We Are Leif Babin and Jocko Willink, Authors of EXTREME OWNERSHIP: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. Ask Us Anything!
We're Leif and Jocko - former Navy SEALs, and co-founders of Echelon Front, where we serve as leadership instructors, speakers, and executive coaches.
Jocko spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy SEAL Teams, starting as an enlisted SEAL and rising through the ranks to become a SEAL officer. As commander of SEAL Team Three's Task Unit Bruiser during the battle of Ramadi, he orchestrated SEAL operations that helped the "Ready First" Brigade of the US Army's First Armored Division bring stability to the violent, war-torn city. Task Unit Bruiser became the most highly decorated Special Operations Unit of the Iraq War. Jocko returned from Iraq to serve as Officer-in-Charge of training for all West Coast SEAL Teams. There, he spearheaded the development of leadership training and personally instructed and mentored the next generation of SEAL leaders who have continued to perform with great success on the battlefield. During his career, Jocko was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and numerous other personal and unit awards. In 2010, Jocko retired from the Navy and launched Echelon Front where he teaches the leadership principles he learned on the battlefield to help others lead and win. Clients include individuals, teams, companies, and organizations across a wide-range of industries and fields.
A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Leif served thirteen years in the Navy, including nine as a Navy SEAL. As a SEAL platoon commander in SEAL Team Three's Task Unit Bruiser, he planned and led major combat operations in the Battle of Ramadi that helped the "Ready First" Brigade of the US Army's 1st Armored Division bring stability to the violent, war-torn city. Task Unit Bruiser became the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War. Leif returned from combat as the primary leadership instructor for all officers graduating from the SEAL training pipeline. There, he reshaped SEAL leadership training to better prepare SEAL officers for the immense challenges of combat. During his last tour, Leif served as Operations Officer and Executive Officer at a SEAL Team where he again deployed to Iraq with a Special Operations Task Force. He is the recipient of the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart. In 2011, Leif left active duty and co-founded Echelon Front, a leadership consulting company that helps others build their own high-performance winning teams. Clients include individuals, companies, and organizations across a wide-range of industries. Leif speaks on leadership, U.S. military strategy, and foreign policy matters. His editorials have been published in the Wall Street Journal and he has appeared on a variety of national television news and radio programs.
We're here to talk about our experiences, our book, and anything else you want to know! You can get our book here on Amazon, and follow us on Twitter, too!
Leif - @LeifBabin
Jocko - @JockoWillink
So, Reddit, Ask Us Anything!
Volunteer moderator u/courtiebabe420 is here with Leif in person and with Jocko over the phone to assist with this AMA.
Jocko will be up this net until 3:30pm Eastern. Back to answer questions later. Leif signing off for a few. Will be back online to answers later.
If you can't spell Al Qaeda, it's unlikely you have fought them.
On Rogan's podcast, you said "discipline is freedom". How do you apply that in your own life, and how/when do you allow yourself to reap the rewards/freedom?
To clarify for Jocko, "eating clean" includes mint chocolate chip ice cream.
With all military jobs opened to women now do you foresee BUD/s training to change standards for getting through?
What's your favorite story from BUD/S?
The political pressure to lower standards will be immense. Good leaders will maintain the standard, regardless. Bad leaders will fold. It is critical that the U.S. military remain focused on maintaining the highest preparation for intense, sustained combat operations and maintain our capability to do so.
We had a good time in BUD/S. It's tough training. But it's got nothing on the intense pressure, intensity and physically of combat. Those that spend all their time recounting BUD/S stories simply never got a chance to do anything real in combat.
What inspired each of you to go into the service to begin with?
From the first I can remember, playing with my GI figures in the sandbox, I always wanted to be a combat leader. I had a cousin that was U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) and had some legit combat experience in Vietnam. About the time I was in late middle school/early high school, I learned about the U.S. Navy SEAL Teams from books like Rogue Warrior and the movie, Navy SEALs. I went to the Naval Academy to pursue that dream.
hard for me to get up at 430, 3 kids, level for work at 6:30 and home at 5:15 in a job where I can get laid off at anytime. Any recommendations on a good, 15 minute workout for busy parents?
