How To Find Out Who You Really Are

Last sunday I got to interview one of the most intense people I know – David Goggins.

I first wrote about David about a year ago. If you don’t know, David Goggins is a former 300 pound man turned ultra marathoner who’s been deemed by some people as the “toughest athlete on the planet.” He’s done some ridiculous races including 100 milers, Badwater and a 200 mile race.david_goggins runs

David’s changing up his usual ultra marathon racing with his attempt at a 24 hour world record pull up attempt. He made a previous attempt on the Today Show and failed…publicly…in front of millions of people…when he had a partial forearm tear.

A lot of people would have given up, but David wasn’t done. He set out again yesterday to beat the 24 hour world pull up record (which, by the way, is 4,020). This times he’s doing it without the fanfare, in a small Nashville gym – not on national tv. I interviewed him last week as part of the run-up to the event and to him it wasn’t about the press, it wasn’t about the record, it was about his redemption.

He had to find out if he could do it. He had to find out what he was made of.

David and I talked for about 45 minutes – I have about 6 pages of notes from our call, but he said something that stuck in my brain for days after our call was:

People with a soft mentality disgust me. They live and die the same person they were made.

Wow. I let that sink in…

david goggins pullup

Mental Softness

When you stop becoming a talker…and start becoming a doer, there’s a few levels you go through.

The first level is becoming a person that is able to do something. Run a marathon, lose 100 pounds, fight a bear, etc. The next level is becoming a person who habitually does stuff you do not think you can do.

Because once you run a marathon, it’s not that hard to run another one. You can maintain that level with relative ease. Sure, it will take some work, but you can do it and eventually a marathon becomes a comfortable realm in which you live. And even though you can run a marathon, the blanket of mental softness still can be allowed to settle around your life as you stay there…

But if you refuse to stay there and keep pushing. And when you do, you start to rid yourself of this mental softness that tends to permeate most people.

The coolest thing about Impossible Abs has not been the physical transformations – even though we’ve had multiple people lose between 15 and 45 pounds in less than 8 weeks. It’s the mental transformations that take place.

I talked to a few people this weekend who went through Impossible Abs. They lost a lot of weight, but the thing that stood out the most to me was the mental clarity and determination they had. They weren’t mentally soft anymore.

The program is tough, but it also showed them what they were capable of doing. I had a few people tell me that while they’re still not where they want to be, but instead of hoping that one day they might be able to do it, they were determined that it was going to happen. They weren’t just optimistic. They were definite. It was already done in their mind – their body just needed some time to catch up. Sure, they were in way better shape, but they were way more mentally tough than they were just 8 weeks ago. The mental softness was gone.

The whole purpose of cold shower therapy is to eliminate mental softness. It’s an arbitrary task – voluntarily jumping into freezing cold water – but it also teaches you that your body is as strong as your mind will let it be and you can endure (and even learn to enjoy) things you used to hate.

Going Beyond

The only way to find out what you’re really made of is to go beyond.

Go beyond what you’re used to.

Go beyond what you find comfortable.

Go beyond what you think is possible.

Because when you go beyond, everything changes. You can’t stay the same. You have to toughen up, fight like hell and dig deep. You find out who you really are.

Are you the person that calls it in when life gets tough or are you the person that lets out a battle cry and stare the challenge head on.

You have to toughen up, fight like hell and get after it to reallly find out what you’re made of. You have to go beyond. And when you do, you become a much different person than the one you were made.

A man must constantly exceed his level – Bruce Lee

The Challenge

You have no idea who you really are. You have no idea what you are capable of doing.

Why not find out?

p.s. David stopped this morning around 1am with 3,202 pull ups after ripping open a gash in his hand (picture here – not for the squeamish). He didn’t get the record this time (0 for 2 now), but I can bet you he’s not done finding out what he’s made of yet.

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  1. says

    Wow! That quote really got to me!

    There is no excuse for a soft mentality, is there? You just do it, grab that goal and never stop.



  2. says

    No not really. Thanks for the great post Joel. David and you continue to inspire!!!

    Indeed it is the “can do anything” attitude that makes all the difference. Most however prefer to sit by the sidelines in their comfy life. But change and the impossible life is so much beyond the comfortable and when one really goes for it, they get astonished at what they are capable of.

    As always, thanks a lot for sharing and being an inspiration!

  3. says

    Bam! Get out of my head…Or wait, STAY stay in my head.
    I was just talking to coworker today about saying we’ll do it…then just doing it “when we can fit it in”. We do NOT make ourselves a priority, and so we do NOT even come close the our own possibilities.

    I’m a give up before you even really try addict. I’m really sick of it.

    I’m ready to push and see if I can actually REACH a goal…let alone exceed it. Imagine the possibilites.

    So Joel…Please stay in my head and keep reminding us we are greater than we believe, if we just give ourselves some credit.

    But NO cold shower. Not this time!

