"Hardship can create a helpless person or a heroic one. Some people are made stronger. Others are defeated. The difference is resilience."
I was talking to another old-timer the other day and he asked me what I would tell the young crimefighters today about dealing with all the critical issues surrounding us, including the COVID-19 pandemic. My mind immediately went to a short reading list for today's modern warrior.
"The Survivors Club" and "The Resiliency Advantage" are solid staples in the bibliography of mental strength. But if I was going to give someone a gift to read that is flush with wisdom, knowledge, and "do it right now" steps, it would have to be "Resilience" by Eric Greitens. This gem was given to me by a warrior/poet friend of mine. He called it the best book of applied philosophy he had ever read. And I have to say to all of you who ever tried to suffer through a modern philosophy book, or a tough translation of a piece of classical philosophy so dense that if it had a message for you today in the modern world it was lost to you, "Resilience" might be the book for you.
"Resilience" is full of practical applied philosophy that you can use today in your life to make yourself better, happier, stronger. This book is full of what the author calls "nickel words," words we all use and understand, and that give us an understanding at a visceral human level.
To be honest, I didn't read the book for quite a while because my first thought was, "Oh no, not another Navy SEAL telling me what a stud he is." Boy! Was I in for a surprise. We forget that resilience is how we survive and rebound. It is not the avoidance of tough times; it's dealing with tough times. The book is a delight of ancient wisdom put into plain words and usable actions relevant not only for today's crisis but for your lifetime. Greitens' wisdom comes from his excellent education, his military experiences, and the suffering he faced in his personal life. The book is written as a series of letters to a fellow SEAL whose life had fallen apart, and who turned to the author for counsel. A Ph.D. from Oxford and Navy SEAL Officer aren't something you expect to see on an author's resume, but it explains how the book is able to take dense philosophical ideas and turn them into life lessons.
"Resilience" is full of references to warriors and when you study history that makes perfect sense. Most philosophers have faced some issue or crisis in their lives, and the ancients faced war and disease constantly. The presence of death, so omnipresent in the past, made philosophy—the study of life and its meaning and understanding how to live fully—a common part of study and learning. Sadly, modern life with its illusion of immortality and safety has robbed us of the day-to-day urgency to think about our meaning, to appreciate our lives in the moment, and just relish the common gifts in our lives. Epictetus was a Roman slave who became a renowned philosopher in an age when children often died before the age of five. One of the keys to happiness that he suggested was looking upon your child asleep in bed and thinking that he or she could die before dawn. "Love and live in the now" was the point.
These are just some of the many ideas in "Resilience" that will make you stop and think. One of the most important concepts in this warrior's manual is that the point of resilience is to help you flourish during this strange and unpredictable time, a time when we need your courage and strength more than ever. So, run to the library, bookstore, or come borrow my copy of "Resilience" and enjoy.
And, now for the rest of the story.
Eric Greitens became the governor of Missouri only to resign in disgrace after an affair and amid financial scandal. He was found innocent of the financial charges and recently he and his wife announced their divorce, but in the midst of this pandemic, he has raised money and bought and distributed PPE to first responders. Greitens' redemption begins. Knowing that the author's feet are clay, as are ours, only makes me like the book more. Stay safe.
Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of “JD Buck Savage.” You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.