4 out of 4 stars
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In the world of self-help books, things are usually pretty sunny and bright. "You're a wonderful, amazing person", they might say, "just think positive thoughts and everything will be great!" While Mark L. Wdowiak is encouraging and positive in his book, the title alone - If Life Stinks, Get Your Head Outta Your But’s: A No-Nonsense Guide to Happiness and Success - should give you an idea of his approach. Positive thoughts and encouragement are important, and Mark shows the reader the importance of both, but he also uses the dreaded W word - WORK - even more often. It's a (slightly) tough love approach, one that says your life is determined by you, for better or for worse.
Get Your Head Outta Your But's (as I'll refer to this book, it's rather fun to say) is broken into four main sections: a semi-extended introduction that introduces the author's style, what the book is about and his overall concepts, followed by Crawling, Walking and Running. Crawling focuses on taking responsibility for yourself, Walking focuses on taking control of your thinking, and finally Running puts it all together and encourages you to get out there and be successful. One of the things I liked the most about this book is the idea of success itself - Mark isn't trying to tell you how to become rich, to get a good job or to have a wonderful work/life balance, he's focusing solely on success itself which can help a person succeed with all of those things and more. Success in one area of your life leads to success in others, Mark points out.
Each of these three sections walks a fine line between being thorough and being general enough to work for pretty much anything in life. The first has a simple enough concept - taking responsibility for your own life - but it's also incredibly vital. It's far too easy to feel like a victim of life, whether it's because others just seem to have such an easy life or because we weren't born to rich parents or even because others are hired for a job we want or given the promotion we feel we deserve. For example, Mark writes that his dream car was put up for sale, and that he didn't have enough money for it, so he asked his dad to loan him the money and said it would only take him three months to repay him. His dad merely told him that if it would only take him 3 months to make that much money, he should just save for 3 months and another car will come around eventually, but this time he'll be prepared for it. He ends up doing exactly that, so the next time his car is available he's able to buy it with cash (and it ends up being an even better car!). These kinds of personal stories, as well as quotes, references to other books and even a Daughtry lyric are woven throughout the book.
The second section, taking control of your thinking, sounds incredibly similar to the first section, but Mark shows how this is actually a second important layer to improving yourself. It's very easy for us to think things that are detrimental to our life, from being scared to try something because we worry we'll be ridiculed if we fail to the dangers of negative thoughts to even the word "try". Many of us have heard that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, but how many of us don't realize this applies to our lives as a whole? If you keep living your life the same way, how can you expect your life to magically improve? Some other things may be a bit harder to swallow, like "frustration means that you are trying to do something about something that you are either unwilling or unable to do anything about," but with a little reflection it's clearly true. How many times has someone been frustrated and explained why, only for you to list multiple ways for them to improve their situation and be met with a whole bunch of "I can't do that because..." responses? This also explains the title - the author humorously snuck the evils of the phrase "yeah, but" right into the title.
Section three does an excellent job wrapping a bow around the rest of the concepts. Mark says that the first two parts were to help you “live with intention, and not by accident”. That’s perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned personally in my life, and it's one I constantly forget about as I let myself get lazy and stagnate in growth. Sure, scrolling through twitter and playing video games are fun ways to waste time, and relaxing is important, but if you cut back on those even a bit and put that time to get use - living with intention - how much better could your life be? This goes right along with perhaps my favorite quote in the book - “The secret to success is having the ability to stay focused for long periods, at the right time and for the right reason.”
Get Your Head Outta Your But's was quite a surprise for me. I expected something fluffy like most self-help books, but came away with a great deal of both inspirational quotes and notes, as well as encouragement to live my own life better. I loved that Mark specifies the importance of knowing what success is to you before going after it: success is so different from person to person. While one person may consider riches or fame success, others may want to be the best mother or father they can be, or just the best person they can be. These tips definitely help with all of that while remaining easy enough to read that anyone can handle it. There's very little to be negative about - I found only two errors, and the formatting is lovely. There are two things the author does in this book in addition to the standard writing itself: he includes a place for your initials at the end of each chapter to make you "hold yourself accountable in the future”, and he includes several highlighted boxes of text throughout the book. This is the only other negative I can think of with the book, and it's almost humorously minor: these boxes always look the same but have different titles. Several are "interesting facts" and there are at least a couple "life landmines" and "news flashes", but there's also only one "interesting thought" and one or two "warnings". Some of these could have their text rewritten slightly to change their heading, so that perhaps only "interesting facts" and "warnings" exist, and the latter could use a differently-colored highlight (or a stop sign or yield sign or something).
Despite these few minor issues, this is easily worthy of 4 out of 4 stars. It's definitely in the short list of self-help books I'd recommend to anyone, regardless of their age or what they're trying to improve upon. The title alone is worth 4 stars! If you enjoy self-help books or if you want a better life - any kind of better life - this is a great place to begin.
If life stinks get your head outta your buts
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