4 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands by Jorge P. Newbery is an autobiography. Jorge is a frugal opportunity-seeker. He looks for a challenge and strives to be the best. In his life he encounters many burn zones, which he describes as times of extra effort. Although he calls himself shy, Jorge was a go-getter and knew to ask for what he wanted. In his youth he delivered newspapers, sold ice cream, worked as a busboy, and realized his dream to start a record company. All of these experiences taught him about business and people.
Once he had completed his goal of having a record company, he was ready to move on to a new challenge. He decided to become an Olympic cyclist. He read books on how to be the best. He learned tricks of the trade from fellow cyclists. He moved up through the ranks quickly and started competing. He had several successes and continued to push himself harder. This period is where he learned the term burn zone. After he became bored with cycling, he decided to try his hand at home loan management. He worked harder than anyone. Again he worked his way through the ranks. He formed a mortgage company and started buying up apartment buildings to make improvements.
His optimistic nature and risky investments often paid off due to his work ethic and personal stake in them. However, he made one investment that would change his life forever. A combination of bad luck, a trusting nature, grit, and the need to succeed brought the worst burn zone of his life. He recounts, “During my period of strife, lessons were seared into my head on how to deal with overwhelming debt, armies of creditors, betrayal, humiliation, anger and frustration.” As a result of this experience, he was able to move on with his life to help others who have entered a similar burn zone of their own.
What I disliked most was minor. There are a few sections in the book where Jorge relayed information that he had already described earlier. One such instance was the letter he wrote to Mayor Coleman. Most of the letter was repetitive of previous events. What I liked most about this book was that even though he had accomplished much, he was able to present his successes in a humble way. I appreciated that he was not trying to dazzle the reader with each skill, achievement, or wisdom learned. He was sharing his life as it was, and the truths he learned about himself and the world around him. He was a great student. Whatever he decided to do, he came at it wanting to be the best. He took advice from everyone, was eager to learn, and worked hard to do things well. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It was well written, well edited, had a smooth flow, and was remarkably powerful. The author wrote with vulnerability. All his experiences connected in a meaningful way.
I thought it was especially powerful that he was able to see the truth in the world through his experiences. He greatly ached for the down-trodden, underprivileged, and misunderstood. He treated people with respect and gained their respect in return. He knew that we all need to work together to enact change in this world. This life is not easy and often has many challenges that are hard to overcome. Jorge said it best: “Sometimes taking action includes uncertainty, the risk of failure. Sometimes when you enter a burn zone, you don’t know whether you will emerge.” Jorge was able to emerge from each of his burn zones with a new perspective and a zest for life.
I especially love the relationship he had with his father. It connected me emotionally into the story and brought depth to his history. Although I cannot relate to his business dealings or athletic accomplishments, I think everyone can relate to Jorge’s feelings of being torn down repeatedly. No matter how it happens to us, most people have gone through a season, or burn zone, where they just can’t seem to win. No matter how much good you are trying to do in this world, you are beaten down again and again. His experience was laid out so well that anyone who has ever had moments like this can relate. I would recommend this book to everyone who is a teenager or older.
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