Reviewed by E.B. Heath
There is a singular optimism that shimmers from the page when reading a good ‘self-help’ or ‘finding your self’ genre. Mike Lewis’s When to Jump is one of those books. This book’s strength is in its honesty. Being your authentic self does not always lead to riches, a life of abundance, or an easy life, but it does seem to lead to a rare commodity – fulfilment. So, perhaps, an abundance of self-fulfilment! But, like most voyages chartering unknown territory, rigorous planning is required. Leaps of pure faith, featuring jumping into deep water without knowing how to swim, do not feature in this book. Lewis’s book details personal histories of the thinking man/women’s ‘jump’.
The Foreword written by Sheryl Sandberg, a second cousin of the author, tells the reader how moving to greener pastures is part of their family history, how America gave them the opportunity to live free from persecution. This is followed by the Introduction and Mike’s personal ‘jump’ history.
Mike’s story introduces the reader to how a major change in career direction might take shape. Before making enormous changes in his own life he consulted many others who had already navigated themselves along the ‘jump curve’, a guiding framework of things to consider before and during the ‘jump’. Mike moved, in well-orchestrated sequences, from a corporate whizz kid, at Bain Capital, to professional squash player. It was hard just reading about leaving such a lucrative career for the not-so-bright lights of a minor sport, such as squash. He tells his story, and details other histories, within a framework of: Listen to the little voice; Make a plan; Let yourself be lucky; Don’t look back. The personal histories are grouped under these headings.
Listening to the little voice is really an exercise in being aware of the real you, the authentic you, the wise you. The ‘you’ that most people ignore before proceeding along the road most travelled. The histories in this section illustrate how to become aware of one’s inner voice.
Jeff Arch jumped from cameraman, to failed writer, to karate black belt and starting a karate school, and circling back to writing, which resulted in the script for the movie Sleepless in Seatle. Impressive!
Teresa Marie Williams went from nurse to doctor in her fifties – also impressive – considering she was told as a teenager that ‘you do not come from a family that goes to college’. At thirty-nine, she said good-bye to her son as he left for college; she was pleased for him but grieving for her own lack of opportunity. It was then that the ‘still, small voice’ piped up “You’re going to go to medical school”. Proving that timing isn’t everything, at fifty she successfully applied to the Mayo Clinic for residency.
In the section ‘Make a Plan’, Mike underscores three vital steps that should precede all ‘jumps’: financial planning, pre jump practice, and, safety net. In spending time to adequately plan each step Mike increased his chance of success. The histories in this section illustrate that meticulous planning creates success, and also give a template on how to plan and also have a ‘plan B’.
The stories in the section ‘let yourself be lucky’ are about a good attitude and positioning, which naturally flows to ‘don’t look back’, commit to the jump when all the hard planning is done.
When to Jump is a compilation of forty-four short histories of people who have changed their lives by making a carefully planned career change. Every story is different but all follow a similar trajectory of being their authentic self, careful planning and commitment. This book is an inspiring and sensible guide for making life-changing decisions.
Mike Lewis has been awarded the Goldman Sachs ‘100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs’ in 2017.
By Mike Lewis
Paperback ISBN – 9781473653627 – $32.99
E-Book ISBN – 9781473653634 – $16.99