Please enjoy this transcript of Jocko Willink taking over the podcast for a special episode (@jockowillink). Jocko is one of the scariest human beings imaginable. He is a lean 230 pounds and a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt who used to tap out 20 Navy SEALs per workout. He is a legend in the special operations world, and his viral podcast interview with me was the first public interview he ever did. Jocko spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy and commanded SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated special operations unit from the Iraq War. Upon returning to the United States, Jocko served as the officer-in-charge of training for all West Coast SEAL Teams, designing and implementing some of the most challenging and realistic combat training in the world.
After retiring from the Navy, he co-founded Echelon Front, a leadership and management consulting company, and co-authored the #1 New York Times bestseller Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. He is also the author of The Dichotomy of Leadership, Way of the Warrior Kid, and Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual. His new book, Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual, is coming out in January.
Jocko also discusses human nature through the lens of war, leadership, and business on the top-rated Jocko Podcast.
Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.
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My name is Jocko Willink. I spent 20 years in the military. More specifically in the Navy and, even more specifically than that, I was in the SEAL teams for my whole career. I started off as an enlisted SEAL, eventually I moved up through the ranks and became a SEAL officer. And I deployed around the world, and I was lucky enough to deploy to Iraq a couple of times. The first time as a SEAL platoon commander, and then as the commander of the SEAL Team Three Task Unit Bruiser during the Battle of Ramadi in 2006.
And when I got back from that deployment, I took over the advanced training for the West Coast SEAL teams as my final assignment in the Navy. And after I retired, I started a leadership consulting company called Echelon Front, which led me to writing a bunch of books. First, for adults, and then a bunch of books for kids, as well. And you can get those books wherever books are sold. And along the way, with some coaxing from Mr. Tim Ferriss and Mr. Joe Rogan after being on their podcasts, I started my own podcast called Jocko Podcast, which comes out on Wednesdays every week, and I talk about human nature through the lens of war and atrocities and leadership.
And I would be sitting down with Tim right now, but he’s off in the jungle or the desert or the mountains, somewhere. So I am just going to answer your questions this time by myself. So thanks to Tim for having me on again, and thanks to you all for listening. And here we go.
The first question is from an anonymous person. “How did you meet your wife and other tips on building a family?”
So I met my wife when I was overseas. My wife happened to be overseas at the same time. And when I saw her, I was kind of taken aback by my wife because she was a stunning-looking woman. And I walked right up to her and immediately started talking to her, and I won’t go into the gory details of that whole situation.
Because I asked my wife if I could tell the whole story and she actually said, “Do not do that.” So I’m not going to. But when I met her, I went up and talked to her. And not only was she stunningly beautiful, she was also super nice, which was a very nice surprise for me.
And immediately I told one of my buddies a couple of days later that I was going to marry that girl if I could. And we ended up, yes, getting married. The tips I have on this, I would say, well first of all, I’ll tell you that getting married is probably the most important decision that you’re going to make in your life because you’re going to end up spending the rest of your life with this other human being, which is a big task. And so you really want to make a good decision. And of course there’s a dichotomy in this too, because if you think you’re going to find the perfect wife, you’re not. Or you think you’re going to find the perfect husband, you’re not.
They don’t exist. No one’s perfect. Everyone’s going to have their little idiosyncrasies about them that you don’t like or that bother you. And so what you have to do is you have to find somebody that has idiosyncrasies that don’t bother you very much.
The other thing, and I would say I got lucky in this, I would love to tell you that I was a visionary and knew exactly what I was looking for, but I didn’t. I got lucky and just happen to meet this woman that had this quality, which I believe is very important. And that is that my wife was emotionally stable and emotionally independent.
And so what I mean by that is my wife wasn’t always relying on me emotionally to give her support about things. She didn’t really, this sounds bad, but she didn’t really need me. You know? I didn’t need to be there. And trust me, when you’re in the SEAL teams, you’re not there a lot.
So I think if you can find someone that’s emotionally independent, that doesn’t rely on you to prop them up every day, I think that’s a big benefit. And can someone go too far with that? Yeah, because I’m sure you could have someone that’s so independent that they don’t even want to be around you and that would be a problem. But I think we like the feeling of someone that’s depending on us and I saw guys get sucked into that over the years. So I think you look for someone that’s got a little bit of emotional independence that they can stand on their own.
And then when he comes to just relationship, and I don’t know, you might want to check yourself if you’re coming to me for relationship advice. But you are, so I’ll put it out to you.
Here’s the thing. And I have been married for a long time. 20 plus years. That’s a pretty long time to be married, I guess, these days. Well, one of the things, going back to the idea of extreme ownership is guess what? You take ownership of your relationship and you take ownership of the problems inside your relationship. If you’re blaming your spouse when things go wrong, that’s not going to work out really well. And when I try and think of an example, I was talking about this with someone the other day.
One example, that when my kids were younger, it’s always stressful. A stressful time in the family is getting ready for school in the morning. You got kids, you got teeth to get brushed, you got lunches to get made, the clock is ticking, you’re going to be late, there’s traffic, there’s all these things going on.
And so sometimes that stress can start to impact negatively the family. So I was thinking, what’s a situation where you’ve got to take ownership? Well, let’s say normally, for me I was getting up and going to work. My wife was getting up and getting the kids ready for school. Cool. Those were our two jobs in the morning. I get ready to go to work. She gets ready to take the kids to school. So let’s say the lunches weren’t made and the kids got up late and my wife got up late and all of a sudden she can’t get out the door because she’s got to make the sandwiches for the kids.
And if I look at her and say, “Well, you know, you didn’t make the sandwiches. That’s why everyone’s late.” I’m telling you right now, that’s not going to work out well. You’re blaming the person. And when you blame people, they get defensive and they start blaming other things and they’re going to blame you and they’re going to blame the kids and they’re going to blame everyone else. So that doesn’t solve the problem. All it does is create arguments. So instead of doing that, what you do is you take ownership.
