Trina L. Martin’s self-help treatise FROM A MESS TO AMAZING is equal parts reflection and guide, taking readers not only into a personal backstory of the journey in the title, but also down a road of tips formulated to help them get their figurative acts together. Martin’s message is straightforward: she made it happen against mighty odds and obstacles, and she’s here to show you how you can do it, too.
In her quick, conversational style, Martin wastes no time in building comparisons between her own experiences and the seemingly-simple life improvement steps she recommends. She begins on a highly personal note, detailing the abusive, scapegoating home life that led her to want to seek better things for herself and, at the same time, stunted her emotional growth in ways she had to overcome with great intentionality. As the book goes from the personal to the prescriptive, in back-and-forth movements, there is a clear trajectory: in order to move forward, you first have to know where you are, and take specific kinds of actions to get to where you want to be. Indeed, FROM A MESS TO AMAZING is broken into steps rather than chapters, which gets this point across effectively.
Martin’s story is definitely linked to the coaching services she offers, and she writes the way a coach talks. She is to-the-point, tending toward such pithy, positive statements as: “I want to tell you that you can have the life you deserve. All you have to do is create it”; and, “Stop sitting on the passenger side and letting the car drive you through life. Stop making excuses!” Martin’s Navy pedigree, MBA background, and lifelong yearning for self-sufficiency, all of which she explores in FROM A MESS TO AMAZING, seem to clearly inform this strategy and voice.
While her approach does its job to directly address readers and break the self-actualization journey into manageable bites, in many places it also keeps Martin’s advice from going deep, when doing so could likely help readers. It is not unlike the difference between telling someone with depression to change her thoughts, versus showing her intricately how she can start to do so. Martin’s allusions to her own journey attempt to do this, but ultimately both parts of the book – self-told story and self-help – tend to scratch the surface. For example, she writes, “the first thing you need to do” in changing your mindset “is develop the courage to change.” She explores the effects of being courageous, but the potential intensity that would come from digging into the experience of being courageous is swapped out for brevity. It would be satisfying to see more about what courage feels like, or what it looks like to act in the face of fear. Martin does get more detailed in the very strong section on goal-setting (Step 3) – an area, perhaps, more attuned to her work as a coach.
In light of that, FROM A MESS TO AMAZING works as a quick take that invites readers to do inner work on their own, and to perhaps enlist professional help, which Martin, to her credit, encourages several times. All told, Martin has seen so much of life that I’d consider FROM A MESS TO AMAZING a worthy venture for anyone new to the waters of self-help literature, and looking for a safe and straightforward entry point. But readers should be aware that making the changes discussed here may require a deeper dive.
Trina L. Martin’s FROM A MESS TO AMAZING is a self-help book with hints of memoir woven throughout. It is a bite-sized overview of what it takes to change your life – touching upon heavy topics but ultimately leaving the deeper work for off the page.
~Jennifer Weatherly for IndieReader