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Monday, August 2, 2010

Review of It’s Not What Happens to You, It’s What You Do About It

If you think the title is pretentious, just wait until you read the book. W. Mitchell’s It’s Not What Happens to You, It’s What You Do About It became so obnoxious at one point that I put it down for months just 20 or so pages from the end because I simply couldn’t stomach any more. Only my annoying characteristic of feeling compelled to finish a book that I start, especially one so short, caused me to pick it up again.

Mitchell clearly wrote the book to support his career as a motivational speaker and, quite possibly, to feed his own ego. The guy survived two accidents, one that severely burned his body and another caused him to need to use a wheelchair. No doubt, I’m sure, each was very difficult to deal with and move forward from. However, the author seems to play into society’s sympathetic attitude toward people with disabilities, suggesting that his choice to continue his life after his accidents – which most wouldn’t consider a choice, instead seeing it as an obvious next step – qualifies him as a source of inspiration that all should line up to soak in.

There’s just one overriding problem with the few nuggets of decent advice that can actually be found in his book. The man is enormously wealthy, and had acquired his fortune long before his first accident. In fact, reading between the lines it’s at least possible to pick up on the idea that Mitchell’s indulgent lifestyle led to both accidents. Of course, the man has every right to be indulgent and I don’t mean to suggest that he “deserved what he got,” but it does color the book in a less than likeable way.

Mitchell writes about taking control of the medical decisions in his care. That’s wonderful. It’s also tremendously easier when you’re filthy rich with plenty of resources. Yes, the idea is a good one and worth attempting to incorporate into your life. But when the execution of the idea is detailed as having everything to do with money though written as though it has something to do with intestinal fortitude, it comes off as nothing more than an ego trip for the author.

The story that really stood out for me was the description of Mitchell in a rehab. He determined that the people residing there needed a night out. Ya think? Of course, the wonderful Mitchell took everyone out for a happy hour. I believe he even did it regularly.

It’s simply as obnoxious as it gets. The man acts like he came along and saved all of the poor, suffering dullards with his wisdom from the able-bodied world. It was almost laughable! He didn’t identify some problem that everyone else was missing. He states the obvious, and used his financial resources to solve the problem – a problem which he happened to be temporarily stuck in.

Granted, he could have solved the problem for himself and ignored everyone else. But putting these types of tales in a self-help type of book just doesn’t work. It was akin to his stories about saving a town that he had fallen in love with and his Congressional campaign. They’re written with a feel of “you really can fight City Hall” from a guy who seems to have more money than every city in the state.

The book just doesn’t work.


  1. So you didn't like the book? (sarc)

  2. Fastest comment ever! Thanks for reading.


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