A debut guide encourages readers to look at all of life’s possibilities.
In his book, Vale attempts to concentrate on seven key “inflection points,” critical aspects of life where unclear thinking can lead to poor choices: relationships, careers, health, money, the past, emotional pain, and faith. These are the crucial problem areas, and, as the author writes, everybody reaches them in due time: “Good or bad, all of us eventually come to a special meeting with ourselves.” The goal of the personal and spiritual advice (the book wears its religion comparatively lightly but is nevertheless targeted to Vale’s fellow Christians) in the ensuing chapters is to offer optimistic and organized help in building the “new you” the author envisions for each reader. In a series of short, vividly written chapters, Vale lays out his proposal for constructing that new you, predicated on the assumption that all of his readers want to make changes in their lives. He dubs his program “The SB-33 System” (cleverly coined to stress that it’s the opposite of any “BS” plan) and asks readers to give it a try by applying eight strategies over the course of 33 days. The SB method boils down to a very self-conscious revamping of a personal regimen, from diet and exercise to aspirational and emotional facets, with an emphasis on record-keeping and personal accountability (the energetic book includes ample space for readers to do their own writing). This all centers on a TEA strategy: target, environment, and approach. Vale’s prose is extremely self-effacing and jovial; this may be the friendliest self-help book ever written. His nostrums can be all-purpose to the point of blandness, and some of his contentions may leave nonbelievers scratching their heads (he tells his readers, for instance, that “fog, lightning, the wind, the galaxies, volcanoes” entail both energy and “mystery”). But the overall message is one of ringing belief in human improvability.
A lively, hands-on manual to clearing away the cobwebs and seizing a new program for living life to the fullest.