John Gretton “Jocko” Willink Jr. is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL, notable for leading SEAL Team 3’s Task Unit Bruiser during the Iraq War in Ramadi, earning the Silver Star and Bronze Star Medal.
Rising to lieutenant commander, Willink’s military achievements include intercepting a Russian tanker violating a U.N. embargo.
After service, he co-authored “Extreme Ownership” and “The Dichotomy of Leadership” with SEAL Leif Babin.
The duo founded the consulting firm Echelon Front, LLC. Willink hosts the “Jocko Podcast” with 1.7 million YouTube subscribers, holds a B.A. in English from the University of San Diego and is renowned in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, even promoting his daughter to purple belt.
He also co-owns a lifestyle brand and instructs jiu-jitsu in San Diego.
Below are some of the most inspiring quotes by Jocko Willink.
Jocko Willink Quotes
Discipline equals freedom. ~ Jocko Willink.
There is no growth in the comfort zone. ~ Jocko Willink.
Faster. Stronger. Smarter. More humble. Less ego. ~ Jocko Willink.
There are no bad units, only bad officers.3 This captures the essence of what Extreme Ownership is all about. ~ Jocko Willink.
A good leader does not get bogged down in the minutia of a tactical problem at the expense of strategic success. ~ Jocko Willink.
But what I can tell you is this: when it comes to performance standards, It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. ~ Jocko Willink.
Our freedom to operate and maneuver had increased substantially through disciplined procedures. Discipline equals freedom. ~ Jocko Willink.
A good leader has nothing to prove, but everything to prove. ~ Jocko Willink.
Leadership is simple, but not easy. ~ Jocko Willink.
Waiting for the 100 percent right and certain solution leads to delay, indecision, and an inability to execute. ~ Jocko Willink.
Best Jocko Willink Quotes
After all, there can be no leadership where there is no team. ~ Jocko Willink.
Take care of your gear and your gear will take care of you. ~ Jocko Willink.
Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame. ~ Jocko Willink.
People do not follow robots. ~ Jocko Willink.
That’s it. When things are going bad: Don’t get all bummed out, don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated. No. Just look at the issue and say: Good. ~ Jocko Willink.
Don’t let your mind control you. Control your mind. ~ Jocko Willink.
It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. ~ Jocko Willink.
Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team. ~ Jocko Willink.
Relax. Look around. Make a call. ~ Jocko Willink.
Top Jocko Willink Quotes
Cover and Move, Simple, Prioritize and Execute, and Decentralized Command. ~ Jocko Willink.
Don’t fight stress. Embrace it. 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. Use the stress to make you a better you. ~ Jocko Willink.
Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline. ~ Jocko Willink.
The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win – you pass the test. ~ Jocko Willink.
But, in fact, discipline is the pathway to freedom. ~ Jocko Willink.
For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success. The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it. ~ Jocko Willink.
PRINCIPLE Ego clouds and disrupts everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism. It can even stifle someone’s sense of self-preservation. Often, the most difficult ego to deal with is your own. ~ Jocko Willink.
Although discipline demands control and asceticism, it actually results in freedom. When you have the discipline to get up early, you are rewarded with more free time. ~ Jocko Willink.
Even the most competent of leaders can be overwhelmed if they try to tackle multiple problems or a number of tasks simultaneously. ~ Jocko Willink.
Accountability is an important tool that leaders must utilize. However, it should not be the primary tool. It must be balanced with other leadership tools, such as making sure people understand the why, empowering subordinates, and trusting they will do the right thing without direct oversight because they fully understand the importance of doing so. ~ Jocko Willink.
There is only one person to blame for this: me. I am the commander. I am responsible for the entire operation. As the senior man, I am responsible for every action that takes place on the battlefield. There is no one to blame but me. And I will tell you this right now: I will make sure that nothing like this ever happens to us again. ~ Jocko Willink.
On any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win. ~ Jocko Willink.
