“The first thing I saw was Michelle
The next thing we both saw was my left index finger, hanging by a strand of skin…”
With that rather gruesome memory Steve Elder catapults us into his book How Much More Longer? In it he tells the story of the day that his dream of sports fame was destroyed and his life changed forever when his car was in a head-on crash with a drunk driver. The book takes us through the early adjustments the 18-year-old had to make after the accident. It goes on to explore what he learned in other challenging situations like being faced with bankruptcy and extricating himself from a job that had lost all meaning.
Elder supplements his story-telling with lots of homespun wisdom. Using this interplay of personal anecdote and advice Elder explores topics of busyness, authenticity, leaving a legacy, thought habits, being true to one’s roots, determining what’s important in life, and more.
Elder’s style is casual and often humorous in a self-deprecating way. As I read, I got the feeling he would be an entertaining speaker. Here, for example, is how he remembers waking up from surgery after his accident:
“But back to that hospital bed and an eighteen-year-old with an eighteen year old’s brain, and eighteen-year-old brains don’t always fire on all cylinders. The first question I asked when I awoke from hours of surgery to save my life was, ‘Did they save my finger?’ That was after I told the elderly nurse I awoke to that she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. At least I think she was elderly. I was eighteen. She might have been forty-five or something.” p. 5
Elder’s experience as a life coach comes out in the way he sprinkles questions throughout the text (“Why? Why have you let life happen?” p. 42; “Have you seen the evidence of hiding in yourself or in others?” p. 48; “How’s that working for you?” p. 55). In the final section of each chapter called “On the Road to Real” he poses sets of questions to help the reader arrive at personal insights based on what he or she has just read (e.g., “Make a list of things that occupy your time and your life. Do those things line up with your life’s purpose?” p. 31).
Though Elder makes no secret of the fact that he speaks from a Christian worldview, his book is very low key in that area. His challenge to live an examined life fits with many belief systems. I can see the book being useful in church and work settings, either as a private read, or as a springboard for group study and discussion.
The book’s unusual title, How Much More Longer? is what Elder’s little son used to say soon after they had started out a road trip. The book shows us how we can shift our focus from how soon we’ll arrive at our destination to how we can get more out of the journey. Some have compared it to a road map. I’d say it’s more like a GPS with every time we end up straying into old routines and habits, Elder’s voice interjects with the query “How’s that working for you?”
I thoroughly enjoyed How Much More Longer’s practical wisdom and message of empowerment delivered in Elder’s warm yet witty style. It would make a great gift for anyone who harbors a notion that there’s got to be more than just nine to four.