Resilience by Eric Greitens Notes

Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life - Kindle ...

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This is one I will refer back to often. The incredible writing. The use of historical examples. The timeless lessons. I can’t remember the last time I annotated this much in a book. Wisdom from so many different sources. Highly, highly recommended.

On Starting

  • Serenity Prayer: God, grant the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Great changes come when we make small adjustments with great convictions.
  • When we say we don’t know what to do, it’s often not information we’re lacking, but courage.
  • As long as we have enough wonder and humility, our motives don’t have to be pure.. More selfless, meaningful reasons will come if we keep on the path.
  • It hurts to realize how much time we’ve wasted. The only thing that hurts worse? Not starting.
  • Accept that you are imperfect and always will be. Your quest is not to perfect yourself, it’s to better your imperfect self.
  • Anyone doing anything worthy will have critics. Start anyway. (Mother Teresa, for example)
  • “To make the world excellent, great, and beautiful, we have to be a little irrational, a bit strange, and sometimes odd. That’s okay. Hold on to that.”
  • If every risk you take pays off, then you probably aren’t actually taking risks.
  • Begin even though you know you will suffer and fail along the way.
  • “Move and the way will open.” –Zen Proverb
  • Beginning brings fear that you won’t succeed. So what should you do when starting? Use humility. I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility. Humility leads to clarity. Humility leads to an open mind and a forgiving heart. With an open mind and a forgiving heart, I see every person as superior to me in some way; with every person as my teacher, I grow in wisdom. As I grow in wisdom, humility becomes ever more my guide. I begin with humility, I act with humility, I end with humility
  • You don’t need to know what perfect looks like. You need to know what better looks like though.
  • “Culture” originally meant tending to the land. You would “cultivate” the land. Eventually, it was used to refer to yourself. Cultivating yourself.

On Happiness

  • We flourish when we grow and thrive. We flourish when we become what we are capable of becoming.
  • To create a flourishing life, we need both virtue and the conditions in which virtue can thrive.
  • Happiness of doing is often greater than the happiness of the actual destination. A mountain climber reaches for the summit, happiness meets her along the way.
  • Joy is the byproduct of an activity, not the aim.
  • “And happiness… what is it? I say it is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing or that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” –John Butler Yeats

On Role Models

  • Find a model. Do as they do.
  • “Any fool can learn from his mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” –Otto Von Bismarck
  • “Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy. At the end of the copy, you will find yourself.” –Yohji Yamamoto
  • How do you find a model? When you find yourself reflecting on someone’s positive example to guide your thinking and your actions and you begin to imitate him, then you have a model.
  • Hunter S. Thompson once hand-copied The Great Gatsby to get in the mind of a masterpiece
  • The closer the model’s experience to yours, the more practical
  • Your story is not unique… find a model.
  • Nuance is important… we can admire Thomas Jefferson for his genius while accepting he owned other humans.
  • You can find models from unlikely places. A kid in Rwanda found the story of the Holocaust in Night and it gave him a measure of comfort. (263)

On Identity

  • Less interested in how you feel and more interested on who you want to be.
  • The way you act will shape the way you feel. You act with courage and immediately your fears start to shrink and you begin to grow. If you want to feel differently, act differently.
  • When you start to put your identity ahead of how you feel, you act in alignment with who you want to be.
  • Character precedes achievement.
  • When we look at others, we see what they’ve done, not necessarily how they did it. Often, how they did it is more important.
  • Your identity requires daily attention (like eating well or cleaning yourself)
  • Smile, breathe, exercise, serve, being grateful and gracious, act with humility and courage. Simple. Not easy.
  • You don’t want achievements, you want a way of being.

