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The Underdog

W. J. Rayment / -- The American Dream, the American Promise is that every person has an opportunity to "pursue happiness". This doesn't mean that you can do anything you want, and it doesn't mean you will succeed at everything you try. What it does mean is that in a free society you are given the opportunity, with sufficient will, to dare to do any productive thing that inspires you.

In an intensive series of exploits, sumo wrestling, walking backwards, bull-fighting and arm wrestling Joshua Davis, has learned this lesson and teaches it afresh in his book, "The Underdog: How I Survived the World's Most Outlandish Competitions". Inspiring, entertaining and humorous, this book chronicles the experiences of a man of featherweight physical dimensions with a heavyweight soul in his quest for self-fulfillment.

The question of whether Josh finds himself while in the Sumo Ring with the World Champion or facing a raging bull in a ring in Spain is almost moot as we come to see that fulfillment comes not in the outcome, but in the journey to get there. An intelligent man, an accomplished humorist and a journalist (for Wired Magazine) he instinctively understands that being the best he can be, even in unusual sports such as walking backwards requires he learn from the best. For his participation in this sport Josh travelled to India to study with the world record holder in backwards walking. The experience turned out to be grueling and perhaps less glamorous than might be supposed. Yet it was also a time of character building, a time of realization and a time of intense living.

Josh went right to the top, competing in world class events, and even though he does not always take himself seriously, he always treats his sports and the people who compete in them with respect and even reverence. He has an intuitive feel for how an obscure sport might find not simply adherents but fanatics. For example Sumo is a Martial art that teaches discipline and quickness of mind. His experiences in the bull ring, where his vegetarian beliefs made him steadfastly refuse to skewer the bull, allowed him to see that the dance of the matador was performed with the bull rather than against it.

This is a fun book with quirky insights that teach life lessons. It is in a genre by itself. Read it for fun, and though it contains a few colorful references (mostly about sex) it is an appropriate book to pass on to your teenager who is doing his or her own searching for self-fulfillment.

This book is available at


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