Read Smile at Strangers: And Other Lessons in the Art of Living Fearlessly by Susan Schorn Online


“Eat, pray . . . kick ass. Delivered with self-deprecating candor, Schorn's life lessons learned at the dojo will resonate with anyone who's ever tried to remodel a house, raise kids, cope with a health crisis, navigate office politics or hyperventilated—essentially anyone who's ever been slammed on the mat while testing for the black belt of life. Like the fighter herself“Eat, pray . . . kick ass. Delivered with self-deprecating candor, Schorn's life lessons learned at the dojo will resonate with anyone who's ever tried to remodel a house, raise kids, cope with a health crisis, navigate office politics or hyperventilated—essentially anyone who's ever been slammed on the mat while testing for the black belt of life. Like the fighter herself, you can't put this one down.”—Mary Moore, author of The Unexpected When You're ExpectingSusan Schorn led an anxious life. For no clear reason, she had become progressively paralyzed by fear. Fed up with feeling powerless, she took up karate. She learned how to say no and how to fight when you have to (even in the dark). Karate taught her how to persuade her husband to wear a helmet, best one bossy Girl Scout troop leader, and set boundaries with an over-sharing boss. Here this double black belt recounts a fighting, biting, laughing woman's journey on the road to living fearlessly—where enlightenment is as much about embracing absurdity and landing a punch as about finding that perfect method of meditation.Full of hilarious hijinks and tactical wisdom, Schorn's quest for a more satisfying life features practical—and often counterintuitive—lessons about safety and self defense. Smile at strangers, she says. Question your habits, your fears, your self-criticism: Self-criticism is easy. Self-improvement is hard. And don’t forget this essential gem: Everybody wants to have adventures. Whether they know it or not. Join the adventure in these pages, and come through it poised to have more of your own....

Title : Smile at Strangers: And Other Lessons in the Art of Living Fearlessly
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780547774336
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Smile at Strangers: And Other Lessons in the Art of Living Fearlessly Reviews

  • Yodamom
    2019-01-08 20:12

    Some great quotes and a few self realizing moments had me finishing this book even when I became glossy eyed through much of it. This is a book that a present martial arts student might appreciate more than I did. I studied Aikido for 8 years and understood her stance, practice techniques and such but reading about them for hundreds of pages was mind numbing for me. I could have gotten much more from the story with it trimmed down to 50 pages.

  • Felicia Steele
    2018-12-29 16:19

    I have the great privilege of having gone to grad school with Susan Schorn, or as we know her 'George,' so this book was a special treat. Her wry wit and storytelling comes through in her magnificent prose. Reading it was almost as good as drinking her ass-kicking eggnog. Her book is inspiring, funny as hell, and tremendously wise. I foresee quoting her frequently.

  • Jeff
    2019-01-20 14:59

    Smile at Strangers is perhaps best described as a mash-up of Eastern philosophy, Western memoir, and self-defense how-to. It's a kind of chicken soup for the soul of anyone who takes both personal safety and personal growth seriously.This isn't to suggest readers will achieve nirvana. In the vernacular of Zen Buddhism, Schorn's primer is closer to kensho; the initial awakening experience. It shows us something new, something different. It shows us that personal safety doesn't have to be reactive and it doesn't have to be rooted in fear. That's a message that's not just refreshing, it's also empowering.As to the safety element, Schorn eschews blow-by-blow self-defense instruction for an approach that's considerably more strategic. She addresses broader themes like setting boundaries, making eye contact, de-escalation, and the power of saying "no". The presumption is that by thinking of self-defense in the context of a larger worldview (rather than as a series of discrete physical actions) readers will acquire a meaningful foundation to build on.Smile at Strangers is also a personal journey; one where readers learn along with the author. As events unfold, some common assumptions about safety are questioned and some conventional approaches are refuted. Frankly, that's a good thing. As Schorn makes clear, our typically fear-based, reactive responses to danger are often counter-productive. Delivered through a series of insightful (and often humorous) vignettes, Smile at Strangers offers hope to those who believe that strength and safety can spring from something more worthy of our spirit than fear.

