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The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die Paperback – January 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From the pushy title on down, corporate speaker Izzo (president of The Izzo Group) offers lots of insistent but uninspiring advice for an audience presumably unfamiliar with the real value behind clichés like "be true to your self," "leave no regrets" and "live the moment." Based on interviews with the 235 wisest individuals Izzo could find (culled from some 15,000 nominees), advice boils down to commonsense sayings and platitudes ("every day is a gift"), illustrated by short anecdotes and personal insights. Those new to the self-help genre will find tried and true advice, but little to motivate a real life change.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"In my experience, the two things humans want most are to find happiness and to find meaning," Izzo writes. In this ready-made spiritual quest, the business consultant and ordained Presbyterian minister interviewed more than 200 people from ages 60 to 106. The answers they received led him and his team to the belief that there are five secrets to happiness. Izzo's interviewees were selected after relatives and friends submitted their names as wise people with something to teach. The list was narrowed from 1,000 names to a diverse group that includes men and women, Muslims and Christians, doctors, barbers, priests, and aboriginal people.

Throughout the book, Izzo presents each lesson with heartfelt responses and anecdotes from these wise elders to illustrate how living each lesson has made them fulfilled and unafraid of death. "Just be yourself" has been the advice of every parent since Polonius. Izzo found that the simple phrase, "be true to yourself," is the first secret. Seventy-two-year-old Elsa told the author, "In order to tell a person the secret to happiness, I would have to sit down with them, look them deeply in the eyes, find out who they are, find out what their dreams are." A college professor discussed with him the difference he sees every day between his students who are following their dreams and those who aren't. Izzo also explains that the word "sin" comes from an ancient Greek word related to archery that literally means "to miss the mark." He believes that to sin, in the original sense of the word, means to "miss the mark of what you intended your life to be." After "leave no regrets," "become love," and "live the moment," the book's final secret is "give more than you take." As George, a seventy-one-year-old physicist, put it, "sooner or later you realize that you are not going to take anything with you but you can leave something behind." Each chapter ends with questions that encourage readers to think about the way they are living their own lives, such as, "Did I make the world a better place this week in some small way?"

In a society where old age is often seen as weakness, The Five Secrets is a refreshing reminder that our elders have much to teach. Izzo writes, "Whenever I am going to take a trip, I choose hotels by using a website that taps into the experiences of hundreds of other travelers ... It occurred to me that one could apply this same method to discovering the secrets to living well and dying happy." How many pitfalls and heartaches could be avoided if we consulted with travelers who have taken the road before?

-- Foreword Magazine, January/February 2008

Verdict: In the burgeoning world of self-help books, Izzo's "five secrets"--"be true to yourself," "leave no regrets," "become love," "live the moment," and "give more than you take"--aren't exactly secrets anymore. But his book takes off on the strength of his methodology of surveying "wide elders." Readers will want to know more about these interviewees and see the accompanying public television series to air widely in the spring of 2008. Highly recommended for all public libraries.

Background: Izzo, CEO of the consulting and training firm that bears his name, and his staff received recommendations from thousands of people regarding who they went to for advice and who they felt had found happiness and purpose in their lives. From the thousands of "wise elders," a diverse group of 235 North American people between the ages of 59 and 105 were selected for in-depth interviews about their lives and feelings. From these stories, Izzo culled the common themes that make up the "secrets" to happiness. In order to incorporate the secrets to happiness, he points out that each of us must discern what really matters to us and incorporate it into our lives; he suggests personal questions to ask ourselves to find our personal path to happiness, as well as weekly and daily reflections.

-- Library Journal, December 4, 2008
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 178 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; First Edition first Printing edition (January 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576754758
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576754757
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Heather Brush on January 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
Looking to our elders for guidance is a time honored and wise practice that unfortunately is not played out often enough. John Izzo encourages us to go back to that tradition in his book "The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die." Seeking the secrets to happiness, it makes sense to look to those who have lived it.

John interviewed over 200 people, all over the age of 60 and some up into their hundreds, who had been identified by their own friends and family as "the one person they knew who had found happiness and meaning." These people were asked such questions as: "What has brought you the greatest sense of meaning and purpose in life?" and "What is the greatest fear at the end of life?" They were asked to finish the sentence: "I wish I had..." These elders came from all walks of life and acted many roles; some were authors, professors, or business owners, others were a nurse, psychologist, biologist, and a barber. Amazingly, or expectedly, their answers were quite similar. Therein are the five secrets.

The first, and only one I will divulge, is "Be True to Your Self." Of course this can mean different things to each person who reads the words, but author John Izzo guides readers to the purpose behind them. His guidance leads one to ask in this chapter, "Am I following my heart?" "Is my life focused on the things that really matter to me?" and "Am I being the person I want to be in this world?" Answering these questions will lead a person to be true to themselves. Izzo demonstrates the secret by sharing stories from his interviewees. They share by example, much as elders have done since the dawn of humanity. This brings the secret to life for us, and then Izzo gives us homework.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Izzo interviewed 200+ people over the age 60 who were described by many others as happy and wise people. Through in-depth interviews, he learns the five secrets of life:

1. Why do some people find meaning & die happy
2. Why I talked to the town barber (and 200 other people over 60) about life
3. The first secret: be true to your self
4. The second secret: leave no regrets
5. The third secret: become love
6. The fourth secret: live the moment
7. The fifth secret: give more than you take
8. When you know you have to go (putting secrets into practice)
9. Preparing to die well: happy people are not afraid to die
10.A final lesson: it's never too late to live the secrets
Epilogue: How this book changed me

The author writes in conversational tone and supported his secrets with colorful anecdotes and personal reflections. For example, in the second secret (leave no regrets) Izzo states that in "his experience from the last 30 years, validated in these interviews, death is not what we fear the most. When we have lived life fully and done what we hoped to do, we can accept death with grace. What we fear most is not having lived to the fullest extent possible, to come to the end of our life with our final words being `I wish I had.'...to leave no regrets we must live with courage, moving toward what we want rather than away from what we fear."

While the 5 secrets aren't a surprise to many, there are many powerful insights in this book that leave you thinking. And while it's one thing to know the secrets, it's an entirely different (and more difficult) matter to put them into action.

If you enjoyed this book, pick up John's Izzo other gem - Second Innocence.
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Format: Paperback
What are the secrets to finding happiness and living wisely? This second line of the first chapter captures the purpose of Dr. John Izzo's new book The Five Serects You Must Discover Before You Die (2008 Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.). The book is an urgent plea to the reader to embrace life--in ever encounter, every experience, every emotion every single day.

Izzo proposes we do that by accepting that life is limited to an unknown amount of time for each of us but that within this limited time we have unlimited opportunities to choose to find meaning by living a purposeful life and thereby find happiness.

He interviewed several hundred older people--"wise elders"--based on the recommendations of persons who recognized them as sources of wisdom. In this way, Izzo turns to ordinary folks who have lived full lives for the wisdom necessary to do the same. If other great teachers of our time and previous times have said it before, so be it. Now we receive the wisdom from the local barber, the Holocaust survivor, the grandma on the porch rocker.....All of Izzo's sources are over 60 because, the author said, this is the age at which most people tend to reflect on life. They're done having and getting; they are looking back on all that they have done.

This diverse group offered insights that came down to these five points:

1. Be true to yourself by living with intention. Know your heart's desire and seek it.

2. Live with no regrets. Regrets, Izzo said, are most persons' biggest fear--not dying itself. So mend fences, make peace, and move your life into a place of peace. The best way to live without regret, Izzo says, is to take chances, pursue those dreams, and accept the failure that might be your way.
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