The Jocko Willink Workout Advice That Changed My Habits

If anyone knows about workouts, it’s former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink.

I was first introduced to Jocko’s work by Tim Ferriss, who had him as a guest on his podcast first in 2015, and then again in 2016.  His most recent appearance was recently to promote his new book, Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual.  

Tim describes him as “one of the scariest human beings imaginable” and his bio reads: “He is a lean 230 pounds. He is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert who used to tap out 20 Navy SEALs per workout. He is a legend in the Special Operations world. His eyes look through you more than at you.”

I’ve listened to the podcasts, read his original book Extreme Ownership, and then read his most recent book, Discipline Equals Freedom, just a few weeks ago.

Jocko's Workout Advice Pt. 1 - DON'T THINK. DO.

While I took notes on several of the books, one thing he kept mentioning stuck with me, best summarized in one of his recent tweets: “DON’T THINK.  DO.”

It’s not the first time he’s said something similar.  In a Business Insider article, he was quoted saying:

"Don't think in the morning," Willink said. "That's a big mistake that people make. They wake up in the morning and they start thinking. Don't think. Just execute the plan. The plan is the alarm clock goes off, you get up, you go work out. Get some."

In his most recent book, Discipline Equals Freedom, he mentions something similar:

“Before you go to bed, plan what workout you are going to do in the morning. Stage your workout clothes so you don’t even have to think when you get up.”

Jocko's Workout Advice Pt. 2 - GO THROUGH THE MOTIONS

But the words that stuck with me most were “don’t think”.  It was really catalyzed by this Instagram post, which transcribed reads:

“I always heard people saying that the term, the phrase, ‘going through the motions’ as if it was a negative thing.  I don’t agree with that, because sometimes you might not feel like doing what you gotta do, and instead of not doing it, just go ahead and go through the motions.  GO THROUGH THE MOTIONS.  GET IT DONE.”

After that, the phrase “Don’t think. Go through the motions” became a mantra for me.  Specifically, when the inner dialogue before my workout starts talking - ‘you have work to finish’; ‘it can wait until tomorrow when you have more time’ - I think about that phrase.

While I think about that phrase, I shut off my mind, shut off the dialogue.  Put on my workout clothes and running shoes, and head out the door.

And what do you know?  I haven’t missed a scheduled workout since.

This mantra (and the thought of Jocko specifically speaking it) has been my biggest habit boost in a long time.

So next time you’re thinking about skipping a workout, or hear the inner dialogue starting when you need to get out of bed, just repeat that mantra “Don’t think.  Go through the motions”, and shut down your mind.

You’ll be very happy with the results.

Here’s Jocko talking about it in more detail:

If you want more Jocko motivation, I’d highly recommend checking out his spoken stuff on Spotify or Apple Music - particularly the album ‘Psychological Warfare’ - I use this track as my morning alarm.

Thanks Jocko.

Further Reading

You can find Jocko on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and listen to his podcast here.

Read my summary and notes of Extreme Ownership here, or buy the book here.
Read my summary and notes of Discipline Equals Freedom here, or buy the book here.