Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review: Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In by Louis Zamperini and David Rensin

Two years ago, Jamie and I went to see the movie Unbroken that told the story of WWII veteran Louis Zamperini and his amazing story of resilience in the face of terrible hardship. He spent more than a month floating and staying alive on a flotation raft when his plane went down and then spent over two years in POW camps in Japan. 

I recently acquired a copy of a book he wrote filled with life lessons from this former Olympic distance runner and hero. Zamperini died in 2014, but I believe Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Lessons From An Extraordinary Life will be a strong part of carrying his legacy forward and providing us with an opportunity to learn from his incredible experiences.

What I loved most about the book was its readability. Zamperini was a war hero, an Olympian, and a child of an immigrant family. With 97 years under his belt at the time the book was published, he could have filled libraries with his accrued life wisdom. Instead, he kept it short and simple.

While the book covers the entirety of his life there were a few statements he made amid stories that really stuck with me.

In the opening of the book there’s a quote from Louis, ‘People tell me, “You’re such an optimist.” Am I an optimist? An optimist says the glass is half full. A pessimist says the glass is half empty. A survivalist is practical. He says, “Call it what you want, but just fill the glass.” I believe in filling the glass.’ I have to agree. Let’s keep our focus on filling the glass—and that will keep our attitude in line.

He also states, “You don’t have to go it alone.” Too often, we think that we are supposed to be figuring out this whole world all by ourselves, and rising above challenges with only our own mettle. I personally believe that we are given community so we can do amazing things together. When you are feeling alone, remember that there’s always someone out there who cares. No matter what. “Hope provides the power of the soul to endure.”

You have to learn to adapt. You can’t give up…You have to use unrelenting determination and exercise a positive attitude…We can’t all be champions, but we can give whatever is in us to give. What a reminder—give whatever is in you to give. When we hold back what is in us, we miss out on what could be our unique contribution to create a better world.

“No matter how old you are, don’t stop challenging yourself with new experiences.”

Zamperini teaches each of us that persistence, perseverance, and an unwillingness to accept defeat when things look all but hopeless, will carry us through incredibly difficult situations—for him, they carried him through surviving on a raft for 47 days among other exploits.

The last line of the book says, “I’m a thankful citizen of America who just wants to be remembered for his charitable heart.” This is his statement after enduring two years in a POW camp, after surviving 47 days on a raft after a plane crash, and after missing the Olympics to serve; he responds with gratitude for America, and a desire to be remembered for being charitable. How wonderful would our country and our world be if more of us had this kind of attitude and resolve! May we each endeavor toward this kind of response when adversity hits.

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