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You Are Awesome
9 Secrets to Getting Stronger and Living an Intentional Life
by Neil Pasricha
–Review by Teri Hyrkas
Neil Pasricha, originator of the very successful 1000 Awesome Things blog, author, podcaster, and speaker, has a new book out this month called, You Are Awesome: 9 Secrets to Getting Stronger and Living an Intentional Life. In his mixed-genre, market-savvy and abundantly creative style, Pasricha’s You Are Awesome reads like a memoir but at first glance looks somewhat like a graphic novel with its bright, high contrast, glossy cover, some illustrations that appear to be hand drawn and starburst adorned chapter divisions. Yet seen as a whole, You Are Awesome falls into the self-help book category. Happily, besides being funny, surprising, and at times abrasive, You Are Awesome is indeed helpful. Pasricha is an astute observer of culture and has in this latest offering trained his attention on one of the most painful areas of life – failure. In You Are Awesome, Pasricha offers many solid, workable suggestions meant for developing the ability to bounce back from times of defeat, becoming what he terms “resilient.”
The subtitle for You Are Awesome (Simon&Schuster, November, 2019) says it all: “9 Secrets to Getting Stronger and Living an Intentional Life.” See what he did there? Besides using the key terms “getting stronger” and “living an intentional life,” Pasricha threw in the strategic marketing word “secret” to make readers feel like they are getting special insider information — which, in truth, we are, because the author spills the beans, along with some shock-talk, about his private life. But the subtitle is also humorous and the power of humor plays as big a part in this book as does the pain of failure. Pasricha’s ability to set these opposites in relief one against the other makes this book very inviting.
The “9 Secrets” catchphrase also serves to identify the book’s chapters which include such titles as “Secret #2 – Shift the Spotlight,” “Secret #6 – Reveal to Heal,” and “Secret #8 – Go Untouchable.” Here’s a peek at the secrets:
In “Secret #2 – Shift the Spotlight,” Pasricha tells how he failed miserably in his first job out of Harvard Business School although he was handpicked and groomed for a high-paying position at a high-profile company. Pasricha acknowledges the pain of that major debacle. “I threw it all away and felt sick and horrible and disappointed and embarrassed and ashamed of myself.” (p57) He also admits that it took him ten years to see how that failure helped him – but help him it did, and in “Secret #2” he explains the process.
“Secret #6 – Reveal to Heal,” is quite intriguing. In it, the author sets forth a valuable observation: Pasricha says that today, outside of religion and psychiatric counseling, people have no one to confess to about what is weighing on their minds. Particularly in our digital culture – which, Pasricha points out, may be a contributor to loneliness in people’s lives – the sharing of soul shredding burdens is not encouraged.
The author then poses this question: “Why is confession a major part of religion?” “Because,” Pasricha tells us, “according to the Catholic Church, in addition to earning the grace of God, confession provides healing for the soul.… Yet even though confession is an incredible mental release, many of us don’t use it. Why? Well, according to the National Geographic, the world’s fastest growing religion is ‘no religion.’ “(p170)
How then, in this secular age, are we to be healed of our mental wounds other than to seek the costly services of a psychiatrist? Pasricha offers some examples and suggestions about how to participate in contemporary confession in “Secret #6.
What’s your first reaction to the word “untouchable?” Does it trigger negative or positive emotions for you? In “Secret #8 – Go Untouchable,” the author turns a concept that seems impossible and entirely negative – designating one day week wherein you are “literally, 100% unreachable in any way…by anyone,” (p223) – into an advantageous reality. Directed to those who work from a home office, the author suggests marking a day on the calendar as uninterruptible, whether by digital or personal contacts, thus making that day “untouchable.” Pasricha presents this choice as a desirable, doable, and a truly productive experience. Find this idea hard to fathom? Read “Secret #8”.
All observations and illustrations in the book, although presented anecdotally, are supported by resources cited within the text. Pasricha writes in his introduction that You Are Awesome, “[Is] a series of nine research-backed secrets, shared through personal stories….” (p xix) This makes the book very reader-friendly, but also provides the curious or serious reader with the means to follow up on specific studies.
You Are Awesome by Neil Pasricha is a self-help book whose target audience includes people who have recently graduated from college; those who are confused about their first failure in the job market; people who have experienced a failed relationship. The book is also geared toward those who believe that what is presently defined as “success” is the best of all possible goals in life. Pasricha states that success is not what the culture incessantly proclaims, and he has a very convincing and highly original way of making that known in You Are Awesome.
*A copy of You Are Awesome, Advance Reader’s Edition, was sent to me by Kalee Brown, Director of Operations at The Institute for Global Happiness, the hub for Mr. Pasricha’s marketing, writing, and social media activities. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
- Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!
