Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things

Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things

by Lee Kravitz


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After losing his job, Lee Kravitz—a man who had always worked too hard and too much—took stock of his life and decided to spend an entire year making amends and reconnecting with the people and parts of himself he had neglected. Kravitz embarks on ten journeys, traveling everywhere from a refugee camp in Kenya to a monastery in California, and learning along the way that the things we let slip are exactly those that have the power to transform, enrich, enlarge, and complete us. Unfinished Business has prompted multiple speaking engagements, a blog on the Psychology Today Web site, and a groundswell of interest from readers sharing their own stories—the best of which are included in this paperback edition as further inspiration.

Visit www.myunfinishedbusiness.com for reading guides and much more.

Lee Kravitz grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended Yale and Columbia universities. An award-winning journalist, he most recently was editor in chief of Parade magazine. He lives in New York City and Clinton Corners, New York,with his wife and three children.

Praise for Unfinished Business:

"Kravitz writes with an inspiring sincerity. His experiences are so familiar that it would be hard for readers not to reflect on their own unfinished business—and want to tend to it."—Washington Post

"Kravitz used losing his job as a springboard to the human things he should have done. In so doing, he turned bad into bountiful. A great lesson for us all."—Mitch Albom, author of Have a Little Faith

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781596916753
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 05/11/2010
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.84(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.89(d)

About the Author

Lee Kravitz grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended Yale and Columbia universities. An award-winning journalist, he most recently was editor in chief of Parade magazine. He lives in New York City and Clinton Corners, New York,with his wife and three children.

Read an Excerpt


By Lee Kravitz


Copyright © 2010 Lee Kravitz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59691-675-3


Compiling the List Ten Things That Truly Matter

FOR OVER a year, things had been going downhill at work. A growing rift had opened up between me and my boss. It was hard to pinpoint what had gone wrong, but the affection and trust we once shared had steadily diminished. Unless things changed, either he would fire me or I would need to quit.

It was a tough admission to make, because I loved my job and I had assumed that I would be working there the rest of my life.

As the months wore on, my boss shunned me and I felt increasingly marginalized. I made attempts to change our dynamic, but nothing seemed to work. I kept my game face on around my colleagues and got done what needed to be done. At home, however, I sulked and felt sorry for myself and was irritable around the kids. On the last Sunday in September, Elizabeth and I were looking out across the lake, watching a flock of Canada geese lift from the water and set their sights south.

"I wouldn't mind joining them," I said.

"You'd take your computer along and spend the whole flight working," she said.

"I wouldn't," I said. "I'm dreading going to work tomorrow."

"I know," she said, putting her hand over mine. "Maybe it's time to leave."

I felt ready to move on, something I had never seen myself doing before.

* * *

THE NEXT MORNING, when I arrived at the office, an executive of the company told me that I no longer had a job. Because the conversation lasted less than a minute and took place in a hallway, I thought he was joking. But it wasn't a joke; I had been fired.

I called Elizabeth. In the few minutes it took for her to call me back, I went through a gamut of emotions: I was numb, then angry. I felt manipulated and betrayed. I had been tried, sentenced, and banished from the kingdom without a trial. Part of me expected my boss's boss to overturn the decision-a fantasy, of course. But mostly I felt humiliated. My father had lost his job when I was a teenager and nothing good ever came of it. No one in our family got any closer, wiser, or more giving as a result of his being unemployed. Instead, the loss of his job ushered in years of worry and fear. Now I was the one who had failed my family. How could I explain to my three young children that their father who worked all the time didn't work anymore? How could I protect them from everything that had confused and scared me when my own dad lost his job?

By the time Elizabeth reached me, I was too exhausted to talk. "I know how bad you're feeling," she said. "But in a few days you'll realize that this is the best thing that could have happened to you." I hoped she was right.

AT FIRST I tried to make up for lost time. I took the kids to school, saw all of their ball games, and helped them with their homework. I made plans to work out, lose weight, and lower my blood pressure. It was fun to go to museums with Elizabeth again; we hadn't done that in years.

Within weeks, though, I began feeling nervous and self-conscious about not working. Instead of seeing friends again, I stopped taking their phone calls. Instead of playing with the kids, I took naps. Instead of going on dates with Elizabeth, I stayed home to watch episodes of Law & Order I had already seen.

I'd stay in bed until ten or eleven in the morning, thinking about the moment I was fired and the people who had been responsible for firing me. I'd make a pot of coffee and drink cup after cup, until I was so wired that I couldn't stay focused on reading the paper or watching the news. Not having work preoccupied me as much as work had, and I thought about it constantly: when I took out the garbage, waved to a neighbor, or walked Pip, our dog. Because I had never anticipated being in this position, I had given no thought to what I might do next in my life. The realization unnerved me, to the point that I avoided the possibility of any conversation that might lead to another person asking me about my plans.

ELIZABETH SUGGESTED THAT I spend a few days at Kripalu, a yoga retreat in the Berkshires. She said that I might be able to relax there and gather my thoughts. When I shrugged her off, she handed me the phone.

