A retired Navy SEAL commander says he learned one of his biggest leadership lessons through a mutiny

Sarah Jacobs/Business InsiderJocko Willink is a retired Navy SEAL commander who led SEAL Team 3, Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated US special-operations unit of the Iraq War.
  • Former Navy SEAL commander Jocko Willink retired from the SEALs in 2010 after nearly two decades of service.
  • He led SEAL Team 3, Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated US special operations unit of the Iraq War.
  • He now teaches civilians leadership lessons from his time in the SEALs through a hit podcast, a business consultancy, and a bestselling book written with his business partner and fellow former SEAL Leif Babin, with another soon to be published.
  • He spoke with Business Insider about his path to become a SEAL, why SEAL training isn’t the impossible nightmare most people think, and why you won’t find him sleeping in and having breakfast in bed.

For Jocko Willink, becoming a Navy SEAL was just like answering any other calling.

As he described it: “I guess there are some people who say, ‘I want to be a businessman,’ and there are some people who say, ‘I want to be a rock star,’ and there are some people who say, ‘I want to be a car mechanic,’ and I wanted to be a machine gunner in a SEAL platoon, you know?”

Willink was the commander of SEAL Team 3, Task Unit Bruiser. It was the most highly decorated US special operations unit of the Iraq War – and the one where Chris Kyle, of “American Sniper,” served.

Willink retired from the SEALs in 2010 and started a consulting company called Echelon Front, which he founded with fellow SEAL Leif Babin.

He and Babin cowrote the bestselling book “Extreme Ownership” in 2014. He’s also got a hit podcast, a line of jiujitsu products, and even two bestselling children’s books in the “Way of the Warrior Kid” series.

In an episode of Business Insider’s podcast “Success! How I Did It,” Willink told us that passing on leadership lessons, whether to executives or to kids, is just a continuation of what he did in the SEALs.

Listen to the full episode here:

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The following is a transcript of the podcast, edited for clarity.

Jocko Willink: Now on the civilian sector, that’s actually what I do, is teach people combat leadership and how to lead their troops in businesses, through whatever it is they have got to lead them through. It’s the same thing I’ve done for a very, very long time, which is get up early, work out, work hard, get after it.

Richard Feloni: What were you like as a kid?

Willink: I grew up in the sticks in Connecticut, like on a dirt road and out in the middle of the woods. My parents were schoolteachers, so a pretty normal childhood. I was a pretty rebellious kid. I was into hardcore music. But really, nothing crazy about my childhood.

Feloni: I saw that you said that you wanted to be a commando as a kid. When did that idea enter your mind?

Willink: I can’t even remember when it entered because it seemed like it was always there. I remember when I was a little kid, I collected little Army soldiers, little toy plastic soldiers, the miniature ones.

Feloni: The little green ones?

Willink: Well, there are smaller ones. These were more detailed. Like the generic green one you get from the dollar store are one thing – I got these higher speed ones that had actually military units, historical units. And one of the historical units that I had was the British commandos, and so they had little Zodiac boats and little kayaks. I thought to myself, “Well, that’s awesome.” They had grappling hooks to throw up cliffs. And so I had these little figures, and I always thought some kind of waterborne commando was what I wanted to be. And eventually I figured out that the SEAL Teams was sort of the American version of the waterborne commando, so that’s what I ended up joining.

Feloni: You were just a little kid. How old?

Willink: Six, 8, 10 – very young. I mean, I would burn the end of a cork and paint my face black and beg for old camouflage, Army-Navy gear, and wear it around ever since I can remember.

Feloni: Did you have any military in your family?

Willink: My grandfather was an officer in the Army for 20 years.

Feloni: Did you feel like there was something in your personality that gravitated you toward this?

Willink: I’m not sure what the specific characteristic would be that drove me in that direction, but I wanted to be some kind of fighter. I wanted to fight. I know there should be some deep philosophical reason, but the reason is – I guess there’s some people who say, “I want to be a businessman,” and there are some people who say, “I want to be a rock star,” and there are some people who say, “I want to be a car mechanic,” and I wanted to be a machine gunner in a SEAL platoon, you know? That’s what I wanted to be.