Inspiring Jocko Willink Quotes
You can’t make people listen to you. You can’t make them execute. That might be a temporary solution for a simple task. But to implement real change, to drive people to accomplish something truly complex or difficult or dangerous – you can’t make people do those things. You have to lead them. ~ Jocko Willink.
If mistakes happen, effective leaders don’t place blame on others. They take ownership of the mistakes, determine what went wrong, develop solutions to correct those mistakes and prevent them from happening again as they move forward. ~ Jocko Willink.
If the plan is simple enough, everyone understands it, which means each person can rapidly adjust and modify what he or she is doing. If the plan is too complex, the team can’t make rapid adjustments to it, because there is no baseline understanding of it. ~ Jocko Willink.
Staying ahead of the curve prevents a leader from being overwhelmed when pressure is applied and enables greater decisiveness. ~ Jocko Willink.
So what does it take to win? Yes, you have to be determined. Yes, you have to be driven. Yes, you must have the unconquerable will to win. But to really win, to truly win at all cost, requires more flexibility, more creativity, more adaptability, more compromise, and more humility than most people ever realize. That is what it takes to win. ~ Jocko Willink.
When setting expectations, no matter what has been said or written, if substandard performance is accepted and no one is held accountable – if there are no consequences – that poor performance becomes the new standard. ~ Jocko Willink.
Is this what I want to be? This? Is this all I’ve got – is this everything I can give? Is this going to be my life? Do I accept that? ~ Jocko Willink.
Prioritize your problems and take care of them one at a time, the highest priority first. Don’t try to do everything at once or you won’t be successful. I explained how a leader who tries to take on too many problems simultaneously will likely fail at them all. ~ Jocko Willink.
Powerful Jocko Willink Quotes
We learned that leadership requires belief in the mission and unyielding perseverance to achieve victory, particularly when doubters question whether victory is even possible. ~ Jocko Willink.
Leadership doesn’t just flow down the chain of command, but up as well, he said. We have to own everything in our world. That’s what Extreme Ownership is all about. ~ Jocko Willink.
Everyone has an ego. Ego drives the most successful people in life – in the SEAL Teams, in the military, in the business world. They want to win, to be the best. That is good. But when ego clouds our judgment and prevents us from seeing the world as it is, then ego becomes destructive. ~ Jocko Willink.
Another mission. Another task. Another goal. And the enemy is always watching. Waiting. Looking for that moment of weakness. Looking for you to exhale, set your weapon down, and close your eyes, even just for a moment. And that’s when they attack. So don’t be finished. ~ Jocko Willink.
When leading up the chain of command, use caution and respect. But remember, if your leader is not giving the support you need, don’t blame him or her. Instead, reexamine what you can do to better clarify, educate, influence, or convince that person to give you what you need in order to win. ~ Jocko Willink.
Humans can withstand almost inconceivable stress – and you can too. So that is your first step: Gain perspective. And to do that you must do something critical in many situations: Detach. Whatever problems or stress you are experiencing, detach from them. Stress is generally caused by what you can’t control. ~ Jocko Willink.
Departments and groups within the team must break down silos, depend on each other and understand who depends on them. ~ Jocko Willink.
If you don’t understand or believe in the decisions coming down from your leadership, it is up to you to ask questions until you understand how and why those decisions are being made. Not knowing the why prohibits you from believing in the mission. When you are in a leadership position, that is a recipe for failure, and it is unacceptable. As a leader, you must believe. ~ Jocko Willink.
If your boss isn’t making a decision in a timely manner or providing necessary support for you and your team, don’t blame the boss. First, blame yourself. Examine. ~ Jocko Willink.
For this reason, they must believe in the cause for which they are fighting. ~ Jocko Willink.
Great Jocko Willink Quotes
Plans and orders must be communicated in a manner that is simple, clear, and concise. Everyone. ~ Jocko Willink.
