It’s so inspiring and rewarding to read about the struggles, and triumphs, of other people like us, who just want to find their place in the world and live happy lives. Stand-up comedian-turned-direct mail entrepreneur Peter J. Fogel has written a book that shows how people can truly change and rearrange their lives, even after that landmark age of forty.
If Not Now…Then When? introduces us first to the author, whose own need to reinvent himself led him from the dark rooms of comedy clubs and the stages of TV shows to the lucrative world of direct mail as a copywriter. With a breezy style and plenty of personal insight and humor, Fogel then introduces us to a number of people who went through similar “reinventions,” some more drastic than others.
We meet corporate hacks who transformed themselves into home-based entrepreneurs, waiters who did really become actors (and on The Sopranos, no less!), single moms with no money who became not only richer but happier and on purpose, and many other people who started out on one path and ended up on another entirely. Many of the stories are outright tragic in their beginnings, with women who were abandoned by husbands and left to care for children alone, and abused and neglected children forced to become caretakers to their siblings and left to make their own way in the world. Others start out a bit more on the easy side of the street, but all end up, in their own ways, realizing that they could succeed no matter how terrible their pasts might have been.
The personal stories make this book really work, and are followed with brief suggestions on how the person changed their path for the better. I found these suggestions way too brief to really help the reader, and luckily most of the inspiration was embedded within the stories themselves. The author’s perspective comes into play throughout the book, often distracting from the story but mostly providing a new insight that parallels the transformative experience of each individual. For a stand-up comic, Fogel has a real sense of how he can, and has, used his humor to help himself and others move beyond their blocks and obstacles.
My biggest pet peeve, as with many self-published or small press-published books, is that the book is filled with typos and mistakes, some rather blatant. These only serve as distractions and annoyances, and the book loses some sense of professionalism as the eye stumbles across misspelled words, excess spacing, and other such mistakes.
If Not Now...Then When? is not one of the best self-help/motivational books on the market, but it is a good one, and an interesting and inspiring collection of stories about ordinary people rising to extraordinary new heights in their lives, and their careers.