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Book Review of: Luck by Design

Certain Success in an Uncertain World

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Review of Luck by Design, by Richard E. Goldman (Hardcover, 2009)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

As a happy Mens Wearhouse customer, I was delighted to find out about a book written by a man behind so much of the company's success. In this book, Richard E. Goldman talks to the children of the Baby Boomer generation and passes on key lessons for success in life. As a Boomer myself, I have made many of these points while mentoring those coming up behind me.

This book is a "must read" for anyone with Boomer parents. Much of what is going on with that generation is wasting their potential and leaving them poorly equipped to deal with the broken world my generation is passing to them. They need some amazingly good luck. The good news is they can design that luck. Richard E. Goldman talks directly to them, and explains how to make that luck happen. Thus, the title, "Luck by Design."

Goldman avoids getting preachy, and instead relates his experiences and the lessons from them. After he draws the lessons, he bridges the gap from theory to application. Goldman was an English major, and it shows. The writing style is clear and direct. He breaks with the norm and writes in standard English, thus avoiding the many "Huh?" moments one encounters when trying to decipher the typical book these days.

Goldman's daughter Emily heavily influenced what he wrote this book, and it's apparent that he wrote to meet her expectations. Whereas my generation prefers long passages, her generation prefers text in smaller chunks. So, that's how it's written. Writing to your target audience is never a bad idea. It's worth noting that Goldman knows this audience, because he speaks at high schools and universities (and to other audiences). In fact, he's a founding member of the Milton S. Friedman Lecture Series at Rutgers University.

This book begins with an open letter that sums up in one page how badly this world is broken. This is the sobering reality that children of the Boomers have to contend with. They need to know what they're up against, or they are going to be crushed by it.

The book continues from that point for nine chapters, then concludes with a PS to the Open Letter. In the PS, Goldman advises to abandon hope (with a nod to Dante, no doubt) and to embrace faith. Have faith in yourself and faith in others. He provides insight on what this means and how to do it. Reading this daily for a few weeks could be a "game changer" for any person starting out in a career.

The Preface introduces the reader to the book. It also explains whom the book is for, and why Goldman wrote it.

Rather than a chapter by chapter synopsis, let's look at a sampling. The title of the second chapter is "Life is Misadvertised." Goldman makes a point that too many people let advertising dictate their choices. And those choices, consequently, are not always in a person's best interests. Goldman asks, "What is your source of self?" If you define who you are and what you are about, then you can make the right choices. Goldman explains how to build the foundation for doing this.

Chapter Four is titled, "We're All Playing for the Same Thing: Time." If you search for me online, you'll see I'm a recognized time management expert. One of the keys to getting more done is to not multi-task. So many people have this exactly backwards. I like Goldman's take on this, and how he explains why multi-tasking is time-wasting. He's got many other gems in this chapter. For example, learn how to say no. If you carefully read, consider, and put into practice Goldman's discussion on this, it will probably be life-changing for you. Many people in my generation are still not getting this, and if their kids can read Goldman and then teach them, that's great.

The title of Chapter Seven is, "All Outer Problems Have Inner Solutions." This is a core concept in the martial arts. On its face, this statement would seem to have many exceptions. Dig deeper, and you find it doesn't. What determines success is how you counter, recover, and learn from the bumps in the experience we call life. Goldman provides specifics on turning problems into opportunities. And he discusses many other useful concepts related to problems. Problems will happen. It's how you deal with them that matters.

So, are you ready to make a go of it in the broken world your parents' generation is leaving you? Don't answer that until you've spent a little time reading and reflecting upon Goldman's thoughts.



About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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