Jack Demma, Warrior Kid (Demma’s Notes on Jocko Willink’s Way of the Warrior Kid)

What type of kids do you want to raise?

Well, I think I want to raise kids who can successfully find meaning and fulfillment in their lives.

How do people come to successfully find meaning in the world?

Maybe it starts with dreaming about what a meaningful life might be like, and aiming towards that ideal. But the problem is the world can be a hard place to get along in.

What are the life skills your kids will need for their journey, and how do kids come to know these skills?

That’s a hard one, and the answer is not easy or obvious. We love our kids, and we want them to be happy. So we want to do nice things for them and help them along their way.

But happy coddled kids are not ready for their journey, are they?

We need kids who will grow to be strong in the face of adversity. They have to be able to face their fears and overcome them. They will have to accept responsibility and work hard, sacrificing short term comforts to find long term meaning.

These are difficult lessons for kids to learn and for parents to teach. One amazing resource for parents and kids is Jocko Willink’s “Way of the Warrior Kid”.

The book opens on the last day of 5th grade for the main character, a boy named Marc. Marc is having a hard time at school and in life. He feels stupid because he doesn’t know his multiplication tables, he’s embarrassed he can’t swim or do any pull ups in gym class, and he lives his life in constant fear of a bully named Kenny Williamson. He has given up any hope, and he “cries like a baby” when he thinks about his situation.

As luck would have it Marc’s uncle Jake shows up the next day. Jake is a Navy SEAL who will be staying with the family for the summer.

Over the course of the summer, Marc is inspired to work hard to transform his life. Uncle Jake serves as an ideal that Marc can aim towards. In doing so, Marc learns his times tables by studying flash cards. He achieves his goal of doing 10 pull ups by the end of the summer by getting up early and working out almost every day. And he develops the confidence to stand up to bullies by starting to train jiu jitsu.

My favorite scene in the book comes during the capstone of Marc’s swim training. Uncle Jake challenged Marc to jump off a small bridge into a stream by the end of the summer. When the big day came, Marc found he was afraid to jump off the bridge. Standing at the edge, staring into the chaotic dark waters below, he froze and couldn’t jump. Uncle Jake came up beside Marc and told him that key to facing your fears in life is to work hard, prepare, and then go. Just go. Marc had put in the hard work and all that was left to do was to make that leap into the unknown. Dive into chaos, even if you’re afraid. With that, uncle Jake let out a primal scream and dove in the river. Seeing his idol face fear stirred something up inside of Marc. He let out his own primal scream and then jumped.

That’s the type of kids I want to raise. Kids who aren’t afraid to face the unknown, the chaos, and the fear that everyone experiences in life. Kids who are strong enough to dive into the water, swim all the way to the bottom, and come up from the depths with a better life in front of them.

While we were reading the book, Jack decided to get after it himself.

  • We set of goal on a Sunday night of Jack learning to tie his own shoes by the end of the week, and he achieved his goal by Friday morning. It was a hard and frustrating week for him, but he stuck with it and did it. I haven’t tied his shoes since.
  • Jack’s been working on reading sight words flash cards. He flips through the pile, and if he gets the word right on the first try he puts the card in the “got it” pile and if he trips over the word it goes in the “do it again pile”. He keeps going until all the cards are in the “got it” pile. After 2 days he improved by 50% – cutting the “do it again pile” in 1/2 and finishing the exercise in the half the time.
  • Jack asked to start training jiu jitsu. I’ve shown him a few things at home and told him that when we move to Seattle I’ll start taking him to the academy with me.

The book closes with Marc writing a letter to his uncle Jake. In the letter, Marc thanks uncle Jake and details his new warrior code, a set of values and ideals that he’s going to live his life by.

Jack decided to write his own warrior code. Here it is:

Name: Jack’s Code

  1. Help my family
  2. Help clean
  3. Respect my family
  4. Love my family
  5. Complete work
  6. Eat vegetables
  7. Never give up

I’m so proud of him.