Ever wonder how Mark Burnett - the man behind such hit reality shows as Survivor and The Apprentice - rose from working-class origins in London to live the American dream (that is, to make loads of money in television and party with celebrities)?
He thought so.
Lucky for you, Burnett chronicles his story in his new book, Jump In! Even If You Don't Know How to Swim, released last week. Part autobiography, part motivational guide, the book purports to offer lessons from a life as improbable as, say, ending up on a tropical island with 15 other "castaways" and a host named Jeff Probst.
The tale begins with Burnett's arrival in America in 1982, after a stint as a British paratrooper, and traces his work as a nanny for wealthy Beverly Hills couples, his dream of bringing America "a whole new type of television," and the challenges he faced in filming the first Survivor ("from the tempestuous equatorial weather to the sea snakes to the daily spectacle of competitor Richard Hatch's nudity").
All that's just prelude to his West Virginia jailhouse meetings with future ex-con Martha Stewart. Burnett and Stewart will collaborate on a new daytime show to debut in the fall. In the meantime, he is visiting her at Alderson Federal Prison Camp, and, Burnett says, getting there by private plane because flying commercial takes too long. You know, with layovers and everything.
"Martha explained to me that she had been tasked later that day with cleaning the floor-waxing machine, a job that most people would loathe," he writes. "Martha, however, relishes this sort of work and had asked the prison guards for paraffin, turpentine, and other necessary items in anticipation of getting the job done."
That's all well and good, but really, reading books is so five minutes ago. Fortunately, a forward-thinking guy like Burnett knows better than to expect you to read the whole thing. That's why many of the book's 272 pages contain gray boxes that helpfully summarize the main ideas in big print.
Jump In!, then, is both the book and the Cliffs Notes in one neat package, a kind of warmed-over chicken soup for the couch potato soul.
Close readers may notice contradictory platitudes, but then close readers will never come close to this book. That's why we have read the book (by which we mean, we read the little gray boxes) and can now offer the highlights, as culled from those little boxes:
Recognize when it's time to move on.
If you don't come in on Saturday, don't bother coming in on Sunday.
Learn to recharge your batteries or you will burn out.
Stand by your dreams. Don't sell out.
There's nothing wrong with pursuing a dream to make a profit.
Focus: If you set out to accomplish too much at once, you will fail.
If you're not failing, you're not taking enough chances.
No doesn't mean no.
But bad always means bad.