The Forty Percent Rule

The 40 Percent Rule: An Excerpt from Can’t Hurt Me 
by David Goggins

The following is an excerpt from David Goggins’ book, Can’t Hurt Me.

 In it, he discusses a military mindset that guides his life and allows him to tap into potential that most people only dream of being able to tap into.  He calls it The 40 Percent Rule and it’s about adjusting the mind so that we can push our bodies further than we normally would.  It’s about understanding that most of us are wired (literally) to stop way before we’ve approached our true max and about learning how to work every day to quiet the mind so that we can tap into those huge stores of potential that most of us never get to taste.  For details, please welcome the words of Mr. Goggins himself.  I hope it finds you well.  


“The human body is like a stock car. 

We may look different on the outside, but under the hood we all have huge reservoirs of potential and a governor impeding us from reaching our maximum velocity.  In a car, the governor limits the flow of fuel and air so it doesn’t burn too hot, which places a ceiling on performance.  It’s a hardware issue; the governor can easily be removed, and if you disable yours, watch your car rocket beyond 130 mph.

It’s a subtler process in the human animal.

Our governor is buried deep in our minds, intertwined with our very identity.  It knows what and who we love and hate; it’s read our whole life story and forms the way we see ourselves and how we’d like to be seen.  It’s the software that delivers personalized feedback—in the form of pain and exhaustion, but also fear and insecurity, and it uses all of that to encourage us to stop before we risk it all.  But, here’s the thing, it doesn’t have absolute control.  

Unlike the governor in an engine, ours can’t stop us unless we buy into its bullsh*t and agree to quit.

Sadly, most of us give up when we’ve only given around 40 percent of our maximum effort.  

Even when we feel like we’ve reached our absolute limit, we still have 60 percent more to give!  That’s the governor in action!  Once you know that to be true, it’s simply a matter of stretching your pain tolerance, letting go of your identity and all your self-limiting stories, so you can get to 60 percent, then 80 percent and beyond without giving up.  I call this The 40 Percent Rule, and the reason it’s so powerful is that if you follow it, you will unlock your mind to new levels of performance and excellence in sports and in life, and your rewards will run far deeper than mere material success.

The 40 Percent Rule can be applied to everything we do.  Because in life almost nothing will turn out exactly as we hope.  

There are always challenges, and whether we are at work or school, or feeling tested within our most intimate or important relationships, we will all be tempted to walk away from commitments, give up on our goals and dreams, and sell our own happiness short at some point.  Because we will feel empty, like we have no more to give, when we haven’t tapped even half of the treasure buried deep in our minds, hearts, and souls.

I know how it feels to be approaching an energetic dead end.  I’ve been there too many times to count.  I understand the temptation to sell short, but I also know that impulse is driven by your mind’s desire for comfort, and it’s not telling you the truth.  It’s your identity trying to find sanctuary, not helping you grow.  It’s looking for status quo, not reaching for greatness or seeking wholeness.  But the software update that you need to shut your governor down is no supersonic download.  It takes twenty years to gain twenty years of experience, and the only way to move beyond your 40 percent is to callous your mind, day after day.  Which means you’ll have to chase pain like it’s your damn job!”