On a rainy afternoon in late October, I set off from our home in Upstate New York and drove north on the Taconic and east on Interstate 90 into western Massachusetts. Most of the leaves had changed color and fallen by then, and I strained through the rain and my windshield wipers to make out Exit 2, which would take me to Routes 7 and 20 and the winding road to the town of Lenox. Somehow I got there and a little beyond-to the huge building that had once housed a Roman Catholic monastery.

Most of the people wandering through Kripalu's lobby were in their early to mid-fifties and looked a lot like I suppose I did-stressed out and clueless. I registered at the desk and dropped my duff el bag off at the room I was sharing with three other middle-aged men.

After a dinner of lentil soup, kale, and sweet potatoes, I had a choice of attending a movement class or a lecture on the Bhagavad Gita. Along with a dozen or so other people, I decided to spend my evening moving free-form to the rhythms of two drummers from the Ca rib be an.

At first I felt silly, fl ailing my arms back and forth like the Hindu goddess Durga. I felt even sillier when a man with a graying ponytail pulled me into a circle of other mainly middle-aged men and women. But gradually I started to relax and enjoy myself, moving faster and faster over the hardwood floor in my bare feet. When our circle broke in two, we slithered around the room like a giant undulating snake. As the drumming reached its climax, we shed each other one by one and collapsed into a pile of sweat-soaked gigglers.

Proud of the progress I was making toward becoming the chilled-out father my kids wanted me to be, I retired to my dorm room and fell fast asleep.

The next morning I went to a six a.m. yoga class and had a breakfast of rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, and green tea. When I returned to the dorm room to shower, there was a note on my bed summoning me to the front office. An attractive young woman confided to me that two of my dorm mates had complained about my snoring, Kripalu's cardinal sin. She directed me to the snorers-only floor, Kripalu's Siberia.

The rejection by my dorm mates felt as piercing and punitive as losing my job. Less than a month earlier, I had been an important man, with an office and a secretary. Now I was just another snorer.

I WASN'T YOUR typical garden-variety, nine-to-five, you-can-invite-him-over-for-a-drink snorer. I was a workaholic snorer. And it had taken a huge toll on my family.

For years Elizabeth had been telling me, "You're never there for me." And I wasn't. Even when I was home, I was thinking about work. Did I appreciate the fact that Elizabeth did 80 percent of the child rearing and even more of the chores? Of course not. I had too much work to do. Did I make even the smallest effort to lessen her load? Sometimes, but mainly because I wanted to get ahead of the curve so she would let me work in peace.

The worst part of being so focused on my work was the relationship it kept me from having with my children. Benjamin said he was afraid to approach me, and his twin sister, Caroline, told the babysitter, "Daddy never smiles." They were almost eleven and beginning to pull away. Noah, who was nearing eight, still liked to crawl into bed with Elizabeth and me and cuddle. But to enjoy his affection, I needed to be in our bed and not in my study, working on my computer.

Easier said than done.

Being a workaholic was in my genes. My father was a workaholic, and so were my grandfather and great-grandfather, a Lithuanian peasant who got up at three a.m. to plow his fields.

In a world that valued hard work, no one worked harder than a Kravitz. Of course most of the Kravitz men died of heart attacks in their early sixties, and most of them had only a handful of friends, but you could never accuse a Kravitz of slacking off: We lived to work and worked until it killed us.

And society fed our disease. In my twenty years in corporate America, I was seldom told to work less, and when I was, the boss saying it didn't mean it, unless he was under strict orders from his own boss to cut overtime. You did not get promoted for being a good husband, father, or friend, or for volunteering for the local school board, or for taking time off , even when you had earned it. You got ahead by being perceived as an employee who worked day and night and put your job first. You didn't get a raise by attending your child's teacher conferences or by leaving your BlackBerry off . You got it by beating your boss to the office each morning and working through lunch. By working weekends and holidays and on vacations. And by always being in touch.

All of these thoughts came to me during my week at Kripalu. I didn't reach nirvana there, but I did gain perspective on what my dedication to work had cost me, and it made me less eager to find another job. Not that I could have found one: I was a fifty-four-year-old magazine editor in an industry that was hemorrhaging jobs and going through a period of fundamental change. With Elizabeth's income and my severance pay, we could get by for maybe a year. I could spend that year learning new skills with which to reenter the job market. Or I could spend it making myself a happier and more appreciative person, with richer friendships and a far better sense of who I was and what genuinely mattered to me. That's what I really wanted to do, but how and where would I begin?

THE ANSWER CAME by accident in the form of ten cardboard boxes that had been sent to our country house from my old workplace. The boxes had spent the last thirteen years in a closet there, and they contained everything I had saved from the previous four de cades of my life.

Why had I kept the boxes at work? Because there was no room for them in our tiny Manhattan apartment. Why hadn't I moved them to our country house before? Because I was always working and didn't have time to think about them or the distracting memories they might contain.

