David Goggins Before and After – Ideas That Will Make You Strong

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What are we capable of if we push ourselves?  Not only mentally but physically as well.  This article in our Catalyst for Change series poses the question: Can change start in one area and influence other aspects of your life? 

The answer for us is yes.  

David Goggins is willing to help you find out. He has pushed himself farther in a few years than most of us will in a lifetime. 

Who is David Goggins you might be asking? 

I first heard David Goggins speak on an episode of Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu. I was so intrigued by this interview I went out and bought the book the next day.

Read on to find out why Goggins could be just what you need to start believing in yourself. 

Do you know who you really are and what you are capable of?

It is with this sentence that David Goggins starts his autobiography, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds.

This is David Goggins before and after story of his metamorphosis.

Be warned he is not shy about his language. If you are offended by swearing, then this book and this post is 100 percent not for you 

Be sure to check out our David Goggins quote collection!

I’ve seen many reviews saying he could remove it all, but this is his life, his truth and he wants it in there. 

Early Life – Buffalo, New York

Goggins did not have an easy childhood.  From the start of his life, Goggins lived with uncertainty. 

His father, Trunnis, ran a roller skating rink in Buffalo, New York in the late seventies. Both Goggins and his brother were forced to help out at the roller rink from a very young age; working all night cleaning gum off the floor, picking up trash, and cleaning the bathrooms.  

Working, sleeping, and eating at the roller skating rink. 

His father was using the roller rink as a cover for running drugs and prostitutes. 

Trunnis was an abusive man. Physically and mentally abusing his wife and his kids.  Goggins often saw his dad beating their mother and at six tried to help out, but only got a beating for his trouble.

This destructive cycle in his life lasted until he was eight-years-old. That is when Goggins mother Jackie had enough, and with help from a neighbor took Goggins and left. His older brother chose to stay with their father.

New Beginnings – Brazil, Indiana

After leaving their life in New York behind, Jackie moved herself and Goggins to Brazil, Indiana to live with her parents for six months while they got on their feet. Thinking maybe the small-town life would be better for them.  

But this proved hard since they were one of only two African American families in a town of 9,000. Brazil still had a strong KKK influence, since it was only 15 miles from Center Point, Indiana where the KKK still had a strong influence.  

Even as late as 1995 the KKK still walked in the town’s parades.

The Public School System

Learning was also very hard for Goggins. With him missing so much school while he was working in his dad’s roller rink, then moving to a new state, he was far behind the other students in his class. 

He did not find the help he needed from his teacher.

Rather than helping and pushing him to learn, his teacher belittled him in front of all the other students.

Feeling shamed and put down, he thought he was born to fail. Goggins started cheating to get his grades up. Cheating placated his teacher and added to his sense of alienation from those around him.

This negative behavior continued throughout his academic career. He was cheating to get by and not learning anything from the public school system.

Stop Racism

Facing Racism

The racism Goggins faced when he was growing up greatly influenced his sense of self. 

When he was younger, the racism was there, but he was not attuned to it.  As a teenager, he experienced it everywhere.  

From having a gun put in his face just for walking down a road, to a girl, Pam, having her father telling her in a packed restaurant, “I don’t want to ever see you sitting with this nigger again.” Racism was everywhere.

They sprayed this hateful word on his car, wrote it in his notebooks along with the threat “Niger we’re going to kill you.”

When he tried to complain about it to the principal, the only thing the principal said was, “David this is sheer ignorance, they don’t even know how to spell…”

Goggins tells of how this ate away at him inside. He did not know how to deal with the anger and the rage the racism created inside him. When you don’t know where the hate is going to come from, you are always on the defensive.

Goggins chose to act out as a means of self-defense.  

He started wearing his pants low, blasting music from his car, doing his hair in wild hairdos. Anything he could think of to mess with the racists at his school.  

This path was leading him nowhere. He was flunking out of school, getting in trouble, and his mom kicked him out of the house.  

It wasn’t until Goggins realized the military placed a high value on education, that he started to turn his life around. 

Up to that point he had already failed the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test twice.

Looked at Himself In The Mirror

Turning His Life Around – The Accountability Mirror 

A big part of Goggins path to change himself, he created what he calls his accountability mirror. 

It is when you go look into a mirror and get 100 percent honest with who you see there.

Are you fat? Then tell yourself you are fat. 

