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Book Review: Can't Hurt ME by David Goggins



David Goggins writes about the singular mission to prove himself to himself through achieving absurd physical feats. His overarching thesis is that we must overcome the pain and suffering that our minds use to stop us from going further in order to reach our fullest potential. This book is going to push you if you need a kick in the rear to upend time wasting, combat excuses, or find a new goal to improve yourself. Beware to all Type A personalities and those who suffer with self-hatred, however--David Goggins lack of tolerance for anything short of extremism may only worsen any guilt you have about trying to achieve balance in your life, particularly between maintaining your relationships while pursuing your goals.


Reading Goggin's book, he only seems to understand a single method for pursuing a goal--relentlessness, completely singular focus, and making decisions that will exclude all else for this single pursuit. Some of his decisions are made with an eye on the long term, but you can look at his recklessness as he dives into the world of ultramarathons, followed by a pattern of injuries, and see how this method has serious drawbacks. When you include the lack of a steady familial life and a general posture of looking down on those who do not embrace his philosophy, it is worth asking if the David Goggins way is worth doing.


He counteracts some of this impression by breaking down some of his behaviors into more manageable chunks, ways that the average Joe can still learn to pursue what is worthwhile instead of wasting more time. I generally thought these outlines for action could be useful for more people. Overall, I am not sure these outlines do enough to counteract the message that exercising to the point of bodily harm in the short and long term. I would absolutely not recommend this book to anyone who struggles with disordered thinking when it comes to exercise.


You may also want to skip this book if descriptions of domestic violence or other traumatic abuses in childhood would be retraumatizing for you. Part of Goggins' mentality comes from a childhood characterized by severe trauma, abandonment by a parent, bullying from peers, and a need to be recognized and valued by others. A need to prove oneself. Because he creates this timeline of life events for the reader, it is easy to see why the need to prove himself at the "hardest m-f-r" is truly a need for him. It is not clear to me that he could learn to accept his inherent worth as a person otherwise.


While this book is a cult favorite in some circles, I cannot say I recommend it. I think there are dangerous ways of approaching life promoted by the book that are sold as more worthwhile than they actually are. If you value your relationships, finding a book that helps teach a more balanced way to pursuing your goals would be more worth the read.

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