But now I did. I gave myself a week in the country to sort through the boxes and organize the accumulated stuff of my life. Elizabeth and the kids were in the city, so I had the run of the house and room to spread things out. It would be one of those big, messy projects that I both loved and hated to do. I would need to make piles of what to keep in the country, what to keep in the city, and what to throw away. I would need to make decisions I dreaded and create a lot more chaos before I saw even a semblance of order.

It would be a considerable undertaking but not without its own pleasures. So I poured myself a glass of wine and raised it in a toast to the project ahead. Because I wanted anything I did to help me become a better father to my kids, I queued up one of my son Noah's favorite songs, the Beatles' "Eight Days a Week." Then I went to work.

After opening the first few boxes, I realized how impatient I must have been when I packed them: Files of notes and essays from college shared the same box as a giant map of Central America and my bronzed baby shoes. My letter jacket from high school covered memorabilia I had collected at the 1992 Republican and Democratic Conventions.

One box contained my report cards since kindergarten, carefully stapled by my mother into two piles, the good and the bad. There was a list of friends and later girlfriends at ages seven, eleven, nineteen, and twenty-six, and eulogies I had written for family pets, my maternal grandmother, and a friend who died of cancer.

In another box there were more than a thousand letters from my father, one per week since college, featuring his distinctive use of brackets, quotation marks, and red type for emphasis. My roommates and I had spent hours trying to decode my father's letters for secret messages. We never found any. But we did find plenty of Knute Rockne-type advice and coaching. My father's letters baffled but also compelled me, so I kept them all. There was a collection of my old baseball caps in the box, along with an Indonesian shadow puppet I had purchased in Bali.

The boxes were full of strange and wonderful juxtapositions, but what struck me most was how the different objects reflected parts of myself I had suppressed or forgotten. The machete I used when I harvested bananas on a kibbutz in Israel reminded me of the thirst I once had for adventure. A barely decipherable dream journal brought back a year when I was so poor and scared for my future that I couldn't sleep at night but got by with a little help from my friends.

There was a box containing the notebooks and memorabilia that my grandfather gave me two weeks before he died. He spent the last two de cades of his life creating businesses that gave jobs and dignity to the survivors of the Holocaust. He was my biggest hero at a time when I still believed in them.

That same box contained a copy of my high school yearbook. Flipping through it, I experienced dozens of where-is-he-now, why-didn't-I-keep-up-with-him feelings of curiosity and regret. I noticed, for example, that the photo of my childhood bully was directly across from mine, reinforcing my sense that he had been born to torment me. There was also a photo of my favorite teacher, a young Episcopal priest who inspired me to think and write and believe in my obligation to do good in the world. I had fallen out of touch with him, just as I had with my soul mate in high school, a boy who had opened my eyes to the possibility of experiencing God and who later became a monk.

Life goes fast. Click. You are fifteen. Click, click. You are fifty-five. Click, click. You are gone. And so are the people who loved and nurtured you.

In one box there was a doctor's report confirming that my mother's mother, my beloved Nana Bertie, could no longer live on her own. When I was six, she taught me how to play Fish. When I was eight, she accused me of cheating. When I was twelve, fifteen, seventeen, and twenty-one, she came to my graduations and told everyone how proud she was of me, even though I cheated at Fish.

I found a photo of one of the few times in twenty-five years that my brothers and I gathered in the same place at the same time with our wives and children. One of those times was at my wedding, when Elizabeth was six months pregnant with our twins. Why didn't we get together more often? Busy working, the family disease.

How quickly it all goes: There were photos of me with and without a beard and in various stages of baldness over thirty years, a jar that contained the ashes of our poodle Buster, a letter from a friend in London who had been waiting for me to travel to Paris with him to visit the grave of Jim Morrison of the Doors, photos of Joyce and me at my high school prom. She was my first love and we were still friends fifteen years later when she was killed in an automobile accident as she was driving home from her wedding shower. She was buried two days later, on the same afternoon that she was supposed to get married. Joyce and I had always said that we'd be friends until we were eighty. That dreary September day she died was one of the saddest of my life.


Excerpted from UNFINISHED BUSINESS by Lee Kravitz Copyright © 2010 by Lee Kravitz. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


PROLOGUE Compiling the List Ten Things That Truly Matter....................1
CHAPTER ONE Searching for Sorrow's Daughter Finding a Long-Lost Relative....................17
CHAPTER TWO I'm So Sorry for Your Loss Making a Condolence Call....................40
CHAPTER THREE The Check Is in the Mail Repaying a Long-Overdue Debt....................63
CHAPTER FOUR I've Been Thinking of You Since the Planes Struck Reaching Out to a Distant Friend....................83
CHAPTER FIVE Forgive Me the Harm I Wished on You Letting Go of a Grudge....................104
CHAPTER SIX Thank You, Mr. Jarvis Seeking Spiritual Guidance from a Mentor....................114
CHAPTER SEVEN On the Road to Mount Athos Taking the Road Not Taken....................140
CHAPTER EIGHT The Day Eliot Ness Set My Grandfather Straight-Or Did He? Healing a Family's Wounds....................169
CHAPTER NINE I Remember Nana Eulogizing a Loved One....................188
CHAPTER TEN The Circle Grows Wider Keeping a Promise....................194
EPILOGUE Moving Ahead The Journey of a Lifetime....................203

