Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: "How to Ruin Your Life by 30" by Steve Farrar

How to Ruin Your Life by 30 by Steve Farrar contains nine steps; however, only two really stood out to me - one in a positive way, the other in a negative way. For me, all of the other steps seemed obvious and trite, such as if you stop learning or isolate yourself, you will ruin your life by 30.

The section that spoke to me was "Neglect your gifts and strengths when choosing a vocation."  My favoritism could be spawning from the fact that my career is my highest stressor at the moment, but regardless, I found this chapter the most useful.

It began by talking about how J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis met in a pub to work on their writing, which was relevant to both my ideal career path (publishing/editing) and my interest in both authors.  I found it encouraging when Farrar wrote about how we each have God-given unique talents and skills and we can find a way to apply them to a job that honors Him.  You don't have to be a missionary to serve God - you can serve Him through applying the skills He gave you to your career.  After hearing family and friends often complaining about their jobs, I found an answer in Farrar's words: "If you dread going to work every day, you are probably not using your strengths and gifts that God has given you" (72).  I plan to use this chapter for comfort and guidance when reflecting on my career path and talking with my peers.

The very next chapter, though, was "Disregard what the Bible says about sex and marriage" and I was  disappointed by it.  The manner in which it was written came across as sexist by saying that "hands to yourself" was a ground rule specifically for men whereas "don't act cheap" was only a rule for women (82-86).  Women are just as capable of being tempted by sexual desires and men can dress inappropriately, too.  I found it unnecessary that the book called each one out to a specific gender.  It also says that men have to make the first step towards a relationship: "Don't be passive. Make the call. Take the first step. nothing's going to happen until you do" (98).  Again, it seems that Farrar isolates half his audience when the advice could easily apply to anyone picking up his book.

Another issue I had with the same chapter was the ruling that a Christian should not even consider dating a non-Christian: "Don't give any consideration to the possibility that you might lead them to the Lord.  God doesn't need you to do His work in their life" (87).  God never said to spread His word to everyone, except someone you might want to date.  While I agree that marrying a non-Christian would be challenging, I don't think you can go as far as to say that they can't have the chance to get to know the Lord through you. Obviously it's important that they're not pretending or choosing God just to get a date, but I think that's a call we are able to make.

Farrar first presented this information in a commencement address and, unfortunately, some of the elements of spoken language remained that wouldn't normally end up in a book.  The sentences were repetitive, simplified, and overly informal: "Causes have effects. Actions have reactions. Choices have consequences" (19).  While that string of statements might have been effective in a speech, it was annoying to read.  There were also many paragraphs that were a simple one sentence line that was too conversational.  For example, on page 89 we have a paragraph that is just "Does that not make sense?" and then a later paragraph is simply, "And one more thing."

Perhaps it would have been better formatted as a short work published with other essays about Christian living, practical life, or personal growth.  Though this book seemed sexist at times, was judgmental, and was written informally, I really did enjoy certain parts of it.  I would definitely recommend the vocational chapter to all of my peers.  As for the rest of it, I think it was too hit or miss, with the good stuff sandwiched in a lot of mediocre sections.

The best piece of advice to take away from this book is simply: Is the life you imagine for yourself the natural outcome of the way you are living your life? (18).

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Moody Publishers for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

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