This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Can't Hurt Me" by David Goggins. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What were David Goggins’ health issues? How did they impact his training and ambitions?
David Goggins’ health issues often came during times when he was trying to push his body to the limit. As he got older, David Goggins had to readjust his outlook on health and training.
Read more about David Goggins’ health issues below.
David Goggins’ Health Issues During Hell Week
Goggins needed to survive grueling training to become a SEAL. During one of the training periods, called Hell Week, the recruits are broken into teams and subjected to hours of physically demanding tasks, such as running miles in the sand, running holding logs or boats overhead, and standing in the cold ocean. Two-thirds of recruits drop out of the program during this week.
Goggins contracted pneumonia in both lungs and needed time to recuperate. By the time he’d recovered enough to resume training, he’d missed enough training that he’d need to start Hell Week from the beginning.
Leaving SEAL Training
In addition to the double pneumonia Goggins developed during his first round of Hell Week, he developed a severe knee injury. Though he wanted to continue training, the injury—a broken kneecap—wasn’t healing quickly enough, so he went home to Indianapolis to recover.
Because it was only an injury, he’d be allowed to return, but he’d be required to do Hell Week training for a third time. And if he survived, he’d need to train for another 6 months to become a SEAL. David Goggins’ health issues were serious, but weren’t going to stop him.
While he spent time recovering, he learned that he would be becoming a father with his ex-wife, whom he had recently divorced. He felt unready and unsure of how to meld his life in Indiana with training to become a SEAL in California.
Though he considered quitting, he thought it would be a bigger failure to give up SEAL training than to try one more time and fail.
He decided to continue with training, remarry his wife, and move with her and his stepdaughter to California while he attempted to complete the training.
David Goggins’ Health Issues Later in Life
By age 38, Goggins had accomplished some impressive physical feats, but he started suffering health issues. He worked to find a solution, and later, retired from the Navy and pursued a new career.
Feeling Close to Death
David Goggins’ health issues worsened. His health worsened in the pursuit of new challenges—running on broken legs, a knee injury—yet he always kept pushing himself. Eventually, he couldn’t keep pushing through his pain.
He felt fatigued all the time, no matter what exercise he tried. Doctors ran tests but discovered nothing except slightly suboptimal thyroid levels, which is common for elite athletes. They prescribed him medications that hardly improved his condition.
He wondered if he was close to death, having pushed himself past the point of no return. Yet he didn’t feel regretful; he felt content. All those years, he pushed himself to greatness so that he wouldn’t be defined by his negative past experiences. For the first time in recent memory, he recognized that his accomplishments took extreme hard work, which he was proud of, and he didn’t care if he ran again, lived, or died.
Goggins learned two things from reflecting on reaching his goals:
- He realized he’d always judged himself harshly because he worried he wouldn’t amount to anything or contribute to the world. And he judged people around him and got angry if they didn’t work as hard as he did. It damaged some of his relationships and opportunities. Once he realized this, he stopped judging himself and others.
- He recognized that all of the people that had harmed him—by being racist or doubting him—shaped him into who he became. This made him feel appreciative and at peace.
David Goggins’ health issues were consistent over his life, but he was able to adjust to ensure he was taking care of himself.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Can't Hurt Me summary :
- What a Navy SEAL says about pushing yourself to achieve greatness
- How to put in more effort to realize your potential
- The 10 challenges you can take on to reach your goals