I loved this book.
Now that’s out of the way, let me tell you why.
The title intrigued me first. The use of the word “Aggressively” is flagrantly bold, challenging the reader to dare try something different in their quest for personal development. From page one, Mahler challenges the pop feel-good psychology that renders the typical self-help book useless in bringing about lasting change for readers.
Live Life Aggressively seeks to break the cycle of self-help failure by encouraging the reader to be honest in their self-assessment and to take positive and decisive actions toward their goals.
Initially, I expected a linear instructional narrative progressively building a recipe for success from the beginning to the end of the book. Instead, Mahler presents a series of straightforward but humorous articles, each of which focuses on a specific aspect of positive action.
“You can give someone the tools they need for success but if they don’t use those tools and follow through, success will always evade them.”
At times, Mahler is brusk. He provides a stirring counter-argument against common excuses for avoiding change and places the responsibility for success directly on the reader. He does not accept placing blame on others for your inability to act on your own behalf. In his strictness, however, he does not fail to give practical advice that the reader can act upon.
“We do not need courage to act; we need to act in order to be courageous.”
My favorite recurring theme was Mahler’s perspective on negative thinking. A crucial element of living life “aggressively” is to recognize negative thinking as an opportunity and a call to action, rather than something to be denied. He believes that denial of negative circumstances only breeds disillusionment when inevitably the illusion that all is well is broken.
He is correct in asserting that the typical self-help advice to simply “think good thoughts” or repeat affirmations does nothing to change the circumstances that are the true source of the negative thinking. In the face of negative thinking, Mahler demands that the reader determine what can be done to rectify the situation, whether it is changing jobs or volunteering at the local soup kitchen, and do it.
“We can spend our time planning out our lives, setting goals and creating an illusion of control over this crazy world, but in reality we have little — if any — control.”
In support of his insistence on active engagement in personal change, Mahler warns the reader against incessant research in a quest to control all of the variables that could potentially present difficulties in the process of effecting change in their life. Instead, he admonishes the reader to learn enough to get started and begin.
There were times in reading when I felt that Mahler’s focus was a little too male-oriented. Especially at the beginning, I wondered if I was even welcome to read the book, considering I am female. There were also some persistent editing errors, such as “to” in place of “too.” This steals some potential authority of the book. In general, however, these are minor flaws.
If you are prepared to receive real advice that will help you make positive change in your life, read Live Life Aggressively. If you’d rather continue in your life the way it is while complaining loudly that you wish things were different, then skip it and spend your money on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s instead.