8 min read

Extreme ownership, my takeaways

A few years ago, I read the Extreme Ownership book written by two US Navy SEAL officers about lessons they obtained during their service in the Iraq War.

Extreme ownership applies powerful leadership principles from the battlefield to business and life through life-threatening experiences. In this issue, I will write about the takeaways that I used in my daily routine, which improved my life notably.

The book is full of stories and experiences during the war, engaging and enjoyable to read; I remember when I started to read it, I finished it within 2-3 days, despite having 300 pages. I have also listened to this book once.

If I want to name the main points before saying how I leverage them, they will be in short:

  1. Take ownership of what you do
  2. No lousy team, only bad leaders
  3. Believe in what you do
  4. Check the ego
  5. Keep it simple
  6. Be clear and concise, not only to yourself but also for others
  7. Prioritize and execute
  8. Make a plan
  9. Make a backup plan and move
  10. Discipline equals freedom
  11. Decisiveness amid uncertainty

Let's me now explain my takes and how I used them in my personal and professional life.

Take Extreme Ownership and Checking the Ego

There were many situations in my life that I said, "this is not my fault," or tried to communicate, "I do not take responsibility."

I learned from the book that you are responsible for what you do or what is happening to you!

I have to take ownership to the extreme!

What it means is that I, as a leader of my life, must not blame anyone! If there is any failure, I have to admit it.

I have to acknowledge my mistakes. I have to accept them, but I also need to take ownership of them, leading me to develop a plan, think, and try to become better at them.

It's up to me to have a clear understanding of my mission, good tools, and a proper plan and focus on what I want to do and make it happen.

If I own it, I can win it!

When you own it, it's easier to plan for victory! Because you don't look for someone to blame or something to shout at, you are not neccessarily looking for who made the fault!

Instead, you'll find a way to develop skills to win the situation!

One of the best examples in my life is my journey years ago about job interviews that I mentioned in my first issue, The Art of Failing Job Interviews and Winning a Job!

I said: "It's all my responsibility that I failed."

I owned what happened to me, and I planned to win it!

I did! That was my battlefield, and I ended up having victory! Eventually, that's what will happen to every situation that I have owned them.

In the book "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK," I wrote about in my second issue, Appreciate your achievements!  The author says the same thing too.

Keep it simple & Be clear and concise!

This must sound familiar to many of us! We also have it in software development, KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)!

The fact was pretty apparent to me as I have been a software engineer for a few years. However, what was new to me was applying the same thing to my life and professional missions!

I have to admit that it's tough to think simple at the beginning for a person who is a perfectionist like me.

Thousands of times in my life, I have postponed something just because I wanted to be perfect!

This book has shown me that I have to change my mindset and think simpler, although I plan appropriately.

I learned that others around me must know my mission, plan or objective, purposes, and goals as simply as possible!

It's must be simple to understand!

Once these are simple for me and others, the execution becomes more straightforward and ultimately brings me and others more satisfaction!

A real example of my life is my Youtube channel! I postponed starting this channel for years just because I didn't clarify why I would do this! I wanted everything to be perfect. I made it complex not only to me but also for the family even to understand.

Once the mission, goal, and plan were simple enough, my family and I understood why I would do this! Then I did it!

"I love creating content for the community; I enjoy it. It gives me energy and motivation!", this was the mission.

Simple! I don't care about anything else!

But before this simple statement, I thought about money, time, types of equipment, perfect lights, camera, etc.

None of them were even required when the mission was simplified!

Getting started is the most challenging part; it's easier to start when you make it simple, and you'll figure out how to progressively enhance it.

Decide, Prioritize and execute!

One of my problems is that I have too many ideas and plans to do! I bet you resonate with me!

It's tough to make decisions and prioritize. You never know what will happen based on your decision now! Uncertainty occurs at any moment.

I learned one important lesson!

Regardless of the result, it will be a significant achievement when I quickly prioritize and execute my plans.

