Tag Archives: books

So Much To Do

So much to do.

I find that making lists is a fine old way to procrastinate. The dad joke of the century is: “I will put off procrastinating until tomorrow.”

But it’s true. If we can find a way, anyway, to allow some event, or task, to control us to the extent that we put it off for another day, we think we have won! Lists work, don’t they? Every time. We can even convince ourselves that it’s OK. It’s work. We are moving towards our goals, are we not? That’s a win? Surely?

NO it’s not!!! We have LOST. Bigtime.

The way forward

Today I found a way through this maze.

It all starts with Mark Forster. He has created the mother of all hi-tech processes which ANY of us can use. He calls it The Autofocus System.

You need:

A bound notebook (25 – 35 lines) more than 35 lines on a page seems to circumvent the snapshot - 1 page at a time - mental gymnastics that to help the system work.

And a pen or pencil. That’s it. That’s as hi-tech as it gets. Yep. I lied.

It’s a rolling list. And one of the many beautiful things about this, is that you use it as a means to follow the ‘a little and often’ approach.

Kind of related to the ideas of Jeff Olsen et alia in the magnificent book ‘The Slight Edge.’ Do look it up. You will be very surprised how it helps with life. It is subtitled (for good reasons) ‘Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness’. No - don’t judge. Just give it a look.

I will not go into much detail about the autofocus system here, because Mr Forster has a fabulous description of what it is and how to use it on his blog.

However, I will say this.

The Process
  • Make a list – put anything and everything on it. Emails, reading, even exercise. Like brainstorming in a workshop. No editing. Just dump it all down. One item per line.
  • Read it through once, quickly. And I mean quickly. (Just the one current page.) Mental imprinting. No thinking at this point. That’s cheating.
  • Read through the whole list once again, slowly, until something jumps out at you.
  • DO that one thing. Here’s the kicker – only as long as you want to. Minutes, hours, days. No guilt.
  • Cross it off. If you didn’t finish all of it, write a new entry at the end of the list, (usually the next page), altered to identify what still needs to be done.
  • Rinse and repeat.
  • If you have gone over the page slowly again or returned to a previous page and nothing jumps, on the first pass then dismiss all unfinished items on that page. (highlight them in yellow – do NOT re-enter them).
  • Keep cycling.
  • That’s it.

A very quick and easy system.

Find more detailed notes AND look for this genius on “Get Everything Done” (http://markforster.squarespace.com/autofocus-system/).

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Jillian 33 – Some Writing Notes

Writing tips from Our Jillian

For the start of these episodes go to
http://career-change-strategies.com.au/jillian-1-meet-my-friend/

Writing has been on my mind. Lately I have been reading a lot of free books on my kindle. They are promotions mostly by newer authors and some of them are fantastic.

Some of them fail the very first test of writing – not even good writing – just writing in general. They are just not interesting and do not hold a reader enthralled for any-time at all. Some are also diatribes by people with an axe to grind and these ??writers?? use their stories like the basis for a lecture. Not fun at all.

I mentioned this to Jillian as I know she writes and wants to be a full time author some day.

She said that there were two things a writer, of fiction anyway, needs to be aware of. Obviously there are more than two things or anyone could be a writer, but two elements that are more important than any others.

“OK.” I said. “I'll bite. But don't they say there is a book in everyone, you just need to find the gumption to let it out?”

“True.” she replied, “but you still have to have some idea about the process or the technique. Why do you think there are some very famous writers whose books are read by huge numbers of people, and prolific authors with very large lists and very few readers. And I am not just talking esoteric and less accessable subjects here. I am talking your basic novel that no-one wants to read.”

“Oh, I know what you are going to say,” Jillian butted in “It is just practice, and if you write 500 words per day everyday you will get into a habit and your book will suddenly appear out of apparently nowhere.”

Now that is a good idea (there is a web site that has a 31 day writing challenge based around this very idea) and you should do this if you want to develop your muscle, but, as you know, the wrong exercise will not help a muscle, it may even be a bad thing. So you do need SOME technique.” Jillian was rising to the challenge. I could visualise her in her school marm garb with chalk in her hand and white dust floating about her head like a miasma of cigarette smoke. It was pretty awesome to see her in action this way.

I had a thought. “Well, it's true I have seen some pretty poor examples where people have just taken their lives and some stuff that they'd like to do put it together and let their imagination, as they say, run wild.”

