New Welsh Review
Battle Ready: Eliminate Doubt, Embrace Courage, Transform Your Life
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Battle Ready by Ollie Ollerton is as much a storytelling piece as it is a blueprint to overcoming those little demons that we all have within us, that hold us back whichever way they can.
Covering four main sections – the call to change, the barriers to change, how to change, and sustaining change – Ollerton goes into detail about the exact techniques he used to get out of his personal pit of despair and start living the life he wanted. The idea is that at the end of the book, the reader will know exactly how to keep their positive mindset and attitudes afloat so these become a solid, established part of their being.
Battle Ready is a well-rounded, engaging and illustrative book that tells an incredible story with well-built climaxes in all the right places. These aspects, as well as its personal, honest voice, make this much more entertaining than your standard self-help guide.
Some subjects, including their own mental illness, writers would be tempted to simply skirt over. But Ollerton tackles these by making himself vulnerable, becoming a figure that readers can relate to. As a former addict and depressive risk-taker, Ollerton has lived through hell, has come to accept that, and understands how to get out of it.
The story opens with the magnetic tale of Ollerton befriending a small monkey:
The air is buzzing with dragonflies… I smell candy floss and diesel in the breezeless air and my stomach wheels with excitement. The circus… there’s something electric and dangerous about it. [The baby chimp] glances at me, his little brown eyes trusting and innocent. He has soft little hands and tiny nails just like a human’s, huge comical ears that are translucent pink with brilliant sunshine flooding through them. Then the little fella chuckles, holds out the banana he’s been chewing and offers me a bit. I gratefully receive it with a smile and, so as not to upset him, pretend to eat it before discreetly chucking it over my shoulder. Now we are officially friends.
This opening utopia quickly turns into Ollerton’s horrendous encounter with the chimp’s mother. The following scene is horrifying and gruesome, but written so well, you cannot look away. This event was one of the main causes for his later downfall, as he constantly had flashbacks to the helplessness and terror that he had experienced then.
Much of Battle Ready is based on concepts and elements of self-care and self-awareness. The beginning presents a contract that the reader is invited to sign, with the intention to better themselves, and every following chapter is interspersed with activities that they can get involved in. This hands-on approach to our own goals and desires can then be applied to those arenas in which we may wish to increase control. Ollerton quotes Viktor Frankl, an Auschwitz survivor, who said, ‘Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.’
Ollerton writes about the power of affirmation, and the importance of removing ourselves from stagnant routines that do not create positive forces within our lives. He states that we are programmed to go for the easiest, fastest, most comfortable routes, and that this is where a lot of our unhappiness can stem from. In order to improve our lives, we must break this routine.
The famous quotation from Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ diary, of almost 2,000 years ago is included:
At dawn when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself, ‘I have to go to work as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for –the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?
Along with being helpful on a personal level, Battle Ready is also a useful booster to the reader’s general knowledge. Such interesting tidbits include that alcohol is said to have come from the Arabic term, ‘Al-Khul’ and ‘Al-Gawl’ which means ‘Body Eating Spirit’, and that the word inspire derives from the old Greek word ‘inspiro’, meaning ‘to breathe life into’.Others are that ‘ninety per cent of the body’s serotonin, its feel-good chemical, is in the gut, and is activated by eating the right food. You can dictate how you feel on the inside –sprightly or slothful, happy or fed up –by what you eat.’ The importance of those seemingly inconsequential actions that we take on a day-to-day basis become glaringly obvious calls to action here.
Another concept that Ollerton explores is how we have become individuals rather than communities, and because of this, we have lost the value of putting others before ourselves. We need to open ourselves to the ability to truly give and receive, and only when we are open to this, will we truly understand our own purposes, goals, and abilities, especially, the ability to change.
The Alcoholics Anonymous Serenity Prayer sums it up neatly: ‘Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference.’
Amy Aed continues her reviewing residency of popular nonfiction titles.