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.