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  • Writer's pictureLiz W.

How To Deal With Damn Near Anything by John McGlothlin - Book Review

“Why is the military good at developing people? It doesn’t have a choice.”

How To Deal with Damn Near Anything

The Paratrooper’s Guide to Life

John McGlothlin

154 pages

Ⓒ 2021 New Degree Press

Author Background

John McGlothlin served in the Army as a paratrooper and Arabic linguist, became a lawyer, joined the National Guard, worked as a journalist and has taught as an adjunct professor, among other pursuits. He brings together his diverse range of experiences to create the set of principles laid out in this book.

His website can be found here.

What Problem Does This Book Attempt to Address?

There are 5 personal characteristics of successful individuals that are not taught in schools or at the workplace, thus leaving the majority of people without an opportunity to learn these skills and improve their lives. The military, by nature, creates an environment where these skills are necessary in order to thrive. The book starts by explaining the community and organizational dynamics that lead to lack of acknowledgement of these traits, let alone any encouragement to develop them. McGlothlin then contrasts this with military culture. The second part of the book goes through each of the 5 traits. It demonstrates through story and explanation why each trait is important, then outlines both the mindset and action “best practices” for adopting these characteristics.


· Concept explanation: Good

· Related stories: Many

· Data references and studies: Many

· Charts and graphics: None

· Practical application: Fell somewhat short of expectation

McGlothlin does a great job of showing through story and arguing from a logical perspective the importance of adopting the 5 characteristics he advocates as the foundations for success and living a balanced, happy life. He doesn’t just say that you won’t learn these at school/work but actually explains the societal, economic and political forces that are in place that keep this from happening. Ultimately, he places the responsibility in the hands of the reader to take control of their life and skill development. The stories he includes felt very relevant and supported his points well. The book was extremely engaging and I ended up reading it straight through.

When I finished the book for the first time, I felt like it was missing something. I was sold on the concept and the importance of it, I felt like I understood the 5 characteristics, and I went back and reread the mindset and action steps to make sure I had understood those as well. It took me a couple of re-reads of the Part II to try and pin down what made it feel incomplete. I think the issue for me was that the short segments for each mindset and action step were too conceptual and big picture, and lacked more concrete ways to implement them into your life. The book is fairly short and I think another 50 pages just of going into more depth about how to practically apply the specific recommendations would be really useful to people who aren’t really sure where to start.

Writing Style & Presentation

· Tone: Instructional

· Organization: Excellent

· Flow: Excellent

This book had great organization and flow. One of the things I especially appreciated was how the definitions of each of the 5 traits were laid out right at the offset and then reinforced in their respective chapters. Each chapter starts with a story and ends with a story about how that particular characteristic leads to more successful outcomes. The transitions felt very natural. This made the book readable and engaging.

Bringing It all Together

One thing done really well: The direct and clear relevance of each story. With every story, the purpose sharing that particular experience is obvious to the reader because of how it directly supports the main idea. He intertwines the narration of the story with a sentence here and there as to why it relates back to the bigger picture. This added to the value of the stories immensely, as well as just being entertaining to read in and of themselves.

One thing that could be better: As stated previously I think the practical application could have used more expanding upon.

One main thing I took away from this book was: One thing he emphasizes in the book is that people in the military are not superhumans. They are normal people who under the right circumstances were able to develop the characteristics he advocates. He believes all people who dedicate themselves to improving can do it no matter background, personality, circumstances, etc.

Overall Recommendation

Overall recommendation: 4/5

Who I would recommend this book for: Having just read Mindset, by Carol Dweck, I found it fascinating that the traits and the way he describes them seem to be rooted in the growth mindset. If you liked Mindset, I think you will find a lot of value in this book as well.

Who I wouldn’t recommend this book for: People who are looking for a more hands-on step-by-step guide to implementing one or all of these traits into their daily life.

NOTE: This is a review-only post. There are no discussion questions planned at this time.

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