4 out of 4 stars
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When I finish reading a book, particularly the type of book that features a successful struggle against adversity, I ask myself, “Would this book make a good movie?” Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands by Jorge P. Newbery would make a great movie.
Burn Zones is the autobiographical account of a self-made man, Jorge Newbery, who began his foray into business as a 7-year old paperboy and is currently the principal manager of a major lending institution. Mr. Newberry relates his entrepreneurial successes and subsequent challenges as a young stage manager for punk bands, a loan officer, and a real estate developer. The lion’s share of the story involves his purchase and management of Woodland Meadows, an 1100-unit apartment complex in Columbus, Ohio. Tragically, the combination of natural disaster and political deception during his administration of Woodland Meadows brings down his burgeoning empire, hurling him into massive debt.
The concept of a “burn zone” refers to a moment in a person’s life in which he or she has to push through the pain to achieve the goal. Mr. Newberry equates the burn zone to competitive bicycle racing during which the rider must muster everything in one’s power, despite the pain and obstacles, to achieve a successful end. “In my mind,” he writes, “when I survived a burn zone, there was a reward for my sacrifice." Each chapter of the author's adventures features one burn zone after another. The burn zone becomes a tangible reference point for those times in our own lives when we have the option to either throw up our hands in despair or choose to power through the adversity.
Mr. Newberry is a man of strong mettle. When he is at his lowest point with politicians working behind the scenes to secure his failure, he battles against misfortune. The author believes that taking risks is essential, despite the magnitude of the challenge. He welcomes risk, especially as he can see a positive outcome following his investment of money, time, and soul. Even after he lost everything he built, he learned from the challenges, took more risk, sought the positive, and downplayed the negative. He writes of his desire to excel above everything else, and he explains that when he accomplishes one milestone, he yearns to jump into the next challenge.
Burn Zones is also a “father and son” story, the kind that has always intrigued me. The mutual respect and admiration between father and son are heartwarming; Mr. Newbery’s love for his father is deep and sincere. He writes, “I want to realize the vision my father dreamed of over 70 years ago… a better country for all.” This desire is the guiding principle for the young Newbery that began with his business career. It’s touching that the old man never failed to call his son "Jorgie" despite the author's instance that his name was "Jorge." I’ll admit to the tears I shed at the end of the story as the senior Newberry entered his own burn zone, "Jorgie" by his side, and approached the end of his long, illustrious life.
As I greedily gobbled up each Burn Zones page, I had to ask myself if I would have the same courage and fortitude to accept similar trials as the author. The best books that focus on self-revelation are the works that prompt us to look inward. Burn Zones not only reveals; it also provokes.
Burn Zones is a real story. It isn't a rags-to-riches tale, but one of a middle-class youth who chooses an education through experience, desires to excel financially and help out his family while dreaming of a better world for those he can serve. It’s easy to award Burn Zones a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. The book is a story of a life well-lived, one that should inspire us to challenge ourselves daily by entering each burn zone with the zeal and optimism of a competitive cyclist, realizing that there is a reward at the end.
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