Book Review: Toughness by Jay Bilas

Toughness by Jay BilasIf you have enjoyed the content I have presented thus far on KineSophy, I highly recommend Jay Bilas’ Toughness. This book comes as close to expressing the essence of what I intend to convey in this space as anything I have read thus far. Though his use of personal narratives differs from my attempts at philosophical discourse, he and I aim at a similar topic, namely the qualities of character that translate to success in all facets of life. His experiences as a basketball player and coach, attorney and ESPN basketball analyst, as well as the wisdom of coaches, players, family, teachers and colleagues make for a rich fabric of stories and lessons.

In his book, Bilas offers his redefinition of “toughness,” and it should come as no surprise that he does not view chest pounding, trash talking or picking a fight on the basketball court as markers of true toughness. Instead, Bilas uses lessons learned from his experiences and those of top athletes, coaches and colleagues to argue for his own value system centered around this word. The book reads a bit like a 254-page motivational speech, which is not entirely a bad thing given the richness of the stories provided by Bilas’ interview subjects. Yet by using toughness to encompass a plethora of virtues like trust, preparation, courage, communication, persistence, commitment, acceptance, resilience, self-evaluation and hope, toughness verges on losing its meaning altogether.

In reading this book, I was first struck by the obviousness of the qualities Bilas preaches. Preparation is clearly essential to success in sports or any other pursuit in life (so too for Bilas’ other buzzwords). But as I progressed through Bilas’ anecdotes, I began to realize how many people have no concept of the kind of toughness he espouses. Moreover, despite my general agreement with his assertions, I began to notice instances in my own life where I was not as tough as I thought I was. While those looking for a more straightforward ethical argument might wind up disappointed, Bilas is a fine storyteller and his insights ring true no matter which word he uses to name his philosophy.

Rating: 4/5 stars

For more reviews of books on physical fitness, sports, philosophy and society, check out The KineSophy Library.