It was going to happen soon.
It had happened before.
Don’t judge me.
I was going to read another self-help book.
A brief scan across one of my bookshelves has all the evidence you need. I’m an unrepentant, repeat self-help book reader. The Artist’s Way. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff. Emotional Intelligence. The Four Agreements. The Power Of Now. Calvin & Hobbes.
Okay, maybe Calvin & Hobbes doesn’t quite fit the ‘self-help’ genre, but it’s apropos when you consider that Stacey Ritz, author of Be Awesome: How To Live Your Best Life has spent a great deal of her life with cats (unsure if she’s dealt with the imaginary tiger kind?) through her non-profit animal welfare work.
But how did she get there? By first struggling as a writer, a competitive runner, and even as a real estate agent who once had to lie about having an assistant to save face. All her personal stories are heartfelt, and completely relatable. But it’s not all about Stacey.
Her personal stories are interwoven seamlessly with dozens of stories of other people, past and present, famous and ordinary, who are great examples of people living their best life. And while for some of us it seems like it not easy to get there, the work itself is a simple, daily regime and is completely within our grasp, if only we take the first step, and the next.
Be Awesome is a very well researched and thoughtfully presented conversation about YOU, the reader, that starts with Stacey’s own personal universal story of being trapped in an unrewarding, life-sucking, joy-destroying desk job. (I’ve been there. And you’ve either been there, or are there right now.) But today? Things are different for Stacey. Today she is quite literally, “in the shit,” which she cleans up “every single day as part of my dream job. I did it today. And I’ll do it tomorrow.”
So how is cleaning feces part of her dream job? It just is. And it’s a pleasure to find out why.
There are great nuggets of wisdom shared in this book. For instance, finding the life you love. Paying it forward. How to work smarter. And for me, a professional comedian and improvisor, perhaps what struck the biggest chord was how to embrace failure, trial and error, and remembering to force yourself out of your comfort zone. And as I often tell my improv students, whose mouths sometimes drop open because it’s the opposite of what they’ve learned so far: sometimes you have to say ‘no’.
A friend once related to me as I was whining about my lot in life and asking her why things had to be so difficult, “oh, God, Marcel. I don’t know, I’m just stumbling through it like everybody else.” What Stacey’s book snapped back into focus for me was that mistakes and poor choices are a necessary part of the process. And really… they’re not mistakes. They’re part of your path. You have to scrape bottom to know which way is actually up for you. Those moments in life where you feel awful? That’s because you’re not living the life you want. And that’s normal. It’s necessary. Moments of huge personal growth are often only the result of going through discomfort, hardship and yes, sometimes even personal sacrifice and pain. But those obstacles are lessons. “Writing this book is as much of a reminder and an encouragement for me as it is for you. I found a way to live my best life and let the rest fall into place”.
It’s also a book that reminds you that “living your best life doesn’t mean it has to be your full-time job. What brings you joy might manifest itself in the form of a hobby, a small business, a club, a non-profit… the possibilities are endless.”
And for those among you who like assignments, each chapter ends with questions for you. Like ‘The Artist’s Way”, you can track your responses and set personal goals. I found the book refreshingly non-ageist, with references and quotes from such varied sources as Vera Wang, Jay-Z, Dr. Seuss, James Dyson (the vacuum guy), Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, Mother Theresa, Aristotle, Pinterest, Reddit, Elon Musk, Angelina Jolie, Joseph Campbell, Steve Jobs, Voltaire, The Beatles and Dita Von Teese.
Well researched, conversationally written, Be Awesome: How To Live Your Best Life is perfect for the self-help book junkie or aficionado, and perhaps the best possible gateway book for the self-help book neophyte. Let’s be real here: I own several ‘Chicken Soup’ books, and Stacey – who comes across as smart as hell, has already written for them. It’s now wonder the book felt like a conversation with someone who was already my (smarter) friend. Now it’s on my kindle, too. You can put it on yours, or in paperback on your bookshelf (hint hint) by going to Amazon.
ABOUT STACEY LEE RITZ
Stacey Ritz is the bestselling author of Covered in Pet Fur (Rockville Publishing). She is the Executive Director and co-founder of Advocates 4 Animals, Inc. – a 501(c)3 non-profit animal welfare organization that has saved more than 11,000 lives (and counting). Ritz writes both non-fiction and fiction. Although her books appear to cover a wide variety of topics at first glance, they all have one thing in common: discovering and living your best life. To be your best and do your best takes courage and dedication and Ritz’s writings reflect this. She lives in the Midwest with her family, including a handful of foster cats and dogs. Learn more at www.staceyritzbooks.com