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50 Powerful Jocko Willink Quotes to Motivate Leaders

Published on March 3, 2020 7:29 AM EST
Powerful Jocko Willink Quotes to Motivate Leaders

A master of discipline and leadership, retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink is a source of inspiration for all. Read a collection of motivational Jocko Willink quotes below. 

Do you have a personal connection to the military? 

John Gretton “Jocko” Willink is most well-known for co-authoring the New York Times bestselling books Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership. Willink received many awards throughout his military career, including the Silver Star Medal and the Bronze Star.

Powerful Jocko Willink Quotes to Motivate Leaders

Willink now co-hosts a weekly podcast entitled The Jocko Podcast. During the podcast, Willink discusses a variety of different topics including leadership, self-control, and his experiences as a Navy SEAL with his co-host Echo Charles.

Read these Jocko Willink quotes to gain insights into his perspectives on leadership, success, wellness, and more. 

We also have a collection of Chesty Puller quotes and quotes on discipline that will motivate you to push it to the limits. Be sure to also read that.

Powerful Jocko Willink quotes

1. “If you continue to keep low performers on your team, that are actually dragging the team down; you’re failing the whole team, and eventually, the whole team is going to fail.” – Jocko Willink

2. “Overconfidence was risky in such a hostile environment, a mistake most often made by warriors who had never truly been tested.” – Jocko Willink

3. “If I went back to my 20-year-old self, what I would tell my 20-year-old self is, ‘You don’t know anything.’ Because everyone, when they’re young, they think they know what’s going on in the world, and you don’t.” – Jocko Willink

4. “While discipline and freedom seem like they sit on opposite sides of the spectrum, they are actually very connected.” – Jocko Willink

5. “There are people in the world who have skills and strength and talent that I will never have. Never. These notions that you can ‘be whatever you want to be as long as you want it bad enough’ are not true. They are fairy tales.” – Jocko Willink

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6. “A lot of times, people have something that they’re afraid of. They’ve got a client that’s mad at them. They’ve got a project that’s due. And they let that stress hang over their head. I don’t let that happen.” – Jocko Willink

7. “I’m always reading the next book. Taking notes. Highlighting, researching, studying. It doesn’t stop.” – Jocko Willink

8. “Didn’t get promoted? Good. More time to get better.” – Jocko Willink

9. “All animals, including humans, need to see the connection between action and consequence in order to learn or react appropriately.” – Jocko Willink

10. “Getting out of bed is like the foundation of the discipline, and I think it carries over into everything else.” – Jocko Willink

11. “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. Therefore, leaders must enforce standards.” – Jocko Willink

12. “Just do some kind of workout. Doesn’t matter if it’s going for a walk around the block, going for a jog, doing some calisthenics, lifting weights, going to a pool and swimming – you name it. But do something that gets your blood flowing and gets your mind in the game.” – Jocko Willink

13. “Jiu-Jitsu is probably the No. 1 activity that I could recommend to someone to improve their lives overall.” – Jocko Willink

14. “It is essential to develop a standardized planning process.” – Jocko Willink

Jocko Willink quotes about leadership

15. “Leading people is the most challenging and, therefore, the most gratifying undertaking of all human endeavors.” – Jocko Willink

16. “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

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17. “The goal of all leaders should be to work themselves out of a job. When mentored and coached properly, the junior leader can eventually replace the senior leader, allowing the senior leader to move on to the next level of leadership.” – Jocko Willink

18. “One of the key qualities a leader must possess is the ability to detach from the chaos, mayhem, and emotions in a situation and make good, clear decisions based on what is actually happening.” – Jocko Willink

19. “A good leader does not get bogged down in the minutia of a tactical problem at the expense of strategic success.” – Jocko Willink

20. “A leader must lead, but also be ready to follow. They must be aggressive, but not overbearing. A leader must be calm, but not robotic. They must be confident but never cocky. A leader must be brave, but not foolhardy. They must have a competitive spirit, but be a gracious loser.” – Jocko Willink

21. “The temptation to take the easy road is always there. It is as easy as staying in bed in the morning and sleeping in. But discipline is paramount to ultimate success and victory for any leader and any team.” – Jocko Willink

22. “Put your leaders in stressful scenarios. Make them figure out solutions under pressure. See if you can make them frustrated, angry, and flustered, and then demand decisive leadership from them. They will be challenged at first, but they will get better over time.” – Jocko Willink

