Book Review: Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

My introduction to David Goggins came by way of his appearance on episode #1080 of The Joe Rogan Experience. I was mid-way through a 50 mile bike ride and listening to Goggins brought lustre to tired legs and fresh courage to a flagging spirit. I remember picking up the pace on The Phoenix Trail from Princes Risborough to Thame and finishing strong, like a champion.

Having found Goggins to be such an engaging speaker, I was initially disappointed when I learned that he had not narrated Can’t Hurt Me. This fact actually delayed my purchase of the audiobook. On hearing Joe Rogan’s ringing endorsement of Adam Skolnick’s narration on JRE #1212, I decided to purchase Can’t Hurt Me. I am glad that I did. Skolnick does an exceptional job of telling The David Goggins Story. Because of his having assumed ghost-writing duties, he knows his subject well – and is heavily invested in the project. This comes across in the telling of the story. The podcast style conversations between Skolnick and Goggins in-between chapters also add a great deal to proceedings in terms of expansion and book-ending.


I understand exactly what Goggins means when he refers to motivation as ‘kindling which will burn up in a few days’. I can think of several achievements from my own life in which the initial spark of motivation had to be superseded by self-generated, consistent drive. The first and by some distance most significant, was my decision to quit drink and drugs back in 2006. Others include: marathon running, learning how to play the guitar, writing, and learning how to speak a foreign language fluently. We could also add learning how to stay married and raise a son to this list.

There is a line in 12 Step recovery literature which embodies Goggins’ overarching philosophy: ‘half-measures availed us nothing’. This credo applies to many areas of my life. The majority of my failures have generally been a result of half-baked plans and half-arsed attempts. Significant success has usually been a result of self-generated soul, passion and obsession. As Goggins himself suggests, obsession (like its brother ‘aggression’) is often very much maligned and misunderstood. People who are not obsessed, who perhaps do not have to be obsessed (healthy minded individuals who have got it together) might recoil from the idea of obsession. Sick souls, however, will probably understand. (See William James’ writing on the healthy minded and sick souls, with all their degrees and gradations)

Devise Your Own Personal Hell Weeks:

As with all great personal development tomes, I am frequently able to take lessons from Can’t Hurt Me and apply them to current situations in my own life. Here is an example of that: I have recently fallen into a negative cycle of compulsive eating and gained ten kilograms (22lbs/1.5stones). I have been exercising frequently but have let myself down by my eating habits. As Goggins says: “If you look in the mirror and you see a fat person, don’t tell yourself that you need to lose a couple of pounds. Tell the truth. You’re fucking fat! It’s okay.”

So, in order to hit the reset button, today is day one of a three-day juice cleanse. This morning I psyched myself up by listening to Goggins’ epic description of his second attempt at Navy Seal ‘Hell Week’. You might think the comparison ridiculous – but I am callusing my mind and setting myself up for success by viewing the next 72 hours of no solid food as my own personal, mini-Hell Week. My interpretation of the lesson is ‘Create your own personal Hell Weeks’ and quietly acknowledge your triumphs. As regards my juice cleanse, I am already visualising waking up on Saturday morning and breaking my fast with scrambled eggs and fruit. After that I will celebrate with an eight-mile run. ‘Hell Week Secure!’

I work in a public prison and Can’t Hurt Me is on the list of books which I give to the men in my care when they ask me for my own personal reading recommendations. It is a firestarter which I will return to time and time again. Goggins can always help start the fire but it will be up to me to keep it burning through the wind, rain and seductive sunny days.

Here are three more of my favourite quotes from Can’t Hurt Me:

“No one is going to come help you. No one’s coming to save you.”

“You have to build calluses on your brain just like how you build calluses on your hands. Callus your mind through pain and suffering.”

“You will never learn from people if you always tap dance around the truth.”

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