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Jocko Willink: How to Become Resilient, Forge Identity & Lead Others | Huberman Lab Podcast #104


Check out the full podcast show notes: Jocko Willink: How to Become Resilient, Forge Your Identity & Lead Others


About The Podcast Host

Dr. Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab), Ph.D. is a Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine. His lab focuses on neural regeneration, neuroplasticity, and brain states such as stress, focus, fear, and optimal performance.


About The Podcast Guest

Jocko Willink (@jockowillink) is a retired Navy SEAL officer and author of multiple books on effective leadership and teamwork, self-discipline and mindset, and host of the Jocko Podcast.


Podcast Summary

Jocko and Andrew discuss how people can build and sculpt their identity and psychology through specific mindsets and actions and how to adapt the self to novel and challenging situations, using specific daily routines. They also discuss how “energy” actually stems from physical action and describe practical tools and scientific mechanisms for leveraging exercise, cold exposure, nutrition, fasting, hydration, sunlight, mindset and music to make us feel more energized. Jocko explains how discipline and specific daily routines allow for productivity and creativity. And they discuss the qualities of successful leaders, including how to build confidence and real bonds when working with a team or family/friends. Jocko describes a particularly powerful tool of using perspective shifts to allow for ‘detachment’ as a unique way to identify novel solutions to problems. Their conversation covers a wide range of topics, including mental health, physical health and performance, and provides actionable tools that anyone, regardless of age or profession, can apply to live a more effective and meaningful life.


Key Takeaways

  • The ultimate compensation for humans is to have control over their own destiny. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don't control what you're doing everyday, it's not worth it

  • Jocko realized that if he performed well, he actually got more freedom. Doing things right the first time saves additional time (don't have to redo tasks)

  • What I'm doing right now will impact where I will be in the future - either positively or negatively

  • People should focus more on movement and hydration - they would feel 2-4x more energy if they improved these areas of their life

  • Many highly accomplished athletes and high performers are unable to pass SEAL training because they are so accustomed to winning - resilience is imperative

  • The best way to deal with adversity is through taking action

  • You want to be the person who can modulate feelings (upbeat or downbeat)

  • All glory is fleeting

  • One reason that Jocko is so useful because many people lack a motivated friend or person that can help improve their daily habits or lives

  • Play, social connection, and sleep are the key components that help to restore balance

  • Jocko has seen so many friends that have been destroyed by alcohol. For this reason, he doesn't drink much

  • Jocko does not rely on motivation, it is an emotion that comes and goes, Instead, Jocko simply relies on daily habits that he knows he must accomplish

  • “There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.” ― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings.

  • You don't solve problems by running away from them, you solve problems by running towards them

  • One must be able to detach and look impartially at their life and make informed decisions about next steps

  • Must be able to see the bigger picture

  • In order to detach oneself from a scenario: Physically change body position/perspective, slow down the breath, make some physical space


Podcast Intro

  • After Andrew Huberman was featured as a guest on The Jocko Podcast, both Jocko and Andrew recognized the significant overlap in tool and approaches both recommended

  • In this podcast, Andrew and Jocko discuss tools for generating more physical energy, focus and cognitive energy, dealing with lack of motivation, dealing with challenging relationships, thinking about and navigating the self , and the underlying scientific mechanisms behind each tool and technique

  • Ultimately, these tools will help us to navigate and improve mental and physical health in all aspects of life

  • "If you had to draw a Navy SEAL, you would draw Jocko"


Sense of Self

  • Developing a sense of self is the first time we realize the things that interest us

  • For Jocko, discovering himself was a gradual process

  • Developing our sense of self is partially the realization that we can have some form of impact on the world - cause and effect


Two Kinds of People

  • The world needs both type of people

  • Generators: at a young age, people realize they can impact others

  • Projectors: reflect on what they see


Personality Types in the Armed Forces

  • When you join the military, you get a blank slate

  • If you perform well, you will get recognition and additional opportunities

  • The ultimate compensation for humans is to have control over their own destiny. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don't control what you're doing everyday, it's not worth it

  • Jocko realized that if he performed well, he actually got more freedom. Doing things right the first time saves additional time (don't have to redo tasks)

  • What I'm doing right now will impact where I will be in the future

  • The actions that I take now will either positively or negatively impact my future


Mindsets in the military

  • What type of people join the military? Jocko recommends reading The Psychology of Military Incompetence by Norman F Dixon

  • When looking at it from the outside, the military looks very simple. As one gains additional rank, they command respect and leadership

  • However, in reality, the military is not so simple

  • Due to the ability to command others, the military attracts many people with an authoritarian mindset - they want to give orders

  • In non-combat, orderly situations, people with authoritarian mindset perform well

  • However, in live combat, those who do well are those who can think on their feet and adapt

  • Different branches of military attract different personalities

  • Why SEALS are so effective - Historically, naval warfare was conducted in international waters. This meant that there was no room to retreat. Consequently, people needed to be able to take command - leading to decentralized chain of command

  • In the army, there is documentation and best practices on how to approach situations

  • The SEALS do not have documentation and indoctrination


Daily Workouts & Discipline

  • What is the balance between structure and lack of structure?

