Review: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Review: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

I was introduced to Jocko Willink as he made his rounds on a podcast I like by Tim Ferriss. Willink is a former Navy SEAL Commander and current motivational/organizational culture speaker that co-wrote a book that shares a life philosophy derived from his time in the Armed Forces and in combat. I was preparing for a triathlon at the time I decided to read his book, and as an out of shape middle aged man I knew I needed insight into gaining the mental discipline necessary to propel me through training. Who better than a former SEAL to learn from?

Extreme Ownership (EO) is actually a fundamentally sound treatise on leadership that drives down responsibility through action and example setting. In EO the leader takes responsibility for failure and showers praise on the team when successful. The leader gets others to listen, support and execute a plan well. There is a focus on mission, not individual ego or agendas. It is about messaging, communicating concisely, and explaining the whys of a plan. All of this encourages the team to push beyond their individual limits to achieve a goal.

My favorite takeaway that I actually find myself revisiting over and over is the idea that to push through a murky situation, one should “prioritize and execute.” Although I like gray areas and exploring various theories and philosophies, I struggle when a situation has an unclear path forward. In “prioritize and execute” that path forward is simple. First, do not multitask. Second, find the most important task and do it. It’s a simple concept but it helps get the ball rolling on progressing through a problem.

Finally, I said I read this book to help me through training. I learned from it that SEALs use a concept called “incremental goal setting” that enables one to push mentally through challenges. It recognizes that mental blocks are more powerful than physical ones, so setting a small goal, maybe if it’s just putting one foot in front of the other, is key to accomplishing hard things. Without a doubt I used this concept to power through the training I needed so I could finish the race.

I should also add that I read his “Discipline Equals Freedom” field manual for training. It’s pretty good too. Having discipline is key to achieving your goals, and as someone who admittedly is undisciplined, having a clear understanding of how to develop it should be a top priority for anyone.