Motivating, big-picture advice for college and beyond.

I Wish Someone Had Told Me...

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

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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