- All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.
- Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.
- Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.
Look upon us, O Lord,
and let all the darkness of our souls
vanish before the beams of thy brightness.
Fill us with holy love,
and open to us the treasures of thy wisdom.
All our desire is known unto thee,
therefore perfect what thou hast begun,
and what thy Spirit has awakened us to ask in prayer.
We seek thy face,
turn thy face unto us and show us thy glory.
Then shall our longing be satisfied,
and our peace shall be perfect.
Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America
ISBN-13: 978-0593229149 (2019)
–Review by Vern Hyndman
Most of us protest in the rear-view mirror, upset about what we believe is happening based on our existing framework. The world is changing at light speed, and to join Jesus in the work of salvation we’ll have to use MRI, missional, relational, incarnational means. And we’ll have to refocus from the rear-view with one eye on the horizon and the other eye on the Jesus GPS.
This book by whistleblower Christopher Wylie is an autobiographical cautionary tale. Wylie tells the story of growing up as a liberal gay Canadian teen who learned to love data and computers, who becomes a political operative, ultimately assisting with a massive disinformation campaign that changed the world.
The new currency is your attention. Facebook and social media trades your attention for the wealth of the world, and those who lead the world feed your attention a micro-reality crafted for you. The AI engine has joined your Facebook data with governmental data, data from credit agencies, and data from the loyalty card you use at your grocer… they know you.
Facebook knows what interests you… when your finger scrolls and hesitates for the briefest of milliseconds, this data is noted. Your physiology is predictable, the human response to stimuli can be predicted and harnessed.
In the 1970’s we worried about Big Brother invading our lives, tapping our phones, invading our privacy. We now wiretap ourselves and call the tap Siri or Alexa.
Wylie dives deeply into disinformation, first for good; the company caused cocoa growers to distrust drug lords through disinformation. This incredible power was soon tipping elections in Caribbean and African nations. Disinformation and micro-messaging also changed the outcome of both Brexit and the 2016 American election.
“Whereas field generals focused on artillery power and air dominance, Bannon needed to gain cultural power and informational dominance—a data-powered arsenal suited to conquer hearts and minds in this new battlespace. The newly formed Cambridge Analytica became that arsenal. Refining techniques from military psychological operations (PSYOPS), Cambridge Analytica propelled Steve Bannon’s alt-right insurgency into its ascendancy. In this new war, the American voter became a target of confusion, manipulation, and deception. Truth was replaced by alternative narratives and virtual realities.” (p 16)
Wylie becomes a whistleblower, finally horrified by the beast he’s helped bring to life.
“As one of the creators of Cambridge Analytica, I share responsibility for what happened, and I know that I have a profound obligation to right the wrongs of my past. Like so many people in technology, I stupidly fell for the hubristic allure of Facebook’s call to “move fast and break things.” I’ve never regretted something so much. I moved fast, I built things of immense power, and I never fully appreciated what I was breaking until it was too late.” (p 17)
“The most effective form of perspecticide is one that first mutates the concept of self. In this light, the manipulator attempts to “steal” the concept of self from his target, replacing it with his own.” (p 48)
“But simply degrading morale is often not enough. The ultimate aim is to trigger negative emotions and thought processes associated with impulsive, erratic, or compulsive behavior. This moves a target from mild or passive resistance (e.g., less productivity, taking fewer risks, rumors, etc.) into a realm of more disruptive behaviors (e.g., arguing, insubordination, mutiny, etc.).” (p 48)
“Cambridge Analytica began to use this content to touch on an implied belief about racial competition for attention and resources—that race relations were a zero-sum game. The more they take, the less you have, and they use political correctness so you cannot speak out. This framing of political correctness as an identity threat catalyzed a “boomerang” effect in people where counternarratives would actually strengthen, not weaken, the prior bias or belief. This means that when targets would see clips containing criticism of racist statements by candidates or celebrities, this exposure would have the effect of further entrenching the target’s racialized views, rather than causing them to question those beliefs. In this way, if you could frame racialized views through the lens of identity prior to exposure to a counternarrative, that counternarrative would be interpreted as an attack on identity instead. What was so useful for Bannon was that it in effect inoculated target groups from counternarratives criticizing ethno-nationalism.” (p 127)
Jesus begins with identity; the first act of repentance of a Christian is to admit that we are beloved children of God. Everything the Jesus offers us comes from this identity. Is it any surprise that the world’s manipulators also compete for our sense of identity?
Wylie’s book is a must-read for us as we offer identity to a world who will trade attention for belonging.