Extreme Ownership - Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme Ownership - Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes

Extreme Ownership

“The idea for this book was born from the realization that the principles critical for SEAL success on the battlefield—how SEALs train and prepare their leaders, how they mold and develop high-performance teams, and how they lead combat—are directly applicable to success in any group, organization, corporation, business, and, to a broader degree, life."

"This book provides the reader with our formula for success: the mind-set and guiding principles that enable SEAL leaders and combat units to achieve extraordinary results. It demonstrates how to apply these directly in business and life to likewise achieve victory.”

The Navy SEAL approach to leadership..

Jocko and Leif were two of the most senior leaders in some of the most intense battles of Iraq 

This book is filled with their stories and how they were able to lead their team to win those battles..

Plus some great action points that we can input into our lives!  Whether it's leading teams, businesses or ourselves..

The most important part of that quote above..

This book is not about how SEALs choose their leaders necessarily..  

It's about how they train and mould them!

Letting us know that even if we're not 'a born leader' this book is going to teach us how to become one.


“I explained that as the officer in charge of training for the West Coast SEAL Teams, we put SEAL units through highly demanding scenarios to get them ready for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan."

"When SEAL leaders were placed in worst-case-scenario training situations, it was almost always the leaders’ attitudes that determined whether their SEAL units would ultimately succeed or fail. We knew how hard the training missions were because we had designed them."

"In virtually every case, the SEAL troops and platoons that didn’t perform well had leaders who blamed everyone and everything else—their troops, their subordinate leaders, or the scenario. They blamed the SEAL training instructor staff; they blamed inadequate equipment or the experience level of their men. They refused to accept responsibility. Poor performance and mission failure were the result."

"The best-performing SEAL units had leaders who accepted responsibility for everything. Every mistake, every failure or shortfall—those leaders would own it. During the debrief after a training mission, those good SEAL leaders took ownership of failures, sought guidance on how to improve, and figured out a way to overcome challenges on the next iteration. The best leaders checked their egos, accepted blame, sought out constructive criticism, and took detailed notes for improvement. They exhibited Extreme Ownership, and as a result, their SEAL platoons and task units dominated.”

Extreme Ownership is taking responsibility for everything..

This is a great example of fixed vs growth mindset..

  • Carol Dweck tells us that there are two possible mindsets
  • Fixed mindset is where you (or your teams) level of ability is fixed..  The 'blaming leaders' would fall into this category!
  • Growth mindset is where you (or your teams) level of ability is changeable..  The 'winning leaders' would fall into this category..  

They aren't afraid to accept responsibility..  

In part because they know that's how they will learn and become better!

No wonder they are the winners

Think about your life..

  • When things don't go well what do you do?
  • Are you blaming other people or circumstances?
  • Why are you doing that?

Now that you know the winners accept responsibility you have no excuse..  Other than to save face!

That's a reaction of the ego..  One we need to eliminate!

Before becoming a personal trainer I lost over 40 lbs and put on a tonne of muscle..

  • But before I could lose any of that weight I had to do one thing..  Accept responsibility! 
  • When I was fat I would blame it on almost anything..  My genetics, bad food in the house or almost anything else!
  • Because I was afraid to look in the mirror and say this is my responsibility..  Now what?

No Bad Teams

“It was a shocking turn of events. Boat Crew VI, the same team in the same circumstances only under new leadership, went from the worst boat crew in the class to the best." 

"Gone was their cursing and frustration. And gone too was the constant scrutiny and individual attention they had received from the SEAL instructor staff. Had I not witnessed this amazing transformation, I might have doubted it."

"But it was a glaring, undeniable example of one of the most fundamental and important truths at the heart of Extreme Ownership: there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.”

This comes from a story of when Leif supervised a Hell Week..  

 “Hell Week is not a fitness test. While it did require some athletic ability, every student that survived the weeks of BUD/S training prior to Hell Week had already demonstrated adequate fitness to graduate. It was not a physical test but a mental one.”

The Story

  • Students were split into boat crews and had to carry boats weighing over 200 lbs for miles..  Then take them out into the ocean and bring them back in.. Brutal!
  • The worst part is that it's a competition..  and if your team loses you have to go through extra work!  While the winners get to take the next round off..  
  • Well team II was winning every race and team VI was losing..

Team II worked together flawlessly

Team VI was blaming eachother

So what did Leif do?  He switched the leaders of each team..

What do you think happened next?

Well..  The worst boat crew suddenly became the best!

No bad teams.. Only bad leaders!

Truly Believe

“In order to convince and inspire others to follow and accomplish a mission, a leader must be a true believer in the mission." 

