Book Review: Illogical: Saying Yes to a Life Without Limits by Emmanuel Acho

Emmanuel Acho is a former NFL player whose career was cut short by injuries.  He has a degree in Sports Management and after leaving football he earned a masters in Sport Psychology both from the University of Texas.  Currently he is a TV sports analyst, he hosts a webcast “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” and has two books by the same title.  While he does have a psychology degree, I’d say that the basis of his book comes more from his personal life experience than from research.  I first heard of Acho through his webcast and then because he has twice been interviewed on the Brenè Brown podcast “Unlocking Us”.  I decided to read this book because I enjoy webcast and both podcasts that he did with Brown.  He seems to have a positive spin on life, and I was not disappointed as his personality does come through in the book.

One of the first quotes that I wrote down from this book is “our greatest achievements in life come from the other side of logic”.  To really boil this book down, Acho’s main point is that to live our best lives, we need to be willing to take risks and try things that may seem “illogical”. The book is broken into 15 chapters. Each chapter ends with some key points from the chapter. 

Some of my favorites included: 

Childlike Faith: In this chapter Acho reminds us that children are fearless, they just believe that can do things and then they do them.  As adults we need to sit with our fears and then overcome them. We should focus on what we can do not on what we can’t do.

Don’t Forget Your Earmuffs:  This chapter reminds us not to let the doubts of others and ourselves, limit our achievements. At the same time, we do need to listen to advice, but we may need to filter that advice and try not to give into our own negative thoughts when they arise.

Scar Tissue: This chapter reminds us that life is not always going to go as planned and we will incur some scars along the way.  Instead of hiding our scars, we should embrace them and let them remind us that we have made it.

You Gotta Have “It”: This is the final and most important chapter in the book.  This is the chapter that reminds us to find our purpose. Think about what is important to you, what are you naturally good at? Everyone has something that comes easy to them. Use your gifts as you pursue your goals.

One of the chapters in the book is entitled “Goals are Dumb”.  I believe this has turned into the most controversial chapter for Acho.  This is how he describes his thinking on “Unlocking Us”

“A goal by definition is an end towards which energy is directed”. If you have a goal and you achieve it you could be limiting yourself, what if you could have done more than your goal? And while reaching a goal can be empowering, not reaching a goal can be devastating. Acho asserts that goals are limiting. Instead of setting goals, you should “Have an objective with no limitations. An objective, by definition, is energy directed at something”. I’m going to have to call the author out on this one. Call it whatever you want, a goal or an objective, we need things to work towards. There is also a lot of research to support goal setting. Personally, I think he may have just been looking for sound bites on this one. 

His stance on goals aside, I really liked this book.  He’s not really telling us anything new or earth shattering but he is reminding the reader of an important concept.  Don’t limit yourself.  He says that the most limiting phrase is “That’s the way it’s always been done”. He reminds us that “it’s easier to live in the confinement that society puts on us” but that may not be the way that we want to live our lives. In the book he tells the story of Ruby Bridges and the Wright Brothers. He also uses some biblical stories (his father is a pastor) like David and Goliath and Noah to illustrate his points. One story that he tells is about Roger Bannister who was the first person to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Before that scientist told everyone that running a mile in less than 4 minutes was impossible.  Within 2 years of Bannister breaking that barrier 10 more people had run a mile in less than 4 minutes. He also tells a lot of stories from his own experiences to illustrate his points. 

I’m still not sure about the title of this book. Acho defines illogical as, “believing it is so even when it is not so, so that it can be so”.  As I was reading the work that kept coming to me to describe this book was “Pivot”.  The major point in Acho’s life where he had to pivot came when he was injured during the NFL Combine. His NFL career didn’t turn out the way that he had hoped so he then leaned into his strength of communication and public speaking.  I follow Acho on social media and this morning I saw a post from him that I really thought defined this book when he said to “delight in the detour”. If nothing else reading this book and following Acho on SM will get you some really good quotes. 

Another reason to like this book, it is a very quick read. I read it in one sitting, full disclosure it was during a 3.5-hour layover in the Atlanta airport.  Acho narrates the audio version, and while I did not listen to it, I think this would work very well as an audio book, as Acho is a great public speaker. While I was reading, I started thinking about a friend I plan to gift this book to the next time I see her.  Someone who has made what others have viewed as illogical life choices. I think she is being very brave to try something new and can’t wait to see where her life choices lead her.  Acho has a great quote that I want to leave you with, “You and now are a unique combination of which has never occurred before by which you are the best measure of success”.

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