4 out of 4 stars
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"Inspirational dissatisfaction" - this is the phrase Rob White uses to describe the drive in his life which changed his destiny. For a small-town boy whose only ambition in life should have been to be recruited in one of the two local factories, he broke all local customs and barriers when he went to college, and subsequently secured a teaching position. Seventeen years later, he left the apparent security of his job to become an entrepreneur in real estate; not stopping there, he then delved into the restaurant business and succeeded there as well. Keeping this saga as background, his book And Then I Met Margaret tells many inspirational stories from his eventful life.
After reading a few self-help books on ‘positive thinking’ and similar such themes, I admit being a little skeptical before starting to read this one. I expected to read this book in little snippets on a daily basis - sort of like the way we take regular doses of medicine - so that I do not get confused by an excess of inspirational jargons, as often happens to me while reading such books. I was astonished to find myself happily flying through all twenty-one chapters without a need to slow down in order to grasp an important message. The whole experience was educational and yet strangely refreshing.
The reasons for this, in my opinion, are many. First of all, the noticeable absence of heavy and professional-sounding words and phrases commonly used in self-help books that often make the reader spend more time pondering their meaning than applying them in his/her life certainly helps. The book is written in a simple, engaging and often humorous way. Secondly, such books are often written by doctors or professional psychologists who have experience with a lot of patients or people seeking help; whereas this book tells the author’s own story. After experiencing difficult situations firsthand, his thoughts about them are very real, as a result, the solutions he offers are often more practical. Last but not the least, his lessons are taken from people we meet every day- an affectionate aunt, a strict but kind professor, a cheery co-passenger, a jovial peanut-seller - to mention a few. An innocent question from a sweet kid, a heart-wrenching yet bravely performed ritual by a Masai mother - gave him unique insights on our inner values and outward actions. These are the people he mentions as "Gurus in Our Midst" - they often stay unnoticed, but once we take the time to ponder over some of their wise words or kind actions- they teach us valuable lessons.
Apart from those mentioned above, there are several more aspects which make me like the book. One of them is that the author is very honest while sharing his experiences. He openly describes his fears - be it a fear of poverty or a fear of flying, as well as his doubts while leaving a secure job in order to launch a career in real estate. He never once denies feeling inferior, even feeling out-of-place in college for being a small-town boy, rather recognizes this sense of inferiority as an obstacle in the way of achieving success. He is equally truthful about those instances in life where he has acted a little too over-confident or too self-centered and immediately has been reprimanded for it. He not only describes a few embarrassing moments of his life unabashedly but also shares the realizations and lessons he has gained from those. The way he admits his follies and judges and corrects himself constantly, ever aware of the saying ‘practice what you preach’ - is something we should all learn from.
The few glimpses of the life in a small town we get from the book are quite mesmerizing. Among the many interesting rituals and traditions rigorously followed during one’s growing up, the one where the boys acquire their fathers’ gait, thus literally following in their fathers’ footsteps is particularly amusing. A few of the traditions, such as letting the boy order the menu or pay the bill are definitely helpful in inculcating a sense of responsibility in the youngsters.
A special feature of this book is that the author starts each chapter describing a myth he used to believe. After telling the story, he concludes the chapter again with that myth, followed by the new insight or lesson he gained through that particular experience. This technique, in my opinion, has both a positive and a negative effect. On one hand, this sums up the entire lesson from that chapter as well as showing us the contrast between his previous belief and newfound wisdom; but on the other hand, it makes the stories sound more like moral lessons (maybe the author intended to do exactly that), and in some chapters I find it a bit hard to associate the morals with the life-experience he shares, and only in those places the book seems too preachy. However, this probably will not be a problem with other readers; rather it might be quite helpful if the reader is looking for a quick summary.
I give this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars because it deserves nothing less. The reading experience was far too great to ramble on about a few missing commas. I would recommend this book to everyone. All of us feel down from time to time, it will be good to let this book inspire you at those times. For those who are already doing well, no harm in taking it up for a refreshing read - by rectifying some of their actions or by re-judging some of their morals, they might make their life even grander.
And Then I Met Margaret
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