Category Archives: Book Reviews

6 Lessons in Entrepreneurial Resilience


Strategies for Success from Resilient EntrepreneursEveryone suffers setbacks. For some these setbacks fade into the background of their unfolding lives. For the risk-takers in Renee & Don Martin’s Risk Takers: 16 Women and Men Share their Entrepreneurial Strategies for Success they propel them to success. Despite the promise of the subtitle, you don’t hear the voice of the actual risk takers. What you get is a summary of their lives as entrepreneurs set out in the classic situation, complication, resolution plot line.

The vignettes do not center on people overcoming great failures or obstacles but rather on their boldness and tenacity. Our readers will nonetheless be inspired by the story of Gary Heavin’s (Curves) early failures before the success of Curves, Linda Alvarado’s (of Alvarado Construction) work to surmount the low expectations and prejudice that hold back many Hispanic businesswomen, Paul Orfalea’s (Kinko’s) dyslexia and ADHD , David Steward’s (World Wide Technology Inc) resilience in overcoming the peculiar challenges of a black man founding an enterprise technology company in the 1970s, Florine Mark’s (Weight Watchers) battles with obesity and John Paul DeJoria’s (John Paul Mitchell Systems & Patrón Spirits Company) homelessness (albeit it with a Rolls Royce).

The Martin’s abstract six strategies from the experiences of these entrepreneurs:

  1. Find an under-served niche to serve (hit ‘em where others ain’t)
  2. Do not let adversity or failure defeat you
  3. Trust your gut & Just start
  4. Reinvent your company or yourself when necessary (in Silicon Valley, they’d call this pivoting)
  5. Be willing to buck conventional wisdom
  6. Exploit your competitor’s weaknesses and make them your strengths

The Risk Takers has also been subtitled The Risk Takers: 16 Top Entrepreneurs Share Their Strategies for Success


10 Prescriptions for overcoming trauma


Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges,
Steven M. Southwick, MD, and Dennis S. Charney, MD

Books about resilience often focus largely on positive thinking and self-confidence.  Resilience does require both but that approach does not appeal to everyone.  Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges provides an alternative.

The authors, Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney, are psychiatrists who are authorities in the field of post-traumatic stress disorder. Like Laurence Gonzales,
Southwick_Resiliencethey interviewed a number of people that have persevered after suffering extreme trauma: Army Special Forces members, former Vietnam prisoners-of-war, survivors of a land mine explosion and of attempted murder.

Through their interviews, Southwick and Charney uncovered ten common habits which we summarize below. Most interestingly, the authors distinguish their book by grounding their observations in physiology.  Each chapter is devoted to one way of recovering from stress and trauma and includes neurobiological evidence in support of that method. Relevant scientific research is duly cited but our readers need not shy away. Resilience remains a slim, readable book, with plenty of vignettes. It was a joy to read.

Evidence shows that most people experience some trauma but can train themselves to overcome life’s challenges and even thrive. Here are Southwick and Charney’s ten recommendations for building and sustaining resilience:

  1. Be optimistic
  2. Face your fears
  3. Trust your moral compass, ethics and altruistic dispositions
  4. Lean on your religious and spiritual convictions
  5. Give and receive social support
  6. Have good role models
  7. Build physical fitness
  8. Cultivate mental fitness
  9. Develop cognitive and emotional flexibility
  10. Find meaning, purpose and growth in your life.

Drs. Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney can be found at


12 tips from Surviving Survival


Laurence Gonzales - Surviving Survival

Laurence Gonzales’ Surviving Survival is in some ways a sequel his best-selling Deep Survival. As the title suggest, this book goes beyond the work of staying alive and persevering during especially challenging moments to examine how does one live with and manage the aftermath of trauma. Gonzales uses a series of often harrowing mini-biographies to delve into the role and potentialities of the brain and the mind.  This reader got the general sense that Gonzales believes in the innate hardiness of some individuals but he is at pains to draw out lessons for all of us. We have taken the liberty of distilling these 12 lessons even further:

  1. Take control. Devote yourself passionately to something connected to your ideal self.
  2. Be mindful. Get off autopilot and listen to your mind and body. Allow your unconscious brain resources such as blindsight to guide you via gut feelings.
  3. Be patient. Trust the process of recovery.
  4. Be tough. Look around at the suffering that is not happening to you. When it is your turn, own it.
  5. Find joy in the small things. Even under conditions of extreme suffering moments of relative lightness can be found
  6. Face your fears and put them in a rational context. Leverage rituals.
  7. Stay busy.
  8. Help others.
  9. Stay connected to your friends and community
  10. Be grateful. At the very least, you have survived and are still here. There is probably even more to be grateful for.
  11. Fake it until you feel it. Act as if you are better and you will feel and be better
  12. Lighten up. Even morbid humor helps.

Gonzales’ various subjects survived IEDs, murderous spouses and attacks from bears and sharks. We can build our own resilience in the face of life’s smaller insults by incorporating these lesson’s into our daily routine.