Just like when you’re in a SEAL platoon or you’re in a business, when something goes wrong, you take ownership of the problem. So if instead of saying, “Hey, you didn’t make the lunches, that’s why everyone’s late.” Instead you say, Hey, you know what? I noticed everyone was a little bit late today. Tomorrow, I think I can help out by getting up a little bit earlier and making the lunches.”
Realistically, and with my wife, my wife would say back to me, “No, that’s fine. You got to go to work. I slept in, I shouldn’t have done that.”
So it immediately reverses the defensive attitude of, “What are you talking about I didn’t make the lunches? Why am I making the lunches?” It turns it into, “Oh, you know what? No, you have to go to work. I’m going to get up and make it. It’s my fault. I’ll take care of it.” And, that’s a great solution, right? That that’s problem solved. And then people worry about it because they say, “If I said that to my wife, you know what my wife would say? They’d say, ‘Yeah, you should get up and make the lunches.’” And then you know what I say? “Get up and make the lunches. It’s going to take you an extra — it takes six minutes. Six minutes to get the lunches made. Probably not even that.”
So no big deal. Get up a little bit earlier, get up six minutes earlier, actually make the lunches the night before, and it’ll be fine. And eventually, most likely, your wife’s going to say, “Hey, you know what? You don’t need to make the lunches. I’ll do it. I got it.”
So that’s what you do. That’s what you do. Just like in any other leadership situation, or even in a peer-driven situation, what you do is you take ownership. And when you take ownership of things, life gets better. Give it a shot.
Next question is from Abfar. The question is, “What’s Jocko’s criteria about when you should quit and when to persevere in areas with opportunity costs like business?”
This is definitely a very good question, especially if you know anything about the SEAL teams, one of the mottos of the SEAL teams is “Never quit.” I should say that’s really more of a motto of the basic SEAL training that you go through the BUD/S training, the first block of training that you go through when you join the Navy to be a SEAL, it’s six months long and the underlying mantra there is “Don’t quit.”
Of course, it actually makes very good sense in that training, because that’s how you make it through the training. You don’t quit. And people, I’ll get kids that ask me nowadays you know, “I’m going to go to the SEAL teams. I want to go through SEAL training. What advice do you have for me?” I always them the same thing over and over again, “Don’t quit. That’s how you get through the training. Don’t quit.” Going through that training, it makes sense. But I’ll tell you, once you get to the actual SEAL teams, you have to take that attitude and you have to put it in some kind of perspective, because that attitude can be bad.
The classic example of that is the young leader, the young SEAL leader who comes up with a plan for a training mission, but maybe it’s not the best plan. Or maybe the circumstances change, or something unexpected happens, or the weather, or the terrain isn’t what was anticipated, and the plan is not working. That’s what’s going on. Whatever plan they come up with is not working. But that young leader has been told, “Never quit,” so he keeps going, and he keeps going, and he keeps going, and he keeps going, and he uses up all his energy, and all his time, and all his resources, and all of his people, because he had been taught: “Never quit.”
That is actually wrong, and you don’t do that. If you are trying something and you have given it a solid effort and it’s not working, then stop doing it and step back and assess and see if there’s another way to do it. That is not quitting, that is being smart. I have a little rule, I say, “I don’t bang my head into something 47 times.” I’ll do 46, once you get to 46, then it’s like “Okay, you know what? I’ve got to try a different way. This is not working.”
Sometimes you have to step back. You have to quit the plan that you had and try something new. The other way to frame this is by looking at it from a tactical level and then from a strategic perspective. Tactical level meaning the immediate situation right in front of you and the situation that’s unfolding right now in this very period of time. Like a fire fight that’s going on right now, or this actual battle that we’re in right now, that’s tactical, that’s what’s happening on a tactical level.
Then above that is the strategic level. This is the broad, long-term, overall objective that you are trying to achieve. Those are the two different perspectives that you can look at this idea of when to quit. In a war, the tactical objective might be to take a hill, right? We’re going to take a hill, that’s our objective right now. Whereas, the strategic objective might be to remove this tyrannical regime and stop their imperialistic endeavors that threaten your own nation state. That’s the strategy, that’s what you’re strategically trying to accomplish.
Now you look at those two things, right? If you’re assaulting this hill and it’s heavily defended, and the hill is fortified and has massive enemy troops, massive numbers of enemy troops in there and you can’t take that hill without suffering massive catastrophic losses yourself, it’s probably a good idea just to back off the hill and little bit and figure out another way of taking it or figuring out if you can actually bypass that hill. See if you can avoid even having to take that hill.
That might be considered quitting, right? “I’m not going up that hill. I’m not going to lose everyone trying to get up this hill.” But even though it might be considered quitting, it also could be considered smart, because why would you waste your troops if there’s another way to go about this? I’ll tell you one reason that people continue doing this, is a lot of times, people will drive on a tactical mission and the only reason that they keep going is A, because they’ve been told, “Never quit,” and B, because their ego. Their ego, they’re going to stick with their plan, they came up with their plan, they want their plan to work, and they’re going to go, and they’re going to keep going until everyone’s dead. That is not smart. Because if you backed off that particular goal, you could allocate your resources and your troops somewhere else where you might have a bigger impact.
Quitting that tactical mission, that low-level tactical mission, it might not only be acceptable, it might be a necessity because let’s face it, if all you do is attack hills where everyone dies, you’re going to lose strategically in the long run. Sometimes you’ve got to back off. Sometimes you’ve got to quit that tactical mission, and there’s been plenty of times in history where that has happened and people made tactical retreats — we’ll call it tactical quitting — in order to win strategically.
When General George Washington led the retreat of Continental forces out of New York, which was a lucky retreat, because there was this massive fog and they were able to do it clandestinely, that was — he quit. But guess what? He came back for the strategic win. In World War I, Gallipoli, some super hard fighting there, the Brits, the Aussies, the New Zealand troops, French as well, and they had really hard fighting, and eventually they realized that this wasn’t working and they snuck away. They retreated. Did they quit? I guess you could say they quit that tactical situation.
It’s the same thing, probably the most famous example of this is Dunkirk at the beginning of World War II when this ad-hoc British Navy of merchant vessels and whatever else pulled out hundreds of thousands of soldiers out of Europe so that they could regroup, rebuild, and re-engage and by the way, come back for the win, for the strategic win of getting rid of the tyrannical leader of Nazi Germany.
