Kirkus Reviews

This review will be published in Kirkus Reviews on December 1, 2015. A Stanford neurosurgeon and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education relates how to achieve lofty life goals by harnessing the power of both the brain and the heart. When Doty was an adolescent, he had a chance encounter at a magic shop with a benevolent older woman named Ruth, who over the next few weeks instructed him on a series of empowering mind-body exercises that would dramatically alter the direction of his life. Having grown up in impoverished circumstances in Lancaster, California, with an alcoholic father and depressed, suicidal mother, he would go on to achieve phenomenal success and wealth as a surgeon and entrepreneur.

However, two episodes threatened to disrupt his future: a near-death experience from a car crash while still in medical residency and, later, a misguided business decision that led him to the brink of bankruptcy. By recalling Ruth's guided exercises—most crucially, her instruction of first opening his heart—Doty was able to regain momentum in his career and eventually realize a more richly profound destiny. In this well-meaning hybrid of inspirational self-help book and memoir, the author applies scientific investigation to the example of his life story, proving that you can overcome adversity and achieve meaningful success and enlightenment by embracing compassion along with focused willpower.

"When our brains and our hearts are working in collaboration—we are happier, we are healthier, and we automatically express love, kindness, and care for one another," he writes. "I knew this intuitively, but I needed to validate it scientifically. This was the motivation to begin researching compassion and altruism. I wanted to understand the evolution of not only why we evolved such behavior but also how it affects the brain and ultimately our health." An optimistic and engagingly well-told life story that incorporates scientific investigation into its altruistic message.