Are you lazy? Then tell yourself you are lazy.

Whatever your problems or shortcomings are you have to get real with yourself. Hiding behind nice words is not going to help you change what you see.

Only being honest with yourself is going to set you on the path to changing who you are. 

Blaming others, hiding behind half-truths, lying to yourself is not going to get you to your goal.

According to Goggins, only by being brutally honest with yourself and hardening yourself can you move past what is holding you down. 

Goggins recommends you write down your goals on post-it notes and put them on your mirror where you can see them every day. These messages will not only keep you honest but help to keep you focused on your goal.

United States of America

Joining the Air Force

Using his accountability mirror and backbreaking work, Goggins was able to graduate high school and pass the ASVAB test on his third try.  

Goggins joined the Air Force to follow his dream of joining the elite Air Force Pararescue team.

Goggins started this rigorous program even though he had an extreme fear of water he could not get over. 

Ten weeks into the program, he learned he had the sickle cell trait; he did not have sickle cell anemia, just the trait which was believed then to increase sudden risk of death during exercise. 

They left the decision up to Goggins whether he would stay in the program or not.

He let the fear get the better of him and chose to use this as an excuse to quit the Pararescue program.

Goggins finished his four years of service in the Air Force in the Tactical Air Control Party (TAC-P). But he was never really proud of himself because, in his heart, he knew he was quitter leaving the Pararescue training.  

The shame led to him overeating and thus gaining 80 pounds; he weighed 255 pounds in his last days of service. 

After his discharge from the Air Force, he continued to gain weight, putting on another 45 pounds taking him to 300 pounds.

Interlude – He Hit The Pause Button

Goggins took a job working for Ecolab; a company that kills rodents and insects in restaurants. He married Pam, the girls whose father yelled at her in a restaurant for sitting next to him.

To say he was unhappy with his life was an understatement.

All the drive and determination he showed before going into the Air Force was now seemingly gone. Leaving a man who saw very little worth in himself, he was hiding his true self behind overeating and 100 pounds of extra weight.

Impossible Possible

Impossible Task

One morning Goggins saw a show on TV about Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training class 242 going through Hell Week.  

If you haven’t seen or heard of Hell Week, it is a torturous training program for the U.S. SEALS team. It is used to weed out those who are not the strongest, the best, or most committed to becoming a SEAL — only a third of the recruits who begin Hell Week finish Hell Week.

Goggins watched this and decided he wanted to be part of this elite team. 

This wild dream of his reignited his old fire and determination. Could he, a man now almost a 110 pounds overweight for the SEAL team standards, rise above who he had become and claim a spot with the elite SEAL teams?

In Goggins mind, the answer was yes. Now he had to convince a military recruiter to believe in him as well.

Losing To Win – David Goggins Before and After

After calling all the active-duty recruiting offices, and being rejected by them all, Goggins finally got a hold of Petty Officer Steven Schaljo, a Naval reserve recruiter. He agreed to meet with Goggins.  

To his surprise, Schaljo said he could get him into the Navy if he could lose 106 pounds in the next three months.

Goggins chose to own his past and push through his failures. He accepted the challenge to lose the weight and dedicated the next three months of his life to losing the weight and studying for his tests to come.

To say it was easy would be a lie. Goggins spent the next three months in physical, emotional, or mental pain. Working out constantly to lose the weight; unsure of whether he was making the right decision and faced with his wife, who told him if he went to SEAL training, she would divorce him. Goggins fought through it all, and at the end of three months, he had passed his test and lost the weight.

Goggins had earned his chance to try out for the SEAL teams.

Never Give Up

Never Give Up – Hell Week

BUD/S training is six months long and in three phases:

  • The first phase is physical training.
  • The second phase is dive training,
  • and the third phase, land warfare. 

Hell Week comes in the third week of phase one. One hundred thirty hours without sleep, where you are constantly being pushed to your limits, mentally and physically. There is no respite, no end, no time out. Either finish or quit, those are your options in Hell Week.

Goggins went through two and a half Hell Weeks. 

The first time he was given a medical pass because he had double-phenomena.

On his second attempt, he made it through Hell Week, only to be medically excused weeks after for a broken knee cap.

Since he did not quit, he would be invited back one more time.

Goggins seriously considered not going back for the third time as most people can’t even finish one Hell Week, let alone three.  But Goggins is not most people, he had something to prove to himself, and so he went to Hell Week one last time.

