And I’m back. <Insert weak apology and excuses for the hideously long break from blogging>. Still on a career break. Not as confused about the future and very happy with my life.
A quick word about my future posts: I have been mulling over whether I’d like to continue writing monthly recap posts going forward. Personally, after a year of blogging, I found it taking away from the fun of just writing so I figured I’d do away with it. Now I will write when I feel like it. I hope that will push me to write more because I really do enjoy it once I get over the dread of sitting in my chair to write. I am no “creative” in the strict sense of the word but I admire those who get over their struggles and “create” for us – It is not an easy journey. I struggle to write a few words so I wonder the level of determination and tenacity it takes to write a book or make a movie or finish a painting.
The one habit that has been incorporated very well into my life ever since I quit my job is reading. Ever since I was a child I’ve loved to read but struggled to stay on point and focus while reading. I’m easy distractible and my mind wanders quite often so it is a struggle to complete even a page of reading without having to go back and re-read. In the past I’ve accumulated a huge collection of half read books because of this affliction but now I’m good at summoning my focus when I read. I feel like my Yoga practice has a lot to do with this.
The first book I picked up this year was John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” – the story of Hazel, a teenager fighting her cancer and her love story with Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer patient. I wanted to start the year off with some light reading and also wanted to see what the hype about this book was. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy parts of this book – there were certainly portions that stayed with me even after I finished the book but there were also many portions that seemed very contrived and pretentious. I also want to know the “young adults” who seem to understand the kind of lofty talk that goes on in this book. Maybe I’m underestimating the young’uns and maybe I’m being cynical here but if the teenagers of today can actually relate to a book like this and love it then I think our younger generation is growing up pretty quickly.
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
“That’s part of what I like about the book in some ways. It portrays death truthfully. You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence”
Then I started to read a book that I’ve longed to read every since I saw this interview on Super Soul Sunday. “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield has been on my library hold list for ages and I finally got to check it out. I highly recommend this book to every aspiring “creator”. The book is broken up into three parts: Part One, “Defining the Enemy”, introduces us to the different facets of a destructive force that rises within us that the author calls “Resistance”. This force is what keeps us from our work, making excuses, procrastinating and essentially doing everything else apart from what we need to be doing. Part Two of the book, called “Turning Pro”, goes into how we can control this force. This part hardly had any secrets: I can sum up the advice in this part as, “Get your butt in the chair”. I had to chuckle, however, at the examples of Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods as the shining examples of turning pro. The third part, “The Higher Realm” is my favorite. This is also the part of the book that seems to be fairly polarizing depending on one’s spiritual views. I subscribe to the author’s views that creativity is a divine force – on this you may or may not agree so you are forewarned here! In fact, the foreword of the book is written by someone who disagrees with Pressfield on this issue but yet wholeheartedly recommends the book!
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
“It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”
“When inspiration touches talent, she gives birth to truth and beauty.”
PS: I recognize the irony that even after reading this book it took me 6 months get my butt in the chair to finish this post. I guess the book led the horse to the water but the horse wasn’t thirsty just yet. 🙂
I’ve forever been interested in the psychology behind decision making and when I saw the book “Nudge” recommended by Gretchen Rubin on her blog, I added the book to my library wait list. The book talks about what makes people make the choices they do and how using this knowledge to design a “choice architecture” can gently “nudge” people to “do the right thing”. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it really appeals to the designer in me. Having worked in the public sector domain designing applications for use by ordinary citizens, I have always loved the idea of thoughtful design that helps people make good choices without having to go into deep research mode to understand what’s being presented to them. The book really wakes you up to whether choices you make are done mindfully or as a result of the way they are presented to you. This book reaffirms my belief that most of our problems can be solved through thoughtful design.
“Real people have trouble with long division if they don’t have a calculator, sometimes forget their spouse’s birthday, and have a hangover on New Year’s Day.”
“First, never underestimate the power of inertia. Second, that power can be harnessed. If private companies or public officials think that one policy produces better outcomes, they can greatly influence the outcome by choosing it as the default.”
“Unrealistic optimism is a pervasive feature of human life; it characterizes most people in most social categories. When they overestimate their personal immunity from harm, people may fail to take sensible preventive steps. If people are running risks because of unrealistic optimism, they might be able to benefit from a nudge. In fact, we have already mentioned one possibility: if people are reminded of a bad event, they may not continue to be so optimistic.”
When I was on holiday in Sydney at my sister’s house I found a copy of the bestseller “How to talk so kids will listen & Listen so kids will talk” by Adele Farber and Elaine Mazlish. I’ve heard it mentioned as a communications manifesto by many of my favorite bloggers so I was curious to read it. Also, I thought I’d spill a few secrets from the book to my sister who was too busy and overworked to have the luxury of sitting down to read a book (My sister is one of the most hardworking people I know – she has 2 young children, lives with her in-laws and has managed to switch careers from statistics to teaching in the midst of the chaos of her life). My nephew was very suspicious that I was reading what was obviously a parenting book since I don’t have any children. “You’re going to teach mum how to manipulate us!”, he kept accusing me when he saw me with the book.
This book is a wonderful book for parents to read. Especially the conscientious kinds that are overly concerned with their duty to do right by their children and consequently forget that their kids are their own individuals. Kids, I have found in my 17 years of experience as an aunt, are quite capable of making the right choices if you allow them the honor. The book is all about respecting your children, giving them breathing space and allowing them to make good choices on their own from a young age. I recognized when I read this book that this was my parent’s parenting style. I remember complaining to my dad that my friend’s parents had responsibly disconnected the cable TV connections at their homes so their children could focus on their 10th grade exam studies and asking him why he didn’t do that at our house. My dad in his trademark, no-nonsense way said, “You’ll need to learn to manage your time and watch lesser TV. The solution is not to cut off cable TV. If you want to do well in your exams you’ll find a way to make it work.” This book is a master class on how to communicate. Whether it is to kids or your spouse or sibling or anyone else you struggle to get your point across to.
“I was a wonderful parent before I had children. I was an expert on why everyone else was having problems with theirs. Then I had three of my own.”
“We too worried about being permissive. But gradually we began to realize that this approach was permissive only in the sense that all feelings were permitted.”
“It’s a bittersweet road we parents travel. We start with total commitment to a small, helpless human being. Over the years we worry, plan, comfort, and try to understand. We give our love, our labor, our knowledge, and our experience—so that one day he or she will have the inner strength and confidence to leave”
That’s all folks. I’ll be back with another installment of “What I’m Reading” pretty soon – This year has been full of wonderful, wonderful books. The next post will be about my travels in the land down under.