Was anyone calling the Brits quitters because they decided to save a massive number of their troops? No. It’s like “Hey, we have to do a tactical retreat.” Yes, sometimes you have to retreat but that doesn’t mean you quit the strategic mission. It’s like Churchill said, “Never surrender,” but he didn’t say, “Never retreat.” I think you have to do a little differentiation between quitting and retreating and that’s what you need to do and you need to do the same thing in life, right? Because sometimes we come up with ideas, we come up with plans that aren’t as good as we think maybe they were. At some point, you got to look at it from an honest perspective and see if maybe this isn’t going to work, maybe we can’t take that hill.
That doesn’t mean, if you come up with one idea for a product and it doesn’t work, and you decide you’re going to retreat from it, does that mean you just never come up with another product again, when strategically what your goal was, was to build a large business or become financially independent, or be your own boss or whatever? If you back off of one tactical mission, or you quit with one product that you came up with, does that mean you’re never going to do anything in business again? No, it just means that you’re going to regroup, you’re going to reload, you’re going to come up with a better idea and then you’re going to attack again. You’re going to keep that strategic vision alive.
I think that’s it. I think to sum this up, that was kind of a long answer, I apologize, to sum this up, you might have to make some tactical retreats in order to win the long war, but never quit on your strategic vision. Never quit on getting to the ultimate place where you want to go.
The next question is from Brendan and the question is, “How does discipline play a role in financial decisions? On two levels, macro/investing and micro. Meaning daily and monthly budgets. How has this changed recently?”
Well, discipline equals freedom, as you might have heard me say the first time I was on Tim’s podcast. And the example of that in this situation is, if you want financial freedom, you need financial discipline.
So what does that mean? That means you have to work hard, you have to save your money, you have to invest your money, you have to not buy stupid things that you don’t need. I often give the example of my 1997 Dodge Grand Caravan. Kind of rusted, broken window on the driver’s side that was taped shut. But I drove that vehicle for, I don’t know, 10 or 12 years. And the reason I did is because I was saving money. I also lived in a house that was 934 square feet. It had two bedrooms and I had three kids, two girls and a boy, and my wife. And my wife and I slept in the living room. And when you opened the front door to our house, to the right was a couch and to the left was our bed, and that’s where we slept. And right next to our bed was the dining room table.
So our front room of our house was the bedroom, dining room, and living room all in one big room. Zero privacy. But that’s where we lived. Why did we live there? Because it was in a location that we liked and we were saving money. I pretty much always wore the same clothes. My guys used to give me a hard time because I would wear jungle boots out on liberty with my normal clothes. Why? Because I’m not going to go out and buy some pair of fashionable shoes. I cut my own hair. So I have a pair of clippers that I’ve had forever and I cut my own hair. So that’s the discipline that I think puts you in a good place later on in life when you save money up front.
And so now when we talk about macro investing, what do I do now? I like to put my money into — well actually, into my businesses. Into things that I own, things that I control, things that I know about. And so I do that and I like to buy properties. So I invest in properties and I take other opportunities. If there’s something that I have an understanding of, some business opportunity, then I’ll put my money in that.
I will say that I do have a nicer car now. I no longer drive the 1997 Dodge Grand Caravan, may she rest in peace. I also am still a little bit — I still, even though I have more money now, I still am a person that struggles to spend money on things. And I will research some stupid purchase for three months to figure out if it’s something that I really need, to figure out if it’s the actual one that I want and all that.
So there you go. I guess on a macro thing, I look to buy big things or I look to invest in big things like properties and businesses and on the micro I look to buy nothing. I don’t want it, I don’t need it, and I’m trying not to buy it. So there’s that.
Next question is from Joey and he says, “How do you balance your time as a father with your business, podcast, workouts?” and then there’s a follow-on question, “What values do you hope to pass on to your children?”
So this is a question that everyone wants the secret answer to, and how do you balance your time with your family versus your time with work? And the answer is that that is the answer. You have to balance it. So what do I do? Do I wake up early? I do. I wake up early. Do I stay up late? Yes, I do. I try and do things before and after my family is awake or before or after they fall asleep so that I’m working when they’re sleeping, which seems to work out well in terms of trying to spend more time with them.
Like in the morning, in the morning I’ll wake up early and work out so that way when they get up and they’re eating their breakfast or whatever I can say hi to them and talk to them a little bit. I also try and do things that are mutually beneficial to everyone, to all of us. So for instance, I like to do things with my wife and kids, like work out together or do jiu-jitsu together or wrestle or surf. I like to do things that I like to do, and that they like to do, too.
So that seems to do a good job of spending more time with the family. I don’t always do a great job of this. I have missed some pretty critical events with my kids because of work and that’s a sad reality. I’ve missed some pretty big events because I’ve had things that I had to do. I had commitments; I had contractual obligations that I couldn’t get out of and so I’ve missed some pretty important things for my kids, and I definitely feel bad about that. And I’ll say this though, they also learn from that. Because when they see that I’m placing a big importance on work, they realize that work is important. They realize that you have to be dedicated to your work. They see me up early working, they see me staying up late working, and they know from seeing that that if they want to get anywhere, there’s going to be sacrifices that have to get made.
So that’s it. I also often explain this to people. You know, you get a job and you work hard so that you can earn money so that you can take care of your family. And that being said, if you focus too much on working hard and too much on your job, well then eventually, if you look up, you’ll look at your family and they won’t be there anymore because you weren’t paying enough attention to them.
So you can’t let that happen. The other end of the spectrum is you’re trying to take care of your family, so you’re trying to spend all your time with your family, which means you stop paying attention to work like you should. And instead of going to the meeting, you’re at the parent teacher conference, and instead of going to the networking event at your company, you’re going to the recital for your six-year-old’s piano. And eventually you look up and you realize that you’re not where you want to be work-wise, and maybe you’re getting let go. Maybe you’re not promoting the way you want to.
