June 5, 2001
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Reclaiming the Fire
Reclaiming the Fire: How Successful People Overcome Burnout by Dr. Steven Berglas, Random House, 210 Pages, $25.95 Hardcover, April 2001, ISBN 0679463216 In the world of publishing, there arent many master editors, but Jonathan Karp of Random House is one, in my opinion. When I met with him in New York in early May, he handed me a book, saying he believed it to be perfect for my audience. After reading Reclaiming the Fire, I agree wholeheartedly. I usually dont read books on a subject like this because they are often vehicles for either a quick, simplistic answer, or a psychological thesis coated heavily in jargon. However, Id wager that Reclaiming the Fire will become a remarkable read for many JCS readers. First, Ill let the author speak for himself. About his objective, Berglas writes: The book is designed to help people prevent the achievement of lifelong ambitions or dream jobs and vocations from causing debilitating psychological disorders. To this end I will examine a range of problems attributable to success and describe how to prevent or cure them. Now, some of you may be saying to yourself: Yeah, I wish my successes were my problem, opposed to my failures. I should be so lucky! Berglas is careful to point out, however, that we need to be skeptical of preconceived notions of success, emphasizing that a precursor to being inoculated against disease-causing consequences of success is familiarity with the dangers inherent in an uncritical acceptance of the myths surrounding success. This book is written with that goal as well. The best way to get a handle on this book is to consider why Michael Jordan first retired to become a professional baseball player. Basically, Jordan had achieved everything he could in basketball, and simply needed more stimulation or excitement in his life. Most of us probably wondered why he risked his success to possibly fail as a baseball player, when in actuality, he was simply raising the bar, having accomplished his initial goal of perhaps being the greatest basketball player in history. Berglas tells stories of Olympic athletes who have undergone bouts of severe depression after they compete in the event they have spent their lives training for, sparing no thought to the future. Sure, our individual goals improving our typing speed, walking a 15-minute mile, taking a business course at the local community collegemay seem small in comparison to an Olympic medal, but they are no less important, and it is dangerous to believe that they may be unimportant. The author tells another story about a polar bear in the Baltimore zoo that was starving himself to death. Those who analyzed his behavior deduced that the bear was bored and just giving up because all of his food was given to him without any effort on his part. The keepers started hiding his food, making him work for it, and, as a result, the bear is now thriving. Becoming apathetic about life is a true risk we each face, and yes, I would agree with Berglas that it is a disease to be prevented.