An eclectic assemblage of meditative essays on everything from management science to personal loss.
Debut author Jewell, now in middle age, has lived enough life that he’s inspired to reflect on it; the result is this ruminative collection of short essays loosely connected by the theme of personal discovery. The book isn’t chronologically sequential enough to qualify as straightforward autobiography; rather, it’s a scattershot mosaic of remembrances, philosophical considerations, inspirational motivation and business advice. Jewell’s background is in management consulting, so it’s not surprising that he’s at his best in those chapters devoted to counsel on issues such as the true meaning of customer service or corporate leadership. Even his sharpest philosophical cogitations typically fall within the realm of management science: Chapters 43 (“...And When We Tire”) and 44 (“What is Productivity, Really?”) form a thoughtful appraisal of an insatiable modern work ethic. The prose is consistently clear and sometimes reaches for the poetic: “When we make the wrong choice, we search for solace when perhaps there is none to be found. Maybe, just maybe, we can learn something along the way.” When it strays too far from business, the analytical rigor slackens; the political and constitutional theories espoused in Chapter 26 (“Business Lessons from the War on Terror”) fall short of being intellectually penetrating. Chapter 38 (“Man Enough?”), devoted to the issue of gender construction, seems out of place even in this meandering collage. Also, the advice dispensed can be achingly platitudinous: “Laugh at yourself,” “Get some exercise” and “Ask for advice” are a few examples of Jewell’s more earnest forays into banality. Nevertheless, he manages to spice up the exploration of dry, technical issues with an infusion of personal anecdotes and lighthearted humor.
A lucid, sometimes-endearing read for those interested in management guidance interspersed with personal reflection.