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I hope you have met, at least once in your life, someone who can break it down and tell you how it is; someone who brings out the best in you, with an unerring moral compass, and can give you a good swift kick in the ass when you you need it. Apparently, the Honorable Frank Szymanski, of the Juvenile Court of Detroit, is such a person. Good thing; Detroit needs it.
The question is: Can a good swift kiss in the ass be effectively delivered by book? Judge Szymanski certainly tries in, Identity Design: Design the Identity You Need to Get the Life You Want.
I think a good swift kick in the ass has to come from someone you know and trust, someone who has heard you out first, and knows what the story is. A good swift kick in the ass is a matter of timing and an author has no control over when a reader gets his book and when he chooses to read it. Therefore, I wouldn’t think a good swift kiss in the ass could effectively come by book, unless, you happened to need it right when you picked it up to read it. I read Identity Design because I was asked to give a review, not because I needed a kick in the ass, so my reaction to it may be different from those who do. If you need a good swift kick in the ass, I highly encourage you to get Identity Design and bend over.
Szymansky’s message is that you can design the identity you need to get the life you want. The focus on identity is important; his objective is to introduce you to the concept that being is more important than having. No matter what you have, you’ll never be satisfied unless you are also happy with who you are. Who can you be? You can be anyone you set your mind to be.
Speaking as a mental health counselor, I would say Szymansky’s message is important, crucial, but quite a bit overstated. There are many factors over which a person cannot prevail. You’ve got to believe that the ill-starred juveniles of Detroit have a lot stacked against them before they enter Judge Szymansky’s courtroom. I hope the good judge takes things like socioeconomic poverty, lead exposure, fetal alcohol syndrome, childhood trauma, poor schools, an austere civic budget, missing parents, and systemic racism into account when he levies his judgments from the bench. A child has very little say over his identity. It is only over time that we wrestle the wheel away from our circumstances and the kids who are entering his courtroom are just arriving at the time when their legs are long enough too reach the pedals.
Be that as it may, while people do not have absolute control over their lives, in my experience they have to be encouraged to exercise whatever control they do have. That’s where a good swift kick in the ass comes in. Sometimes you just need one.