Extreme Ownership

Extreme Ownership

Authors: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Read in August 2020


Five Sentence Summary

Extreme Ownership means taking ownership of everything in your world. This mindset is important because your attitude and behavior are emulated by other people; if you exercise Extreme Ownership, others will as well. This applies to all other timeless principles of leadership for how to work together in a team as well as how to overcome and solve many common problems in war, business, and life. Chief among them is discipline, according to Jocko Willink the most important quality of an individual. Discipline equals freedom means that if you exercise discipline in any area of your life, you’ll enjoy more freedom as a result.


Complete Notes

  • A mantra for Detachment: "Relax. Look around. Make a call."
  • The bigger the mistake or failure, the greater the potential lesson.
  • Combat reflects life in an amplified and intensified way. Decisions have immediate consequences and everything is at stake.
  • When you stop making excuses, stop blaming others and take ownership of everything in your life you are compelled to take action and solve your problems.
  • A question if you want to take responsibility: What can I take responsibility of if I want to improve X?
  • Extreme Ownership: A mindset to take responsibility for everything in your life. It involves acknowledging mistakes, admitting failure and taking responsibility for it and developing a plan to win.
  • You can't make others do things. You have to lead them. That means to make them want to do the things you want them to do.
  • Taking responsibility for failure is difficult. It requires extraordinary humility and courage but is necessary to learn, grow and improve.
  • Other people emulate your behavior and attitude. If you exhibit Extreme Ownership, others will adopt that mindset too. If you blame others, others will do the same. They'll soon feel like they aren't responsible for anything and only make excuses to avoid the necessary adjustments to fix problems.
  • There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.
  • A leader's attitude sets the tone for the entire team.
  • As a leader, put yourself in the most difficult position and lead.
  • It's far more effective to focus on a visually attainable goal immediately in front of you, than on some far distant finish line you can't yet see.
  • As a leader, standards are not about what you preach. They are about what you tolerate. If you tolerate poor performance it becomes the new standard. Thus, tasks need to be repeated until a high standard of performance is achieved.
  • The standards of an individual spread to the group and become their new standard.
  • ... unending cycle of blame.
  • A Tortured Genius accepts no responsibility no matter ho obvious his or her failing, or how valid the criticism. Instead he makes excuses, blames everyone else for his failings and thinks that the rest of the world just can't see or appreciate the genius in what they are doing. This mindset can have a catastrophic impact on others.
  • Figure out how to fix a problem instead of figuring out who is to blame.
  • When discussing a problem with someone else, begin with what you will do differently, not with what other people need to do.
  • To convince and inspire others you need to belief in your mission. Your belief will shine through your actions by reflecting confidence and self-assuredness. Contrary, if you doubt your mission you won't convince other because your doubt shines through your actions.
  • Goals must always be in alignment across departments and across people.
  • Everyone has an ego. Ego drives us to win, excel and be proud of our achievements. But, ego also leads us to prioritize what's best for us instead of what's best overall, clouds our judgement, prevents us from taking good advice or accepting constructive criticism and prevents us from seeing ourselves, others and the world as we and they really are. It makes us unable to let go of ideas and makes us complacent based on past successes. Overall ego leads to worse performance, failure an defeat.
  • We can check our ego by developing humility, open-mindedness and cultivating a mindset of never being satisfied.
  • Discipline start with little things like clean haircuts, clean shavings and good cloths.
  • Instead of working together for the benefit of all many people and teams work against each other for the detriment of everyone. To prevent people working against each other break down silos, keep the mission on top of everyone's mind and make others part of your team - not an excuse for your team.
  • Always start with simple plans and add complexity as you gain more experience. You want to keep plans simple because they most likely to be understood and executed correctly. Avoid complex plans because they make complications, misunderstanding and confusions that can lead to failure more likely.
  • You can keep plans simple, by not accounting for every possibility.
  • Without a strong correlation between a behavior and a reward or punishment, the behavior won't be modified. Humans need to see the connection between action and consequences to learn or react appropriately. Otherwise they will take the path of least resistance.
  • People generally take the path of least resistance.
  • Almost nothing will ever go according to plan. There are too many variables in any plan. That's why simple plans are key. They allow for rapid adjustments and modifications and impart a baseline understanding that guides actions toward a desired outcome even if things don't go according to plan.
  • Make everything as simple as possible, so that it can be done quickly, accurately and easily at any time.
  • Priority and Execute: Determine the highest priority problem. Layout a simple, clear and concise solution. Focus all energies toward execution. When the solution is implemented or has real momentum: Repeat.
  • Trust is earned through shared training, open conversations, overcoming stress, challenging environments and working through emergencies.
  • Not every risk can be controlled but some can. Focus on mitigating the risk you can control and be comfortable accepting the risk that remains.
  • When planning take into account that things don't always go according to plan and don't take anything for granted. Instead, prepare for likely contingencies.
  • Ambiguity results in lack of focus, inefficient execution and unnecessary complexity. It also enables excuses and procrastination. The clearer something is the easier and more likely it is to take action.
  • Refine and simplify your vision so that it's explicitly clear how your actions and project contribute to achieving it.
  • Your vision should have a clear, overall desired result or end state that guides all your actions and decisions.
  • It is typical SEAL humor to laugh at misery.
  • Responsibility of creating plans helps others understand how what they are doing contributes to an overarching goal.
  • When problems appear, first blame yourself. Examine what you can do better.
  • When you can reverse decisions quickly, you should act quickly.
  • Fear can lead to inaction.
  • "There is no 100% percent right solution. The picture is never complete. Leaders must be comfortable with this and be able to make decisions promptly, then be ready to adjust those decisions quickly based on evolving situations and new information. ... Waiting for the 100 percent right and certain solution leads to delay, indecision, and an inability to execute."
  • Swift decision making is often the difference between victory and defeat.
  • Discipline equals freedom.
  • Getting out of bed early in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. If Discipline in small things translates to discipline in more substantial elements of life.
  • "The temptation to take the easy road is always there."
  • Overconfidence causes complacency and arrogance which ultimately lead to failure.
  • Putting your success over the success of the team is a sign of a big ego.
  • Be attentive to the details, but don't obsess over them. Don't get bogged down in the minutia at the expense of strategic success. Don't get sucked into the details and loose track of the bigger picture.
  • Be confident but not cocky.
  • Be courageous but not foolhardy or reckless.
  • Be humble but not passive.
  • Be calm and logical but not robotic or devoid of emotions. Emotions are necessary. People don't follow robots.
  • " ... a person's biggest strength can be his greatest weakness when he doesn't know how to balance it."
  • Humility means a willingness to learn and an attitude to seek valid constructive criticism in order to improve.
  • Extreme Ownership is a mindset, an attitude.
  • Much of critical wisdom has existed for thousands of years. But, what is simple to understand in theory, can be difficult to apply in life.
  • Life is both art and science. Though there are valuable principles for how to approach most situations, there's no exact formula to follow in every situation.
  • The most challenging endeavors are often the most gratifying ones.

Thanks for reading!

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