Responding to Adversity with “GOOD”

Jocko Willink is a retired Navy SEAL Commander. He is one of the most intimidating people on the face of the planet, a highly celebrated American veteran, and a well-spoken man with an unparalleled mental fortitude. In Tim Ferriss’ book Tools of Titans, Jocko provides a written account of his framework when responding to adversity. It’s a simple one-word answer…

“Good.”

This is something that one of my direct subordinates, one of the guys who worked for me, a guy who became one of my best friends, pointed out.

He would pull me aside with some major problem or issue that was going on, and he’d say, “Boss, we’ve got this thing, this situation, and it’s going terribly wrong.”

I would look at him and say, “Good.”

And finally, one day, he was telling me about something that was going off the rails, and as soon as he finished explaining it to me, he said, “I already know what you’re going to say.”

And I asked, “What am I going to say?”

And he said, “You’re going to say: ‘Good.’

He continued, “That’s what you always say. When something is wrong or going bad, you just look at me and say, ‘Good.’

And I said, “Well, I mean it. Because that is how I operate. When things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that will come from it.”

  • Oh, the mission got canceled? Good. We can focus on another one.
  • Didn’t get the new high-speed gear we wanted? Good. We can keep it simple.
  • Didn’t get promoted? Good. More time to get better.
  • Didn’t get funded? Good. We own more of the company.
  • Got injured? Good. Needed a break from training.
  • Got beat? Good. We learned.
  • Unexpected problems? Good. We have the opportunity to figure out a solution.

That’s it. When things are going bad, don’t get all bummed out, don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated. No. Just look at the issue and say: “Good.”

– Jocko Willink

No, not everything in life is good. Some things just suck. Some things don’t go as planned. It is fair and healthy to let yourself feel angered, upset or saddened by negative events in your life. Sometimes life is unfair and you just keeping getting the short end of its stick. But, if you can arm yourself with an unwavering focus on getting better and learning, any situation can become surmountable. Be sad, be angry and let yourself feel the appropriate emotions. But, once you have, it is time to take action.

What Jocko’s framework allows you to do is to stop worrying about that which you cannot control. The job you didn’t get, the injury you sustained, the loss you suffered; these things have already happened. They are in the past. And whether or not you had a hand in causing them to occur, what’s done is done. What can you do now? How can you improve the situation so that you can look back one day and say, “Yeah, that sucked in the moment, but I’m glad it happened. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for what I learned.” How can you take control?

You can start by saying: “Good.”

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