Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success

“Supersurvivors” is a wonderful and emotional book, full of hope, inspiration, wisdom, and nonetheless—lots of research form the wellness space.

Written by David B. Feldman, Ph.D—an associate professor from Santa Clara University in the U.S. and Lee Daniel Kravetz—a post-graduate fellow from Stanford University, journalist, psychologists and a wellbeing speaker, the book is nothing short of true non-fiction bestseller. Lee Kravetz himself is a cancer-survivor at the age of 29. The book bears a personal significance for him.

Following the lives of few different people across the globe and in the span of several years, the book tells stories of adversity, loss and pain, and how some of us—the so-called Supersurvivors—are able to turn their suffering into an advantage and achieve more than they have ever imagined possible.

For instance, there is Asha Mevana who, at the age of 24, was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, she was living in New York, had a great job at a start-up and her own place in the prestige Soho neighbourhood. Life was looking great, until tragedy stroke. After intense therapy, she was cancer-free. The experience, though, changed her forever. Post her treatment, Asha took some violin lessons to help her deal with her “spiritual damage” from the cancer.

She left her old life, moved to Los Angeles and started playing in bars on her 7-string viper violin. Few years later, she was performing alongside Alanis Morissette, opening for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, playing at the Grammys, MTV, American Idol, and working with Jay Z and Mary J Blige.

Or, take Alan Lock—a former Officer in the British Royal Navy, who lost most of his eyesight at the age of 24 as a result of a rare genetic condition. He is also the first visually impaired person to cross the Atlantic Ocean between the Canary Islands and Barbados—a journey of 3000 miles and 85 days—a Guinness World Record. Since then, he’s completed multiple marathons and ultra-marathons, and climbed many high peaks. A truly amazing story!

Although it’s easy to become caught up in resentment, depression and pessimism in such distressing situations, some people approach traumatic events with the opposite feelings—of hope, resilience, and strength. “They transform the meaning of their persona; tragedies by making them the bases for change.” The authors call this phenomenon “posttraumatic growth.”

Further, the book looks at the reasons why the famed “power of positive thinking” doesn’t quite deliver on its promise and can, in fact, be even counter-productive. If it was just an easy recipe for success and for greater wellbeing, why are so many people still sick, depressed and failing? Rather, a better suggested approach is what the authors describe as “grounded hope”—“an approach to life involving building one’s choices on firm understanding of reality.”

That is, instead of telling ourselves “Everything will be fine,” we should be asking ourselves “What now?”

Another big trait of Supersurvivors is the belief that they have control over their circumstances or at least “the illusion of control.” Although such delusions don’t have to be accurate, studies tell us that it’s that belief that motivates people to keep trying when they have failed. Self-confidence, the authors claim, plays a huge role in Supersurvivors’ resurrection from trauma and subsequent success.

The faith in controlling our circumstances and the confidence in ourselves may as well be The Keys to all our accomplishments.

In the end, the book is a must-read. It gave me such a motivational boost after I read it. When you learn of the stories of people who have faced death and have lost so much, and who were able to come back only to accomplish so much, it gives you such incredible hope—that one can beat cancer, deal with blindness, overcome loss and still find a meaning and reason to live.

And what better drive that knowing that you can too, if and when needed, become one of the Supersurvivors’ pack? You don’t have to be a superhuman. You just need to be human—filled with hope, humility, desire to live and leave a mark in the world.

Or, as the authors put it:

“Supersurvival isn’t a magic bullet that makes everything instantly better. It’s not something we do that solves all our problems forever. In a way, life is a constant process of supersurvival, of facing life’s seemingly impossible choices with honesty and faith in ourselves. It’s a capacity all of us share.

It’s the capacity to hope.”


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