Jacob Coldwell is quickly becoming my new favorite author. I was delighted with his book, Listen Simply. I was even more impacted by Before You Begin.

The only CON I found in this book (and Listen Simply shares this affliction) is the speaker’s framework it sticks to:

Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you’ve told them.”

I don’t mind summarizing the message in points. In fact, it helps me to retain whatever I read and learned. However, I passionately dislike (bordering hate) a preamble to the message: “In this book or chapter, I’ll tell you…” Sheesh, just tell me the message! Don’t waste my time! And don’t spoil the fun!

Each and every one of those introductions fell flat on me, and the message itself was delivered in so much more an impactful and better way. Eliminating those sections would’ve shortened the book by about 20% and made the reading experience 100% better for me.

OK, apart from that disadvantage, this book is full of amazing


1. Serendipity.

This advantage may be purely individual for me, but I cannot resist mentioning it. Before Jacob dives into his Compass Framework, he explains his personal discovery, which led him to inventing this framework:

No matter how much we resist, ignore, or act otherwise, we can’t control life. When we operate from the premise that somehow we can control life, we unnecessarily place a huge burden on ourselves.”

I had Before You Begin on my Kindle for a few months before I started reading it. The exact day I started reading it, I had a coaching session as a coachee, which revealed my hidden desire to be in control of my life. Thus, the above fragment was a perfect opening for me. I could really relate, and it made me highly curious about all that follows it in the book.

In another fragment of the book, Jacob tells about his 12-year journey and how it was worth it to struggle for so long to arrive at the point he is now. I totally get it. My journey has been 10-years long. I’m still far away from where I want to be. And the journey was painful.

It made the pain and suffering of the past redemptive.”

It made what ended up being a 12-year journey worthwhile.”

Change takes time. A lot of it. My personal philosophy and beliefs took decades to construct and solidify. It will take some years before I could dismantle and reconstruct them.

2. Simplified Complexity.

Life is not simple. Far from that. Relationships, hardships, successes, failures, attempts, wins, health, career, finance, personal growth, meaning and purpose of life, accidents, tragedies, serendipity… Human life is like a fast-moving kaleidoscope, whirling colorfully.

Yet, Jacob manages to break down the absurd complexity of our life into three simple steps: observe, focus, act.

Even the 1st step of the framework – observe – can introduce many positive changes in your life. Usually, we don’t take the time to stop and observe. We just react. The simple observation act can help you to detach from whatever goes on in your life, most importantly – from what’s going on in your head. Observation creates a space between your emotions and your reactions, so you can notice and recognize your emotions, instead of following them blindly.

Don’t get me wrong, emotions are needed and they always carry some valuable information, mostly about ourselves. But in the reactive mode they also severely cloud our judgement. You need to have high Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to manage your emotions in such a way that they don’t get into your way. Sadly, most of us aren’t that well EQ-skilled.

The first step to EQ is self-awareness. And observation is a great method to increase your self-awareness.

Two other steps of the Compass Framework are as useful as the first one. They can do wonders in isolation. In a loop, they do miracles.

3. Miracles.

Before You Begin is full of great stories and real-life examples. This book is not a theoretical treaty. Jacob tested this approach on himself and practiced it with his clients.

The author skillfully sprinkles those stories throughout the book, so you will get not just dry knowledge, but also an inspiration to try this method in your own life.

4. Amazingly Deep Reflections.

I highlighted over 40 fragments in this short book. Before You Begin reads more than well. It opens your eyes. Here is a sample of Jacob’s best:

The moments of life are always bigger than they appear. The tragedy is worth the redemption. “

Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.”

There is no way around the journey, and there is nothing wrong if “success” doesn’t happen immediately.”

Typically we don’t say what isn’t true.”

5. Success.

Studying success is kind of a hobby of mine. At the end of Before You Begin, I found a few definitions of success that are both original and in accordance with what I’ve seen among top writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and sportsmen.

Success is being confident that if you stay the course, you’ll get to where you want to go.”

Why it is so important? Because knowing where you are going is not even half of the job. You need to actually go there, and it takes time. If you aren’t confident about your course, you will change it. Or you will quit. In the best-case scenario, that will delay your success.

Success also comes in the form of your being able to deal with uncertainty.”

This is huge. Uncertainty makes the process of progress so unpleasant. If I could deal with that, 80% of the struggle would have been gone.

Success is knowing that you can use what you have, that you have the ability to grow and get what might be needed, and the patience to hold off until later.”



Before You Begin is a great personal development book. If you, like me, find the writing style heavy, don’t let it stop you from reading this book.

It contains a universal framework that can improve your life in every area.

Give up the illusion of control in life. Observe. Focus. Act. Rinse and repeat.

In 10 or 12 years, or much faster, you may not recognize your life. You can redeem all your struggles and suffering into a new life, the life worth living.


Originally Published in Quora.

Book Review: Before You Begin

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