  • Jocko wakes up at 4:30am and immediately exercises

  • Sometimes Jocko's workouts are eight minutes, sometimes he spends two hours in the gym

  • We all start with genetic predispositions that allow us to be either good or bad at some activity (deadlifting vs sprinting vs swimming)

  • Jocko always writes down his exercises so that he can track his progress


Exercise & Energy, Cold Exposure

  • Jocko does not think much about waking up - he simply takes action

  • It is almost always guaranteed that you will feel better after exercising

  • Blanket rule: once every 24 hours, we get a spike in cortisol. Optimally, this should occur early in the day, and coincide with some form of exercise

  • We recently wrote an article that covers the optimal use of caffeine and sunlight for a morning routine

  • Eating after exercise - for Andrew and Jocko, they don't like to do physical activity with a full stomach, but this could vary from person to person

  • There is some level of mental clarity from not eating

  • People are so drawn to Jocko's message because he talks so succinctly about energy, particularly cognitive focus and energy

  • Neural energy is really the focus - much of the world thinks differently about how many calories we truly need

  • People should focus more on movement and hydration - they would feel 2-4x more energy if they improved these areas of their life

  • If you do 100 burpees, you are creating energy

  • If you can master identity and energy, you can live a better life

  • Andrew had an amazing workout doing rucking with Peter Attia. It sucks for the first few minutes, but then feels automatic

  • Jocko does cold water exposure, usually 5 minutes after he trains

  • Many athletes are so good at what they do because they know when to train, and when to relax - recovery is key

  • For Dr. Huberman, the main benefits of deliberate cold exposure are the spike in dopamine and the sense of resilience we develop over time


Win vs. Loss Mindset, Leadership, Action & Energy

  • There is a theory in biology that winning makes us want to win more - primarily driven by the release of dopamine

  • When we win, we feel like we can keep going

  • For many people, a loss can have a negative impact on motivation and drive

  • Training to become a Navy SEAL is self selecting - they will find weaknesses and apply pressure there. One must be able to be comfortable with losing and adapt

  • Many highly accomplished athletes and high performers are unable to pass SEAL training because they are so accustomed to winning - resilience is imperative

  • Leaders of all organizations are in charge of a mob. Leaders must detach mentally from mob mentality

  • If a leader gets caught up in emotion, they will be unable to lead effectively

  • Leaders should always seek to improve - even if their team is victorious

  • The best way to deal with adversity is through taking action

  • Do not dwell on losses - review what could have been improved and take action


How to reclaim energy

  • We must moderate our energy levels - we don't want the candle to burn too hot or too low

  • In Eastern philosophy, Qi (energy) must be preserved

  • One time Andrew ended up at Tony Hawk's childhood home. Tony's room was not filled with awards. Being humble could be a good explanation for Tony's likable persona, and his ability to continue skateboarding well into his 50's


Confidence, Generators vs. Projectors, Family

  • If I win a competition, my dopamine goes up. If I lose, my dopamine and confidence decreases

  • Imperative to maintain baseline level of confidence

  • People who are on cocaine typically exhibit overconfidence, driven by an increase in dopamine. On the other hand, people on downers might exhibit a lack of motivation and drive

  • Leaders cannot get wrapped up in the emotion, they must balance

  • The candle must be a steady flame, don't burn too high or too low

  • Generators (65% of population) are more attuned to energy levels

  • Projectors (35% of population) enjoy collaborating with generators

  • Some people are happy passively observing, while others need to be actively involved


Family

  • As a leader or parent, how do we teach our children to maintain their energy?

  • You may have lost this week, but let's not get too downtrodden. Let's look forward to next week

  • You want to be the person who can modulate feelings (upbeat or downbeat) - Be the counterweight of emotions that others have

  • All glory is fleeting

  • However, people must also take a moment to count their blessings

  • We must find balance in ourselves and others

  • One reason that Jocko is so useful because many people lack a motivated friend or person that can help improve their daily habits or lives


Restoring Motivation: Social Connection & Play

  • Sleep is a key component in restoring equilibrium

  • Play, social connection, and sleep are the key components that help to restore balance

  • Jocko uses the camaraderie of Jiu Jitsu to refill the tank


Self-Identity & Context, Alcohol, Music, Dopamine

  • Dr. Huberman "once you start having more than two drinks a week, there are negative health impacts"

  • Jocko didn't drink much as a teenager. When he was a Navy SEAL, his alcohol consumption increased. After retiring from the SEALS, Jocko doesn't drink much

