Burn Zones: Playing Life’s Bad Hands by Jorge P. Newbery

Burn Zones

Reviewed by Ronnie Alvarado

Part memoir, part inspirational story, Jorge P. Newbery’s BURN ZONES: PLAYING LIFE’S BAD HANDS is the true life tale of a modern-day Renaissance man, a self-made success who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

Newbery begins his telling with a short introduction informing the reader what he means by the concept of “burn zone.” It is a notion that Newbery borrows from his days of professional cycling, and refers to a period of extended, all-out effort which routinely separates the winners of a competition from those who finish behind them. It a metaphor that Newbery adopts throughout his book, using it to describe the various obstacles that he and his loved ones faced on the road to success.

Newbery’s drive for excellence began at a young age. When only seven years old, he took on a paper route, waking before dawn just to make some extra cash. By the age of eleven, he had saved up enough money to purchase an ice-cream cart, pedaling the frozen treats around his neighborhood, and like any good entrepreneur, was obsessed with providing his customers with only the highest quality of products.

At the age of sixteen, Newbery was a straight-A student at the top of his class, but tired of traditional schooling and desiring to test his abilities in the real world. The youngest son of supportive, liberal parents, Newbery dropped out of high school and began his career. Having always been enamored with the Los Angeles punk music scene, Newbery began to produce the records of young punk rock talents. He chronicles memorable concerts, and throughout stresses his thrift during this period, living at home and saving quite a lot of money.

After several years and numerous successes, Newbery hit the peak of his record mogul capabilities, and looked to conquer a new challenge. He discovered that challenge in the form of a gift that his father gave him for his nineteenth birthday: a used racing bike. Knowing that the Olympic Summer Games were to be held in L.A. in the coming years, Newbery quickly desired to enter to the world of competitive bike-riding. He trained nonstop for dozens of months, cycling hundreds of miles a week, and eventually attained a semi-professional status, racing alongside some of cycling’s most elite names. But after an extremely disappointing performance at the Tour of Mexico, Newbery forsake his cycling dreams, and looked to enter new ‘burn zones.’

A fortuitous acquaintance with a real estate broker led to a career as a loan officer, a position which then connected Newbery to valuable opportunities that he needed in order to break into the housing market. Newbery purchased, and quickly transformed, several mid-size housing projects in southern California. These successes eventually led to his purchase of the Woodland Meadows Housing Project in Columbus, Ohio, a decrepit, rough complex of over a thousand units. Newbery’s ingenuity, thrift, and drive allowed him to turn Woodland Meadows around, creating a desirable place to live for its tenants, and a sizable profit for Newbery.

But that all turned south when a series of bad turns and misfortunes led to the collapse of Woodlands Meadows and criminal charges being filed against Newbery. Losing everything, Newbery refused to give up, and instead powered through his roughest ‘burn zone’ yet and rebuilt his life slowly and surely. Throughout his trials, he never lost sight of his goal to be the very best.

BURN ZONES narrates an undoubtedly impressive true-life tale of a successful, driven, and undeniably ambitious entrepreneur. Conveyed frankly and precisely, Newbery’s prose conveys many of his life’s greatest achievements and defeats, all in the effort to inspire his readers to conquer their own burn zones. Although at times a little disjointed and perhaps over-optimistic in tone and scope, BURN ZONES ultimately provides an enjoyable read for those interested in true-life success stories.

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