do anything because he’s got the humility.
If you’ve got someone that’s a big ego and you say, Hey, how did that show go? He goes,
I went awesome on my end. Now guess what you have to do. Now you have to start applying
force as a leader, which is expending leadership capital, which we don’t want to do because we
always try and conserve our leadership capital as much as we possibly can. And when we have to
expend it just to get Jamie to make some improvements, that’s bad. So when you go
looking for people, look for people that are humble. Now, does this mean you look for people
that don’t have any confidence? No, that’s not what I’m saying. There’s a balance to all these
things. That’s the dichotomy of leadership you, but people tend towards and look, I work with
a lot of military troops in the past. Now I work with companies. The reason I talk about
humility all the time is because for someone to be, get into a leadership position in the military,
they have to have confidence. So the tendency is that their confidence is going to outweigh their
humility at some point. Same thing with, with civilian companies. If you get to a point of
leadership inside of a company, you have to have confidence to get there. You don’t get to a
position of leadership inside of a company lacking confidence. So the tendency is for
confidence to, to grow a little bit too much. And we have to put that, put that confidence into check.
We have to put that ego into check. Really good leaders. They’re confident, but they’re humble.
That’s the balance of the dichotomy. Hear that, Jamie, don’t get cocky.
On occasion. Rarely you talk about discipline. What does a discipline life look like doing what
you’re supposed to do? What if I want to lay on the couch and eat Cheetos and watch soap operas?
That’s that’s not, that doesn’t feel like discipline. Do you think you’re supposed to do that?
Well, you know, you could argue from a, a sort of a meaning of life perspective that perhaps
happiness is the most important. And if it makes me happy, perhaps that’s, if it’s fulfilling,
of course, eating Cheetos and watching soap operas is fulfilling for nobody whatsoever.
Next question. But there’s something about discipline that’s more than that. We have to
like the rigor of habit, right? You, you wake up early in the morning, all the time.
What is it Jordan Peterson talks about? Make your bed. One place where you probably agree with
Jordan. People ask me if I make my bed. I don’t. There’s a disagreement with Jordan.
There we go.
I don’t. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t. I don’t.
There’s a disagreement with Jordan. There we go. You know, when I was younger, before I was married,
I didn’t make my bed because I had one sleeping bag on it and I would get out of the sleeping bag.
There was nothing to make. Yeah. Now I’m married and I can’t make my bed because my wife’s in my
bed. So I don’t make my bed. Okay. So what in your life, maybe we can talk about the one that’s most
publicly facing, which is you wake up at four o clock or around four o clock in the morning.
You post on social media a picture of your watch. It being early, just to remind people that
you are a man of your word. What’s that about? What’s the philosophy of the four o clock?
What role does that play in a disciplined life for you?
Okay. From that perspective, what role it plays is getting a jump on the day.
And when you wake up early and you get a jump on the day and you’ve got your workout done,
and you’ve got a little bit of little bit of work done by the time normal people are getting up,
that’s a win. That’s a psychological win. And it’s not just a psychological win. It’s an actual win.
It’s an actual win. So that feels great. It doesn’t feel great. Maybe when your alarm clock goes off,
but by eight o clock in the morning and you’ve already accomplished some of the major tasks
that you have, some of the most painful tasks that you have for the day,
you’re off to a great start and it’s going to feel great.
Let’s break this down then. What does then the rest of the day look like? What is the perfect,
productive, disciplined day in the life of Jaco Willink look like?
Wake up, workout.
Wake up when?
5, 5 to 6 or 7.
And then what does the workout look like?
Depends on the day.
What’s the perfect? We’re talking about body weight, lifting, cardio, heavy bag, jiu jitsu.
Okay. Yeah. When I say workout, I mean no jiu jitsu. So jiu jitsu comes later in the day.
So this is just you alone?
This is me alone working out. Yep. And I’m going to be doing a wide variety of things.
This is the thing that has the pictures of the aftermath with some sweat at the end. So the goal
is to do whatever the hell results in some sweat. And that takes an hour.
Sometimes it takes 12 minutes. Sometimes it takes three hours, depending on what kind of mood I’m in.
