Way of the Road Warrior
Lessons in Business and Life from the Road Most Traveled
Ignore the book's main title. Its subtitle -
Lessons in Business and Life
- is the best description for this 'sleeper' of a book.
Or perhaps, better to call it a non-sleeper of a book.
Once you pick it up and start reading it, you'll find it
compelling in both its content and presentation.
This is a wonderful and moving book that helps us, as
readers, to become better people, whether we travel or not.
Those of us who travel too
much know there's precious little glamour or pleasure involved.
Rob Jolles - who has spent
22 years experiencing all that life on the road has to
offer - leads right off by referring to 'the pain and loneliness
that life on the road can bring' and explains his reason for
writing this book as a hope that 'within these pages, you find
humor, comfort, empathy and inspiration that contribute to your
survival on the road - as well as to the survival of those you
love who are waiting at home'.
This is a very different look
at 'the way of the road warrior'. And all that much better
About the Book
The hardcover book
measures 8 1/2" x 5 3/4", and is 7/8" in
thickness. It has 244 pages and about 90,000 words, with
fairly large and well spaced type. It was published in
The book is printed onto
lower grade off-white paper, and - with one significant
exception near the end, has no illustrations. It is printed in black
There is an illustration on
the front of the dust-jacket and a photo of the author (who also
has a cameo role on the front cover) on the back fold-in flap.
The book lists for $22.95,
but can be purchased on
for the much more reasonable price of $15.61 new, and even less
The book has thirteen
chapters, plus Foreword and Preface. There is a very
definite flow as it unfolds its premise, and you are
much better advised to read through the book in sequence than to hop about chapters.
About the Author
Robert L Jolles is a highly
sought after trainer and public speaker. He learned the
larger part of his skills at Xerox as a sales trainer - and
pretty much all sales people and sales trainers view the Xerox
sales training system as the absolute gold standard. After
leaving his position as Co-Director of Xerox's Institute of
Customer Education in 1993, he created his own business; and in
total, over the last 22 years he has clocked up more than two million
miles on business travel.
This might make you think
Rob to be a brash, hard-charging, life-in-the-fast-lane and
'type A' personality. Indeed, he portrays himself as
intensely competitive and driven, demanding only the very best
of himself and trying his hardest to consistently deliver
And so, what a surprise it
becomes to us as readers (and, I wonder - possibly to himself,
too) to find this is a book steeped in 'quality of life' issues
rather than bold brassy 'get rich quick' ideas.
Rob started to keep a
journal, writing down some of his experiences of life on the
road, and this book was intended, initially, to be an
interesting and entertaining compilation of these experiences
culled from ten years of journal keeping.
But the book evolved to a higher level, while still using the
basic world-view of the too-frequent traveler on which to build
his philosophy of life in general, and comprises a pastiche of
excerpts from his journal, tied together with commentary that
analyses his experiences and draws lessons from them.
There are travel books out
there that encourage you to lie, cheat and steal in order to get
upgrades and other travel related things you're not otherwise
entitled to. Rob Jolles advocates no such thing, and
rather than playing games to get the seat he most wants on the
plane, he is more likely to be relinquishing that seat to
someone else as a small random act of kindness. As he
writes, 'some of the most critical lessons I hope to pass on to
my children are lessons that deal with ethics'.
On the other hand, Rob is
not short of backbone, and shares a couple of classic stories on
how he has dealt with rude airline gate agents (as well as rude
people in other contexts, including the dreaded 'sniper' - a
term I hadn't heard before, but recognized all too well from my
own public speaking.
What the Book Contains
This is an extraordinarily
personal book. Within the first dozen pages, Rob has
shared moments of extreme personal embarrassment with us, gently
encouraging us to laugh with him rather than at him. And
later on, he shares very personal issues like losing confidence
in himself, and going through emotional slumps, as well as
showing times when he behaved less than perfectly to other
However, although the book
is written in the first person (ie 'I') form, it isn't a
self-centered ego-trip of a book. Rob's humanity,
kindness, and concern for his reader glows through every page,
and one can't help but feel a tremendous respect for him.