  • Jocko has a great sense of context and self

  • When he was younger in the SEALS, he would go out and drink with his friends

  • Jocko is able to maintain his sense of self in multiple different contexts

  • Many people either have no sense of self, or their sense of self is very rigid

  • Jocko has seen so many friends that have been destroyed by alcohol. For this reason, he doesn't drink much

  • It is just not worth the dice roll to start drinking

  • People are starting to recognize the negative impacts from alcohol

  • Jocko developed a strong sense of self from the hardcore music that he listened to

  • When Jocko heard hardcore music for the first time, he immediately knew it was the right music for him

  • Jocko learned tone okay as an outsider and doing things differently

  • As an outsider, Jocko felt comfortable pushing back on orders or things that didn't seem right to him

  • If we think back far enough, we can identify a time or event when we really become aware of ourselves as individuals

  • There are certain individuals that are simply different and need to discover their own values


Motivation Sources & Recovering from Loss

  • What motivates Jocko?

  • Jocko does not rely on motivation, it is an emotion that comes and goes, Instead, Jocko simply relies on daily habits that he knows he must accomplish

  • One of Jocko's friends passed away unexpectedly in a parachute accident

  • When discussing friends who have passed away, Jocko said "we will not fail them"


Suicide, Navy SEALs, Social Contagion

  • Scientists cannot find an answer to what causes people to attempt suicide

  • Jocko has been surprised by people who commit suicide

  • Something happens to many SEALS that causes them to become different people. Things like explosions and trauma impact people in different ways

  • Something is happening either mechanically or chemically that is causing people to end their lives

  • At some point, people with repeated brain injuries change

  • Jocko is nervous about the social contagion of suicide in the veteran community

  • Prior to ending their lives, many people who commit suicide tend to have messed up sleep schedules and little contact with other people

  • There are universal laws of health that should be adhered to in order to stave off negative thought loops (sleep, nutrition, etc)

  • If someone is self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, that is a sign that they need help

  • Positive action in itself is a source of energy

  • “There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.” ― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings.

  • You don't solve problems by running away from them, you solve problems by running towards them

  • Indirect vs direct approach to solving conflict - Jocko prefers indirect approach


Meditation, Detachment

  • Two basic forms of meditation (for more information on how meditation works, check out our recent post How Meditation Works & Science-Based Meditation Tools)

  • Focused meditation: Focus on an individual sound or object

  • Open Monitoring Meditation: Do not hover on particular thoughts for too long

  • Jocko has never formally meditated, but he does think it is important to detach from situations and emotions


Adaptability & Opportunities, Navy SEALs

  • SEALS are particularly adept at adapting and solving issues

  • Some people are more adaptable than others

  • Navy SEALs cannot be placed into one archetype

  • Why are some SEALS more successful than others?

  • Some people are able to manipulate systems and information to their own advantage

  • Some people are only successful at checking boxes and following a set path

  • In real life, there are no clear boxes to check

  • Some people don't have an open mind to see opportunities


Ambition & Love, Likeability, Leadership

  • People who are adaptable must tap into the feeling of love for things, people, and experiences

  • Rick Rubin meditation allows us to tap into "the source"

  • By liking what we are doing or who we are working for we are able to have better outcomes

  • How do I identify people that can execute?

  • Some people are good at execution, but bad at idea generation

  • A successful team should consist of people with complementary skill sets

  • Leaders must find the roles that are the best fit for people

  • Liking your job is critical to performing well

  • Everyone has a certain place on a team or in a community


Building Teams, Detachment, Family

  • One must be able to detach and look impartially at their life and make informed decisions about next steps

  • Must be able to see the bigger picture

  • On helping people through challenging times: Jocko sees a temporary storm cloud, whereas the person only sees darkness

  • You just have to help people get out of their own head and take action to move forward

  • It is much easier said than done to help people detach and see the big picture

  • People get caught up in their own thoughts and competition

  • Andrew and Jocko might see that Lex Fridman releases a new podcast that got a bunch of attention and feel jealous. Meanwhile, there are other people who don't even know what a podcast is - it is all about the context

  • When facing a problem in life, you must recognize that it is temporary and can be overcome

  • We can all learn how to detach ourselves from our own problems and lives - not all problems can be solved

  • Know thyself

  • Understand what is important and what is not

  • Is this important or not?

  • Is this solvable or not?

  • What is the ROI for solving this?

  • Detachment is a superpower


Tools: Strategies to Detach from Situation

  • Jocko was an oil rig conducting a training exercise. For 30+ seconds, nobody provided orders. Jocko took a step back to survey the situation and expanded his point of view

  • As a young guy, Jocko was not in a position to give a command. But he knew the right thing to do and gave the command

  • Jocko broadened his range of vision - it allowed him to de-escalate a situation

  • Physically change the perspective, slow down the breath, make some physical space

  • Actively listen to what people are saying

  • When we take a step back, we are able to see more options

  • Things are happening at all scales at all times

  • Problem solving nature of people makes us shortsighted


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