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Unfinished Business: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
anovelreviewer More than 1 year ago
<p>When Lee Kravitz became suddenly unemployed at age 56, one thing he had going for him was a strong support system in the person of his wife, Elizabeth. After collecting his thoughts and including her in his decision-making, he planned to take the next 12 months to fulfill intentions he had allowed to be crowded out during his years of being a workaholic. Adversity is overcome only by levelheadedness&mdash;a trait that easily escapes us when the proverbial rug has been pulled from under us. I know&mdash;from experience. That's why <strike>I wanted</strike> I needed to read <em>... unfinished business ...: One Man's Extraordinary Year of Trying to Do the Right Things</em>. </p> <p>By the end of the second chapter, I began to see a pattern emerging. During or after the resolution of each item on his list, Kravitz became a recipient of residual benefits in one form or another. These were unexpected outcomes due to sincere efforts on his part that brought closure to others' lives as well. In Chapter One, <em>Searching for Sorrow's Daughter</em>, he located his Aunt Fern living in a nursing home; and learned she had not had a visitor in over 14 years. Even though she had the presence of mind to bring sunshine into the lives of the staff and fellow residents of Aurora Manor, she never realized she was only 30 minutes away from her childhood home&mdash;until her nephew, "Lee Richard," began to visit and told her so. </p> <p>I've come across reviews where this book was recommended for a specific segment of the population. The only qualifiers I would suggest regarding this book would be an open mind and a willingness to seek the best in any circumstance. That's what Lee Kravitz brought; and he came away with so much more. </p> <p>I received a complimentary hardcover edition of <em>...unfinished business...</em> directly from the publisher. This has in no way influenced my review of the book. I have neither been offered nor received monetary compensation from the author, publisher, or other literary agents. I thank Bloomsbury USA for allowing me the opportunity to write an impartial review. A similar version of this review will has been posted on <a href="librarything.com" target="blank">LibraryThing</a>. </p>
jlafleur on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book inspiring and thought provoking. The stories of his attempts to repair some long standing family feuds were particularly moving. Well done and definitely recommended. My only reservation is the realization that most of us can't afford to take a year off to do such soul searching. Perhaps if one writes a bestseller like "Eat, Pray, Love" (which I found very, very saccharine by comparison, BTW) one can afford the time off for this.
staffoa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great lesson for us all to take to heart. Lee Kravitz was lucky to have the time and resources to handle all of his unfinished business in his life. Most importantly, he was able to realize and accept all he needed to go back and handle. Most importantly, I hope (though it was not really touched on) that he learned to put his immediate family first. He was running all over the country taking care of his business, now that he FINALLY had time, yet it appears his wife and children continued to be left out--waiting at home for him. It would be interesting to know if Lee returned to work still able to balance his family life and his work life, and whether he still maintains his friendships, etc. I would hope Lee's journey was not for nought.
2chances on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh, such mixed feelings. I think I will let some of my multiple personalities submit their thoughts.Trustful Me is delighted with the premise of Lee Kravitz's book: after he is summarily fired from his prestigious publishing job, Kravitz examines his life - a life that has been all work and no attention to family and friends - and decides it is time to address the many areas of his life that he has let slide. He visits the schizophrenic aunt whom he has ignored for 15 years; he finally writes a condolence letter to a friend whose daughter has been killed; he pays a 30-year-old debt. And to his joy and wonder, each time he does the right thing, marvelous results occur! How nice! cries Trustful Me. How good! Doing the right thing brings happy sunshine to all!Skeptical Me is rolling her eyes. Wait a second, she says. Lee Kravitz had this wonderful loving aunt who was institutionalized when he was in his mid-thirties, and he NEVER ONCE sent her a card? Called her on the phone? Even knew which hospital she was in?? And now he goes to visit, and she welcomes him with joy and no recriminations, and he gives her a birthday party and he is somehow a big hero? Uh-uh. Can't give him a pass on this one.(I think Skeptical might have persuaded me.) I couldn't get past the feeling that Kravitz spent a lifetime doing the selfish thing, and doing the "right thing," in the end, cost him nothing. The $600 debt he owed as a twenty-something to another twenty-something? In terms of financial sacrifice, at age 50, it is meaningless. In every chapter, doing the "right thing", at long last, makes Kravitz a hero. But what he never examines or thinks about is that truly doing the right thing - paying the debt on time, visiting his aunt once a week for 15 years, sending condolence notes on time - would have been unremarked by anyone, and certainly not worth writing a book about. In fact, they would have been the same tedious, slogging jobs that most of us do every day of the week.That said, the book is smoothly written and the stories are interesting. It's a pity that I was left, in the end, with the feeling that Lee Kravitz had actually learned very little from his year of completing Unfinished Business.
3wheeledlibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. Lee Kravitz has an eye for characters, and he is at his best when describing some of the most influential people in his life, most of which he feels he has neglected in a high powered career. When he loses his job, he takes a year off ... taking a page from recovering addicts ... and attempts to reforge some of the human connections that he has lost over time. i don't know if I buy his premise that we all have unfinished business, but this book is sure to give an extra boost to those who do. In closing, I will acknowledge that I wish I knew the end of the story. Was he able to find new work when his year off was over? In some ways the author is a poster boy for all the boomers (complete with adolescent drug experiments) who are now being laid off,struggling to compete. Many have discovered over time that they were barking up the wrong tree. Our true value as human beings is in our relationships with each other, not in the bottom line.
