Skip to main content

It Takes Moxie - by Maureen Francisco

It Taxes Moxie

Maureen Francisco (Motivational 2012, Trade Paperback) 130 pages

The odds are very good that the reader of this review is no more than two generations separated from ancestors living in some other country than the one the reader lives in. People are as restless as sleepless sharks, forever moving somewhere else. This is not to degrade the experience – I moved from Canada to Ireland just eight weeks ago. And at that, when I was in Dublin the other day, I noted that many of the sidewalk conversations I heard were in Italian, Russian, Spanish, or God knows what several of them were. (I'm a writer, not a linguist.)

What drives this movement? Rather smugly, those who stay put shake their hands from side to side like cud chewing cattle and moo out the old cliche, 'The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence'. That tends to be the extent of the analysis. However, sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence, border or ocean. One might be escaping war, disease or famine. In my case, it was escaping monotony and twelve weeks of winter each year – not quite so dramatic as a Tamil refugee, but we all have our reasons to seek escape.

In the case of Maureen Francisco, author of this wise and entertaining book, it was her family's desire to leave the poverty of the Philippines and come to America; to live the American Dream. You remember the American Dream of course; it was Ozzie and Harriet, The Brady Bunch, the raison d'etre behind all of Ralph Kramden's dreams and the substance of every misty-eyed speech Ronald Reagan ever gave. A famous wrestler named Dusty Rhodes even nicknamed himself The American Dream because he was 'the son of a plumber risen to be a champion'. Wrestling of course has pre-determined outcomes, but does the vision of the American Dream (good job, clean neighbourhood, drug-free kids and only one – two at the most – divorces) still apply and how does one achieve it?

Self-help books come belching out of print shops at the rate of a new title an hour, or so it seems anyway. One of these days, someone is going to write, A Self-Help Guide for Choosing Self-Help Books and he or she is going to make a mint. Yet, just as every now and then one finds an oyster with a pearl inside, there are some very good self-help books or put more politely, life guides. It Takes Moxie is one of them.

To take but one example from the book, which chronicles Francisco's rise to becoming a top television journalist and motivational speaker, it has amazed me in my working life how often I have seen people leave jobs without actually quitting. Oh you've seen it too. All of a sudden Murphy doesn't show up at his work station and everyone has to scramble to cover; the boss phones Murphy repeatedly with no answer, everyone worries a lot until Murphy phones after the boss has gone home to leave the message, 'Hi, I think I quit'. One of Francisco's many pieces of sound advice is, Don't burn bridges. I'll put it another way: Don't get all fired up on many glasses of Liquid Tongue at the staff Christmas party and grab the boss by the tie to tell him exactly how he should be managing the company ... the eventual reference letter you will need is not likely to be pleasant in tone.

Francisco writes good, clean, engaging prose. Furthermore, while she is clearly committed to her advice, she doesn't bathe (or drown) the reader in the diva-speak of, 'If you were like me, you'd be fabulous'. Somehow she manages the feat of being wise and not grating and good for her.

At the nut of it, her message is to always be looking to improve one's self. That can be a difficult lesson as, even though we humans are restless, we are also lazy as sin. Stick to your word, do your best, and don't do anything that might screw up a future opportunity.

If i might share one thought back to the author, it is this. When I was teaching neophyte actors, I trained them very much the same way as Francisco advises. I used the letters TWA. There are three important things to remember: Talent will get you hired. Everybody is always looking for talent. What will keep you in your job is W for your Word. Do you do what you say you are going to do? And the A is for Attitude. Advancement is all based on whether or not people actually enjoy working with you. There is a lot of over-lap between my opinion and Maureen Francisco's. Therefore, I heartily recommend this book tio anyone stuck in a rut, or wanting to prod an adolescent, a recent graduate, or an immigrant along the path to The American Dream.

Be seeing you.


Popular posts from this blog

The Blocks by Karl Parkinson

The Blocks

Karl Parkinson (New Binary Press 2016, Trade Paperback) 274 pages, cover price N/A

There's a tremendous irony in our lives you know, and it is one as large and predominant as the oxygen we breathe yet equally as invisible, equally ignored; an irony as imperceptible as the blood within our veins that itself only comes to our notice when the skin breaks and the blood trickles free before we hide the wound with a bandage and secure the blood back where it belongs. That irony is this: Our most basic desire, expressed in equal parts of hope and fear, is that we want to continue to live. And why? Because we want our individual lives to be different than what they are.
Karl Parkinson's first novel, The Blocks is a mad, tragic, stylish and daring exploration into that self-same need to survive and yet to change. The Blocks of the title themselves are neither those of the prison nor a child's alphabet; at least not literally although the reader may rightly infer those meta…

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan (Knopf Canada edition 2016, Hard Cover) 197 pages, $29.95 cover price
We have to talk about the concept first. Oh I had a long and lively internal debate about it, you can be sure of that. After all, all books have concepts that we accept without too much fuss – talking animals, sentient corpses, thought-filled trees, the whole Harrod's bought stuffed menagerie of Winnie the Pooh carrying on like a picnic gathering of the British Women's Institute with special invited guests from the Royal Society of St George – we accept all of those without too much fuss. I've even admitted to sniffing up a tear or two over The Brave Little Toaster, so if one can be moved by a bloody kitchen appliance then why not a sentient foetus as the central character of Ian McEwan's Nutshell?It probably won't surprise you that I have a theory to go with that, slightly more substantial than an amuse-bouche if not quite a meal in itself. My thinking is that we go with the ta…

White and Red Cherries by Tanja Tuma

White and Red Cherries: A Slovenian Civil War Novel

Tanja Tuma (Self-published 2016, Trade paperback) 301 pages with glossary and bibliography, cover price n/a
It dawned on me like a thunder strikes a tree: this petite young girl embodies a mission, her reason to exist. Every one of us embodies his mission by what he does. We are what we do. Not chemical elements, but our deeds define our being. We are neither the faith we trust in God, nor the love we give and take. The least of what we are is the genetic code we get from our parents, which in turn lives on in our descendants. No. We are what we do at this moment in this bloody world. Our deeds can defy eternity. They can mirror our will and freedom forever. Those words are thoughts by the elderly Martin, born during the Second World War and raised by the partisan heroine Valeria Batič as her son, when his natural mother Ada quite literally tossed her baby from a train window to Valeria as the train pulled out for Vienna. Ada you see w…