As this was his third time, Goggins knew what to expect. His mindset was rock solid, and he did what he calls “Taking Souls.” 

Taking souls, according to Goggins, is when you take all a person can throw at you, and you just smile and ask for more.

Taking souls is letting no one get to you, they can not touch the strength inside you, and when they can’t touch you, you take their soul.

Goggins finished Hell Week again and went on to complete all of BUD/S training.  

Learning Never Stops

Learning as a member of the SEAL teams don’t stop after BUD/S training. To be a SEAL, one must push themselves to learn more and be more. Being the best in the world takes constant commitment to not only bettering yourself physically but mentally as well. 

Goggins loved this training and learning; it gave him a constant push to better himself. From going through freefall school in the desert of Yuma, Arizona. To going to Army Ranger School, where he earned the distinction of being the Top Enlisted man at the graduation.

Goggins is the only man to have completed SEAL training, Army Ranger Training and Tactical Air Controller party in the Air Force. Pushing himself always to do more, learn more, and push past his boundaries is what Goggins has based his life.

Of course, Goggins wasn’t always just learning. All SEALs are either on active duty, training other SEALs or learning new skills.

Goggins served missions in Iraq as a member of SEAL Team 5 and worked as an instructor training other SEALs.

UltraMarathons and a Fallen Friend

For those of you who have never heard of ultramarathons before, I know I hadn’t before reading this book, they are competitions designed to push people to their limits.

These include marathons of 50 miles, a 100 miles and beyond. Ultramarathons also take place in some of the worse terrains on earth. From extreme heat or cold to massive elevation changes. Add into that for most of these races it is nonstop, a hundred miles in 24 hours, 134 in 36 hours and you find some of the hardest people on earth.  

In 2005, after losing friends and fellow SEAL in a helicopter crash during Operation Red Wings, Goggins wanted to do something extreme to help raise money and awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation – an organization which helps children and families of fallen warriors.

Goggins Googled the world’s toughest foot races and came across Badwater 135, one of the toughest ultramarathons there is, and he vowed to run Badwater as a way to raise the money. 

The Toughest Foot Race

Badwater 135 is considered one of the toughest foot races in the world. It starts out in the lowest place in North America, Death Valley which is 280 feet below sea level and ends 135 miles later at the Mt. Whitney trailhead at an elevation of 8,300 feet. 

It is a continuous race in which the contestants have only 36 hours to complete the entire course.

Only 100 people are allowed to compete a year, and by invitation only.

When Goggins contacted the race coordinator, Chris Kostman, to see if he could get the pre-requisites waved since he was a SEAL, he was flatly denied: No previous races, no entry into Badwater 135.

He sarcastically recommended an upcoming race the San Diego 100 Goggins should try if he were serious about it.

San Diego 100 – Because you are one hard motherfucker.

Goggins showed up at the San Diego 100 race unprepared for what he was about to face. He had done zero training for it. Had never run an official marathon in his life and his focus was more on weightlifting and building muscle than cardio. 

He was so ill-prepared all he brought for the marathon was crackers and Myoplex as his food source.  

Goggins started the race our well, but at mile 70 he broke down by collapsing into a folding chair he had brought. Goggins’ body failed him.

He had bloody urine running down his legs; he was sitting in his feces, blisters, broken toenails, and in severe pain.  

Forcing himself back up Goggins continued to plod on. Why was he doing this to himself?

Because you are one hard motherfucker.

Goggins continued to push himself one step at a time – using what he now calls his Cookie Jar. He would feed himself motivation by focusing on past obstacles he had overcome.

  • Passing Hell Week three times
  • losing 100 pounds in three months
  • getting into the Air Force after having been failing school
  • all of these became “cookies,” small motivations to keep pushing himself on.  

All these little motivations paid off Goggins finished his first 100-mile ultramarathon at just over 19 hours. 

When Goggins emailed Chris Kostman about getting into Badwater, Chris replied, “The point of a twenty-four-hour event is to run for twenty-four hours.”

Kris told him to go ahead and apply, and they would have to see if it was enough. Goggins found one more race he could enter before the Hurt 100 on the island of Oahu. 

