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Sales trainer, public speaker, and best selling author Robert L Jolles has written a personal testament we can all benefit from.

His book is not 'preachy', and is a humorous good read rather than textbook dry.  But its lessons are invaluable to us all.

This is a mindset and lifestyle changing book.

 
 
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The 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 for it.

Recommended.

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 early 2006.

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 only.

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 Amazon for the much more reasonable price of $15.61 new, and even less used.

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 exactly that.

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 people.

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 realizing this).

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 resolved them.

Business Lessons

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 appreciation.

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 blog which 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.

Summary

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 warrior.

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 us

A 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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Originally published 24 Feb 2006, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
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