Gene Lyons
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt

Current Status
In Season
Harvey Mackay
Nonfiction, Self-Help and Psychology

We gave it a B

Were it a book reviewer’s job to offer to authors pithy tips such as those Harvey Mackay dishes out to would-be corporate execs and budding entrepreneurs, my first would be: If you must use sports metaphors to illuminate ”the game of life,” don’t publish until the scores come in. Under the heading of ”Chalk Talk 101,” Mackay begins Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt by citing the example of his pal LoHoltz exhorting his 1988 Notre Dame football team to whip Miami for the national championship. They did, 31-30. What a motivator! Same stakes, same motivator in 1989. The score? Miami 27, Notre Dame 10. In football as in commerce, many are called but few are chosen.

But then what do reviewers know? Mackay’s previous book, Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, perched atop best-seller lists for almost a year. What’s more, Mackay’s new book offers many pleasant surprises, even for a skeptic of the self-help genre. Beyond the obligatory rah-rah of the opening chapters — the ”I know it can happen because I’ve seen it happen. And you can make it happen” stuff — Mackay is both honest and practical. American business during the ’80s, he shows, answered the competition by cutting salaries, benefits, and superfluous white-collar employees. His advice for avoiding the axe strikes me as shrewd, realistic, and often quite funny.

Equally pungent are Mackay’s suggestions for hiring outside consultants: Why can’t you bring an expert to New York? ”Because that’s where they all come from. No one in New York ever believes anyone outside New York knows more than he does about anything.”

Oddly enough, for an author whose repeated advice amounts to ”take nothing for granted, anticipate and organize,” Mackay’s book is largely anecdotal and digressive, and it lacks an index. So the canny reader will take careful notes. B

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