This review first appeared on FutureFemaleLeaders.com
Navy SEAL turned Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw published his first book in April, and I’ll admit, I was nervous going into it. I don’t know much about Crenshaw other than what I learned from the hoopla around the SNL insult, and the book’s title changed a few times, which made me worry that he was trying to stake some higher ground with this book. What I ultimately read, though, was a nice mix of biography and self-help. This isn’t about washing your face, girl, it’s about being stronger as a person, both physically and mentally, and using our fortitude to not be constant victims, on and off a college campus.
While this book does include a fair share of Crenshaw’s own experiences in the military and how that shaped him, it focuses on the fact that we live in a society where there is some societal benefit to being perceived as a “victim” or playing the “victim card” to get out of tough situations. Crenshaw acknowledges that there are real issues in the world–instances of racism and sexism and discrimination–but his argument isn’t for those issues. It’s for how we overcome failure and suffering–by taking responsibility, finding virtue, looking to our heroes, and following through. As he pointed out, not getting into a fellowship program wasn’t discrimination against him. It was because he didn’t have a good enough application. That’s the kind of narrative we’re working with in this book, so don’t fret that this is either aggressively militant when it comes to being your best or too hippy-dippy.
I’m the first to admit that I’m not super fascinated by military biographies, but Crenshaw paints a fascinating, compelling picture in this book. Yes, he talks about how he lost his eye, and what early military training was like for him, but he also talks about why, for generations, that kind of training has existed: to make you stronger, to make you resilient, and to prepare you for the worst so you don’t die when it occurs. He’s not asking everyone to up and enlist to reach this kind of fortitude, but he uses an interesting military perspective to talk about finding fortitude in our daily lives.
This book is what I would call “military-inspired self-help” with a dash of political conservatism. This isn’t the book in which Crenshaw is laying out what he’ll do as president, or governor, or anything like that. You get a sense of his conservatism and where he stands on some issues, sure, but this is more of a book about how we can, as a society, be stronger, fight against the urge to be a victim and engage in victimhood ideology, and ultimately, be “better.” If you’ve felt a little off about the “hippy dippy” style self-help books that tell you thinking is all it takes to be better, you’ll truly appreciate what Crenshaw offers here, along with his chance to take down the college snowflakes a few pegs along the way.