4 out of 4 stars
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[/]Burn Zone: Playing Life’s Bad Hands/i] by Jorge P. Newbery, an entrepreneur, whose fascinating memoir is filled with intrigue, honesty, and a can do attitude which belies it. Growing up in Los Angeles to immigrant parents, Newbery realized a burning potential within himself at a very young age. He began with a paper route, moved onto a job selling ice cream from his trike, and owning a record company as a teenager. A high school dropout, by his mid-twenties he was a senior loan officer at a local mortgage company. He went onto buy derelict apartment building complexes Los Angeles and and eventually the Midwest. In essence, he turned them around to be habitable living spaces; living in a unit to save money and to be there for the residents.
Newbery’s trademark self-discipline lead him into professional bike racing, making the Olympic trials in 1988. He used what he learned as a kid through grueling races and further implanted it into his professional life. Always the one ahead of the curve with disarming honesty in all businesses dealings, an ice storm in 2004 left him in $26 million debt after a very successful start to renovating one of Ohio’s apartment complexes which was challenged economically. Unscrupulous business practices which were unknown to Newbery at the time in Columbus, punctured any hopes of turning around a catastrophe in the making.
Life lessons are interwoven throughout the book in how we cope with life’s challenges and how we face adversity time and again. An athlete’s mindset is very stringently focused no matter if one is racing a bicycle or on a football team. When the chips are down, fighting for one’s survival can involve fighting with what we know works for us, or not. Oftentimes, having to dig deep within our reserves is where we need to go to discover our true potential by experience. The challenge to figure people out on a race track lent itself wonderfully to a life filled with business dealings and being able to read people well.
I understood Newbery’s pacing of the book, as he omits many personal details in the first half, to me that felt like earning the privilege of learning more about him, and essence, having his story come full circle. Each chapter has a sub chapter, which acts as a good lead in to fill in details. I found this a bit distracting at first, but settled in within a few chapters. I leaned more about home loans and mortgages than I had ever known. The thread of finding oneself in a burn zone runs through the book, often slowing down to reveal a life lesson was a nice bonus.
I rate this book a 4 out of 4 stars. It was a book I couldn’t put down, Newbery’s storytelling was top notch. This book would be a good fit for anyone who has had their life thrown for a loop and had to figure out how to turn it around. It would also appeal to athletes and business professionals. Is is not strictly a book about being an athlete.
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