acornell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A few years ago I did an early review on a memoir very similar to this one. Do-over by Robyn Hemley was the author's take on 10 separate incidents in his life that he did poorly, and in the memoir he did his best to recreate the scene and do it all over. I found the narrative to be entertaining because it was a childhood memoir combined with a stunt memoir. It worked on both levels for me.Unfinished Business follows a year in the life of Lee Kravitz, a work-a-holic editor who finds himself without a job. While he is trying to get his life together, he makes a list of 10 things that he should have done that he never did and sets about to right a bunch of (mostly social) wrongs from his past. The book started off with a bang. The voice held my interest, the story seemed enough different from Do over, and I began reading quickly. Now that I am finally finished after two weeks, my honest reaction is that it was a very good effort, but it felt like it would have better filled 10 short essays for Sojourners magazine rather than one long memoir. Mr. Kravitz would introduce the piece of unfinished business, describe how he finished it, and then was philosophically about it for 20 pages. In a nutshell, taking care of all his unfinished business: writing a condolence card, eulogizing his grandmother, paying an old debt, finding a long lost friend, changed him for the better. The two chapters I found most interesting were the first, where he sets out to find a favorite and long lost aunt who has been locked away in an institution for many years and the second to last where he uses his reporters research skills to corroborate a family story that involved Eliot Ness and bootleggers in his hometown of Cleveland.This paperback version of the book comes complete with your own guide to unfinished business. How do you right some of the wrongs that you committed when you were young? Seems cheaper than therapy.
psychomamma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another free book from the Library Thing's great Early Reviewers program! Lee Kravitz was a raging workaholic, right up until he got laid off without warning at 54. Sinking in a depression, he decided to spend a year going back over his life and finishing some unfinished business, instead of going right back into the workforce. I expected this book to be pithy, lacking in substance. But it's really remarkably thought-provoking. There's even a guide at the end to help you review your own life and to spur you into your own crusade to resolve unfinished business. Very good!
realbigcat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Let me start by saying I really enjoyed this book and read it fairly quickly. Lee Kravitz lost his job and has decided to make amens and write some wrongs, settle some debts and reconnect with lost friends and relatives. It's what he call "unfinished business." The premise of this book is a great idea and one that everyone would benefit from following. Lee as a workoholic has just put things off his whole life. Each chapter of the book is devoted to one area of his unfinished business. Now my only complaints are how this would apply to the ordinary person. First, If I lost my job the first and only thing I would do is put all my efforts into finding a new job. Apparently Lee could afford to just take a year off from working. He must be rich but it's not implyed in the book. Second, he states how he realizes his workaholic nature has impacted his wife and children yet all he does is hop flights everywhere and is gone visiting everyone. Just another thing an ordinary person without a job wouldn't be able to do. Third, he writes out a check for $600 to settler a 30yr old debt. Who is going to do that when they just lost their job. Overall, this is a very good book and I would highly recommend reading it. It just seems a little embelished to me. However, everyone can take a lesson and make amens on whatever scale you can.
Jenners26 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Book OverviewLee Kravitz was a self-described workaholic, who freely admits that he let his job dominate his life at the expense of his family. So when he loses his job as a magazine editor at the age of 54, it is a wake-up call to him. Stunned and shamed by the loss of the his job¿the one thing that provided his identity for so long¿Kravitz finds himself at loose ends.His wife suggests he attend a yoga retreat to help him deal with his feelings of loss and hopelessness. At the retreat, he realizes that he can take a year to take stock of himself and become the type of person he would really like to be. He ends up realizing that to move forward, he needs to take care of unfinished business from his past. He then compiles a list of ten areas in his life where he has unfinished business to take care of. These tasks include things such as: * finding a long-lost relative * making a long-overdue condolence call * reaching out to a distant friend * letting go of a grudge * healing a rift in the family.Each chapter of the book details the story behind each item of unfinished business and how Kravitz goes about tying up these loose ends in his life.My ThoughtsIt is a shame that I read this book right after The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Both are inspirational memoirs, but the comparison really ends right there. Whereas I felt uplifted, inspired and awed by hearing about William Kamkwamba's life, I was not too inspired by Mr. Kravitz's story. For one, it was difficult to empathize with him. Although I can sympathize with the feelings of loss and shame that can accompany a job loss in middle age, Kravitz was not plunged into a difficult financial situation. He had money enough to live comfortably for a year¿as well as maintain two residences (an apartment in New York City and a country house). Although he might have felt a loss of identity, he didn't want for something to eat or have to worry about providing for his family¿a situation uncommon for most people who are victims of downsizing or layoffs.Secondly, much of the unfinished business that Kravitz feels compelled to attend is a result of his own workholism and consistent choice to let his work take priority over everything else. By putting