A Timeline of David Goggins’ Journey From Military To Marathon and Motivational Speaking

It’s quite a cliched saying that life is full of challenges. Often times, these challenges will get to seem so insurmountable that it is only those who have developed absolutely unbendable wills that will steer through to success at the end of the day. Is it any wonder then that, virtually every motivational speaker we have come across, had ample lessons to tell on the subject of endurance, patience, determination, stamina, and suchlike? And, without a single doubt, these lessons make a lot more sense when they are delivered by someone whose life is a telling example in these regards. One such person is David Goggins who happens to be the focus of our attention herein.

As a motivational speaker, Goggins now speaks to rapt audiences across the world on the subject of success and the role determination plays in its realization. His story makes a lot of sense to those who listen to it because he speaks about the experiences everyone knows that he was a part of – from being a black kid who lived under the trauma of an abusive father, he became an overweight teen living in abject poverty and who was told by doctors that he had a predisposition to sickle cell anemia. And then…, he pushed his life through an incredible transformation that saw him serving in two major arms of the United States military (the US Navy and Air Force). From there, he moved to become an accomplished ultramarathoner, triathlete, and ultra-long distance cyclist.

If you’ve ever had the enviable opportunity of listening to Goggins tell his story (or, if you have read it in his memoir), kudos to you. You certainly grew up a lot doing so. However, even if you’ve never listened to him firsthand, here, in a simple chronology is his story to enable you to imbibe the lessons that Goggins embodies without the pressure of seeming to be preached at.

The Joyless Childhood That Prepared David Goggins For His Military Career

The seeds of whom Goggins eventually became had been there all the while and only took time to germinate and grow into the great tree that is today being celebrated.

He was born on the 17th of February 1975 in Buffalo, New York where he would eventually be raised until he was 8. He would then spend the rest of his childhood and youthful days in Indiana.

Some details about Goggin’s background are not so clear, however, thanks to his memoir titled Can’t Hurt Me, we know that his father is named Trunnis Goggins. Trunnis sticks out in David’s story for the extremely abusive attitude with which he treated the-then future great athlete together with his mother and siblings.

David Goggins’ father Trunnis was a businessman who owned a skating rink and who cared far more about his business than he cared about his family. Indeed, he was so tyrannical with his family that he denied them basic comfort all in the interest of his business. Trunnis hated to spend a dime on his wife and kids regardless of the fact that they were the ones who provided most of the labor needed to run His’ rink. Not only that the family worked there but they did so quite excessively, working from early morning to late night almost every day of the week.

In one instance, Trunnis was said to have beaten David’s mom blue and black for taking David to the doctor to treat an ear infection he contracted from working for his own father at that very young age!

In what may have been his earliest experience of military training, the future Navy SEAL joined Trunnis’ workforce from the age of six years only. Thus, at a time when other kids his age were frolicking about, exploring the world, inventing and playing all sorts of sports, little David was forced to sit all day in Trunnis’ rink, watching over dull and dingy skating shoes, amid it all, receiving a beating from Trunnis.

How David’s Abusive Childhood Affected His Education

Working day and night at the Trunnis’ rink meant that the family cooked their meals at the rink office, also, David and his siblings went to school from the rink after early morning chores, returned back to the rink at the end of the school day and often had to sleep there at night amid the noise of music issuing from the dance floor. Thus, they were also denied adequate sleep which made the kids sleep at school the following day. This way, David and his siblings were unable to do well in school.

Although David wouldn’t be continuing his boring life at the rink beyond his eighth birthday, his poor performance in school work would get carried over to later in his life – such that he was hardly able to read even by his fifteenth birthday. In fact, he was frequently at the risk of rustication from school due to his extremely poor performance at school work.

This part of his experiences almost threatened David Goggins’ future military career – such as when he could not pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) examination on two occasions – it turned out that, instead, it endowed him with just the right kind of mental toughness needed for a great military and athletic career. You know what they say, when life gives you lemons… Make Lemonades.

Beating The Odds To Become a Navy SEAL 

The retired Navy SEAL chief is on record as the first person to ever complete training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger and Air Force Tactical Air Controller among members of the U.S. armed forces. This achievement could easily paint the picture of a young, physically fit David in anyone’s mind but that was far from the image of the man who arrived at a Navy recruiting station many years ago hoping to become a Navy SEAL…

David Goggins Attempted and Failed at Becoming a Pararescueman

David Goggins’ mom had fled Trunnis tyranny with little David while he was only 8 years old. Mother and child had settled down to a new life in a little town in Indiana. Although they were now relieved of the hellish experiences they had under Trunnis’ Draconian regime, they had lost certain provisions they enjoyed under his fatherhood. So, their new threat became excruciating poverty that saw them living on a $123 monthly welfare check. Therefore, as soon as he was old enough to get a job, David began working at a dead-end job as a pest exterminator. The job and the general experiences he had had, combined to get him very depressed (he had earlier been diagnosed with toxic stress).

At a point, things got so bad that he resorted to excessive consumption of junk food to get over his depression. His bad eating habit threatened his life the more when he became obese, weighing almost 300 pounds at the time he wanted to become a Pararescueman. The maximum weight allowed for the pararescue training was 191 pounds. David had only 3 months to shed the excess weight – which he achieved with one of the most strenuous work-out regimen ever known.

