Top critical review
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surprised at my response to this book
on June 12, 2013
I feel REALLY weird/awkward here going against the grain... rating this book with only 2 stars, but I would be lying to you of my true feelings towards it if I rated it any higher.
I read this with really high hopes to be truly inspired and motivated with implementable ideas on how I can "stand up and lead." Instead, I experienced feelings of distraction and annoyance as I read.
One of the biggest distractions for me was characters' constant referencing to people, books, ideas, and historic happenings with which the authors are definitely well versed in. After finishing the book I went back through it and wrote them all down and put them into a spreadsheet to see how many there actually were: 78 different people, 31 different books, 26 unique ideas that can be attributed to someone, and 32 historic events, people or places. A total of 167 references and there were only 188 pages in the book. Now, I have nothing against studying the kind of people and material that was referenced in this book, (in fact, now I have a great list of material that I can turn to in order to further my personal education on freedom principles if I so wish) but I felt there was just too much referenced insomuch that it took away from the flow of the story. If you're looking for recommendations on what to study, it's a great resource. But I was looking for inspiration while reading this, and didn't find it. I feel that all the referencing of material could be overwhelming to the average American citizen. It communicates the idea that one cannot become truly involved unless one has studied this kind of material first, else they wouldn't really know what they were doing. That seems like it would turn off a lot of people to citizen leadership, rather than inspire them to want to get involved first and then begin learning more as they go along.
Now on to the things that annoyed me. As a "story" it sucked. There was no character development at all and I couldn't relate to the "emotions" the characters felt at all. Like the moments in the story when they are all holding their breath because the energy in the room was palpable... in my head, I'm thinking, "What energy? Where did it come from? Why is it there? I must be missing something." Or when the characters all burst into sustained laughter over Marcus' stupid watch jokes. It wasn't funny and just felt fake. None of the interactions between the characters felt like any kind of interactions that I've had with others in my own life, therefore they were completely unrelatable to me. They didn't have any depth to them.
I also felt annoyed because I found nothing but lip service being given to what I feel is the most important source of leadership: the home. The character Michelle says, "A lot of the top leaders are mothers who are focused on raising their children." And later she refers to the importance of "mothers and fathers" as leaders, but that's it. No character agrees with her, they just move on in their discussion. No ensuing discussions stem from her comments. Here I am, a mother, devoted to raising my children in my home, and also passionate about principles of leadership and freedom, and I honestly found nothing in this book to inspire me in this role I've chosen. Another reason I felt like only lip service was given is that barely anything was heard from the female characters in this book that were wives and mothers: Amy & Michelle. The only female character who really makes a difference in the course of the story is Kami, who of course, is single without any children. So what's the message to me there of the impact of my efforts as a wife and mother in the battle for freedom? Am I even in a position to make an impact or do I have to be a single, powerful CEO to do that?
This issue was brought up by one of the characters, but then virtually ignored as the characters plowed on to their destination: "As long as people have to divide their lives between the needs and wants of their families and careers, they're not going to have much time left over for political influence." Um, yes! Hello! That IS definitely true, so what's the solution? The proposed format of local government laid out in this book is nice in theory, but what about practicality? This issue needs to be addressed. I didn't see the connection between the proposed government and this problem of people feeling they have to divide their lives between their family and careers. What is going to suddenly make people feel like they now have time to meet every single month to vote in town council meetings? It is a nice idea, and yes, I believe it would work, if it would work, but I don't believe it would work. How's that for twisted?
Another annoyance was that this books's subtitle feels unsuited to its content. It's titled: "A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead." And what it really should be is: "A Call for Business Leaders to Finally Stand Up and Lead." Within the book, one character says, "What we really want are Creators - business leaders who will put freedom and leadership first. This really matters." The book is written to wealthy business owners. Those are the people who can relate to it and answer the call. I'm not sure if the intent of the book was to reach the heart of the average American, but if it was, then it was a magnificient fail because the average American doesn't talk about their $95,000 watch purchase. The average American isn't making use of their meditative moments in one of their many small pavilions on their expansive estate. The average American isn't taking weekend getaways with like-minded individuals at ski resorts and basking in hot tubs while discussing freedom ideas. The average American isn't a self-made billionaire in the oil industry and investor on Wall Street, or a top CEO of a successful turnaround company. The average American isn't going to relate to this book at all because it's not about them. As I was reading, there was something bothering me about it. Just as I was able to formulate my thoughts on what that was: (the whole wealthy elitist feel to it) I had to laugh at the irony that the characters began discussing elitism and its ability to shut down their success. This book just didn't feel like a call to me: an average American mom, to stand up and lead. I didn't feel one moment of inspiation while reading it, and believe me, I was looking for it!
Lastly, there was a glaring absence in this book for me. I believe that the principles of freedom are not the end-all be-all. They are the means to the end. I believe that the work of this life is to learn to submit myself to God's will and plan for me and that nothing at all is meaningful without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. And there was nothing, not even a hint, of this idea within the pages of this book. It's hard for me to feel inspired to do much of anything unless I can see and feel how it relates to the plan for my life in the eternal scheme of things.
And that's my review. As a sidenote, I'll save that spreadsheet I created, and if you're interested in it send me a message and I'll email it to you. :)