Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Will Melt Your Fucking Brain
One Line Summary
Two ex-Navy Seals share battle-tested secrets about leadership and success
Well, I officially never have anything to complain about ever again.
And it’s all thanks to this book: Extreme Ownership.
Extreme Ownership is a collection of real stories from two Navy Seals, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, about the Iraq War. These stories are not random war stories, they were specifically picked because they demonstrated invaluable lessons about leadership and success.
After each story, Jocko and Leif then relate how this story applies to business world. They own a consulting company named Eschelon Front that comes into business’s and teaches their leadership principles.
So if you want to learn how to lead and succeed like a Navy Seal, keep reading.
Why it’s Awesome
Let’s face it, most of us live pretty cushy lives.
We go to our nice white collar jobs, grab food from the grocery store and then come home to a safe home where we get to go to sleep in a soft bed.
I’m not saying you don’t have problems. But like John Mayer says, better put all those so-called “problems” and put them in quotations.
This book shoves that fact brutally in your face. And I love it for that.
I won’t repeat any of Jocko and Babin’s stories, but they include things like sleep deprivation, friendly-fire, teammates dying and people generally trying to kill you at all times.
Not theoretically trying to kill you. ACTUALLY KILL YOU.
So yeah, we’ve got it pretty good. A nice reminder.
But of course that’s not the explicit purpose of the book. The purpose is to teach you about leadership and business. And there’s plenty of that too.
Here are some of the best lessons:
The principle that grounds everything else and which the book is titled after.
What is extreme ownership? It’s essentially taking 100% full responsibility for everything in your life.
Hmm, where have I heard that before…
For Jocko, this meant that any mission failure occurred because of him. The mantra “there are no bad teams, only bad leaders” is used repeatedly to drive this point home.
Just as employees like to blame the boss, sometimes the boss also likes to blame employees. Not competent enough, unmotivated, etc.
But what Jocko shows you is that none of that truly matters if you’re the boss.
Your team, your failure.
Why? Because at the end of the day, this is the mindset that gets results.
You could split hairs about whether it’s fair or completely true. But that’s ultimately just going to take you away from getting the job done.
Jocko also explains that this attitude will become contagious in your organization. Imagine if everyone on your team took full responsibility for the success of that team instead of blaming others.
It can become part of your culture, just like it is for the Navy Seals.
But it always starts with you.
The paradox of the Navy Seals and extreme ownership is that they also practice what is called decentralized command.
This means that individuals within the team are given leadership roles. They are allowed autonomy and do not have to ask to execute every single action.
This allows them to be responsive and in the moment, instead of having to always defer to an authority.
There are limits of course. But generally speaking, the Navy Seals operate essentially as a team full of leaders.
Lead From Above And Below
The Navy Seals are not just expected to lead down the chain of command.
They’re also expected to lead up the chain.
What does this mean? It means that if you’re an employee, you are expected to lead your employer.
This doesn’t mean taking over their job. There is an art of leading up the chain as Leif explains.
It’s a different game, but equally important. And of course it follows from taking extreme ownership.
Understand Your Why
Understanding your “why” has almost become a cliché if you’re into self-development. But its simplicity can make people over look it.
For the Navy Seals, it’s important that everyone executing the mission fully understand not only why the mission is being run, but why the mission is a certain way.
“Why” generates emotional investment.
When people truly understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and connect with it, they can throw their full weight behind it.
Ask yourself: does everyone on my team understand why we’re going after that goal?
Why Does It Suck
There’s some political and ethical opinions about war and government you’d do best to not take at face value. Jocko and Leif are Navy Seals, so of course they have their biases about the Iraq war and things of that nature. Just be aware of that as you read.
The Wrap Up
Must read book for leaders. It’s not overly complex and the stories in this book really drive these lessons home in your mind.
If you’re a CEO or someone in a business leadership position, that goes double for you. Because they’re not only going to show you how to lead, but how to lead in the context of business.