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The Underdog Curse


Sincere, solid advice for rising above self-limiting behaviors.

A chiropractor and life coach offers tips and insights into moving beyond low self-esteem and a “people pleasing” mindset in this debut self-empowerment guide.

For MacDonald, a friend’s courageous response to a diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease made him “start to look at myself in a new light....There were other things I wanted to do, but the underdog curse had kept me from doing them. ‘What if I fail?’ ” The author outlines how to recognize what he calls the “saboteurs,” such as being a people pleaser, which he says usually lead to repressed resentment and stress, with negative consequences for one’s health; using “softeners,” or reasons not to take action; and not developing enough “power bonds,” or relationships with people who will support one’s desire for change. He discusses how to transition from “defense to growth,” including how to strive for “dynamic communication” that considers the needs and values of others and expresses and supports one’s own. He also encourages taking time to set goals and to “shorten the refractory period” of retreating after failures. Overall, MacDonald has crafted a persuasive wake-up call by showing how you can be your own worst enemy when trying to achieve personal growth. Specifically, his stories of his own mishaps as a people pleaser—such as when he agreed to dance with a girl he wasn’t interested in because he was too shy to approach the girl he truly desired—are relatable, illuminating examples of the damaging potential of such behavior. Although this self-help book doesn’t break new ground (MacDonald acknowledges, as well as recaps, some of Tony Robbins’ concepts, for example), it’s nevertheless an effective, thought-provoking manifesto.

Sincere, solid advice for rising above self-limiting behaviors.

Pub Date: June 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5333-8458-4

Page Count: 278

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2016

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

A lightweight collection of self-help snippets from the bestselling author.

What makes a quote a quote? Does it have to be quoted by someone other than the original author? Apparently not, if we take Strayed’s collection of truisms as an example. The well-known memoirist (Wild), novelist (Torch), and radio-show host (“Dear Sugar”) pulls lines from her previous pages and delivers them one at a time in this small, gift-sized book. No excerpt exceeds one page in length, and some are only one line long. Strayed doesn’t reference the books she’s drawing from, so the quotes stand without context and are strung together without apparent attention to structure or narrative flow. Thus, we move back and forth from first-person tales from the Pacific Crest Trail to conversational tidbits to meditations on grief. Some are astoundingly simple, such as Strayed’s declaration that “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard.” Others call on the author’s unique observations—people who regret what they haven’t done, she writes, end up “mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions” of themselves—and offer a reward for wading through obvious advice like “Trust your gut.” Other quotes sound familiar—not necessarily because you’ve read Strayed’s other work, but likely due to the influence of other authors on her writing. When she writes about blooming into your own authenticity, for instance, one is immediately reminded of Anaïs Nin: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Strayed’s true blossoming happens in her longer works; while this collection might brighten someone’s day—and is sure to sell plenty of copies during the holidays—it’s no substitute for the real thing.

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-946909

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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