Book Reviews

The Art Of Resilience - Review

Adventurer Ross Edgley teaches the skills to stoicism and resilience, in preparation for your own adventure.

SEPTEMBER 5th, 2020


Author: Ross Edgley

© Getty Images


57 days at sea, 1,791 miles swam, and a completed mission to become the first person to swim around the entire United Kingdom of Great Britain. That’s quite an achievement. Yet, for Ross Edgley, it was also an attempt to discover just how resilient the human body and psyche truly is. Tackling giant jellyfish, surging storms, perilous currents, and in places, the mythical Sea Hags of old; Ross’ story, The Art of Resilience, looks to debunk the age-old tale of the superhero, and instead teach us all that anyone from anywhere can become an athletic adventurer destined for the history books.

Like most, choosing to swim around the Island of Great Britain seems like an insane and treacherous idea. To hope to embark on such a feat would usually face the simple question of… why? Unsurprisingly, this is the query Ross faced from the selection of journalists watching as he left the harbour of Margate. In fact, it wasn’t solely the media. Medics and scientists, even fisherman, questioned the possibility of completing a purported impossible task.

Cover of The Art of Resilience - © HarperCollins

Upon his first medical examination with a sports scientist in preparation for the mammoth swim, his physicality was picked apart and dismantled. His head was too dense, as well as the rest of his bones, and he was too muscular. Though his “fat, chunky, child-bearing hips” were a source of good news – they were buoyant and would assist in keeping him afloat whilst out on the water – it hardly fills you with confidence that the task could be completed.

From here, Ross begins his record-breaking swim, and throughout breaks down every stroke he takes – all 2.3 million of them. But it’s worth noting that The Art of Resilience isn’t exclusively focused on his swim around the UK. Delving into past experiences, Ross details the lessons he’s learned to prepare for his current arduous adventure. From the African plains of Namibia, hunting with the famous San Bushmen, to the spiritual enlightenment and self-disciplines of the Okugake and the brutal Kaihogyo – whereby trainee Tendai monks run 1,000 marathons in 1,000 days, Ross’ life feels as if it has built up to this moment, navigating the British waves.

With each milestone that passes by, Ross uses his own knowledge on how best to master the art of resilience. Stoic Sport Science is just one of the processes which helped keep one arm in front of the other, and what becomes quickly apparent the further Ross swims, is the uniformed, tried and tested formula of long-distance swimming doesn’t necessarily work when battling the monstrous swells Mother Nature can throw your way. Think outside the box, do things differently and be fearless in the pursuit of challenging the status-quo. Three things we all can do, even if you aren’t Ross Edgley, who perfectly describes the task as: ‘Hard work is often the answer. The question is so often irrelevant.’

Away from the science, the personal relationships within the book are forged with the iron will to succeed, not for selfish reasons, but for the collective attainment to push the boundaries of human endeavour. The catamaran Hecate becomes the Pequod of the story – the ship made famous in Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick. Matt Knight is Captain Ahab, though his obsession with the iconic white sperm whale is replaced with Matt’s dedicated commitment to deliver his “rhino-necked” swimming companion safely back to the harboured sanctuary of Margate. Matt’s family; wife Suzanne and their children Taz, Peony, Jemima and Harriet become a close-knit support network for Ross, providing encouragement, comfort, advice and, by the end of the swim, 649 bananas.

Ross' injuries from swimming around the UK - © The Art of Resilience

Whilst Ross faces unpredictable seas, life is just as capricious. When faced with the devastating news of his father’s illness, it is his dad which refuses to allow his son to give up. As the reader, you too find yourself willing him onward, championing this new hybrid seal-like humanoid from the depths.

The Art of Resilience pushes passed the idea that only the physically unique can achieve the heights of unmitigated achievement. Ross demonstrates that courage is for all; fearlessness is a skill everyone has the capacity to train; strength and stoicism is never out of reach, and the combined effort to achieve an unbreakable mind and body isn’t a mythical accomplishment destined for the heroes in legendary adventures. ‘Resilience cannot be rushed, but quitting can’ is how Ross describes the process, and as you close the book’s last pages, suddenly the world appears that little bit more thrilling, and that adventure you’ve always dreamed of embarking upon is no longer out of reach. Day 1 of your own 157 begins.

To start your own adventure, you can purchase The Art of Resilience here.

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