Can’t Hurt Me

I’m writing! It’s been a long time.
There was, or is, a lot going on in my life and I didn’t have the motivation and clarity of mind to write. It’s interesting how we fool ourselves with fallacies about what needs fixing when we’re feeling not quite right. Some people get married, others have a kid. Thankfully, neither of those are realistic options for me.
The way I tried to deal with it was by focusing on being busy and fixing some external “problems”. While ultimately ineffective, some good things came out of that too. I have three new pairs of jeans that both fit me and aren’t falling apart. A pretty good result and I got some shopping spree endorphins to go with them.

What got me back on track is taking time. Time to think and feel. No running (away), no workout, no online shopping, no phone, and not even a book. It’s amazing how much clarity a bit of stillness can bring.
But enough about me. I also read a book that inspired me to write again. Can’t Hurt Me, by David Goggins can’t and shouldn’t be classified as a self-help book. It’s closer to a self-destruct book.

Goggins had an extremely difficult childhood, courtesy of his abusive father, the poverty he and his mum lived in after escaping, and the racism he faced. You can’t expect someone who lives through all of that to grow up and be “average”. After struggling for a while and living as an exterminator working nights he decides he wants to join the navy seals. He is turned down a couple of times, but eventually, he finds a recruiter who believes in him. He has to get fit and lose a lot of weight in a short amount of time. He finds the courage and the stamina, and also the craziness to do it. What he achieved even before joining the seals was technically impossible, and yet he did it. This sets you up nicely for the rest of the book.

He goes through grueling training to become a seal three times. The first time he catches pneumonia (not surprising if you read what trainees have to endure), the second time he breaks his kneecap. The third time he makes it through.
He works extremely hard and wants to be the best at what he does. He prefers working out over socializing and drinking. I can’t help but admire that and even identify with it.

My ability to identify with David Goggins pretty much ends there though. For the noblest of reasons, he gets up to all these crazy ideas and challenges. He runs 100km mostly unprepared. He’s not just not trained to run 100km. He also doesn’t have the right equipment and hasn’t looked into what one should eat and drink to fuel while trying to run 100km. He finishes the race, a massive achievement, but he’s on the brink of kidney failure. Then he runs a more difficult 100km trail race without trail running shoes. Again, he manages to finish it. The reason he runs both these 100km races is to get into the Badwater Ultra Marathon to raise a lot of money for a military charity. The goal is lofty and his willingness to suffer for it is beyond what can and should be expected from a person.

There are several more examples in the book like the ones above. In all of these examples Goggins is able to push himself beyond any (healthy) boundary and in a lot of them, he is underprepared. In a way it’s impressive. He’s truly a master of his mind. But being underprepared over and over again feels pointless and unnecessary.

His book is very popular and I can’t help but feel that it’s dangerous. I’m a big fan of stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to try new things. However, someone reading the book might feel that

  1. You don’t need to prepare for a serious or dangerous undertaking, all you need is to master your mind
  2. You can push yourself beyond any healthy limit and you won’t die or even be left with permanent damage to your health if you are determined enough

Especially in the hands of kids like the young David Goggins, these feel like dangerous assumptions.

All in all, it was a reasonably enjoyable read, but if you have kids who put a lot of pressure on themselves anyway I’d keep them away from this book.

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