Can’t Hurt Me is a strange book to review. It’s an autobiography and a self-help book all in one. As such, any Review of it will need to cover all aspects of it and that is not a simple task as I am not a self-help expert, and I cannot be sure if the author is offering good advice. The best I can do is offer my opinion.

What is it about?

David Goggins is a Former Navy Seal, Army Ranger and Air Force Controller. He is also a ultra-marathoner and a former Pull-Up Guiness Book World Record Holder. He went through Navy Seal Hell Week two full times and participated in a SEAL Training by running on broken legs.

Can’t Hurt Me is his autobiography. It is an inspiring story (even if he says “motivation is crap”) of a young man with a very problematic childhood with him and his mother being mentally, verbally, and physically abused by his father, who went from being an bug exterminator weighing 140 kg to a Navy SEAL and one of the fittest people on the planet.

This book is primarily a story about how he did it, but it is also offered as a self-help book, as an example how despite our upbringing and the cards we were dealt, we can all reach our potential and get what we want. He offers his techniques on how he did it and advice for how we are to improve ourselves, along with “challenges” we should do after each chapter.


Goggins strictly seen does not come from poverty in the traditional sense, as he was born to a wealthy family. However, he, his mom and his brother didn’t experience almost any of that wealth. They primarily experienced abuse, which led to his mother abandoning her abusive husband and taking David with her. This made him experience poverty and as a teenager he didn’t do well in school and was almost unable to read.

During his twenties he found comfort in food which led him to be overweight. He was at that time employed as a bug exterminator.

After seeing a documentary about Navy SEALS, he turned his life around, lost 45 kg in 3 months in order to meet the weight limit in time and joined the SEAL training. After that, he kept pushing himself and achieving many physical feats, including becoming a SEAL, being an ultra-marathoner and breaking the Guiness World Record for pull-ups.

Key Lessons

Note, that I do not like or recommend those 15-minute book summaries, as you often get things out of context and ultimately that makes them way less powerful, but here I feel that it would be helpful to you to get a rough preview of what lessons you can potentially expect.

Obstacles are opportunities

I think this is the main point the book wishes to make – no matter what the problem is, or what obstacle stands in our way – it is just an opportunity for us to push through and reach our full potential, as we are the heads of our destiny. No matter what cards we were dealt – it is up to us to own.

The Accountability Mirror

Goggins wrote post-it’s about his flaws and stuck them on a mirror. He challenges us to take an inventory of our flaws and dreams and put them on our mirror to hold ourselves accountable.

The Cookie Jar

We need to keep track of our accomplishments to know what we achieved so far and so we can get back to these moments to remind ourselves that we have already gone through worse.

Taking Souls

Taking Souls is his way of being your best – you should exceed all expectations of people, for example if you get assigned to author a paper, you should not only author that paper, but also others which you didn’t even get assigned. This is not meant in a mean way, to spite others, but rather to win a mental game with yourself.

The Governor & The 40% Rule

These principles tell us that when our brains say that we are tired, there’s lot left in our tanks – Goggins estimates about 60% percent. If we just push through, we can beat our limiting beliefs.


I am conflicted. This is no doubt, an incredible story. The first part was incredible, about where and he grew up and what he had to endure, right up to a point where he ended up in the SEALS. It is an inspirational story about what he achieved – and what can be achieved if you just persist and push yourself towards your goals.

I feel that from this first part, one can indeed learn a lot, as the story itself is refreshing – there are no lucky breaks, there is mostly just grit and determination when going after your goals. And the lesson that no matter what cards you are dealt – they are now your cards, your responsibility.

However, there is the second part, about what happened after he became a SEAL and got into other physical feats, like being an ultra-marathoner. I feel that his motivation for doing this – and the way he did this is not the healthiest. First, as he says, and admits – he was unnecessarily tough on fellow SEALs who did not wish to live the same way he did – constantly push – or should I say, punish themselves. And he didn’t get to Green Team. This in fact, proves to me that there are other and better ways of being successful, even in the SEALs.

While there are a lot of good lessons and techniques about all the mind games you play with yourself, I think that challenging yourself constantly because of some kind of personal pride is not the heathiest, especially if you look at how many times, he showed up completely unprepared for what is to come. That is not only stupid, but it will also potentially get you killed- If you attempt to say, run 50 miles completely unprepared and try to “push through” you could end up dead or with an injury.

To be fair, he does explicitly say that what he did is not highly intelligent – and it is not what you should do. He also says that you need to do it gradually instead. However, I can imagine there will be people who will think “Goggins did it, so can I”. Of course, that is not his fault. What I wish to say is – you need to turn on your brain and really accept only those principles that are right for you.

As I said – I am conflicted. On one hand it’s an amazing biography, full of inspiring advice and amazing techniques. On the other hand, it is some advice on how not to live, especially when there’s so much content about pushing yourself and so little about nurturing yourself. Again, I am not a doctor or any kind of a self-help expert, but I do think that we need both to push ourselves and nurture ourselves to lead our best lives.

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Even with everything I wrote in the last few paragraphs, I do find the book remarkable and refreshing enough that I own an audiobook on Audible as well. I often find myself listening to it, just to refresh some concepts.

The audiobook is remarkably interesting as after every chapter there is a segment where the person who reads the audiobook interviews Goggins. I have found this fun at the beginning, especially with Goggins explaining the challenges to the listener a bit more in depth.

However, after the first few of those segments, you start to feel that they are quite long and often unnecessary, as the interview questions seem designed specifically to build up Goggins and make him feel better about himself, rather than the interviewer using the opportunity to kind of challenge the concept.

Overall, the audiobook is different enough to deserve a special mention here, unfortunately the added segments should have been shorter and more useful as they often repeat what has just been said.