So that’s not good either. So that’s why, as I said to kick this off, the key is balance. You have to find the balance on these things. If you focus too much on work, you won’t to have a family. If you focus too much on family, you won’t have work. So get balanced. The second part of this question was what values do I hope to pass on to my kids? I think the values that I try and pass onto my kids are pretty much the standard kind of human values. And to be really simple about how to discuss this well, I wrote multiple kids books trying to pass on the values that I think are important for kids.
The first book that I wrote for kids was called Way of the Warrior Kid, and the first book is about a kid who’s having that same normal problems that every kid has. He can’t do any pull-ups, he doesn’t know how to swim, he doesn’t know his times tables, and he’s getting picked on at school. And what happens is kind of the last day of school, he’s all sad and bummed out and he gets called out for not being able to do any pull-ups and not knowing how to swim. And he runs behind the library and he’s crying and eventually heads home from his last day of school. And then he remembers that his Uncle Jake is coming to stay with him for the summertime and his Uncle Jake was in the SEAL teams and his Uncle Jake, when he shows up, you know, they start talking and he says, “Hey, what do you want to do tomorrow? You want to go play some ball or you want to go for a swim?”
And the kid, whose name is Mark, says, “I can’t swim and I don’t know my times tables and I’m getting picked on and I can’t do any pull-ups.” And he starts crying and Uncle Jake looks at him and says, “Hey, listen. All these problems that you’ve got, they can be solved.”
And then they go on the mission over the summer of working out, eating right, learning how to study, learning jiu-jitsu, learning how to swim, overcoming his fear of water. All those things happen. And one of the parts that’s embedded in the story is that Uncle Jake talks about how warriors live by a code and he encourages young Mark to write his own warrior kid code. And in that warrior kid code, I pretty much passed forth the values that I try and give to my kids.
And so here’s the warrior kid code from the book Way of the Warrior Kid. Number one, the warrior kid wakes up early in the morning. The warrior kid studies to learn and gain knowledge and asks questions if he doesn’t understand. The warrior kid trains hard, exercises, and eats right to be strong, and fast, and healthy. The warrior kid trains to know how to fight so he can stand up to bullies and protect the weak. The warrior kid treats people with respect, doesn’t judge them, and helps out other people whenever possible. The warrior kid keeps things neat and is always prepared and ready for action. The warrior kid stays humble, controls his ego, and stays calm. Warrior kids do not lose their tempers. The Warrior kid works hard, saves money, is frugal, and doesn’t waste things, and always does his best. I am the warrior kid, and I am a leader.
So that’s the warrior kid code. And that warrior kid code, that’s actually the one that I just read, is from the third book in the series because each book, young Mark adds a little something to the warrior kid code. He learns a life lesson, and then he adds it to his warrior kid code.
And so those the values that I try and pass on. And I also do a kid’s podcast called the Warrior Kid Podcast, and the funnest part I’ve had with that Warrior Kid Podcast — because it started off me just doing questions for Uncle Jake, and then I would answer the questions and kids would say, “Is pepperoni healthy?” And so I’d answer these great questions from these kids.
But eventually what I started doing was I started telling stories from Uncle Jake, where Uncle Jake would talk about when he was a kid and they would kind of capture some important lesson that he learned.
And they’re all just kind of parable stories that again, back to this question, teach the values that I think kids should have. And that’s what the stories do. The stories are meant to explain where Uncle Jake got his values from. So yeah, those are the Warrior Kid Podcast if you want to check that out. And The Warrior Kid books.
Next question. This is from anonymous and it says, “I’d like to hear his thoughts on sexual harassment, toxic masculinity,” and then it says, “I am working to teach my sons about matters like consent.”
Okay, so I know this has been a big topic, toxic masculinity, and I’m not a psychologist, certainly. I don’t claim to be somebody that understands everything. But you know what? I have spent a lot of time around alpha males. So I spent 20 years in the SEAL teams and there’s a lot of alpha male type human beings in there. I have my own son, so I have a decent understanding of the male human.
I also, like I said, I’ve been married for 21 years and I have three daughters by the way, one of them is 19, one of them is 18, and one of them is nine, that counteract the testosterone of my 16-year-old son to the best of their ability.
But my point is I have some experience with both sides of this situation. And so for me, toxic masculinity is sort of saying that, at least the best that I can interpret what they’re trying to say, is that if you take sort of traditional masculine traits and then you take them to the extreme, well then it becomes negative and well, that’s a true statement.
That’s actually a true statement. And it goes back to the book Dichotomy of Leadership is that if you take any positive trait that a good leader can have and you take it to an extreme, then it can become a negative. So this is going to happen with any traits that any human being has. If you take a human trait to an extreme, it often becomes a negative. So a clear one is if you’re a good leader, then you need to be aggressive, right? That’s what you need to be.
And that being said, if you’re too aggressive, then you’re taking risks that are not necessary and that’s not going to work out good for you. So that’s why you can’t take the aggressive trait to the extreme. Same thing with being ambitious, right? Because a good leader, a good person, a good kid, is ambitious.
But guess what? If someone becomes too ambitious then they’re stepping on other people so that they can rise to the top. And by the way, that rise to the top will be short-lived. That’s why it’s not beneficial. Because you might think, “Well, if you’re ambitious and you step on people, but you make it to the top, you’re good to go.” It doesn’t work that way, because other people are going to see that you’re stepping on them and they’re going to rip you down.
So the group that you’re leading when you’re stepping on them will turn against you. So yes, you should be ambitious, but you can’t be extremely. You can’t take that to the extreme. Being strong, being just physically strong. That’s a great attribute to have, because then you are harder to bully, right?
No one’s going to push you around when you’re a strong individual. That being said, if you go too far with that and you begin to abuse the strength that you have to bully other people, well then that’s not good. And once again, I’ll tell you, if you do that, the pack will turn against you and take you down.
