Book Review: I’m Not the Boss, I Just Work Here by Howard Jonas


Book Review:  I’m Not the Boss, I Just Work Here by Howard Jonas

Reviewed by Sarah Pachter

I’m Not the Boss I Just Work Here, by Howard Jonas, is a compelling memoir that serves as inspiration for those looking to achieve financial success and spiritual growth.

Jonas is the founder and CEO of IDT, a telecommunications company whose stock is traded on the NYSE. In addition to being a successful businessman, he is also a father of nine, philanthropist, and spiritual giant. While his accomplishments certainly give him the credibility to share secrets to success, his relatable tone allows the reader to forget his intimidating resume and regard him as a good friend simply giving advice. 

In this work, he brilliantly combines Judiaic and secular sources, while weaving in real-life experiences to cultivate his point. 

The book invites the reader to join him on the journey of his life. His writing is clear and illustrative, which enables the reader to experience his progression from his first job as a child to becoming the founder of IDT. The real secret to his success lies in my favorite chapter, called Sweeping Your Way to the Top.

This chapter describes a Biblical story about Yosef Hatzadik who was a slave in Pharaoh’s palace. Yosef was different from the other servants. Everyone else could be found slacking off or resting when Pharaoh was absent. Yosef, on the other hand, worked during every possible moment. His role was ‘sweeper of the floors,’ but he took pride in this position, making sure the floors were always spotless.

One evening, when all the other servants were done, Yosef was alone, still sweeping. When Pharaoh discovered Yosef, he thought, Here is an honest and hardworking man who doesn’t steal even one moment from me. A person like this needs a larger role in this palace.

Yosef worked his way up, eventually becoming Viceroy to Pharaoh, solely because he gave his all in everything he did.

Yosef served as Jonas’s role model. Jonas began his career working at a hot dog stand. Although he just sold hot dogs, he made sure his hot dogs were the best on the street, and that they stayed open later than every other stand around. This work ethic stayed with him throughout his various professional phases, enabling him to “sweep” his way up and become who he is today.

I was impressed by how Jonas, with all his mega success, shows his fallibility by sharing the riveting story of when he succumbed to depression. He also describes how he crawled out of it even stronger. His bravery for revealing his darkest moments is commendable because it gives the reader inspiration and tools to continue developing resilience within themselves.

His spiritual journey is equally as fascinating. I loved how he incorporated stories of his childhood, and utilized seemingly mundane anecdotes that served as metaphors for deep and thought-provoking lessons.

I was struck by how he seamlessly tackles difficult questions, such as, Why do bad things happen to good people? Does G-d exist? Why is there suffering in the world? Why did the Holocaust happen? Not only did his answers reinforce my own faith; they have also provided me with better answers to the questions my students often bring up.

My favorite passage of the book is about choice, and how our lives look the way they do because of the choices we make.

The only choice any of us have is what to do with the present: to be good, to be indifferent, or to be evil; to rise to challenges or to flee from them; to share in the work of perfecting the world or just throw up our hands in surrender. Frankly, I thank G-d we’re free to choose. And I also think the choice is clear.

This book presents itself as a memoir, but it’s actually so much more. The chapters flow chronologically, but any chapter can be picked up and enjoyed on its own. Readers from all faiths or levels of religious observance can appreciate this book, as it covers universal topics in an enjoyable way. It is short and easy to read, but can truly transform your life.