“If that's what they mean when they say there is a novel in everyone' – I reckon in many cases it should stay where it is.”

“True again,” Jillian said, “but the addition of a tad of actual knowledge, (there are after all University courses on writing and journalism and stuff like that,) might be just a little beneficial don't you think? So, perhaps, it is something you can and need to learn.

“OK.” I said. “The first thing is a good plot. The action must be awesome? Right?”

“Nup.” She dismissed me with a flourish. “A very famous author once asked us at a seminar given as part of the Writers Festival in whatever city I was in at the time, 'What was the plot of the latest Harry Bosch or Alex Cross novel that you read?' No one remembered. But they all knew Harry Bosch or Alex Cross, a lot about his life, wife and or kids if he had any, what car he drove and many other things he had got up to, but the latest adventure (The Plot) no one could immediately call to mind.

“So.” she said majestically, “plot is secondary to fabulous characters. Your novel needs to be full of personas that will grab the readers by the nose and lead them places they would love to go but are scared, or show them things they have dreamed about, or make them part of a reality that is impossible but

wonderful at the same time. Readers will identify with the folk in the story. They will live their lives with them. A vicarious existence they had only imagined. The characters need to be real and LIVE in the minds of the readers. All else is secondary.”

Hating to interrupt this flow of erudition I took my life in my hands and said, “Plot – which I naively thought of as the story – is not that important, then?”

“Of course it's important you moron,” she blustered. “but if the characters are not engaging then no one cares. If you don't mind whether the detective, for example, lives or dies. becomes corrupted or sleeps with the suspected killer, or any other plot twist or turn, then none of it matters to you as the reader.”

“OK.” I think I’ve got it.” I say a tad chastened, “but exactly where does the plot fit in?”

“Good question,” Jillian winks. “It is the glue that holds all the characters together. Why is there a detective, why a jilted lover, who is hiding in the shrubbery, what is the point of this discussion and where is the money? All of these plot or story elements are connections between the characters and are the twists and turns that make their lives (and by extension – yours) fascinating. The plot is like a roadmap to your character's final destination.”

“I remember,” I thought out loud, “when someone in a story I was reading acted in a way that seemed to be completely opposite to how I expected them to respond (out of character if you will), that I lost interest in this person and figured I really don't care what you do. Yes. I reckon that this character had been set up with beliefs and values that wouldn't have generally allowed her to do whatever it was she did and so was unbelievable. Therefore I lost empathy and all my other feelings for this person and what they did or didn't do or what happened to them was not something I wanted to know about. I put the book down and never returned to it.”

“Something like that,” said Jillian. “you have to be aware of being overly judgemental, though, they are characters in a story remember, so not everything can be explained. And sometimes timeline and other literary devices may mask possible major changes in a person's character attributes. But yes. You might find things like that.”

“Okaaaay. Let me think on that for a while”, I said thoughtfully.

By the way, There are a huge number of websites that are focussed on this topic. Here is ONE I found. It is not necessarily the best; it is one of many, but it has some good stuff including a downloadable cheat sheet to help with character development.

Character Development

“What is the second element of which you spoke?”

“I reckon we've had enough for one time. Don't you? What say we talk about the next bit later? Besides it is hard to explain and even harder to do consistently.”#ourjillian

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Martial Arts And The Force

Go No Sen; Sen No Sen; SenSen No Sen

To start, these three terms refer to the different kinds of timing used in dealing with an attacker in budo training. The timing of the response to an attack in generally, aikido and they came from O-Sensei Ueshiba Morihei, Founder of Aikido.

Budo

The modern budō has no external enemy, only the internal enemy, one's ego that must be fought. Budo gives attention to the mind and how one should develop oneself. Keep this in mind for a little later.

Go No Sen; Sen No Sen; SenSen No Sen

Aikido

O-Sensai says “In Aikido, there is absolutely no attack. To attack means that the spirit has already lost. We adhere to the principle of absolute nonresistance, that is to say, we do not oppose the attacker. Thus, there is no opponent in Aikido. The victory in Aikido is masakatsu and agatsu; since you win over everything in accordance with the mission of heaven, you possess absolute strength.”

O-Sensai goes on to say, “If I were to try to verbalize it I would say that you control your opponent without trying to control him. That is, the state of continuous victory. There isn't any question of winning over or losing to an opponent. In this sense, there is no opponent in Aikido. Even if you have an opponent, he becomes a part of you, a partner you control only.”

