When Tony Schwartz finished writing The Art of the Deal with Donald Trump in 1987, he wondered why his life felt suddenly empty. His career was in high gear. He was financially secure, happily married and in good health. Yet something was missing. Who am I, he wondered, and why am I here? His search for the answers—detailed in What Really Matters—is an absorbing update on the timeless quest for enlightenment.
Schwartz, 42, focused on men and women whose ideas and practices convinced him that a "more meaningful life is within reach." He met Baba Ram Dass, the ex-Harvard professor who abandoned drug experiments in the 1960s to study yoga in India. He modified his alpha and theta brain waves at the Menninger Clinic in order to improve his concentration. He played tennis in Florida with Jim Loehr, sports psychologist, who taught him the value of relaxation between points. He developed the visual side of his brain with drawing instructor Betty Edwards. He cured his back pain by unleashing repressed anger and studied levels of consciousness unfamiliar to most people.
If the self-improvement field is ripe for ridicule, What Really Matters is far from laughable. The programs and philosophies that Schwartz has investigated are all the more credible and fascinating for the people behind them. The journey, however, is not without its pitfalls. At times Schwartz becomes dangerously self-absorbed, at one point analyzing a series of dreams about his grandparents with painstaking thoroughness, and his less-than-profound conclusion—"the point is to be real"—will disappoint anyone looking for a definitive answer. (Schwartz continues his own search today through psychotherapy.) But if the adage is true—that the journey is more important than the destination—then What Really Matters is a first step worth taking. (Bantam, $23.95)