Get a Concept 2 rowing machine for your living room. 5 x 500m sprints with 30 seconds rest in between. If you're not puking in the trash can at the end, you're not putting out.
When did you both realize that you had lessons to share with others, ones that you've learned from both combat and business experiences, in the form of a book? And, what's been the most satisfying part about sharing your stories and publishing Extreme Ownership?
When we came home from TU-BRUISER's 2006 deployment to Ramadi, Iraq, we had been humbled by continuous combat operations. And we brought back immense lessons learned. I ran the leadership training for all junior officers graduating from the BUD/S (SEAL Training pipeline). Passing on tough lessons learned to those JOs made me realize just how much we had learned. Later, talking to business leadership in the civilian world made me realize that so many of their challenges were the same, with only a little less of the intensity and pressure from combat.
What is your daily driver vehicle? Any recommendation on personal handgun for home defense? Thanks for all u have done for the country.
For the record, the whole time Jocko was commander of TU-BRUISER from early 2005 through 2006, he drove that minivan. No one gave him any shit about it.
Being from Texas, I prefer a 4WD pickup truck. I've driven the same Chevy Silverado 1500 4x4 for the last 14 years. She's still going strong.
On handguns for personal defense, go with what you know and what you're comfortable with. Sig Sauer is what we shot in the Teams, so that's what I prefer. Though our issued sidearms were 9mm, I like the .40-caliber. Larger holes = Better.
Did you have any involvement/working with General Stanley McChrystal and Chris Fussell? If so what was that like? He seems to be all about Decentralized Command, or as he calls it Team of Teams.
I know some guys that worked with them. But have not worked with either.
- What's the most incredible thing you've seen on the battlefield?
- It is widely reported that Seal Teams etc. get access to the latest tech. weapons etc. The reason I ask is because for some years now, there is a company called Hyper Stealth that claims to have invented a material that can literally make a person "cloaked". He claims that he has shown this material to Canadian and U.S. military reps and it works. There is also a video that was widely circulated that shows what appears to be a "cloaked" operative/soldier jumping into a tank somewhere in iraq or afghanistan. I assume confirming it's existence isn't "classified" as it is info widely already "confirmed" by it's inventor and on the net. Is there any info or anything credible confirming if it's true that you can add? from what you've seen, is military tech really "40-50" years more advanced, such as the reported tank in fallujah that shoots out "lightning" that can fry a person to crisps in seconds?
- Bravery of US Army, US Marine Corps, US SOF. The US Military is incredible.
- Technology advances in civilian and military sectors at a similar rate.
Yes. Often, we said, "God is a Frogman." Mean, "Damn, I can't believed we just survived that. The Lord was looking about for us."
No idea what you are talking about in 2.
What could corporate America be doing to better assist our returning veterans?
Understand that the depiction of veterans as burnt out, PTSD traumatized souls, is highly inaccurate. The vast majority of veterans I know are hard-working, disciplined, leadership experienced and would bring a great deal of value to any company that hires them.
How is SEAL team combat training, where you're free to 'express yourself dynamically' applicable to the real world where 'tactical diplomacy' would be rather frowned upon?
Jocko, you look like a man who wouldn't back down from hand to hand combat with one of the ISIS / Daesch [whatever the fuck name they go by this week] and have a better than average change of emerging from the encounter victoriously. In fact, I would never put money against you. I pride myself on not being a complete idiot.
However, what do you think any armed force can do against people who only need an AK-47, 6 magazines and a desire to kill everybody in a bar? It's extremely cheap to do, it's extremely low key until the shooting starts and it does not take much in the way of resources to achieve, while at the same time causing maximum havoc in the city it occurs in.
How are people trained as insanely hard and intense as you were expected to answer that kind of threat?
I'm looking forward to the perspective of an actual elite war fighter for an answer.
We learned in Ramadi that the enemy might be willing to martyr themselves, but they sure don't like to get martyred on your terms. What I mean is, they don't want to get killed before they could do any real damage. Their goal is to cause carnage, not get killed before they can really do damage. An armed and alert citizenry ready for such threats, combined with vigilant, proactive law enforcement are the means to stop such threats before they can do much damage and handle terrorism.
