4 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands by Jorge P. Newbery is the author’s autobiography. The book details Mr. Newbery’s life as an entrepreneur from an early age, his successes, challenges and failures later in life. It also touches on issues such as racism and inequality. This is an inspirational story to learn from. A man’s life laid bare that the readers can appreciate the fact that one can go from riches to rags but still pick up the pieces and start over. No matter what bad hands life deals, there is always hope that one can do better. In the author’s words, “Focus on enduring the pain until the pace slows. The effort will get easier soon.”
Burn Zones as Mr. Newbery describes, are relatively short periods of extraordinary effort that separate winners and losers. Though primarily used in the cycling sport, the meaning of this term is clear throughout his story. Jorgie, as his father fondly called him, began his entrepreneurial journey as a newspaper boy, at the age of seven. Recognizing opportunity and going after it was ingrained in him that early. His transition from one interest to the other, as a record mogul, cyclist, real estate mogul, were all marked by a desire to push his limits. His work ethic and motivation drove him to success. One major point worth noting is that his parents or rather his family provided him great support in his endeavors.
At the height of his success, Mr. Newbery the real estate mogul owned over 4000 apartment buildings in different states and his net worth was in the tens of millions of dollars. Despite all this, he lived a rather frugal life. This was a virtue he cultivated from dealing with punk bands when he was a record mogul. This was a profound lesson for me as a reader. That no matter how great one becomes; their core values should remain a pillar worth maintaining. Even after all his life’s accomplishments came crashing down when he invested in his biggest project, Mr. Newbery remained true to his values. He was frugal, kind and empathetic to others.
Burn Zones helped me appreciate the importance of maintaining not just good relations but a positive outlook. The author treated people with dignity and respect. He says people will treat you the way you treat them. Whether rich, poor, of a different race or gender, he saw the best in people. This was displayed by his willingness to give punk ‘misfits’ and former inmates a chance to better their lives. When Mr. Newbery was facing criticism, possible jail time and a surmounting debt of $26 million, he did not stop fighting to make things right. He maintained his strong work ethic, tried hard to shield his family from the barrage of negativity. He worked hard to maintain Woodland Meadows not for himself but the community there. Some may say he was naïve in dealing with the city officials but I saw a selfless man who was willing to keep his and the hope of the community alive. This sort of positive outlook was something I also noted in Mr. Newbery’s father as he fought the debilitating effects of cancer.
Mr. Newbery’s autobiography stands out uniquely from most business cum inspirational books. He gives us his life story to learn from and truly reflect on ourselves. Who are we when we have the best in our lives? Are we able to maintain our values and moral compass when all comes crashing around us? How hard are we willing to push our limits to achieve what we desire? These are some of the questions I asked myself as I read the book. Not only was I rooting for the author throughout, I was also compelled to reexamine my life. If there is a reason worth recommending this book to others, it is to glean those important lessons from Mr. Newbery.
The book itself is divided into ten chronological chapters, and is an easy read. For the important life and entrepreneurship lessons we can deduce from the author’s life, it is a must read. This is a well edited book that I could read over and over. Burn Zones deserves no less than 4 out of 4 stars. I would recommend readers of autobiographies and entrepreneurs to grab a copy.
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