2 out of 4 stars
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From Drift to SHIFT follows the stories of eight different people, each of whom has many reasons to be angry or apathetic at the world around them, but have all gone on to fulfilling and successful missions that seek to change the world. From Serita's heart-wrenching beginnings in a broken foster system that drove her and her husband to start a non-profit to help at-risk adolescents, to Andy, whose near-death skydiving accident drove him to push through his post-accident disfigurement to run an Ironman, and help injured and disabled people get involved in skiing and the outdoors, these are touching and inspiring stories that make you want to head outside and make the most of life and all it has to offer.
Miller seamlessly weaves motivating themes in with the stories to build up to the takeaways at the end of each chapter. Some of these are practical and functional, such as taking the time to question your life's direction and building up a strong support network, but many of these are rather empty platitudes, such as "live simply and thrive", and "when you look back, it all adds up perfectly". I feel that there was a real lost opportunity to build a useful framework for exactly how to make a "shift" beyond simply having a positive attitude and being fortunate. Miller's messaging on the drift/shift dichotomy is well done here, the "drift" phase where people weren't sure of their purpose, and the "shift" phase of where people were taking hold of life with both hands, but the way to take a "shift" isn't clear.
The third part of the book is titled "How To Shift", but I really found this quite disappointing. In Miller's defense, the book is listed under the religion and spirituality genre, but the snappy title and the cover artwork with a picture of a compass make it look like it belongs in the business and self-help section. The book does live up to the quote on the cover of showing some concrete examples of "how change can bring true meaning and happiness to your work and life", but the stories selected are of the fortunate few for whom it worked out in the end. Serita and Reid grew up poor and disadvantaged, but also plucky and intelligent enough to be admitted to top-tier colleges. Darren was crippled in a car accident, but had money, friends and family to travel and spend years learning to paint while requiring 24-hour care. These people have all done amazingly well for themselves in the face of adversity, but for every person who tries and succeeds, how many more fail? Both Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman and The Resilience Factor by Karen Revich and Andrew Shatte go into much more detail on how people build the resilience they need to deal with major adversity, but it appears Miller has eschewed this in favor of a more feel-good approach.
The feel-good approach that Miller takes concerns me; it comes across as quite short-sighted. The constant message is to just follow your heart and do what makes you happy, but that's a privilege that a lot of people don't have - especially those from broken homes, with young children, or a recent cancer diagnosis. Many people in tough situations have a lot of anxiety about major life changes, and there are often good reasons for this anxiety. It is quite irresponsible to tell these people to embrace change or take a break, when change means taking the risk of not being able to feed yourself or your children. On the other hand, there are some heart-warming messages in the takeaways and I really feel people need to hear these more. Miller deserves credit for encouraging readers to not judge themselves for their past mistakes and to not hold themselves to others' standards, but these gems are buried among more spurious advice that people in rough situations would be best to avoid.
Another thing that bothered me about this book is the way that it segued from a beautiful anthology of stories of personal strength and courage to a brochure on Hinduism. The final two stories are markedly different to the earlier ones, and told as a string of serendipitous events and claims of miracles caused by prayer and meditation. This then leads into a lengthy appendix explaining the different Hindu archetypes, which one you should buy, how to meditate in front of them, and even claims that scientists can measure the meditation energy that builds up in them. This entire section of the book took me quite by surprise, and the entire feel of the book shifted from a people-focused narrative on how individuals overcame some horrendous struggles, to a spirituality-focused narrative on how and when to pray and meditate and an attempt to prove the efficacy of prayer and meditation.
In short, this book is actually two books. Chapters 1 through 6 are a well-edited and expertly narrated story of the strength of the human spirit. I thoroughly enjoyed these, and believe that these will be inspiring to many people. Chapter 7 onwards is an introduction to Hinduism for Christians, and while it wasn't exactly my cup of tea, I do think it will be a great read for people interested in Hindu meditation and like to imagine the world has a purpose in mind for them. However, this book fails to teach the reader how to move from "drift" to "shift" and make good life decisions, and I would strongly recommend taking the book's advice with a grain of salt. As a result, I would feel bad recommending this book in its entirety to anyone, although there's definitely some gold in here if you're willing to look for it. I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars.
From Drift to SHIFT
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