On Habits

  • To change the direction of your life, you have to reset your habits.
  • “Never cease chiseling your own statue.” –Plotinus (205-270)
  • When a habit becomes so ingrained that the actions
  • The direction of someone’s life is not shaped by a single action, but by thousands of days, each filled with small and unspectacular actions produced over and over again
  • Your life builds not by dramatic actions but by accumulation
  • People imagine they’ll rise to the occasion. In truth, you’ll fall to your level of your preparation.
  • If you’re growing, you’re likely failing. If you’re not failing, you’re likely not growing
  • Practice builds habits. Habits builds character.
  • We become what we do if we do it often enough. We act with courage, and we become courageous. We act with compassion, and we become compassionate.
  • “There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove we are as good today as we were yesterday.” –Eric Hoffer
  • You do it not once, twice, or three times. But three thousand. You make it a habit.
  • Without practice, our skills deteriorate.

On Excellence

  • A focus on happiness will not lead to excellence. A focus on excellence will, over time, lead to happiness.
  • What separates exceptional from unexceptional? A willingness to fail, and an ability to learn from the failures.
  • Self-respect isn’t something anyone can hand you. Self-respect occurs when we know we’re good.
  • Excellence is not about a single important day of decision. It’s about accumulated effort, consistent practice, and wise habit formation
  • Excellence is beautiful and temporary. One moment we are victorious. The next moment, we were victorious. An excuse endures.
  • We don’t ask “What did I intend?” We ask, “What did I do?”
  • Judge yourself based on results, not intentions.
  • If you best is not good enough, make your best better. If you tried hard and failed, then try harder, or find a new way to try until you succeed. Trying hard is trying hard. Success is success.
  • What ultimately matters is not what we intend but who we become and what we leave behind us.
  • Excellence comes wrapped in hard work. You know that the will to win is cheap and common, while the win to train is rare and noble.
  • Benjamin Franklin questions on living well: “Have you lately heard of any citizen’s thriving well, and by what means? Have you lately observed any encroachment on the just liberties of the people? Do you know of any fellow citizen who has lately done a worthy action, deserving praise and imitation? or who has committed an error proper for us to be warned against and avoid?”

On Taking Responsibility

  • The most important to build if you want to be resilient is the power of taking responsibility for your life
  • You are not responsible for everything that happens to you. You are responsible for how you react.
  • The first word out of a complainer’s mouth is “they.” Beware of “they.”
  • Responsibility is a heavy burden, but it is also offers power.
  • James Stockdale never lost faith in the end of his story. He believed he held more power over his situation than his captors did.
  • Stockdale Paradox: “You must never confuse your faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.” Maintain clarity of the situation with the hope that you will remain victorious.
  • On Purpose/Vocation
  • Purpose is not found. It is created.
  • How do you create your purpose? You take action. You try things. You fail. You pursue excellence and you endure pain.
  • What you work on, works on you.
  • “Your vocation is the place where your great joy meets the world’s great need.” –Reverend Peter Gomes
  • Almost any activity, if you pursue it with purpose and attention for its own sake, can become a vocation
  • Any work can be a miserable bore. Any work can be a source of joy if i’s pursued with passion and a love of excellence
  • Any job can be a site of service if pursued with compassion
  • Often we have no idea what someone’s real vocation is if we don’t know them. It’s a mistake to assume what someone is paid to do is the same as their life work.
  • “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how” –Nietzsche
  • “The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and the power to serve others.” –Joseph Campbell
  • “Don’t say things. What you are … thunders so that iI cannot hear what you say to the contrary.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

On Critics

  • “You have enemies? Why, is it the story of every man who has done a great deed or created a new idea. It is the cloud which thunders around everything that shines. Fame must have enemies, as light must have gnats.” –Victor Hugo

On Fear

  • “How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!”
  • Every worthy challenge will inspire some fear.

On Power

  • One of the habits of the truly powerful is to recognize the power in everyone else

On Wisdom

  • To be wise, we must recognize we only know a small fraction of what is worth knowing. To be resilient, we also have to recognize that we know only a small fraction of what is worth knowing about ourselves.
  • When we close our minds, we protect the ego but degrade our thinking.
  • “Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”
  • Seneca on the obvious: “People say: ‘What good does it do to point out the obvious?’ A great deal of good; for sometimes we know facts without paying attention to them. Advice… merely engages the attention and rouses us, and concentrates the memory, and keeps it from losing its grip. We miss much that is set before our eyes.”
  • The test of a philosophy is simple: does it lead people to live better lives? If not the philosophy fails. If so, it succeeds.
  • If a piece of wisdom has survived for generations, that is a sign that it works.

