I am reading two books about subjects that are not – on the surface – anything I am interested in. Yet the books are fascinating.
Yep, first of all, I am reading two books at a time. That is what I normally do. I like to have variety of two writers, two ideas going on at the same time. But second of all, why am I reading about two things that I am not interested in? On the surface, that sounds crazy. But both books were recommended to me so I did a little research about them and thought they might be interesting.
One book is Seabiscuit, the story of a champion racing horse in the 1930s. I am not a big horse lover or a follower of horse racing. But the author, Laura Hillenbrand, wrote another book I really liked. And this book was on the list of books my daughter Courtney said were recommended for me based on my reading profile. So I dove in. Seabiscuit was the classic underdog. He did not have the height and body of a champion race horse. He could not straighten his knees all the way. Early in his career he was uncontrollable. His original owner ran him in so many races to try to get some money. All of his attempts failed. So his original owner gave up on him.
But one person (a trainer, Tom Smith) saw something in the small, awkward looking horse. He convinced aCharles Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a very low price. This led to the forming of a team that beame ultra successful yet was built from discarded pieces. The new owner, trainer, and jockey for Seabiscuit were all “rags to riches” stories. None of them had a lot of money early in life. They had all dealt with failure. The jockey was considered “washed up” before he started riding Seabiscuit. He was living in a horse stall and had been abandoned at a young age. The training was living in a different horse stall (in Mexico) at the age of 56, with no apparent future ahead of him.
Through hard work, teamwork and dedication, Seabiscuit became a hero in America during the depression. It is a great story of a team of “throw away” pieces, who, when brought together, believed in each other, stuck together through adversity, finally rose to unimaginable heights.
The second story is A Curious Man by Neal Thompson. It is a biography of Robert Ripley, the founder of Ripley’s Believe It or Not (BIoN). I think most people are familiar with BIoN. Today it is still alive and running. But I am not interested in the oddities and “freak show” side of the Believe It or Not series. What is interesting was Ripley’s life.
Robert Ripley was orphaned at a young age. He never finished high school. He had teeth that were so crooked everyone made fun of him. He could not pronounce some letters properly because his teeth were so bad. At age 14, he was paid for his first cartoon drawing that he did, and he was hooked on cartooning as a career. Despite some moderate success, he lost his first couple jobs. He eventually decided to move from San Francisco to New York to try to make it as a cartoonist in the late 1920’s. Eventually, through networking with others and hard work, he became successful. At one time he had traveled to more countries of the world than any other human being. Ripley’s outcomes might not have been that interesting to me, but his story is.
Both books feature inspiring stories of the underdog. They are a great reminder that someone with a vision and a desire can succeed despite many hardships. The word that comes to mind for me is GRIT (“firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck”). Somehow they tapped into some personal reserve, some guiding principle that told them the hard work was worth it. They believed in themselves. Everyone of us faces some adversity. I find it interesting that two different books came to me at this time with that theme. The people in the stories are the American Dream.
Don’t we all like to have good dreams?