Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Review: Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall

I had first discovered Christopher McDougall’s writing when a friend had suggested the book, Born ToRun, a few years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed that book, and so I was looking hopefully toward McDougall’s latest book. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of taking some extended time with Jamie for vacation, rest, and refreshment. We found ourselves on the Atlantic coast, and each of us brought a couple of books with us to read. My book of focus was Natural Born Heroes: How A Daring Band Of Misfits Mastered the LostSecrets of Strength and Endurance by Chris McDougall.

As I sat reading and listening to the rhythm of the Atlantic waves crashing against the Maine coastline, I found myself quickly enthralled by McDougall’s latest text. He had woven together several themes of personal interest for me in this fast moving text (including history, functional strength, mobility, nutrition, heroism, asymmetrical warfare, and Greek mythology).  The book sets as its backdrop the battle for the Island of Crete during World War II and how the Cretans and special operators from other parts of the world were able to work together to prevent Hitler from being able to swiftly invade and overcome Russia during the war.

McDougall does an incredible job of weaving what at first glance seems to be many disparate themes together to recount a historic moment in the modern era, along with many lessons to be learned from those who are willing to listen to and apply a different methodology for living. It is also clear to me that he writes out of both passion, experience, and an intense desire to seek out ways to cultivate his own physical health and stamina.

The author moves from a recounting of the time and the land of the battle of Crete and even going further back to look at Greek mythology and how some of these stories related to the values of the Cretans up to the modern era to reflecting on his own personal development and discoveries that he is working to apply to be a more fit and strong individual.

The most notable starting framework comes from looking at what makes a hero. When we think of heroes, we think about people who are doing extraordinary things for the good of others. We often perceive these people as extraordinary people, but McDougall reminds us that these are normal people who are able to do extraordinary things when the time calls for it, but that part of the extraordinary is that they have done activities that have trained them to be ready.

The text goes back and forth between World War Two Crete and modern day activities and groups who are working toward improving functional mobility, fitness, and health, and leaves the reader with much to consider with regard to endurance, perseverance, and  what prepares each and every one of us to be heroic in our responses when the situation calls for it. I highly recommend McDougall’s book, especially for those interested in history and personal development.

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