You got some demons to work through or is this just work? So you got the David Goggins who clearly
has demons screaming inside of his head that he’s trying to work through. Are you just getting the
work done out of the discipline? Or is this, I think Joe is a little bit with David Goggins is like,
there’s some ego, there’s some bullshit that you’re trying to get out through some of the exercise.
That’s a good way to kind of humble you is just doing that exercise.
Well, exercise is certainly humbling.
I mean, it’s, but it’s physical conditioning, right? It’s preparing your body so that you can
handle whatever it is you’re going to do. Perfect.
What does, what do you do after? Let’s talk about food. Hopefully surf. If the waves are good,
surf for how good are the waves? Let’s say they’re good. This is a perfect day. It’s a perfect,
perfect waves. Why do you surf? It’s fun. Okay. This is fun. Okay. Man, man and nature.
It was just like, what surfing is the ultimate is the power of the, the infinite power of the ocean
versus a little silly looking man on a board.
You could say it’s the infinite power of the ocean versus a silly looking man on a board,
or you could say it’s fun because it’s Russian and romance. Okay. This is for fun
in the morning. Beautiful. And this is, you’re still having eaten.
No. Okay. So when do you eat? I’ll usually start grazing around 11 oclock
and grazing. What’s the, what’s the diet that’s the, is there a perfect diet or do you graze?
I’ll have, I’ll eat some nuts, you know, something like that. I usually start grazing. Maybe I’ll
have a little piece of meat or something like that. Does work enter any of this? I’m sure you
have a lot of people that want your attention. Yeah. Yeah. No work is work is about to happen.
Cause you know, even if I, if I woke up at four, worked out from five to six surf from six to eight,
now I’m starting to work writing, recording, reading, talking to clients.
Is there parts of the day where you try to find moments to think deeply, to read deeply,
to sort of really focus? Cause this world wants, it’s full of distractions, right?
Right. Even talking to, uh, like even work stuff, the emails and all those kinds of things that can,
they can scatter your mind. Is there times you seek to have that focus?
Well, I read a lot of books. And so usually when I read, I’ll be reading for a chunk of time,
maybe an hour at a time, maybe a little bit longer. And I might do that twice a day. So
I don’t know if that counts as what you’re describing, but then same thing with writing.
When I, when I’m writing something, I mean, I just, that’s what I do. I write usually usually
write for about an hour. I can get about a thousand words an hour out of me. So that’s,
that’s sort of what I do. What does the rest of the day look like?
Just a lot of work, but one is the jujitsu. I want to find out about the jujitsu.
So round, round four, 30 or five oclock at night and train. Yep. And, uh, how hard you still, how,
how are you doing body wise? He still is the old man. Does the old man still got it or,
or are you talking to me?
It’d be good for viewership and ratings. If I die before the end of the podcast. So
so I, I, I still train with the same guys and I’ll train, you know, so I’ve been very lucky
when it comes to getting injured and stuff like that. So haven’t, I’ve had some injuries,
but they’re, they’re healed. And so, yeah, I train and, uh, food wise, you mentioned grazing
us some, uh, of some nuts, a very light kind of things. Is there a main meal here at night at
night? Yep. High, uh, in protein or is it anything? Yeah. I’ll have like a steak and salad. I’ll
usually have for dessert. I have like a protein shake. So is there a thing where at the end of
the, uh, at the end of the day, you will like, you have like a summarize sword and you meditate on,
uh, uh, death and, um, all those kinds of, is, is there some weird ritual you partake in? No.
You just go to bed when I get done with the end of the day, I might read a little bit more.
Read more. Yeah. Because reading makes me tired usually. Um, so I’ll read a little bit more.
Is there a key to you that you can speak to that makes for a productive day?
Just the way you approach it mentally. Yeah. Write down what you’re supposed to do,
wake up early and start doing it and then get it done. Yeah. I know it’s a miraculous trick.
Can I ask you about Jiu Jitsu? By all means.
What have you learned from being a practitioner? You’re a black belt.
What have you learned from this journey, uh, of, um, being a martial artist?
Jiu Jitsu for me was the connective tissue that started to join my mind together with
all the F different aspects of my life. And so Jiu Jitsu for me was, was really important.