  • Wardegus
    2019-01-13 17:10

    This book helped with my anxiety. Schorn asked a lot of the same questions I ask myself. Gratefully, I didn't have to go through years of karate to figure out the answers.

  • Linda Tapp
    2019-01-05 14:21

    As I read through this book, I was disappointed that it was so karate focused - something I didn't pick up in the title although the image on the cover should have given me a hint. Also, as an ex-Expat who understands what it means to "bloom where planted" I found myself feeling annoyed by the author's whining about living in Hawaii and how she led her family to move back to Texas without really giving the move a chance ( and after all, it was Hawaii - not Moscow, or Dubai, or somewhere truly challenging where the language and the culture is different). All that being said, I consider a book worth the time if I learn even one beneficial piece of information - one thing I can use or share. In this book, there were a few:-I now want to register my teenage daughters, and maybe even a refresher for myself, for a self empowerment type of self-defense class- most women don't "grow up" until their thirties and this is the best time for adventures. The author states "when you find yourself in the midst of one, you have three choices: you can embrace it, run away from it, or suffer through it. They're all viable options, but the first is the only one that's any fun," (I totally agree but this seems to be a little hypocritical after reading her Hawaii story).- "Beyond each triumph are new peaks to be conquered" - Mas Oyama (and title of a chapter) and "After forty, new challenges hard to find"Although I had a few issues with the book, I would recommend it to other women but especially young women and women interested in the martial arts.

  • Debbie Bateman
    2019-01-03 20:03

    I began reading this book as research for a short story I’m writing, but I quickly discovered a much wider appeal. Susan Schorn has shaped her karate journey around her life (or maybe it’s the other way around). In the process, she touches on important questions about self-identity, body image, feminism and being human. The anecdotes are humorous and touching because they are utterly honest. The writing is vivid and fluid. The author's voice is the voice of a trusted friend. Smile at Strangers will have a lasting effect on me. I am sure that I will read it again. Moments after finished the book, I went online to find out if there are karate lessons where I live. This is not something I would ever have considered before reading this book.

  • Jennybeast
    2019-01-11 13:55

    I love this book. It is honest. Screamingly, hilariously and empoweringly honest. Admittedly, as a Texan girl with an anger problem, I might be just be too close to be objective, but I can't even express how glad am I to have read such a thoughtful contemplation on the philosophy of living fearlessly.Schorn tells her story with wit, a wry humor, excellent writing and a fearless, clear voice. There is a lot of Karate in this book, but there is a lot more as well. Thoughts about risk-taking, thoughts about women and safety and how our culture reacts to both: this is a book with a lot to say, and I hope you take the time to hear it. I promise, it's really funny and trachea-crushing gets mentioned more than once. What more can you ask for?

  • Ling
    2019-01-10 12:14

    This book was so inspiring and full of life lessons that were truly moving. The author is hilarious, and really tells her story with so much life and spirit, I felt an incredible sense of loss after I finished the book. The bonds between the women and the wisdom from her Sensei was felt very strongly.

  • Erin
    2019-01-04 18:18

    Amazing book. Well-written and a great read for anyone interested in self defense or martial arts, or for anyone looking to find ways to deal with fear. Funny, witty, insightful and quote-worthy.

  • K
    2019-01-22 15:12

    Prereq's for this book: 1) you are a woman; 2) you are a student of martial arts (preferably Seido or Kyokushin). I don't think someone without those two prereqs would gain anything from reading this. However, if you are #1 and 2 above, READ THIS BOOK. I highly recommended it to my Jun Shihan and the women in my dojo.It felt like this book was written for me - there were so many parallels or near parallels to my own life (I come from a TKD background with a 15 yr lapse, starting a new journey in Seido this year so close to 40 and with two young children.) I wish I had Schorn's discipline, but she has inspired me.Things this book taught me:1. Why no one in Seido uses exaggerated breathing (which I was trained to use in TKD). Seriously, I had no idea that Seido uses normal breathing and felt silly being the only one exaggerating my breath.2. Honbu does hold blind training, it is just not as Daredevil sounding as one of our Senpais made it sound.3. "When you criticize yourself, that's your ego talking. You're displeased because you're not perfect. Well, no one's perfect. Get over yourself." In other words, shut up and say osu.4. Stop apologizing for everything. For example, don't say sorry for saying no.5. Not to be afraid of the kyosaku stick when I finally work up the courage to go to Honbu.6. Work up the courage to go to Honbu - it sounds amazing.7. Keep calm and Kai.8. It may be wise to train with a true Japanese speaker before going to Honbu because when you meet Kaicho for the first time, all your dojo Japanese goes down the drain. (I studied German for 4 years and then worked with a German woman who told me that I was saying my German all wrong, so I can see the truth in this. Learning a language second hand is not the same as learning it first hand.)9. I'm on the right path. Why else would I have returned after all these years. And it is ok that I'm almost middle aged - age doesn't matter here. It is about so much more.

