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Book Review of: Now What?

90 Days to a New Life and Direction

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Review ofNow What?, by Laura Berman Fortgang (Softcover, 2009)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

This book is a practical guide for people who know they need a change of direction but don't know which direction that should be or how to make the change. There's no psychobabble about "channeling" this or "affirming" that. Instead, Ms. Fortgang provides a step by step process that takes you from Point A to, well, Point Z.

One of the things I liked about Bill Phillips Body for Life was it provided a step by step process for people wanting to make a physical transformation. "Now What?" does the same thing (in a different way) to help people make a life purpose transformation (or similar). Both require 90 days of absolute commitment, and both provide a plan anybody can follow.

Most of us don't have the resources to just pick something and go after it, especially when burdened with such things as our share of the federal debt (which, for most people, exceeds their lifetime earning potential here in the third quarter of 2009). So if you are doing work you no longer enjoy you are probably stuck with that line of work until you are no longer able to work. Unless, that is, you don't come up with a list of "buts" and instead come up with a list of "what ifs" and go about figuring out how to make things happen. Fortgang addresses this, and other obstacles, in "Now What?"

An odd thing I noticed in an otherwise articulate work is the author appears to have excised the word "whom" from her vocabulary. In every instance where "whom" should have been, she used "who." I found this a bit bothersome, because the odd word usage creates a mental double take each time.

If you're not excited about the work you do, you will benefit from reading and applying this book's 90 day (12 week) method. If you hate your job, definitely get the book. If you've wondered if you are spending your life in a meaningful way, get this book.

This book consists of an introduction, twelve chapters, an epilogue, and two appendices. The chapters are arranged into two Parts, with Chapters 1 - 7 in the first Part. Part I helps you figure out what "it" is. Part II is the 90-day plan for getting there. Each chapter contains exercises, so you can immediately begin working on the knowledge gained. Each chapter addresses a week, with the intention being you work through the book in 12 weeks.

The Introduction is substantial as far as intros go. It even includes a self-assessment quiz.

In Chapter One, you look at what bothers you. Where are the problems? What do you hate (this is what gives a name to what you want)? In Chapter Two, we look at how to let go of the things that hold you back. Let go and move on. Chapter Three discusses the self-imposed limits that hold people back, and how to identify and overcome them.

Chapter Four explains how looking into your past can help you do a good job of determining your future. For example, a proper examination of your past can reveal what your driving motivators are. Chapter Five builds on Chapter Four to help you identify what your purpose is. Chapter Six helps you identify the vehicle for fulfilling your purpose. In Chapter Seven, you tie all of the preceding chapters together to determine what will make you happy.

Now that you have all this background, you're ready to put it to use and so we go into Part II. Chapter Eight is all about money. It discusses budgeting and ways to save money. It helps remove the excuse, "Yeah, I'd like to do X but can't get out of this financial rut." Chapter Nine taps your creativity to get you thinking about solutions that may not seem obvious right now. Chapter Ten talks about luck and opportunity, and how people who have luck get it by putting themselves in opportunity's way. And, yes, there are practical exercises for this too.

The Eleventh Chapter gives solid advice for connecting with the right people, those who can help you along your way. And getting that help from them. It also gives advice on how to not get sidetracked by those who would hinder you. Now that you got this far, how can you possibly stick with it? Chapter Twelve explains.

Appendix One provides some great information on resources you can tap to make life changes. Appendix Two is short, and it's essentially a plug for hiring a personal coach.

If you're looking for a rah-rah book to jazz you up, this isn't it. But if you're serious about making life changes, then you should get this book. Even if you decide not to commit to a twelve-week program, it can make a difference for you. Take the self-assessment quiz and turn to the chapter(s) that most apply to you and just work those. If you later decide to do the whole twelve-week program, you always have that option.



About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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