On Nuance

  • Have nuance. Honest people can lie. Wise people can be dumb. Compassionate people can be cruel.
  • “The sign of a first rate intelligence is to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
  • For most of history, our feet were hardened by walking on the rough ground. In our world, people wear shoes. Shoes are good. They protect our feet. But we realize that it is possible to gain something very good and still lose something very real. What most of us have lost is the ability to walk barefoot over difficult ground.
  • “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them… But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” –Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Winston Churchill was a prisoner of war and made a 300 mile trek by himself. He also was proud about traveling alone to the French Riviera.

On Risks

  • Extreme recklessness is dangerous. Extreme caution is dangerous, too.
  • “Speak what you think today in words as hard as cannonballs, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradicts every thing you said today.” –Emerson

On Hard Work

  • “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses… in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” –Muhammad Ali
  • Get in the game, it doesn’t matter what you do. Get to work.
  • Working hard yourself makes you more appreciative of the hard work of others.
  • “We do two things here: We work hard. And we win. The reason we win is that we work hard. So really, we only do one thing here. If you don’t want to work hard, don’t waste my time.” –Ben, Oxford boxing team coach
  • The magnitude of the challenge X the intensity of your attack = your rate of growth
  • Five variables go into training or practice: frequency, intensity, duration, recovery, and reflection
  • If you aren’t failing from time to time… you are either Superman or not pushing yourself hard enough
  • “A small daily task, if it really be daily, will beat the labours of spasmodic Hercules”
  • Humans must breathe, sleep, eat, and love to do well. But we also must struggle. We need to challenges to master and problems to solve. Without struggle, a part of begins to die.

On Pain

  • Pain can make us or break us. Suffering can make us stronger. Fear can cripple us or make us more courageous. Resilience is the difference.
  • There is the pain we seek. And then there is the pain that seeks us.
  • People frequently hold on to pain because it feels comfortable. Of course pain hurts, but the pain you know can seem easier, more manageable, than the unknown pain you might encounter on a different path.
  • If there is tension in your life, if there is some deep worry about living a worthy life… then good. That tension and worry is part of a well lived life.
  • Rolling with the punches means to literally move your body as you’re getting punched… not to go through the pain
  • Push yourself, but don’t be an idiot.
  • The minute we write down what we are afraid of, we begin to gain control
  • Not everyone who’s beaten will be broken. And usually, no matter how hard the hardship… there is possibility for light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh writes that suffering is something we create through our attachments: what makes people suffer is not so much the physical sensation they experience but the meaning they attach to their losses.
  • Jack Dempsey story
  • We don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re tested.
  • You need a worthy adversary.
  • Make the task easier. Break it down. To the person getting out of bed… getting out of bed might be difficult. But can you move your toes? Yes. Then do it. Can you move your fingers? Yes. Then do it. can you lift your leg? Yes? Then do it. Eventually, you’re out of bed.
  • People quit when they start to think about how hard something is going to be.
  • Mental visualization, or mental rehearsal, is one of the most powerful ways to master pain, fear, and difficulty.
  • “Worry productively.” Go ahead and visualize the worst thing that can happen. But instead of wallowing in your worries, think about how you’ll respond. Practice.
  • The resilient mind imagines hardship and figures out how they’ll respond.
  • Control your breath. It won’t erase your fears or eliminate your pain. But to be resilient, you have to exercise control over what you can control. At the most basic level, you can always control how you breathe. And how you breathe shapes how you think.
  • “Gratitude is the parent of all other virtues.”
  • When you hold onto pain it is holding onto a hot coal with it in your hands. You may be aiming it at someone else but you are the one who is hurt.
  • The warrior protects others. Suicide makes that impossible. Just because you’re in pain doesn’t mean we should quit.
  • “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Hemingway

