Book Review: When Life is Full of It

I may have been moving to a new house but our guy Chris has been keeping the reviews coming while I am away from the office. This time, he reviewed When Life Is Full Of It: Antidote for your Mind by Stan Belyshev.

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Warning, this book is not intended to tickle your selfish ego with more motivational encouragements, give you an essential oil massage or to give you simple principles on changing your attitude so you can claim your participation trophy at the end. Heck no! My goal is to slap you with a reality check of common sense by throwing you into the boot camp called LIFE! And with that said, life can be defined in a short sentence: It’s not what happens; it’s what you do with it.”

This is a motivational book that uses aphorisms along with inspirational profiles from people who changed the world. For me, the biggest inspiration is that Stan Belyshev, tired of his life’s direction, sat in a hotel room to write this book. As far as I can tell he had no background in any motivational-related studies when he started writing. He’s gone on to be an entrepreneur and motivational speaker.

In the book, there are biographies of people who changed the world, or who demonstrated the power of courage and forgiveness. Among them are the financially successful. Biographies of those people aren’t really inspirational. Many of them amassed their wealth by exploiting workers, and the ones left alive continue to fight against giving workers a living wage or benefits.

Another reason why biographies, in general, aren’t always inspirational is because motivational biographies rely on a cognitive bias called survivorship bias. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

E.g., During WWII planes were returning from missions with bullet holes in the wings, tail, and belly. The air force decided to armour those parts. A mathematician stopped them. He said the planes survived despite bullet holes so those parts of the plane weren’t as crucial. He said they needed to discover what happened to the planes that didn’t return. Those planes had holes in the cockpit and engine areas. These areas were more crucial to survival so those areas needed reinforcement. This saved lives and more planes returned. If they had just relied on the information from the survivors all their reinforcements on the belly and tail wouldn’t reduce causalities.

Motivational books that derive advice from the successes are putting “armour on belly and tail”. Successful people say they are successful because of their habits, attitudes, and strategies. However, for every successful or inspirational person who did these things, there are another 1000 people who did exactly the same things yet failed.

We’d learn more about success by examining why people failed despite doing everything the successful did. Incidentally, the biggest predictor of financial success is being born into a rich family with highly placed connections. You can ignore all the inspirational strategies and still be financially successful.

Mixed in with biographies are aphorisms in bullet form, most of which will be familiar. Aphorisms without context, though, are as enlightening as a fortune cookie.

An improvement would be to have chapters devoted to one aphorism, and then demonstrate how to evaluate it for practicality in your circumstances. For example, “Never give up no matter how many times you are rejected”. Detail the types of rejection (you, your work, your ideas, your strategies). Add information from counselling and psychology that review the nuances of not giving up vs altering strategies vs yes, you really need to give up. Look into how cognitive biases and logical fallacies keep us “putting good money after bad” (to use an aphorism). Explain when to persist, when to stop, when to move diagonal, when to jag. (Cop Land: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nifWUdAZRcY)

For example, I didn’t achieve my dream of being a marine biologist. So, I “gave up” and became a terrestrial biologist. That led me to teach invertebrate zoology, which includes a great deal of marine biology. It led to work in the Arctic, in the mountains, on the tundra, in deserts, AND in marine environments. I obtained a broader range of experiences and still ended up doing marine work as a terrestrial biologist. I gave up (or “went diagonal”), but found more than expected on the new path. In the words of cowboy philosopher Kenny Rogers, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em…”

Cognitive psychology and counselling fields explore the ways we make bad decisions; they suggest strategies to minimize errors in our thinking, and how to avoid cognitive pitfalls. Experts like Richard Wiseman and his Quirkology bring this information to the viewers in entertaining ways. Cognitive psychologists like Stephen Lewandowsky work with scientists to aid them in communicating their findings with the general public so there’s less misunderstanding on important science issues. Incorporate the work of these and many other experts.

In a small sideline, Belyshev falls into the confirmation bias trap. Confirmation bias occurs when you notice things that support what you already believe, and disregard the things that contradict what you already believe.

He writes he’s worried for the future, Because we are witnessing a fragile generation which cannot handle a little heat, called reality. That’s why so many people call them “snowflakes.”

So “many” (citation needed) people call them snowflakes because that’s a lazy stereotype that relies on confirmation bias. You can point to every single generation in existence and find some examples who are “snowflakes”. Anti-war protestors in the 60s and 70s had their hardiness questioned too.

The two generations born since the 1980s (Millennials and Generation Z) are fighting to fix a broken political system and an ailing earth that they’ve inherited. They are driven to change things for themselves and their children.

I’m not from those generations. However, I know how resilient, informed, and hard-working they are because they’ve been my classmates when I’ve returned to school. They’ve been my students when I was a professor (five different universities and colleges). They’ve been my coworkers at consulting firms. They understand issues on both global and local scales; they coordinate with people in countries around the world to enact change. They’re more politically involved than any other generation including the 70s generation, and many countries have elected their “youngest ever” politicians. Look at the social change they’re forcing with Climate Marches, Equality Marches, Black Lives Matter, and Me Too protests. Now that’s inspirational.

A 52-year old Navy Seal who went to Yale thinking his classmates would be sheltered snowflakes came to respect them as well. https://gen.medium.com/my-semester-with-the-snowflakes-888285f0e662

He’s also optimistic about the younger generation.

Let me assure you, I have not met one kid who fits that description [snowflake]. None of the kids I’ve met seems to think that they are “special” any more than any other 18–22-year-old. …

If this place is peopled by “snowflakes” I’m proudly one of them. I’m a snowflake with a purple heart.

While Belyshev’s motivation to write his book is inspirational, the book itself lacks the depth, research, and context that would make it a thought-provoking read. Perhaps a younger reader may see it differently.

Book Rating: 2/5

You can buy this book on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us in ebook format by the author to read and give our honest review.


Check out Lisa King’s brand new novel called The Vanishing Hour which is available now on Amazon! She is a Canadian author from London, Ontario and I am super excited to share the love on her new book! If you like post-apocalyptic books, then this one is for you!

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You can buy her book here: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B081ZHCPGF/



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