Hurt 100 – one of only 23 people to finish the race

The Hurt 100 race is a grueling 20-mile trial run the runners have to do five times

It is a trail that runs through the jungle, where elevation changes over 5,000 feet, with extreme heat and the danger of wild animals. 

It was another foot race that was not for novices, and yet here was Goggins. With only one Ultramarathon race under his belt and which was on an easy one-mile circuit track. He was again underprepared for the race ahead.  

This, of course, did not stop Goggins. Despite not having the proper footwear for the terrain, having his CamelBak water bottle break, Goggins pushed on.  

Through the dark and the pouring rain, over rain-slicked trails covered it rocks and vines, Goggins pushed himself harder than he ever had in his life. 

One small goal reached with every step, he finished the Hurt 100 in 33 hours and 23 minutes; just shy of the 36-hour deadline.

He finished in ninth place overall – – – one of only 23 people to finish the race that year.

This race is where Goggins started forming his 40 percent principal.

The 40 Percent Rule

According to Goggins, when we face a challenge, we think we have given all we have inside of us to give. The reality is we have only given 40 percent of what we are capable of doing. 

We give up when we have sixty percent still inside of us we could give to any situation.  

By only pushing past what we see as the most we can give, we will never reach beyond our 40 percent. 

You have to want it bad; you have to be willing to suffer and feel the pain to get beyond your limits. 

No, shortcuts, no hacks, just hard work, and suffering; these are the things which will help you to reach your full potential. 

Callous your mind just like you callous your hands.

Badwater 135 – Dedication to his passion

Goggins now had two Ultra Races under his belt and was accepted as one of the 100 Badwater contestants.  

Learning from his past experiences, Goggins trained like hell. 

  • Running or riding a bike 16 miles to work every morning.
  • Wearing layers of clothes while he worked out to simulate the heat of Death Valley. 
  • Driving out to the desert so he could experience the trial first hand
  • Planning each step he was going to take in his mind before the race even started.

Goggins was a Navy SEAL at the time and had to fit all his training in between his job. 

Dedication to his passion while still having a dedication to his country, Goggins pushed through it all for six months to get in shape for Badwater.

No matter how hard you train for something, the reality of the situation is entirely different. Goggins preparation this time was knowing himself. Knowing he was going to want to quit and preparing for this as well. 

According to Goggins, you have to prepare yourself for those moments you want to give up, so when you feel them coming on, then you can short circuit them.

Don’t pretend your weakness doesn’t exist, because they do. Prepare, and you can conquer your desires before they even come up. 

Pushing past his weakness and his pain, past all doubts Goggins finished the Badwater 135 race in fifth place, an incredible finish for a novice Ultramarathon racer.  

Was Goggins happy about this? No. In his mind, he had only set the bar higher; it gave him a new challenge.

It gave him knowledge most people never figure out. The secret echoed in his mind over and over,  

There is no finish line, Goggins. There is no finish line.

Since he has started running ultramarathons, Goggins has competed in and completed over 50 ultramarathons. Including running an astounding 205 miles in 39 hours in the Ultra Nationals race.

Goggins Never Stops

As you can see, Goggins does not believe in stopping or giving up. 

The minute you quit it is all over. So no matter how hard, no matter how many reasons you think you have to stop, the reality is if you must push harder, dig deeper you will almost always have more to give. 

As long as you can look in the accountability mirror at the end of the day and say  you gave it everything you had.

Find out what is making you weak and chase the fear down. To succeed, you must fail, learn from your failure, and do better next time. 

Until you go back and find what is causing you pain, causing you to fail, you will never get over this obstacle. Visit failures, visit pain, and find the answers to get past current roadblocks.

Do I Recommend the Book: Can’t Hurt Me?

This post is some of the highlights of Goggins book. His life is a true story of how one can come from nothing, from a broken childhood, to overcome it all and not only thrive but survive.  

Goggins doesn’t sugar coat his approach; he gives it to you raw and uncensored. If you can get past the cursing and truly see the message he is trying to convey to you will see your success lies inside your mind.

You only need to push past what is comfortable, what is safe, and you can find so much more lies inside you.

What are your dreams, what do you hope to accomplish? 

Whatever your drive or desires, Goggins believes if you only dig deep enough inside yourself, you can succeed.

It is this unfiltered approach to finding your true depths that makes me appreciate Can’t Hurt Me so much and recommend it whole heartily to anyone searching for more inside themselves.




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