No Dark Magic

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Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink, Leif Babin

Posted at — Jan 30, 2020

Every chapter in the book comes in three parts: a war story, a summary of the lesson learned there, and a case of applying it in business.

While the advice in this book is solid, it is covered by a thick viscous layer of tasteless platitudes and praise for the US army. Not a single shot is made by an american in this book without him being described as awesome, brave, valiant, and all around The Bestest Ever. The enemy is always evil, dumb, barbarous, cowardly, and pretty much inhuman.

It also doesn’t help that the business cases described are not real cases but rather generalizations and simplifications, which makes the (fictional) dialogues between CEOs (or other leaders) and the authors look like a six-grader’s first attempt at writing.

But, back to the bright side: the lessons.


  • Extreme Ownership: whose fault is it that your team sucks? Yours. Own it and do something about it. Don’t shift the blame.

  • Believe: explain to your team why they’re supposed to do something, all of them should understand it. If you don’t understand why yourself, pester your boss until you do.

  • Prioritize and Execute: pretty much self-explanatory, take a second to step back and decide what is the right order to do things, don’t jump on ten tasks at once.

  • Decentralized Command: make everyone into a leader, teach them how, because you won’t scale.

  • Check your ego.

  • Always reflect and improve.

There were a few more, but you get the level of the insight.

I’ve discussed the war stories with a friend of mine who has military background, and “wow, that’s awful/mismanaged/dangerously silly/should not happen” was the gist of his reaction, but it’s not the point of the book and not in the scope for this review.


(320 pages, ISBN: 1250067057, Worldcat, Open Library)

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