Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Living the Good Life by David Patchell-Evans

Image result for living the good life patchell evans

This book. Oh god, this book. It's very far off the beaten track for what I would normally read, but I've generally said that if someone puts a book into my hands, it jumps onto my immediate to-read list. This one was given to me by a friend who was in the process of quitting GoodLife home office, which is of course in the city where I live. They requested that I tear it apart on my blog.

It's hard to resist the challenge. However, even though I already know I don't like GoodLife as a workplace, having heard terrible stories from the three or four people I know who have worked there, I tried to at least start the book with an open mind.

I mean, it's a self-published, self-congratulatory treatise on living by a millionaire. What could, uh, go wrong?

The person who gave me this owes me a beer. They're aware of this. This book is very bad, for a number of reasons. Let's narrow it down to three.

First of all, the chapters on creating or working in a good workplace had me sputtering and developing a severe eye twitch. Everything I've heard about the workplace that his company has created sounds as bad as the worst place I've worked. It may even surpass it. They aren't my stories, so I'm not going to relate them here, but the pay is not great, the top of the pay scale absurdly low, overtime expected, and it sounds like one of those environments where high pressure meets huge workloads, and all the resultant stress from that.

Not to mention turnover, except that it's apparently company policy that they won't give references. 

Let's go back to the book. The bits on the workplace made me angry, because I know he doesn't practice what he preaches - or maybe he means to, but it's not what his company does, and that buck has to stop right about on his doorstop

However, even if you put that aside, there are two other problems that are solely with the book: Positive thinking bullshit and a complete lack of context.

So much of this book reads like it comes from having read a not-very-good magazine article on something to do with positive thinking and writing about it with about that level of understanding. Nothing is cited, things are simply asserted, and there's no deeper consideration of causation or external factors or really anything that would make any of these assumptions worthwhile. Instead, we end up with a positive thinking mishmash that insists, like so much other positive thinking bullshit, that everything is under your control.

I mean, there is lip service to the idea that you're not going for physical perfection, just being healthier, but then we get absolutely baloney things about how half of what happens to you is genetic, 40% is voluntary and 10% comes from external circumstances - but that you can change your external circumstances, so it's really 50/50. Aargh. I hate this so much, and did even before I'd read Barbara Ehrenreich's devastating takedown of this culture, Bright-Sided.  Thank you, for yet again telling people that if they have no money, a shitty job and few resources, it's all their own damn fault.

And beyond that, a problem of writing first and foremost is how entirely weightless this book is. There's no context for anything. It can't quite decide what it is - part memoir, part positive thinking encouragement to start exercising in such a way that will make the author money, part testimonial. For every time he talks about it not being about losing weight, there's a testimonial about how much weight they lost. For every positive thinking anecdote or piece of information, there's no context.

His life sort of floats around the story, but isn't anchored to anything. There are vague references, but no storytelling. There is no mention of a spouse. No mention of the other three children listed in the dedication, just a reference to the one who is autistic. You don't come away from this knowing anything concrete about him, other than that he's great at business and overcame physical disability through exercise.

Make no mistake, this book is a sales pitch. But it's one that does so through ignoring externalities and context, at virtually every step.

No comments:

Post a Comment