People aren’t inspirational simply because they exist in a way that makes other people uncomfortable. Instead, Zach Anner’s story will motivate you because of his positivity, smart and sarcastic sense of humor, endless pursuit of adventure and continuous personal growth in a way that no neurological injury ever could.
Comedian Zach Anner opens his frank and devilishly funny book, If at Birth You Don’t Succeed, with an admission: he botched his own birth. Two months early, underweight and under-prepared for life, he entered the world with cerebral palsy and an uncertain future. So how did this hairless mole-rat of a boy blossom into a viral internet sensation who’s hosted two travel shows, impressed Oprah, driven the Mars Rover, and inspired a John Mayer song? (It wasn’t Your Body is a Wonderland.)
Zach lives by the mantra: when life gives you wheelchair, make lemonade. Whether recounting a valiant childhood attempt to woo Cindy Crawford, encounters with zealous faith healers, or the time he crapped his pants mere feet from Dr. Phil, Zach shares his fumbles with unflinching honesty and characteristic charm. By his thirtieth birthday, Zach had grown into an adult with a career in entertainment, millions of fans, a loving family, and friends who would literally carry him up mountains.
If at Birth You Don’t Succeed is a hilariously irreverent and heartfelt memoir about finding your passion and your path even when it’s paved with epic misadventure. This is the unlikely but not unlucky story of a man who couldn’t safely open a bag of Skittles, but still became a fitness guru with fans around the world. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll fall in love with the Olive Garden all over again, and learn why cerebral palsy is, definitively, “the sexiest of the palsies.” from Goodreads.
I’ve been a fan of Zach’s comedy for years but my favorite of his videos is his adventure through New York to try and buy a rainbow bagel. You can see the video here and, honestly, I’ve probably seen it fifty times. It is hilarious. Obviously, it is not humorous that one of America’s largest and “most accessible” cities provides this level of frustration in buying a bagel. But, with Zach’s smart, true, sarcastic and observational comments, each set of stairs and inaccessible elevator provides an opportunity to figure out a solution to an issue even if the only option is to laugh.
So why did I wait so long to read this book then, hmmm? Honestly, it was the blurb from Lena Dunham on the front that made me pause time and again. It reads, “Zach Anner is way more than an inspirational figure….he’s also a great f**king writer.” I never saw Girls but what I have seen of Lena Dunham hasn’t impressed me much. Still, it was the word “inspirational” that had me putting the book back on the shelf every time. I just plain old hate that word when applied to people because, typically, what people mean by inspiring is something like, “their life is terrible because they have a disability / illness / hardship and I couldn’t imagine living like that,” and quite simply, that’s rude.
***Side note: I’m also bothered by the word “brave” when applied to normal, everyday things done by people just because someone things this is a-typical. For example, a forty year old woman taking music lessons isn’t brave. Cool? Yes. Brave? Nope.***
I did finally pull the book off my shelf because I had to believe, based on his comedy alone, that Zach wouldn’t just fill these pages with junk. And he didn’t let me down. In the end, I couldn’t help but admit that Zach Anner’s energy is pretty inspirational. He isn’t so simply because he happens to be a person with cerebral palsy. Instead, it is his ability, which might be natural but definitely requires effort to maintain, of being positive and adventurous. I found the stories of his childhood valuable (and hilarious) because Zach is introspective and constantly seeking to grow as a person. Also, I’ll admit it, I found his wanton disregard for what is “cool” to be the very essence of coolness. And I am seriously re-thinking my disdain for the Olive Garden.
This book, like many memoirs, falls a little short of perfection in the usual ways. The stories and vignettes are a little formulaic but lack a sense of cohesion. Furthermore, I would like to cut and paste all the repetitious mentions and put them into their own chapters. I would have enjoyed the story more if it followed a timeline but, instead, it bounced around with mentions of childhood, teenage angst, and adulthood all mingled into chapters and brought up again if needed. This storytelling works beautifully in live comedy but is more difficult to follow and enjoy in written form.
None of these small imperfections detracted from the story enough to keep me from laughing out loud again and again. His approach to life, his sense of humor, his work ethic, his dedication to his family and friends all made for a wonderful book. Also, did I mention that it is funny? In one section of the book I laughed so hard I choked on my coffee. Inspiration junk aside, couldn’t we all use a little coffee-choking-laughter right now?
Tell me, please!
What innocuous word bothers you?