Review: Kirkus

Review: Kirkus

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  • Apr, 16 , 21

Wideman offers tips on how to achieve financial success in this motivational remembrance.

As its title implies, this is a rags-to-riches tale. Raised in a poor household with three brothers, he worked hard to get an education and succeed in the business world: “my life has come full circle from the cross-eyed little boy who grew up in the projects of Greenville, South Carolina to the successful family man living in Metro Atlanta,” he writes. This book is an account of that journey, complete with lessons he learned along the way. He shares stories of getting in fights with kids in his apartment complex and committing acts of petty theft with buddies. It was after a rumble with a former friend that Wideman decided he wanted a different sort of life when he grew up—away from the violence and stress of his old neighborhood. Wideman was able to attend college by joining the U.S. Army Reserve, eventually attaining a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Carolina and an MBA in finance from Georgia State University. His professional career was not without rocky patches—he was passed over for promotions many times—but he eventually achieved a managerial position at a Fortune 500 company. Along the way, he married, had children, and he and his wife bought a small bakery, and he praised God for his success. As Wideman tells his story, he pauses to help readers get the most out of his experiences. He particularly encourages readers to avoid what he calls the “Welfare Cheese Mindset,” which includes being “Risk-averse,” “Reactive,” “Nearsighted,” and “Peer-driven,” among other things.

Wideman’s prose is conversational and often enthusiastic, even when talking about the people who stood in his path during his journey: “The kid who lunged a knife at me is no different than the coworker who tried to attack my character or quality of work, took credit for my work, or lied about me. He perceived me as a threat and chose to attack me to distinguish himself in some way.” Each chapter ends with a motivational section, mostly broken down into “Reflection,” “Application,” “Professional Tidbit,” and “Caviar Time,” the last of which contains an affirmation with a religious element: “God will place people in my life to help me and others to test my resolve. I need them both. I got this!” Wideman’s philosophy is in the tradition of familiar respectability politics: Do a good job, kill others with kindness, and trust that things will work out OK. There are limits to such a strategy, however, as not every aspiring youngster will necessarily have the requisite skills or personality type to find success. That said, much of the author’s advice is solid, and his stories may prove an inspiration for readers who’ve faced similar push back in their pursuit of professional success. Wideman achieved the American dream the old-fashioned way, and plenty of his readers will want to follow in his footsteps.

An energetic, if conventional, memoir of achievement through hard work.

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