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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Storytelling of Science
How does a school principal stare down the barrel of a rifle with no fear, or Laurence Olivier deliver a soliloquy without stage fright? The answer is, they don't. A scientific subject is discussed with storytelling skills in the book, Nerve, subtitled, Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool.

Taylor Clark is...
Published on March 14, 2011 by Heidi Andrew

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Courage is a Path
I was thrilled to receive this book in a Firstreads giveaway and enjoy reading literature on resiliency and survival. Nerve is an entertaining, well-written exploration of fear, phobias, anxiety and just plain nerves. Taylor Clark delves into the physiological and mental aspects of fear's manifestations and what we can do to overcome its hold on us. Most importantly we...
Published on June 19, 2011 by Gea


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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Storytelling of Science, March 14, 2011
This review is from: Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool (Hardcover)
How does a school principal stare down the barrel of a rifle with no fear, or Laurence Olivier deliver a soliloquy without stage fright? The answer is, they don't. A scientific subject is discussed with storytelling skills in the book, Nerve, subtitled, Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool.

Taylor Clark is entertaining and humorous as he writes about fear, anxiety, and stress, and how the seemingly fearless actually handle fear with heroism. Clark's thesis, embracing fear and working with it to discover cool under pressure, is a theme we have heard before. But Nerve is very readable, full of case studies that brim with the personalities of the subjects and of Clark himself. His humorous footnote at the bottom of one page, "Incidentally, most of what we know about the science of fear comes from tormenting rats," is indicative of his writing style.

As someone who is hit with a fair amount of anxiety, I have read numerous books on the subject, many dry, and few helpful. Clark's Nerve is not a bombshell cure for fear and anxiety, but rather an engaging look at the science, stories, and mechanisms behind fear and cool. His suggested reading list at the end probably holds more answers for dealing with one's own fear and anxiety, but Nerve is a good, easy read that stimulated the pleasure center of my brain.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Counterintuitive--but convincing., March 15, 2011
By 
GLS (Brooklyn, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool (Hardcover)
Taylor Clark's NERVE is a wonderfully written investigation of stress, fear and anxiety and how our fears can either paralyze or liberate us. That our fears can be a good thing is surprising to read--at first. But Clark shows how the folks who stay cool under the most extreme circumstances do so precisely because they are afraid, not because they are placid. Think of a raft on a river: without a current, you're not getting anywhere. Fear can be that current, but that doesn't mean you don't have to navigate. NERVE gives us the perspective and tools necessary to hit the rapids. And it is lots of fun to read! Highly recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars humor and accuracy, March 8, 2011
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This review is from: Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool (Hardcover)
It is a joy to read a book that brings sophisticated science into precise layperson's language and applies it to our everyday lives with humor and wit. The book is a serious stress reliever. Again and again we hear that we modern people deal with higher levels of stress than previous generations, and Taylor Clark provides us with some insights that help us to see ourselves with clearer eyes and enjoy doing it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Courage is a Path, June 19, 2011
By 
Gea (Key Largo, FL, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool (Hardcover)
I was thrilled to receive this book in a Firstreads giveaway and enjoy reading literature on resiliency and survival. Nerve is an entertaining, well-written exploration of fear, phobias, anxiety and just plain nerves. Taylor Clark delves into the physiological and mental aspects of fear's manifestations and what we can do to overcome its hold on us. Most importantly we must accept our fears and face them bravely. Avoidance is one of the worst things we can possibly do.

One of the most interesting chapters to me came at the end when Clark analyzes the disastrous yet ultimately successful mission of astronaut Gordon Cooper and how he managed to make it back to Earth under incredibly dangerous circumstances. However, I do think Clark has a tendency to be dramatic and that he may exaggerate Cooper's fear. The interesting thing is that whether or not you are trying to overcome a fear of speaking in public or attempting to land a disintegrating rocket, the skill set is the same.

Clark ends his book with a prescription of very useful skills for overcoming one's anxiety regardless if it's a fear of heights or facing down a loaded gun. My favorite part came at the very end when he suggests that courage is a path we walk throughout our life. I love that idea, courage as a path of life.

I would have given Nerve four stars if I hadn't read much of his bibliography already. He does rehash a lot of what I've already read. However, after finishing Nerve, I did feel like I had learned something new. I definitely recommend this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fear not the fear!, August 30, 2011
By 
Deb (Palo Alto, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool (Hardcover)
Fear! Anxiety! Stress! If reading those words just about pushed you over the edge, then Read! This! Book! (Now!).