"Even when others doubt and question the amount of risk, asking, ‘Is it worth it?’ the leader must believe in the greater cause. If a leader does not believe, he or she will not take the risks required to overcome the inevitable challenges necessary to win. And they will not be able to convince others—especially the frontline troops who must execute the mission—to do so."

"Leaders must always operate with the understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their own personal interests. They must impart this understanding to their teams down to the tactical-level operators on the ground. Far more important than training or equipment, a resolute belief in the mission is critical for any team or organization to win and achieve big results.”

Do you truly believe in your mission?

Think about your most important project right now..

  • First think about if you truly believe this mission is worthwhile and that by accomplishing it you are a part of something greater..  
  • Second think about if you have absolute belief that you (and your team) can accomplish this mission!

No matter what the circumstances..  Those two beliefs are what is going to make the difference!

  • As they say in the book..  Even with less equipment or less training.  The team with a leader who BELIEVES above all else will prevail..
  • This goes double for people leading an online audience..  Imagine if I had given up doing these Mind Maps for you..  Imagine I didn't have a belief that Mind Mapping is a more effective way to convey information!  

Let's talk about John who is one of my coaching clients..

  • John has an online information business..  It's great! (I won't share the details because I hadn't asked permission)
  • But he was struggling to build an audience and told me that 'there just might not be a market for this' 
  • Well..  I could see that this was simply a limiting belief!  After all I loved his course and it was obvious to me other people would too!

So we dove in..  Searched his top keywords in every search engine imaginable!  What were we looking for?  Not for 'no competition' but instead for competition!  We wanted to make sure someone is out here making money in his 'niche' and guess what?  We found some!

That helped John see that it was possible!  And he even came up with a few ideas on how he could partner and market with some of his 'competition' ..  

I think this is an amazing example of someone taking responsibility for themselves and their cause!  But first..  He needed belief!

Make a Call

“On the battlefield, countless problems compound in a snowball effect, every challenge complex in its own right, each demanding attention. But a leader must remain calm and make the best decisions possible. To do this, SEAL combat leaders utilize Prioritize and Execute. We verbalize this principle with this direction: ‘Relax, look around, make a call.’"

"Even the most competent of leaders can be overwhelmed if they try to tackle multiple problems or a number of tasks simultaneously. The team will likely fail at each of those tasks. Instead, leaders must determine the highest priority task and execute. When overwhelmed, fall back upon this principle: Prioritize and Execute.”

The battlefield is a good parallel to life here..

How many of us feel that snowball effect of countless problems?

  • I know at certain points in my life I have..
  • And it can feel overwhelming!

This point right here is extremely helpful..  And it's perfect for us because we talk about 'action bias' so much on this channel!

  • What do SEALs do when they feel overwhelmed by problems?
  • They stop..  Relax, look around and make a call!

More specifically they look at what's most important and highest priority..

  • Then they ONLY do that one thing..  
  • Because as we all know multitasking is a recipe for failure!
  • Prioritize and Execute


“Discipline starts every day when the first alarm clock goes off in the morning."  

"I say ‘first alarm clock’ because I have three, as I was taught by one of the most feared and respected instructors in SEAL training: one electric, one battery powered, one windup. That way, there is no excuse for not getting out of bed, especially with all that rests on that decisive moment."

"The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win—you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail."

"Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions. But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.”

This is from a chapter called Discipline Equals Freedom..  Which since the book has come out has probably been the most quoted part of the book!

People are resonating with this simple little thing..  

  • Getting up when the alarm clock goes off!
  • But why do people love that so much?

They realize that "Discipline Equals Freedom" really rings true..

  • Jocko talks a lot about how when we have discipline we actually end up having more freedom and flexibility..
  • When we have the discipline to exercise we have more freedom and flexibility to move..
  • When we have the discipline to wake up early we have more freedom and flexibility with what we do in the day..

The alarm clock is a good 'attention set' for having discipline throughout the day..

  • I've found that how I start my day is how my day usually goes..
  • So if I wake up late and check social media first thing that's what my day will be like..
  • But if instead I wake up early and crack on one of these Mind Maps first thing I will accomplish so much more in a day..  That gives me a lot of freedom!


“While there is no guarantee of success in leadership, there is one thing that is certain: leading people is the most challenging and, therefore, the most gratifying undertaking of all human endeavors. So, with that humbling reward in the distance, embrace the burden of command and go forward onto your battlefield, in whatever arena that may be, with the disciplined resolve to take Extreme Ownership, lead, and win.”


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