David Goggins: The Today Show Pull-up Failure

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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Why was David Goggins on The Today Show? What was it like to fail so publicly?

In his book Can’t Hurt Me, David Goggins discusses his The Today Show experience. David Goggins’ The Today Show experience explains how he learned lessons from failure and what they meant.

Read more about David Goggins, The Today Show, and his failed attempt to break the pull up record.

David Goggins’ The Today Show Experience

Goggins wasn’t content to be known just for his Navy career and ultra races. Though he needed to take a break from ultra races due to dizzy spells, he realized that he did a lot of pull-ups as part of his regular training and wondered if he could break the world record for number of pull-ups in 24 hours. The record at the time was 4,020 pull-ups, which was held by Stephen Hyland. While doing pull-ups, he could take breaks and avoid the dizziness brought on by running. 

Goggins reached out to the same organization he raised money for through his ultra running to ask if they’d accept fundraising from this event. Then, a friend of his booked him a spot to attempt to break the record on The Today Show.

To train for this appearance, he ramped up his pull-up regimen—400 pull-ups each weekday and 1,500 on weekend days.

First Attempt: The Today Show

David Goggins’ The Today Show experience had several issues. When the big day came, Goggins immediately encountered several issues:

  • The television studio was filled with bright lights, and interacting with the hosts and people passing by the studio required him to be more social than he preferred.
  • The bar had more give than he was used to. This forced him to use more power with each pull-up, wearing him out faster than he expected.
  • He wasn’t getting enough calories. Though he was sipping a carbohydrate drink all day, he wasn’t getting any protein. He ended up ordering a cheeseburger, but he still wasn’t able to avoid severe fatigue.

After doing 2,500 pull-ups, he decided to quit. Though he felt disappointed to have failed in front of a large audience, he realized he had a chance of succeeding if he tweaked his approach and tried again.

He evaluated what went well and what needed to be improved. For his second attempt, he decided to use a venue that was more private, eat better so his muscles didn’t get fatigued as readily, use gymnastic chalk and tape, and get a sturdier pull-up bar.

David Goggins: The Today Show Pull-up Failure

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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

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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