Advice for Recovering Your Strength and Spirit from the World’s Most Famous Survivors

Hundreds of wise and inspiring insights on rebounding after a setback.


Of families, Leo Tolstoy famously observed: “happy ones are all alike, unhappy ones are unhappy in their own ways.” The same can be said of individuals: happy ones feel connected to others, unhappy ones feel alone in their suffering. Depression, heartbreak, betrayal, abuse, illness, accidents, miscarriage, rejection, career setbacks, divorce, drug and alcohol addiction, the death of loved ones, and so on are so personally devastating that those experiencing them often believe others couldn’t possibly relate.

But it’s not true. With more than six billion people on the planet, there’s a pretty good chance that others share similar hardships. And among us are survivors—those who have endured physical and emotional pain and come out wiser. Those who managed to heal.

Healing is a collection of insights and advice from such survivors. I have trawled through interviews, articles, broadcasts, autobiographies, and speeches to find advice and insights on the healing process. Many of the people quoted in this book are well-known business leaders, actors and actresses, singers, writers, artists, and philosophers.

Included here are Steve Jobs on what he learned from his cancer diagnosis, Elton John on rebounding from drug and alcohol addiction, Hilary Swank on surviving divorce, and Bruce Willis on accepting the death of his brother. Here, too, are Gladys Knight on coping with her son’s death, Patch Adams on fostering hope, Kylie Minogue on beating breast cancer, Sharon Stone on surviving a near-death experience, and Eva Kor on forgiving the Nazi doctors who violated her during the Holocaust. These survivors and others have used their fame as a platform to talk about how they survived, and in some cases thrived, in the aftermath of personal tragedy.

We heal in a variety of ways: by accepting, believing, changing, connecting, coping, creating, forgiving, laughing, living, persisting, and transcending. These are the themes found in this book. Many of the excerpts focus on finding a reason and purpose for your problem (“When you understand there is a purpose, then you can handle a lot of stuff.”—Rick Warren). Others offer specific remedies for mind and spirit (“No matter what you're going through, pick up a phone and call somebody at home [who’s] sick, or go down to the shelter and help somebody learn to read.”—Laura Schlesinger). Many address life changes (“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”—Steve Jobs.) Others address the healing virtues of spirituality (“You're born. You suffer. You die. Fortunately, there's a loophole.—Billy Graham).

My hope is that Healing will be a salve for sufferers. Use it to help distance yourself from your problem, or at least understand it better. More importantly, may the ideas and advice of these survivors remind you that suffering can be overcome. Even Tolstoy, whose characters are often the embodiment of human misery and tragedy, believed this. He wrote, “The most difficult thing of all—yet the most essential—is to love life, even when you suffer, because life is all.”

Always fall in love with what you're asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever's going. Not against: with.

Robert Frost, poet

You're not going to live your life unscathed.

Kirstie Alley, actress

Without fear and illness, I could never have accomplished all I have.

Edvard Munch, artist

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.

Roberta Flack, singer

All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me . . . You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.

Walt Disney, founder of the Walt Disney Company

You're born. You suffer. You die. Fortunately, there's a loophole.

Billy Graham, minister

You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead. Take control and choose to focus on what is important in your life. Those who cannot live fully often become destroyers of life.

Anaïs Nin, writer