By Thomas M. Loarie

BOOK REVIEW and Author Matthew Kelly: The Messiness of Life Can Prevent Us from Focusing on Those Things That Lead to A Good Life

March 31, 2022
Column: CEO Learnings

My relationship with New York Times best-selling author and speaker Matthew Kelly dates back to 2004 when another New York Times, best-selling author and friend Patrick Lencioni, brought him to my attention as a potential speaker for the Diocese of Oakland’s Catholics@Work (C@W) Speaker Series. Despite Kelly’s very busy schedule, we were able to bring this much-in-demand Catholic evangelist to St. Isidore Catholic Church (Danville, CA) in August 2005 on behalf of C@W. It was estimated that we had upwards of 1,500 people attend, all squeezed into a church that comfortably held only 1,100.

Kelly mesmerized the crowd with his Australian accent and humor, his personal story of becoming a Catholic evangelist and what he learned about the most important things in life. As an example, “don’t compare yourself to anyone else! Do race horses, when running a race, look at the other horses?”

We brought him back in 2006 to conduct a three-day Lenten Retreat on “Becoming the Best Version of Yourself” in which he examined what makes dynamic relationships and how we can foster greater intimacy in our own lives, to include intimacy with self, others and God.

Now with 29 books published, book sales exceeding 50 million copies, five children and having Book-Life_is_Messy-by-Matthew-Kellysurvived a very scary bout with cancer, a wiser Kelly shares his evolving insights on life in book, Life is Messy. Unlike earlier books, this book is not focused on what Catholicism offers but on what he has learned about life.


Although unsaid, it is clear to me that each of this book’s 78 topics resulted not from some organized plan, but rather, were random essays that he wrote along the way and then compiled together for the book.

Some feel the book is disjointed. It is; but life, too, is disjointed. Other reviewers found the book negative and felt it was not his best. My reaction has been different.

I loved the book and feel it ranks with his best. Kelly is an excellent writer. His writing is raw and provocative…he writes about what is, not what we would like it to be.

Not all of the topics will resonate with each reader since our life experiences are different, but my bet is that many readers, if not most, will find these topics very relevant.

Some of the topics include:

  • The Human Dilemma
  • When Nothing Makes Sense
  • Emptiness
  • When Evil Comes to Visit
  • Life Can Change in a Single Moment
  • The Normalization of Evil
  • Everyone is Fighting a Hard Battle
  • Three Good Reasons to Do Anything
  • The Four Absolutes
  • The Main Threat to Your Wholeness
  • The Spiritual Experience
  • Measuring Your Life
  • The Good Life

Kelly draws much of his inspiration for many of the topics from an unexplained setback or failure he experienced. My only ding on this book is that Kelly left the question of what happened open…the reader is left hanging, unable to empathize or connect with him and with the cathartic experience that inspired many of his powerful entries.

On my first reading of the book, I used it as a daily reader, one topic a day. Messy was my source of daily meditations and reflections. It provided me with a strong and balanced starting point for each day.

Kelly believes, “Life is short…dedicate yourself to the things that deserve your dedication.” It is important to focus our time and energy on the things in our messy lives that fulfill our legitimate needs physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.


View Articles Thomas M. Loarie is a popular host of The Mentors Radio Show, the founder and CEO of BryoLogyx Inc. (, and a seasoned corporate... MORE »

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