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‘Can’t Hurt Me’: David Goggins offers tools to push past limits

I didn’t expect that reading a book would lead me to running a half marathon. ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ by David Goggins serves as an inspiration for readers to push themselves and dig deep. Following the prompts in each chapter and reading Goggins’ story illuminated a path that led me to push past pain and start to reach my full potential.

Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins book sitting next to weights.

At the end of each chapter, Goggins sets a task for the reader that are based on the tools he used to transform his life. Having read this book, I have embraced the tasks and implemented the provided tools in my own life.

This review highlights the key lessons I have derived from Goggins’ story and the positive impact of incorporating these tasks and tools into one’s life, as showcased through my personal journey.

Reality Check

In the initial chapters of the book, Goggins shares the memories of his traumatic childhood, specifically the abusive nature of his father. Goggins believed that his life was destined for failure, feeling as though he had been dealt a “bad hand.” However, his new-found passion to join the military made him realise that he needed to make significant changes in his life to pursue this goal.


Task: Engage in self-reflection by documenting your past hardships or acknowledging if you’ve had it easy and haven’t truly tested yourself. Set up an “accountability mirror” by writing down insecurities, dreams, and goals on post-it notes and tagging them to a mirror.

This task served as a reality check, reminding me of the need to exert greater effort in my current pursuits.

I have now streamlined specific goals in the areas of my life that need improvement and attached them to my own “accountability mirror”. Having goals on your mirror serves as a constant reminder and provides daily motivation to prioritise and work towards them.

Sticky notes on mirror showing goals

Pushing Past Your Perceived Limits

Throughout the book, Goggins shares his journey of overcoming seemingly impossible challenges and achieving remarkable triumphs by pushing beyond his mentally perceived limits. He details the struggles and pain he endured to accomplish extraordinary feats, such as losing over 100 pounds in three months to qualify for the Navy SEALs, not only surviving but thriving in the gruelling Navy SEAL training, and his punishing ultramarathon experiences.

Goggins introduces concepts and provides tools that are focussed on taking control of your mind in moments when the desire to give up arises.

Embrace Daily Discomfort

Task: Create a list of activities or tasks that make you uncomfortable and commit to doing one every day.

I created a list of non-negotiable activities/tasks to do daily:

  • Wake up at 6:00am
  • Go for a run or complete a high-intensity workout
  • Take cold showers

By consistently completing these activities that make me uncomfortable daily, I have developed a more disciplined mindset, which has proven to be advantageous in other areas of my life that require discipline, such as studying.

Alarm clock on bedside table.

Task: Visualise an obstacle and imagine overcoming it. Visualise the ultimate success and the difficulties you will face.

Among the goals that I placed on my accountability mirror was completing a half-marathon. During extensive runs, there are many moments where thoughts of giving up appear.

Nevertheless, through visualisation, I was able to prepare myself for these moments of negative thinking, allowing me to push through and ultimately propel myself to finishing my first half-marathon.

Apple Watch on wrist showing marathon results. Two hours for 20km.
Utilise Past Triumphs

Task: Write down all the obstacles you’ve overcome, and the pain you had to go through to succeed. Remember these in the heat of battle to fuel you.

Remembering your past triumphs serves as inspiration to push past negative thinking and acts as a reminder that you are capable of overcoming challenges.

Completing my first half-marathon stands as a significant triumph that I often recall whenever I encounter challenging or stressful situations. Despite enduring almost unbearable pain, I persevered and accomplished the goal I had set for myself.

The 40% Rule

Task: Reach a point where you are super tired and your mind is telling you to give up, then just push 5%-10% further.  

Goggins introduces the concept of the 40% rule. This rule states that when we believe we have reached our limits, there remains an untapped 60% of performance capacity within us.

This understanding has proven especially valuable in my fitness endeavours. When I believe I have reached my limit, the realisation that I have likely only tapped into 40% of my capabilities serves as a powerful motivator. It pushes me to try run further or attempt more repetitions. I am consistently amazed with how much further I can push myself after thinking that I have reached my limit.

Man lifting weights at gym

Become Addicted to Hard Work

Goggins continuously puts obstacles in front of him to test his limits. This is exemplified through his venture into ultramarathons.

He states that our addiction to shortcuts hinders our ability to achieve our true potential, emphasising that becoming addicted to hard work is the key to unlocking the best version of ourselves.

He highlights that most people don’t push themselves at all. Among those that do, most stop pushing when they reach their goals. Only the very few never stop pushing.

Build a schedule to sustain greatness

Task: Build a schedule that enables prioritisation of important aspects of your life and allows you to put 100% focus into one task at a time.

By maintaining a consistent schedule, you optimise your productivity in pursuing your goals. It also ensures that you continuously face and overcome important obstacles that align with your goals.

As a university student, achieving balance in various areas of my life has been crucial. Creating a refined schedule has proven immensely helpful in managing my time effectively, allowing me to prioritise and strike a balance between my studies, work, fitness, and social life.

Notebook with pen

The Empowerment of Failure

There are many moments in the book where Goggins fails in his pursuits. However, he uses these setbacks as learning opportunities and persists until he achieves success. He emphasises that failures are necessary because they contain the data you need to succeed.

Closing Thoughts

This book has had a positive impact on my life, equipping me with valuable tools that have strengthened my mindset and enhanced my overall well-being.  

David Goggins’ inspiring story, coupled with the applicable and beneficial tools shared in this book, make it a valuable read for everyone.