Mentally healthy ownership

How do I break down my ego without breaking down my spirit?


This year as I’ve returned to a corporate job, I have been focused on learning and developing Extreme Ownership. The approach and principles have seemed the answer to problems and challenges I have faced.

I have been able to present on Extreme Ownership a few times at work, and each time, I have heard great questions about how to apply and try to live the principles.

As I’ve tried to answer those questions, I realized that it’s much easier for me to answer other people’s questions than mine own.

This makes sense.

As Jocko often says, the key to solving a problem is to detach.

Separating myself from the problem enough to consider it on behalf of someone else provides more clarity to see how it could be solved.

So I thought I would occasionally pose a question and try to answer it. Writing is a great way to detach, and maybe the answer will be helpful for someone else as well.

The first question is similar to one I’ve heard after presenting.


How can I take ownership without feeling like a terrible failure?

If you are the kind of person that regularly beats yourself up, it seems that looking for how everything is your fault has the potential to destroy you mentally.

How do you break down your ego without breaking down your spirit?


Like many people, I am the type of person that beats myself up. I have a lifetime of practice doing that. It was one of the big things that I had to focus on in dealing with my OCD and learning to overcome the lies my mind tells me. I’m still not quite there, but I’m better than I used to be.

My answer actually doesn’t come from the principles of Extreme Ownership at all, but rather from what I’ve learned in therapy and my recovery.


This was a concept that was totally foreign to me, and I rejected it at first as I learned it. In my group therapy, we were asked for a single word that described self-compassion, and mine was: “impossible.”

With a lot of practice, I started to get better at it. I learned from Dr. Kristin Neff that there are 3 parts to self-compassion:

  1. Self kindness. Learning to treat myself as I would someone that I loved, like a child or a friend. It’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card—it can just be acknowledging that I’m doing something hard and it’s painful.
  2. Common humanity. Recognizing that what I am struggling with is normal and part of the human condition. I had to work to get over wanting to be special in everything.
  3. Mindfulness. Getting in touch with what I am actually feeling, and the sensations in my body, instead of what I expect to feel or think or experience.

I think with that understanding, I was able to come to the ideas of Extreme Ownership and have them not crush me. Instead, recognizing that it truly is my fault is more empowering. I can acknowledge the pain and difficulty of the situation, and choose to take action to make things better.

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