Resilience: Elizabeth Edwards’ Story of Pain & Perseverance


The day before she died from incurable cancer, Elizabeth Edwards posted on her Facebook page: “I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope.” Her second memoir Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities is the expansion of that sentiment.

Elizabeth Edwards wrote Resilience not long after the world found out about both her husband John Edwards’ affair and Mrs. Edwards’ impending death from breast cancer.  The preceding years had been characterized by constant changes in public opinion toward her: she was loved as the plain-but-capable, self-described “anti-Barbie” wife of her Ken doll husband, then loved more when she revealed that she had breast cancer, diagnosed the day after her husband’s running mate John Kerry lost the 2004 election.  Then she was vilified when allegations were made that she was allegedly a shrew, one that was verbally abusive to both her husband and his campaign staff in the 2008 election, damaging her reputation as “Saint Elizabeth”. Then her cancer, once in remission, returned, this time spreading to her bones, and she died and was loved again.

Those expecting that this book would unveil Mrs. Edwards’s feelings about her husband’s affair, about his mistress Rielle Hunter, or about the love child that they had together (the discovery of whom was the immediate cause of Mrs. Edwards’ separation from her husband) will be disappointed.  The issue is addressed only obliquely. Resilience is not the sensationalistic book that the public, and perhaps her publishers, had hoped for. Mrs. Edwards is remarkably taciturn about any scandals.  But for those that want to know what made Mrs. Edwards persevere in her darkest days, this might begin to answer those questions.

Even though her husband’s affair must have been her most public humiliation, it wasn’t the worst to have happened to her, if Mrs. Edwards’ words are to be believed.  The event that she continually returned to in her writing, the one that seemed to define her life, was that of her son Wade’s death.  He was sixteen when the car that he was driving flipped, killing him.  After that, there was her father’s debilitating stroke and later his death, and her cancer, in remission until she found out that it had spread, incurably.

This book is called Resilience because it is about just that, both the author’s resilience and that of assorted other people that she came across in her life: grieving parents that she met online after Wade’s death, breast cancer survivors from pink ribbon events, even an aspiring geisha disfigured in Hiroshima that young Elizabeth knew as a child of the military living in Japan.  In an often repeated quote, Mrs. Edwards once said, “Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before.  You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”  This book recounts Mrs. Edwards’ constant attempts to do just that throughout her life.


5 Lessons Learnt by Losing 5 Olympic Medals


Life Lesson

It’s not easy for me to talk about the mistake I’ve made. But as I thought about what I’d like to do with my life, I felt that people might be able to learn from my mistakes. I decided I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others—to help people get on the right track so that they can avoid adversity caused by bad choices. (p 25)

Before there was Lance…

Marion Jones

Before there was Lance Armstrong, there was Marion Jones. One might argue whether seven Tours de France are more impressive than five track and field medals in a single Olympics. Beyond doubt however is the fact that joining the fast-growing population of incarcerated women represents a striking fall from grace. On the Right Track is the story of her recovery and her work to re-enter competitive sports as a WNBA player. Armstrong may suffer the embarrassment of the apology tour along with Ben Johnson and Alex Rodriguez (barely) but few among the legion of former drug cheats have endured the indignity of a full body pat down. Well, outside of airports at least.

Sorry for lying? Yes. Cheating? Ummm…

Jones got a relatively tough deal because she was found to lie under oath. She’s at pains to accept responsibility for lying and its consequences. She uses some variant of the word ‘lie’ at least at least 48 times. She almost always does this in reference to herself but it is hard to ignore that she outsources responsibility for her actual cheating. Excepting of course, those also disgraced cheaters that she was quite involved with that are barely mentioned in connection with doping—ex-husband C.J. Hunter and ex-boyfriend Tim Montgomery who have both received substantial bans for doping.  Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are. Getting mixed up with Ben Johnson’s coach Charlie Francis was another suspect move unmentioned in her précis of her track career.

Lessons for all of us

Marion_Jones_On_The_Right_TrackIf Jones is quiet about her responsibility for her own doping, she screams out the lessons that all of us can take from her experience beginning with her decision to email family and friends acknowledging that she lied. Her words and deeds model many of the key factors for personal resilience:



  1. A Deep faith in God:The Word of God renewed my spirit and opened the eyes and hearts of eight women who decided that their future was more important than their past(p. 69)
  2. A Commitment to helping others:When we help others, we take the focus off ourselves (p. 88)
  3. A Deep commitment to those closest to you:Oba and I realize we are our children’s biggest moral influence (p.144)
  4. A Deep engagement in your own life:I began to pick up the pieces and set out to explore what could be made of what was left (p. 54)
  5. A Sense of mission:I am polishing my arguments for prison reform. Until 2008, I was just like everybody else when it came to prisons…Now I know a lot more (p. 209)

Even if we can’t all manage to run the 100m in 10.75s (with or without the help of steroids) we certainly all have had our ups and downs and can learn a thing or four from Jones’ On the Right Track.If we do, I suspect she will hold that her suffering was not for nought.

P.S. Oba refers to Obadele Thompson, Jones’ husband who once ran the fastest 100m ever, a wind-aided 9.69