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The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die Paperback – January 1, 2008
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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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Top customer reviews
John Izzo organized the book around 235 interviews with successful people as identified by friends, co-workers, and family. Success, in this context, means having lived a long life and discovering purpose and happiness.
We all know people who are either chronically bitter and have died that way.
A second factor that strongly appealed to me about the book was that most of the people the author chose to interview were over 60. As I approach my 65th birthday this year, I understand my nature better and have a feel for the age spans I have traversed.
The author believes that “wisdom” exists. He measures it by the “fruit” of one’s relationships with others. He defines wisdom point blank as "the capacity to discern what really matters and to incorporate it into your life."
People are free to do whatever they want in their lives, but not everything bears edible and sustainable fruit. I applaud the author for attempting to identify the meaningful--even though this is grueling and imprecise. Some things in life are messy and require struggle.
The secrets are as widely known as the miracles of old:
1. Be true to yourself.
2. Leave no regrets.
3. Become Love.
4. Live the Moment.
5. Give more than you take.
So what’s the big deal with this book and why am I on my third reading of it?
We learn in three different ways.
The most painful being experience—some things you don’t want to experience.
The second way to learn is imitation—but few of us have all the role models needed for every experience.
The third is by reflection. Reflection is what John gives us in spades with quality interviews and edifying stories from his interviewees.
For stories to affect us and allow us to benefit, they have to resonate true and touch us on a personal level.
John, also, summarizes the lessons learned by truly reflective questions that bear application. The questions reinforce principals illustrated and give us something with which to experiment and innovate.
But, there’s more!
There are two additional bonuses beyond the initial chapters on the secrets. The first is a chapter in which he summarizes what he and his staff learned from the experiences. The second bonus is when he allows selective interviewees to summarize their aspirations and philosophy of life in one sentence. (John cheated with some of them---letting them have two or three sentences to summarize their life’s philosophy. John’s not perfect either!)
As a “Baby-Boomer/Medicare-coming-of-age” type, this last quote buoys me with the hope of more life to come.
I’m on my third reading of the book. Additionally, I have purchased a Kindle version for the purpose of highlighting meaningful passages and quotes.
I consider it one of three books I would want on a desert island.
My lovely and oh so witty wife and copy-editor added that the other two books would be “How to live on a Desert Island” and “How to Get Off a Desert Island.” ;-)
Ask yourself the questions this book provides. Make sure you are achieving your life's mission. God Bless John Izzo for this great work.
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.