Friday, December 23, 2011

Getting Help: Books You Can Trust II

Ahh, I love two-part posts. I first posted earlier this week about Rabbi Goldfeder's "Relationship 1:1" and now it's on to the second book that hit my doorstep thanks to the rabbi-author's publicist. Read on!

Life is Great!
Revealing the 7 Secrets to a More Joyful You!
By Rabbi Yitz Wyne

I was always a sucker for Why Bad Things Happen to Good People -- it got me through some really craptastic times. It seems as though these helpful books were coming out of the woodwork over the past few months, giving me food for thought and some wisdom with which to run.

Rabbi Wyne's book is, to put it simply, an eyesore. I say that because, well, you can see the cover, and it screams of "I AM A CHEESY JEWISH SELF-HELP BOOK!" with its sunshiney rays and smiling rabbi. Rabbi Wyne is the founder and spiritual leader of Young Israel Aish Las Vegas, which also threw me for a loop because I didn't realize that Young Israel and Aish were bound up in any way, and he's also a popular radio personality on "The Rabbi Show" on AM 720 KDWN talk radio. With a radio show, six kids, a wife, and a congregation, it's no wonder perhaps that the book cover design was an afterthought. Or maybe it wasn't. Either way, if you can get by the "don't judge a book by its cover" bit, you should be fine.

The book is divided into chapters according to the seven "secrets" that Rabbi Wyne wants to share, which feels a little gimmicky to me. Why do self-help books always have to have "secrets" to offer up? Why can't the author say what he or she means and get on with it. Each chapter leads with the secret and a sunshine clip art, which grated on my nerves at the turn of each chapter. (Can you tell this book annoyed me?)

However! I read the entire book. In fact, I flagged probably 20 different things in it that I found particularly interesting or inspiring. I just wish someone would re-release this book with a new layout, getting rid of the "secrets" and the bad clip art and cover.

Some of the great takeaways?

  • Happiness ratings are subjective || Rabbi Wyne explains how what might be a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 for me might be completely different on a scale of 1 to 10 for someone else. Our scales are incredibly varied, so we can't and shouldn't compare our levels of happiness (21). 
  • Happiness is a choice || "No one can 'make you' happy or 'make you' sad. The most others can do is create situations and environments that make it easier for you to be happy or upset, but ultimately the choice will be yours" (46). Amen, amen. Now to drill this into mine own noggin!
  • Learn from your experiences || Rabbi Wyne quotes the Talmud, saying, "Who is wise? He who learns from everyone." The rabbi-author stresses that "Judaism doesn't view wisdom as accumulation of facts and formulas. Wisdom is a process that is acquired with a particular attitude" (90). I like it. It makes me wonder if I'm wise, however.
  • The Passion Principle || I often wish I was a better waker-upper in the morning, but I often roll around, sometimes for hours, lamenting my lack of sleep or poor sleep and bemoaning getting up. Rabbi Wyne discusses the importance of being passionate about something as it gives life meaning and purpose. He says, "This concept is so important that in Jewish tradition the very first law that is stated in the law books is to 'strengthen yourself to wake up every morning like a lion, to serve your Creator" (137). I need to find my inner lioness, methinks.
I have to give mad props to the rabbi-author for crowd-sourcing a question on Facebook and using some of the responses in his book (99-100). On a negative note, however, I found the rabbi's discussion about how you should "Expect nothing from anyone else. Don't expect gratitude. Don't expect kindness. Don't expect loyalty" as a bit harsh. He goes on to say, "The more we expect from others, the more we will be disappointed" (104). What do you think? I feel like if I get married, I have the right to expect things -- emotions and otherwise -- from my spouse. In a job, one has the right to expect to be treated a certain way. Right?

Overall, this book has a lot of morsels of goodness that will make you tilt your head, go "huh," and think. Aesthetics aside, the rabbi-author offers a lot of personal insight, stories, and tales from his mentor as well. It's not as personal as some other books I've read, and it feels a little cheesy and forced at times, but if you're in a tough place, you can definitely walk away with some things to think about.

Read this book? Know the author? Let me know what you think!