However, David’s woes were far from over! Beginning his military career in the Air Force at the age of 19, with the ambition of becoming an elite Pararescueman, David was discouraged when the training proved to be more difficult than he expected. In the course of the training, military doctors told him that he had sickle cell trait.

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This is a condition in which the victim has only one copy of the abnormal allele of the hemoglobin beta gene. Thus he does not manifest the symptoms of sickle cell anemia like someone who has two copies of the abnormal allele.

A lay man’s way to understand this is as a partial case of sickle cell which can lead to a full case. So, the officials presented David Goggins with the option of dropping out of Pararescue school. He gladly used that as an alibi to quit the training that was already getting on his nerves.

Joining The US Air Force TACP Team

Leaving the Pararescue training camp was not the end of David’s career in the military. In the same year that he was kicked out of the Pararescue training camp, he became inspired to become a Navy SEAL and to achieve his dreams, he first became a US Air Force Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) member…

When David returned from his pararescue training, he could not stand the thought that he had quit when he could have kept pushing. Lost in constant worrying, he was again plunged into depression and gained even more weight.

David got his hope and faith reignited after coming across a  Discovery Channel documentary about Navy SEALs in training. As young Goggins watched the show, it triggered memories of his days in Pararescue training, inspiring him to attempt at becoming a Navy SEAL – who are respected as the toughest military group in the world.

Since his new dream of becoming a Navy SEAL was such a lofty one, David Goggins had to start from somewhere within his reach at the moment which was the Air Force TACP team. After serving with TACP for five years, he left them in 1999. TACP could not satisfy his desire for the Navy SEAL experience, however, his dream of becoming a Navy SEAL was far from dying.

David Achieved His Dream Through Basic Underwater Demolition School

While pondering on several ways that he could achieve his dreams, David was yet again plunged into depression and again became overweight.

About two years down the line, Goggins began a new attempt to indulge his Navy SEAL dream. However, his efforts to find a recruiter was futile for weeks, due to his weight, but his determination eventually paid off when he finally found a recruiter who was ready to give him a chance provided he was willing to shed enough weight in order to ship out to the Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUD/S) within 3 months. Again, he had to lose more than 100 pounds in less than 3 months and was ready to kick off.

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David Goggins
David Goggins (L) During An Interview: Image Source

After a short period of indoctrination at Recruit Training Command, he joined BUD/s. He later made it to the Navy SEAL’s “Hell Week” but because he contracted pneumonia and suffered stress fractures, he failed. Due to the fact that he did not quit voluntarily, he was given the chance to start all over from the first day of the first week of BUD/s. Not wanting to be sent back in training a third time, David Goggins managed to make it through Hell Week with his fractured kneecap and this time passed.

Sadly, his injury made him unable to continue with his class. Consequently, he had to start afresh again, making it through Hell Week with BUD/s Class 235 and finally graduating with his Navy SEAL trident on August 10th, 2001. He was assigned to SEAL Team Five and also served as a training instructor for other SEALs. In 2004, he graduated from Army Ranger School with the distinction of enlisted “Top Honor Man.”

Selfless Fundraising Inspired David’s Athletic Career

During Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan in 2005, 12 Navy SEALs, many of which were his friends were killed. In an attempt to find a way he could raise money for their families, he discovered the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which pays for the college fees of children of special operators killed in combat.

In a bid to raise money for the foundation, he started competing in races and one of the races he had his eye on was the Badwater-135 Ultramarathon. However, he soon learned that there was a need for him to enter another ultramarathon first to prove that he can run 100 miles in 24 hours or less as the Badwater event is based on invitation.

Having qualified to compete in the Badwater event, David was invited to participate in the 2006 Badwater-135, and surprisingly, he finished 5th overall, a wonderful achievement by an ultramarathon novice at a world-class event.

Since then, he has competed in more than 60 ultra-marathons, including the Las Vegas Marathon, the Furnace Creek-508 (2009), the Ultraman World Championships Triathlon in Hawaii among others, and has raised over $2 million for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

On September 27, 2012, the military man-turned athlete, still in a bid to raise funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, tried beating the world record for the most pull-ups done in 24 hours but an injury on his right wrist made him fail. He tried and failed again two months after but eventually succeeded on January 19, 2013, with 4,030 pull-ups in 17 hours.

David Goggins Now Uses His Story To Motivate Other People

As earlier stated, one good thing about problems is that when you have them and you overcome them, you become a proof to other people that they too can overcome their problems. In line with this, David Goggins now tells all these stories to packed audiences. Thus, he has become a motivational speaker.

Since challenges are a universal experience of humanity – and since overcoming our lives’ challenges is what Goggins dwells on mostly – his audiences cut across all sorts of backgrounds – sales executives, athletes, college students, and more. For instance, he has once been invited to speak to the Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks. He has also spoken at the prestigious Executive Education Academy Charter School (EEACS) in Allentown Pennsylvania where he also autographed books. Indeed, his speaking sessions are often booked all through the year. His speeches are generally noted for their ‘no-excuse’ lines. For him, your success starts the moment you own up your failures rather than pushing the blame to some other persons or factors.

Since he cannot possibly tell his story directly to everyone who may need to hear it, he has written his autobiography entitled Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy The Odds. In the book, he details all the experiences he has had in his life while using profound words to encourage his readers. It was published in 2018.

David’s Twitter handles also brim with deep words of encouragement. You’ve seen a bit of this above.


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