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Resilience, Hard-Won Wisdom For Living A Better Life by Eric Greitens
Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2015, 320 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, Personal Development

Resilience Via Wisdom, Practice and Reflection

“What’s done cannot be undone, and some of what life does to us is harsh.” Eric Greitens

Eric Greitens, humanitarian, US Navy SEAL, scholar athlete and political candidate shares wisdom earned from humanitarian and military missions around the world. The book is a series of letters to a former SEAL teammate packed with encouragement, wisdom and brutal truth about how to improvise, adapt and overcome major life-obstacles. He aids learning to move through hardship to happiness, through pain to wisdom and through suffering to strength.

What’s It About?

Tap into a productive life through the application of collective wisdom. Greitens responds to a fellow US Navy SEAL who reached out to him for help through a difficult period in his personal and professional life. He offers sage advice and direction to take the next step toward a productive life. Greitens shares wisdom from classic literature, and ancient and modern history that is still relevant for today’s challenges. He advocates living an excellent life through good philosophy and reflection.

Resilience is a lifelong pursuit. The author firmly believes that resilience is a virtue. Greitens emphasizes the long view when it comes to learning and developing resilience. He doesn’t promote a quick fix to overcome difficulties. Becoming resilient takes a lifetime of dedicated practice. Effective habits must be formed and reinforced in a continual quest for improvement.

“What happens to us becomes part of us.” Eric Greitens

Study others. World history is full of people who built resilience through practice and sound habits. He encourages his friend to tap into the widely accessible biographies, literature and research for best practices to build resilience. Greitens is an Oxford alumnus with an impressive grasp of philosophy, ancient history and classical literature. He encourages us to find models that inspire us to pursue excellence and resilience.

Resilience is not about bouncing back. The author holds the view that many people lean on an inaccurate definition of resilience. To them, it’s a return to the former state after going through a meaningful challenge. Greitens claims we cannot bounce back. He contends that we won’t be the same after a loved one dies, a career is cut short or a serious illness attacks our body. Rather, we absorb the impact and continue on a new trajectory through life.

How’d I Like It?

Greitens accomplished his purpose for Resilience. He mined the depths of his knowledge and experiences to help his friend move toward better and away from worse. In the process of writing this book, he helped me see that path toward resilience lies in getting knowledge, adopting an excellent philosophy for life and reflecting on what’s happened around me. The author is highly qualified to write about resilience, given his impressive resume that includes humanitarian and military missions in Rwanda, Croatia and Iraq and other locations. He’s a former Navy SEAL. You’re resilient if you make it through that qualification course! He’s also a Rhodes Scholar, holds a Ph. D from Oxford and was an amateur boxing champion. Greitens has earned the respect to be heard. He knows what he’s talking about. His writing style in resilience is conversational but somewhat elevated, consistent with his advanced education.

“Your objective is to use what hits you to change your trajectory in a positive direction.” Eric Greitens

My big takeaway from the book is the need to find models to live an excellent life. He’s inspired me to look to the Greeks, Romans, early Americans and other examples of how to practice resilience amidst the challenges that enter my life. My big gripe about the book is his teaching about reflection. He seems to promote the idea that we need to spend ample time thinking about what’s happened, where we are now and plan for where we want to go. I see some danger in spending too much time grappling with our thoughts. Greitens’ approach could lead us to a state of lost mindfulness. True, we can get value from gently investigating troubling thoughts, past wins and losses and worries about what’s next. But many people choose to grapple with their thoughts and eventually become a one-dimensional prisoner in the ring of their mind. I would have liked more discussion in the book about the value of simply noticing thoughts and options to manage engagement.

I give Resilience a 5-star rating for depth of thought, substantial support for the author’s arguments and his qualification to write about the topic. I highly recommend this book to help you develop the virtue of resilience and live an excellent life.
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Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life by Eric Greitens.

Michael Shelton helps busy professionals get their life's work done as a productivity consultant and the owner of Shelton Business Services, LLC in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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