A few years ago, author Christopher McDougall wanted to become a better runner -- even though doctors told him not to run at all because he'd get hurt. So, he decided to stay with some of the best runners in the world in the Copper Canyons of Mexico and transformed himself into an ultra-marathoner.
His 2011 book, Born to Run, documents that experience in colorful, inspiring detail. And now with his second athletic-adventure book, Natural Born Heroes, he explores the ancient way of thinking about strength and fighting on the mountains of Crete, where a band of Resistance fighters in World War II plotted the abduction of a German general during the Nazi occupation.
But how did they do it? In this video interview, McDougall talks to Spartan UP! podcast host Joe De Sena about how these fighters redefined things like compassion and strength in order to not only survive their harsh environment -- but defeat a seemingly unbeatable enemy.
"On Crete, a hero was not just a brave guy, but he was also a guy who was very, very skilled," he says. "Compassion was about stemming off a problem before it comes back to you -- it's about situational awareness. If something is going on in your kinship network, you deal with it when it's small before it becomes big... being very tapped into your surroundings, knowing where to go and when. Strength is not that built-up, 1970s muscular strength, but it's about adaptability and sinuousness ... being able to climb, hike, crawl, lift, throw and defend."
He adds that these are skills that all of us have, but we've let them go dormant -- "and we've got to bring them back to life," he says.
Takeaways from this video include:
- To be compassionate can also mean to help someone with their problem while it’s small and before it comes back to affect the community at large.
- Many skills are latent, lurking just below the surface, and our mass culture has limited their full expression.
- Being successful often means identifying and taking that one extra step that no one else is taking.