What do you do next if you have walked on the moon, scored the first perfect 10 in Olympic competition, or become the first person to break the sound barrier? How do you move on after you have survived being captain of a crashed airliner or spent five and a half years chained to a prison wall in Beirut?
There are many people who will forever be known for a single moment. No matter what they do with the rest of their lives, it won’t change the fact that the first line of their Wikipedia entry, the core of their biography and the opening line of their inevitable obituary, is already written. So how does one step beyond such a thing? More of the same? A total change of direction? Misery and depression?
This book shows how the story is different for everyone, from the astronauts who turned to painting or business or aliens or booze, to the World Cup-winning footballer who became an undertaker or the ballooning pioneer who spent decades trying to help other people break his own record. But each of them has grappled with the same challenge of finding meaning after a defining moment, of turning the rest of their lives into something other than a footnote.
Journalist and writer Chris Wright spent five years traveling the globe tracking down these oddly feted people, firstly to ask them about their moment of fame, but chiefly to understand what they did to follow it. From every corner of America to Borneo, Yorkshire and the Italian Alps, he locates these now-anonymous people, persuades them to tell their stories while they’re still around to tell them, and narrates their adventures with a combination of sympathetic reverence for their achievements and a journalist’s demands for answers.
The result is a book that reveals some strikingly contrasting personalities, from Chuck Yeager’s irascibility to John McCarthy’s extraordinary even-tempered decency, from the tough practicality of Nadia Comaneci to the dense intellectualism of astronaut Ed Mitchell and the fastidiously structured mind of mountaineer Reinhold Messner. Though all are very different, they have one trait in common: that, after their moment of venerated achievement, they did not spend those long suffixed years looking backwards.
Watch an interview with the author on Reuters TV here
Listen to an interview with the author on the HarperCollins podcast here
Hear an interview with Chicago radio host Milt Rosenberg here
Read about it on LinkedIn here
And read an article on a chapter that didn’t make the book – on Mahathir Mohamad – at The Australian here and the South China Morning Post here, with serialised parts of that chapter on Forbes.com here and here