In addition to helpful hints
about relatively mundane things, the book goes well beyond the
obvious, giving advice on issues such as how to keep on keeping
on even when afflicted by illness, pain, grief or depression,
and touches on surprising topics such as the addiction to travel
which some people end up experiencing (often without consciously
Indeed, it is in this final
part of his book that he touches on some of his most meaningful
commentary, including the very true statement
There is no course that teaches us how high is high enough.
I always assumed that if a rung of a ladder presented
itself, you just grabbed it and climbed. I was wrong.
Truly, there's something in
this book for all of us, and we should appreciate Rob's generous
sharing of his own problems, something he has done in the hope
we can learn from his own challenges and how he confronted and
Although I've been at pains
to say this is not a simple book about travel or about business,
that is not to say it doesn't contain generous elements of each.
And Rob Jolles doesn't just recite
recycled platitudes. Instead, he challenges conventional
wisdom on occasion - for example, I particularly liked his
commentary on the benefit of win-win style negotiating. He
says that many times, there's a valid role for win-lose type
negotiating, and gives a couple of good examples to prove his
point. And, he goes further and says sometimes you're best
not to negotiate at all.
He also manages to reconcile
opposite aphorisms so they both make sense. 'Never give
up' and 'know when to quit', for example.
His chapter "Houston, We've
Got a Problem" is particularly good reading and gives great
ideas on how to respond to adversity and to turn problems into
solutions. But I hesitate to single any one chapter out,
because the book is uniformly good from cover to cover.
Airline and Travel Content
Although this book
transcends the daily frustrations of travel, that is not to say
it ignores them. Rob is bitingly caustic when he recounts
his problems getting the meal of his choice in first class, and
offers the observation 'There's a lot of thought going into not
delivering what you promise to your best customers.'
In another part, he refers
to airlines and their employees in rather scathing - but
deserved terms, saying
So here I sit, in a packed puddle
jumper, despising the scoundrels who operate these
embarrassments, happy that they let me take their rude,
late, no-service airline.
Any writer who is prepared
to so bluntly 'tell it like it is' deserves our respect and
But Rob isn't a
single-minded airline hater. He even-handedly adds praise
where it is deserved, even going as far as to say 'hooray for
USAir' in one place, and tells of a very gracious act he did for
a deserving United gate agent in another part of the book.
And, talking about telling
it bluntly, here's a question he suggests we should all ask
ourselves : When was the last time you were on a business
trip, hit the bar for some drinks, and improved your performance
the next day?
There are other gems, and
some very practical tips, such as how to get a cab at LaGuardia
when there's a long line and few cabs (page 115).
Bonus - Blog Too
In August 2010 Rob started a
features interesting and thoughtful posts about his work, his
life, and by direct extension, our work and our lives too.
You might like to consider
visiting that to get more of a taste of the man and his material.
This is a wonderful book and
full of uplifting commentary, leavened with practical real world
advice about how to best lead the life(style) of the road
There are many lessons to be
gained from the book, but if I had to pull the most meaningful lesson
from it, I'd perhaps choose the author's suggestion that we all
practice random acts of kindness (I bet you didn't expect to see
that as the highlight of a book about frequent business travel!).
As Rob Jolles says,
kindness begets kindness, and I for one am resolved to more
frequently do good and kind things. He also quotes this
story as a reason why we should all be helping the people around
reporter asked a farmer to divulge the secret behind his
corn, which won the state fair contest year after year.
The farmer confessed it was all because he shared his seed
corn with his neighbors.
'Why do you share your best seed corn with your neighbors
when they're entering the same contest each year as well?'
asked the reporter.
'Why,' said the the farmer, 'didn't you know? The wind
picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from
field to field. If my neighbors grew inferior corn,
cross-pollination would steadily degrade the quality of my
corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my
neighbor do the same.'
This book deservedly
rocketed up to #9 on the Business Best Seller list, and deserves
to climb still higher. It is a book of the ages, full of
universal and timeless lessons.
Whatever your situation in
life, you can benefit from this book.
Amazon offer it at a
discounted price of $15.61, but even if you choose to pay full
list price ($22.95) elsewhere, your investment will be returned
to you many-fold. Recommended.
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24 Feb 2006, last update
28 May 2011
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