Non-trembling hands down, Taylor's book _Nerve_ is one of the best ones I've encountered on dealing with the "nervous trinity" of fear, anxiety, and stress. The author is actually the perfect person to deliver the message that fear is not the enemy we assume it to be. In the beginning of the book he admits that:
"I am hardly the cool-headed master of fear. I'm not a psychologist, and I'm not a guru with a seven-step plan to help you End Worry Today! Or Unleash Your Fearless Warrior Spirit...I am in fact, a fairly neurotic guy with more than my fair share of irrational, deep-seated worries and anxieties." (p. 13)

And, it is through his own research-inspired, actually-lived (and trembled-through) experiences of confronting his own demons that Taylor is able to offer a new way to relate to fear. His approach centers on the wisdom that "Fear is not our enemy. We don't need to get rid of fear or push it away. We need to learn how to be afraid." (p. 16)

With his wit, humor, savvy writing style, and down-to-earth guidance, Taylor shows that being afraid really is not so scary after all. As he points out: "Our problem is almost never 'fear itself' but the way we relate to that fear--by avoiding, withdrawing, seeking control, worrying, or falling victim to the mistaken belief that things will be okay only after we've annihilated all anxiety. Fear can be a good thing: it helps us survive, gives us meaning to our achievements, facilitates our performance, and makes us feel alive. Yes, fear can be uncomfortable and bewildering, and it can even thwart our most dearly held goals--but it doesn't have to be so...It's not whether you feel afraid that matters, but how you react to that fear." (p. 272)

After presenting fascinating case studies, debunking popular myths, and exploring the "brave new science of fear and cool," the book culminates in twelve key steps for learning how to be afraid (pp. 272-280):

1. Breathe--Deep breathing actually decreases reactivity in the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces heart rate, resulting in your feeling less anxious and stressed.

2. Put your feelings into words--Talking or writing about emotions helps brain to consciously process them instead of becoming overwhelmed by them.

3. Train, practice, prepare--Training through repetition and experience is the only reliable way to ensure success. The U.S. military promotes this idea with their eight Ps: "Proper prior planning and preparation prevents piss-poor performance."

4. Redirect your focus--Concentrate on the present moment and on the task at hand, instead of on the "what-if" fears of the future.

5. Mindfully disentangle from worries and anxious thoughts--Learn to non-judgmentally "watch your worries" or postpone them instead of trying to wrestle with them.

6. Expose yourself to your fears--The only way to get over a fear is to go through it. As Taylor urges, "You must expose yourself to the things and ideas that scare you."

7. Learn to accept uncertainty and lack of control--Here's where the Serenity Prayer comes in handy by encouraging us to find the "serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

8. Reframe the situation--Keep fear in perspective by doubting your doubts and reappraising how you look at the situation. In the words of Elizabeth Phelps (whom the Taylor cites as "the NYU reappraisal expert"): "When you change the way you appraise a situation, you change your emotional response to it."

9. Joke around--By poking fun at a stressor, we take away its "psychological venom."

10. Build faith in yourself--Having confidence helps to transform threats into challenges we can cope with with and overcome. Believing we can influence the outcome reduces anxiety in a frightening situation.

11. Keep your eyes on a guiding principle--When we're feeling overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, dedication to a higher purpose can keep us grounded and motivated. Taylor so appropriately cites Nietzsche's wise words of "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."

12. Open up to fear unconditionally--Contrary to popular belief, the best way to deal with fear is not to fight, control, avoid, or analyze it, but to simply expect, welcome, and accept it. Taylor's prescription is much more effective than any anti-anxiety medication will ever be: "There's nothing wrong with feeling anxious, ever, over anything at all. Fear and anxiety are part of who we are. Once we drop the pointless, wrongheaded routine about needing to get rid of them, we carry fear and anxiety around with us through life like friendly companions. Instead of battling fear, we just let it happen, and when the fight against it dissolves, so does the torment."

Through these steps "we slowly learn to live in harmony with fear, anxiety, and stress, expecting them to show up and welcome them when they do. And then a problem that once seed so horrific and intractable becomes so simple--and really not a problem at all." (p. 278)

So, go and (at least pretend to) be fearless and get your hands on a copy of this book, asap! And, once you're finished reading it, you might even realize that by not fearing the fear you can even become friends with it. (OK, so you might have to read the book twice to get to that level.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Book! A VERY Talented Author...BUY IT!, April 29, 2011
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This review is from: Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool (Hardcover)
Taylor Clark's new book demonstrates, once again, that he is a magnificent story-teller. This is one of those books that should have a WARNING LABEL on the jacket: "WARNING: If You Pick This Book Up - You Won't Be Able To Put It Down."

