Book Review: Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

I read Can’t Hurt Me as part of the 12 Months of Reading Goodness challenge. February is the month to let a loved one pick a book for you to read and so I asked my husband to do that. When you ask a self-help book junkie to pick your next read, chances are you’ll be reading a self-help book, which is what happened to me. I designed the challenge to help people get out of their reading comfort zone, and this is certainly something I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, so it worked in that respect.

Actually, to say Can’t Hurt Me is a self-help book is to shortchange it. It’s really a memoir with doses of self-help exercises and philosophy, mostly relating to sports psychology. The personal narrative is often powerful. The self-help stuff – it’s really just not my thing. I think a straight up memoir might have made for a better book, because David Goggins’ story is really impressive.

David Goggins is a powerful example of someone taking control of his own life. The odds were stacked against him. His father was viciously abusive. His mother finally left him when Goggins was in grade school, taking Goggins with her to southern Indiana, where they relied on government assistance to get by. He struggled in school, eventually skating by by copying other kids’ homework and test answers. He felt the pain of racism. He was in danger of being just another sad statistic when he got a wake up call in the form of a failed military entrance exam. He really wanted to join the Air Force.

This begins an impressive cycle of hitting significant obstacles and figuring out how to overcome them, mostly through a combination of hard work, goal setting, risk taking, discipline and mastery of his mind. He passes the exam, joins the Air Force, then becomes a Navy SEAL, then becomes an elite endurance athlete who competes in 100+ mile road races. Oh, and he set a Guinness World Record for number of pull ups in a 24 hour period. He is brutal to his body and seeks out pain. He enjoys pushing himself to see how much he can endure. He is wired differently than most of us and I am skeptical that what he has can be replicated, which is a big reason the self-help part didn’t work for me.

I also didn’t care for the writing style. It’s raw and blunt and riddled with f-bombs. I get it. The author is trying to set the tone. But the technique became distracting. The book is also organized a little too loosely for me – some chapters flowed together logically while others jarringly begin with an event at a different time with no transition to orient the reader. And the second half of the book became a bit of its own endurance race as the message becomes a little repetitious.

So, overall, I think Can’t Hurt Me will appeal to a certain set of readers, and in fact it’s received strong reviews on goodreads and Amazon. But it wasn’t really my thing. I’m glad I read it because David Goggins has a truly remarkable life story and I like his messages of personal responsibility and striving for excellence. But the writing style and the organization of the book just didn’t work for me.

Did you read a book this month that a loved one chose for you? Tell us all about it.

Also, a reminder that March’s challenge is to read a book by an Irish author.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

  1. I too read Can’t Hurt Me. I would change the title to: Can’t Hurt Me, Unless You Make Me Read This Book. I struggled immensely with this book. I wasn’t sure what it was. Was this an “aren’t I great book or a self-help book?” I ended up deciding on the “I’m amazing and you should read about me” side. The end of chapter challenges came off to me as an afterthought, maybe contrived by the editor? A way to make the book more appealing? A reason to actually write the book? Not sure and most of the challenges weren’t of much use.
    Another problem was that I was not really sure who the target audience was for this book. As a former military person, I thought it was going to be me but it sure didn’t light a spark.
    I agree with Michelle, a big turn-off was the way it was written. I guess it was supposed to be a “street smart” style but I don’t think those are the people who are picking this book up. Also, more F bombs in this book than there are snowflakes in a blizzard. (Yes, I’m tired of the winter!) A few here or there for emphasis may be acceptable but after about the fiftieth F bomb, it just came across as a lack of vocabulary and trying too hard to write in a tough style.
    I’d tell you to pass on this one – and drop down and give me ten push-ups while you’re at it…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have trouble reading books written in the tough f-bomb style as well! I am a strong supporter of personal responsibility though…

    Thanks, to your challenge, I read the most wonderful book. Seriously, it is the best non-fiction book I have ever read. The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone tells the reader about the life work of Elizebeth Friedman. She worked as a cryptanalyst between the time of WWI and WWII. It is amazing how important her work and the work of her small team was in the decoding of messages sent during prohibition, drug rings and the Invisible War. I learned so much history and I am such a fan of this woman now. I highly recommend this book!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. After reading your review, I’m glad my husband isn’t a self-help book junkie! My husband handed me Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. He told me he’d heard about this book while listening to something about it on the radio. It’s part memoir (including some lovely bits about friendship, love, and motherhood) and part fascinating facts about the science of plants (the author is a paleo-botanist). I’m no scientist, but I came away feeling like perhaps we’re all scientists in a way, and that it’s kind of hard not to be if you’re living a life on this planet. I also came away feeling like I really need to go out and plant some trees. So, I’ve thanked my husband for his book choice and I totally recommend it to others.

    Liked by 1 person

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