Book Review | How to Get a Grip by Matthew Kimberley


gripI received a copy of  How to Get a Grip via the Goodreads First Reads programs, and I was certainly interested in the idea. Like most people I know, I spend more time thinking and talking about the things I want to be doing than actually doing them. Self-help books don’t typically appeal to me, because they tend to be chock full of generic, eye-roll inducing, overly simplistic advice. When I read that Mr. Kimberley’s book was supposed to be a humorous, no-nonsense take on getting your shit together, I thought it would be just what I needed.

It started out promising. Lots of swearing? Check! An introduction that gave me the impression the book would cater to my own problems? Check!

“That’s what this book is about: defining the important shit, letting go of the less important shit, and taking your life – and yourself – a whole lot less seriously.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to the expectations it set for itself. The author clearly stated that you would learn nothing new from this book, that the goal wasn’t to give you secret tips and pointers that you’d never thought of. The goal was to tell you the things you already know, but aren’t doing anything about, and to get you motivated to make some life changes. That’s all well and good, and I appreciated the honesty. But some of the advice was, well…

For example, there’s a section on separating the ‘stupid shit’ from the ‘important shit.’ Yes, indeed, I do tend to obsess over shit that doesn’t matter, and yes, my life would likely be more productive if I could get away from that. But his examples of ‘stupid shit’ include worrying about wearing matching socks and figuring out how much to tip the server.

I am lucky enough to work from home, so yes, I could walk around in unmatching socks and it wouldn’t be the end of the world. My brother the CFO of an accounting firm? Not so much. And while you shouldn’t necessarily ‘worry’ over tipping your server correctly, you should certainly give it some thought. I found it strange that he would use these sort of non-compelling examples when there are so many things people worry about that simply aren’t worth worrying about.

I did not much enjoy his chapter titled Man the Fuck Up, wherein he told you to “quit your bitching, bleating, moaning and whining.” I’m sure he’ll consider this to be a big ole meany whiny rant from a feminist, but the entire message in “man the fuck up,” is that you should stop acting like some “namby-pamby, whisy-washy” woman. Gross.

There’s also a lot of privilege running through this book, like the part where he tells you to quit your job and work for yourself. I actually did that, and it worked out fantastically for me, but I’m not pretentious enough to believe that everyone should quit their job and run off to follow their dreams right this minute. Yes, I encourage people to do so if they have the means, and yes I encourage people to not let their fears hold them back. That said, a single mother with 2 kids who’s making $9.00 an hour? Yeah, it’s not ‘fear’ holding her back, it’s reality. For a book that’s supposedly so focused on bringing people out of their fears and into reality, he seemed to lose track of it quite frequently.

At one point he also tells you that the best way to make work suck less? Gossip! Awesome! Also, everyone should throw out their TV and turn their cell phone off for the weekend. While I would love it if everyone threw out their TVs, that’s just sort of indicative of much of the advice in this book: Yes, it’s a good idea in theory, but it’s not the kind of advice that most people are actually going to follow.

The funniest part was when he spent an entire chapter telling you to “read a book!” which, well, we are obviously already doing that, champ. Thanks though.

There were a few some sections I liked, particularly the parts where he told you to stop asking for permission to do things, and to act like you’re six again:

Quit waiting on being told stuff is OK. What are you, six? That said, you had more balls when you were six, didn’t you? You just went ahead and did shit even if you knew it wasn’t allowed.”

The whole ‘tough love’ aspect of it was endearing and humorous at first, but it eventually got annoying. The constant swearing was definitely a treat for me, especially because the author is British, so there was quite a bit of cursing that was new to me.

Overall, I didn’t really find any value in this book. It’s certainly a different approach to this subject, but, as the author himself admits, there is nothing earth-shattering here, and much of the advice centers on changes that most people will simply be unwilling to make.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review | How to Get a Grip by Matthew Kimberley

  1. Good review. I felt much the same way and I am pretty sure that not one single reader will have thrown out their TV as a result of reading this book.

  2. I was quite enjoying the whole experience until ‘throw out your TV’ came along. Quite apart from the fact that I selectively view – there are others in this house – there would be a mutiny!

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