Living with a SEAL: 31 days training with the toughest man on the planet - by Jesse Itzler

10 minute read

RATING: 7/10

See Goodreads Page for details and reviews.

Here’s what this book is about. The author Jesse is a rich guy who likes running ultramarathon races. During one such race he saw a monster of a man run past him without breaking a sweat. He liked the idea of being trained by this man. So he hired him to live with him for a month. This book is a chronicle of how the navy SEAL David Goggins pushed Jesse to his limits. Some of the trainings he made Jesse do were: doing 1000 pushups a day, running 9 miles in 3 parts throughout the day. Jumping into a freezing lake, sleep a full night sitting in an uncomfortable chair (because the bed was too cozy) etc. If you know Pai Mei of Kill Bill, then that’s exactly how David was to Jesse.

This machine-man - David Goggins - is unlike of a character you’ve ever seen. Here’s a quick rundown of who he is and why he’s a character:

  • After realizing he’s living a shitty life, he decided to become a navy SEAL. See his weight loss transformation.
  • Navy SEAL training is one of the hardest army soldier training in the world. One of its component is a “hell week”. It’s simply this: Hell Week consists of 5 1/2 days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep. So many soldiers fail to finish this it seems. David did 3 in a year.
  • David does lots of pullups. In 2012 he tried to break guinness world record. He did 2011, but had to stop due to injury caused by shaky bar. In 2013 he tried again and set a world record by doing 4030 pullups in 17 hours. I can do 3. Here’s a video of him trying for world record.
  • He doesn’t laugh or smile. He lives life intensely and doesn’t like to waste a single moment. In his social media videos, he’ll be giving motivational talks to you (straight to the camera) while running or doing pushups. And he’ll call you a pussy or a wus or a weak ass. You’ll love it.
  • He appeared in Joe Rogan’s. When Joe arrived late, he found Goggins doing pullups in his studio.
  • His book Can’t Hurt Me scares me a bit. It’s on my to-read list. I just fear if I read it, I’ll turn from being a pussy to a lion overnight. Change is scary sometimes.

This is a great book to remind you about the power of our mind. If you really push it hard, it can bend and make things happen instead of snapping. David programs his mind with a lot of self-talk and believes that all the strength required to achieve anything in life is all residing just in our own minds. We just have to unlock it.

I’m reminded of one quote.

Comfort is a cage. Do hard things.

Highlights from the book

I’ve also always had an unorthodox approach to business and life in general. It’s served me well. I don’t believe in résumés in the traditional sense, I believe in life résumés. Do more. Create memories.

Most of my successes in life have come from learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Every day do something that makes you uncomfortable.

The guy was a cross between a gladiator and the G.I. Joe action hero my son has, but life size. He looked indestructible. Battle tested. Dangerous. Alone. Determined.

“The temperature is what you think it is, bro, not what your computer thinks it is. If you think it’s fourteen degrees, then it’s fourteen degrees. Personally, I’m looking at it like it’s in the mid-fifties.”

I don’t think about yesterday. I think about today and getting better.

“When you think you’re done, you’re only at forty percent of what your body is capable of doing. That’s just the limit that we put on ourselves.”

In looking back on it now, I’m not sure SEAL was wrong. He was taught that if you have a job to do, you do it with 120 percent effort. I have been operating under the assumption that if someone that works for me does something 80 percent of the way I would do it, that’s enough. SEAL is teaching me that we can all do so much more. (Referred incident: Jesse had a house-hold staff who did his job at an okish level. And Jesse never had any issues with it. But when the SEAL noticed it, he wasn’t ok.)

I eat only fruit until noon. That’s been my thing since I read Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond in 1992. For over twenty-five years, just fruit till noon. Harvey is another of the “interesting people” that I cold-called to be my friend.

The upside is this is the first time he’s actually asking questions about me. Not that I want him to, but it makes it easier to get to know someone when there’s a back-and-forth. As my wife likes to remind me, “When I talk to you… please play tennis with me and hit the ball back. It’s called ‘communication,’ and it’s important to a marriage.” And although I’m not looking to get married to SEAL, my wife has a valid point.

When SEAL was fifteen or sixteen, he would go out into the deep woods alone around 11:00 p.m. and pretend he was picking off the enemy. He said he would stay out there for hours at a time training. I found the story to be very interesting and scary.

But it’s Sara who asks, “SEAL, are you on a diet?” “Nah, I just like to go to sleep hungry… so I wake up hungry. Life is all about staying out of your comfort zone.”

food for me is fuel. I inhale… I don’t eat. I think sitting through a long dinner is an inefficient use of time. I like to stand when I eat. Why not. (This is Jesse.)

