The Can’t Hurt Me Challenge: 10 Missions from David Goggins to Callous the Mind

Eli Promisel
6 min readJan 3, 2019

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds is a memoir written by retired US Navy SEAL and former US Air Force TACP member, David Goggins. In addition to his service to his country, David is an ultra-marathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete and former world record holder for the most pull-ups done in 24 hours.

Goggins’s intention in this book is to tell the origin story of a hero and the hero is YOU, the reader. You are taken on a solo mission to free your mind of the victim’s mentality and develop ownership of all aspects of your life. This is done by building a foundation of a hardened, or calloused, mind. Ultimately, you will be better at everything you do, while having a greater impact on the world around you.

Throughout the book, Goggins challenges his readers to toughen up, push themselves beyond their perceived capabilities, and be uncommon amongst uncommon people, through various challenges. The challenges have been briefly outlined below.

If you haven’t already read (or listened, HIGHLY recommend) the book, check it out on Amazon or Audible before trying to pursue the challenges.

There are NO shortcuts

Challenge #1: Inventory of Excuses

Task: Write out a list of what is challenging you today. What problems and limitations do you encounter? What excuses are you making? Don’t hold back. Don’t be nice to yourself.

Mission: This list of excuses will fuel your future success.

Challenge #2: Accountability Mirror

Task: Write all your insecurities, dreams, and goals on Post-Its and put them on the mirror you look at every morning. You will use this accountability mirror to remind yourself of your mission each morning.

Mission: If you are trying to lose weight, your first Post-It may be to lose two pounds in the first week.Once that goal is achieved, remove the note and post the next goal of two to five pounds until your ultimate goal is realized.

If you look into the mirror and see someone who is obviously overweight, that means you’re fucking fat!

Challenge #3: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Task: Write in your journal all of the things you don’t like to do and the things that make you feel uncomfortable. Do one of them every day.

Mission: Do something that sucks every day, slowly creating a more productive, can-do mentality when encountering stressful situations. This is how you callous your mind.

Challenge #4: Taking Souls

Task: Identify a competitive situation. Who are you competing against? Earn their respect with excellence. Work harder than you’ve ever worked before. Crush their standards. Take their negativity and use it dominate their task with everything you’ve got.

Mission: Have your doubters watch you achieve something they could have never even done themselves. Have them see how INCREDIBLE you are.

Take their motherfucking soul!

Challenge #5: Visualize Your Goals

Task: Choose any challenge, or set a new goal, and visualize achieving it. Imagine what this success will look and feel like. Also, visualize the obstacles you will encounter along the way. Incorporate visualization into your daily encounter with your accountability mirror.

Mission: Accomplish something you previously thought was impossible, and understand why you are pushing yourself towards certain goals.

Challenge #6: The Cookie Jar

Task: Write down all of your life obstacles, including minor failures, that you turned into successes. Feel what it was like to overcome those struggles, those opponents, and win. Then get to work!

End Goal: The point is to remember what you were once capable of doing and channeling that energy to succeed again!

Challenge #7: Remove the Governor

Task: Gradually increase your physical and/or mental exercise sets. You should push yourself slightly past your perceived maximum ability in order to slowly break through your self-imposed ceilings.

Gradually ramp up your workouts 5–10% each set. Push yourself to the point where you are so exhausted and in pain that your mind is begging you to stop. If you do 100 pushups today, do 105 or 110 tomorrow.

End Goal: By continually pushing yourself past your perceived limits, you will develop a new inner dialogue and confidence when encountering difficult physical challenges, allowing you to go beyond what you thought was previously possible.

Challenge #8: Scheduling

Task: 3 week challenge.

Week 1: Take notes on your daily routines and habits. How often are you on your phone or watching TV? How long do you take to eat and commute to work?

Week 2: Build a schedule to optimize your time. Use 15–30 minute block intervals. When you work, only focus on one thing at a time.

Week 3: Your schedule should be optimized!

End Goal: Stop wasting time. Maximize your effort in what you do every day without sacrificing sleep.

Challenge #9: Be Uncommon Amongst Uncommon

Task: Do whatever you have to do to stand out amongst the people around you. If the people around you are already the cream of the crop, do what you have to do to be #1.

End Goal: Sustain greatness for a long period of time.

Challenge #10: After Action Reports

Task: Write out all of your failures. Note everything positive that came from your failures. Describe how you handled your failures. Go back through and make a list of the things you can fix. This is your After Action Report (AAR). Go to your calendar and schedule in time to give it another attempt, ASAP.

End Goal: Change your mindset about failure. When you fail at something, file an AAR. The AAR will help you dissect what you did right and wrong in order to figure out how you’ll do it properly the next time!

As mentioned throughout the book, David ran long-distance running with the aim of raising money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a foundation that gives college scholarships and grants to the children of fallen special operations soldiers. To donate, click here.

*This post was written with the intent to help spread the message of David Goggins as portrayed in his book Can’t Hurt Me. There may be some material pulled directly from the book because I couldn’t have said it any better myself.*



Eli Promisel

Final Year World Bachelor in Business (WBB) Student at USC, HKUST, and Bocconi.