Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

A novel charting the trials and tribulations between the families and inhabitants of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, told via an old maid, Elly Dean, who was intimate with both.

Having newly acquired a Kindle, I search for free books to download. Wuthering Heights was one of them. I was curious, so I downloaded it and started reading. I knew nothing about it.

The text was surprisingly accessible and the writing quite modern. I was half-expecting a romance, with ups and downs and generally being quite pleasant, but boy was I wrong. The characters are the most dysfunctional characters I’ve ever read. The most twisted up characters are Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and serve to provide much of the emotional pain to everyone around them. The efforts to keep Catherine Linton away from Wuthering Heights amounts to nothing, and Linton Heathcliff becomes more and more repulsive.

I liked the novel, I didn’t expect it to be like this. Having said that, it is a bit of an uncomfortable read, because of such dysfunctional subject matter.

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Two Types of Advice by Scott H Young and Well Rounded and the Other by Seth Godin

Scott H Young: Two types of advice, general and specific. General e.g. Steve Jobs Stanford Speech. Specific: why you got that calculus question wrong. General, though good, doesn’t always work. Specific advice, very valuable, could be the breakthrough you need.It’s the difference between reading a book on calculus, and having someone show you exactly why you got a question wrong.

Seth Godin: Sharp is often what we want. Well rounded gives you plenty of opportunities to shore up mediocrity with multiple options. Sharp is more frightening, because it’s this or nothing. Either can work, but it’s very difficult to be both.

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Six Steps to Excellent Memory by Dr. Piotr Wozniak

Six Steps to Excellent Memory by Dr. Piotr Wozniak

[Ed: I combined quotes along with my own words.]

1. Nurse your hunger for knowledge: if your motivation for getting knowledge is weak you can stop reading this text. The rest of my advice will not work. You have to find the clear-cut link between knowledge and the value it brings to your life…The more you learn, the more your hunger for knowledge grows. So to increase your motivation to learn, learn more things and see how it can help others. Being healthy also helps with motivation.

2. Determine what you really need to know: you must first clearly identify the areas of knowledge that are most likely to positively influence your future. There’s too much knowledge in the world for one person to even skim it. The quicker you realise this, the faster you will reach the point at which you will see that three well-selected pieces of knowledge may have the power to blast the entire shelf of ill-picked books.

3. Locate sources of information: study lots of sources in parallel and pick the most useful bits from them…TV, news magazines and the library are still irreplaceable in many areas.

4. Formulate knowledge for active recall: Effective learning is based on repetition and active recall. Your brain must generate the answer. Useless to have “George Washington was the first president of the United States.” Much better to ask a question: Who was the first US president?…Additionally, whatever is based on active recall may not meet your expectations. Do you like running through exercises at the end of a course book? Probably not. The painful truth is that you will certainly have to formulate most of the knowledge yourself. You’ll be using various sources, and most of them will be poor for learning and do not use active recall. The time you invest in formulating knowledge for active recall will be returned manifold as long as you stick with the remaining principles of the presented formula for success in learning!

5. Use spaced repetition: programmes like Supermemo and Anki help.

6. Do not neglect knowledge management: once you start using the above principles, your needs change over time like the world around you. This fact must be incorporated in your learning. Repetitions of the learned material must become a standard fixture in your daily schedule. This time will be spent well if you carefully make sure at each repetition that the material you learn is really worth the time you put in it. It must be up-to-date, useful, and properly formulated. You may be saving 70-90% of your time if you remove or reformulate the hardest 5% of your learning material!

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The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline – One Arm Pushup

The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline – One Arm Pushup

Hello comrades!