“Nah, I’m just gonna sit on the couch and enjoy the pain,” he says. “I earned it. Now I’m going to enjoy it.”

I hear the Rocky theme playing in SEAL’s bedroom. It plays once and then I hear it again. Then again. And again. Then the song repeats approximately thirty times. What the fuck is he doing in there?

“Twenty-five hundred push-ups, motherfucker. Yes, I am okay.”

“Money is fun to make, fun to spend, and fun to give away. That sums it all up.” (This is Jesse.)

My wife certainly doesn’t need anything, but she definitely needs to see the effort. If there is one thing I’ve learned about marriage, it’s not the gift that counts, it’s the effort.

Don’t get too comfortable. Ever. —SEAL

The party is a low-key dinner and all twelve employees attend. I’m worried a bit about how SEAL will interact in the social setting. I mean, there is a good chance he will sit there and not say a word. He can be like a sphinx. When he comes to work with me every day, he never talks to anyone. EVER. Never logs on to a computer. Never reads a paper. He just sits there until it’s time to go. It’s like having a piece of artwork in my office. I know he’s trained to go off the grid, but it was wild. Not only to me but to everyone I work with. SEAL once told me that when he came back from a mission, when everyone would sit around and smoke and decompress, he would go running. After a twenty-four-hour mission, he would work out.

If you’re hungry, run faster. You’ll be home quicker.

“It’s not what you do, it’s when and how you do it. It’s all about the conditions. Remember that.”

“Hey, SEAL, what do you think about when you run?” “Finishing.” And he does. It’s like he is able to block out all the clutter in his head and the world, for that matter, and just focus on the task at hand. Say what you want, but the dude has mastered the art of being present. There is something really cool about that.

She turns to SEAL. “And you!” she says to him. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Tell me what the medical benefit of jumping into a frozen lake is.” “There is none, Sara! This is what your husband SIGNED UP FOR!!! There’s no benefit.”

A thousand push-ups is something I could never have imagined doing. It just shows that repetition and consistency equal results. (I need to try this at least once! Over the course of these 30 days, Jesse did a few 1000-pushup days. Goggins can do 2500 in a couple hours. The max I’ve done so far is 100. Need to spend one day just for this.)

I don’t stop when I’m tired. I stop when I’m done.

The alcohol has loosened everyone up a bit. He looks at us all. His armor has come down. It’s as though he’s sorry for coming on so strong at the dinner table. “I just think you don’t give your lives enough credit,” he says softly.

Pre-SEAL I sometimes would be on the couch and not want to do whatever needed to be done and I’d be like “Fuck it,” and blow it off. Procrastinate. I don’t think like that anymore. Just get off the couch and do it is what I remind myself. SEAL would never say, “Fuck it.” He’d get off the couch and do it. Regardless of the time, the temperature, or how tired he was. I absorbed some of that just-get-it-done and there-are-no-excuses attitude. I’m grateful for that. (Jesse)

The first day SEAL came to move in, he told me I needed to control my mind. I thought it was just a saying or a throwaway comment, but I think there might be more truth to it than I originally thought. Our minds sometimes tell us little lies about ourselves, and we believe them. We think we can’t do this or that. It’s not true.

SEAL also left an indelible mark on me. I’ve never been stronger, faster, or mentally tougher (take me to a frozen lake and I’ll show you!). I can do a thousand push-ups in a day. I smoke the times I used to do around the Central Park Loop. I literally don’t have an ounce of fat on me.

The simplicity that SEAL has is one of the most important things in life. He gets to do what he loves every day. He lives stress-free.

“It’s about protecting what you have,” he said to me about being a SEAL. He might have been talking about defending democracy or freedom or saving us from terrorism. But I think he was talking about protecting something closer to home.

But maybe the most important thing I learned from SEAL was the level of appreciation he has for difficulty. The harder the training, the more courage it took to do and the more satisfaction was derived from it. SEAL taught me that you only get one shot at life and you should find out what’s in your reserve tank. Coasting is for “pussies” as SEAL would say and it’s when you dig deep that you feel the most alive. He lives his life that way. And some of that rubbed off on me.

I understood on a deeper level how SEAL trained my mind as much as my body. With his challenges of jumping in a frozen lake, the steam room episode, and all of the madness in between, what we were really doing was just exercising my most important muscle—my brain. Specifically, my mental toughness muscle. I learned that by constantly doing things that are hard and making myself uncomfortable, I improve my ability to handle obstacles. I get comfortable being uncomfortable—and that’s real mental toughness.

It was then that I realized I had to channel my inner SEAL. I had to gut out twenty miles alone on the Hudson with no water, food, or sunscreen. I created a SEAL mantra in my head… Come on, motherfucker, come on… I put it on loop.