4 out of 4 stars
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More than just a meandering tour through a life of privilege, Burn Zones: Playing Life's Bad Hands is an interesting, fast paced, and thrilling ride through some of the best and very worst times in the life of Jorge Newbery. An entrepreneurial prodigy at age six, Newbury convinces his parents he is mature enough to cut-his-teeth in business with a paper route through their West Los Angeles enclave. This small step is all he needs to ignite a meteoric rise, eventually quitting high school, and beginning his steady and progressive climb to building a towering multi-million dollar real estate empire, before watching it all collapse in front of him in this tour de force of a memoir.
Armed with the Midas touch of his childhood business ventures, Newbery believes he needs a "real" job, and serendipitously lands a position in real estate lending. Finding his niche, he unflinchingly takes on daring transactions, purchasing extremely distressed properties and funding costly repairs to bring multi-unit buildings up to code. It's a race, like his status for nearly a decade as a Category 1 competitive cyclist. He needs to win. Winning at this game is about being able to do what previous landlords had refused. Instead of focusing on simply cosmetic repairs and flipping properties as quickly as possible, Newbery builds rapport and gains the respect of his tenants by actually creating a home office and living in almost every one of his buildings alongside the residents. His humble, sincere, hands-on approach endears him to the communities he serves, and his work does not go unnoticed. Accolades and acknowledgements for his pay-it-forward style of property management come flooding in, and life is wonderful, until one day, it isn't.
This could have been the story of an eclectic, entrepreneurial little boy who finds success, loses it all, and then turns his back on society, but Burn Zones illuminates the raw reality of the lowest point of Jorge P. Newbery's life, and illustrates how he emerges as a fighter, survivor, and first class human being with a heart and passion to serve, educate, and help others facing financial ruin. Newbury invites us to strap on our helmets for quite a surprising ride in taking chances and lifting ourselves and each other up from our burn zones.
"Stay relaxed...Others around you are hurting just as much as you. Focus on enduring the pain until the pace slows. The effort will get easier soon." p. 240.
Is it naïveté, courage, an indomitable spirit, or all three that help Jorge Newbery successfully launch and carry a long streak of financial gains? Undoubtedly this trifecta serves as his constant when he finds himself butting heads with local politicians, talking heads, and the judicial system. Newbery steps into the riskiest, most ambitious, and time-consuming investment outside his native Southern California that promises the greatest intrinsic rewards he could ever hope to realize, but when a natural disaster strikes, there is no remedy for the devastation and financial ruin that ensues. Deeply mired in a personal and professional disaster, the accolades withdrawn, his name an anathema, and under threat of arrest, Newbury forces himself to, "...endure the pain until the pace slows..."
If you like cheering for unassuming underdogs, or quiet crusaders, you will enjoy this inspiring, well written, and worthy read that is a solid four out of four stars] and does not disappoint.
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