4 out of 4 stars
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Burn Zones: Playing Life's Bad Hands by Jorge P. Newbery is an inspirational autobiography of the incredible highs and crushing lows of Jorge (Jorgie as his father always called him) through an amazing life from newspaper delivery boy to real estate mogul. As for the book's title, a "burn zone" in cycling is essentially a period of extreme challenge, one in which everyone suffers, and where the most fit and skilled will come out on top. In the book, Jorge uses a burn zone as a rough period in life, where it would be easy to just step away or give up, but where it's most important for one to persevere and succeed, and the euphemism is perfect. For the sake of full disclosure, I'm going to admit I waited several days to actually review this, as I absolutely loved this book and couldn't find flaws with it through my fanboy eyes.
Jorge begins as a young child, and before he's even 10, he manages to get a job as a newspaper delivery boy. His drive for money (the high scoreboard of life) and love of a challenge leads him to deliver newspapers for a competing newspaper as well, and from here he builds upon himself until he is bidding millions of dollars at a time on real estate. The way he details this comes across as incredibly relatable despite his high status, as his search for his next challenge and his ordinary beginning allow anyone to see themselves making it there with the proper enthusiasm and determination.
The book really takes off when Jorge uses money he's earned to produce albums for punk bands. Not one for simply seeking out talent and trying to make money, he really embraces the punk movement, and his family even ends up housing the bands for local concerts from time to time. One particular situation involves what was essentially a police-instigated riot by the LAPD in full riot gear after one of the concerts, and from here on Jorge's spirit seems to change into one that backs the underdog and challenges authority. Especially when it comes to any sort of wealthy person, one never expects punk roots, and it was an awesome surprise!
As for the book itself, Jorge seamlessly transitions from one burn zone in his life to the next, all the while making the reader cheer for him and the amazing things he does. The book not only details Jorge's burn zones, it inspires us to blow through and annihilate our own in a way that doesn't come across egotistical or self-serving, despite being an autobiography. There are times he fails and is really pushed down, and he doesn't try to soften these blows or whine about them, he takes the time to share them and the lessons learned from them.
Burn Zones: Playing Life's Bad Hands at first seemed like a neat book, and I was curious, but as I dove in, it became obvious this is an amazing book, one that absolutely took me by surprise. The book easily deserves 4 out of 4 stars. Anyone who could use some inspiration in their life, or is a fan of the Disney-type inspirational sports movie, this is the book for you. The only flaw, after days of thinking, that I could come up with is that the real estate sections can get dry at times, and go way over my head as Jorge details methods of reinvestment and mortgaging, but as a whole the book is amazing, and I wish everyone could learn from his passion and determination.
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