Echo Charles: How do you deal with setbacks, failures, delays, defeats, or other disasters?
Jocko Willink: I actually have a fairly simple way of dealing with this. I use one word in most of these situations — “Good.”
This is actually something that one of my direct subordinates pointed out to me. He would call me up, pull me aside with some major challenge and say, “Boss, we have this problem and that issue and another thing…”
And I would say, “Good.”
Finally, one day, he was telling me about an issue that he was having, and he said, “I already know what you’re going to say.”
And I said, “Well, what am I going to say?”
“You’re going to say ‘Good.’ That’s what you always say. When something is wrong, you always just look at me and say ‘Good.'”
And I said, “Well, yeah, and I mean it.” And that’s how I feel. When things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that’s going to come from it.
Oh, mission got cancelled? Good — we can focus on the other 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.
Didn’t get the job you wanted? Good — you can get more experience and build a better resume.
Got injured? Good — needed a break from training.
Got tapped out? Good — better to get tapped out in training than tap out in the street.
Got beat? Good — you learned.
Unexpected problems? Good — we have the opportunity to figure out a solution.
That’s it. When things are going bad, don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated.
And I don’t mean to just spout off a cliché, and I don’t mean to sound like Mr. Positive. I’m not. But find the positive… Get up, dust off, reload, recalibrate, reengage, and go out on the attack. It’ll bring that attitude to those who look to you for guidance and leadership, too.”
Willink is a retired Navy SEAL commando and world-class mixed martial artist. On another one of his podcasts he tells the story of leading a night patrol during one of his tours in Iraq. A worried soldier ran to the patrol as they set out from the base and informed them that recon had spotted several new enemy positions on their assigned route. Willink’s response was, apparently, unflinching: “Good. That’ll give us a chance to get after it.”