4 out of 4 stars
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Are you in need of a little inspiration and motivation? Then look no further! Get ready to feel the burn ( please, pardon the pun) with Jorge P. Newbery's incredible autobiography Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands. This book is the ultimate reality check. Packed full of educating life lessons, readers are taught the importance of saving money, making the right decisions and we are encouraged to follow our dreams, whilst we battle our nightmares. This book explores the growth of Newbery, transporting us back to the humble beginnings of his very first paperboy job at the tender age of 7, right to his bittersweet real estate success at the age of 40.
"Everyone’s life is full of burn zones, which test the limits of our bodies and minds.”
Essentially, burn zones are periods of serious intensity, testing your endurance both physically and mentally. Throughout this book, we discover Newbery faces several burn zones in his life. From bicycle racing to balancing a crushing $26 million dollar debt on his shoulders ( in one chapter, he even describes dancing as a burn zone. Spoiler alert - Newbery has no rhythm). He seems to gain tremendous amounts of pleasure from challenges, leaping from one risky opportunity to the next.
First and foremost, I need to take this opportunity to give the parents of Jorge P. Newbery a standing ovation. You have raised a son of high intelligence. And you have backed his ventures wholeheartedly since day one. Would the majority of parents support your decision to drop out of school to create your own record label? I think not. Would the majority of parents transform their home into an “unofficial punk hotel”? I think not. You get the point. I don't know what I find more fascinating. The astounding support from Newbery's parents or the way Newbery pulled himself out of the pits of financial peril. Newbery's childhood was completely dominated by his drive for success ( I really hope at some point he pencilled in some time for a game of basketball or tag!) Secondly, not only does the reader receive valuable life lessons, but also a cultural lesson about growing up in 1970s Los Angeles. We learn about the racial hardships, isolation and loneliness the Newbery family suffered. Turning the pages about his punk label days, as a fan of punk music, it saddened me to learn that most punk band members never made it to the age of 30, losing their lives due to horrific police beatings or drug addictions. Yes, there are countless moments in this book which render you lost the words.
Another reason why I adore this book so much is that it's so relatable to everyday life. This is a true, documented account of the ascension and descension of Newbery’s fortune. We can all relate to suffering the hard knocks of life, even if it isn't necessarily about losing money. What shines through, making Newbery such an engaging character is his complete brutal honesty. This autobiography wasn't written to gain sympathy from readers. And it is certainly far from a ‘woe is me’ tale of sorrow. It was written to teach the reader that whatever cards life deals you, you can make a victorious comeback with a little determination and self-power. It can be done! Furthermore, Newbery did not come from a privileged home. His career wasn't jumpstarted by somebody else's merits and money. He created his own success, which provides the reader with another important lesson that anything is possible whatever your background. I praise Newbery for taking full ownership of his mistakes. He doesn't spend the duration of the book searching for somebody to blame. The concluding final lesson I learnt was when it comes to business, relationships or family, complacency can be our own worst enemy.
Moving onto my one and only dislike. After wracking my brains, the only minuscule fault I could find with this book is, the chapters about his bicycle racing days and his career in real estate read a bit too much like a curriculum vitae/ resume rather than an autobiography. The warm, storytelling tone vanishes and his replaced with clipped, punctuated dates of achievements. I'm not trying to take anything away from Newbury's accomplishments, but halfway through the book, I thought 'Jorge! Would you clock out already and have a beer? Loosen your tie, relax and have some fun!'. I wanted to know a little less about Mr Newbery, the business tycoon. And a bit more about Jorge, the man. Admittedly, there are a few funny moments scattered throughout this book - it's not all strictly business. For example, the social awkwardness of Newbery around the opposite sex. Besides this fault, it is plainly obvious this book was edited by a professional. There's not a single typo, grammatical error or sentence out of place. It reads very well. Top marks there!
In terms of identifying the demographic audience, I feel it appeals to all races, ages, social classes and ethnic groups wanting to take a risk in life for the better. The theme of the book definitely appeals to anybody in the discovery phase of starting a new business, job or hobby.
In conclusion, Burn Zones: Playing Life's Bad Hands easily deserves a 4 out of 4 stars rating. I was a little unsure at first, worried that this autobiography would be littered with cliched self-help sayings ( you know the ones. Life is like a box of chocolates). To my absolute delight, Jorge P. Newbery does such a superb job of sharing his journey without coming across as an arrogant narcissist. A refreshingly humble and modest gentleman. He deserves all the respect in the world.
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