I Wish Someone Had Told Me...

Motivating, big-picture advice for college and beyond.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A college administrator discusses the mindset and actions needed for a successful college and post-college life in this debut self-help guide.

As part of a task force assessing at-risk students early in his career, Clark was “amazed…there was no correlation between those considered at-risk and those that actually dropped out” and eventually determined that there was “a common thread in those who stayed versus those who quit…students who had or acquired a sense of purpose.” In this guide, he provides discussion, tools, and exercises to develop such purpose, using a business model as a starting point, noting “that the average student has never sat down to write out a plan defining what they want to get out of their college education, their college experience and, more broadly, their life.” His chapters alternate between “Core Matters” and “Practical Matters,” with emphasis on the former, which include discovering and creating one’s “reality,” determining one’s belief and value systems, and building a vision for one’s life. “Practical Matters” include getting started at college by understanding how one learns best; networking with peers; avoiding unprotected sex while in college; and preparing to graduate by beginning a job search and practicing interviews at least six months beforehand. Clark also dedicates a chapter to leadership that defines its qualities (including empathy and trust) and underscores that one must be a decisive leader in one’s own life. Debut author Clark offers inspiring springboard guidance that applies to aspiring college students as well as other striving applicants in life. Although this book is mostly formatted as a narrative essay, Clark also provides helpful information boxes that highlight key precepts, illustrations that showcase life road maps, and exercises that allow readers to engage with his ideas, including one on “taming your words.” Although readers may need to consult other college-related guides to get more information regarding “practical matters,” Clark provides useful, universal foundational guidance here while also offering endearing, relatable revelations from his own life story.

Motivating, big-picture advice for college and beyond.

Pub Date: March 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5076-8396-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

Categories:

MASTERY

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

Categories:

BRAVE ENOUGH

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

Categories:
Close Quickview