This book is a must read for the business and corporate executive whose lifestyle is defined by his busy work schedule with little time for anything else. Stuart Taylor himself was one such executive and he admits he thoroughly enjoyed every moment of his fast life. However, being stricken with cancer was a wake- up call for him. He began to think and thought caused so much hesitation on his part that he no longer was in a position to continue riding his ‘high speed bicycle’(as he describes his life.) He changed his outlook on life completely and gained a new level of consciousness. Cancer made him emerge from the ego trap and shed his arrogance and adopt what he calls ‘assertive humility.’
As a result he began to have more care and compassion for others and himself as well. His behavior, opinions and decisions became consistent with his beliefs and values. Taylor describes assertive humility as an approach to life that is based on equanimity rather than superiority or inferiority and by presence not distance from others. Assertive humility is a more authentic attitude because it comes with a sense of purpose and modesty.
Taylor’s book is really an autobiography. In part it is a narrative of a busy corporate executive and in part it is a story of a cancer survivor. The author takes us down the years to his childhood. He describes himself as a straight kid- obedient, eager to please and purposeful. He is Australian born in the New South Wales town of Inverell in 1969 and spent a lot of time outdoors. He recalls being surrounded by adults of status - doctors, teachers, priests, etc. He willingly absorbed the lessons of the Catholic Church and grew up to be obedient and conformist. He also had a streak of perfectionism in him and was entirely dedicated to his studies.
For Taylor ego is a dirty word. He defines it as an ‘over-inflated or under-inflated image of self formed from self-judgment or perceived judgment of others which masks our true essence.’ He describes his own ego as being formed by his grandfather and father who were a successful car dealer and butcher, respectively. Consequently, Taylor felt he was entitled to a worthy place in society.
Taylor’s transition from boyhood to manhood found him enrolled in the Australian Defense Force Academy and later on the RAAF describing both these institutions as a ‘study in stress.’ The author believes stress must be understood in the context of ego or protection of self-image. Stress is closely connected to a belief system that forecasts a future where one’s self-image will be damaged. This is what Taylor calls the ‘fabricated future.’ In reality fabricated futures never happen or all wrong. They are really innocuous and leave the ego and self-image intact.
En route to the corporate sector Taylor married a working girl Peta and their lives entered a new phase. Taylor was hired by KPMG as consultant. It was here that Taylor was determined to succeed both in terms of power and earnings. Despite not being qualified for the job, Taylor’s emotional ‘positivity.’ helped him through.
The author went on to have three children and he and his wife were a young and happy couple till the day Taylor was diagnosed as having glioma (brain tumor). The rest of the book narrates the author’s new life (post-surgery), how he coped with the disease and discovered a new consciousness. The author delved into spirituality with the result that he was a changed man altogether.
Taylor’s book will prove absorbing both for the corporate executive and the layman. For both categories of people it will become a wake-up call to change their lifestyles and find their authentic selves.