4 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones: Playing Life's Bad Hands by Jorge Newbery depicts the author's life filled with triumphs and failures. He has done jobs from seemingly unrelated fields, from a paperboy at age seven, a record producer for punk bands, a professional cyclist, to a real estate mogul. The theme of the book, as the cover suggests, is endurance. "Burn zones" is a cycling term for a race's intermittent periods that require exceptional resilience, that separate the best from the good.
The story starts with the author's childhood. Newbery starts working from a young age of seven. He gives every job his best and learns to save and invest his hard-earned money. His socially awkward nature doesn't stop him from exploring new opportunities. He then becomes one of the youngest record producers for punk rock bands at 16 years of age. He is mature enough to realize school isn't for him. Instead, recognizing his physical abilities for cycling, he sets out to compete in the sport's world stage at the age of 19 by following rigorous training schedules and diet. His diet is so strict that his family starts teasing and nicknaming him Skull. Due to bronchitis, he stops professional cycling. Newbery then sets foot in the real estate profession and becomes a mortgage loan officer. As he progresses through his career, he's able to accumulate a real estate portfolio. He starts purchasing sub-standard buildings and improves them for later sale. Here is where his highest fall from grace begins.
Newbery's struggles against the harsh events that happen to him allow the readers to witness the resilience of a true working bee. His grit is most evident in his fights against the local politicians, the media, and the opportunistic insurance companies. A person put into his position would rightly blame all their downfall on the adversaries and possibly become cynical of everything. However, Newbery never goes after vengeance. He instead picks himself up and accumulates wisdom from his failures. It's as he says, "I am my magic bullets."
His story and philosophy "Doing well by doing good" inspire me to work a little harder and do a little more good in my everyday life. It is the stories of people like Newbery that make life a little more bearable.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I must admit that I have a bias for stories about people rising from the darkest moments of their life. I may have given less weight to the more subtle writing flaws in stories such as Newbery's. I'd recommend Burn Zones: Playing Life's Bad Hands to anyone, especially to young people nowadays who are looking high and low for a purpose in life.
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