  • Chest must hit the deck. Shoulders must be parallel to the floor.
  • Start off with elevated (arms higher than feet) one-arm pushups, then gradually lower.
  • To make things more miserable, elevate the feet.
  • It’s critical to have high abdominal tension for the one-arm pushup. Abs tight, glutes tight, tail tucked in (the hollow position). To practise, get into regular pushup position and walk the hands forward then back whilst maintaining the hollow position. Make sure your back doesn’t sag. A variation of this is to turn to the side for each step.
  • It’s critical to keep your legs strong and tight for the one arm pushup. Lock your leg straight, making sure you’re pulling up with your quads, groin, side, glutes – make the leg rigid.
  • Belly button points slightly up in the hollow position (make sure your knees aren’t bending to make the belly button point up).
  • Inhale on the top. Inhale into your belly. Then you pressurise by kind of grunting. Then you grunt harder as you go up.
  • Don’t start saggy like a semi-dead cow. Tighten everything up. Brace for the load. Tighten up shoulder, bicep, tricep, armpit especially. Forearm: grip the deck. Then inhale.
  • Dead start one arm pushup: excellent at teaching you to generate full body tension. Tighten up, press. If you don’t tighten up everything, you will not get up.
  • Instead of yielding passively to gravity, you need to actively pull yourself into the deck. Keep your shoulder sucked in.
  • Put all your weight on the heel of your hand (outside part). Your hand is like a suction cup, flat. You must grip the deck till your fingertips turn white. Grip a little on the way down and grip very hard on the way up.
  • Apply a corkscrew to your technique and you’ll have more stability and more power. Instead of pushing or pulling straight down, do an inside out turn, like you’re screwing your shoulder into your socket.
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The Painless Path to Endurance (Plus: Breville Winner and More) by Tim Ferriss

The Painless Path to Endurance (Plus: Breville Winner and More) by Tim Ferriss

What really interested me about this article was the section Process vs. Outcome. A study of goal-oriented vs. process-oriented people in the workplace showed that:

it was not the hypercompetitive Type “A” people who were doing more for the company, making more money, getting more raises and promotions. It was the folks who were enjoying their job.

The next two paragraphs hit home for me:

Ironically, not getting wrapped up in the result may deliver higher gains. I had heard that before. One of the best pistol shooters in the Russian armed forces made a breakthrough in his accuracy when a coach told him, “You know, you have the right to miss.”

One of Douillard’s techniques was practicing a competitive sport without keeping score. “Focusing on the score attaches you to the result. Focusing on the process lets you access your greatest skill and increases your fun.” That rang true.

The reason why these paragraphs hit home for me is because I’m trying to improve my singing and it reminds me of something similar my voice teacher said to me (I’m paraphrasing here):

Focus on the causes, not the results. Over time, the body will improve itself.

Don’t worry about getting a good result. Just concentrate on what you need to do. Be open to catastrophic failure. (I was too concerned about bringing up too much chest voice and thus was holding myself back psychologically (and so was trying to control the result)).

This idea of being process-oriented applies to many other things, but at the moment I’m just wondering what is the optimal approach. It’s probably a mixture of both. Set goals to know the bearing, and then do the process to do the dirty work to get there. Or if you’re finding yourself too goal-oriented, just focus on the process 100% and vice-versa if you feel you’re getting lost. Maybe it depends on the activity itself, or when to focus on one at the expense of the other. For example, I play badminton weekly and I find that for the tougher games, I tend to be goal-oriented (trying to win) and end up playing terribly. When I try to switch to the other mindset of just having fun or even just practising, I find I do play better but can easily be sucked into the other mindset depending who I’m partnering with.

Another thing that interested was the (for me) counter-intuitive notion that having fun improves performance. Here’s the quote:

The book [States: Body, Mind, and Sport by John Douillard] was dedicated to improving one’s performance by reducing the effort to 50%, enjoying the process, and not focusing on the result.

It’s counter-intuitive for me because these days I tend to be serious, read a lot on deliberate practise, and that having fun equates with taking it easy. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen far too much of “taking it easy” translate into poor progress. I feel I’m getting old now and don’t have time to waste on taking it easy. But can one have fun and improve at the same time? By it’s nature, deliberate practise is hard. And often, hard things aren’t fun. But I guess it depends on the nature of the person whether they find hard things fun or not. Many people delight in puzzles, and they like them because of the ever-increasing difficulty. They relish hard problems. And, as you’ve guessed by now, I don’t. Can such a mindset be learned? It would be immensely valuable to anyone learning a skill. Maybe they’re doing what Douillard advocates: focusing on the process increases the fun. It’s probably a combination of that and other things too, like being hooked on the dopamine hit, that feeling of accomplishment that comes from completing a hard puzzle.

