Jocko Willink: stop worrying or solve the problem

Jocko Willink, the former Navy SEAL commander, is very much the stern father and not the loving mother. Here’s his advice on dealing with stress.

Stress is a part of the human experience — it shows up on the battlefield and in civilian life. So we need strategies to deal with it. Jocko’s process is something like this:

  1. Prepare in advance by knowing that stress will arise, and knowing how you’re going to handle it.
  2. When stress occurs, detach. Notice that you are feeling stress. Gain perspective. Humans can withstand enormous stress. You, very likely, have withstood more stress than this.
  3. Decide. Is this stress caused by something you can control, or something you can’t?
    1. If you can control the cause, then your job is to solve the problem. Impose your will on the world and make it happen.
    2. If you cannot control the cause, then your job is to embrace the stress. Look at it from a different angle and let it make you stronger.
  4. Act. Do the thing. Either let it go, or solve the problem. How do you do that? By doing it.

Humans can withstand almost inconceivable stress — and you can too. So [when you feel stress] that is your first step: gain perspective. And to do that you must do something critical in many situations: detach.

Stress is generally caused by what you can’t control. The worst thing about incoming artillery fire is that you can’t control it. It is happening and you just have to accept it. Don’t stress about things you can’t control.

If the stress is something that you can control and you are not, that is a lack of discipline and a lack of ownership. Get control of it. Impose your will to make it happen. Solve the problem. Relieve the stress.

If the stress is something you can’t control: Embrace it. You can’t control it, but how can you look at it from a different angle? Make it into your ally. Turn it on itself. Use it to make yourself sharper and more alert. Use it to make you think and learn and get better and smarter and more effective.

From his book Discipline Equals Freedom.