And so there’s all these traits that these are considered sort of masculine traits. Like being assertive, right? And that is definitely true. If you’re a good leader, and I go from a man to just talking about leadership. If you’re a good leader, then you should be assertive. That being said, if you’re too assertive, then you don’t listen to anyone else’s ideas. And so that puts you at a disadvantage because you’re trying to figure out everything for yourself and you won’t be able to do that so what else? What else for traditional masculine traits? Oh, to be less emotional, right? The man is supposed to rely more on logic than emotion. That certainly makes sense as a leader because there’s no one that makes good decisions when they’re emotional. Now the dichotomy is that if you are completely devoid of emotions, then you don’t connect with anyone. You don’t have any emotional connection with anyone and as a leader, if you don’t have emotional connections with people, then you won’t truly be able to lead them. You’ll be able to lead them on like a surface level, but you won’t have the deep connection that forms a solid bond inside of a team, you won’t have that.
The list of these traits, it goes on and on. And like I said, these are sort of these traditional masculine traits and if you take them to the extreme, then they become negative. Also, you’ve got to remember that it’s not just one extreme, there’s the other, there’s the opposite extreme as well. If you go in the opposite direction to the extreme, then that’s equally bad. So if you’ve got a leader that’s hyper-aggressive, right? We don’t want that, but at the same time, we don’t want a leader that’s a pushover. Just like we don’t want someone that’s overly assertive, right? If you’re overly assertive, then you’re not listening to anyone else but at the same time, if you go in other direction to the other extreme, then you’ve got someone that’s scared to speak up. That’s not good either.
Then talking about the emotional thing again, like we don’t want a leader that’s completely devoid of emotions but at the same time, you don’t want a leader that’s overly emotional and is unstable and not able to think logically and clearly. These things need to be balanced. That’s what they need to be. They need to be balanced in leaders, they need to be balanced in men, and the fact of the matter is, is that all these traits are equally positive for women, and they also need to be balanced with women as well.
To me, this idea of toxic masculinity, it’s just reflective of taking any human traits to an extreme, male or female, doesn’t matter if you don’t properly balance the dichotomy of these traits that human beings have, you’ll be out of balance and it’ll be a bad thing. Try to stay balanced, that is to me the best solution to these types of issues.
All right, next question is from WhiteBeltMMAS. I have no idea what that means, but I’m glad you have a white belt attitude. That’s a good attitude to have. “What are Jocko’s experiences with cold or heat therapy? Cold showers, ice baths, saunas, et cetera.”
Okay, I’m definitely a believer in contrast baths, if you know what that is. Contrast baths are going from hot to cold. I mean, I like them both individually, but hot to cold. I definitely had a situation that unfolded for me that really sent it home. I was at San Clemente Island, which is a little training site off the coast of southern California and on that island, there’s a hill called Frog Hill. And when you’re going through basic SEAL training, you run up that hill before every meal. Sometimes you carry things on your back or whatever, but it’s a really steep hill and it takes a few minutes to climb up and it burns you out pretty good.
I was out there for — I wasn’t going through SEAL training, but I was out there doing some training with some other troops. And so while I was out there, I decided you know, I’m just going to run Frog Hill every day before every meal just like we did in BUD/S, trying to stay hard. Then while I was out there, and this was probably 10 years ago or something like that, maybe 12 years ago, I don’t know. But late 2009, something like that. While I was out there, I also was working out hard and I did this CrossFit workout. This CrossFit workout, which is called Kalsu, and this workout is named after a guy, well, it’s named after a guy whose name was Kalsu, Bob Kalsu, who was an All-American football player for the University of Oklahoma, and then he played for the Buffalo Bills in the 1968 season. He was the Rookie of the Year.
After that season, he went and did his time in the Army because he had gone through, I guess, on an ROTC scholarship and had an ROTC obligation to the Army, and so he went in the Army to serve his time. He went to the 101st Airborne Division and deployed to Vietnam. He was killed in action. This workout, like the man himself, is a tough workout. Tough man, tough workout. In fact, I’d say it’s a little bit harder than tough. It’s actually a pretty brutal workout.
Here’s the workout, if you want to try this. It’s psycho. Every minute on the minute, so every minute, you do five burpees, and then you do as many thrusters as you can with 135 pounds. A thruster is basically a front squat and then a push press. You do that. Every minute, you do five burpees, and then you do max thrusters with 135 pounds and you keep doing this over and over again until you get to 100 total thrusters. It is like a complete soul-crushing, leg-destroyer of a workout.
I did that workout and plus I was running Frog Hill, so my legs were just completely annihilated. And then I was supposed to be flying back to Coronado to where I was working at the time, the training command out on the West Coast. I was flying back there and I was supposed to fly back in the middle, like for lunch, but our training ended, and I ended up getting the first flight back from San Clemente Island. It was like six o’clock in the morning and when I got back, the master chief, so I was the officer in charge of training at the time, and the master chief, who was kind of a runner-type guy, and he picked me up from the airport and he’s like, “Hey, man, we’re doing a command PT today,” which means we’re all going to work out and do physical training together. I’m like, “Oh, cool.”
I’m the officer in charge, so if we’re having command PT, then I should do it. And he goes, “Okay, great. We’re doing a run.” We’re doing a run, there’s a lake in San Diego and it’s got a trail around it, it’s like a seven or eight mile or something like that but it’s got lots of these little hills. Cool, I already signed up for it. So we go and we go to do this run and my legs are already crushed when I start this run. And then I end up racing with one of my buddies, who’s actually a better runner than I am, but I’m giving it everything I got to hang with him, and I hang with him until probably the last, I don’t know mile.
Got back from the lake, went to the team, and when I got back to the training command, I went into our physical therapy guy’s and I said, “Hey man, I just annihilated my legs, and I’ve been annihilating them for like five straight days, what do you got?” The guy that worked there who is an awesome guy named Jason, he said, “Hey, do contrast baths.” I’m like what’s that? “Hot, cold, hot, cold, hot, cold.” He put me in this protocol for ice bath to the hot whirlpool, which is scalding hot.
I did the protocol, I think it was like five minutes, five minutes, four minutes, four minutes, three minutes, three minutes, two minutes, two minutes, one minute, one minute. I am not kidding, when I got done with that, I was probably 60 percent recovered just from that. Do I believe in cold and heat therapy? Yes. I have a jacuzzi at my house and I have an ice bath at my house. I believe in them. They work. Be careful if you ever do that workout. It hurts.
