Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Book Review: The Secret of Transitions: How to Move Effortlessly to Higher Levels of Success

My first impression of Jim Manton’s Secret of Transitions was that it was a typical self-help book. I fully expected Transitions to contain general topics written in a motivational tone. I anticipated 130 pages of simple suggestions that were little more than common sense. When I sat down to read it, I predicted that I’d gain maybe one or two original thoughts.

Thankfully, Transitions is not your typical self-help book. Manton uses real-world examples in the form of short stories to convey lessons he’s learned from his own life. He opens on the subject of “awakening,” where he explains an interesting revelation that caused him to promptly trade away job security for happiness. According to Manton, living consciously is accomplished by following one simple truth: happiness requires purpose. Once he realized this, he left the comforts of his day job in pursuit of a more purpose-driven life as a career coach.

It’s a quick hook that leads to more short chapters discussing other lessons, like how conscious awareness of reality creates intention, which in turn helps to overcome fear. He stresses the importance of working with others, acknowledges that conversations can create transitions, and notes that there are no shortcuts for excellence.

Some of Manton’s stories span multiple chapters. I really enjoyed the tale of his combat experience in Vietnam, because it’s not a heroic tale. When pinned down by enemy fire, he stopped fighting back, and felt frightened and guilty about how his inaction endangered his fellow troops. It was a story illustrating how he wasn’t cut out for combat, and how his choice to enlist in the army to prove his father wrong was a mistake. A far cry from the typical Hollywood Hero story, I feel like Manton’s Vietnam story makes him seem more human.

The majority of his book, though, focuses on the story of two corporate players who don’t see eye-to-eye. As a young person, I had difficulty relating to what these potential chief operating officers found interesting or important – but I expect another reader might find their story riveting. What distanced me from the corporate story was Manton’s change in style: most stories are a reflection of past memories with him narrating, but the corporate story introduces characters and tells their story via extensive dialogue. It reads more like a fiction novel than a self-help book, causing the story to feel more imaginary. Consequently, the underlying lessons are less powerful.

All in all, Manton’s Transitions is a unique look at his personal experiences as a human being, as he shapes his love for inspiring people into a passionate career as a life coach. His casual storytelling captures your interest early in the book. He makes his points quickly with short chapters, and offers several good book recommendations for topics you might want to explore further. If you read Transitions, you can finish it in an afternoon, but will gain a lifetime’s worth of notable experiences that will help you during your own life’s transitions.

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