Feloni: Just a calling.

Willink: Yeah.

Jocko willinkCourtesy of Jocko WillinkUS Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink.

Feloni:I remember in one of your podcasts you had said something that the types of guys who go toward the SEALs, they might end up in trouble if they hadn’t ended up in the military. What did you mean by that?

Willink: I mean exactly what I said! You think about the job that you’re getting into, right? You’re going to be risking your life; you’re going to be shooting guns; your job is to kill people. Let’s not forget that, because no one wants to talk about that, but your job is to kill people. And your job is to take the risk of being killed. So what kind of person does that? What kind of person says, “Oh yeah, that sounds like a good time to me”? Well, there are people who decide that they’re going to do that and they become criminals. So there’s some element of your personality that has to be OK with that kind of thing if you’re going to go in the SEAL Teams.

Feloni: Does that become a problem as you’re adjusting in the military? Do you have to tamper some impulses down? How do you get that out?

Willink: Oh yeah, for sure. SEALs get in trouble all the time. Yeah, SEALs cause all kinds of problems because they have got that high-level of aggression and testosterone, and you’re 22 years old. Yeah, we constantly have to rein guys in. And those are the kind of guys you want. There’s nothing wrong with those guys. But, you know, they’re born to do something.

Feloni: Were you like that yourself?

Willink: Yeah.

Feloni: What were you like when you first entered the Navy?

Willink: I joined when I was 18 years old. And what was I like? Yeah, I was like that.

Feloni: When you’re saying, “Getting into trouble,” like what?

Willink: Oh, guys would get in fights, bar fights, DUIs, and trouble with women, just every kind of problem that you can imagine for a 20- to 25-year-old male human. That’s what you see. And you know, as I continued to grow up in the SEAL Teams and I became responsible for these guys, you’d see the same stuff and you’d say to yourself, “OK, well, I know what this kid’s doing and I’ve got to steer him in the right direction.”

Feloni: How did you learn that yourself? Did you have people intervene?

Willink: No, you just get older, you know? I just grew up. And I mean, sure people would say stuff along the way, but nothing that was so impactful, nothing that was remotely as impactful as just getting older. You start to see, well, “What do I want to do? And where do I want to go?” And you need to put yourself on the right path.

Feloni: How old were you when you went to BUD/S SEAL training?

Willink: Nineteen.

Feloni: What was that experience like?

Willink: It’s fun. Everyone makes a big deal about it, the big SEAL training. It’s push-ups, pull-ups, dips, ropes, climbs, swims, and runs. And you don’t sleep a lot. You are exhausted and people do get sick. There’s an 80% attrition rate, so I’m not saying BUD/S is easy. It’s not easy, and it wasn’t easy for me, but it’s not some mystical, life-changing experience, I can tell you that much. I mean, maybe for some people it is. It wasn’t for me. It’s, like, “Yeah, we’re going to be cold, wet, miserable, and we’re going to keep going. Next question.” It’s no big deal.

Feloni: So do you know that outsiders kind of have this warped concept of what it actually is?

Willink: Yeah, well they also think that they train you in some way to handle tough situations, but the fact of the matter is they don’t train you at all. There’s very limited amount of training in basic SEAL training. And they don’t say, “OK, listen. When you start to get to a point in your mind where you’re feeling tired, what you need to do is calm your breath, relax your inner mindset.” They don’t say that to you. They’re, like, “If you don’t like it, quit.” And so a lot of people quit, and other people don’t quit. There’s the big lesson: Don’t quit.

Jocko willinkCourtesy of Todd PitmanWillink, left, crouches on a roof during the 2006 Battle of Ramadi in Iraq.

Feloni: At what point in your SEAL career did you realise that you wanted to be a leader?

