One Man Army: Leading Yourself

17 March, 2019 | 3 min read

I just finished the book Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

This article is not a review of the book, but an article about applying the leadership principles from the book in your personal life — by leading a team of one; you.

I will, however, give a few thoughts of the book. I think that Jocko Willink and Leif Babin nailed this book. The layout of the chapters makes the principles easy to understand and learn from, and also makes the book an enjoyment to read from cover to cover.

Now, how do we apply the leadership principles that U.S Navy SEALs use to lead our own lives? We start by:

Taking Extreme Ownership.

In life, you must know that in the end, all successes and failures that you have rests on your shoulders. It’s your responsibility to do what is necessary to get what you want out of life.

When you make a mistake, acknowledge it. Admit that you made a mistake — this is what taking ownership of the situation is all about. Then you develop a plan to win.

Refusing to take responsibility for your own life eventually leads to failure. You are making excuses if you always think that “I can’t do that because of x” or “because of him/her I am not where I want to be”.

Shit happens sometimes. It is up to you to deal with it, and you’ll be a better person for it.

Have Standards.

When it comes to standards, it’s not the standards you say you have, it’s the standards you tolerate.

If there are no consequences to bad performance, the bad performance becomes the new standard.

Maybe you’re trying to lose weight. If there are no consequences to your overeating, then the overeating becomes the new standard. Commit to what you say that you are going to commit to.

You have to always strive to improve. Love yourself for where you are because you are great as you are. But you can be better. You can be much better. Strive to be that.


Believe in yourself. You can do whatever you want to, but you have to believe that you can do it.

Understand why it is that you are doing it — and I mean really understand it. You must align your thoughts and visions with the mission at hand — to achieve your goals.

You are someone who achieves goals. Know that you can do it.

Keep it simple

Sometimes, shit hits the fan. To really combat those situations, know exactly what you are going to do when that happens.

When you’re out with your friends or family at a restaurant, and you’re trying to lose weight, but everyone is ordering unhealthy food. What do you do?

You know what to do because you planned ahead. You already decided what you’re going to order, and you stick to that. Make it so simple that you can act upon it without thinking.

Prioritize and execute

When these situations where you have a lot of things to do occur. These stressful situations can be combated with prioritization and execution.

First, you identify the utmost critical task. Then you perform that one task. And then you repeat.

Keep a broad overview of all of your responsibilities, so that you can adapt if anything happens.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Plan ahead. Make sure that you always know what to do. Explore different options so that you know that you are taking the most efficient route of overcoming the obstacles that you might face.

The plan must mitigate identified risks whenever possible. Of course, you cannot succeed without taking risks, but it’s just plain stupid to not avoid the risks that are avoidable by nature.

After completion of the plan, review what happened. Analyze what went right, and what didn’t. Do not repeat mistakes — always strive to improve.

Decision making

Sometimes you must act decisively amid uncertainty. You will have to make the best possible decision based on what information you have.

There is never a decision that is 100 percent right. You are never going to know the full story — the picture is never complete. This is something that you must adapt to and be comfortable with because you’re still going to have to make a decision. However, if the situation changes, you must also be ready to adapt and change your decision.

Discipline equals freedom

I couldn’t resist adding that. Discipline is the most important factor for success and victory. You may think that discipline doesn’t equal a free life, but this is the total opposite of the truth.

With discipline, you become freer. Do what is hard, and life will be easy. Do what is easy, and life will be hard.

It’s easy to not exercise. It’s easy to not eat healthily. It’s easy to not do something. But by not doing anything, you are setting yourself up for a difficult life.

If you do what is hard, you’ll have an easy life.

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