And I don’t think I would be doing anything that I’m doing right now if it wasn’t for Jiu Jitsu.
So there’s various aspects of my life that were in existence, but I didn’t understand how they
were connected until I started training Jiu Jitsu. The primary things are interacting with other
human beings and combat tactics and strategy and Jiu Jitsu. And all those things are connected.
They all follow the same guiding principles. And I wouldn’t have recognized those guiding principles
if I didn’t do Jiu Jitsu. Can you elaborate? Cause you’ve trained for many, many years.
What, um, is it the hardship? Is it the humbling nature of just being tapped all over,
you know, nonstop, or I don’t actually don’t know how many times more times than you. Okay.
So good. Is it just the hardship of physical training, like the honesty of the mat in the
sense that like, you know, what works and what doesn’t work, which, which aspects were the most,
uh, impactful for you? All aspects. So yes, from a humility perspective, when you realize you think
when you think, you know what you’re doing, when you think you have certain skills
and you realize that there’s always somebody better than you. And you realize that, Hey,
maybe I don’t have all the answers all the time. And you bring that to a leadership perspective
and you walk into your platoon and you realize that maybe you don’t have all the answers all
the time. And maybe you should listen to what other people have to say. You bring that to a
combat situation and you realize that you think if you sit there and think that you’re smarter than
the enemy, you’re going to be complacent. You’re going to make mistakes. So there’s one aspect out
of the gate, as far as, you know, if I, if I’m going to try and get your arm, do I attack your
arm? Maybe not directly, unless I’m a white belt. Exactly. What do I do? I attack your neck. And
when you reach up to defend your neck, that’s when I get your arm. Well, if I’m out on the
battlefield and there’s an enemy position, should I attack frontal assault into that position?
No, no, I shouldn’t. I should put down some covering fire and I should maneuver around to
the flank. It’s the same thing. If I’m dealing with you and you’re my boss and you’ve got a giant ego
and you’ve come up with a plan and I don’t like your plan, should I walk up to you and say, hey,
Lex, your plan isn’t good? No. Or should I say, Hey, Lex, can I ask you some questions about how
you want us to execute this? Cause I want to make sure I understand your vision.
So all these things are connected. Yes.
And I wouldn’t have realized that we could sit here and do this forever. We could, we could,
I could tell you these comparisons forever, but this, all this connective tissue, bringing all
these things together, I wouldn’t have seen it without, I don’t think I would have seen it without
jujitsu. So jujitsu to me had, it had a incredible life impact on me. Not look the physical part. Yes,
absolutely. Does it, does it keep you humble when you know that there’s 145 pound individual that
can tap you out when you’re 220 pound, 25 year old guy. And there’s 135 or 140 pound, you know,
46 year old guy that can make you tap out. That’s humbling. And, and what do you do with that? Do
you run away from it or do you continue to pursue it? Same thing with life. Same thing with anything.
So jujitsu is an incredibly powerful, not just physical aspect, but it’s, it’s a way to understand.
It’s a way of thinking. You’ve also competed. Is there something you can speak to the value of
competition? Obviously you’ve been through combat, actual military combat is many, many, many, many
orders of magnitude, more high stakes than competition in a, in a silly sport like jujitsu.
Nevertheless, it still has some of the echoes of the same challenges. Is there something you can
speak to the value of competition for you? Yep. Competition will reveal weaknesses in your game
that you can then go back and train to rectify. So that, that’s a big part of it.
So that that’s very useful to serve. Yeah. As a testing ground, of course, training can be that
testing ground as well or, or that feedback. Yeah. But as you and I both know, if you and
I train together all the time, you’ll know my game. I’ll know your game. And even if we have
five other people, we all kind of understand each other’s games and you’re not doing something to me
that I don’t expect. So when I go and compete, I’m good. You’re good. You know, this random person
has a game that I’ve never seen before. I’m, and I may or may not know how to deal with that game.
If I know how to deal with it, great. I get the victory. Maybe I don’t learn as much. If I don’t
know how to deal with their game, I get the loss and I get the win of learning what some
weakness in my game is. So you mentioned offline that your friends and you work with Dean Lister
and Dean Lister is one of the people that inspired John Donoher, who I’ve very much been,
I’ve gotten a chance to talk to quite a bit recently.