Next question. “What is one piece of advice you’d give a man who’s on the brink of finishing it all tonight?”
This is one of those questions that comes across from time to time when people are feeling like they have reached the point where they cannot go on any more. And so this is from anonymous and I’ll tell you right now what I’m going to tell you is number one, first, we’re going to wait until tomorrow. And then, and so this is going to sound, I guess, like a cop out of an answer, or like a weak answer, but then what you do is you actually go and get some professional help from someone. The reason that I’m saying that is because I only just recently kind of put this together. It is the fact that I didn’t know anything about psychologists and psychology. I thought that they were just kind of weird people that would tell you some mumbo jumbo stuff.
I didn’t really understand it. I didn’t know anything about it. I had Jordan Peterson on my podcast and we were talking about a bunch of different subjects, and he was talking about how — I think he was talking about how you would get people to overcome fear of needles. And he went through this thing and what he explained was called exposure therapy. I didn’t know what it was, but it made perfect sense to me. Then as he was explaining it, I realized what he was explaining was this methodology of exposure therapy, and that methodology is the exact methodology that I had used in the first Way of the Warrior Kid book to teach this young kid Mark to overcome his fear of water.
I just kind of used instinctively something that I’d used with my kids when they were afraid of something. I would expose them to it a little bit, little bit, little bit, little bit. And then over time they would not be afraid of it anymore. And so it’s something that I had used, but when Jordan Peterson, who’s a clinical psychologist talked about it, and this is an actual psychological procedure. And that’s when I started to kind of make this connection is the fact that psychologists, what they are, is they’re basically like mechanics. They’re like car mechanics, but they’re mechanics for your brain or your mind or whatever your thoughts — because your brain or your mind, your thoughts can have problems. Just like your car can have a problem.
What psychologists know how to do, just like a mechanic knows how to do, is they know how to assess the problem and then give you a solution to the problem. I think the fact that they’re called psychologists kind of threw me off for, for my life, and if they would have been called something — the term I’ve been calling them is mind mechanics. So if you say, “Oh, I’ve got a problem with my mind. I’m going to go to the mechanic and have it get fixed,” that makes sense, right? There’s no mumbo jumbo there. The psychologists learn about what type of symptoms there are, and then they figure out how to solve those and they learn techniques and procedures and protocols. So it’s real is what I’m saying. To you, anonymous, that asked this question, you need a mind mechanic.
You know, you’ve got an issue going on in there and you’ve got to get someone that knows how to identify, diagnose what the problem is, and then give you a solution to it. So hang in there, go get some help. That’s what you need: professional help. I’m not a mind mechanic, I’m not a psychologist, but there are people that actually know how to help you. And so go get some professional help. That’s what you need.
Another thing, Tim came on my podcast, it’s podcast number 50. And you know, it’s a crazy thing, and a lot of people, they either don’t know this, or they haven’t heard about it, or it’s easy to forget that Tim, when he was in college, he not only contemplated committing suicide, but he actually planned to commit suicide. So when he came on my podcast we went deep on that and we talked through it. So if you’re in that situation, Tim’s a great example. He was doing great from the outside, he was going to an Ivy League school and things were — you would look from the outside and say, “Oh, this guy has got nothing to worry about. His life is set.” But on the inside, he was in a really rough place — in a place that was so rough that he was thinking that maybe he didn’t want to continue on.
Take a listen to that one. You can hear some of the things that Tim did and continues to do to maintain a positive attitude about where he’s at. And then, man, go and get some professional help. Because there’s darkness out there, and sometimes that darkness in the world, it’s surrounds your head, but you can get out of it, man. Good luck, brother.
The next question is also from anonymous. “What is a step-by-step guide for building discipline for someone who has little to none of it?”
I’ll keep this one short. I answer this question a lot. Before you go to bed, make a list of the things that you need to do tomorrow. So whatever those things are, you write them down. Work out, you’re going to do this project or that project, you’re going to do this task or that task, or whatever they are. You write them down. And then you set your alarm clock and you said it earlier than you normally would. I don’t care. Look, people get hung up because I wake up at 4:30. That’s just when I get up. You figure out when it’s good for you to get up, make it a little bit earlier, like an hour earlier, or a half hour earlier than you normally would. Set your alarm clock and then go to sleep. Then when your alarm clock goes off, just get up, get up.
Don’t think about it. Don’t rationalize anything. No snooze button, no “Just five more minutes.” Just get up when your alarm clock goes off. Put on your workout clothes, which you should have laid out the night before. I should’ve said that, too. Brush your teeth and go work out. Get that done. Then shower, pull out the list that you made, and attack that list and get everything on that list done. That’s what you do. And then the next day, do the same thing. And the day after that, do the same thing. Then, imagine what your life is going to be like after a week of doing that, or after a month of doing that, or after three months of doing that, or after a year of doing that. You’re going to be in a totally different place. If you just do the things that you know you’re supposed to do every day, you’ll be in a totally different place.
Now, will the discipline get easier over time? Will it get easier? Doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if it’s easy, hard, you don’t think about it. You don’t consider that. Just do what you’re supposed to do and then just stay on the path. Because even though it might not get easier, the rewards are going to grow and you’ll realize that the discipline you are imposing into your life is making your life better and giving you more freedom.
Question 12. “How do you build mental toughness and resilience?”
The answer is you actually already have it. You are a human being, and human beings can survive the most insane adversity that you can imagine. I talk about it on my podcast all the time. These people that go through these atrocities or go through these insane combat situations or get put into prison camps, they’re not superheroes.
They’re people. They’re normal people that got drafted or that signed up after Pearl Harbor or that got recalled when the Korean War kicked off. Or got sent to Vietnam because it was either that or go to jail. They’re normal people and they have the mental toughness and resilience, and so do you. Now, you want to help reveal it? Cool, do some hard things. Do some mental and some physical challenges that require you to push yourself harder. Get some. That’s fine. That’ll reveal some of that mental toughness. But you have it, and as I said in Tim’s book Tools of Titans, if you want to be tough, be tougher. Don’t need to meditate on it. Just be tougher. You already have it.