Willink: Probably in my second SEAL platoon. It was actually an interesting situation. We had a mutiny. The officer in charge of the platoon was a tyrannical leader, and he wasn’t very experienced and he wasn’t very confident. He made up for that by being tyrannical. And we rebelled against him and went before our commanding officer and said, “We don’t want to work for this guy.” Which is amazing, right? You don’t hear about very much of this happening. But it’s also something that you deal with in the SEAL Teams. It’s something that you deal with in the military.

If you’re a bad leader, you’re not going to be able to maintain that leadership position. And so we rebelled against our leader, and then he got fired. Then the new leader who came to take his place was this extremely experienced, extremely capable, extremely intelligent guy who’s also extremely humble and great to work for. And all of us just aspired to make him happy and make him proud and make him look good.

When I saw that difference between those two leaders, I said to myself, “Wow, that’s important, and I need to pay attention to that.” And that was what sort of got me thinking about moving to the officers’ side and becoming a leader in the SEAL Teams.

Feloni: So that’s kind of a misconception that a lot of people in the public have that, “If you’re in the military, you’re just taking orders unquestioningly. You just do whatever you’re told.”

Willink: Yeah, that’s complete fallacy.

Feloni: So you learned at just 22 that if you’re a bad leader, people just aren’t going to listen to you?

Willink: Yeah, absolutely. Now, can you make it work for a little while? Yeah. And that bad leader that we had, we did what he said. He said, “We’re going to do this like that,” and we went, “That doesn’t make sense.” He said, “Do it anyways.” “OK.” But that only lasts so long. So that’s another thing that in leadership positions, sometimes people feel like they need to force people to do things. And it will work once. It will work twice. But it doesn’t work forever, and it actually doesn’t work as effectively even right away as someone else saying, “Hey, here’s how I think we should do it.” “OK, well, I like your plan. Go ahead and do it.”

Feloni: How did you rise through the ranks in the SEALs?

Willink: Well, after that I got picked up for a commissioning program. There’s two different sides to being a person in the military. There’s being an enlisted guy and being an officer. The basic separation is, officers go to college and enlisted guys don’t. And so I enlisted right out of high school and then I got picked up for an officer program. Once I did, I went to officer candidate school down in Pensacola, Florida. From there, I went to SEAL Team 2, and I was an officer. And then I went to college after that, and then went back to SEAL Teams again.

Feloni: And then when did you end up leading Task Unit Bruiser?

Willink: That was after I deployed to Iraq as a platoon commander, and I came back from that, and then I ended up as the commander of Task Unit Bruiser.

Feloni: Task Unit Bruiser, this was the most highly decorated US Special Operations Unit of the Iraq War. It included Chris Kyle of “American Sniper.” You created this culture that you called “extreme ownership.” That’s also the title of your first book. What does that mean and how did you go about creating this culture?

Willink: Well, it means don’t make any excuses and don’t blame anybody else.

I can give thousands of examples illustrating that concept. The one that I started off with in the book “Extreme Ownership” is the most extreme example of extreme ownership because there was a horrible situation that happened on the battlefield. There was a blue-on-blue, fratricide. So we had friendly forces, friendly Iraqi forces, fighting against us, fighting against a SEAL element on the battlefield. And an Iraqi soldier got killed, several Iraqi soldiers got wounded, and one of my SEALs got wounded. And again, this is fighting against each other.

When we came back, of course, people are pointing fingers because this is the most horrible thing that can happen in combat, in my opinion: friendly-fire death. People are pointing fingers at each other and blaming each other, and I came back and said, “This is my fault. This is my fault because I’m the person in charge, and I will take responsibility, and here’s what we’re going to do to fix it.” That’s another piece that people now miss out on. You can’t just say, “This is my fault” and then everyone claps their hands. No, you have to say, “This is my fault. This is what happened, and this is what I’m going to do to fix it.”

Feloni: Now, was your inspiration for coming to these conclusions based on that commander that you had when you were 22?

Willink: It was based on that. That was sort of what opened my eyes, but once my eyes were opened and you start looking around all the time, you see it all the time. You see up and down the chain of command.

