4 out of 4 stars
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Jorge P Newbery’s Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands is an autobiography. But it is quite unlike the many autobiographies that churn out business gyan. To begin with, the author starts very uniquely by listing his flaws and strengths. If you think that’s common practice, here’s the twist. Both these lists read the same! Also, the book stands out from the other autobiographies as the author neither soars up to describe his peaks nor plunges right down to his troughs. Nor does he give just finish by giving a few sneak peeks or fleeting glimpses of the significant periods of his life. He goes beyond those that he thinks will resonate with the audience, and takes it one step further. And all the while, he keeps the book engaging for the reader. Reading the book feels like peeling off the layers of onions. And when you reach the end of the book where he shares his revelation, you feel as if you know Jorge personally.
When I picked this book, I was hoping for another rags-to-riches story. I was hoping for a re-telling of yet another underdog who made it big in life. The book covers these, of course, but the story does not end there. As I finished the book, I realized that when life plays its hand, what you believe would be a rags-to-riches story becomes a rags-to-riches-to-rags-again story.
Newbery’s life is a tale of the perseverance of a humble man with an unquenching thirst for more. From a paperboy to an icecream peddler, to a busboy; to a loan originator, to a real estate mogul, Newbery’s professional history is diverse with rich experiences and takeaways. Of that impressive list of professions and the many life lessons he has learnt which he shares with the readers, I have my personal favourites – his stint as an endurance athlete is the first. The second is his role as an entrepreneur who is a genuine and dedicated distressed debt and insurance investor, for a reason or two.
Here are the reasons. As an endurance athlete, Newbery recounts the lesson that the Olympian John Howard taught him. “Never, ever look back, as this is a sign of weakness. Throughout my cycling career and all my life, I have always remembered this,” he writes. Also, as he finds himself after the disaster of a snowstorm that shattered his life, he has a revelation that he shares with his wife. He describes it thus – “I am my magic bullet. You are your magic bullet…” The point he makes with these words is that our decisions shape our lives, and it is within our power to find a way in the journey that is life. These are the goldmines that I found in the book. And these words have changed me as a person as well.
Overall, I felt that this book was an excellent read. Though the book felt slow-paced at certain points, it built up to its conclusion admirably. Moreover, I found the book to be professionally edited as I could find no errors in grammar or language. The book doesn’t have much profanity and in the few places that they are they are just elements of setting the scene and the environment and does not come across as hard but rather make the situation real and life-like. It is for these reasons that I give the book a 4 out of 4 stars. Also, I would recommend this book to those who are on a lookout for good memoirs.
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