Reading Vera Koo’s new book, “Wisdom and Things,” is like having a kind – and more skilled and experienced – friend offer you small bits of advice. Even better, the advice doesn’t come in the form of advising. Instead, it’s there like little gifts for you to find throughout this very digestible collection of short stories, practical observations and musings. They all showcase the author’s thoughtful introspection about what she has learned in her life, and how this nurtures the ever-expanding horizons she sees before her.
Koo opens her new book with a hint: “I have come to realize how deeply your attitude affects your life. It is my believe that life is 20 percent what happens, and 80 percent how we react.” This, from a woman who, among many other major life events, has reached the very top of a profession by competing worldwide with the men who dominate it, and who has also lived through and with unspeakable tragedy.
How, one might ask, has she managed? She tells us: “We are all in charge of our attitudes.” Aha.
Many of us know of Vera Koo’s remarkable achievements: an immigrant at 12, a brand-new shooter at age 40, and at her “retirement” past 70 years of age, one of the winningest and most respected shooters (male or female) in the world. Of course, there is much more to Vera Koo, both life triumphs and heart wrenching sadness. “Wisdom and Things” invites us into Koo’s life, and through her wide-eyed and practical perspective, she manages to distill her triumphs, and her survival, into precious principles to live by.
Hearing from one of the world’s best at anything is bound to provide some tips and lessons. But Koo doesn’t lecture. She simply describes for us how she followed her principles, or just as often, how her principles were borne from her experiences. And these are not just the spectacular wins or grueling struggle from the depths; they’re everything from family vacations to paintball battles.
Some seem like happy accidents, others reflect her inner warrior’s embracing the reward of hard work, putting one foot after the other, discovering success in creating small goals to achieve big ones, finding the joy in challenge. Above all, Vera Koo firmly believes that whatever happens, “true failure would have been not trying.”
But the most remarkable thing about “Wisdom and Things” is that Koo somehow makes us believe that if she can do it, we can too. Well, perhaps not her mastery of competitive shooting (as she notes, “I advise shooters to gravitate toward a discipline that naturally suits their strengths.”). But this book isn’t about becoming a championship competitor. It’s about being the champion of your own life, and about creating your own challenges to make your best life.
From killing zombies to riding elephants, from unexpected prayer to brewing herbs to create her own Chinese medicinals, Koo sees only opportunity and adventure ahead, as she blazes forward to her eighth decade and beyond! Best of all, she gives us hope that we can do it too.
Pro Tip: if you like this book, be sure to get her memoir, “The Most Unlikely Champion.” In it you’ll find the answers to some questions that will surely arise from “Wisdom and Things.”
Purchase your copy of “Wisdom and Things” here.
About the Author
Il Ling New grew up hunting and fishing, and started guiding for her father’s outfitting service as a teenager. She received her first guide’s license at age 17. Later, she became the first female captain of her university’s shooting team. Il Ling is a professional guide in the US, as well as a National Sporting Clays Association instructor. Outside the US, Il Ling has hunted in the UK, Asia, Australia and Africa. At Gunsite Academy, she teaches Defensive Handgun, Rifle and Shotgun courses, as well as Hunting Rifle and Wingshooting.
This review was originally published at Women’s Outdoor News.