3 Lessons from Extreme Ownership

When a Navy SEAL talks, you should pay attention. Or in the case of “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin you need to keep your eyes open and keep reading. Extreme Ownership is the concept that a leader is ultimately responsible for their actions, along with the actions of their subordinates. This book is packed full of knowledge, and I highly recommend this to anyone in a leadership role.  This includes parents, sr. executives, managers and even teachers.

Extreme Ownership
Leif (Left), Jocko (right)

Here are three quick lessons from this book.

Lesson 1 : There are no bad teams, just bad leaders.

A team can be completely changed by changing only one member; the leader. In this book the authors talk about a scenario from SEAL training. They place the trainees into different groups that compete against each other in “boat race” style event. There is one boat that is consistently in last place. The leader of this boat believes that he was given the worst SEAL trainees to command.

As an experiment, they trainers swapped the leaders of the last and first place boats. The leader from what was originally the last place boat now believes he has an upper hand with a more skilled team.

To his surprise, his previous team mates are now keeping up with him in the new boat. Nothing else changed, other than the person calling the shots.

Lesson 2 : Keep it simple.

Complex orders are difficult to follow. They increase errors and cause information to be relayed in less than reliable manner. When on the battlefield, the SEALS communicate in the most concise and easy to follow method. This allows information to be relayed quickly and reliably.

In business, we often botch this. When speaking to others you must communicate with them at a level that they understand and keep the orders simple. If you can get the point across in two words versus ten, do it.

Lesson 3 : Discipline equals freedom

To many, this is a contradictory statement. How can rigid discipline equate to freedom? In the book the authors discuss how having a detailed list of standard operating procedures gave them more freedom to improvise when it was required

In everyday life, discipline is important. If you constantly find yourself saying you do not have time for something during the work day, did you spend your time wisely? Did you get sucked into projects rather than saying “No!”? Did you spend your time wisely and avoid social media, texting and other sources of distraction? If not, it’s time that you reevaluate where your time is going. 

The authors also emphasis the importance of waking up when you alarm first goes off. When you hit “snooze” it sets the tone for how the remaining part of the day will go.

All around, this was a fantastic read. It allows you to get an idea of how a team of Navy SEALS operates in the field. The authors get the point across through storytelling that rivals any fiction writer. As it should; these guys are the real deal.