4 out of 4 stars
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I read Burn Zones: Playing Life's Bad Hands by Jorge P. Newbery and I do not regret that decision. Newbery has a storied career in, well, many professions. This autobiography shows us his journey through these different ventures. The book begins with his first job as a newspaper delivery boy at the age of seven through his late teens, during which he was managing and promoting live punk shows, through to his career as a real estate mortgage broker. During his life, Newbery faces multiple challenges as he races through life. These challenges are what he calls "burn zones."
"Burn zones" are the main theme of the book. They have been constant throughout his life. "Burn zones" originate from his short career as a professional cyclist. A "burn zone" is a short period during a race where a racer's training and ability get tested to the limit. This could be a sharp curve, a steep hill, or a time where other racers could catch up and pass you. It is also a test of mental strength as well. Newbery assures the reader that everybody experiences multiple "burn zones" throughout life.
Newbery's story is fascinating. One thing I liked most about the book was how he not only told his story, but he made sure to include the lessons he learned along the way. For example, his first job was as a newspaper boy when he was only seven years old. He was not afraid to ask Robert Snodgrass, Herald Examiner district manager at the time, for a job. Even when he sensed that anybody had doubts about him where he was so young, he took that as fuel and got the job done. He showed us that being assertive and putting himself out there can bring good results. Newbery is a self-starter. He did not wait for somebody to give him an opportunity. He did it himself, even when he was not knowledgeable about that field. For example, he did not have any experience being a mortgage broker, but he still did the work and was one of the more successful brokers when he was only in his mid-twenties.
Something else that I liked was how Newbery allowed himself to be vulnerable with the reader about his setbacks. Some of these setbacks were as simple as having to deliver papers on a rainy day while other setbacks included his properties being damaged by a winter storm, causing him to lose everything and be over $26 million in debt. I believe he shared these personal experiences with us because he wanted other people to see how he was able to bounce back. This gives the reader hope that they could also bounce back from a difficult situation. I liked how he used analogies from his cycling days. The lessons he learned from racing carried over to every other profession he had. Newbery wrote how he learned that looking back is a sign of weakness and that he needed to focus forward and stay loose. Losses were opportunities to improve. He took his losses and focused forward to continue down the road.
My favorite parts of the book were the stories Newbery told about his family. His dad was from Argentina and his biracial mother grew up in England. They were there every step of the way as he lived with them in Los Angeles until he was in his twenties. Their kitchen and living room often served as his office and base of operations. Even his own wedding was held in their backyard. I think Newbery wanted to show the reader that while he left school at 16, and got his GED to enter the workforce at a young age, his parents still supported him. Verria, his wife, was also there during his later "burn zones." Having that support allowed him to keep going because he knew he was not alone. This is an important lesson for all of us to learn. We are not going to always be alone when things get tough. Having a support system is essential to finding success.
I believe this book can reach different audiences. Newbery is able to relate to people working in the service industry, the music industry, professional sports, and anybody in real estate. He is a true Renaissance Man and that is why I think almost anybody will like this book. I personally did not dislike any part of it because his story is so interesting. He is seamlessly able to weave his stories with his life lessons. It had me taking notes that I can apply to my own personal life, which is sign that this is a really good book.
There is hardly any cursing or mature content. I would say that it is a appropriate for teenagers to read this. I will warn any potential reader that there is a single F bomb, mentions of derogatory slurs towards Newbery and his family, and descriptions of police brutality and rioting. It is brief, but it does provide insight to the rest of the book.
I honestly give Burn Zones a 4 out of 4. Newbery is a great writer. There were no mistakes or typos. It was edited professionally and even includes a few photos sprinkled throughout the pages to add a bit more context. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, this book can be for anybody. I think it is about as educational as it is an autobiography. I learned more about starting and running a business and how training for a professional sport can carry over to other professions. I highly recommend this book to anybody who is experiencing their own personal "burn zone."
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