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The Dot On the Left
When readers turn to a self-help book, they are looking for something new and different. Thousands of books have been written on overcoming adversity, trying to improve yourself, finding strength within, etc… When promoting these self-help books, it’s not just a question of how to sell them, but to find something unique that no one else has. previously written.
Dave Swanson’s self-help/motivational book titled The Dot on the Left: Life Lessons on Moving from Below Average to Head of the Curve is not another primer or how-to book. Instead, Swanson simply tells his own story and how he overcame adversity, negativity, and the wishes others placed on him and instead listened to his innermost feelings as he pushed himself to succeed in every goal he set for himself.
That’s a great start, but to truly attract and engage readers you need to have some credibility beyond just a good story. Swanson has a lot of that. In addition to being a published author, he is also a motivational speaker and former US Army infantry platoon leader. Having survived more than 100 firefights while stationed in Sadr City, Iraq, he knows the real dangers. There is an old saying that ‘foxes don’t have atheists’! Well, it took much more than just faith to survive the kind of warfare this man faced. Dave Swanson is the person I want to listen to when I have something to say.
The book’s forward is written by author Bill Murphy Jr., who wrote the best-selling book on wartime. Dave Swanson’s story will resonate with you, says Murphy. He gives the theme of Swanson’s story that ‘you don’t want to end up where you start in life’. Swanson certainly embodies this. He recognizes that many people allow themselves to either become victims of their own environment or rather refuse to make excuses for what other people say about them and just go for it regardless of what anyone says.
Murphy also says that the left dot teaches us that exceptionalism isn’t something you’re born with, it’s something you work for — resilience is a daily exercise and leadership is a practiced art. Swanson’s story is divided into different chapters that each deal with a part of his life. From the very top he points out that we all have dreams, but only a few of us turn them into real goals that we actually pursue with the effort required. I am a huge baseball fan and a regular visitor to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. One of the things I constantly read about those entering the halls was that they weren’t just physical stunners with above-average skill-sets. There are millions of ball-playing kids in this country today who could fit that description. What sets Hall of Fame members apart from their contemporaries is their mental strength.
This theme runs throughout Swanson’s book. The book’s title was about an embarrassed Swanson who got his SAT prep course curve distorted by his extremely low math scores that resulted in a single point on the left side of the bell curve. Swanson took full ownership that he was ‘The Dot’. He will not let this fact define him or bring him down. He had dreams of college and other future success that were reflected in his strong SATs. Instead of hanging his head and accepting that he is not good at math — he tried to improve himself and move that point.
Winston Churchill is quoted at the top of a chapter with the following phrase: “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”. One thing Swanson wanted in his youth was to excel at basketball. He just didn’t know how. He’ll never be the biggest or fastest guy on the court—but what can he do to get the coaches’ attention and make them realize he needs to play Swanson? Still, he recognized that most teenagers feel sorry for themselves. His story of how he rose to glory on the court is inspiring. What I liked the most was when he found the best players on the street courts around town and matched himself up against them. The only way is to play against the best.
Swanson also talks about building a social circle of amazing, supportive people. If this is not your family then you need to look beyond to surround yourself with people with positive energy. He is also a man of faith but realized that we pray in our time but God answers in his time. This means that trusting your destiny alone is not enough to get you where you want to be. After deciding to join the armed forces, he prayed to go through the hell of basic training. It’s clear that these prayers were answered because Dave Swanson is still around to tell his story, but he’ll be the first to tell you that a lot of it is due to his own intestinal fortitude and strong mental make-up.
No matter what life throws at him, Swanson understands the importance of gratitude. He claims that this is the biggest secret to living a perfect life. Also, gratitude can be about anything you choose to believe. He was grateful to the great teachers in his life who pushed him and involved him in the learning process. He also recognized that no one pushed him more than his own siblings. He points to inspirational films like the gritty football drama Rudy and how easy the man’s story makes it.
Swanson follows up his story with a life lesson cheat sheet. He offers questions and topics to refer to as you work toward your own personal goals. The dot on the left is not a blueprint for how to succeed. Instead, it shows a man’s life view taken from his own personal experiences and how he chooses to rise above every difficult turn and reach his goal even when others throw in the towel. We can all learn from Swanson’s track record and personal success the credibility he needs to be a mentor.
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