his work before people for years and years, Kravitz is really the architect of many of his own problems. He briefly talks about the impact that his long work hours had on his family and his wife Elizabeth, yet not one of the his unfinished business tasks directly involve spending more time with his family. Although some of his attempts to make peace with his past tangentially affect his relationships with his immediate family (for example, he coaches his son's baseball team as a way of reconnecting with his father and an old friend), much of his unfinished business involves taking trips to various locations to meet up with and make peace with long-lost friends and family members. Part of me kept thinking: "You admit that you ignored your family for years by putting work first and now you are traveling all over the country to visit people you haven't seen for 20 years in order to lay to rest some issues from your past?!? Seems to me like you should start with your wife and kids first." To me, it felt as if Kravitz chose to put this personal project of completing unfinished business before his wife and kids once again.I also didn't get emotionally involved with Kravitz's story. His writing¿while competent and clear¿just didn't connect emotionally with me. It felt a bit dry and distant. Perhaps his journalism background is to blame. It could also be his emotional make-up is more "masculine" than "feminine," which tends result in a more "this is what happened" approach than "this is what I felt" approach. Although Kravitz is candid and open about his own shortcomings, I didn't feel a sense of connection with him. In a memoir, I think that is essential to truly enjoying the book.I feel like I'm being very harsh on this book, and I'm n
auntangi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book as an Early Reviewer and was hoping to read a book that inspired me to get my ducks in a row¿to tackle MY unfinished business. This book did not disappoint. Mr. Kravitz certainly made me think and I did start compiling a list in my head. I especially enjoyed the chapter about how Elliot Ness might be the ticket to reuniting two brothers. I did not particularly care for Mr. Kravitz¿s writing style/voice which did not keep me reading and, at times, led me to skim. I am sure he was an excellent editor in his day, but he is not the greatest of writers. Luckily the stories, his honesty (he turns a very critical eye on himself, which could not have been easy) and journey are enthralling enough to have kept me reading, even when the writing was a bit bland. All in all, a great book if you want to start thinking about your unfinished business¿and want to figure out how to finish it.
Goodlit on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿¿unfinished business¿,¿ by Lee Kravitz, is the story of one man¿s personal redemptive journey. Kravitz was editor in chief of Parade magazine, and his writing style is straight-forward and very readable. For me, his story was both an enjoyable read and an inspiring account of one man¿s quest to reset his life priorities. For him, I have the feeling that writing the book was a cathartic exercise.After losing his job, Kravitz decided to spend a year addressing what he deems most important in his life: making amends and building and maintaining valued relationships. For fans of the TV show, ¿My Name is Earl,¿ Kravitz¿s story is a sort of real-life version of Earl¿s karmic quest to make things right with those he has wronged. Having lost my job and embarked on my own personal spiritual mission, the author¿s story resonated with me. Kravitz¿s writing motivated me to consider making restitution for my own transgressions through renewing, repairing, and rebuilding my important personal relationships, and other readers may find the same inspiration. His honesty about what worked for him and what did not, and his down-to-earth, realistic approach to these personal matters, encouraged me to believe that addressing unfinished business is both achievable and genuinely fulfilling.
momofthreewi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unfinished Business is the story of one man's attempt to take care of some things that have been nagging at him for years when he finds himself unexpectedly laid off from his job. These aren't small things, like finally cleaning the garage. Most of his unfinished business revolves around other people that he felt he had let down over the years...a beloved aunt in a nursing home who hadn't had a visitor in 14 years, a friend to whom he owed money, another friend whose daughter was killed in Iraq, etc. The book did make me think of some of my own unfinished business and how we often let daily life get in the way of doing those things that REALLY matter for whatever reason...we think it will take too long, we don't know the "right" thing to say to someone so instead we say nothing, we get busy and then it feels like it's been too long so we keep putting it off. We've all been there, right?Some of the chapters felt like they went on longer than necessary and the writing didn't always keep my interest. I enjoyed some of the stories very much, but had difficulty sticking with others. However, I imagine this book would impact each reader in a different way. The stories that touched me the most might be completely different for someone else and perhaps that's the best part about this book -- I can see there being something here for everyone. I'm not sure the individual stories in this book will stay in my mind for very long, but the overall lesson is a good one and will likely make me think the next time I need to offer someone my condolences or thank someone for their impact on my life. I hope I'll remember Lee Kravitz's book and not turn those things into my own unfinished business.
motivatedmomma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved the idea of this book -- which is basically about taking care of the unfinished business in our lives. Kravitz , a workaholic, loses his job and takes stock of his life. He realizes that he has unfinished business with several people in his life. Whether it was owing somebody some long overdue money or healing a family feud, Kravitz had me thinking of the people I need to reconnect with. Worth a look, especially if your at an age where you're old enough to have more than a few regrets.
srtsrt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to finish. The only reason I didn¿t give up was to write this review. Lee Kravitz is a nice guy and he turned a negative (losing his job) into a positive (making amends) but his story, published as the memoir ¿unfinished business¿ just didn¿t keep me interested. Several times I felt that this memoir was simply an excuse to revisit his youth and not really about doing the right thing for people from his past.
