Book Review
Title: "Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward"
Author: Henry Cloud
Publisher: Harper Business, 2011; 256 pages; $25.99

Over the last four years, I’ve received hundreds of notes, emails, calls and text messages from distressed homeowners seeking my help keeping their homes. They want advice. They want an inside connection. They want me to give them a tip, a secret number or a workaround that can help them keep their homes or stay in their homes.

And almost inevitably, they want it on their own terms, which usually include things like vastly reduced principal and/or payment, or to be let off the hook for many months of missed payments.

While I can ramble off the alphabet soup of routes to explore, from HAMP to HAFA to NACA (my favorite), what these homeowners don’t generally want is what I have ultimately to give: the suggestion that making their mortgage payments is the only guaranteed method I know of keeping their homes.

And they really don’t want to hear the stark truth of this suggestion’s corollary: If you can’t, don’t or won’t make your mortgage payments, chances are good that you’ll lose your home. You will lose your home, with some exceptions for those who are able to pull off a loan mod or bail themselves out.

Over these years of real estate recession, I’ve grown more and more blunt with this advice, and more brutal with my delivery. I’ve grown to see it as my duty to shake people into reality so they don’t allow the positive thinking and hope holding out that usually serves them well to spiral into the sort of denial that I have witnessed end up with the sheriff putting people out of their homes and on the street.

Can’t pay? Don’t have any income to qualify for a loan mod? Get a plan B (i.e., another place to live) and put it in play.

But, they ask, I heard a story on the news where a guy got his house free and clear. Or, the date on my deed was wrong — they can’t foreclose on me, right? Questions I often answer with a question: But did you make your mortgage payments? (One time — one single time — the answer was yes, so I helped that homeowner — who turned out to have never missed or even been late on a payment — find the right person to help them halt the entirely wrongful foreclosure.) But for the most part, the answer is no.

And so, I say, let me ask you this: What if you are able to get the foreclosure date pushed out/get the foreclosure reversed on a technicality and keep your home? What then? It’ll still be $200,000 upside-down. You’ll still be behind on your mortgage — which will still not have been modified.

You’ll still be unable to make the mortgage payment. And you’ve been fighting this fight for two years. Let’s get real: What do you think you would do with an extra two weeks or two months? Would that really empower you to make your mortgage payments?

For most, the true answer is: unlikely. Or just plain no. Which inspires me to have the conversation with them that often, foreclosure is "for closure," an adage I might as well trademark.

Some homeowners go down kicking and screaming, then experience foreclosure as psychological and financial closure and fresh start, all in one — merciful relief from the terror of negative equity, the terror of unaffordable mortgage payments, the terror of constantly knowing that your housing expenses are unsustainable and, thus, your shelter is insecure.

I’ve been there myself, and I know that what might have once seemed to be the very worst-case scenario can actually empower you to make a fresh start in your housing, your finances, your relationships and your career. I’ve lost my interests in homes, relationships and businesses — sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars — only to realize that these losses were absolutely, ultimately necessary for the prosperity that was just around the corner.

I am now grateful for most of those so-called "losses," and now live on the lookout for what people and things are no longer suitable for my life, because I am just trying to making room for what I really want and need.

So I construe the latest book from Henry Cloud, "Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward" (Harper Business, 2011), as a real estate book, as well as the relationship and business book he wrote it to be.

Cloud, a clinical psychologist and coach to business leaders, is clear from the preface: "Today, he says, may be the enemy of your tomorrow." By this, Cloud means that many of the good things that are in store for your life can simply not begin or enter your experience until you let go of some things and people, or stop doing things or being in relationships that are not working to further the life you want to have.

One such pattern is attacking windmills, à la Don Quixote — fighting unwinnable battles to hold onto a home that is more than you can legitimately afford, if you’re honest with yourself.

"Necessary Endings" is masterful. Cloud has compiled inspiration and action steps in one nuanced guide to making some of the hardest decisions, conversations and life changes we humans must make in order to thrive.

The first few chapters lay the foundation for readers to understand that ending things — relationships, business arrangements, etc. — is, well, necessary and a process we should welcome, as well as providing deeply useful, powerful insights for deciding "what’s worth fixing and what should end" in a wide variety of realistic life scenarios.

Cloud moves on to help readers feel urgently "motivated and energized for change," detect and overcome internal and external resistance to necessary endings, and provide surprisingly clear action strategies for executing, processing, grieving and recovering from the endings we need to make.

For example: stopping behavior patterns and investments, ending businesses and relationships, or even halting relationship dynamics that simply don’t work or are injurious to your well-being.

I have long recommended Charlotte Kasl’s "If the Buddha Got Stuck: A Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path" (Penguin, 2005) for people of any spiritual background who feel stymied and stuck. I will now make a two-part recommendation: that they read "Stuck" and "Necessary Endings."

My only disagreement with Cloud is with his conclusion that making "necessary endings" is all about creating a thriving future for your life. I agree that they are critical to your future, but I also believe that these really tough decisions are critical to your experience of life right at this moment.

As with a mortgage that keeps you up night after night for years on end, that has you go further into credit card debt to keep it going — the relationships and patterns that are not working in your life often deprive you of the ability to enjoy your life right this moment by creating stress about an unsustainable future.

They destroy our ability to fulfill our life’s primary purpose, which Kasl profoundly declares is: to live. Winding down, ending and letting go of what’s not working allows you to live now, without being in perpetual insecurity about life basics, about your ability to survive moving forward. And that robs you of your today, as well as your tomorrow.

"Necessary Endings" is a truly necessary resource for creating a thriving future — and a thriving present — by empowering you to skillfully decide what needs to end, and how to execute that decision and move forward with your life.

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