Next question. “If he had not been in the military, what would he have done instead?”
If I wasn’t a military, if I couldn’t have joined the military, I likely would have been probably a policeman or a firefighter. I think I have a pretty inherent sense of duty, some patriotic feeling to serve and, and straight up, I also like some kind of level of danger, and I like to take some level of risks and I feel good about those. They make me feel alive. And I like physical work. I like doing things. I like physically moving around and getting things done and making things happen.
I actually like high stress situations, so I enjoy mayhem and chaos and it’s where — and when I say I enjoy, that doesn’t mean I’m out seeking them every day, but when they hit me, that’s where I feel like I’m utilizing the best of my natural capabilities, because I’m calm under pressure, I stay relaxed, I stay detached, I can look at complex problems and kind of simplify them well. I like being in those situations. So that’s why I think either one of those jobs probably would have been what I would have ended up doing.
Next question is from Zach V. “My five-year-old son has been doing jiu-jitsu for two weeks now and he’s not aggressive. How do you teach someone to turn on aggression?”
So Zach, bro, your kid is five. Do not worry about your kid’s aggression level at this age. In fact, what you need to do is be happy that he isn’t a hyper-aggressive kid that is slapping other kids around and can’t get along with other kids. That’s a problem. So don’t worry about this, it’s no factor. Not only have I brought my kids up, but I’ve seen, I would say hundreds of kids go through jiu-jitsu in their life and you don’t need to worry about this.
You don’t need to worry about trying to teach them to turn on their aggression. In fact, instead of teaching him to turn on his aggression, I would teach him how to be nice and how to play guitar and how to be respectful and polite to other people. That’s what I would teach him, because when he turns 14, you’re going to have to do everything in your power to reign that aggression in. That’s going to come. So you don’t need to egg it on. It’ll be there. Now, if it’s not there, whether or not he ends up being aggressive, it is still one of the best gifts that you can give him is to give him jiu-jitsu. But let me tell you what: please don’t ruin it for him. Don’t ruin jiu-jitsu for him. The best way to make him good at jiu-jitsu is actually by making it fun for him. He’s five years old. You want to make it fun? I failed to do that with my older daughters. With my older daughters, I pushed them too hard.
I was forcing it down their throat. I was making them train six days a week. Gi, no gi, striking, making them compete. And when I did make them compete, I put ’em in there against older kids and heavier kids, the kids that were better than them, and they’d get beat. Of course in my mind, I thought I was like, being an awesome dad, because I was making them super tough. “Oh, you know what? You’re, oh, you’re six years old? Cool. I’m going to put you against a nine-year-old girl who outweighs you by 22 pounds and you’re going to get destroyed. But you know what? It’s going to be good for your character. It’s going to make you tough.” That’s what my idiot mind was thinking. What I actually ended up doing was making them not like jiu-jitsu.
So don’t do that to your son. What you want to do is you want to make it fun and you want to find a school where it’s fun. And you know what? Even that’s no guarantee, because your kid may not love jiu-jitsu. But at least if it’s fun, he’s going to learn it. But yeah, I’m sorry to break the news to you that you can’t make your kid love jiu-jitsu. You can make it part of his life, but he’s, this isn’t — all right. I’m sorry again to break the news to you, but your son is an individual human being. And you know, I’ve got four kids, and all my kids are great kids, and I can tell you this, this is a hard fact for parents to realize. It was a hard fact for me to realize.
Your kids are not going to be what you want them to be. And case and point, I ask this question to people all the time. I say, “Are you what your parents wanted you to be?” Everyone says no. Who grows up and becomes exactly what their parents wanted them to be? No one. So the chances of you getting your kid to be exactly the person you want him to be, the chances of that are zero. He’s not going to be who you want them to be. So what you do, and matter of fact, the more you try and conform him into being what you want him to be, the more you try and box him in, the more he is going to resent it, the more he’s going to push back against you. So don’t do that. Don’t try and box him in.
Be supportive. Make it fun. Now I’m not saying you let kids do whatever they want, because you don’t do that. You give them discipline, you give them a box that they need to stay in, and then you show them the path. But you don’t put a dagger in their back and force them to walk down it. You let them find their own way down the path because they’ll understand it better and they’ll be better people.
Next question. “You have started multiple companies and businesses since you were first on Tim’s podcasts over three years ago. They all seem to be doing great, how do you do that?”
Yeah, so I have started a bunch of businesses and they all seem to be doing really well and I’m certainly stoked on that.
As far as how do I do that, I would say two major things. And the first thing that I would say is that I get involved in businesses that are related to things that I know about, that I understand. The first business that I ever had was an MMA gym, still have it. It’s called Victory MMA, and we train jiu-jitsu and boxing, wrestling, muay thai, all that stuff. But the reason I started this gym is because it’s something that I knew and understood. I’ve been trained in jiu-jitsu for a long time and been training MMA fighters for a long time, so this is something that I knew and understood, so we started a gym.
The second real business that I started was Echelon Front, which is the consulting company that I have with my brother Leif Babin and a bunch of other guys we have on the team now. But again, I started that company, it was like, this is something that I knew and understood; we’re teaching people leadership, and teaching leadership is exactly what I was doing my last few years in the SEAL teams, so I started a company that was based directly around something that I knew, something that Leif knew, and now when we bring other guys onto the team, it’s something that everyone knows and understands. That was kind of evident. It was very clear that that’s something that I had the capability and understanding of.
I guess the next one down the list would be my tea. The Jocko White Tea, which is something that, it was actually with Tim. I was with Tim and Tim talked about it the first time I was on his podcast, and it was just like a little funny statement he said and then people kept asking me, “What’s the tea, what’s the tea?” I just started making the tea and getting it out there and people were stoked on it and so there you go. That’s something that I knew and I knew that I liked it and started making it. That kind of led to the rest of the supplements that I make, because I like to take certain things, and I want to take things that I know, things that I trust, and things that I actually use. That’s what I did. Made stuff that tasted good, that worked well, and there you go.
