From Surfing to the Drill Square – 5 Ways to Adopt Ownership

It was a sunny afternoon in Cape Town and my mate and I had just set off for a surf. Whilst out in the ocean, waiting for waves, we started chatting about what to do next. Jokingly, I suggested we move to the UK and join the military. It was something he had suggested before but that I kind of brushed off as it seemed way beyond my reach. He looked me dead in the face and said “lets do it”.

As soon as I got home, I went into my dad’s office and told him what we wanted to do. Without hesitation, he loaded up the Royal Marines website and we started making notes on how to apply and what the application process would involve. The decision was made and now it was time to begin preparing.

Physical preparation, in my mind, was only a small aspect of my overall training. I had to immerse myself. I had to develop my mind and my way of thinking. So, in conjunction with creating a physical training plan, I developed a training plan that lead me to read countless military-related books, first aid courses, and shooting lessons (amongst other closely related fields).

One of the first books I picked up was Jocko Willink’s book “Extreme Ownership”. Little did I know that the concepts I learned while reading it would serve me throughout my army career, during transition, and in running a business.


Jocko’s concept of “Extreme Ownership” is about taking complete responsibility for everything that happens under your command or in your life, regardless of external factors. It means owning your mistakes and taking the initiative to solve problems and improve situations, rather than blaming others.

This concept was drilled into me during my time in the military, and it has become a fundamental principle in my business as well. I am not afraid to admit that Drill was not my strong suit in basic training. In fact, I failed my drill test the first time and was absolutely terrified that I was going to be back-trooped. The sleep deprivation didn’t help my anxiety either but I knew that failing again was not an option. I was far right in my row and we had to be perfectly aligned for the final salute of the drill routine. It would have been easy enough to simply let my colleagues make sure they were aligned with me but, with the concept of extreme ownership already lodged into my mind, this was not an option either. If we failed again, it would be my fault. I had to mitigate any chance of that happening. I made sure that every evening leading up to the re-test (after ironing, polishing, and block jobs) was spent practicing that final section of the drill routine. I had to lead myself so I could lead others. And sure enough, the practice paid off. The re-test arrived, and we aced it.


At my company, we believe in taking complete ownership of everything we do. We don’t blame others for our mistakes or shortcomings; instead, we take ownership of them and work to make things right.

By instilling a culture of extreme ownership in our business, we have seen remarkable results. Our team members are more accountable, take greater initiative, and work harder to solve problems. We have a strong sense of ownership and pride in everything we do, and this is reflected in the quality of our work. Our employees will take ownership even when the fault is not their own. They put their pride aside and this allows them to find solutions – not because they need to, but because they WANT to.


Other business owners can introduce a culture of extreme ownership into their own businesses by leading by example. It starts with taking ownership of everything that happens within your business, regardless of external factors. This means owning your mistakes, being accountable for your decisions, and taking initiative to solve problems. It is important to remember that in order for your people to take ownership, you must give them ownership. It is crucial to adopt a “give credit and take the blame” mindset. When things go well, give credit to your team members, and encourage them to take ownership of other areas of the business. This approach instills a sense of pride and accountability in them and motivates them to work harder. On the other hand, when things don’t go as planned, it’s important to take the blame and use it as a learning opportunity. Train your team members on how to improve, and help them understand that mistakes aren’t failures as long as they take ownership and learn from them.

By following this approach, you’ll be showing your team that you trust them and that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. When your team sees the positive results of this mindset, they’ll be more likely to maintain it even when you’re not around. This creates a culture of extreme ownership that will lead to success and growth for your business in the long run.

A culture of extreme ownership is not just about taking responsibility when things go wrong, it’s also about being proactive and taking ownership of every aspect of your business, from the big-picture strategy to the smallest operational details. This means constantly seeking out opportunities for improvement, identifying areas that need attention, and taking action to address them.

It also means having the humility to acknowledge when things aren’t working and being willing to pivot and try something new. In order to create a culture of extreme ownership, business owners must lead by example, embodying the values and behaviors they want to see in their team.

When everyone in the organization takes ownership of their work and is accountable for the results, it creates a powerful sense of alignment and purpose. This kind of culture is essential for achieving long-term success, as it fosters creativity, innovation, and a shared sense of commitment to the mission.

In conclusion, extreme ownership is a powerful concept that has the potential to transform not only the way you run your business but also the way you approach life in general. By embracing this philosophy and working to create a culture of accountability and ownership within your organization, you can set yourself and your team up for success in everything you do. So take ownership, lead from the front, and never stop striving to be better.


  1. Embrace Responsibility: Taking extreme ownership requires accepting responsibility for everything that happens in your business, both good and bad. At our company, we make it a point to take ownership of all our actions and decisions, and we encourage our employees to do the same. This creates a culture of accountability and helps us to continually improve our operations.
  2. Communicate Clearly: One of the main lessons from Jocko’s book is the importance of clear communication. In the military, unclear communication can result in dire consequences, and the same is true in business. To implement extreme ownership, it’s important to communicate clearly and effectively with your team. This means setting clear expectations, providing timely feedback, and encouraging open dialogue.
  3. Lead by Example: As business owners, we must lead by example and demonstrate extreme ownership in our own actions. This means taking responsibility for our mistakes and showing our team that we are willing to put in the hard work and effort required for success. By setting an example, we can inspire our team to do the same and build a culture of extreme ownership.
  4. Foster a Culture of Accountability: In addition to leading by example, it’s important to foster a culture of accountability throughout your organization. This means creating a work environment where employees feel empowered to take ownership of their actions and decisions. To achieve this, you can implement regular check-ins, provide feedback, and recognize employees for their achievements.
  5. Continuously Learn and Adapt: Finally, extreme ownership requires a willingness to continuously learn and adapt. In the military, situations can change rapidly, and soldiers must be able to adapt quickly to new circumstances. In business, the same is true. We must be willing to learn from our mistakes, adapt to changing market conditions, and continually improve our operations.