I’m doing my best to read a “book a week” this year and given the narrow subject areas to which I’m typically attracted, it’s not often I find a book that I believe would benefit everyone. Rebounders, How Winners Pivot From Setback to Success by U.S. News & World Report Chief Business Correspondent, Rick Newman is one of them.
So what’s a Rebounder? It’s a question you’ll be asking yourself by the end of the book as well. As Rick reminds us, it’s not a yes or no, black or white call. In some cases, rebounders are people who endure decades of challenges and disappointment, but who never quit on their dream. Their eventual success is largely a result of perseverance and rebounding from life’s roadblocks over time. In other instances, the rebounder may have been very successful, taken a hard fall and gotten back up stronger than ever, not unlike the wrestler from Greek mythology, Antaeus. There’s also a terrific story of someone who explored several paths, only to discover the road to success years later. You may be more familiar with some people and their stories than others, but the book is well researched, tightly written and, best of all, extremely insightful. Newman leverages his exceptional skills as a reporter to ask all the right questions and offer a compelling overall narrative.
I saw Rick at the Milken Institute Global Conference, where I bought his book, and he was kind enough to sign it for me. I read the first few chapters during the event and later ran into him at a reception where I explained how much I enjoyed the way he introduced the content – by telling some of his own story. Rick was quick to say, “The book isn’t about me.” (Which in fairness is absolutely true). But there’s something special about reading a book by a reporter who has built a career writing about others, that begins with such an honest portrait of his own personal experience. I found it very effective in drawing me into the topic. The reason it works so well though, is I don’t believe Newman used it simply as a device. It’s more authentic than that – his personal connection and investment in the work is palpable.
In return, let me share why I connected to the book as a reader. I once said to myself that when I thought my best work was behind me, I would stop what I was doing and try something else. For many years, I did not follow my own advice. I went through a period of being burned out on the communication business. My best work was fading further into the background. I was going through the motions and while realizing limited success, it was only because I had been doing it for so long. I could hardly get up for work every day. About seven years ago, I looked in the mirror and finally admitted to myself that I would have hired the guy looking into the glass 15 years earlier any day of the week. I was more experienced and more knowledgeable, but I no longer had the drive or the passion for the business. Still, I had no plan to do anything about it. Within a year, I earned my master’s degree, probably as a distraction (something I put off for a very long time), and later I was offered the opportunity to teach for Seton Hall University’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication & Leadership program. The passion I discovered for teaching sparked a new vocation as a university instructor and reignited my career in communication. My work for Vistage and for Seton Hall University are a career yin and yang. Each inspire and inform the other and make me better at both. I know my best work is ahead of me now. And as Rick pointed out through one of the anecdotes in his book, one’s early 50′s is far from too late to be a rebounder! We’ll see!
There are stories and insights for everyone. I want my daughters to read Rebounders as they work to shape their own lives – to realize as they begin their journey that the road to success and happiness is not always a straight one. I believe people in the mid-career stage should read this book and understand that life doesn’t have to just happen to them. They can write their own narrative. And for guys like me and older, I’d like for them to be inspired by the idea that their biggest and most rewarding success may lay in the future.
To that point, I’ll close by talking about my favorite Vistage Chair, Pat Hyndman. Pat started “chairing” or leading Vistage Peer Advisory Groups at age 73. At 97, he’s enjoyed a 24-year career that he will tell you has been the most rewarding of his life. Stand in a room with Pat, and you’ll see a man who is as strong a presence today as anyone 30 years his junior. When asked recently about the secret to his longevity and his indomitable spirit, Pat, without hesitation, recalled this quote: “People don’t grow old. They become old, when they stop growing.” A sentiment undoubtedly shared by Newman’s rebounders. Enjoy the book!