You see some young kid, for instance, that gets in trouble. I talked about kids getting in trouble. Some kid gets a DUI, and you bring him into the office, and he says, “Well, you know I wasn’t supposed to be the designated driver. Mike was, but he started drinking and I was the more sober one, so it’s really his fault.” And you go, “No. You’re the idiot who drank and drove, and that’s why you’re going to pay for this.” You see it up and down the chain of command.

And you see it up the chain of command, too, where something goes wrong or there’s a problem and the leader says, “Oh, well it’s because my team member did this.” Well, who’s in charge of your team member? You are! So you’re responsible for your team member’s actions. Own it. And if you own it, you fix it. If you don’t own it, you won’t ever fix it.

Jocko willink and leif babinCourtesy of Jocko Willink and Leif BabinWillink and Charlie Platoon leader Leif Babin.

Feloni: What was it like the day that you officially retired from the SEALs?

Willink: I literally gave my retirement speech and went back to the team area where I had spent 18 out of 20 years of my adult life and packed up my locker, put my gear in my van, and drove home. That was it. It’s definitely an interesting feeling. I don’t know how else to describe it because it’s not like I was upset or sad or happy. I just knew that I was moving on.

Feloni: So you weren’t sad about this?

Willink: I was definitely bummed. I mean, there’s no better job in the world. It’s literally the best job in the world. And the guys you work with are awesome, and when you leave, you’re not there for the guys anymore. That’s the hardest thing. The hardest thing of all of it is knowing that the guys are going to continue. Guys are going on deployment, the guys are going to go back on the battlefield and you won’t be doing anything to help them. That’s the hard part. Other than that, you know, I did 20 years and I had to go do other things.

Feloni: When you decided to found the leadership consulting firm Echelon Front with Leif Babin, one of your platoon leaders, what went behind that decision?

Willink: What we realised over time was, as we started talking to people in the civilian sector, they had problems with leadership. Significant problems in every different arena, in every different industry, every different kind of company. And the things that we had learned on the battlefield and from training leaders in the SEAL teams were the solutions to the problems that they were having.

The first CEO I sat down and talked to, I was asking what kind of issues he was having and he was talking about how he has this division and that department and they don’t communicate. They don’t work together. And I said, “Oh, they don’t cover and move for each other.” And he was, like, “What’s that?” And I explained cover and move to him – it’s a gun-fighting tactic that you use on the battlefield – and he said, “Yes, that’s what we need to do.” That was one of those moments where I said, “This is totally applicable across the board.” And every time I talked to a leader about what kind of issues they were having, it’d be stuff that we’d already seen inside a SEAL platoon over and over and over again. The good thing is not only did we know what the problems were, we knew what the solutions were, too. And so that’s why the business was able to grow so quickly.

Feloni: And if this was something that you weren’t planning on doing once you retired from the SEALs, what were you thinking of doing?

Willink: I was going to surf, do jiujitsu, work out, hang out with my wife and kids. Yeah. That didn’t happen. I mean, I still surf, do jiujitsu, and hang out with my kids as much as I can, but it’s definitely been a chapter that I wasn’t expecting to write.

Feloni: When you did finally retire then, was it weird adjusting back to home life?

Willink: You know, I don’t know – I guess the way my mind works or whatever, it’s, like, “OK, new mission is go do this.” And so I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on what the past was and I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I can’t change it. It’s happened. I can’t get it back. It’s gone. So I just focus on what I can do today.

Feloni: Are there some things from your service that you can’t shake? For example, you still wake up at 4:30 in the morning to go work out. You’ll go on these long fasts. You work out really hard. What was it about your time in the SEALs that you wanted to keep this habits up?

Willink: They’re good habits.

Feloni: Well, you don’t have to wake up at 4:30 anymore.

Willink: Why would you not wake up at 4:30?

Feloni: Well, what does this bring to you?

