Extreme Ownership

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My guest today is my son Ryan.

by Ryan McCarthy


My voice trailed off as my eyes fixated on the classroom television, which showed a burning hole in the largest building I had ever seen.

“That’s close Ryan, but why didn’t you finish the pronunciation?” asked my Spanish teacher, looking opposite the TV.

Speechlessly I raised my finger and pointed. She turned and screamed in horror at the displayed images. Immediately I knew something terrible had happened.

It was Tuesday, September 11th, 2001.

In the years that followed America engaged Iraq in a protracted war that changed the course of American life forever.

Everyone reading this most likely has met or personally knows someone who suffered from either the attacks on 9/11, or from the long lasting war itself.

I was 11 years old then, and had the strange experience of growing up in war time. 

Looking back I believe it shaped my view of the world significantly.

By age 17 I had filled out a pre-registration form to join the marines on my 18th birthday. My goal was to become a Marine Scout Sniper.

In what was truly an act of divine intervention, I was medically disqualified for a previously unknown heart condition, so was unable to enlist.

Most of my life I viewed this event with great remorse. I didn’t view my life as valuable, and didn’t think I had any skills to contribute anything to the world. In an almost viking-like mindset, I would rather go fight and die for my country than continue living.

In fact, not until my wife and I welcomed our first son into the world last December has my view on this event changed. 

The reason I share this is because I still closely follow the brave men and women who served in this war. The stories and lessons they shared changed my leadership life forever.

This all leads me to the nuggets for today’s post, taken from Navy Seal Commander Jocko Willink, and Leif Babin’s book “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win”.

Sent to the most violent battlefield in Iraq, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser faced a seemingly impossible mission: help U.S. forces secure Ramadi, a city deemed “all but lost.” In gripping firsthand accounts of heroism, tragic loss, and hard-won victories, they learned that leadership – at every level – is the most important factor in whether a team succeeds or fails.

Willink and Babin returned home and created SEAL leadership training that helped forge the next generation of SEAL leaders. They then launched Echelon Front, a company that teaches these same principles to the private sector. From startups to Fortune 500 companies, Babin and Willink have helped scores of clients across a broad range of industries build their own high-performance teams and dominate their battlefields.

Here are 5 Key takeaways that you can apply to your Leadership Adventure: 

  • Extreme ownership means taking responsibility for everything in your world. The buck stops with you – always.
  • Check your ego and lead with humility.
  • Make simple plans and communicate them clearly.
  • Get comfortable making decisions with incomplete information.
  • Lead and support your superiors.

I often reflected on this book when faced with a difficult decision building my gym business in Scottsdale and thought to myself, “If Jocko can lead lives, I can lead employees.” 

If you haven’t read this book, I hope you make time. It will change your view of leadership forever!

A special thank you to our brave veterans, the true heroes of American life.

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