Way of the Warrior Kid: From Wimpy to Warrior the Navy SEAL Way ✎ Jocko Wilink

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Jocko is a lean 230 pounds. He is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert who used to tap out 20 Navy SEALs per workout. He is a legend in the Special Operations world. His eyes look through you more than at you.

Jocko spent 20 years in the US Navy and commanded SEAL Team 3’s task unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated special operations unit in the Iraq War. Upon returning to the US, 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 — and perhaps psychotic — combat training in the world (his words, not mine).

my notes

He seemed to know where he was going. He had a very serious look on his face. He looked STRONG. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, and his arms were big! While all the other people seemed to be thinking about themselves, Uncle Jake was slowly looking around, scanning the whole area.

“Is that it???? I get picked on by a bully, made fun of because I can’t do any pull-ups, I don’t know what eight times seven is, and I don’t even know how to swim!! How much worse can it get???” I said loudly. “Good,” said Uncle Jake. “Good?” I asked. “How the heck is all that good?” “It’s good because every one of those problems is something you can change. Every one of them.”

“What have you been doing?” I asked.

“Well,” he replied, “I woke up, worked out, went for a run, took a shower, reviewed some reading that was recommended for college, and now I’m having breakfast with my sister.” “You did all that this morning?” “I sure did.” “What time did you wake up?” “Zero-dark-thirty,” Uncle Jake replied. “What the heck is that?” I asked. Uncle Jake smiled. “That means I get up early. Very early.”

The Program Begins

Star jumpers. Burpees. Diamond push-ups. Dive-bomber push-ups. Supermans. Jackknives.

And let me tell you, even though these names sound funny, THERE WAS NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT THEM AT ALL.

You’re not DUMB. You just need to APPLY yourself.

“What does that mean?” I asked him. “It means work hard. Focus. Give one hundred percent. You see, no one is BORN knowing the times tables— or anything else! You have to LEARN and you have to learn EVERYTHING. That means you have to actually study and work until you know. Of course, this will be easier for some people than others.”

He then explained to me that every person has stuff that they are good at and stuff they are not. Some kids can learn more easily. Some kids can run faster. Some kids can do more pull-ups. Some people are even naturally good at everything. He also told me that I was naturally good at drawing. He has seen some of my artwork from school and other drawings I made around the house. He asked me if I practiced a lot to get good at art, and when I told him no, he said I was a natural. Then he told me that just about anybody can be good at just about anything— if they work hard.

Discipline Equals Freedom

We want to be able to do what we want. We want to live free. But in order to get freedom, we have to work for it. Work hard. We have to earn that freedom. Freedom requires discipline. So even though sometimes discipline seems like it is trapping you and making you do things that you don’t want to do, discipline is the thing that will set you free. Discipline equals freedom.”

The most important part of discipline is following rules that you set for yourself. It is doing things you might not always feel like doing— things that make you better.

“What’s wrong with you, Marc? Why weren’t you down in the garage this morning for your workout?” “Well…” I didn’t know what to say. “‘ Well’ what?” Uncle Jake asked me. “Well, I don’t know,” I told him. “I just … I’m just … I’m tired.” “Tired? What does tired have to do with anything?” “Well. You know. I’m tired. I worked out all last week. I did jiu-jitsu classes. Plus, we went to the river. With so much stuff going on, I’m just tired. I think I need some rest.” “If you need rest, you go to sleep earlier. You don’t sleep in, and you don’t miss workouts. Even if you can’t perform at a high level, showing up and doing something is still a thousand times better than not showing up at all.”

Just when you think you know what pain is— there is more!
— Uncle Jake

“Listen, if you want freedom from being bullied at school by Kenny, you have to have the discipline to go to jiu-jitsu class and learn the skills to defeat him. If you want freedom from ridicule when you do pull-ups at school, you have to have the discipline to train so that you can do pull-ups. “If you want the freedom to swim in the water and enjoy your school trip, you need the discipline to overcome your fear of the water and learn how to swim. What about school? Do you want to be free of being stumped on tests and not knowing the answer to questions in class? Then you need the discipline to study and learn the material they teach you. When you get older, you are going to want financial freedom— that means having enough money to do what you want without worrying about it. The only way you are going to get financial freedom is by having financial discipline— by saving money and not wasting it on things you don’t need. And all that discipline starts with getting up early in the morning.”

Is Motivation the answer?

“Motivated?” Uncle Jake replied. “I don’t worry about motivation, because motivation comes and goes. It’s just a feeling. You might feel motivated to do something, and you might not. The thing that keeps you on course and keeps you on the warrior path isn’t motivation. It is discipline. Discipline gets you out of bed. Discipline gets you onto the pull-up bar. Discipline gets you to grind it out in jiu-jitsu class. If you do those things only when you are motivated to do them, you might do them only fifty percent of the time. Sure, it’s nice when motivation is there, but you can’t count on motivation. You have to rely on the personal discipline you develop. Like you said: Discipline equals freedom. Got it?” “Yes, Uncle Jake, I do.”

Fueling the Machine

I took a look at his plate and had to admit to myself that he was right. He had a salad and some chicken on his plate. And he was drinking a big glass of milk.

You need to eat REAL FOOD. Steak. Fish. Chicken. Eggs. Pork. Salad. Vegetables. Nuts and seeds. Stuff that is real food, not stuff that comes from a factory like those potato chips.

“Okay. Okay. I get it. Tomorrow I will start to eat real food, like that.” “Tomorrow? What do you mean tomorrow?” “Well, I don’t want to waste this food,” I told Uncle Jake, thinking that he would at least let me enjoy this one last tasty meal. “Wrong answer. There is only one time to start making yourself better: NOW. You need to start now, not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, not next year. NOW. Go throw that food in the garbage and pour that soda down the drain. You need to put the right fuel in the machine.”

Chasing Records and Breaking Plateaus

Sometimes the body just adapts to the stress you’re putting on it and stops improving.

“Well, here is what is happening: You make the body work hard— or you ‘stress’ the body— and then, in order to deal with that stress, the body builds muscle and gets stronger— or it ‘adapts’ to that stress.” “So my body has adapted a little?” I asked. “Actually, your body has adapted a lot. You have gotten better in every exercise. You are just stuck. But we will get you through that.”

“How?” I asked. “Simple. More stress.”

Fear is Normal

“Well, you said I’m not afraid of anything. And that is just not true. Fear is normal. In fact, fear is good. Fear is what warns you when things are dangerous. Fear is what makes you prepare. Fear keeps us out of a lot of trouble. So there is nothing wrong with fear. But fear can also be overwhelming. It can be unreasonable. It can cause you to freeze up and make bad decisions or hesitate when you need to act. So you have to learn to control fear. And that’s what you need to do right now.”

“Yes. You just go. You see, fear lives in the moment— that powerful moment— between when you decide you are going to do something and when you do it. Once you go— once you start— you won’t be afraid anymore. You overcome the fear by going— and it is the same in many aspects of life. Parachuting. Talking in front of a crowd. Taking a test. Running a race. Competing in jiu-jitsu. The fear is in the waiting. So. Once you have prepared and trained and studied and planned, there is only one thing left to do: go.”

Stand Alone

Oftentimes, the warrior stands alone. It can happen for many reasons. Maybe he got left behind. Maybe the rest of his team got killed. Maybe he just grew old, and his fellow warriors died. Maybe he got assigned a job that put him out there, on the battlefield, by himself. None of that matters. The warrior remains strong. The warrior must know how to stand alone.

Hard work. Discipline. Study. Eat good food. Keep your room and your gear in order. Set new goals and work hard to meet them. Keep training jiu-jitsu.

Robert Dumitriu