With a subtitle like “How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success,” Rick Newman’s Rebounders sounds like it should be a self-help book, with step-by-step instructions on how to get yourself out of a rut. How else can readers learn such tactics?
They can learn by example, as Rebounders shows. The first and last chapters identify what a rebounder is, and some of the key attributes they have, but the majority of the book explores the stories of 12 men and women who rose out of the ashes of failure and worked their way to the top, including well-known names like Thomas Edison and Joe Torre, and lesser-known ones who nonetheless have had big impacts on aspects of American society, like Tim Westgren (creator of Pandora) and Reed Hastings (creator of Netflix). Each chapter displays a major aspect of rebounding in each person’s story, and briefly mentions the similarities between their circumstances. All in all, a rebounder is someone who fails (often more than once), but comes back to find some measure of success. Newman covers the big ones, of course, but readers can use the book’s stories to recognize rebounding attributes within themselves, which could prove very inspiring.
So what are some attributes of rebounders? Perhaps the most important one is resilience. Newman explains that some people may be more naturally resilient than others, but resilience can also be learned by pushing through tough times. Another big one is learning from failure: reflecting on failed attempts can show pathways to success, as the chapter on Edison shows—he always had multiple backup plans to replace the ones that didn’t work and constantly scrutinized what went wrong and what worked. Other important attributes include learns to prize drive over passion, because drive takes you farther (as renowned chef Thomas Keller learned over the course of his career), and “owning the suck”, which means taking pride in terrible circumstances precisely because they’re yours (as Black Hawk helicopter pilot Tammy Duckworth learned to do after she lost her legs in Iraq in 2004). All of the qualities that Newman covers involve swallowing your pride and accepting that there are no guarantees and that the road of life is not always easy—sometimes you have to take a bumpy road to get to a comfortable spot.
The book itself is well-written and engaging, but after the first several chapters, the accounts of rebounding become a bit repetitive. Newman always uses the same formula: state where the person is now, where they originally started out, and their rocky road to success. The strong journalistic style makes it seem a little impersonal at times, depending on the subject, but Newman never fails to draw our sympathy and admiration by the end of the chapter.
Over all, Rebounders is an intriguing and potentially inspiring nonfiction book that never sinks to sentimentality, but uses facts to show that as we push through adversity (including this recession), we can learn to pick ourselves up. That's largely the soluton, actually—as Newman notes, the opposite of a rebounder is a wallower. It's not about being extraordinary (though many of the people he profiles in the book are definitely that). Rather, it's about choosing to move forward, no matter how bumpy, muddy or steep the path becomes.