348 – Jocko Willink: How Having a Code to Live By Will Give You Strength

Jocko lost four of his closest friends in combat. He was overseas leading his SEAL unit.
And he found a way to bounce back. That’s not easy. So I wanted to know how he did it. So I can practice, too.

“I’ll tell you exactly what I did,” he said.

And he started to tell me about his “warrior code.”

This is what he teaches other veterans. And he writes about it in his books, too. Jocko’s the author of “Marc’s Mission: The Way of the Warrior Kid.” It’s a children’s book. He also wrote “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win.” And he hosts the popular podcast called “Jocko Podcast.”

I brought his new book to the studio with me. I wanted to comb through his own “Warrior Code” line by line. And have him teach me the principles.

Here’s what he taught me (about the “warrior code”) and about why it’s so important to write your own code and live by it:

1. CHOOSE YOUR MISSION

Rule #1: choose your mission.

We grow up getting assigned missions. From our parents, teachers, coaches, then our bosses.

Jocko got missions from the Navy. And then he gave missions too.

But when he came home, he was on his own.

I wanted to know how he found his next path in life.

“I focused on work. That’s what I did. And one of the biggest things I talk to veterans about is finding a new mission. When you’re in the military you at least have a broad mission. You know what your day to day job is.”

“What does it mean to find a new mission? What’s an example?” I said.

“A new job or being a dad or starting a business. If you don’t have something to fall into, you’re going to start to meander around.”

This is the #1 reason Jocko advocates veterans have a code. But it also applies to anyone who’s feeling lost or alone in the world.

“When you actually write your own code and hold yourself to that standard, and you say, ‘This is me,’ that has power,” Jocko said.

2. ASK QUESTIONS

The 2nd part of Jocko’s code (from the newest book) says: “The warrior kid studies to learn and gain knowledge and asks questions if he doesn’t understand.”

Okay. So there’s 2 parts to that.

Study to learn
And ask questions

I especially like the “asks questions” part.

Because asking questions is already integrated into the studying.

That’s the first benefit.

3. FIND YOUR INNER CONFIDENCE

This is NOT easy. Nobody starts out confident. And sometimes we do dumb things because of it.

Jocko told me he used to get into bar fights. “I realized it was stupid for me to be out at a bar proving to some drunk guy that I can beat him up. That’s a loser,” Jocko said.

“How did you figure that out?”

“I started studying Jiu Jitsu,” he said. “The more skilled someone is, the more confident someone is, the less aggressive they have to be. The less posturing they do. Because they have the confidence, they don’t need to posture.”

Skills = confidence… which leads to “find your interest.”

4. FIND WHAT YOU’RE INTERESTED IN

The number one email I get is “how can I find my passion.”

I wanted to ask Jocko his opinion. How someone can rekindle this muscle of finding and doing what you love?

Because there are a lot of people who’ve had the same job for the last 10, 20, 30 years. And they may have lost that muscle that helps them figure out what actually drives them.

“Dig into the world and see what’s out there,” he said. “I recommend picking up a book and going down the rabbit hole.”

5. WAKE UP EARLY, TRAIN HARD, EAT RIGHT

“You should wake up at the same time everyday. That’s the first step,” Jocko said.

Jocko wakes up at 4:30am everyday.

“Establish that routine and that pattern,” he said.

And this is what makes the next line in his code actually work. It says, “The warrior kid trains hard, eats right to be strong and fast and healthy.”

I wanted to add to this one.

“Train, eat right to be strong, fast, healthy and to be creative.”

Because all of these things are designed to give you energy.

And if you don’t have energy, you can’t do anything. You’re not going to be creative if you’re sick in bed. I think this is an important rule.

I told Jocko, “I don’t exercise that much, but I make sure I move enough.”

“When you exercise, how do you feel?” Jocko asked.

“Great,” I said.

“Well there you go.”

I should start moving more.

6. TREAT PEOPLE (EVEN BULLIES) WITH RESPECT

I want to give something away from the book.

In “Marc’s Mission,” the main character Marc, is being bullied. Marc’s Uncle asked him to observe the bully.

And then you really start to get a more holistic, 360 degree picture of what this bully might be like. Maybe he has problems in some other part of his life. So it manifests as a need for status at school.

That’s why Jocko says to give bullies respect, too. It allows you to see more clearly. r . And maybe see what their motivating force isSo you can make less reactive decisions. And operate more from a state of clarity.

“Yeah. 100%,” Jocko said, “And that’s true in war as well. We respect the enemy. And if you don’t try and learn about them then you’re gonna have a hard time dealing with them.”

Then he gave me an example.

He told me about a kid who would get paid to go launch rockets at American troops. They paid him $50. And since he didn’t have another option to make money, he’d do it.

Jocko’s SEAL team left the kid alone. He wasn’t the problem. They observed. And went to the local government instead.

Their solution solved the root problem. They gave the government resources to build a road. And this trickled down into giving the kids jobs. They’d shovel pavement or pour concrete.

“That’s the better solution,” Jocko said.

7. TEACH TO SUCCEED

Jocko told me about the “kill house”. It sounded terrifying.

“You’re maneuvering elements through a big building and you’re shooting targets and you’re handling hostages. It’s pretty chaotic,” Jocko said. “And you’re part of something called a ‘train’ which is a bunch of guys in a line.”

Jocko was in a corridor watching from the top. This was part of training. He looks down and sees Leif (former Navy SEAL) at the back of the train. He was in the wrong position. Jocko could’ve screamed down at him. He didn’t. Instead, he asked, “What are you doing back there? Can you guide the group from that position?”

“No,” Leif said.

But this is what he was taught. To be in the back. He didn’t know any different.

So Jocko kept asking questions. He was teaching to guide. He asked him what he thought he could do to help him guide the group.

“I could probably move up the train to see what’s going on,” Leif said.

Leif was changed his perspective. And not from some harsh teaching method. He figured it out himself. I never feel good when someone yells at me or tells me how to do something. It feels intrusive. It’s not learning. It’s scary. I like what Jocko did. He gave this other person respect and freedom of choice. He educated Leif. And Leif made the right choice.

“When you’re right about something you can get there eventually,” Jocko said. “But you don’t need to force it. If you can get the person to reveal to themselves, instead of you putting it in their head and forcing it and imposing it on him, you’re going to be infinitely better,” Jocko said.

—–

Every branch of the military has a code. Every sports team has a code. The Ten Commandments is a code people follow and live by. We have some level of codes as human beings.

I spent an hour with Jocko. I learned a lot. I have to admit, at first, I felt lame.

And it didn’t take long for me to stop feeling lame. Jocko Willink is a retired Navy SEAL. I’m a former chess master. I felt lame. But maybe if I followed his warrior code from the beginning (respect, have confidence in my skill, exercise), I wouldn’t have had to learn the hard way.

But maybe I like learning the hard way. (Maybe that’s how I’ll get to episode 600 someday.)

 

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  • Demetrius Smith

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  • This was a fantastic interview and I bought the book to read with my son after listening. I can’t believe how many of the issues we are working through he covered in the first few chapters. My son loves the book and it opened up some great conversation. Thank you