There’s one thing I haven’t considered yet: does this “enjoying the process” approach only apply to atheletic activities? I don’t know. The only way to know is to try it.

I didn’t intend this to turn into a full-blown post, but these are important things to consider.

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The Agenda, Part I: Ask Why by Chris Guillebeau

The Agenda, Part I: Ask Why by Chris Guillebeau

The most important quote of this article:

Why do you do this every single day?

The next most important quote:

Why do we do the things we do? What’s the point? What are we working towards?

Other quotes:

More than anything else, asking why and understanding our motivations begins to create the possibility for anything else we want to do.

If everyone could answer the question of why they do what they do, I think the world would be a better place.

The reason why I liked this article is because I’ve felt I’ve lost my way with why I decided to do this whole music thing in the first place. This article was a lucky discovery and important too. I’ve asked myself why (using the excellent WriteMonkey) and the answers have been less than satisfactory but it has provided clarity. Once I’ve worked my way a little bit further with this, it’ll be an article on my other blog.

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The Hard Truth About How Success Really Works – By Jeff Haden

The Hard Truth About How Success Really Works – By Jeff Haden

This article reminds me of what Seth Godin said: Things easily done usually aren’t worth doing. Consequently, things that are worth doing aren’t easily done.

But also adds to this idea by saying that what stops us from achieving our goals and being successful is resentment when we see the success of others. We use excuses to make us feel better and to justify our laziness, poor habits, lack of success, etc.

Here are some quotes:

…that’s how success works. Fit people are fit because they work out a lot. Successful people are successful because they work incredibly hard. People whose family relationships are close-knit have put time and effort into building those relationships.

Nothing worth achieving comes without a price. To begrudge those who pay the price is unfair. To be unwilling to pay the price will always result in failure.

Look around: No matter what your pursuit, plenty of people have already succeeded. Great blueprints and easy-to-follow road maps are everywhere.

If you don’t have what you want, pay the price to get it. Don’t begrudge the success of others. Do what they do. It works for them and will work for you.

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How to Make Money From Your Art – Steve Pavlina

How to Make Money From Your Art – Steve Pavlina

  • Create what people want otherwise you won’t get paid. Why would they want to buy it in the first place? Selling is an important part of the creative process: “Who would most appreciate this?…Determine who will buy your work and why. Who’s the buyer? Does such a person actually exist? How do you know?” Don’t be pushy (reminds me of Seth Godin saying to invite people instead of selling to them).
  • “Strong sales are very forgiving of mistakes.”
  • Commit to excellence. “Are you willing to commit yourself to joining that top 1%? Do you love your art so much that you’ll invest 10,000 hours into it? That’s about 5 years working full-time. If you aren’t willing to make that kind of commitment, well… Starbucks is hiring.”
  • Exposure first. Money second. Share as much as you can. Don’t be timid about sharing.
  • Look after your customers. “Love and appreciation are nice, but they won’t keep the lights turned on.”
  • Ignore criticism. But don’t avoid constructive criticism, particularly from yourself. (It’s a delicate balance. Judge the work, not yourself.) But if you find yourself too judgmental, poke fun at the critical part of yourself. See it as the joke it truly is.
  • Buy and support art. Don’t justify piracy. This enforces the belief that you also deserve to be financially supported. Very important if you want to succeed as an artist.
  • Publish often. Process of calibration to get a feel for when to publish and when to rewrite/edit. Basic rule of thumb is faster is better.
  • Socialize with those who are already succeeding. “Art is a social field, and so is business…Insiders have it way easier than outsiders, so aim to be an insider. Don’t even think about trying to go it alone.”
  • “Most of the income I’ve earned from my creative work has resulted from business deals that came through my network…This isn’t unusual. Money flows through people.”
  • “Networking gives you the chicken and the egg at the same time. You can receive income-generating ideas and opportunities as well as exposure, without needing one to get the other.”

There are bits that I found tough, namely the networking aspect and commitment aspect. As someone who doesn’t partake in social activities on a frequent basis, the networking part that makes the whole thing easier is going to be tough for me. Also, I’m not mentally and emotionally at that stage where I’m committed. It seems like such a huge mountain. Food for thought.

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