Willink: Waking up early? You just get a jump on a day. And it doesn’t feel good at 4:30 when you get up, but by the time 7:00 rolls around and you’ve already worked out, and you’ve already gotten some work done, and you’ve got some time to say goodbye to your kids before they go to school, it’s infinitely better than sleeping in until 6:45, and you get out of bed and now you missed your kids going to school or whatever. You’re not prepared for the day. It’s awful. So it’s a good habit.

Jocko willinkCourtesy of Jocko Willink

Feloni: So the discipline of the SEALs – it’s impossible to leave?

Willink: No, it’s possible to leave. There are retired SEALs all over the place who are undisciplined. They have moved on and they don’t care about that anymore. It’s fine. I don’t have anything against it. I don’t judge other people on what they’re doing. They’re probably stoked to sleep in and hang out with their kids and eat breakfast in bed. That’s fine. I don’t have anything against that. But for me, I want to get up and go.

Feloni: Your work now with Echelon Front and with the podcast, do you take the same discipline that you had in the SEALs to this?

Willink: Yeah, very much so. And with Echelon Front, we’re basically slowly bringing back together Task Unit Bruiser. Our mindset is the same. the same mindset that we had in Ramadi. And with the podcast, same thing. It’s a privilege to be able to do that. I don’t take it lightly, you know? Just like I didn’t take my old job lightly. I don’t take this lightly. It’s a burden, and I accept the burden, and I enjoy the burden.

Feloni: Is that something that you always want to have? Like you enjoy having a burden? You need that to drive you?

Willink: I think so, and I think most people need that. I think it’s healthy to have some kind of a struggle that you’re going against. Could that be overwhelming? Yes, it can be. And people are faced with much greater struggles and burdens than I face in my life, but I think it is healthy to have some level of, whether it’s a struggle or whether it’s a goal or whether it’s something that you’re driving toward, I think it’s good to have things like that in your life. And I definitely will do better when I’m pushed. If there’s no one that’s pushing me, then I’ll push myself.

Feloni: A couple years ago, there was this SEAL, Lt. Forrest Crowell, who wrote a paper. It was getting passed around, and he called it “Navy SEALs Gone Wild.” And he said, “The raising of Navy SEALs to celebrity status through media exploitation and publicity stunts has corrupted the culture of the SEAL community by incentivizing narcissistic and profit-oriented behaviour.” And he said that this would erode military effectiveness. He was just very critical of having celebrities from the Navy SEALs. Do you feel like you fell into what he was criticising?

Willink: Well, it was an interesting point that came out. Of course the paper that got written by the guy, it was on the front page of all these newspapers, and it was a very challenging topic because there are multiple sides to it and there are multiple ways to look at it.

When Leif and I wrote “Extreme Ownership,” it’s like we went from being “one of us” to being “one of them” because we wrote a book, and no matter how much you say, “Hey, this isn’t about me” and no matter how much the book says, “Well, we’re doing this so we can share lessons learned,” it doesn’t matter. You’re still writing a 300-page book about yourself and there’s no way to put lipstick on that pig. That is what it is. At the same time, for me, getting that story out there was important.

Also, there’s a real line, I think, with this type of behaviour. If you try to represent yourself as something you weren’t, that’s very problematic inside the SEAL community. If you try to represent yourself like you were this super stud and you were the best ever and that’s your attitude, the guys in the SEAL teams will know it and they will call you out on it and you will be ostracized from the community. If you represent yourself as what you actually were and you don’t expand or try to make yourself look better than you were, then guys look at you and say, “Yeah, you told the truth about what happened.” And so I think there’s kind of a line in my mind. I think that shows a level of humility one way or another. Either you’re out there just trying to say, “Hey, look at me,” or you’re out there saying, “Hey, here’s some information.”

I think anyone that read “Extreme Ownership” would say, “Well, this was a book that was not meant to make these guys look good.” In fact, the book was about not things we did that were great; it was about mistakes that we made. It was lessons we learned. We didn’t learn lessons from doing great things. We learned lessons from making mistakes. So I think that sort of honest talk about what the experience is like is considered to be in a better light. Now, the bottom line is, though, you’re still talking about your old job and there are some guys that are not going to like that. That’s the way it is. And when I was in, I was one of those guys, too. That’s the way it is.