  • Michelle Stebner
    2018-12-30 12:02

    Really tried but I just couldn't get through the last couple chapters. Overall, I mostly liked the lessons but the book didn't hold my attention enough. I struggle with anxiety like the author but it is very different than hers and I agree with others that I got bogged down in the descriptions of the martial arts moves.

  • Karen
    2019-01-17 17:56

    As someone who co-owns a karate club, I found this to be a fascinating journey of a young woman with many fears and insecurities and how she found a way to fight them.

  • Brooke Turner
    2019-01-12 13:01

    I didn't really relate to much of this and didn't get that emotional connection you get with many other memoirs. Nor did I find it very entertaining. Sort of felt like I was wasting my time.

  • Jennifer
    2019-01-11 14:58

    This book is an interesting combination of memoir and exploration of the author's deep and abiding love for martial arts and all the ways it has helped improve her life. I think any woman who has contemplated whether martial arts could benefit her, been personally violated or has issues with fear should read this book. Schorn makes an excellent case for how practicing martial arts has ramifications that go far beyond your belt level and how powerful your roundhouse kicks are. Simply put, martial arts became the guiding force in Schorn's life ... informing everything from motherhood to career. Besides being a memoir, the book provides practical advice and guidance on how to live your life fearlessly. This isn't just about self-defense (though that is one of Schorn's passions). It is about being confident, embracing the unknown, learning from our mistakes and having the courage to embrace and seek the unknown. Each chapter begins with a lesson that Schorn learned ("Self-criticism is easy. Self-improvement is hard. You're here for the hard stuff." "Fall down seven times, get up eight.") and then discusses how she used martial arts to get through challenges in her life (ranging from her sister's cancer diagnosis to putting an addition on her home). Even if you have no interest in martial arts, I think you can find value in this book. It is one of the more realistic and honest explorations of "woman power" I've ever read.

  • Max
    2019-01-09 19:01

    (update: changing to 4 stars after discussions with my 9-year-old son who literally cannot put this book down...)Schorn is a terrific and often very funny writer (one of her chapters is called "Don't be afraid of the dark -- grab darkness by the throat, kick its ass, push it down the stairs, and laugh at its haircut"; and another descriptive line "my husband has the feet of a cartoon hillbilly" may well stay with me for the rest of my life).Though her subject isn't one I know much about (using martial arts to help stem anxiety and gain some control over her life and runaway fears), I liked the book best when it addressed personal life obstacles that had to be overcome (like her strong desire to leave a seemingly perfect opportunity to live in Hawaii) and even the struggles to renovate their old South Austin home. A lot of the descriptions of the martial arts methods and the efforts to keep the supportive studio where she trained from falling apart felt journalistic and sometimes like a series of essays. That said, the book was entertaining and inspiring enough that I'm going to seek out the studio featured in the book (not far from my house) and maybe even take an introductory lesson!

