Happy Saturday! I’m sure my American readers are still decompressing from Thanksgiving and, considering I’m sick and not up to doing much, I decided I will start this weekend with a book review for The Art of Winning by Matshona Dhliwayo.
The Art of Winning is a quick compilation (approximately 113 pages) of 100 inspirational quotes and mantras by Dhliwayo. These quotes are framed by Dhliwayo’s “Winner’s Manifesto” 1 and 2. The work has been highly praised by a wide range of successful individuals, from Olympic gold medalist Adam Kreek and multi-Grammy nominated producer/engineer/songwriter Mitch Goldfarb to former Hearst Newspapers CEO Bob Danzig and New York Times bestselling author Shawn Achor. After reading the book, I can see why.
From a form perspective, this book is simple but effective. Each quote/mantra reads like one or two short, free verse poetry stanzas. Many utilize repetition so that each line builds on the one proceeding it, both in rhythm and in message. This poetic presentation coupled with the short page count make for a quick read, although you’ll want to slow down to fully consume the messages of these quotes.
I found that the wisdom in this book is nothing new but it’s also something that people usually don’t keep in mind, especially during hard times. I know that many of these positive thoughts escape me when I encounter stress and obstacles (often replaced by very bad words). He doesn’t necessarily say “do this and this and you’ll succeed” and he doesn’t guarantee that anything will change overnight. Instead, his wisdom is like that provided by philosophers and gurus, building blocks for making your own life more positive and successful. It may take a while of consistently following his advice but it will yield results so long as you keep at it.
One of my favorite “rules,” as Dhliwayo calls them, reads:
Let go of negative thoughts.
Let go of negative memories.
Let go of negative desires.
Let go of negative people.
Regret poisons your thoughts.
Doubt poisons your dreams.
Fear poisons your hopes.
Insincerity poisons your deeds.
–Matshona Dhliwayo, The Art of Winning, “Rule 40”
As you can see, this isn’t anything new or groundbreaking; in fact, many people would argue that it’s common sense. That, however, is the genius of Dhliwayo’s rules. They’re simple and easy to understand but are also things that we tend to forget about, such as how negativity poisons our lives and how our souls are more important than our material possessions.
For all this praise, I have a couple issues with this book. The first is more a matter of conflicting world views than the quality of the book itself. I have said repeatedly that I’m spiritual but don’t belong to any particular religion and that I’m specifically not Christian. This book makes many references to God, Jesus, and the Bible. If you’re offended by such content, you might want to avoid Dhliwayo’s work. However, the advice transcends religion. Everyone can get something from this advice and, frankly, you can choose to ignore the few Christian references or reinterpret them within your own belief system and still gain some spiritual and life direction from it.
My second issue does affect the quality of the book, at least in my opinion. While there is a “Winner’s Manifesto” at the beginning and end and Dhliwayo provides a list of praise for the work on the first few pages, I felt that the book lacked a well-defined purpose. The rules are tied together by the kind of advice they give as well as the “Winner’s Manifesto” framing device. Still, I’m not sure what Dhliwayo wants readers to get from this book. Is this just advice that you should refer to when you’re feeling stressed and hopeless? Is it a 100-day plan for improving your attitude and your life in which you read a new rule each day? Is it for getting your life back on track, keeping it on track, or both? A quick introduction explaining who Dhliwayo is, why this advice is important, and how to use it would be very helpful in guiding the reader’s experience and ensuring that he/she gets the most out of this advice.
All in all, The Art of Winning is a great book to keep at your bedside. You can use it to start your day on a positive note, recharge you when you’re too drained to continue, or fuel your brain when you’re in need of philosophical contemplation. As of right now, I can only find it on Amazon in paperback format for $9.99. However, it’s worth a read, especially for those of us who find it hard to stay positive (guilty!).
You can also learn more about Matshona Dhliwayo and his other works through his Amazon author page.
Know of any works I should read? Want me to review your book on this blog? E-mail me at email@example.com or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something. You can also reach me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tumblr.