I am sure we have all heard the cliché ‘Change is the only constant’. But then, most people resist change because it is uncomfortable and involves some degree of trauma. Depending on how big or small the change is, the discomfort and trauma can vary. One such major “disorder event” that practically everyone in the world recently experienced is the novel coronavirus pandemic. As the author says, “it is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last.”

According to the author, research shows that, on average, people experience 36 disorder events in the course of their adulthood … the entirety of our existence is like an ultramarathon in which we know neither where the finish line is, nor what obstacles will pop up along the way. The glaring question, then, is how on earth are we supposed to run the race?

This book lays out an approach to understanding the nuts and bolts of change and an approach to dealing with them by looking across science, wisdom, history and practice. The author’s effort is to put forward a framework that encompasses the foundational qualities one needs to not just survive, but thrive, amidst change and disorder. Stulberg calls this approach ‘Rugged Flexibility’.

Rugged Flexibility recognises that after disorder there is no going back to the way things were — no more order, only reorder. The goal of ‘Rugged Flexibility’ is to get a favourable reorder; to maintain strong core identity, but at the same time to adapt, evolve and grow.

The book is divided in to three parts: Part 1: How to develop a rugged and flexible mindset; Part 2: How to develop a rugged and flexible identity; and Part 3: How to take rugged and flexible actions.

The author says the book is more a path rather than a road. He says that a road is linear and aims to get you to your destination with as much haste and as little effort as possible. A path, on the other hand, works in harmony with its surroundings, embraces change, may take detours to get to know the environment, and in general keeps you moving in the direction of your destination. This, in my view is an excellent metaphor to describe the style of the book.

Scientific, experiential evidence

Stulberg, while explaining a concept relevant to Rugged Flexibility, very often, takes a deep dive into the relevant literature to provide both scientific and experiential evidence to make his case. While this does mean that the book is not an easy read, it helps the reader understand the concepts very well. To get the best out of the book, one needs to take the many detours offered by the author, enjoy the scenery, contemplate a bit and slowly work your way to the end of the book.

One other aspect of the book that I found most exciting to read is the inclusion of many real-life examples of how Rugged Flexibility was identified, developed and practised to deal with the trauma of change. The story of how Tommy Caldwell, a professional mountain climber, was forced to kill a terrorist to save himself and others in his team and the trauma he had to go through after that event, and how eventually he developed a Rugged and Flexible mindset is deeply moving. Stulberg uses many such examples to get his point across. While it does take you on a detour often, you still remain on the path and you get to absorb the concepts much better.

I also found the conclusion chapter most useful. The author has laid out five questions and ten tools for embracing change and developing Rugged Flexibility. But please don’t jump straight to the conclusion — you will miss enjoying all the scenery and experiential learning from the real life examples!

I am 71 years old and I have gone through my share of major changes, including life-altering events and experiences. I have managed to ride out the upheavals and have been reasonably successful. I always thought I was being resilient and persistent. In reading this book, I am able to understand and relate to the concept of Rugged Flexibility and how I had embraced it.

The reviewer is an entrepreneur and co-founder, Proklean Technologies

Title: Master of Change: How To Excel When Everything Is Changing – Including You

Author: Brad Stulberg

Publisher: Heligo  Books

Pages: 240

Price: ₹499

Check out the book on Amazon.