Lessons on personal responsibility, leadership, and how to take extreme ownership of your life.

Retired Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin led military units in Iraq which are often described as the most successful units to serve in the war. Today, they use their leadership skills to help others, including sharing important lessons in their book, Extreme Ownership.

Here are three takeaways from the book.

What is “Extreme Ownership”

Willink and Babin make a compelling case that the most important attribute of leadership is taking extreme ownership of everything that impacts your mission. You must own your mistakes and take responsibility for mistakes made by your subordinates.

You must “cast no blame [and] make no excuses.”

If something needs to be done, do it. If a subordinate isn’t performing, take it upon yourself to fix the problem–either lead that person to perform or find someone else to fill the role.

The “Laws of Combat”

When in a tough spot it is important to “Relax. Look around. And make a call.”

This isn’t easy, but following the four Laws of Combat can make it easier: (1) Cover and Move; (2) Simple; (3) Prioritize and Execute; and (4) Decentralized Command.

The authors cover each of those in detail using a real-world story from the battlefield and then a real-world story of how to apply it in a business setting.

My favorite was “Simple.”

You’ll have a greater chance of success if you simplify things as much as possible. This is true for several reasons. First, it is easier to explain simple plans to your team, which means they are more likely to understand them. Second, since most people take the path of least resistance, you increase your odds of them following your plans if they are simple. And third, if things go wrong (and they always do), it is easier to adapt and change a simple plan than to change a complicated plan.

“Discipline Equals Freedom”

The final big takeaway from this book for me was their mantra of “Discipline Equals Freedom.”

While they seem opposite of one another, they are actually tightly related–as the authors state, “discipline is the pathway to freedom.”

For example, it takes discipline to set your alarm early (for Jocko that means before 5am) and get out of bed the moment it goes off. But in doing so, you gain more freedom–specifically, more time. Everyone gets 24 hours a day, but if you are disciplined, you can make more efficient use of that time.

Moreover, being disciplined gives you a better awareness of what tasks you need to complete (and what distractions to avoid). That awareness gives you more freedom because you won’t have to waste time trying to figure out what to do next. Additionally, it becomes easier to change your routine since you know how one change will impact the rest of your routine.

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*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice.