Pushing Forward with “Extreme Ownership”

by | Aug 4, 2022

Are you experiencing leadership challenges at work–with employees, supervisors, or peers–and seeking examples of what excellence looks like? Or maybe you’re looking for motivation or inspiration to get you through difficult moments in your life, or simply to keep pushing forward. If so, then perhaps “Jocko Podcast” is for you.

Former U.S. Navy SEAL Jocko Willink and his co-host Echo Charles launched Jocko Podcast in 2015, following the publication of Willink’s #1 New York Times bestseller “Extreme Ownership” (with coauthor and former SEAL teammate Leif Babin) earlier that year. Now in its seventh year, the podcast boasts almost 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube alone.

Fundamentally, Willink’s approach is that all problems inside an organization are leadership problems. The first step in addressing these is taking personal accountability in order to work toward a solution, a practice that Willink characterizes as “extreme ownership.” To reach a solution, he offers leadership techniques stemming from what he describes as “the Four Laws of Combat”:

  • Cover and Move: Mutually support teammates, friends, and family.
  • Simple: The less complicated a plan, the more likely it is to succeed.
  • Prioritize and Execute: Rank required actions and carry them out in that order.
  • Decentralized Command: Make decisions at the lowest level possible.

During a typical episode, Willink extracts leadership lessons from on-air examination of books about combat and war, or through interviews, primarily with military veterans. He then translates these combat leadership lessons into practical equivalents for the business world and everyday life.

In addition to leadership lessons, Jocko Podcast provides inspiration and motivation through stories of courage, endurance, and resilience. In the following clip from an early episode, Willink provides a powerful lesson to demonstrate that although we cannot always control external influences that affect our lives, we absolutely can control how we react to them:

As for living a good life, Jocko Podcast champions the integration of mind, body, and soul. In Willink’s view, physical conditioning, proper nutrition, learning, creativity, productive work, healthy interpersonal relationships, and even artistic appreciation and creation are all integral aspects of optimizing one’s life. He does not rely on supernatural revelation or external influence as guides for action; rather, his motto of “Discipline Equals Freedom” advocates self-discipline over enforced discipline as the key to creating the necessary circumstances for success and happiness. To achieve enduring benefits, we must choose to be disciplined rather than passively waiting for an outside force to impose discipline upon us.

The podcast can at times get philosophically murky. Willink and many of his podcast guests often use philosophic terms and make moral judgements in ways that can be imprecise, contradictory, or confusing. On balance, though, Jocko Podcast is an excellent source for lessons in leadership, perseverance, and how to lead a fulfilling, flourishing life.

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