Feloni: So you would have been one of the guys criticising the SEAL celebrities?

Willink: Yeah. And again, it goes back to what I already said. If it was a guy who was telling the truth about what he experienced in his time and didn’t glorify himself, well then, I get it and I want to know those stories and I want those stories to be passed on. So I think, like I said, if a SEAL comes out, or a military person comes out, and they don’t glorify what they did, they talk about what they did in a truthful and meaningful way, I think that’s acceptable. I think if someone is out there trying to glorify themselves, well, then that’s going to be problematic for sure.

Jocko willinkEchelon FrontWillink addresses an audience at a leadership conference.

Feloni: Your podcast and books are very popular. You have bestsellers. Your podcast’s always in the top of the charts. Are you conscious of your own ego as you get more of a spotlight on you?

Willink: Well, there’s a song by the White Stripes, and it’s called “Little Room.” It basically says, “Hey, we’re sitting in a little room and we’re working on something good. And if it’s really good, we might need a bigger room. And when we get to the bigger room, we’ve got to remember how we started in that little room.” That’s the way I think about it all the time. I’m not sitting here thinking that I’m doing anything great. I’m just, again, I’m just doing what I’m doing. I could wake up tomorrow and people could be saying, “Hey, we don’t want to hear you anymore.” And I’d say, “That’s cool, because I’m doing it because I like doing it and I’m learning a lot from it myself. I appreciate that you did listen. I’m glad you found something better. What is it, so I can listen to it, too?”

Feloni: As you’re building out your brand, what are you thinking of when you’re building a community around your story?

Willink: In the same way that I’m doing what I’m doing, the products that I’m making are products that I use and products that I need. It’s a great platform because now I can make things that I really want and that I really use. It’s not like a calculated thing of, “Hey, let’s do a market test and A, B, C, which one of these is doing the best?” I don’t do that at all. I do no market research. I simply do what I want to do and what I think is effective. Why do people like it? Because of the things I just said. Because I know that these things work. We’re making jiujitsu gear and athletic apparel in America, by American hands, with American materials, 100%, without compromise. That’s awesome. No one else is doing that. So when we’re doing that, people like it. Same thing with the supplements. When I can sit there and create the supplements exactly the way I want them, well, then, guess what? I want something that’s effective. So when people try them, they go, “Wow. This is effective,” and they start using it. It’s just me living and creating things that I already use, and I guess that strikes a chord with people.

Feloni: Do you think that some of your followers almost see you as a superhero, kind of taking this whole SEAL mindset?

Willink: I certainly would hope not. People shouldn’t think that I’m a superhero at all because I’m not. Believe me, I’m an average human, maybe slightly above in some areas and slightly below in others. But I’m a pretty average guy. And in jiujitsu, oh yeah, I get beat by my training partners sometimes, and that’s the way it is. And guess what? jiujitsu works. If somebody gets you in an arm lock, you can either tap or they break your arm. So the choice is yours. And I’m here to train and not be in a cast. I think if anyone listens to me for any amount of time, they will realise that I’m no superhero for sure, of any kind.

Feloni: And when you’ve done some business consulting, have you ever had someone who was maybe working with you and Leif and maybe they were too gung ho about things? They thought that, “Oh, Navy SEALs were going to be overly aggressive”?

Willink: Oh, for sure. One of the early clients that I worked with, he said, “You know, I can’t wait until you come here and whip my people into shape.” I said, “Well, if you want someone to whip your people into shape, you should hire someone else, because I’m not going to whip anyone into shape.” If you want people to do things, you don’t whip them. You ended up with a beaten dog, and a beaten dog is useless. Or you’ll get a rebellion. The people that you’re beating, the slaves, will rebel against you and kill you.