The main reason is that I have done something! That by itself is a great feeling!

I can always learn from my decisions and planning.

I avoid falling into the details trap because I can figure that out along the way! It might not always be a valid point, but it works in most cases.  Many times, it's more important to decide quickly and execute.

In the book, it mentions that what seals usually do is

  • Relax
  • Look around
  • Make a call

What I do, especially in my professional life, is to decide as fast as I can. Based on that, prioritize what is essential to achieve what I want, and from the top of the list, start executing and getting things done!

Let me give an example. How I learn something new is just what seals do!

When I decided to become an expert in the cloud, I relaxed and looked around to determine which cloud technology I should start with.

What I did

1- I was calm and relaxed and was searching for different skills

2- Once I decided to become an expert in the cloud and want to be certified! Although certification was not essential for me and maybe not even for the industry, it gave me a clear path to proceed.

3- I prioritized cloud skills over other skills and started planning

4- I made my plan, and I executed

5- what happens is that I received my first two certifications in the last two months, and the Expert (3rd one) is coming end of October.

6- I have no other plan to learn any skills until I receive my expert certification.

This may sound like a silly example, but it shows how my decisions, prioritizing, and executing led me to what I was looking for, an expert and certified solution architect.

I am far from great at deciding, prioritizing, and executing, but I have been trying to improve every day.

Believe in what you do; Plan and make a backup plan!

I failed when I didn't believe in what I was doing!

What is excellent in believing is that when I believe in what I will do, I can plan it! I go deep into it and find out what needs to be done to achieve it!

Indeed, planning is critical, but having one plan might become disastrous.

I tend to think about situations that might not go well based on my plan. That always helps me not be surprised when it happens.

Some people don't like to think differently; I understand them, and you don't need to do that too. However, I believe, when you plan, it's always good to back your plan up; just in case if nothing goes well, you can quickly adapt.

When I decided to migrate to Australia, I did whatever I planned. After I started my application with Australian immigration, I also started a new application in New Zealand a few months later. That was my backup plan.

I even made a backup for my backup plan! I started to look for a job in Europe!

I didn't want my first plan; Australia stops me if it fails.

I did all of this because I believed that I would live and perform better if I migrated to another country of my choice.

That happened eventually!

Discipline, Discipline, Discipline!

I cannot stress enough how vital discipline is!

I failed many times in my life because I didn't have enough discipline to execute consistently!

"The best seals I worked with were invariably the most disciplined! They woke up early, worked out every day, studied, and practiced just as an individual excels when they exercise self-dicsicplne -- says the book' authors.

Discipline must be in every second of life! That's what I am aiming for! It must be from when I wake up until I go to bed.

I wrote about my learning discipline in the "Consistent Learner! A secret that changed my life" issue. I mentioned that I woke up every day to learn a skill regardless of the day of the week or where I was! That's discipline.

I am still doing the same thing! I allocated the first 2 hours of my morning for learning something new, and I do it every day, even on Sundays!

It's hard to stay disciplined, but that's the most important way that leads us to a successful path.

An example in my life! When I wake up, I tone off the alarm and get up immediately and start my day energetic as I planned based on my discipline.

If that happens, I usually have a great day with so many achievements!

But as soon as I snooze the alarm and lay a bit more in the bed and start lazy! I never can finish what I planned!

I learned discipline starts from the very beginning!

Discipline and consistency together have significantly changed my life.


The Extreme Ownership book is a fantastic read. Even though the book is about leadership in a business context, I could apply many concepts to my personal life by providing lessons that authors have learned from the war.

If I want to highlight only one takeaway from this book, that would be discipline. I cannot stress enough how important this word is to my life.

My Favorite

John Stephen Akhwari is a Tanzanian former marathon runner. He represented Tanzania in the marathon at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. The story of him is astonishing. He is a role model, I think. Look at the video below, and you'll find out why I admire him.

Never Give Up

Story of John Steven Aquari of Tanzania