Summary: Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

Summary: Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

Quick Summary

David Goggins takes you on a raw and brutal rollercoaster ride through his extraordinary life – from early struggles, an abusive father, poverty, obesity, and adversity he faced as a child to becoming one of the most respected military leaders, endurance athletes, and personal trainers in the world.

Full Summary

“Can’t Hurt Me” is David Goggins’ life journey that starts at the lowest points of his life and progresses towards the incredible road of success. To understand why Goggins became so obsessed with challenging himself and conquering tremendous obstacles, the writer takes the reader through his early life and the root of his insecurities and fears.

Goggins describes the abuse he received from his father and his ultimate escape from him, followed by living in extreme poverty and facing adversity in rural America. These events set the stage for the growing insecurity and trauma that followed him throughout his childhood and adolescence.

His performance in school suffered from the toxic stress and childhood trauma to the point where he was “barely literate.” With no clear plan, faced with his demons, Goggins found his comfort in food, and this habit quickly grew into an obesity problem, as he weighed nearly 300 pounds at a certain point.

The turning point for Goggins was his decision to become a Navy SEAL after watching a documentary about this military unit. The problem was that he was 109 pounds over the weight limit for the squad, and this is where his incredible transformational journey began.

He lost over 100 pounds in 3 months, became a SEAL, and continued challenging himself through various physical and endurance competitions. Among others, Goggins became a world record holder in pull-ups, followed by setting records in numerous endurance events. He was named “The Fittest (Real) Man in America” by Outside magazine.

How did Goggins manage to achieve these remarkable results? Through self-accountability, learning to embrace the pain and suffering to push himself over the edge. His “40% rule” teaches us that we usually reach only a tiny portion of our true potential and offers actionable steps on how to persevere through pain, fear, and mental exhaustion.

Goggins uses straightforward language and creates a feeling of that “military commander” screaming at you from the bottom of his lungs to wake you up and challenge your will and determination. It won’t leave you indifferent.

The audiobook version offers additional material in the form of a conversation between the two co-hosts and is highly recommended among the readership.

Excerpt from "Can't Hurt Me" by David Goggins

What does the book promise to deliver to the reader?

Some of the readers’ comments:

“Good Lord, am I soft.” 

“This guy, this book left me in absolute horror and tears thinking of the soft and easy life I have led so far.” 

If you need self-motivation, work on your mental toughness, and reach (more than 40% of) your untapped potential, this is the book for you. David Goggins’ life story motivated most readers and made them realize how hard you must push yourself to reach your goals.

“Can’t Hurt Me” will show you how to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself in everyday challenges, regardless of your occupation and interest. Along with numerous examples from Goggins’ personal experiences and other people’s lives, the book provides actionable steps describing how to achieve your goals.

The 40% rule

One of the trademarks of Goggins’ philosophy is his 40% rule, which is meant to help you push yourself harder when you think you’ve got to the edge. An exciting background story precedes “Can’t Hurt Me” and is laid out in Jesse Itzler’s book “Living With The Seal,” where he describes living and training with David Goggins for 31 days. As one of the learnings, Itzner’s book mentions the 40% rule.

The rule defines the point when you feel like you have reached your physical and mental limit and your body and mind start to give up. That’s the moment, according to Goggins, when you’re only at 40% of what you’re truly capable of accomplishing, and it’s on you to keep pushing further. 

According to Itzner, Goggins challenged him to do some pull-ups, which Itzner was not “good at.” After clinching 8 in the first attempt, 6 in the second, and 3 in the third, Itzner thought he had reached his limit and was ready to give up. Goggins replied, “we’re not leaving until you do 100 more!” And so he did, slowly but surely.

40% rule applies to all spheres of life and is universally praised by the readers of the book, who found it useful across various disciplines and fields of work – from endurance athletes to health professionals. 

Back cover of "Can't Hurt Me" by David Goggins

The tone of the book

The language of the book is noticeably different from classic motivational books, and the main reason for that is Goggins’ narration style. The language is sometimes raw, and you can’t help but connect the writer’s background in military special forces when judging his writing style. 

The consensus is that Goggins is “brutally honest” in his storytelling, and this is something that separates this book from others in the self-help/motivational niche. A huge portion of the book is centered around his personal life struggles and professional failures, and readers responded positively to it.

Since the book is not about a “one-track success story” but shows a person who went through many ups and downs before finding success, Goggins is much more relatable to the audience than most other “how I made it” stories. 

Not with people with soft ears

The vast majority of readers noticed the use of profane language and frequent cursing in the book. Most readers enjoyed the book despite Goggins’s heavy style, recognizing that the author wanted to sound “motivating” and help push them over the hump.

Some readers found the language offensive, and that feeling overshadowed its motivating nature. This was a dealbreaker for them as “testosterone-laden” language made them cringe and feel “indigent and discontent.”

What type of reader would enjoy this book? 

Even though the stories in this book revolve around Goggins’ personal accomplishments, which mainly include strength and endurance training, most readers consider “Can’t Hurt Me” to be useful way beyond these topics.

“I think almost everyone on Earth would benefit from this book” is a summary of how readers feel about the target audience for this book. Most of the value that the book provides falls into the “how to” category, mainly including pushing your limits, seeking to get the most out of your life, establishing and achieving goals, and overcoming yourself.

Another critical aspect of the book’s value is the feeling of untapped potential it produces. After reading this book, many readers felt like they realized how much they were leaving on the table. Not just in an intellectual sense, which people usually understand and perceive, but after reading this book, some readers could “feel it in their bones.”