  • Alyssa
    2018-12-27 12:09

    This was a book I needed to read. I am glad I read it now and I want to share it with everyone. Especially females. Susan shares with us the story of her personal realization of what it means to be a woman in society, and why she has decided to make it mean so much more. She shows her sisters a strength and kindness, a light within themselves, and a path towards greater wisdom, all while beating the snot out of them. She sheds light on the greatest of our problems, starting with how we are viewed by society, and worse how we view ourselves. She explains how to start yourself on a path of expecting more from others with just the way you look at them and react to them. Basically she makes herself the victim, the instigator, and the savior in her own story. Its clear from this book that all she wants is to inform people. There is no reason to be constantly afraid. If you are afraid it is because you lack information. To strengthen yourself is to gird yourself with resolutions for a better tomorrow, a better you and a better world. I loved this book and if I ever have a daughter I will make her read this as soon as she learns how.

  • David
    2018-12-27 18:16

    very funny (IMO), endearing memoir by a middle-aged Mom who took up karate as an adult to try to cope with a wide range of fears and specifically enduring anxiety about personal safety after a high school friend's Mom was murdered. blends the story of her becoming a black belt with vignettes about her husband and kids and co-workers in university administration; self-defense tips for (mainly) women; experiences helping to run a dojo; attitudes about challenging oneself, accepting imperfections etc. Structure is loosely chronological but mainly organized by life lesson she wants to impart, usually introduced by a karate training anecdote + a personal experience.I see from other reviews that it's gotten a wide range of reactions, and I can certainly imagine someone hating it. Author persona is very obtrusive, and she's highly opinionated. I don't think you need to care about karate in particular to find it engaging, but there is a lot of detail in that i guess it's quite subjective, but fwiw I really enjoyed her candor about fears, her optimistic, persistent approach to coping, and her sense of humor.

  • Hilary
    2019-01-05 15:57

    For a woman who feared everything - spiders, volcanoes, swimming (done because the parallel fear was drowning), sharks - she managed to completely turn her life around by gradually embedding the lessons she learned in the dojo into her heart, whether the lesson was "Say no" or using samurai wisdom to deal with her whip-owning boss. From being the one taking the self-defense class, Susan became the woman teaching them and using her own past fears to help draw other women forward.It's an entertaining read, and most women will find it enlightening. (Pay attention to the part about eye contact and looking down or away, and the difference your shoes make.) Some will also find it empowering. Most will find it inspiring. I had to force myself to *not* constantly read parts out loud, or laugh too much, and read it through in about 2 sittings because her voice came through so clearly, and each lesson was useful yet not hammered home. You could easily read this as a chapter-a-day book (if you can force yourself to put it down) or it'd make a great book for discussion groups.

  • Autumn
    2019-01-01 18:07

    A humorous memoir in which Schorn takes us on her karate journey and applies the lessons she learns in the dojo to her life outside the dojo. As a woman, I especially enjoyed reading Schorn's thoughts on violence and self-defense. I appreciate how much she has gained from her martial arts training and how that has translated into self-confidence and stability in her life. And yet I feel like her accounts of karate training confirm what I have always suspected: that martial arts are not well suited to my personality (or vice versa).Some of the karate teachings that Schorn described were vaguely reminiscent of the yoga sutras. Though karate and yoga are wildly different, I suppose both aim to enlighten students through physical practice.Many good lines, but my favorite was: "Jesus... It looks like Stevie Nicks exploded in here."

  • robomatey
    2019-01-14 16:58

    I'm both hesitant to smile at random people and sometimes tempted to punch them. I'm often closed off because I'd rather not interact than deal with other people's shit. I mostly read this to kick myself out of my Grumpy Rut of Suspicion. While Schorn is coming from a slightly different place, it was a relief to read a book that reminded me to live in my own body, make it what I want it to be, not apologize for being angry sometimes; but to do something productive and positive with it. Not everyone can afford or have the time to take up martial arts, but I definitely think her message of pushing yourself, living in your body, and being more disciplined is something that you can do. Also, it's a pretty funny book.

  • Taaren
    2019-01-15 19:59

    Schorn delivers a funny, self-deprecating memoir sprinkled with empowering looks at building confidence, and overcoming fears and obstacles. As someone with a martial arts background (in a different discipline), I really identified with the unique struggles involved with throwing yourself into that world, and how it forces you to look inward. Each chapter is a mini lesson (identified by a non-traditional kowa) that breaks the book into easy-to-absorb sections, making it easy to put the book down and pick it up again a time later. Schorn's writing style is highly personal, and you hear her voice easily throughout.