What's refreshing for me as evidenced by NERVE is that talented writers are beginning to explore science and share the same in a manner that is both inviting and digestible by a broad and diverse audience. Clark's frankness about this fact (see pp.13-14) is invigorating - along with his confession of being one who has NOT triumphed over fear, anxiety, worry and stress - yet, remains "a fairly neurotic guy." (You've gotta love that kind of authenticity...I certainly do.

Clark weaves the science into incredibly entertaining non-fiction stories that will keep you turning the pages. His thesis is the path of fear is the path of life (p.282) - and provides bushels of evidence to support the same.

This is NOT one of those sappy books on fear, courage or life that has the "buck up buster" theme running throughout the pages (Thank God for that!!!). Clark has an ability to speak about the reality of the subject, making it literary fare for ordinary folks, those with a keen interest in the subject matter, the social/neuroscience community -- and those who just want a book that is filled with the wit and ways of a truly talented storyteller and investigative journalist.

There are mounds of gems in this book. Here are a couple I distinctly appreciated from NERVE:

So the measure of our ability to deal well with fear isn't whether we get afraid, but how we connect with that fear. In the end, this is the kind of "nerve" that matters most: the nerve to open up to fear, work with it, and do the right thing regardless of how we feel. P.282.

Bravery isn't being fearless. Bravery is being scared and doing the right thing anyway.

Developing solid cognition under fire isn't about thinking fearlessly but about thinking alongside fear. P.158.

We can take small, concrete steps toward our goals, to show ourselves that we are authors of our own fate - not helpless in the face of adversity. P.128

A GREAT book! A fantastic writer. A wonderful gift for a friend, colleague or family member as well. BUY IT!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a meaningful read, April 20, 2011
This review is from: Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool (Hardcover)
"Nerve" by Taylor Clark aims to answer the question why some people have the nerve to get through anything, while others give in to their nerves and never fully live their life. The book starts off with an interesting story about how a Soviet submarine is stopped by an American one during the Cold War and the Cuba crisis--the Russians have been given an ultimatum by the U.S. government to clear the waters, except that the Soviet government never passed this information on to the submarine, which also suffers from technical problems. Its crew is unnerved, hungry, and especially irritated when they get stopped by the Americans. The American crew doesn't help the situation by not taking the old Soviet submarine seriously, and being unaware of the fact the rickety Soviet submarine is secretly equipped with a nuclear bomb. It is only one of the Russians on the Soviet submarine who manages to talk his insulted captain into not releasing the bomb and killing all of them. It is this idea of surprising calm and decisiveness in the face of danger, which punctuates Clark's book.

The book is filled with many anecdotes of people overcoming fear--including in such diverse areas as sports, public speaking, performance arts, game show pressures, airplane catastrophes, war battles, and etc. You notice that Clark includes both light everyday situations like public speaking or sports, with truly dangerous situations like airplane catastrophes and war battles. But Clark's goal is to point out that even many benign situations may entail the same fear as posed by truly dangerous ones, depending on how serious one's fear is.

While the large number of anecdotes are interesting, it is the solutions to getting around fear that make this book meaningful. There's no new and quick solutions that are popular nowadays, but practical advice that therapists have been using for a while--things like gradually exposing oneself to his fear, learning to work with fear instead of against it, focusing on the task at hand rather than one's emotions about it, focusing on calming oneself in any situation, and etc.

Overall, I thought this book was very well researched. Clark explains the chemical neurological processes and parts of our brain that lead to fear, as well as illustrative stories, strategies to combating fear, and the important differentiations between fear, anxiety, and stress. This is a pretty handy book about an emotion that everyone experiences at one time or other, and covers the difference between people who handle their stress well, and those who give in to it. I thought it was well written and an enjoyable read on the topic.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stress with a Sense of Humor, April 7, 2011
This review is from: Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool (Hardcover)
As one who is prone to worry (I come from a long line of expert worriers), the idea of a book that offered to give me serenity, not hysteria, under stress was almost unbelievable. I had pretty much given myself over to the fact that stress and anxiety, and how I dealt with them, were genetic - there wasn't much hope of change. Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool by Taylor Clark sets out to help relieve society's stress over stress and teach us how to be afraid.

