Jocko Willink retired from 20 years in the Navy SEALs in 2010, but he still gets up at 4:30 in the morning nearly every day to work out.
Willink served as the commander of US Navy SEAL Team Three Task Unit Bruiser, the most decorated unit of the Iraq War, and established a culture of discipline and responsibility he calls “extreme ownership.” He and one of his former platoon commanders, Leif Babin, got together after Babin left the SEALs in 2011 to form Echelon Front, a leadership consulting firm that has worked with companies like Shell Oil and Citibank.
To teach discipline, they stay disciplined themselves, and this starts as soon as they get out of bed.
“Just on a practical side, if you wake up early in the morning — like at 4:30 in the morning — you’re going to have some free time to yourself to make things happen, to take care of things that are important to you,” Willink said during a recent Facebook Live Q&A in Business Insider’s New York office. “If you try and work out at 4:30 in the afternoon, how many people are going to chip away at that time? Your boss, your job, your work, your family, your other obligations that you might have. At 4:30 in the morning, all those people are asleep, so you can do whatever you want.”
The other benefit is “straight-up self-discipline,” he said. “It’s not fun to get out of bed early in the morning. When the alarm goes off, it doesn’t sing you a song, it hits you in the head with a baseball bat. So how do you respond to that? Do you crawl underneath your covers and hide? Or do you get up, get aggressive, and attack the day?”
Willink has an intense workout regimen done in his home gym, full of heavy-duty equipment, but it doesn’t matter if you put up heavy iron, go for a run, or even go surfing, he said. Whatever gets you out of bed and moving.
Babin added that he and Willink are on the road a lot for Echelon Front, and sometimes the hotel gym isn’t up their usual standards for their morning workout, or there isn’t even a gym. That’s fine.
“You don’t need any of that stuff,” Babin said. “You can just crank out a workout in your room. Do burpees until you puke in the trash can.”
“It’s really hard to guarantee things in life,” Willink said. “I guarantee if you get up in the morning and you work out and you work hard, you will have a better day — 100% guaranteed.”
You can watch the full interview below.