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Book Review: "The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die" by John Izzo

by Ruby Bayan - 04/15/08

John Izzo said that he wrote “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die” because of his lifelong search to discover what it means to live a full and meaningful life. His search, and research for this book, involved interviewing more than 200 people, 59 to 105 years old (he called it “the wise elder project”). Izzo gathered all the wisdom the interviewees shared and segregated them into the five secrets everyone must discover in order to live a meaningful life.

Quoting words from the wise elders, telling stories from his own experiences and those of others, and bringing everything into a concise yet all-encompassing perspective, Izzo gives us the five most important ways to give our lives focus and purpose. Izzo wraps up each chapter with “questions to think about to help us live the secret.” Towards the end of the book, he inspires us to interview our own wise elders.

The five secrets Izzo listed are not new. They’re not really “secrets” in the sense that you’ve never heard them before. Izzo stressed that. What makes his book a must read is the way these secrets are presented to deliver the strongest impact. You see the posters, read the greeting cards, and hear the inspirational speakers. But you’ll never really appreciate the essence of these “secrets to life” until you come into the circle of stories and insights that Izzo brought back from his interviews.

“The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die” also delves into what many of us are scared to even think about: death. Izzo emphasizes that in the same manner that it’s never too early to discover the secrets to life (and never too late to live them), it’s never too early to anticipate your last days on earth. Based on the insights he gathered, people who live the secrets are happy and content. And “happy people are not afraid to die,” which means if we live the five secrets, death becomes an integral component of being alive.

Izzo adds impact to the book by sharing his own circumstances on how writing the book changed him. At one point, he wrote, “Most of all, these interviews reminded me of some things that I already knew but that can be forgotten in the distracted busy-ness of a modern life. They reminded me to stop and really enjoy life, to be a more loving person, to make sure I leave no regrets, to be true to my self, and to know that it is in giving that I become part of something larger than I am.”

If there’s one book that could make a profound effect on our perspective of how life should be lived, this is it.

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