jtlauderdale on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mr. Kravitz works hard at self-transformation but I'm not sure he succeeded. Still seems to be all about him. I especially liked the chapters about his extended family and how he came to terms with his past.
countrylife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The cover infers ¿deep water here¿; the well, however, was shallow.The basis of the book (page 11): ¿There are acts and nonacts that prosecute you from within. They trouble your soul and cast aspersion on your character. ¿ I was ready to make a plan. Instead of rushing out to find a job, I would devote an entire year to tying up my loose emotional ends.¿The author goes on to share his experiences in that tying up of ¿ten things that really matter¿, with each chapter chronicling one of those ¿things¿ - a long-lost relative, condolence call, overdue debt, old grudge, family mendings, etc. Commendable activities each, with enough of a story line to continue reading, but not gripping as to action; not touching as to life changing experiences; not convincing as to depth of transformation. Lessons learned felt forced and leaden. All the religious and psyche-ish mumbo-jumbo was a turn-off for me. Ancient Egyptian, Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism, Christianity, karma, TM, especially the parts where he tries to interpret it for his readers and gets it wrong. There was too much jumping to conclusions with all those ¿he meant¿s; with the few that I found, it makes me question his interpretations of all the rest. Personally, I would have been much more trusting of and interested in reading about his experience in his own faith of Judaism. I¿d hoped to like this. Recently laid off, we¿re in the same boat ourselves right now. Well, not exactly the SAME boat. Ours is more of a leaky paddle boat. While his, with two homes and the financial means to take a whole year off without missing the income, seems more like a luxury liner to me. And I couldn¿t identify with the author - having to grow up at the tender age of 29, international traveler, with a high powered job. We¿re not coming from the same place. Yeah, we were both laid off, and I suspect that most people have ¿unfinished business¿ in some quantity. Still, for me, it was ultimately unsatisfactory.One excellent take-away from this book was a quote from an old teacher from Kravitz¿s youth, remarking on Mark 13:33: ¿Take heed, watch for you know not when the time will come.¿:¿We are all on death row. And if you seek to discover the meaning of your life, you have to begin with the one and only thing you can say for certain about your life: You will die. We are all on death row and we are all dying. And that reality should awaken in each of us a sense of urgency.¿ For the urgency, Mr. Kravitz, I thank you, and add another star. 5/10
stacyprince on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is inspirational and valuable to those who have unfinished business, whether it be with long lost relatives or your current debt. The author is writing with good advice and good intentions about things that are relatable to many different kinds of readers.I give this book 4.5 stars.
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
We have all been there. Sometimes life has a habit of getting in the way of our best intentions. Lee Kravitz, a self-admitted workaholic from a long line of workaholics, was perhaps even guiltier than most of us about drifting, completely self-absorbed, through life. It is not that Kravitz did not know how to do the right things; it is that, in his mind, there was never enough time to do them. To his credit, however, when he was unexpectedly given the opportunity to right many of the wrongs in his past, he jumped at the chance. Suddenly thrown out of work in his mid-fifties, Kravitz decided to spend one full year taking care of "unfinished business." As he puts it, "For a variety of reasons - my self-involvement, my hurry to get ahead, a sense that I would get to them later - I had neglected matters of great consequence. In the process, I had hurt the people closest to me and fed the fear and compulsion that had kept me chained to my job." Now he had the time to make amends, and he was determined to make the most of his chance. "Unfinished Business" is divided into ten chapters within which Kravitz revisits someone from his past: an aunt he has not had contact with in years, an old friend whose daughter was assassinated in Iraq, another old friend to whom he has owed money for several decades, a Pakistani friend he fears may have been caught up in the crazy religious hatred of his home country, an inspirational high school teacher, and even the bully he still hates, among them. Along the way, he also manages to help reconcile the relationship between his father and an uncle, and visits his grandmother's grave site to reconcile his guilt over having neglected her in her last months and not having had the courage to attend her funeral. The most surprising thing about Kravitz's year of "trying to do the right things" is what he learns about those he feels so guilty about wronging in his past. Most of his supposed victims have moved on and do not feel victimized by Kravitz's past behavior or neglect. They have a different perspective on their relationship with Kravitz and he is surprised to learn that they seldom even think about the incidents that make him feel so guilty. His monetary debt has been forgotten, his aunt is thrilled to see him, and even the bully, of whom Kravitz felt himself to be a special target, turns out to have considered him just another face in the crowd. "Unfinished Business" is a bit uneven in the sense that some chapters are so meaningful and touching that they make other others seem almost trivial in comparison. The first chapter, describing a very happy reconciliation with the aunt who always considered Kravitz to be her favorite family member, is the strongest of the book. Other chapters dealing with family members, even the one outlining a visit to his grandmother's grave, are the ones most likely to touch the reader. Bottom Line: This is a book with a worthy message, one we would all do well to consider before it is too late for us to spend time "doing the right things" for those who have most impacted our own lives. Rated at: 3.5
