When it comes to business and life, there’s not a lot Jocko Willink hasn’t done.

He’s a decorated retired Navy SEAL officer, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, host of the top-rated Jocko Podcast, and co-founder of leadership consulting company Echelon Front – not to mention a husband and father of four.

The 47-year-old is as successful as he is intimidating. He sat down with The CEO Magazine to share some of his top tips for success in life and in business.

Have a morning routine

“First thing’s first, before you go to bed at night, write your to-do list for tomorrow. Next, set your alarm clock for early in the morning, get up and go do some kind of physical activity,” he says.

Jocko writes in Extreme Ownership, co-written with one of his platoon leaders Leif Babin, that the highest performers he served with were those who woke up the earliest, starting their days while everyone else slept.

“I don’t care what it is – lifting weights or doing yoga, swimming, running or callisthenics. Whatever it is, do something that gets your blood flowing and starts your day on the right track.”

Jocko Willink
Jocko Willink is 235 pounds of pure muscle, grit and determination – packed into a sturdy 5 foot 11 inch frame

Do something that gets your blood flowing and starts your day on the right track.

Personally, Jocko heads to his garage, which he has converted into a fully-equipped gym. Here, he’ll lift heavy weights for about an hour, not including cardio, followed by a quick surf and an evening jujitsu session.

“Once you’re awake and active, go out and attack the work on your to-do list. Those are three small choices you can make every day that have a huge impact on your productivity and mindset,” he says.

To keep himself accountable, every morning when he wakes up – around 4:30am – Jocko posts a photo of his well-used Timex watch on his Twitter page, accompanied by motivational messages like ‘Monday is about to get CURB STOMPED’,‘Waiting won’t make it go away’ or ‘It’s the weekend. GO HARDER.’

Put the team first

Jocko and Leif founded their US-based leadership consulting firm Echelon Front to provide unmatched solutions in leadership and management, strategy and innovation, team building, and crisis management.

Their methods are ones that have been developed and proven by US Navy SEAL teams.

“Leadership isn’t one person leading a team. It’s a group of leaders working together, up and down the chain of command, to lead,” Jocko says.

‘Discipline equals freedom’

When it came to building his own business, Jocko notes that the first step was to start off small and build from the bottom up.

“If you can, mitigate as much capital investment as possible in the beginning. If you show discipline in your spending, you’ll have a lot more freedom and ownership in the long term.”

According to Jocko, the ‘discipline equals freedom’ mantra is one that can be applied to all aspects of life.

“It may seem counterintuitive because freedom is something everyone wants. But the fact of the matter is, if you really want freedom, the only way to get there is through discipline.

If you really want freedom, the only way to get there is through discipline.

“If you want financial freedom, you have to have the discipline to save and invest your money. And if you want more free time, you have to be disciplined in your time management skills.”

Always give it your all

Jocko adds: “As with everything, you need to always give 100 per cent. We work for the customer – it’s our goal to make sure they are satisfied when we’re done with them.

“The more you take care of the customer, the better off you’ll be. People are going to spread the word, and I think that’s critical in growing a business.”

Don’t forget your passion

“Lastly, I would say do something you really enjoy and you’re passionate about.

“For me and my team of guys at Echelon Front, we all love reading, learning and talking about leadership. We also enjoy working with customers who want to do better and want to improve and try and take their companies to the next level.”

Jocko’s advice is clearly resonating. His 2017 Ted Talk on ‘Extreme Ownership’ has more than 1.2 million views.


The Jocko Podcast is also one of the most popular podcasts in America – with more than 2.4 million episodes downloaded from November 2016 to January 2017 alone.

In a recent podcast, Jocko and Leif offer more business tips in How to Lead and Win.