What do ultra runners, samurais and a Navy SEAL Congressman have in common? They’re all pretty badass in different ways and each has a lot we can learn from them about discipline and achieving greatness under tough circumstances. I really enjoyed all three of these books and I definitely recommend them to you.
North, Scott Jurek
“It was the breaking down that built me up.”
In that one sentence Scott Jurek explains exactly why I do all the craziness that I do.
I have had the bug for some time but after reading this book I’m ready to sign up for my first real ultra marathon. I say “real ultra” because I’ve done a few ultra relays where I’m part of a team and ran over 40 miles. But in each I had breaks and I didn’t run continuously. I’m ready to jump into the real thing.
I’m a big fan of Scott Jurek. He’s one of the best ultra marathoners of all time, known for fueling his body on a vegan diet. His first book Eat and Run is a favorite. Jurek is also a center figure in one of my top three favorite books of all time, Born To Run.
I loved this book but I can’t say that you would love it. I loved the pain and how Jurek was able to overcome it to set a new record for running the entire Appalachian Trial. This is story of digging deep to reach that goal, something I’ve had to do on numerous occasions. It most reminded me of that painful GORUCK HTL in Normandy, but only 43 days shorter. I hate even comparing the two, but I know how it feels to have absolutely no physical or mental strength left. I know how it feels to sleep while walking and to not even know where you are. I know it and I love it. I yearn for it. I want to be completely beat down because only then can I be built back up.
If that’s you, you’ll love this book. If you’re not into endurance events, this may not be the book for you. It’s a great story full of lessons on overcoming the most difficult of circumstances to reach your monumental goals.
Fortitude, Dan Crenshaw
If you’re reading this book review you are currently online. If you haven’t already, any minute now you will be hit by some whiny comment from a soft minded person seeking offense in everything. This once mighty country that stood up to the most dangerous evils the world has ever seen, this nation that became the world’s super power through hard work and brute strength, this nation that never once cowered in the face of adversity is now on the decline because weakness has become a celebrated virtue. Bitching instead of building, offensiveness instead of fortitude, laziness instead of resilience. They try to ruin people for every little mistake, bad joke or comments made decades ago. Everything is taken out of context and blown out of proportion. Hell, you saw what happened with me. Everything is under attack, even manliness itself.
This book tackles the problem, explains how we got this way and what we need to do to fix it. Former Navy SEAL and now Congressman Dan Crenshaw should have titled this book “A Social Media Manual” and Facebook and Twitter should make this required reading before someone is able to active an account.
There is a lot to say about this short book. I’ll just tell you that I absolutely loved it and leave you with the ending, a code Crenshaw says we all should live by. I agree…
“I not quit in the face of danger or pain or self-doubt; I will not justify the easier path before me. I decide that all my actions, not just some, matter. Every small task is a contribution toward a higher purpose. Every day is undertaken with sense of duty to be better than I was yesterday, even in the smallest of ways. I seek out hardship. I do not run from pain but embrace it, because I derive strength from my suffering. I confront the inevitable trials of life with a smile. I plan to keep my head, to be still, when chaos overwhelms me. I will tell the story of my failures and hardships as a victor, not a victim. I will be grateful. Millions who have gone before me have suffered to much, fought over hard, and been blessed with far too little, for me to squander this life. So I wont. My purpose will be to uphold and protect the spirit of our great republic, knowing that the values we hold dear can be preserved only by a strong people. I will do my part. I will live with Fortitude.”
Now get off the internet and read this book before you get back on.
The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi
“Do nothing that is of no use.”
– Miyamoto Musashi
I got my first campaign job twenty-five years ago when I was just fifteen years old. While I learned some valuable lessons from mentors like Terry Sullivan, Warren Tompkins and Rod Shealy, the truth is that from them I did not learn a lot of tactics. I learned the way to look at political scenarios and other thirty thousand foot views of general direction, but all the specific tactics I learned from years of trail and error. Doing it myself. Figuring out what works and what does not work. I didn’t learn it from getting a political science degree at the University of South Carolina or through my masters studies in communications. I learned by doing.
The Book of Five Rings is generally thought of as one of the great books on martial arts and warfare strategy. Written nearly 400 years ago, Miyamoto Musashi, considered the best samurai of all time, gives us lessons still used by strategic thinkers today, much like Sun Tsu. Reading Musashi or Sun Tsu isn’t enough to become a master strategist. You must spend 95% of your time doing, but as General Jim Mattis says “if you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you.” That’s why Musashi spent his last months alive writing The Book of Five Rings.
I loved this book for a lot of reasons, but first and foremost because throughout this short book Musashi repeatedly says that a samurai cannot learn by reading alone. Nearly every section ends with “you should investigate this thoroughly,” meaning one must research, practice and reflect every day. That’s exactly what Musashi himself did. He didn’t write this book until he was dying at sixty years old. He says he didn’t learn from instructors or fancy schools. He spent the first thirty years of his life practicing to become the best samurai ever. By focusing on just that he says “from one thing learn ten thousand things.” Oh I love that. Then he spent the next twenty years reflecting on what he learned. Finally at sixty he wrote it all down.
Just a few of my favorite quotes:
If you wish to control others you must first control yourself.
Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.
There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.
You should not have any special fondness for a particular weapon, or anything else, for that matter. Too much is the same as not enough. Without imitating anyone else, you should have as much weaponry as suits you.
You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.
Get beyond love and grief: exist for the good of Man.
And my favorite quote that I want to tattoo on myself:
Do nothing that is of no use.
If you pick up this book and only look at it as a martial arts book then you will wonder why I even recommended it to you. But if you pick it up and look past the martial arts and toward the larger view of strategy and even of life itself, you will most likely love this book as much as I did. This one immediately goes to my list of top ten favorites.