In part one of Nerve, Clark takes the science and research of "the nervous trinity" - fear, stress and anxiety and, using understandable language, shows us how and why our minds and bodies respond the way they do in pressure-packed situations. In part two, entitled the elements of cool, Clark deals with thinking under pressure, performance anxiety and stage fright, athletes that excel or choke and why, and how to survive when our lives are on the line.

At first, I found the examples given in the chapters on stage fright and athletes a bit much. I will never be a top level musician or athlete, so using these peoples' stories seemed inapplicable to my life. However, upon reflection, I realized that the methods these people used to overcome performance anxiety- the likes of which I will never know- will certainly be helpful to me if I ever find myself in a "performance" situation.

Nerve is full of insight and humour that makes it an easy read. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions and appreciated Clark's straightforward approach to the subject. While not a textbook on fear, anxiety and stress, Nerve is an excellent first step on the journey toward embracing fear and using it as a tool for success. I have learned that my motto: "panic first, think rationally later," is perfectly normal and can be used to my advantage, and with what I have gleaned from Clark and his research, I am no longer destined to a life of worry!

I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

I received this book free from Hachette Book Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Inane, October 12, 2011
This review is from: Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool (Hardcover)
If you want a bunch of inspirational stories (apparently Mahatma Gandhi and Laurence Olivier once said they had stage fright), and some nice catchphrases like "fear is your friend," this is the book for you. We are supposed to "work with" our fear, become more arrogant (since self-confident people are less likely to freeze up) and take a bunch of deep breaths. The sole interesting observation is that there's no point in trying to control your fear rationally: your senses have a direct connection to your amygdala to make sure you don't have to stop to think when you should be getting away from the tiger chasing you. The book's main advice is to habituate yourself to the fear, but the examples given are not really ones that most of us can follow: a fearful game show contestant standing in a department store screaming presidents' names backwards, a fearful cellist improvising in the subway in front of indifferent audiences. How do we make sure that when we stand up to give that presentation, our sweating hands don't slip off the podium, our voice doesn't tremble, our stomach doesn't heave, our mind doesn't completely lose its train of thought? Whether paralyzing fear will strike you in any public situation is essentially random, and it's the uncontrollable aspect of it that creates a vicious cycle leading to more fear and avoidance. The author has no nostrum for this, and public speakers know this mental blankness can strike no matter how prepared you are. Performing musicians have the answer, and it's called a beta-blocker. The beta-blocker damps down the vicious effect of excess adrenalin that might have been useful for the tiger in the Stone Age but is indisputably maladaptive today (it is definitely not the case, as the author simply asserts, that life without excess fear would be as problematic as life with it). What does Clark say about beta-blockers? He dismisses this sane and steadying remedy out of hand in a sentence ("heavens! Some brazen people are taking it without a prescription!").
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just when you thought you knew everything about fear and anxiety, Clark pivots you toward the unknown., March 25, 2011
This review is from: Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool (Hardcover)
Just like everyone in this world, I myself have many times had the so called case of the nerves. What Clark explains in his book is that everyone on this planet has at one time or another dealt with fear or the so called crippling anxiety. More musicians, actors, doctors and regular folks than one can even imagine deal with it on a regular basis. The case studies and real person interviews Clark provides in Nerve are insightful and interesting. He gives us a look into the lives of professionals who are under extreme stress to perform flawlessly on a regular basis. From a commander in the mountains of Iraq to a pianist in an orchestra. Clark provides insight into how fear and anxiety can cripple anyone anywhere unexpectedly and make their life do a complete 360. Fear not there is hope for you to!

Nerve is not a cure all your anxiety book, however it provides hope by sharing extremely helpful information for those of us that have been in the dark regarding what we tend to think of as our worst enemy. By helping you see the light at the end of the tunnel and guiding you forward while holding your hand, a feeling that you are not alone. With an open mind you can reach the other side of this fear and anxiety ridden tunnel. In the process of readng Nerve you learn that fear and anxiety is a natural part of our daily lives, it is human nature that can be channeled to your benefit. The tips at the end of the book are a quick and helpful guide to go over when feeling the grips of fear and anxiety in our day to day lives. Clark also shares many references to other authors and their books, if you feel adventurous and would like to read more on this subject. If myself found the book very rewarding. Although I have read other books on this subject. I have found Nerve to be the most unbiased and helpful on these topics. Teaching me much more than I thought I already knew.
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