Book Review – Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALS Lead and Win.


I had just finished reinforcing a shelf in my garage in order for it to hold the weight of several gallon bottles of water while discussing emergency preparedness with someone. I was asked “Don’t you think you’re over-prepared?”

I’m not sure what specifically I had covered in the information I would present to someone about the steps I take to soften the blow of hard times, but in response I said, “So if I took these various steps to prepare for emergencies, and you consider me over-prepared, what you are implying is that you, who has taken no actions or steps, is prepared for an emergency.”

The light bulb above his head was nearly visible when the logic clicked in. No, I don’t have a survival shelter, nor years worth of dried foods, or shelves of stockpiled ammunition, but I do have some of the basics residing in my home, and vehicle. Just enough to stave off needed to join the crowd at some evacuation point, and give me time and resources to avoid rushing a decision in such situations. This or course has been the collection of information gleaned from years of reading on the subject, years of talking to those with specific knowledge, and the cumulation of experiencing such situations or watching them unfold in real time on television. One of the biggest lessons was not being in need if the power goes out, the water shuts off, or the gas pumps are empty. The second was information. Emergencies are dynamic situations, and unless you’re planning to live in the sticks, you’re going to compete for government emergency response resources with a LOT of other people. If you have the basic camping skills and gear to outfit you and your loved ones for a week or two, then you’re subject to whatever you city, county, or state emergency planning came up with. Its there if you do need it, and with any luck, the emergency will have subsided before you need to draw on community resources.

It was common sense I though, just have a few basic supplies ready to go in an emergency. There is nothing like an emergency though to test common sense, and as you might have guessed, common sense isn’t so common these days. The idea that the guy talking to me saw someone taking steps, and possessing the information to address common emergencies and immediately drew upon popular culture’s rejection of such behavior and thinking as fringe or abnormal, then casting a negative label of excess fits this idea of uncommon sense.

So behold, I came across this book, Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALS Lead and Win, written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, the idea of common sense kept popping in my head.

The book is a damn good read, and well organized in its writing. For those in the military, and in particular those on the sharper end of combat forces, the information presented is almost nothing new or had not been explained at some point during military service. On this end, the book comes in the form of a common military experience where you sit down for a class or lecture about a given topic, and it’s told via the example and experience of others who found themselves in a tough situation. For this, I commend the authors for continuing the tradition of lessons passed down via hard won experience. Reading the book, and listening to the connected podcast, I felt a level of security and comfort from having a like minded military leader imparting the information to better one’s self and better one’s own personal life missions in a format passed down from generation to generation.

What military people might forget, what we see a common knowledge or easily connected via military logic is not common knowledge. If so, Willink and Babin’s consulting company would not be making money. It should be common knowledge to take responsibility for one’s actions, or to treat people as you want to be treated, which I’m sure most of us are told at some point, but we’re not computers, and even the most basic lessons can use a boost/refresher after a few years as we transition from kids to teens, teens to adults, and adults sent out to the various parts of life we end up at. Even the most simple tasks can become choked in stressful situations, or after years of the same patterns of daily life.

Yes, a few occasions while reading the book in parts, I kept thinking about how this was redundant information in military circles, but when hard times hit my life and I find myself reacting emotionally, I would often read this book or jump over to Willink’s podcast to refocus my mind and attention. After all, its common knowledge to not get upset and deal with a tough situation with a cool head, and problem solving right?

Perhaps common knowledge is common, but like any tool, it will rust without use or maintience. Maybe from time to time, its good to take old lessons, buff of the rust, give it a new coat of paint, and a little oil in the moving parts, take it out for a spin when our mind has gotten a bit out of focus.

For those who were never exposed to the military life, you’re not going to learn any high speed military techniques, but some of humanities stronger and positive attributes through the lens of military leaders of this generation. I have only one suggestion for such readers of this book, and that is to share this with a friend. Should you undertake some of the lesson’s reaped from this book, its much harder to slack on them if you’re sharing accountability with a buddy.

In closing, its a great book from a number of angles, and well worth the time.

I’ve added a link to Willink’s podcast here, as I’ve listened to most of the episodes, and have now problem recommending it.

38: Land Nav w/the Kids Anecdote. Jocko’s Academy for Youth. Denying The Boss’s Handshake. The Path.


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