Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book Review: 'One Big Thing' by Phil Cooke

If You Read One Thing This Year to Try to Figure Out How to Get Your Life on Track, Let it Be 'One Big Thing'
By Lauren Yarger
If you are frustrated with a bunch of New Year's resolutions that already have been abandoned in your quest to make a new start in 2013, don't despair. Throw them all away, because what you really need is Phil Cooke's book "One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do" (Thomas Nelson, 2012). It might as well be titled "This is the Book You Need to get a Handle on Your Life."

Unlike so many self-help guides, or "feel good" message books on the market today that stroke egos, but don't leave us with much of a plan to change anything once we've turned the last page, "One Big Thing" describes obstacles that prevent us from reaching goals in life and outlines a plan for how to make dreams come true.

The first time I read the book, I was impressed with Cooke's no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is style and sensed that this book would have more meat to it than the usual lite buffet in the genre.

"I believe millions of people work their entire lives without finding their place in the word. They work at the wrong job, dream the wrong dream, and pursue the wrong goals because they don't have an accurate assessment of their own personality. They mean well and have the best motives, but believe a lie. They don't really understand how they're wired or how to use that knowledge to their advantage, As a result, they live lives of frustration -- continually hitting the lid of their own limitations."

Before long, I realized that my notes were a mess as I was including notations to include in the review for the book as well as comments and notes for personal use (ironically being a prime example of how one can get distracted from the one big thing that needs to be accomplished).

In the end, I read it a few times, adding it to my personal bible study time as I make my way through a time of career transition. Who isn't in one these days? Layoffs abound; retirement-aged folks find they need to start a new job; college graduates find few opportunities for employment; other find they are stuck in a job they hate and wonder how to make a change. If you are in any of those categories, there's a section (or more than one) in this book that can really help you focus.

Focus is the key.

Cooke's challenge is to zoom in on that one thing we are here to do and pursue it with passion instead of wasting time doing other things or being stretched too thin by trying to do too many things at once. Then he offers a way to make it happen:
  • Determine what you are good at doing. What comes naturally?
  • What do you really care about? What stokes your passion?
  • What do you hate? What drives you crazy and makes you want to do something about it?
  • What  you want to leave behind? What do you want to be remembered for?
The questions are simple, but answering them immediately brings into focus your personality and areas of giftedness and how they might be used for that one big thing you were put on earth to do. For me, the book had the effect of helping me grab 1,000 floating puzzle pieces in my life, set them down on a table in front of me and start to put them together so that a picture took shape.

The 171 pages are full of wisdom, many of which struck me as perfect to share as status updates on social networking sites. A sampling:
  • Stop doing what other people think is urgent, and start focusing on what matters to you.
  • A significant number of dreamers fail because they don't understand the reality of making that dream happen.
  • Being comfortable may be the greatest enemy of your life's dream, so decide what you're willing to risk and that will help you determine your level of commitment.
  • People don't pay for okay -- they pay for great.
Besides finding a lot of practical advice, Cooke also offers confirmation and affirmation. There are many times where a reader can say, "Hey, I wasn't crazy," or "Wow, I am doing something right."

Overall, it's a helpful, insightful, practical book from an author who knows what he's talking about. Cooke is a media and marketing consultant who has worked with numerous Christian leaders and organizations. He has produced media programming in almost 50 countries.. He is Co-founder and President of Cooke Pictures. You can follow Cooke at his writing blog at  He also blogs for The Huffington Post, and is a contributor to Fast Company,, and

You can purchase a copy of "One Big Thing" here.

A free copy of this book was provided for review by the publisher.

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Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light ( and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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