This is often interpreted to mean that correct victory is winning over your own self or ego.

Reaching this state of selflessness, is the way to swift victory (not only in martial contexts but also in life itself).

A quick summary:

  • Go no sen - After the attack. Block and counter
  • Sen no sen - Attack the attack. Be faster than your opponent
  • Sensen no sen - Take initiative. Attack before the attack.

Let's look at these terms in a bit more detail.

Sen

The Japanese character for ”sen” can also be read as “saki.” It means “before”. But in the terms go no sen, sen no sen and sensen no sen, it is an abbreviation of sorts for the word “sente” meaning initiative or lead. The “te” in sente means hand, so sente directly translates as “before hand.”

Go no sen

Go means “after. So, a combatant takes the initiative in a situation after the opponent has already started an attack. In other words, once an opponent starts to attack, the defending combatant performs this technique. After the before hand.

We move in harmony with the attacker, but it is the attacker that is taking the initiative in the attack and we are mirroring his or her movements.

Sen no sen

Sen no sen means before the attack. Sen no sen implies that you become aware of an opponent's intention of attacking and right at the time when he is starting this attack, you step in and stop it. To continue the thought before – this is before the before hand.

Sensen No Sen

This term consists of a repetition of the term sen. So this refers to the timing before sen no sen. It is the case of initiating a movement intended to lead the attacker’s spirit as well as to draw forth an actual attack, in order to utilize this attack for a defensive technique. And the thought here becomes – before before the before hand.

What does it mean to us and how does this energy force stuff fit in?

I guess where I am going with this is the fact that martial arts students are taught that there is no attack, only defence. And they are in addition taught to either figure out when this attack has begun, or to realise that an attack is imminent, to know what form that attack is likely to take and to lead the attacker forwards into a defense strategy that has already been crystalised in the brain of the defendant.

Sounds like an energy force to me. And a very clever harnessing of said force for the purposes of good.

I have before heard of martial arts opponents being 'knocked' to the ground without ever being touched. That surely is a force to be reckoned with.

Remember what we said about Budo training – The modern budō has no external enemy, only the internal enemy, one's ego that must be fought. Budo gives attention to the mind and how one should develop oneself. Eckhardt Tolle has a lot to say about this in his book “The New Earth”.

Martial arts and 'THE FORCE' in Star Wars seem to have a lot in common. Leaves me to wonder how such a thing can so quickly be debunked as pseudoscience.

Your Own Examples

Perhaps you can think of examples from your own lives where there has been some indication of an energy or life force that is inexplicable by your basic laws of science, but nevertheless has happened to you or those close to you. I'd love to hear about them.

More next time. #CareerChangeStrategies

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The 500 Words A Day Challenge

Some of you may have seen the Facebook notification when I signed up for this 500 words per day writing challenge.

It is awesome You go for the passion. You ignore the other stuff. The guy who runs this challenge says the power is in the process. You show up. You write 500 words a day. EVERY day.

Don't edit, don't second guess, don't do anything other than getting 500 words minimum (can be more but only if you just can't stop yourself) on the page EVERY day. Set a goal. Just do it.

If you miss a day DO NOT attempt to catch-up. Just leave the day (call it a holiday) and continue from there.

If you don't have the passion, then you probably don't really want to be a writer.

'But you do. You really do. It has been on your wish list since you were just a kid.'

Yeah, but if it is too hard to just DO IT, then it is not something you have a massive desire for.

I hear you. You don't know what to write about. BULLSHIT. Of course you do. Just let the mind go free. You see no-one needs to read it NOT EVEN YOU. Just write 500 words today, tomorrow and the next day. Print it out and throw it away; delete it from your computer. Record the process on a spreadsheet somewhere.

There. 3 days you have done it. Now do 3 days more. Rinse and repeat. Soon you might even read it yourself. You might like it. You might show it to someone else. You might destroy it again. And again. But if the passion is there. You just keep doing it.

You know it doesn't really matter. It is the PROCESS.

It's like walking for exercise. The destination is not even slightly important. You often go round in a circle or round the block. It is the walking that matters. Same thing. It is the writing that matters.

But, I hear you say, “I still don't know what to write about.”

OK. What about this?

