Extreme Ownership Book Review

Extreme Ownership Book Review

posted in: Articles, Tom's Blog | 0

I recently finished the book Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and I want to share some of my thoughts with you guys and talk about how the principles apply to the games business. First off Jocko’s voice is exactly what you would expect one of the most deadly SEAL’s in the world to sound like.

I forgot to mention, this was the audio version of the book, read by Jocko and Leif themselves instead of some random narrator. Definitely worth the experience listening to it so if after reading this post you feel like checking it out, I recommend you head over to Audible and pick this one up. Don’t worry, this is an affiliate offer and your first audiobook is on me.


The main thrust of the book is that leadership at every level of a team is vital to success. Jocko and his co-author Leif Babin use their experiences from their deployment in Ramadi, Iraq as part of Seal Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser to explain how leadership determines strategic success.

Each chapter is composed of first-hand accounts of a particular aspect of leadership on the field of battle, an exploration of the principle in general, and then its direct application to business. After finishing their deployment and leaving the Seal Teams, Jocko and Lief founded Echelon Front. It’s a company that teaches these same leadership principles to businesses and organizations.

There are two principles that apply most to building a successful game store that I want to explore in this post. Strategic Success and Ownership.

extreme ownershipStrategic Success

In the book, Jocko and Leif talk about the difference between tactics and strategy. A leader can’t effectively lead if they get bogged down in the tactical minutiae. To translate this to the business of growing a game store, it’s all too easy for you as the owner to end up doing the grunt work and getting down in the trenches on the frontline (to jam in as many military metaphors as I can in this sentence) and forget about the big picture.

There are always more cards to sort, products to organize and merchandise, bathrooms to clean, and customers to help. And if it’s just you running your store now, that’s something you have to manage yourself. But you have to be able to take a step back and think about your overall strategy if you want your business to succeed and grow.

If all you do is execute on the tactics, that is, the small day-to-day activities that running a game store entails, then you will find your business growing haphazardly, if it grows at all. Tactics without a strategy are like walking towards your destination with your head down. Without looking up and aligning what you are actively doing with your end goal, you will end up walking in circles.

Perhaps starving to death in a forest.

A strategy is a map, and the tactics are the steps you take on your journey.

The steps should be moving your business in the same general direction. You should be making progress on your overall strategic vision for the store. You can pivot and move around obstacles, but you should always be pushing forward in the same general direction.

Everything you do should fit into your strategic vision and build on the progress you’ve made so far.

Which means you need to have a goal in mind and design a strategy to get you there.

So the questions for you is “What is your goal?” and “What is your strategic vision?” If you can answer these questions, you’ll be able to direct your team and yourself much more effectively.


The idea of owning your world is one of the most humbling concepts in the book. Extreme ownership means you don’t have any excuses for failure. No matter the circumstances, the responsibility is ultimately on your shoulders.

Jocko and Leif do a great job of articulating why this is true but also why it matters in the book.

One of your team members screw something up? It’s your responsibility as the leader to make sure they understand exactly what’s expected of them and what they need to do, so ultimately their mistake is on you.

Market conditions becoming a major problem for your business? Again, that’s on you. You should be looking to mitigate as much risk as you can and proactively positioning your business so that the general conditions of the market don’t impact you as much.

Did a shipment of stock come in late and prevent you from running a special event or promotion? It’s not the vendor’s fault or the fault of the delivery company. It’s yours. You should have contingencies in place to make sure that certain situations are covered in case they come up.

The idea of extreme ownership may sound harsh since basically everything ends up being your fault, but it’s also very liberating. If you take extreme ownership over what happens in your game business, that means everything is up to you, the bad and the good. Every circumstance is under your sphere of influence. You have the choice to respond and take control.

Without extreme ownership, there are a lot of situations where you may feel powerless, completely at the mercy of unseen forces beyond your control.

With extreme ownership, you’re empowered to make the necessary changes and take control of your world.

Those are my thoughts on Extreme Ownership. If you want to check out the book for yourself, head over to Audible and let Jocko and Lief tell you themselves. 

If you’re interested in learning more about running a successful and profitable game business, check out the Manaverse Podcast. It’s chock full of strategies and tactics that some of the best in the industry have used to grow their businesses.