  • Laine
    2018-12-24 18:06

    about one austin woman's difficult journey into the world of karate, smile at strangers also serves as a big statement about the safety of women, the many factors surrounding the safety of women, and the measures women take to ensure their safety. this was an interesting reading experience, certainly. the only bummer was that i could tell that the audience she was writing for was not meant to be asian or non-white in general; there were instances when she used the word "exotic" without irony. this was disappointing because otherwise, she made a fantastic case for how women should take charge and have courage in their lives.

  • Sara Burchell
    2019-01-14 15:55

    As someone who is unfamiliar with the art of karate, I really enjoyed reading the sparring parts of this book. It was captivating in the sense that I could picture every move, every struggling breath of the fights. As an athlete myself, it brought many memories and the thirst to do more.I feel that I journeyed alongside Susan through this book and that I now know every part of her life (ha). She conveyed her journey and self-discovery well throughout the book and subsequently made me take a look at my own self, my own beliefs. Good read!

  • VBergen
    2018-12-27 15:08

    The book has some few tips about how to be a strong person, face fears, react in unexpected situations, and so on. The rest is a mix of chattering about many experiences the author has lived, and very detailed Karate stuff (techniques, movements, styles, literature, masters). This book can be very interesting for people who likes Karate a lot, but my taste for martial arts stayed behind when I was young with the Goku and Saint Seya age. The remaining of the nice teachings can be read just through the title of each chapter, and maybe skimming through the first paragraphs of them.

  • Yasmine Abdulhamid
    2018-12-29 15:07

    I think 3.5 is a better rating. I actually really enjoyed this book. Although there were long tangents about karate that I didn't understand, I still enjoyed the parts in between. I think she is a really brave and dedicated person. I like the idea that someone took their concerns and fears into their own hands in a very disciplined and conscious way. There was definitely more enjoyment because of the relation to Austin, so I loved that part of it very much. I hope I find my own Sun Dragon one day.

  • Mary
    2019-01-12 16:17

    It's always a gamble reading a book written by someone you know. But, I was blown away by this book. It really captures a lot of the things I love (and struggle with) about training in the martial arts. It was fun to read about the (now) Seido dojo in Austin (I get to visit the NEW location in September) and the history of some of the women I have met in my training. Despite knowing a good number of the real life characters, the chapters really do show the value of training in martial arts. I was blown away by how much this book told my story too. Well done!

  • C
    2019-01-06 18:16

    First, I'll say that while I like reading about martial arts, it does get a bit heavy/dry on the technicalities of the sport. So, I didn't feel too guilty for skimming a spot here and there in order to enjoy the rest. Some good leadership, anxiety, self control, and personal growth type themes in this memoir. Some great insight into popular mythology about women's safety, and moments of good wit, too. Apparently she writes for the Rumpus in a column called "Bitchslapped" - I'll have to check it out.

  • Christine Edison
    2019-01-18 18:57

    A woman trains for a black belt in karate as a way of shedding her insecurities and learning to live fearlessly. Part of her training involves meditating on traditional sayings called koans, and she shares her insights into a number of the sayings and how they have impacted her life. I enjoyed the sense of humor, the author’s humility about her own journey, and hearing about the dojo where she trains and about her mentor, Sensei Suzanne.

  • Steph
    2019-01-04 14:01

    I have a love-hate relationship with this book. On one hand, Schorn is a truly fantastic writer with an incredibly distinctive voice, who shines in the occasional moments of sheer brilliance that I could see myself quoting for years. However, too much of the rest of the book waffles around in directionless inanity, much of it about the minutiae of various karate disciplines, and I found myself wishing it would end.

  • Bree
    2019-01-12 13:57

    Susan Schorn has a delightful voice and a wonderfully wry sense of humor when recounting the ups and downs of her practice with the Sun Dragon school. The book itself is an easy, compelling read - several times, the prose had me cackling and reading passages aloud. The book is inspiring and written with such warm, good-humored wit that you end it feeling like the author is a friendly acquaintance rather than a stranger.Highly recommended!