Some ways that detachment can become part of your strategic tool set in dealing with stressful situations and making life decisions.

Gene Crawford
5 min readJan 25, 2022

According to Meriam Webster the definition of “Detach” is; to separate especially from a larger mass and usually without violence or damage.


Jocko Willink cites “Detachment” often on his podcast when he’s discussing how he led his team of Navy Seals in Iraq. Remaining emotionally attached to something or someone can cloud our judgement. Often we will accept certain things to get what we want, just because we want it.

Have you thought about how it’s so much easier to give others advice but extremely difficult to follow your own advice yourself? Emotion, ego and all the different types of Biases we may be experiencing can and will cloud your judgement. It’s easier to give advice to others because you are not emotionally invested in the outcome.

‘’When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion.’’ -Dale Carnegie

If you can operate from a strategic position instead of one of emotional response you will have a huge advantage over most of the people you will ever deal with.

A tactic that Jocko will use when he’s making a decision is to “detach”. He will try to remove himself from the situation by imagining himself as a third party, a bystander so that he can work to see thing without any emotional bias. This approach can be a super-power when you are reviewing past actions and decisions.

  • Look at a situation as if it was someone else.
  • What advice would you give them.
  • Detach from yourself.

The Observer

Do whatever you need to do to be able to observe a situation instead of participating in it. It may be that you need to take a deep breath and center yourself, that’s okay. It may be that you need some time, so tell the other people involved that you need a few and then go and actively think about things.

This is the easy part. The hard part is knowing you need to take that step back so you can detach. It’s like the story about slowly boiling a frog:

If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.

We have to consciously work on what it takes to have some level of self awareness. You need to develop your own set of personal red flags to let you know that you need to detach.

The Thinker

When you are able to successfully detach from a situation on whatever level you can see things more clearly and make strategic informed decisions about what reaction or move you want to make. However it is not just optimal to use the method of detachment to control your emotions. Jocko coaches us to learn to use detachment as part of our creative process. If you can detach from the expected outcomes you have in a thing, you can see it from different angles that you previously could not see it in.

“Don’t cling to a mistake — Just because you spent a lot of your time making it”

Sometimes when we want something bad enough we will overlook most of the shortcomings in others or sacrifices we will wind up making to get the things we want. When we have an emotional investment in something or someone we want things to work out, so we accept changes we would not normally accept. We let people cross boundaries we would not normally let them cross when all things are equal in the end.

I have personally experienced this type of scenario in a business relationship I entered into with someone who, after some distance has been put between us, clearly wasn’t the right fit for our partnership. They lacked serious interpersonal skills to lead others and that was one of the primary roles they were taking on with the business which led to more than a few months of struggle for everyone involved.

The Listener

As stated before learning to listen or pay attention to the things that pull you into a state of mind that will not allow you to detach is really a super-power. The things that pull us in emotionally generate a gravity that often times we can not resist.

It’s not easy to notice when things are ramping up, especially when we’re in the chaos. So how do you do it? You can start to listen to the words you’re using, you can pay attention to how fast your pulse is or how you’re breathing. I’m sure you can remember being in a situation where you got frustrated and wound up just saying things that were 100% generated by emotion and made no real sense from a logic and strategic standpoint.

Detach from THINGS

When it comes to negotiation with someone about something, if you need that thing or outcome you’ve already lost. Being able to walk away from a purchase or outcome of a discussion is an important place of strength to operate from. We can’t always hold the strong position, but we can always strive to detach enough from our desire for the outcome or attaining the thing long enough to make more informed strategic decisions.

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis.” — Chuck Palahniuk

It is also important in life not to identify ourselves with our material possessions or our social status. We all want these things, of course. We work hard for them but to live your life with the soul focus of achieve them will more often than not leave us empty and unfulfilled — even when we get them.



Gene Crawford

Sensei, Blackbelt in Karate, CrossFit, BJJ Practitioner. Gym Owner at Warrior Fitness. Co-founder of SOCO & Period Three a web design firm.