Book Review
Title: "Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life"
Author: Trevor Blake
Publisher: BenBella Books, 2012; 256 pages; $9.06

Little in life is simple. And in our zeitgeist of rapidly proliferating apps for things we didn’t even know existed, the few simple things that are left are either perceived as dull and quaint, but undesirable (think: VHS tapes), or elegant and powerful (think: butter).

In his new book, "Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life," self-described "pragmatic businessman" Trevor Blake serves up three simple, powerful packages of big-picture perspectives and small action steps that he has used to go from a poor childhood to thriving as a serial entrepreneur — selling one business for $107 million less than a decade after starting it.

The elegant, yet exuberant, map to success that Blake draws in "Three Simple Steps" is prefaced by his own story of having watched his mother defy the doctors’ expectations for more than 14 years and through two different cancer diagnoses with little more than mental fortitude, walking five miles to and from a part-time deli job for years on cancer-riddled legs, succumbing only after she had seen her children reach the milestone of self-sufficiency.

Watching his mother literally, and vocally, defy death for most of his childhood obviously had a dramatic impact on both the course of his life (he married his mother’s chemotherapy nurse, and would build many of his businesses in the field of cancer research and treatment — and the proceeds of this book all go to cancer charities), not to mention his view of the world.

After walking readers through buttery-simple, profound perspective shifts and actions they can take to reclaim and master their own mentalities to get and stay out of the emotional quicksands of defeat, depression and powerlessness, Blake shifts gears and spends the last third of the book instructing us on how to set intentions, rather than goals, and how to convert these intentions into reality.

Christening the individuals who take up his charge to change their current lives into the lives they intend to live "wizards," Blake provides a short list of characteristics and tools every successful wizard will have or develop:

1. Discipline. Adhering to mindset management and other behavior changes long enough for them to become habitual is a core requirement for life-changing wizardry, and that requires the simple, but sometimes challenging, trait of discipline.

Blake encourages readers to do what he does, and schedule everything — even the time with themselves, making seemingly silly appointments to set intentions, holding quiet time, spending time in nature and such. "That way," he says, "I keep my personal growth formal and reverent and so avoid the temptation to lessen its priority."

2. Self-interest. Reminding readers that "most self-help gurus had not tasted success before writing about what it took to succeed," Blake boldly declares that self-interest, or "placing one’s own needs or desires above the needs or desires of others," is essential to success. This is not a Machiavellian angle; rather, Blake invokes the image of the flight safety instructions that admonish you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping another.

Blake teaches readers that taking complete responsibility for their current situation in life (and only theirs!) and then fixating on the things that they are "for" and their intentions are absolutely essential to stopping people and situations from draining our energy to live lives of our own design.

3. Unflappability. "Wizards are calm in a crisis," Blake writes, out of assurance that "nothing will ever be sent their way that is beyond their ability to handle."

As its simple cover and framework promise, this book bucks the self-help-book trends of bullets, charts, grids and Web links, trading them for elegant, powerful truths about what it takes to create a prosperous, happy life — at home and at work.

The real rallying cry of this book has an underlying current of joy. Despite a childhood marked by constant struggles with poverty and grave illness, adulthood trials with his wife’s heart problems and his own medically issued death sentences, Blake has chosen to live life out to the very edges — so much that it makes one wonder whether his success has been partially due to — not despite — these challenges.

In any event, Blake declares his own intention for those who read "Three Simple Steps" with the same simplicity as the book is written, stating with clarity his belief that "[o]ur lives are not meant to be a struggle, but a joyful trip," then concluding, "I hope this book can help you realize that."

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