In defence of suffering

David Goggins is an American former Navy SEAL, an accomplished endurance athlete, motivational speaker, and author. His early life story is something out of the suffering playbook: He came from a lower working-class family, had an abusive parent, experienced racism, had a bunch of learning disabilities and health issues. All these uncontrollable elements make it ripe for someone like David to live like a troublemaker. However, he chose to push his limits by going through the toughest physical and mental trainings. These include the notorious SEAL training (with 2 weeks of Hell Week) U.S. Army Ranger School and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. He’s also participated in various ultra-marathons, triathlons, and ultra-triathlons, setting records on each race. In 2018, he released his book Can’t Hurt Me, which chronicles his journey and is a now sought-after motivational speaker for sports teams and large corporates. 

Sometime during Circuit Breaker (Singapore’s version of a Lockdown), my mind was not in a good place. As usual, I didn’t feel like doing anything about it except wallow in self-pity. That was when my partner told me that I lack mental fortitude, and I should put my energy into something beneficial (at that moment, it was to exercise) than lie around swimming in my negative thoughts. Out of curiosity I searched for videos about mental toughness on Youtube and found a clip of David Goggin’s interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast. (link below) 

Now, I don’t idolize Goggins as a person. However, I’ve been drawn to his life philosophy, which could be summed up as: Take responsibility for your life. In one interview clip, he talked about the current generation (Gen Y and Z I suppose) being weak because they fold the minute they are criticized, defeated, or faced with adversaries. But if you can do what you hate to do, on the other side of your suffering is greatness. 

I’m back into this cycle of struggling through adversities, so I’ve been listening to that clip every day as well as a spotify playlist of his interviews (link below). His choice of words and how he says things are rather extreme, but I use them as tools for discipline. I’m one that needs to be given tough love to toughen up. In my mental health journey, I learned that people find comfort and identity in having this victim mentality and always being in a negative headspace. Why? Being a victim takes the blame out of ourselves and justifies our inactions or wrong decisions. Hey, it’s not my fault because it was the world that made me this way. Taking responsibility means investing in personality development, really understanding why we are the way we are, and healing ourselves. All these things take awful lot of hard work. Who wants to do hard work, right? In Goggin’s case, he had everything going against him and it was easy to become a good-for-nothing person. But he made a conscious decision to use the negative experiences and struggles as fuel to be someone greater than he thought he could be. 

I’m not discounting anyone’s struggles or efforts in facing problems. Everyone has their own journey. What I want to emphasize here is that we have the power within us to harness greatness. We do this by taking ownership of our actions and decision, rather than relying on external forces to carry us through and resolve our problems. In my case, it’s the conscious effort not to let my mind go to a dark path, to keep going even if I don’t want to do it anymore, to focus on the goal rather than the potential obstacles, to not compete with anyone else but my self, and to realize that no one else can help me but myself. 

The quest for mental fortitude is a work in progress as everything else in my life. Three decades of warped beliefs and mindset do not change overnight. It may even take another three decades to be corrected. I will still stumble because again, the brain finds comfort in routine, So I have to consciously choose to train my brain to go the other way, for in that other way is success.


Joe Rogan & David Goggins – Building Mental Toughness

Spotify Podcast: David Goggins getting interviewed –

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