There are many books on fitness and sports written by incredible athletes filled with Instagrammable motivational quotes to get your adrenaline rushing and galvanize you to chase your dreams, but Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by American ultramarathon runner David Goggins is not one of them. Instead, it tells a gritty story of a regular person who learns to embrace failure and pain as a way toward self-improvement.

Goggins was dealt a bad hand in life. While Goggins was born into a relatively wealthy home, his father had alcohol use disorder and was physically and mentally abusive. To escape the violent home situation, Goggins’ mother took him to live in her hometown of Brazil, Indiana, where he experienced poverty and racism.

His classmates called him slurs and even vandalized his car in high school with radically charged death threats. He struggled academically in every subject and had low self-esteem as he never fit in at school. 

After graduating from high school, Goggins tried out for Air Force Special Operations but left during the swim phase due to his fear of water. When he was in his early twenties, Goggins was in a rut — working as a fumigator and obese at almost 300 pounds. He had no hope and felt that all of his critics were right.

It was at that point that something needed to change. He began an incredible weight loss journey, losing 106 pounds in three months to enlist in the US Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) division to attempt SEAL training, one of the hardest selection courses in the world. Due to injuries, Goggins had to attempt the course three times before being successful.

In 2005, after losing several of his friends in a botched SEAL mission, Goggins took up ultramarathon running to raise money for the families. Goggins eventually trained to be one of the top endurance athletes in the world. 

Goggins’ tale is extraordinary in its relatability. Most of us can identify with the themes of each of his obstacles. Like you and me, he was a regular person with everyday problems. 

We can all relate to feeling insecure at school, fear controlling our lives, being treated unfairly, low self-esteem, or even a life where money couldn’t solve all our issues. Goggins had every reason to give up in life but never used these experiences as a reason to hold him back. Rather than blame the world and things he had no control over, he embraced the pain and used it as motivation to keep going. 

He realized that in order to change, he had to do all the work, as nobody was going to do it for him.

The message of Can’t Hurt Me is not an empty promise that you will be successful if you follow a certain formula; rather, the message is that in order to live the life you want, the only person who can help you is yourself.