Book Review: You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

A friend recommended this book to me because I’m currently unemployed because she said it’s uplifting, and so I figured it’d be a good motivational read. I always try to keep non-fiction, fiction, and self-help in rotation in my reading because I’m moody my mood shifts. Right now, I’m enjoying reading Tipping Points by Malcolm Gladwell, an excellent sci-fi series called The Broken Earth, starting with The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, and re-reading The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (no judging).
I’m a voracious book note-taker with my self-help and non-fiction. (Which is why I prefer physical books to audio or digital.) If you want to borrow a non-fiction book that I adored and just spent 5 minutes speed-talking about – sorry, it’s got writing and tabs all over it, and I won’t part with it anyway. Recently, I’ve started transcribing these notes into OneNote for future research (more about that another day). So with that, let’s dig into my most recent one.

“We need smart people with huge hearts and creative minds to manifest all the wealth, resources, and support they need to make their difference in the world.” Jen Sincero


For motivation and “actively talking to you,” You Are A, Badass by Jen Sincero (2013) gets five gold stars. I felt like this was a peppy life coach or motivational speaker there to cheer me on, tell me that I’m going to be okay, and hit me with some meaningful quotes and tips on how to persevere. Sincero shares a bunch of stories from her past (her struggles with money, her writing, her travels) that help to invoke an emotional connection on how it feels to be either lost, frustrated, anxious, and most of all, self-doubting. You genuinely get that she cares, and she wants you to succeed. 
Where the motivation is high, the actual applicability is low. Plenty of Sincero’s references to research, studies, science, or even everyday storytelling seem like they were plucked from some seminar or book she read, but not scholarly referenced. She gives lists on “how to” but they are either repetitive, vague, or not rooted in any analysis. It may just be the grad student speaking in me, but when someone says, “Only 5% of people who sign up for something, like a course or seminar, actually do anything with it.” I want to know where that came from, who said it, is it credible so I can copy it. I could have gone for some actual research and more practicality in how and why she makes her points. It seemed more rah-rah-rah and not enough ah-ha. 

“Lame, vague goals are the best way to live a lame, vague life.” Jen Sincero


Which brings me to my next two points. First, this book does have what I like to call “woo” in it. Sincero uses words like “The Universe” and “vibrations” and “energy” that may be off-putting for some, but it’s not so much that it makes you want to chuck it at your cat. There’s a chapter at the beginning that’s dedicated to “woo,” but otherwise, it’s peppered casually. Just a small moment of evangelizing but it’s brief and peripheral. Second, her perspective and tone definitely screams “privileged white female” and anyone else reading may not relate or appreciate that. Her anti-money attitude in her previous life and her stories of spontaneous travel made me roll my eyes at times. She relates well to a certain demographic and if that happens to be you, then you’ll enjoy the book. 
Lastly, there are some great quotes, great motivational messages, and it truly is a quick, fun read – but, ultimately, it lacks substance. As a student/professional working in training design and a seasoned speaker/facilitator, I’m super-hyper aware of “takeaways” and what the audience/trainees need to learn (the gaps we’re trying to fill). Here the message was clear – You are a badass. But the execution was discombobulated, disjointed, and to be quiet honest, not appealing. I found myself writing confirmations of other people’s work (“resilience” = Grit by Angela Duckworth or wholeheartedness = The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown). Perhaps it’s just my years of hearing the same “you can do it” message, and that could be true, but I felt this book was a stream of consciousness and not end-user (reader) focused. I wanted so much to learn some concrete steps or planned goal-setting, but it never got there. Suffice it to say; I didn’t walk away feeling like I had an objective – I just walked away feeling good. And maybe that’s all Sincero wanted to do. 

Because so often when we say we’re unqualified for something, what we’re really saying is we’re too scared to try it, not that we can’t do it.” Jen Sincero


Moving on to my next read, a book I found while I’m packing to move cross-country, Amy Cuddy’s 2015 book Presence. Stay tuned for my thoughts on that one. 
Have you read You Are A Badass? What did you think about it? Any books you’re currently reading that you’d like to share? 
Like what you read?

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