Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nature & Nurture by Brad Woodson: A Review by Stephen Vantassel

Nature & Nurture: The Art and Science of Living the Good Life (Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing & Enterprises, 2009) by Brad Woodson asks readers to evaluate their lives from the perspective of an ecologist. Just as an ecologist seeks to learn what is required to make an organism thrive in an environment, Brad Woodson (a Certified Wildlife Biologist) presents a model for readers to appreciate what the Good Life is and how they can achieve it.

Brad opens the book discussing the stages of life and how each of those stages presents its own challenges and opportunities for growth. In chapter 2, Brad exhorts readers to discover their personality type. For it is by self-understanding that we can learn how to recognize our strengths and improve our weaknesses. Brad's suggestion that life be divided into 10 spheres, (faith, family, charity, fitness, finance etc.) constitutes the heart of the book. He has a scorecard by which to evaluate how balanced your life is in those 10 areas. Areas of weakness should be strengthened by learning to avoid negative influences and instituting personal discipline. Thankfully, Brad doesn't say the process of personal growth is easy. In fact, he suggests that today's citizens are bombarded with significantly more negative influences than those of our grand parents living in the 1920's. Brad isn't making excuses for us. He simply wants us to recognize the fact that just as our genetics affect who we become, so does our environment. We may not be able to change our genetics, but we certainly have influence on our environment.

Three things struck me about this book. First, it was remarkably brief. A normal reader could easily finish it in an hour. In today's hectic times, brief is always appreciated, particularly when the material is worthy of reading as Brad's book is. Second, I liked his virtue-based approach to living the good life. His book is about pursuing the good, the beautiful, and the lovely; not the get rich quick, how to be famous, or how to win through intimidation. Finally, I was intrigued by a couple of his comments (aside from the wonderful use of thoughtful quotes). The first one was his mentioning of politics as one of the 10 spheres of our lives. He was the first modern writer on personal growth that I can recall which mentioned the importance of political involvement. You may not agree, but you should think about it. The other key comment that struck me was his answer to those who say, "I can't be successful because I didn't have the advantages that the rich kid down the street had." His answer is both sensitive and strikingly insightful as he properly observed that having too many advantages can be a hindrance to success as being disadvantaged.

If you are looking for a book to help reorient your perception of your life and provide some tips on how to get back on track to what really matters, then I would suggest reading this book.

Stephen Vantassel, CWCP, ACP 

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