Latest posts by Jay Lehr (see all)
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As a writer with 30 books in print, I am jealous that I do not think I could ever write a book as wonderful as Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld’s Above All Else. Of course no one else could write it as it is primarily an autobiography of one of the most extraordinary men I have had the honor to know in my life. But I also do not possess the skill to so artfully tell a story — that were it not true would be unbelievable and tell it with elegance, beauty, poise and clarity. Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld tells his story with the smoothness and flow of a mountain stream.
No one alive could read this book and come to the finish as the same person. It is a book about determination, courage and intensity that all will appreciate, and benefit from. In the end, Part Two is a brief well thought out self help book that can equate to any profession, though this book is about skydiving. But you could ignore self-help if you wish and just read this amazing story.
For reasons Dan explains, he was captivated by flight since childhood. But when he first jumped from a plane with a parachute at the age of 18, he had found a life’s work and challenge to become the best competitive skydiver in the world. It is a hobby and profession that pays no tangible benefits other than being the best in the world at a sport few mortals ever experience.
In a desire to be transparent, I am a skydiver and met Dan in Ohio soon after his first jump. I watched his riveting determination to be the best develop over the years until he moved to California, where he felt his chances to improve were greater. I followed his career for years as he climbed the ladder of excellence — until it all ended, I thought, in a plane crash that killed 17 of 22 skydivers aboard, including one of his and my best friends, the amazing James Layne. That left Dan, body broken, in a coma for six weeks and in hospitals for many months more. No one but Dan ever considered that he may one day jump again.
Dan opens his story with a dream sequence before he even knew he was in a coma, then goes back in time to his childhood and youth — day by day, month by month, year by year — which led to his hospital room. I judge many a book by how I would have edited it, nearly always cutting away pages of extraneous descriptions and unnecessary accounts. I found no single sentence to delete in this story as it flows form Dan’s voice to his pen.
The book is written chronologically in very brief chapters — simple nuggets easy to read and retain your head. The profiles of the many people who influenced his life are vivid, and the constant love of all of his close knit family never played second fiddle to his dreams. His girlfriend (and then wife) Kristi — willing to live in a trailer in the desert while he chased his dreams — played an unusual role of tough love as he crossed over from total dependance to partial independence as his broken body began to heal. Eventually, even his 9-month-old daughter, Chloe Layne, made an impact on the eve of his ultimate achievement. These folks are pictured poetically in a colorful section where you can meet them all.
I can treat you to a synopsis of the book simply by listing some of its 40 initial chapters: Waking Up, Following Your Dreams, Growing Up, Defining Spirituality, The College Years, Going into Business, Wanting to be The Best, Finding Work,Discovering Arizona, California Dreaming, Skydivng Plane Crashes in Perris, Losing My Halo, Moving On, Till Death Do Us Part, The Ultimate Power of The Human Spirit.
In the final 90 pages of this 326-page book, Dan packages the lessons learned in his life into ideas and rules that can translate into anyone’s life or anyone’s business or profession. Dan’s is a story that resonates with all who care to go beyond mediocrity. The world is full of self-help folks whose achievements do not warrant their license to give advice. Few on this planet have earned the right to do so more than Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld.
Book: Above All Else
Author: Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing