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Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin - 3 Big Ideas

In leadership, there are only two measures that matter: Effective and Ineffective


Welcome to 3 Things You Can Use, where Maddi and I decode self-improvement and entrepreneurship through books, three things at a time. This week's book is Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

Amazon says,

"In Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin share hard-hitting Navy SEAL combat stories that translate into lessons for business and life. With riveting firsthand accounts of making high-pressure decisions as Navy SEAL battlefield leaders, this audiobook is equally gripping for leaders who seek to dominate other arenas."

So, what are three things we can use from this book?

3 Things You Can Use

1. Extreme Ownership

This chapter, like all of the others, opens with a story.

The fog of war is on. Jocko's been called over to assist a group that is taking heavy fire. One of the Iraqi soldiers working with the seals has been killed. Jocko heads over and the group leader debriefs Jocko on the situation. The building across the street is chock-full of highly trained enemy fighters and they need help to take them out.

Jocko is confused though. This doesn't make any sense. The enemy soldiers shouldn't be anywhere near hear. To the other soldier's surprise, Jocko tells him that he's going over to check it out.

Jocko enters the building to find another group of seals in the building. These were the suspected enemies.

Due to a series of misfortunes and standard operating procedures not being followed, this situation resulted in a dead friendly. This was terrible.

Jocko knew there had to be someone to blame and in the next company meeting, he made it clear who it was.

He was to blame. Jocko. He was the one in charge of the company. He was the leader.

With no time and effort lost looking for someone to blame or arguing back and forth for whose fault it was, Jocko was able to both set a standard of ownership amongst his subordinates and take responsibility to affect the new standard operating procedures so this mistake couldn't be made again.

The leader is truly and ultimately responsible for everything. That is extreme ownership. The fundamental core of what constitutes a good leader.

You are the one responsible for the situations you are in and you are responsible to effectively achieve the results that you desire.

2. Keep it Simple

Through their business focused company, Echelon Front, the authors, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, came across a company that had a particular way of calculating the monthly bonus an employee would receive.

After interviewing the members of the team that received the bonuses, they realized that these employees had no idea how the bonus system worked. They kept getting different bonus amounts in their checks, but had no idea why or what to do to optimize their bonuses.

So Jocko visited the management. Before bringing the employees' struggle up, Jocko asked them how the bonus system worked. After interconnected point after interconnected layer of how the bonus was calculated, Jocko could tell that the management were impressed with themselves at how effective the bonus system was designed to be.

But after a few minutes of discussion, the managers were let in on the fact that no one knew how it worked. It was designed to be perfect... but it was too complicated -- and thus is was ineffective.

From Jocko himself:

"Combat, like anything in life, has inherent layers of complexities. Simplifying as much as possible is crucial to success. When plans and orders are too complicated, people may not understand them and when things go wrong, and they inevitably do go wrong, complexity compounds issues that can spiral out of control into total disaster.

Plans and orders must be communicated in a manner than it simple clear and concise. Everyone that is part of the mission must know and understand his or her role in the mission and what to do in the event of likely contingencies. And as leaders, it doesn't matter how you feel you have communicated the mission or the order, plan, tactic or strategy -- If your team doesn't get it, you have not kept it simple and you have failed. You must make sure that the lowest common denominator of the team understands."

3. A Leader is...

A leader must keep an equilibrium of certain dichotomies to be successful.

A leader must not lean too far in one direction, and thereby lose effectiveness.

From Jocko:

"The dichotomy of leadership.

A good leader must be:

Confident but not cocky

Courageous but not foolhardy

Competitive but a gracious loser

Attentive to details but not obsessed by them

Strong but have endurance

A leader and a follower

Humble not passive

Aggressive not overbearing

Quiet not silent

Calm but not robotic

Logical but not devoid of emotions

Close with the troops but not so close that one becomes more important than another or one more important than the good of the team

Not so close they forget who's in charge

Able to execute extreme ownership while exercising decentralized command

A good leader has nothing to prove -- but everything to prove."


A leader must consider themselves truly and ultimately responsible for everything.

A leader must keep things clear and concise in order to keep their subordinates effective.

A leader must keep their head above water and maintain an equilibrium, being consistent and setting a good example.

There are only two measures that matter: Effective and Ineffective -- and this book is all about being effective.

Each chapter is laid out first with a story of how the chapter's principle was used in a situation during their deployment, then you are presented with that principle, and then they tie in the principle again in a story of when they worked with a business through their company Echelon Front.

It is a sweet book and I highly recommend getting the audible version so you can hear how they literally sound like navy seals.

But that's all for this one. Really an awesome book by a an awesome couple of guys. If you want to hear more of Jocko, he's got a podcast. Just search Jocko Willink. Their website is:

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we'll see you next week!

Want to Read it?

Audible Free Trial (get this book for free!)

Extreme Ownership (Audible Version)

Extreme Ownership (Physical Copy)

(These links give me a little bump if you decide to use them. Thank you!)


Punching Sounds by: Mike Koenig

Reading Photo at end of video by: Marketa

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