joannemepham29 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the concept behind this book, of fully living your life when a turn i lie happens without your planning for it, such as what happens in the book. Suddenly being without a job, and having to reevaluate life and your place in it is challenging. The author writes about the experience, and it sheds light on living life to its fullest, and to a person's fullest potential. I feel the author did a great job doing this, and reached out to me as I read. Great book with great life lessons.
WillowOne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lee Kravitz is an award winning journalist who has held many editorial positions, his most recent with PARADE magazine as the Editor-In-Chief. After being let go from that job after 7 years, he decided to take a journey into his past and find out why things there affected his present. In order to find out why he had lost his happiness and why he approached things in life the way he did, he would need to find people he hadn¿t spoken to in many years. He then wanted to try and fix the wrongs he had made and in doing so realized that sometimes it was his own fault things went bad and not the person or persons he had been blaming. For one year he devoted time and effort to what he called Unfinished Business. During that time he focused on love, loyalty, anger, friendship, sadness, death, forgiveness and promises. He found the parts of himself that he had lost or buried and by doing this he set himself free.I enjoyed reading Mr. Kravitz¿s journey and like others, I am sure, began to think of my own list. I may not be able to devote one year toward mine, as he did, but I can work through it at my own pace. I think this book shows that we all have things in our lives that we felt we could have done differently or better and it is never to late to try and change them or make amends for them. If you admire someone it is never too late to give them kudos, but never do something expecting praise because that is doing it for all the wrong reasons and you will be disappointed. Mr. Kravitz doesn¿t preach in the book, he gives you an account of his journey and what he learned and how it affected him.The book is good and you should take time while reading it. Look at you own unfinished business. Don¿t just breeze through, take the time and capture the meaning.
angela.vaughn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was pleasantly surprised by the route this book took. I was expecting a little more unpleasant encounters, and a little more space dedicated to each of Kravitz's tasks. I actually got a little out of this book, and plan on trying it in my own life's unfinished business. This is a great feel good book for the summer, and I truly regret not being able to read it on my summer vacation over a month ago.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿d add this to my happiness books. Kravitz unexpectedly loses his job and finds himself with time to contemplate what he has been doing wrong with his life and ways to make amends. He visits a beloved aunt with whom he has lost contact. He repays a debt from his college years. He brings members of his family back together. He thanks a wonderful teacher. Good. I hope he also decides to spend more time with his children and less time at work. I was very surprised that this was not on his to-do list
ekoch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kravitz's memoir is provakative, engaging and entertaining. The author's quest to simply close the book on broken promises and neglected issues in past relationships leads him to reactivate the essence of his soul. In turn he learns to commit more fully to being fully present for his family and his community. With this new balance in his life Kravitz gains the most from embracing his stronger connections with people. Read it and then-- just do it!
SignoraEdie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book from the Early Reviewers Group and since I really enjoy memoirs, I was eager to dig into it. Lee Kravitz was the editor in chief of Parade magazine. When he found himself unemployed and with time on his hands he decides to look at all the unfinished business he has in his life and to take a year off from the workaholic existence he normally leads to tie up these loose ends. Since a good part of it takes place in the Cleveland area¿my roots¿I was especially inclined to read this book.Each chapter focuses on one of the 10 people with whom he has unfinished business. Undertaking to bring closure to these aspects of his life, Lee also uses these opportunities to reflect upon his own life and the lessons he can learn so that when he ¿re-enters¿ life as he knows it, he may be a richer person.The 10 people take him back in time and far in location and the re-connections are both healing and instructional. In the process he confronts his own fears and flat spots and grows into a greater understanding of himself as a person and of his values. Written in a very conversational style, I found it an easy read. At times it felt repetitive and I wondered if the chapters were written as independent essays and then joined together. But overall, I found it to be a motivational and touching memoir.Each of us has unfinished business in our lives and reading the book made me begin to make my own list. As he says near the end of the book, when quoting a friend, ¿Our unfinished business isn¿t about resting in peace¿. It¿s about moving forward. It¿s about optimizing our potential as human beings.¿
thornton37814 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Workaholic Lee Kravitz is fired from his job. He decides to take a year to take care of some of his life's "unfinished business" -- things that became neglected as he spent too much time on the job. He comes up with a list of 10 things to accomplish during the year. The book devotes one chapter to each task. The chapters seem to become shorter and shorter as the book progresses. There is definitely a bit of unevenness in the stories. In fact the stories behind the unfinished business sometimes are more interesting than the completion of the task -- such as his trip across the Middle East in his younger days. The chapters devoted to visiting Father Jarvis, to visiting his Greek Orthodox monk friend, and documenting a family legend were my favorites. While I don't necessarily agree with Mr. Kravitz's philosophical and religious views, his point that we need to make time for those we love is one that can be appreciated by all readers. This review is based on a copy of the book sent by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program with the expectation that a review would be written.