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Book Review: Author recounts his hard-fought journey to success

Published:Sunday | September 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Glenville Ashby
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Glenville Ashby, Reviewer

Book: Determined to Win

Author: Leopold Williams

Publisher: Mina Press

Interestingly, the sobriquet 'Steeley' was given to author Leopold Williams after he pummelled a bully at school. Who knew that in years to follow, that term would best define his will, faith and determination to succeed in the competitive world of business?

Williams tells an engaging story. This is not a how-to book. Sure, there is a formulaic underpinning to any achievement. His personal mantra, Goals + Attitude + Service = Success, speaks volumes. Determined to Win is a stirring and enlightening autobiography that is philosophical and sociological in scope.

Williams recalls his upbringing with pride and some nostalgia, despite arduous work on the family farm and a grinding commute by foot to school. Plentitude was unheard of, and the pangs of hunger grated the entrails of a large family. But pride, resilience and faith congealed, forming the cornerstone upon which rustic people have always survived. And Williams' family was ever up to the challenge.

Williams' work chronicles his thorny path to wealth, influence and self-actualisation. His academic failures, a mysterious illness that derailed an opportunity for a highly sought-after position, his dream of becoming an educator dashed, and duplicitous politicking at his first insurance assignment that forced him out, all add fodder to a gripping story.

SEVERAL AWARDS

And, of course, his admittance into the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table, his appointment as chairman of the Production Club, and the awards, ad infinitum, for excellence in the insurance industry continue to impress. But again, the rags-to-riches theme has oftentimes been told and can be banal at times. What, then, sets Williams' story apart?

Undoubtedly, Williams' reliance on his faith and theological upbringing, his conversion and application of biblical precepts to charter his business decision are intriguing. There are no qualms, inherent struggles or battles between the sacred and the material. One follows the other in lockstep. He cites the story of biblical Joseph, who rose from the stench of slavery to an august and imperial position. Williams is the modern-day Joseph. And his ability to deftly implement scriptural maxims to his life, in a way that a mariner uses a compass, lends depth, imagery and life to his work.

Williams was deliberate, tactful, with a surgical eye to generate opportunities when they seemed non-existent to others. He was able to capitalise on situations that appeared disadvantageous.

But Williams more than held the keys to business success. His epiphany at church transformed a life perilously edging towards destruction. His ability to recalibrate and follow a straight path are thought-provoking. His newfound self-assurance clothed in faith inspires. His words assumed new meaning. They were prophetic, his faith was unswerving and his nationalism unyielding. Jamaican pride and drive to independence and homogeneity were part of Life of Jamaica's dominance, where Williams excelled. And he captures that chapter of Jamaica's history with a joie de vivre that is near palpable.

Just as vivid is his account of a Jamaica that was in social and political abeyance as its government flirted with socialism. As a large segment of the middle class migrated and a sense of apprehension gripped the nation, Williams never baulked but profited, as if drawing water from stone. It is the author's foray into theology and politics that lends originality to this standard inspirational thesis.

His well-timed use of aphorisms also gives this narrative a substantive edge. And of these dictums, some leave indelible impressions: "If you want a place in the sun, you've got to put up with a few blisters," and "Human excellence means nothing unless it works with the consent of God." And not to be left out is General George Patton's, "Success is how high you bounce when you reach rock bottom."

Determined to Win never wobbles or strays. Williams cuts to the chase, delivering a concise and well-metred work that oozes realism and authenticity. Unquestionably, a triumphant undertaking by any measure.

Ratings: Highly recommended.

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