On Reflection

  • Science is reflection. There is no worries about being wrong. Science starts out wrong often, but through reflection, it gets closer to the truth.
  • Thinking and reflecting aren’t the same. Difference is reflections often point toward future actions.
  • The gold standard for good reflection is that it allows you to plan well. And planning leads to thoughtful action. Act. Reflect. Plan.
  • Questions to ask for reflection:
    1. Why am I here? (“Here” referring to this particular situation.)
    2. What’s going on around me?
    3. What am I going to do about it?
    4. How will my actions affect others?
  • When the Romans came in contact with the Jews, they were shocked. Every seventh day, the Jews stopped all their work. The Jews used this day to reflect.

On Friends

  • Be with people who are the way you want to be. If you want to be excellent, be with people who pursue excellence. If you want to be happy, be around people who are happy.
  • Friendships of utility bring people together who are useful to each other.
  • Friendships of pleasure are based around people we just like being around.
  • We turn to friends for big life decisions because they will question or decisions and motives. An acquaintance might say “Sounds good to me” but a real friend will go deeper.
  • As you become more powerful, you have to work harder to make sure that people correct you. More and more, you have to ask yourself, “How can I become better?” Avoid yes men.
  • Most truly elite performers are accessible, friendly, and humble because they want to make friends with more to learn more. Makes sense.
  • When you think about your own pain and how the world deals you an unfair hand, you become weaker. When you think of the needs of your team and your friends, you become stronger.

On Mentors

  • There are a lot of people who know more than you. So try to find them and listen to them.
  • What to look for in a mentor? Someone who respects their craft.
  • You can pursue any craft without a mentor, but it’s unlikely you’ll find mastery.
  • It’s easy to find people willing to give advice. It’s hard to find people with advice worth giving.
  • It’s much easier to make information complex than it is to make it simple. A good mentor makes it simple so you can learn in order to get better.
  • Novices see what it is obvious. Experts see the story and can use inferences to predict what will happen next.
  • Good mentors hear the right things.
  • If you want to become great, you need a great coach.

On Teams

  • When things don’t go right with a team, the team either snipes at each other or comes to a solution
  • “If these guys weren’t here right now, I’d probably stop.” Thought from pledging, also a thought from SEAL teams.
  • The strength of others can make us stronger.
  • We become close to the people with whom we discover the world with.
  • When we share a purpose with others, our work creates a shared connection.
  • Real success is usually a product of struggle. And struggle brings people together.
  • Some teams are tight like families. Other teams work like allies. But all resilient teams share one thing: an ability to manage interests while serving a purpose that is larger than the interests of any one person.

On Leadership

  • Never ask someone to endure more than you are willing to endure yourself.
  • Leadership’s responsibility is to work intelligently with what is given and not waste time fantasizing about a world of flawless people and perfect choices.
  • We are almost always led by those who have pushed themselves than by those who have been benefited from privilege, luck, or circumstance.
  • We cannot be victorious if we abandon those who are wounded. Robert Bly: “The wounded man knows something.”
  • Leadership is a way of being, not a set of tricks.

On Story

  • What’s a quest? It’s a journey with meaning. On a quest, we discover what we’re after by going on the journey. You figure out the purpose of your life by living your life. You give meaning to your quest by what you do and say and suffer.
  • Different people use the same circumstance to create a different story. A different story doesn’t change what happened, but it changes what happens.
  • Centuries ago, writers realized that the best stories start in medias res, in the middle of things. They realized that time in stories doesn’t run like on clocks. In a story, the real beginning comes when things start to matter in a different way.

On Death

  • Death provides urgency.
  • When do you see things most vividly? It’s when you first discover them or they’re about to be taken away.
  • “He who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.” –Montaigne
  • We honor the dead by living their values. Through our efforts, we ensure that the good things they stood for continue to stand even when they are gone. Our actions become a living memorial to their memory.

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