    • says

      Good for you Dawn, I hope you reach that goal. Your post reminded me of a video I was watching earlier from Elliot Hulse about motivation he says, “Your gonna drop the ball Everybody drops the ball your not perfect, but you can be born again every single day… you could get up and do it again recommit-fail-recommit-fail-recommit and if that pattern continues till the day you die and you recommit on your death bed you’re a success. Your only a failure when you stop trying, when you stop recommitting.” Sorry your post just really made me think about what he says.

      • says

        Daniel, do NOT be sorry. I think that quote sums it up for me. I’m notorious for making a commitment, then doing everything possible to sabotage myself. As soon as I admit defeat, I get a spur of encouragement and go all in. I’d like to figure out how to get the fast track to that “all in” thing for myself.

        Thanks for the encouragement. I’ve never given up on a goal, I just tend to take the long way to it!


    • Max Hickson says

      Hey, Dawn. I know the feeling. I found that running, swimming helped me a lot to stay focused. When you’re fit and have a lot of energy your mental strength rises too. Maybe you do that already. Always remember there are always going to be people that laugh at you and tell you you’re going to fail. My brothers and my father have been laughing and making fun of my dream for years (they weren’t laughing when I played a solo set of Hendrix tunes live and the crowed loved it. But, according to them that was ‘luck’. I was under the impression it was from all the work I put in to learn the songs) I’m going to make it as a pro guitarist in a band. They’re so lazy and under the impression people who make it in their field are ‘born that way’. Which is the dumbest thing I ever heard. Michael Jordan and Einstein come to mind… They had no natural talent, but they became the greatest to ever walk the planet in their field. There’s a real good inspiring video on you tube called ‘Will Smiths Wisdom’ he’s an inspiring guy. This site is awesome too. Their the things that keep us inspired when we’re going through doubt stages. Never give up, keep running, you sun will soon rise!


      • says

        Thanks Max! I have often been told how “lucky” I am. Funny how they seem to think it’s luck, and never see the work I put in to it. I guess it’s because i work on me, for me, not for praise.

        When you make it pro…please send us tickets to cheer you on!!

        • Max Hickson says

          That’s the spirit! Stay true to your heart and follow your own path. As the saying goes ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get’ Haha, will do. Thanks, Dawn. That was the boost I needed today. I live in a pretty remote place. People like you are always great and an inspiration to keep going as I don’t really have many people around me too often.

  4. says

    Joel, keep them coming! Your blog posts help fuel my fire.

    Nothing beats the feeling of raising the bar for yourself and then clearing it. When we sell ourselves short, we miss out on all the FUN in life.

    I am reminded of two great quotes (I am a motivational quote junkie!)

    “If we all did the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas Edison

    “At the end of the year, I want to be totally unrecognizable.” – Debbie Ford

    Turn up the volume, y’all!


  5. says

    I guess I’m the squeamish! Soo did not click on that picture link. But I love this post. I recently did a challenge that made me stronger ( more mentally than physically). It’s amazing to see the changes in the way you think.

  6. Juliet Schutte says

    Love love love this — and LOVE David Goggins! What an inspiration!

    I will NEVER — EVER complain about ripping my hand at Crossfit again!!!

  7. says


    This post is awesome. Goggins is a monster! And I love the quote: “People with a soft mentality disgust me. They live and die the same person they were made.” As you allude to, the only thing that separates mentally soft people from mentally tough people is a decision – a decision to be tough, to expand there “limitations”, to move outside their comfort zone, to do something “impossible”. A simple decision, followed by a series of actions is a breeding ground from mental toughness. What’s the point of dying without ever growing?

    I love your stuff. Keep up the great work.

    Isaiah Hankel

  8. says

    Hey Joel,

    This post knocked me off my ass. I’ve been lifting for 5 months now and have been feeling some serious burn out. Goggins is one hell of a guy. I think mental toughness is something that a small percent of people have, but luckily it can be achieved.

  9. says

    Great post Joel! I have to agree completely; it’s not fun nor rewarding to merely coast through life, taking life as it comes. It is infinitely better to constantly challenge, test, and push yourself. This post immediately reminded me of a quote by our most bad ass president, Theodore Roosevelt, who said that “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

  10. says

    It’s not so much the tiredness and the boredom that this guy has to push through, it’s the things we don’t think of. Blisters, chaffing, injuries etc.

    A couple of years ago I got into running (not so much now) and the thing that always derailed me was the three things above. The mental toughness needed to keep on going when you are experiencing these things is immense.

    Very inspiring.

  11. says

    Agree with you when you say “The only way to find out what you’re really made of is to go beyond” – that makes perfect sense.

    The other side of what’s known is how growth happens.

    But the comment “People with a soft mentality disgust me” is pretty offensive in my book. What about empathy and compassion? What about saving your judgement of others because judging is just a way to compartmentalise and justify your own beliefs (a behaviour which is often based on insecurity).

    I don’t think mental toughness is a pre-requisite to meaningful success or figuring out who you are.

    Awareness, acceptance and an intention to be of service are.


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