I don’t know what you think about this. This is not a therapy session, but
or maybe it is turning into one. He’s a fascinating person, John Donoher, in terms of
creating almost a science of Jiu Jitsu to a level that I haven’t seen before, which is
systems thinking about, like you can think about military combat as tactics in a particular
situation, but then you zoom out and you want to create entire systems of tactics in all situations,
right? He’s very kind of wants to keep zooming out and creating giant systems.
And, which I appreciate that, even though the task is probably impossible to do completely,
but there is something that’s in terms of competition that
he kindled a fire in me that I want to get back out there. He has a particular thing that did it,
which is very different from my personal journey in Jiu Jitsu, which was to a degree that people
I worked with cared about competition, it was always about winning or doing well,
all those kinds of things. For John, it’s about winning, like winning is not even a thing that’s
important. What’s most important is winning by submission or dominance, right? And not just the
end, it’s the entire time competing such that the only thing that matters is that kind of victory.
And that’s a very different level of competition that’s actually liberating in a certain kind of
sense. I remember so much of my competition was about fear of not taking risks. You get up on
points or you hold a strong position, you kind of advance and you get more points. Maybe you chase
the submission, but there’s always a fear of risk. And for him, you embrace the risk. You should not
be competing out of fear. Live and die by the sword versus stay in safety. I don’t know if there’s
something to be said here. Well, you said it’s novel to you, it’s not novel to me. My entire
journey in Jiu Jitsu was only about submission. And as you mentioned, Dean Lister is my coach and my
main training partner for 20 something years. And if you ever watch Dean train or fight, that’s what
he’s trying to do is submit as everyone. That’s what he’s always done. That’s what he always will
do. He, you know, he has the highest, I think he has impact. I know he has the highest submission
victories in ADCC. He, that’s what he does. So this is, in fact, as Jiu Jitsu got bigger and
bigger, in fact, as Jiu Jitsu got more popular and we started seeing people competing to win by
points, that was what was novel to me in the beginning. Now it’s the standard. So it’s not
novel to me. I love the fact that John Donoher and all of his troops go out and they try and
submit people. I think it’s awesome. And I think that’s what Jiu Jitsu is.
All right. Let’s ask for some advice for white belts. There’s a lot of white belts who listen to this.
What advice would you give? You’ve been in Jiu Jitsu for many years. In terms of
a successful journey through Jiu Jitsu, what advice would you give them? People just starting out.
Just keep training, keep your ego in check. Don’t freak out. Try and use the techniques
that you learn and all this stuff. So I’m like saying it, you know, notice how I’m saying it.
Hey, tap out, keep your ego in check.
It’s common sense.
But the thing is everyone says this all the time and white belts still start off by going
completely nuts for at least, you know, three to six months of, I’m not going to let this guy tap
me out. And they’re going to, and I’m going to tap this guy out, not by using technique,
but by just using strength. And it’s just, it’s just inhibiting your learning. So as much as you
can, I know, I know you got to get it out of your system. I know you don’t want to tap. And I know
you want to tap somebody, but as soon as you get, get that off your chest, then try and, try and
relax and try and learn the techniques. It’s perhaps counterintuitive. It never was to me,
but it’s counterintuitive that to, to start on the journey of really sort of mastering Jiu Jitsu or
whatever, or improving is you have to relax. And that seems to be a very counterintuitive lesson.
I learned that early on with, that was thanks to the Russian system. I played piano and like music,
basically, actually this is true for basically any sport that includes the human body is like
relaxing is the way you, you start learning stuff. You have to learn, you have to literally,
and most people don’t seem to understand this is like, you have to learn what it means for the
human body to relax. Like, I guess you have to have enough knowledge of all the muscles involved
to know what it means to relax those muscles. So for piano, you have to understand what it means
to relax your wrists and your fingers in order to learn how to move them. Like if there’s tenseness
in the fingers, you’re not going to like, you have to learn how to try hard while relaxed.
