Growing up I used to read a ton. I loved The Hardy Boys, Choose Your Own Adventure, Encyclopedia Brown. As a teenager I got really into both fantasy series by Terry Brooks. He’s still one of my favorite authors. I think like most people, I lost my appetite for reading in college and my early twenties. I mean who wants to read for fun when you have all that other assigned reading to do, and who wants to stay in and read when there’s no cover charge on Wednesdays? In the past few years I’ve rediscovered that appetite, thanks mostly to my wife. She never lost her love of the written word, and her constant churning through books reinvigorated me. I have also adopted most of the reading techniques put forth by Ryan Holiday. While I still don’t spoil the endings for me, I love reading with a highlighter and post-it notes. Since my reading revival, I will now, typically, read any book before I see the movie. Not just because books tend to be better than their film counterparts, but I also like having my imagination free to create the characters and settings as opposed to having the movie implant those images for me.
I’ve seen and read novels about amazing athletes. I‘m sure there are volumes written about the struggles of prisoners of war. The fight against addiction is a common theme in many stories. Amazingly, Unbroken packs all of this into one book. Even more amazingly, this is the story of one man’s life. Louis Zamperini lived enough lives for a dozen men. From his Olympic track and field days, to his amazing life in World War II, to life after the war, what we can learn from Zamperini is almost overwhelming. What I took most from his journey was to never give up and never lose your dignity. Like any life story, there was much volatility, but I think that both his highs and his lows were more extreme that the typical life. Regardless, he faced every challenge with an indestructible will and the determination to do the best he could no matter the situation.
For the rest of my life, I would like to think that whenever I am faced with a difficult situation I could call on the memory of this book and convince myself to keep moving forward. If a single man could endure everything Zamperini did, than I can certainly face anything that might rear its head in my life. The only real challenge with this is that the story in Unbroken is so amazing that I sometimes find it difficult to relate. I mean what is the likelihood that I’ll be held as a POW or become an Olympic athlete? Probably very low, so the trick is to learn the lessons from Louis, and then look for more relatable inspiration in the world today.
This past weekend, Julie Foucher provided an amazing current-day example in perseverance. If you follow Crossfit, then you have probably heard Julie’s name before. She placed in the top three in the world for the Women’s Competition in both 2012 and 2014. The training it takes to achieve this level of fitness is incredibly intense. Julie also happens to be a medical student (no big deal, right?). So this weekend, when, during the third of five events, Julie tore her Achilles tendon, it would have made perfect sense to most of us for her to just quit. This was going to be her last Crossfit Games anyway, so why bother? Two reasons, perseverance and dignity. Julie strapped on an immobilizing boot and continued the competition as best she could. I, for one, respect the hell out of her for this.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to compare a muscle tear in an athletic competition to being a WWII POW. What’ I’m trying to say is that there are examples in everyday life where we have the opportunity to persevere and carry ourselves with determination and dignity. If you’re looking for inspiration, pick up a copy of Unbroken today and learn from Louis.