Leadership isn’t one person leading a team. It is a group of leaders working together, up and down the chain of command, to lead. ~ Jocko Willink.
Leaders must always operate with the understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their own personal interests. ~ Jocko Willink.
As a leader, it is up to you to explain the bigger picture to him – and to all your front line leaders. That is a critical component of leadership. ~ Jocko Willink.
Generally, when a leader struggles, the root cause behind the problem is that the leader has leaned too far in one direction and steered off course. ~ Jocko Willink.
It is critical for leaders to act decisively amid uncertainty; to make the best decisions they can based on only the immediate information available. ~ Jocko Willink.
When everyone participating in an operation knows and understands the purpose and end state of the mission, they can theoretically act without further guidance. ~ Jocko Willink.
I had to take ownership of everything that went wrong. Despite the tremendous blow to my reputation and to my ego, it was the right thing to do – the only thing to do. ~ Jocko Willink.
More than a decade of continuous war and tough combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan gave birth to a new generation of leaders in the ranks of America’s fighting forces. ~ Jocko Willink.
So how can a leader become great if they lack the natural characteristics necessary to lead? The answer is simple: a good leader builds a great team that counterbalances their weaknesses. ~ Jocko Willink.
As a leader, you have to balance the dichotomy, to be resolute where it matters but never inflexible and uncompromising on matters of little importance to the overall good of the team and the strategic mission. ~ Jocko Willink.
His realistic assessment, acknowledgment of failure, and ownership of the problem were key to developing a plan to improve performance and ultimately win. Most important of all, he believed winning was possible. ~ Jocko Willink.
Wise Jocko Willink Quotes
But we can’t ever think we are too good to fail or that our enemies are not capable, deadly, and eager to exploit our weaknesses. We must never get complacent. This is where controlling the ego is most important. ~ Jocko Willink.
For this reason, they must believe in the cause for which they are fighting. They must believe in the plan they are asked to execute, and most important, they must believe in and trust the leader they are asked to follow. ~ Jocko Willink.
When leaders who epitomize Extreme Ownership drive their teams to achieve a higher standard of performance, they must recognize that when it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate. ~ Jocko Willink.
A leader must lead but also be ready to follow. Sometimes, another member of the team – perhaps a subordinate or direct report – might be in a better position to develop a plan, make a decision, or lead through a specific situation. ~ Jocko Willink.
Boat Crew Six had become comfortable with substandard performance. Working under poor leadership and an unending cycle of blame, the team constantly failed. No one took ownership, assumed responsibility, or adopted a winning attitude. ~ Jocko Willink.
We wrote this so that the leadership lessons can continue to impact teams beyond the battlefield in all leadership situations – any company, team, or organization in which a group of people strives to achieve a goal and accomplish a mission. ~ Jocko Willink.
When a leader takes too much ownership, there is no ownership left for the team or subordinate leaders to take. So the team loses initiative, they lose momentum, they won’t make any decision, they just sit around and wait to be told what to do. ~ Jocko Willink.
Because emotion and logic will both reach their limitations. And when one fails, you need to rely on the other. When it just doesn’t make any logical sense to go on, that’s when you use your emotion, your anger, your frustration, your fear, to push further, to push you to say one thing: I don’t stop. ~ Jocko Willink.
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? How can you use it to your advantage? I couldn’t control the chaos of combat. I had to embrace it. I had to figure out a way to take advantage of it. Make it into your ally. ~ Jocko Willink.
The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails. For all the definitions, descriptions, and characterizations of leaders, there are only two that matter: effective and ineffective. Effective leaders lead successful teams that accomplish their mission and win. Ineffective leaders do not. ~ Jocko Willink.
There were no more questions. The most important question had been answered: Why? Once I analyzed the mission and understood for myself that critical piece of information, I could then believe in the mission. If I didn’t believe in it, there was no way I could possibly convince the SEALs in my task unit to believe in it. ~ Jocko Willink.