“The book derives its title from the underlying principle – the mind-set – that provides the foundation for all the rest: Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.” – Jocko Willink

Whenever something goes wrong in your life there are two ways to respond:

  1. Make excuses and blame others.
  2. Own it and make changes. Thinking up excuses and playing the blame game result in a victim mindset. Owning your life circumstances, on the other hand, leads to control and having the ability to change your life for the better.

This contrast between extreme ownership and extreme victimhood is most evident in the darkest moments of our life.

In helping people who are charged with the crime of driving while impaired, I get to see this contrast in mindset on a regular basis. It is incredible to observe the difference that an attitude of Extreme Ownership has when a client contacts me after a DWI arrest.

During my initial consultation/conversation with “victim” clients, they will explain the circumstances in their life that lead to the DWI (ex. death in the family, divorce, loss of job, etc.).

“Victim” clients will tell me who is to blame for their DWI charge (ex. Coworkers applying peer pressure to go out for drinks, abusive spouse, overly-aggressive police officer, etc.). “Victim” clients complain that there was no reason for the officer to stop them, that the field sobriety testing was biased, and that they were unfairly investigated.

The one thing a “victim” client never tells me: “I messed up.”

The lists of excuses, complaints, and people to blame offered by my clients are often legitimate.

Make no mistake, a DWI stop, investigation, and arrest happen on a particular day and time for a reason. In fact, the reasonable excuses and appropriate blame may be so strong that they might create an ability to challenge the case in court and ultimately result in a DWI being thrown out.

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The issue is that unless a client can identify the part he played leading to the DWI charge, he is bound to be in the same place again. If the client cannot admit his own failings that lead to these circumstances, then history is bound to repeat itself.
A “victim” client is stuck in the past and cannot focus on his future. The “victim” client replays the day of his arrest over and over in his head. A “victim” client in fact believes he has no future, that the DWI is bound to ruin the rest of his life. This mindset is just a continuation of the “victim” mentality: “I can blame my future failures on the fact that I was convicted of a DWI.” Now the DWI itself is just one more excuse, one more thing to blame.

This is the power of being an “Extreme Ownership” client.

As Jocko Willink indicates the attitude of Extreme Ownership is the self-reflection that I am “truly and ultimately responsible for everything.” Even when there are legitimate excuses to be made, valid complaints to be lodged, and real people to blame for a DWI, the “Extreme Ownership” client says “this was my fault.” This admission of fault, this ownership of past choices, allows my client to dictate his future.

Taking ownership of the DWI charge means taking ownership of life. The client who owns his DWI can look at the circumstances which led to the charge and decide never to allow them to happen again. The client who owns his DWI can look at the choices leading up to the DWI and determine what remedial steps need to be taken.

Owning the DWI allows a person to be future focused.

The future is not something to be dreaded but instead a better place than the present. The Extreme Ownership mind-set says that no matter the outcome of the case (whether it ends in conviction or dismissal), this needs to be a turning point. An Extreme Ownership client comes to the powerful life-changing conclusion that “this cannot happen again and there is only one person who can guarantee that: me.”