Three big takeaways from Extreme Ownership–written by retired Navy SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
I first learned about Jocko Willink in Tim Ferriss’ book Tools of Titans and I appreciate his unique outlook on life. I also recently finished reading his book Extreme Ownership, which he co-authored with Leif Babin.
Both men are accomplished (and now retired) SEALs who served together in Iraq. Their unit is often described as the most successful unit to serve in Iraq and the lessons they learned, and now teach, are priceless.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from the book.
What is “Extreme Ownership”
The authors 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 even 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, you must 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 (and for SEALs, literally life or death situations) it is important to “Relax. Look around. And make a call.” This isn’t always easy, but it is made easier if you learn and follow the Laws of Combat: Cover and Move, Simple, Prioritize and Execute, and Decentralized Command.
Each of those principles are covered in detail in the book 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 then to change a complicated plan.
“Discipline Equals Freedom”
The final big takeaway from this book for me was Jocko’s mantra of “Discipline Equals Freedom.” While they seem opposites of one another, they are actually tightly related–as Jocko states, “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 than your competitors.
Additionally, when you are disciplined and know what you need to get done (and what to avoid), it gives you greater freedom in that you don’t have to worry all the time about what to do next. Additionally, it becomes easier to change your routine since you know how one little change will impact the rest of your routine.
If you haven’t already, do your self a favor and order the book. It’s a really great read.
*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice.