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THE CLASSROOM OF LIFE. by Anthony J.   Cedolini


Tools To Overcome Obstacles and Adversity

by Anthony J. Cedolini

Pub Date: May 18th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1641846479
Publisher: Self

Life’s struggles require hard work to overcome but also furnish opportunities for growth, according to this self-helper.

Cedolini, an educational psychologist, family therapist, and author of Occupational Stress and Job Burnout (1982), recollects events from his life and uses them as a peg for essays on psychological and moral issues. Thus, a boyhood incident, in which he locked his little brother, Billy, in a trunk and was in turn briefly locked in the chest by his father as punishment, prompts a commentary on the golden rule and the complexities of developing a moral compass. The author’s long efforts to overcome his mechanical ineptitude and learn how to rebuild cars under his uncle’s tutelage demonstrate the importance of perseverance and family support; Billy’s tragic death in a car crash at the age of 26 and Cedolini’s ensuing three-year depression afford lessons in overcoming grief by reconnecting to life. The author visits many topics on mental and behavioral health, including chapters on surviving major depression (antidepressants are often effective, he notes) and an incisive section on addictions, from opioids to sex and smartphones. (He calls them “an escape from dealing with reality and social discomfort” as well as a means of “avoiding the misery of thinking.”) He also has less-clinical chapters on living a successful life, with advice on everything from parenting—the Cedolini family rules included “If you open it, close it” and “If you turn it on, turn it off”—to maintaining a positive self-image and coping with difficult people at work. (Among the last is “the Sherman tank,” who employs bluster and bullying to advance an agenda and has to be resisted with calm firmness.)

Framing the book as a letter to his grandkids, the author writes in a voice that’s frank but reassuring, as if gramps were your ideal therapist. Much of the text consists of Cedolini’s shrewd dissections of the practicalities of how to get along with people—and especially how to not get along with them. (Among his catalog of things that erode friendships are “major disagreements, especially political or religious, hitting below the belt with hurtful comments, insinuations, or accusations…neglect, unkind and mindless mistakes, lopsided jabs at known vulnerabilities, and insatiable demands…overuse of another’s time or resources, fair-weather friending, rigid rules or narrow-mindedness, the need always to be right, or maintaining a game of one-upmanship…repetitive suggestions on how you should change your behavior, unending reminders, traditional backseat driving, and bullying.”) The author’s advice often comes in aphoristic prose that can be blunt (“Take responsibility for your actions and move on—work on improving yourself”), folksy (“If you don’t embrace the present with both arms, it will be as elusive as a pig slathered with fat”), elegant (“Reality teaches the wise to seek progress rather than perfection”), or lyrical (“Anonymously perform random acts of kindness; they will add to others’ sunshine and nourish your soul as well”). Throughout, Cedolini advances a positive, energizing message: Treat yourself and other people well, be realistic but not despairing about your problems, and don’t be afraid to take risks to overcome them. The sprawling book is a bit of a ramble, but readers will find much engaging food for thoughtful browsing here.

A sweeping, insightful set of life lessons drawn from vast experience.