Book Review: Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual by Jocko Willink

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Jocko Willink Discipline Equals Freedom ReviewDiscipline Equals Freedom may as well be called “Jocko Willink’s guide to life.”

If you’re not familiar with Jocko, he’s a former Navy SEAL, a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt and now a corporate consultant that helps CEOs manage their companies the way he used to manage military personnel.

Jocko shot to fame a few years ago after being featured on the popular podcasts of Joe Rogan, Sam Harris and Tim Ferriss, then started a show of his own, appropriately entitled The Jocko Podcast.

Since then Jocko’s popularity has exploded, as he’s become known for his no-nonsense, no excuses style of personal development.

He derived the name of this book, Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual, from his personal mantra, so it’s fitting that the book expounds on both his philosophy and his approach to living a disciplined life.

The first half of the book focuses on the philosophical – it’s dedicated to helping you cultivate the right mindset. Jocko shares his thoughts on motivation, dealing with hardships, perseverance, and other elements that affect the way you feel about yourself and your ability to perform tasks that you know will make you better.

In the second half of the book, Jocko shifts his focus to putting his philosophy into practice. Here he focuses almost entirely on the value of fitness and nutrition and offering advice, including extensive workout plans that range in intensity from beginner to intermediate.

The Pros

Cuts Through the B.S.

One of the best things about Jocko and his message is that it’s so straightforward. Yes, it’s one of self-improvement. But no, this absolutely isn’t fluffy, new age, nonsense feel-goodery.

His message is clear: you can be a better version of yourself, and you probably already know how: wake up earlier, work out more, remain true to your values and work to achieve your goals. The tricky part, of course, is in the execution.

The promise of this book, and of Jocko’s brand in general, is that he can help you do it. And he delivers.

Inspiring and Motivational

I can honestly say that the first half of this book is, easily, one of the most inspirational texts I’ve ever read. If you’ve ever listened to Jocko’s podcast or heard him speak, you can probably understand how and why men would follow this guy into war.

He has an almost mythical commitment to improving the lives of both himself and others, and hearing (or in this case, reading) about the lengths to which he goes in order to accomplish those twin missions is incredibly motivating.

Jocko’s example and encouragement will light a fire under your ass and make you want to better yourself. Don’t think you can wake up at 5 a.m.? Read Jocko’s book. Struggling to start a workout plan? Read the book. Want to start eating clean? Guess what you should do…

Authentic Self (Improvement)

The reason that I find Jocko so motivating is that his message seems to stem from a place of honesty. By all accounts, Jocko really does wake up at 4:30 each morning, hit the gym each day, train BJJ frequently, etc.

And his message is simply that if he can do it, you can too. You have more willpower and discipline then you give yourself credit for – you just have to train yourself to tap into it more often.

As self-help messages go, this is about as simple as it gets; you don’t have to believe anything that’s not based in evidence, or subscribe to any ideology or nonsense.

There’s a lot of power in relentlessly pursuing simple but fundamental goals like working out frequently and staying true to your mission, and Jocko presents himself as evidence that people – even mere mortals like you, me, and yes, Jocko himself – can do it.

Second Opinion

Unsurprisingly, I’m not the only one who appreciates Jocko’s authenticity. Check out the video below to find out what Crew Spence from Spartan Plan had to say about Discipline Equals Freedom.

The Cons

Workouts Aren’t Detailed

No book is perfect, and while the philosophy/mindset stuff that Jocko shares is unquestionably powerful, the second half of the book, in which he provides fitness and nutrition advice, is less robust.

He provides three different workout series that stem from his strength-building philosophy: one for beginners, one for advanced exercisers and one for intermediates.

While he does describe the number of sets and reps to do for each move, the descriptions of each move can be a little vague, and unlike fitness magazines or blogs, there are no photos or illustrations to help clarify.

My other gripe about the workouts is that he doesn’t indicate when to do each one. Presumably you would start with the first beginner workout and then do one each day, but he doesn’t make that clear.

Not Much About Nutrition

One of the most important lessons I learned while editing a fitness magazine was just how important nutrition is to your overall health and fitness goals.

Jocko is certainly aware of this and mentions the importance of eating well multiple times throughout the book, going on a helpful discourse about just how damaging sugar can be.

But it would have been nice if he had included some meal plans or other nutritional advice to complement his recommended workout regimen.

Surprising Number of Typos

This one obviously has everything to do with style and nothing to do with substance, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

God knows I’m not perfect and have no doubt left typos strewn all over this blog. But when I published my first book I not only poured over it a hundred times myself, I hired a professional book editor to do the same to make sure it was error-free – and that book was self-published!

This one was published by a professional New York publishing firm, so the fact that I found so many typos is a bit of a mystery.

Bottom Line:

Can this book help you live smart and stand out?

Jocko Willink Discipline Equals Freedom ReviewI’m not sure if discipline equals freedom, but it definitely equals confidence.

As I noted above, the number one message of this book is that you have more willpower and discipline than you might think, you just need to tap into it.

A huge part of getting better – in fact, arguably the most important part – is getting started. Whether your goal is to work out more, dress betterbecome more social or literally anything else, reading the first half of this book will light a fuse under you and make you want to stop reading and start working toward your goal.

Personally I’ve yet to try the workout plan Jocko recommends in the second half of the book, because I’m pretty happy with my own.

But if building strength (or more accurately, building the habit of building strength) is something you’ve struggled with, then you should get a lot out of the second half, too.

Overall it’s a must-read for guys who want to stop doubting, and start doing. Click here to pick it up on Amazon and take control of your discipline.

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About Dave Bowden

Dave Bowden

Irreverent Gent founder Dave Bowden is a style blogger whose advice on how to look good and live well has been featured in some of the world’s most trusted publications, including New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider and more.

When not obsessing over style and self-improvement, he can usually be found spending time with his wonderful wife and son, indulging in a hoppy craft beer, or sobbing over the woeful state of Toronto's sports teams.

Check out Dave's Style Story to find out how a chance encounter with his friend's step-dad taught him the value of looking good and living well. (Don't worry—it's less creepy than it sounds!)

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