The, I guess the beginner, if you don’t internalize this lesson, will try hard by
tensing up hard and like trying hard, tensing up more as opposed to relaxing more. And that lesson
cannot be conveyed through words, I guess. I’ve had the great fortune of having dictatorial
teachers as they do in Russia for piano and so on, where you get like hit if you don’t learn
to relax, which is a counterintuitive notion, but it works.
Yeah. This brings me to one of my favorite pieces of coaching advice that I will tell
white belts while they’re struggling on the mat. I’ll tell them to relax harder.
Okay. That’s beautiful. For somebody who studied war, who participated in war,
what do you think is the best martial arts for, let’s call it self defense,
let’s call it self defense for hand to hand combat outside the constraints of sport.
So it’s not one answer. The answer to me is jujitsu, boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai,
judo, Sambo, and on down the list. I definitely start with jujitsu. The reason I start with
jujitsu is because in a self defense situation, if you are a big monster human and you want to
fight me and you square off with me, guess what I’m going to do? Run away. Cause I don’t want,
I don’t want to get involved. Even if I see skinny little Lex out on the street and you
start yelling at me and saying, you want to fight me? I don’t want to fight you. I don’t,
it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if I can beat you or not. What if you stab me? What if you
sue me after I get done throwing you onto the concrete? There’s a million bad things that can
happen and almost nothing good. So for self defense, my first self defense is my feet to
get away from you. And if you square off to punch me, I can run away from you. If you square off to
kick me, I can run away from you. If you push me, I can run away from you. So great. I don’t need
to know how to box to run away from you where this all changes is when you grab me. And now
I don’t have the option to run away anymore. Now I actually have to know how to get away from your
grip. And that’s where jujitsu comes into play. So, especially if you get me on the ground,
if you, if you grab me and get me on the ground, now I need to know how to get you off of me and
get up and get away from you so I can run away. So that’s why I say start with jujitsu. And, and
from there, boxing, wrestling, judo, Sambo, Muay Thai. Yeah. There’s a, there’s certain in the
standing position. I mean, I’m a judo person as well. And, uh, the judo is very limited in their
understanding of the full grappling spectrum, even though they do all the things on the ground as
well. But, uh, it’s so focused on the feet, but nevertheless, it’s important to understand
the thing that judo has as a sport and it’s good to practice that, uh, jujitsu doesn’t
is, um, not just the, the skill of grappling on the feet, but the skill of explosive aggression
that, uh, sometimes jujitsu is more about in terms of tactics is more about patience. It
depends how you practice it, but because so much is, uh, about control and, uh, technique
that, uh, sometimes you don’t get to practice like aggression, explosive aggression. And judo
is so much about, uh, aggression implemented in such a way that the demonstration of power is
effortless, right? That’s the beauty of jujitsu. Yeah. And same thing with wrestling. Wrestling
also has a high level of intensity and aggression as well. Yes. Yeah. So that’s where, that’s where
I agree. Judo and wrestling. Absolutely. Awesome. Get some and striking boxing Muay Thai. Yeah. You
know, like the, you should train all these things. Are there books and movies in your life long ago
or recently that had a big impact on you? Uh, yeah, the main one is about face, which is sitting
right here. There you go. This is written by Colonel David Hackworth. That’s the
book that really had a massive impact on me from a leadership perspective. And I ended up,
I talked about it enough that it started kind of coming back and started selling well and
they contacted me and I wrote a forward for it. So that book had a huge impact on me and I still,
when I read it, I still get lessons out of it just about every time. This is the Vietnam war.
And Korea. And Korea. And he got in towards the end of, right at the end of world war II. So he
was kind of raised by the, the soldiers that fought in world war II and then he went to Korea
and then he went to Vietnam. An exceptional warrior, a soldier soldier. If you can give
a little inkling what made him a soldier soldier. So I, he died in 2005 so I never got to meet him.
And I, I had a guy on my podcast who worked for him in Vietnam, a guy named general James
Mukiyama. And luckily his son had reached out to me and said, I think you’re talking about my dad
cause I read some passage in there that, that Jim Mukiyama was young cap young captain Jim Mukiyama,
company commander in Vietnam. He said, I think you’re talking about my dad. Would you want to
talk to him? And I said, absolutely. Well, here’s the thing that I didn’t really understand. And
you read one quote, but there’s all these quotes in that book that talk about how great Hackworth
was and what an incredible leader he was and how he was the best combat leader anyone had ever seen.