A few readers felt like the language and intensity of the book might be too much for more sensitive people and advised not to read this book if you are “currently suffering from depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, or other mental health challenges.” 

Spine of "Can't Hurt Me" by David Goggins

How well does the book compare with others in this field

“If you plan to read just one biography this year, read this.”

“…this book makes most mindset and self-help books completely irrelevant.”

The biographical aspect of this book is universally acclaimed among the readership. Goggins’ brutal honesty and colorful descriptions of his childhood and youth made him relatable to the average reader. As a biography, the book has an immense entertainment value, and regardless of what the readers think about the other aspects of the book, this one is praised by consensus.

When it comes to self-help, how-to books focused on getting the most out of yourself and achieving goals, the consensus is that this book is as good as it gets. What separates this book from others in this field are the actionable steps that Goggins provides at the end of each chapter. He breaks down the lessons from the book into questionnaires and checklists for readers to work on.

Readers also loved Goggins’s no-nonsense approach to living, and this was a refreshing perspective compared to classic self-help books that teach you that you can achieve anything by following “these X steps.” Instead, Goggins focuses on hard work, perseverance, and repetition as the ONLY way to reach your ultimate goal, with no shortcuts. 

Some readers suggest learning about stoicism and comparative mythology from the works of Joseph Cambel and Jordan Peterson to understand “Can’t Hurt Me” on a whole other level.

Audiobook review

The audiobook version of “Can’t Hurt Me” is structured differently than the printed version. It runs for nearly 14 hours, and aside from the material from the printed version, it offers additional material which received a lot of love from the readers.

David Goggins is joined by the co-host, Adam Skolnick, and the two of them, aside from reading the printed version of the book, engage in discussions around certain aspects in between the chapters. This makes the audio version part audiobook, part interview/podcast, where some new insights and commentaries into Goggins’ life are revealed. 

Many readers preferred the audio version over print due to these additions, stating that it “adds another perspective” to Goggins’ life. They also find this type of production, mixing narration with the conversation, refreshing and exciting, noting that more audiobooks should follow the same format.

Negative comments around the audiobook version focused on the narrator – many readers thought that Goggins should’ve been the one to read his book, describing the narrator’s voice as “too high pitched” and “not very believable.” As a downside of the book/podcast format, some readers noted that the conversation between the chapters broke their flow and prevented them from immersing themselves in the story.

Reading "Can't Hurt Me" by David Goggins

What do readers say about “Can’t Hurt Me”

High entertainment value

Even though there were some mixed feelings about Goggins’ methods and lifestyle, the readers’ consensus is that the stories presented in the book are very entertaining and colorful. The writer’s honest depiction of his early struggles adds a movie-like quality to the book, regardless of how readers grade the “actionable” part of the story.

Since the most entertaining parts of the book correspond to events describing Goggins’ personal life as opposed to professional, many readers find this book to be a great biography, putting it among the best ones you can read. Regardless of how useful or justifiable readers found his pursuit for excellence, they all agree that Goggins had an amazing story to tell.

Success comes with hard work but has a huge price

While most of the readers found the book extremely motivational and inspiring, the consensus seems to be that all the accomplishments Goggins achieved came with a steep price that most of them are not ready to pay. One of the motives in the book is becoming unbreakable through active suffering and chasing the pain, which is not something the average person could easily accept and apply.

The overall impression among the readership was that while his mentality, insane work ethic,  and determination allowed him to accomplish incredible things, he had to make enormous sacrifices that didn’t resonate well with most “ordinary” people. Pushing yourself under these circumstances does not appeal to the average reader of the book, and most of them thought that Goggins’ methods were “too much” for them.

While Goggins’ method is not a new concept – pain makes you stronger – most readers agree that he pushed himself way beyond “reasonable human limit.” This might have a huge entertainment value to the readers, who are left speechless after reading about his physical feats, but it makes it harder to relate to and follow.

You have to be “selfish”

Goggins didn’t focus much on the people around him while climbing to the top, and most people saw him as “selfish.” His journey is a lone journey, which includes “disregarding your family and co-workers” to perform exceedingly well.

Readers noticed that there are not a lot of mentions of his family as people who – child, wives (and ex-wifes), and the role they played in his success, which makes people wonder if they even had a role in it. His broken family relationships and isolation from his co-workers suggest that Goggins’ put his personal goals above anything else, and this is not a lifestyle that people would accept. 

Some readers also feel like the book fails to provide the intellectual aspect of the success, as the challenges presented were described as “90% physical,” thus making it harder to relate to the average person.

Lacks health and recovery advice

Physical and mental feats are well recorded in the book and widely recognized by the readership. However, people interested in this area feel that Goggins failed to elaborate on some important aspects of body and mind training.

Most of all, readers complained that there was a lack of detailed look into the nutrition aspect of Goggins’ training; instead, he tried to focus on how he could do everything with his mind. Many readers think that nutrition plays a significant role in his accomplishments, and the lack of insight into that aspect of his life is a knock on the book by some readers.

Another aspect that readers felt was underrepresented was mental recovery. Considering the extreme mental efforts described in the book, some readers want to know what Goggins does to recover his mind and get it into a more stable, peaceful state. As one of the readers stated, Goggins “did not give his mind an alternative source of transcendental pleasure to balance out the pain,” such as meditation.