So yeah, like I said, I can whip you and get you to do something right now. I can get you to clean this floor if I’m in charge of you and I threaten you. But as soon as you leave or as soon as I walk away, you’re sabotaging everything about my plan. That is not a good situation to put yourself in.

So yeah, some people think that. I think they think less of it now, but actually, we have a new book coming out, Leif and I do. And I open up with this: One of the problems with “Extreme Ownership” is the title because the title uses the word “extreme.” And there are very few times that leaders should actually be acting extreme. They should, more often, be balanced. And that’s what the book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” is about because you have to balance these various dichotomies, and there are an infinite number of them in being a leader.

We just talked about multiple examples of someone being too hard on his troops, but you can also have someone that’s too soft on their troops. And the troops say, “We’re not going to clean this floor. We’ll do it later. We’ll do it tomorrow.” And they leave. And so that leader is not effective, either. You have to balance the dichotomy of these leadership styles and end up somewhere in the middle and be balanced. People aren’t used to that. People don’t think about that, but that’s why we had to write the book.

Feloni: How do you define success?

Willink: I don’t think any person can define success because I think it all depends on what you want individually. How do you feel in the morning when you wake up? Do you feel like you’re on the right path? Or do you feel like you’re off the path? Do you feel like you’re on the slippery slope? And you know what you should do every day. Do you do them? If you’re doing them, then you’re being successful. And if you’re doing them daily and you continue down that path, you’ll end up with that success, whatever that definition of success is that you envision.

Leif babin jocko willinkEchelon FrontBabin and Willink in Ramadi in 2006.

Feloni: What is your path?

Willink: It’s what I do every day. It’s what I do every day. It’s working hard. I have five-year goals and 10-year goals. But I’ll tell you this: They are also very, very flexible goals because two years ago I didn’t have a podcast. Three years ago I didn’t have a book. We’ve only just merged with Origin, the jiujitsu company, and started making our own supplements. That’s all within the last six months and it’s been going crazy. So, of all the irons I have in the fire, and I’ve got a lot of them in there, I don’t know which one I’m going to pull out and ignite and what it’s going to do when it ignites.

So just like being in combat, my mind is open. I’m not sticking, I’m not hanging on to one plan. I’m not hanging on to a five-year plan. I’ll tell you broadly what I want to do. What I broadly want to do? Hey, I want a bunch of money. I want to be able to do whatever I want. I mean, that’s kind of normal, right? I want to be able to take care of my family. That’s great. I want to be able to take care of my friends. That’s awesome. Those are clear, real simple, obvious goals that I think many people have. Now, you can say that, “Well, my goal is to be happy.” Well, that’s cool. I want to be happy, too. The things that make me happy are the things that I do every day, is being on the path every day. That brings me happiness.

Feloni: What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours? Not necessarily military, but just having leadership and rising through the ranks leading teams?

Willink: Well, stay humble, for one. But I think it’s really important to do something that you enjoy. I loved being in the SEAL Teams. It wasn’t even work. It was just activities with my friends, that’s what it was. It was that awesome. Same thing now. What I do right now working with companies, it’s not work. I completely enjoy it. I don’t like travelling. That’s the only part that seems like work is getting on an aeroplane. But B.B. King said, “I get paid to travel and I play for free.” That’s kind of what I feel like. You pay me to travel, but when I show up, I’m there. I enjoy it.

Same thing with the podcast. I don’t consider it work to read and learn and be able to share a story with millions of people. That’s awesome. And you know what’s great? I meet people in every industry and there’s people in every different kind of industry that are absolutely passionate and fanatical about their industry. And those people that love what they’re doing, they’re successful.

People that don’t love what they’re doing, that don’t like what they’re doing, they have problems. They’re not enjoying it, they’re not putting in the extra hours, they’re not being creative in trying to find new solutions. So when you love something and you’re passionate about it, you put the extra effort into it naturally, you try and get creative with it naturally, and you end up more successful naturally because it’s something that you care about.

Feloni: Thank you, Jocko.

Willink: No problem.

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