23. “Leadership requires finding the equilibrium in the dichotomy of many seemingly contradictory qualities, between one extreme and another.” – Jocko Willink

24. “Leadership is simple, but not easy.” – Jocko Willink

25. “When I was running training, we would fire a couple of leaders from every SEAL team because they couldn’t lead. And 99.9% of the time, it wasn’t a question of their ability – it was a question of their ability to listen.” – Jocko Willink

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26. “The best leaders understand the motivations of their team members and know their people – their lives and their families. But a leader must never grow so close to subordinates that one member of the team becomes more important than another, or more important than the mission itself.” – Jocko Willink

27. “The leader is truly and ultimately responsible for everything.” – Jocko Willink

28. “Staying ahead of the curve prevents a leader from being overwhelmed when pressure is applied and enables greater decisiveness.” – Jocko Willink

29. “Good leaders don’t make excuses. Instead, they figure out a way to get it done.” – Jocko Willink

30. “Leaders must always operate with the understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their own personal interests.” – Jocko Willink

31. “A good leader has nothing to prove, but everything to prove.” – Jocko Willink

Also check out these Thomas Paine quotes that will make you question your philosophy.

Jocko Willink quotes on discipline

32. “I would venture to guess that the biggest reason creative types don’t produce isn’t because they don’t have vision… or talent… in most cases, it’s a lack of discipline.” – Jocko Willink

33. “Don’t think in the morning. That’s a big mistake that people make. They wake up in the morning and they start thinking. Don’t think. Just execute the plan. The plan is the alarm clock goes off, you get up, you go work out. Get some.” – Jocko Willink

34. “The more you practice, the better you get, the more freedom you have to create.” – Jocko Willink

35. “If you allow the status quo to persist, you can’t expect to improve performance, and you can’t expect to win.” – Jocko Willink

36. “That nice, soft pillow and the warm blanket, and it’s all comfortable, and no one wants to leave that comfort – but if you can wake up early in the morning, get a head start on everyone else that’s still sleeping, get productive time doing things that you need to do – that’s a huge piece to moving your life forward.” – Jocko Willink

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37. “We all have a tendency to avoid our weaknesses. When we do that, we never progress or get any better.” – Jocko Willink

38. “There are people in the world who have skills and strength and talent that I will never have. Never. These notions that you can ‘be whatever you want to be as long as you want it bad enough’ are not true. They are fairy tales.” – Jocko Willink

Learn the secrets of success with these Alexander the Great quotes

Jocko Willink quotes on military 

39. “What makes you a SEAL, what makes you a SEAL is being a good tactician on the battlefield, understanding how to shoot, move, and communicate, knowing small unit maneuver warfare.” – Jocko Willink

40. “They didn’t have to jump for joy at the thought of fighting alongside Iraqi soldiers on a dangerous battlefield. But they did have to understand why they were doing it so that they could believe in the mission.” – Jocko Willink

41. “If frontline troops are unclear about the plan and yet are too intimidated to ask questions, the team’s ability to effectively execute the plan radically decreases.” – Jocko Willink

42. “Waking up early was the first example I noticed in the SEAL Teams in which discipline was really the difference between being good and being exceptional.” – Jocko Willink

43. “SEALs are human beings. We may all have the same haircuts, but we aren’t robots. Some SEALs are great people. Some are not great people. Some have done unspeakably terrible things. You’re dealing with different people, different dreams, different desires.” – Jocko Willink

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Short inspirational Jocko Willink quotes

44. “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

45. “People do not follow robots.” – Jocko Willink

46. “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.” – Jocko Willink

47. “Ego clouds and disrupts everything.” – Jocko Willink

48. “Stop researching every aspect of it and reading all about it and debating the pros and cons of it … Start doing it.”  – Jocko Willink

49. “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

50. “Things won’t get better dwelling on the past. Accept what has happened. Then move forward.” – Jocko Willink

You might also like these CT Fletcher quotes to unleash your inner beast.

How disciplined are you? 

Becoming more disciplined is a goal of many. A piece of advice that Jocko Willink gives above, is to wake up early. If you want to become a morning person, commit to a schedule. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same times every day. Schedule an alarm on your phone to ensure you’ll stick to it. 

To help yourself wake up earlier, put activities into your routine that will make you excited about going to sleep. For example, treat yourself to an awesome breakfast or watch your favorite television show while you get dressed. With time, you may find that you’re more of an early riser than you thought. 

What’s your favorite quote from Jocko Willink? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

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