And all these just really complimentary things that are said by a bunch of different people.
And when you read the book, you’re reading this guy’s account of what he went through.
But I never really knew if that was all true or did he just cherry pick his friends,
quotes about him and cherry pick the stories that he wanted to tell.
And so it was very interesting for me when I met Mukiyama, General Mukiyama, who he became a general
eventually when I met him and we were talking about his life. And I was very curious and I was
a little bit nervous going into this interview because I was thinking maybe my hero, my mentor,
this guy that I’ve never met before, maybe he’s just an arrogant jerk that talked, talked himself
up in this book. So I’m sitting down with, with General Mukiyama and I finally got to the part
where he’s meeting Hackworth for the first time. And I said, did, you know, did you know who
Hackworth was when he showed up? So he was Mukiyama, Muk, Muk, they call him Muk. Muk was the,
was the, like the adjutant to the, to the general that, that was going to, that, that Hackworth
was going to be working for. So when Hackworth comes into the office, the first person he meets
is this guy, this guy, Captain Mukiyama. And so Hackworth walks in and I said, when Hackworth
walked in, did you know who he was? And Mukiyama says, everybody knew who he was, Mr. Infantry.
And so he ended up explaining that everything that is written in there about Hackworth,
they, they just loved him. They adored him. Up the chain of command,
it turned out a little bit different. And, you know, the title of the book is about face. And
if you’re familiar, familiar with military drill about faces, when you turn around 180 degrees,
and at the end of the Vietnam war, towards the end of the Vietnam war, he was so disgusted with
the way that the war was being fought. He was so disgusted with the decisions that were being made
by the leadership that he did an interview. He was the first Colonel, first senior officer to
do an interview that spoke out against the war that was happening. And this is while he’s in
Vietnam, by the way. So he got drummed out of the army, and he was forced to retire. And that was
that. So there’s an element of rebelliousness to him. And, you know, when you talk to me about,
are there times when the leaders making the leadership, this absolute senior leadership,
the civilian leadership is doing the wrong things? Yes. And there’s times when people speak out
against it. And there’s an argument for and against that, too, even even with Hackworth.
You know, did he when you get when you quit your job, or you do something that gets you fired,
which is what he did, you immediately give up all your influence over what’s happening. So they get
another, they get another battalion commander to take his place, they get another colonel to step
in and take his place. That’s what they do. And now he can’t help anymore. And he’s like,
and now he can’t help anymore. He can’t help his troops. But at that point in the war,
he loved his men so much that he was sickened with the situation on the ground. And he,
and he spoke out about it. So that book had a huge impact on me. And like I said, I still,
I still read it all the time. I reread it all the time. And I always take lessons from it.
But let me ask you about love. This is not usually associated with Jaco. But what role does love
in terms of friendship, in terms of family play in a successful life? And life in general?
Again, this is putting other people above yourself.
Do you see that as love? That’s ultimately the implementation of love?
I would say yes.
Jaco, I’ve been a huge fan of yours. You’re somebody who inspires me to get up early,
to get shit done, to be disciplined about my life, and to be the best leader I can be.
It’s really, truly an honor. And thank you for wasting all your too valuable time with me. I
don’t know what you were thinking, but thank you for doing it.
Well, thanks for having me on. I can guarantee I’m not as cool as you just made me sound.
I’m just out here, like I said, trying to help people out. And I think you’re helping a lot of
people out with your podcast. So thanks for having me up here to share some of my experiences.
And hopefully I’ll see you on the mat one day.
For sure. Looking forward to it. Could be sooner than you think.
Sounds like a threat. I love it.
Thanks for listening to this conversation with Jaco Willink. And thank you to Linode, Indeed,
SimpliSafe, and Ground News. Check them out in the description to support this podcast. And now,
let me leave you with some words from Jaco Willink.
There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.
There are no bad teams, only bad leaders. Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.