How would you rate the ability of the current presidential candidates in terms of taking "extreme ownership" of their mistakes, past and present?
Virtually no one in politics takes "Extreme Ownership." Sadly, this is a bi-partisan issue. And that is a major problem. It's a huge blame game and excuse making anytime something goes wrong. Everyone wants credit when something goes right. Decisions are made based on immediate political gain and not on the long term good of the mission--the long term good of the nation.
Hello guys. Love the stuff you're putting out.
Could you talk a little but about the current perception of law enforcement.
The negativity needs to be countered by information about the challenges and successes of law enforcement.
Is there a quantifiable or observable "quality of trained personnel" issue in a majority or even significant number of departments, in your opinion?
Training can always be better. In the SEAL Teams, we develop realistic training scenarios that put operators in difficult, high-pressure situations where they have to react--to "prioritize and execute." That forces us to "relax, look around, make a call." And get used to doing so in intense situations. The best police and sheriff departments do the same thing. You can always get better.
I've got a lot of friends in law enforcement. They keep us safe on the homefront and are critical to our ability to live in relative peace and security. As a response to negative press in recent months, I'm now seeing more positive law enforcement-community interaction stories coming out which is excellent.
Leif and Jocko: have you ever seen anyone who lacked mental toughness develop it? Do you think you're born with that will or are there methods for cultivating it? I know something clicked in me when I heard Jocko talk about saying "Good." no matter what came up... any other tactics for getting your mindset right that you can share?
Some people are born with it. Others have to learn it. Mental toughness must be cultivated through disciplined, continuous training to push you outside your comfort zone. Physically, so much of what we call getting "in shape" is not strength or endurance but the ability to fight through pain and fatigue.
What was the hardest part of BUD/S and how did you overcome it?
The difference between those that quit and those that didn't is only a matter of will. Those that didn't looked in the mirror and decided that they were going to overcome any challenge to become a SEAL. When you graduate and get to an actual SEAL Team, everybody has been through BUD/S and nobody cares about BUD/S.
Hello guys, love the stuff you are putting out, can you talk about the current perception of LEO right now? And what could/should be done (if anything) to correct the perception?
As response above, it's great to see more positive law enforcement-community interaction stories coming out. There should be more. Our police, sheriff deputies, federal agents and others have a tough job. People need to better understand all they do for us and the dangers they face.
Running a business such as Echelon Front there is a lot of travelling and eating out. You guys care to share your workout routines? You both seem to still in shape.
Travel makes it challenging, but as Jocko taught me, you've got to make time for the things that are important. Get up early and get your workout in, regardless of the schedule. Make an effort to eat healthy. Or even fast while traveling. Discipline = Freedom. Have the discipline to workout and eat good for the bulk of your travel so you can have the freedom to crush the mint chocolate chip milkshake afterward.
Book #2 anytime soon? My company is small, they'll never bring in speakers, are you guys taking on a book signing tour? Would like to get mine signed and have my sons meet you.
We will have some signed books available on website soon. And also, you should be able to get them through Americas Might Warriors (americasmightywarriors.org), a charity that Marc Lee's mom, Debbie Lee founded in Marc's memory to help veterans, in a few weeks.
Thanks for the kind words. Hope to meet you and your sons in our travels sometime.
Thank you for your service. I have thoroughly enjoyed your book and reference quite often. How did you go about deciding what to do after retiring from SEALs? Did you use any specific process, discovery or analysis considering the career shift from SEALs to leadership consulting? Did you see a vacuum in the world? And more predominantly in the business world?
Thank you. Great to hear. I realized that one of the things I was most passionate about was passing on the leadership lessons I had learned. Jocko and I both realized the value of what difficult, sustained combat operations taught us about leadership and teamwork. Just as it was for us running leadership training in the SEAL Teams, what we do now is incredibly rewarding to help leaders and teams learn, grow and see the results as they dominate.
How's it feel to be tier 3?
Edit: Leave it to a seal to correct someone's spelling. Sorry our training doesn't include a portion on how to write your own book. /s
It feels good. Learn to spell.
Is this true?
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