As soon as I started reading Dan John’s new book, Intervention, I knew it was going to be on my very short list of books I’d make everyone read if I were king of the world. I decided to write up a review and recommendation as soon as I finished the last chapter. But then as soon as I finished the book, I knew I couldn’t possibly put together a well-written review that captured everything that delighted me in this book unless I read it again; so I did. But then the second time, and later the third, weren’t enough either. I’ve decided I need to cut myself off and get this up.
The problem with reviewing Intervention is not that it’s too complicated to summarize. In fact, the opposite is more true. What Dan has to say in Intervention is so simple but also so all-encompassing that it makes any write-up somehow feel both trivializing and inadequate.
The writing is authentic Dan John prose. If you’ve ever heard Dan speak at a workshop or on a podcast, you will hear him in your mind’s ear as you read the text. (And if you haven’t had the pleasure, there is an audio version available, narrated by Dan.) He’s funny, down to earth, self-deprecating, and entirely, authentically serious. This is life and death stuff. No joke.
The book takes on a subject no smaller than How To Do Everything. If Augusten Burroughs hadn’t already used the title (of his own terrific book), Intervention could have been titled This Is How – how to assess where you are; how to identify your goals; how to get stronger; how to build armor; how to become resilient; how to eat; how to run a life. Oh sure the book is about fitness, but the lessons all translate and spiral out, as Dan puts it. Note that it isn’t This Is What. You have to decide for yourself what you want your life to be. Intervention just helps with the execution.
Intervention starts with 10 questions to get you traveling down that road. Some are easy (“How old are you?”). Others seem easy but answering honestly can be difficult (“Are you willing to go back to basics?” “Are you willing to correct your problems?”). None are unanswerable. When you’re finished working through the questions, you’ll be ready to start. Start what? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it.
Following the 10 questions, Dan discusses five principles that guide his advice for implementing the goals you have set for yourself. They are all so simple and so fundamental that it is easy to blow past the discussion of the five principles. Don’t.
I recall reading Dan’s book, Never Let Go, and seeing this line: “What time is it? Now. Where am I? Here.” I thought: Ha funny. Wait. Whoa. Wow, that’s good. When I find myself focused too much on the future or when I’m kicking myself for procrastinating, I come back to these two wise questions and these two always-true answers.
The five principles in Intervention have that kind of quality. “Fundamental human movements are fundamental.” Well, duh. Except, no, not duh. That’s profound. Look around next time you’re at your local gym or even the grocery store. Our brains have become so disconnected from our bodies that the idea that fundamentals are fundamental is actually a game-changer.
You might be asking yourself if you’re the audience for this book. If you’ve read this far, then yes, you’re the audience for Intervention. You can be a professional athlete, a professional warrior, a skinny and weak high school freshman, a deconditioned office worker, a banged up weekend warrior or just regular old you. As I’ve said, it’s a book about how, not a book about what, so in the end, it’s a book about you – who you are, what you want, and how to get there.
Do yourself a favor and pick up Intervention in one of these formats:
(ps – save these links because the odds are close to 100% that you will want to buy another copy to foist on friends or family.)