Book Review: Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future by Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer, and Paul B Brown

There’s an old antacid commercial I used to come across as a kid sometimes – maybe they still run it but I never watch network TV anymore so I don’t know – where a guy burps, thumps his stomach with a pained expression, and says, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”  I had planned to start the review like that when I finished this book, but it’s really looking like I might never finish it.  That’s saying a lot, considering my predilection to finish every book I begin.  Especially when the book is as slim as this one.  But we’ll get to that point in a moment.

I usually avoid business self-help books like the plague.  They have a tendency to be a lot of hype and very little substance – although there are sometimes exceptions.  And I thought that this might be one; an exception, that is.  It happened like this.  I was researching an article for the Internet content mill I write for, and I came across a synopsis or review of this book, and the concept intrigued me.  I looked it up on Amazon and the book description piqued my interest.  Of course, the description is written by the authors or their publicists, so it is not always the best way to gauge a book’s worth. But the book was published by the Harvard Business Review Press, which I supposed gave it some sort of credibility.  Shame on you, Harvard Business Review.  What little credibility I supposed you might have had is shattered by your publishing this book.  Anyway, I found a like-new used copy for five bucks so I ordered it.  I can use a little inspiration, a little psychic get-up-and-go sometimes, who can’t?

The book arrived and the first thing I noticed was that it is so thin.  One hundred eighty-five pages of text, eleven of those pages empty or near empty, large print, plenty of blank spaces in the text caused by large gaps between paragraphs, bullet points, and sidebars.  Okay, fair enough.  Plenty of books are short but nevertheless significant.

Alas, not this one.  I am almost three-quarters of the way through it, still waiting for something to happen.  I might or might not skim the rest.  So far, whatever has been discussed has been reiterated over and over so many times that I am bored to tears to have to read it again one more time – and another, and another, and another…  Whatever of substance is covered in the book – and there isn’t much – could have been easily encapsulated in a short essay of two or three pages.  Even so, there’s really nothing new.

The authors’ premise is mainly built on taking action in entrepreneurship, and applying the same concept in other facets of life.  To stress their point they fall into the sophomoric trick of coining a new word to explain the process:  creaction, which is supposed to stand for “creative action.”  I wince as I write the word, and I wince every time I am forced to read it.  It’s so lame.  When I come across it in the book, I can’t bring myself to take it seriously.  I have to translate it to “creative action” as I read or I lose my train of thought.  What the hell?  What with the fancy press putting out the book and the listed credentials of the authors, I really thought they would take themselves and their subject matter more seriously.  Whatever.  I’ve read lame books before and I probably will again.  If you go by Sturgeon’s Law that ninety percent of everything is crap, even if you watch where you’re going you’re bound to get some on your shoe once in a while.

Seriously, I’m not the type of reviewer who likes to badmouth authors, and these guys are no exceptions.  I think they produced an inferior book, though perhaps they tried their best to make something more of it.  It might help someone just starting out in business or in some other endeavor to stop daydreaming and get started.  I hope so.  For me it was just blah.  They say that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.  I am indifferent towards this book.  I was talking with one of my sons today about hating to get rid of books once we acquire them.  We both have the predilection to hang onto books even if it is inconvenient to do so.  But with this one, I can’t decide whether to put it on my shelf or toss it into the recycle bin.

Update:  I put it on my shelf without finishing it, but instead of recycling it I will probably take it down to the local used book store to get credit on future purchases.

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