Along the way, I got involved with Origin Maine, which is a company up in Maine, which is manufacturing apparel right here in America in Maine and that was really, more than anything else, because I didn’t really have a background in that, but what happened was, I saw a really kind of a perfect storm brewing. This guy that I had seen videos of on the internet from Origin, he was the founder of Origin, he’s a guy named Pete Roberts and he had these videos on YouTube and he’s a jiu-jitsu guy and he wanted to make gis and he wanted to make gis in America and there was no one making gis in America.
Matter of fact, he found out that there was no one making the material to make gis in America, so we’re making the fabric to make gis in America, so he went on this kind of like psycho quest to try and make that happen and he had these videos of himself up in Maine and him and his buddies pulling these — a loom; it’s not these — it’s one loom. He went and found a rusty, old loom, abandoned loom in an abandoned factory in Lewiston, Maine and he pulled it out of this factory and brought it back to his place where he had built a factory, built a timber factory in the middle of the woods in Maine, and put this loom in there and hired a guy that used to work on these looms, and they got that thing running and he was up there making these American-made gis.
The problem was, he was in Maine. He didn’t really have much reach, and so I reached out to him a couple times and eventually got in touch with him and we were able to, I kind of had reach and had people to talk to, and a way to spread the word, and then he had the knowledge that he gained to start making apparel and all that stuff. That’s what we’re doing.
I just wanted to help him make America make again. Make America make again! I’m from New England, and when you see the abandoned factories, it’s a horrible site. And so for us to be up there, to have that company, to be breathing life back into an industry that had been left for dead and to now be making gis and making rash guards and other athletic apparel, and we just came out with jeans, because what’s more American than damn blue jeans? I said, “Hey, Pete,” well, actually what I said to Pete was I said, “Hey Pete, how many people do you know that do jiu-jitsu?” Pete said, “Oh, you know what? Probably 100.” I said, “How many people do you know that have jeans?” I was standing in the airport at the time and I said, “80 percent of the people I’m looking at right now are wearing jeans. Let’s make jeans. Even I’m not wearing gi pants right now; I’m wearing jeans,” so we started making jeans. Now we’re making boots, so we’re making everything, so that’s what happened there.
Then the last one I guess, the most recent company is the publishing company, is Jocko Publishing. That one’s a little bit more of an interesting situation. I had written another kids’ book called Mikey and the Dragons, and this book I was super stoked on it. I finished it in August and I talked to my publisher and I said, “Hey, I’ve got this new kids’ book and I just want to get it out by Christmas,” the book is about a little kid that learns how to overcome fear and it’s a rhyming story and has amazing pictures in it that one of my buddies drew. It was just this really great book. When I read it to my youngest daughter, she was just blown away by it. My wife’s reaction was, “Did you actually write that?” I thought that was a really good compliment. She didn’t actually believe I was capable of doing it.
I was super stoked and got this and I said to my publisher, I said, “Hey, I want this book to come out by Christmas.” This was in August and they said, “Well, no, that’s not possible.” I said, “No, please,” and they said, “We can’t do it,” and I said, “No, seriously. I really want it out by then.” Then they said, “There’s no scenario where this book comes out by Christmas.” And I said,
“Watch this”. So I had a friend that — she was in a publishing business and I said, “Hey, can you help me make this happen?” And she said, “Let’s do it.” And so started the publishing company and the book came out in November. Mikey and the Dragons. And now I have a publishing company. I got another couple of books in the works for the publishing company from, not just me, but I’ve got another, a couple of authors that I’m working with that are putting books together that are awesome. So there you go. All those things, all those different businesses, as I said, like these are all things that I kind of know and understand, and that’s, I’d say, part one of me figuring out what businesses I want to do.
Then the second part, the second part is that I actually follow my own leadership principles. That’s the principles that I teach, I utilize them myself and I cover and move, I keep things simple, I prioritize and execute. I implement decentralized command. And that’s a really big one because you know, I’ve got people, I’ve got people on my teams that they have decentralized command, they know what my vision is, and they are free to go out there and make it happen to the best of their ability. And if they need support, they come back to me. If they need guidance, they come back to me. And if they don’t, then they are out there crushing it. That’s what happens. They’re making these things happen and I’m kind of looking up and out and to see what’s next down the line and see what else we can get into. So yeah, try and get involved in what you know and understand and then follow the fundamental leadership principles. Fundamental combat leadership principles.
One more question here. This is from Oliver and he says, what is your biggest failure?
Well, for me, this is a pretty straightforward, pretty straightforward answer. When I was in the Navy, when I was in the SEAL team, my last tour was in Iraq. I was the commander of SEAL Team Three Task Unit Bruiser. We fought in the Battle of Ramadi in the summer of 2006. We did our job well. We had the honor of supporting the soldiers and Marines from the First Brigade, First Armored Division, and we all fought together to defeat the brutal insurgents that were there. And it was a very tough battlefield. It was a tough fight. It was an honor to serve alongside those soldiers and Marines, and the task unit that I was in charge of really performed exceptionally day after day after day.
In the end, victory was achieved in the city of Ramadi, and Ramadi was liberated from the sadistic insurgents that had reigned there. The people were allowed to return to their normal lives, but I did not bring home all my men, and that’s that. So thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Tim for having me on and for everything you’ve done to help me out. I started my podcast because of Tim and Joe Rogan as well. And Joe Rogan heard me because of Tim in the first place. So thanks to Tim.
If you want to hear anything else from me, I’m on Twitter. I’m on Instagram and I’m on Facebook at Jocko Willink. My podcast is called Jocko Podcast. It’s wherever you get your podcasts. The books that I’ve written are on Amazon and other places books are sold. My clothes are on Jockostore.com. My supplements are at originmain.com. My consulting company is EchelonFront.com. It’s a lot of dot coms for you.
Anyways, that’s all I’ve got. Again, thanks to Tim for having me on and thanks to everyone that is listening to this. Thanks for spreading the word. Thanks for, of course, going out there and getting after it.
This is Jocko Willink. No further traffic. Out.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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