4 out of 4 stars
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How do you overcome life's bad hands? In his excellent book, Burn Zones: Overcoming Life's Bad Hands, Jorge P. Newberry recounts his rise in business, his spectacular fall, and how he was able to take the lessons learned during a time of extreme hardship to recover and start his next chapter in life. In the introduction, Jorge explains that the title of the book comes from his time as a professional cyclist in his late teens and early twenties. Burn zones were short periods of intense effort needed to win the race. As a serial entrepreneur and businessman, Jorge shares that he used the concept of 'burn zones' to help him through difficult times in business and life. In the introduction and the final chapter, he shares the mantra that got him through the 'Burn Zones' in racing and in life. "Stay relaxed. Others around you are hurting as much as you. Focus on enduring the pain until the pace slows. The effort will get easier soon."
A serial entrepreneur, Jorge shares the many business endeavors he started throughout his life. Starting as a newspaper delivery boy at the age of seven, he started a variety of businesses throughout his life. From delivering ice cream at the age of 11, starting his own record label at the age of 16, being a professional cyclist, starting his own mortgage company and then moving into real estate, there seems to be little that Jorge hasn't done. Indeed, repeated bouts of success in business had convinced Jorge there was nothing that he couldn't do. An ice storm that enacted significant damage to an apartment complex Jorge owned rapidly challenged that mindset and triggered financial catastrophe. How Jorge overcame financial disaster and used his hardships to recover and help others will provide inspiration for anyone going through their own burn zones.
The book is primarily written as a series of anecdotes covering Jorge's life and business endeavors. Each chapter is broken up into a series of mini-chapters, each with their own headline. Depending on your reading style, this could make the book entertaining and easy to read or make it feel disjointed, especially in the first chapter where Jorge is talking about a number of business endeavors he started during his childhood and adolescence. I felt this style of writing made the book seem fast-paced and kept it from dragging, especially in the earlier chapters which don't seem to play into the crux of the book as much as Jorge's later experiences.
My favorite aspect of the book is reading the various mini-chapters, especially in the later parts of the book when the headlines of the mini-chapters give a preview of what's to come and each mini-chapter builds on the next. It helps to increase the suspense and keep the story moving quickly. My least favorite part is that Jorge did not include page numbers in his book. As I was reading a digital version of the book, it made it more difficult to find where I last left off.
There are a few instances of borderline profanity and non-borderline profanity in the book. One of the headlines in the first chapter is Spic and that mini-chapter goes on to describe the racial epithet he was called as a child since he was part-Hispanic. In Chapter Two, in the section under the headline 'Vulcan Tour,' Jorge recounts a fellow bike cyclist cursing him, calling him an 'asshole' and a 'F**king Fred' (Fred being the term used for an inexperienced cyclist). There is a handful of other profanity scattered throughout the book, most as a result of direct quotations from other people. While there are no erotic scenes per se, there is a depiction of him meeting with a disaster remediation company's agent in a strip club. The book is exceptionally well-edited. I was only able to find one typo and it was the misuse of a single word, not a spelling or grammatical error.
I give this book 4 out of 4 stars. The book was fast-paced, entertaining and easy to read. Each section built on the next and the story didn't drag at any point. Even the earlier parts about Jorge's life as a child and young adult were interesting. Jorge focuses on telling his story but steps out of storyline briefly during the introduction and also at the end of the book to encourage readers that may be undergoing their own 'burn zones.' The result is an inspirational and entertaining book, one that is inspirational because of the storyline not despite it. If you are going through struggles of your own, I highly recommend reading this book. Sometimes we need to know that others have also walked through the fire and come out the other side, not unscathed but stronger for the experience. Jorge P. Newbery amply delivers on this front. Learn from his experience and use his knowledge to tackle your own 'burn zones.' You'll be glad you did.
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