Write about: (Thanks Jeff Goins for the following suggestions)

  • A screw up that you have made.

  • Highlight a personal flaw

  • Apologise for mistake nobody noticed

  • Tell the story of your biggest failure

  • Share a fear or a challenge you still haven't overcome

The other day I wrote an article in the Jillian series. I just let it flow.

On reading it a bit later I decided to let it go through to the keeper.

While it was just free writing – coming straight off the top of my head, I seemed to have captured some stuff which may have been information I had been given in confidence. Not to be shared. It was possibly going to be hurtful. While there were no actual identifiable snippets - some people may have thought it was about one of my friends. It wasn't really, but the resemblance was there.

I didn't do anything with it, other than record it as my 500 words for the day.

Gee. Will you look at that - 525 words so far. So that's it for today. Done and dusted. #500wordscolin, #500WED

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Ego – A Book Review: A New Earth: Create a Better Life – Eckhart Tolle

I have been reading this book the last few hours.

I have to say it is probably the best book of its kind, I have read for a long time.

Why?

I have not even finished Chapter 3 and am completely blown away by the content. Mr Tolle has taken me and given me the biggest shake.

There is soooo much here already that explains a lot about my life and why I am like I am.

Believe me I am going to change. I am not going to be ruled by ego any-more.

Need to know what this is all about – then get this book.

Example?

One very small example that stuck with me.

When he was a counsellor, Eckhart was working with a woman who had cancer and was told she had only 2 months to live.

She was raving, this particular day, about a belief that her carer had stolen her grandmother's engagement ring. “It has so much sentimental value,” she wailed.

Eckhart asked her what was she going to remember about this ring in 10 weeks time? She thought for a moment and then said, “They think I'll be dead by then.”

“Yep,” he said.

“And while it is not right that it might have been stolen, why are you wasting the little time you have left getting so excited about it? This is your ego talking. Someone has to be wrong. You are the one in the right. It is YOUR ring. 'Oh My God,' you are crying, 'what have they done to me?'

But it won't matter to you in two months. So let it go now. Live today. Enjoy. Don't fret. Be happy. All that good stuff.”

Think about it:

How many times have we all worried about something like this? Something where we complain and fret just to make a silly point? To be right? To be better than someone else? To be richer, happier, more moral, more beautiful? Ego. I am.

Let it go.

More soon. I am going to finish this wonderful book and take as much of it on board as I possibly can.

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What Did You Learn today?

One of our core needs is to grow.

Growth comes from:

  • New stuff.
  • Old stuff with a new perspective.
  • Something completely out of left field.
  • Mistakes that show you why or how something didn't work.
  • Words that had the opposite effect from what was expected
  • Words that had a different effect from your expectations
  • Feedback both good and bad.
  • Reading
  • Listening

Nothing here about talking.

What else? This is just a teaser?

WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY?

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An open letter to Mr James Patterson.

The other night in Melbourne, Australia (May 6th 2015), I went to see you at the Atheneum theatre.

I was enthralled.

You were awesome, and you were personally inspiring.

I loved your relaxed laid-back (Australian?) attitude. I loved your answers to the interviewer’s questions. I loved how you extended the questions from the audience and answered more than you were asked. And I loved how you overruled the presenter and asked for one more question when he had already done that. So great. So fantastic. Such a wonderful evening.

Can I make a comment or two, though?

As mentioned your generous donations to independent book-stores are to be applauded.

  • In 2014, James gave away over a million dollars to book-stores across the USA.

  • In 2015, James Patterson will continue to support independent book-stores in innovative ways and will champion a new initiative centred on getting our kids reading and supporting school libraries.

Now this is a fantastic initiative, but it made me think of the horse and cart.

Back in the day, horses used to pull all sorts of vehicles which were used for transport of goods and passengers in pretty much all countries of the world.

A complete set of industries grew up around this means of transport. Such as farriers, carriage makers, stables and stable hands, grooms, horse-shoe and horse-shoe nail manufacturers, carriage wheel makers and many more. And of course manure collectors. Not to mention the farmers who grew the food these magnificent beasts ate so they could toil all day toting people and packages across our fair cities. Although some of these cities may not have been all that fair much of the time. But your stories cover some of this evil doing.

Anyway there came a time when some malcontent invented a motorised vehicle. And once we all got over the fact that these mechanical beasts could and should be allowed to move faster than walking pace the industry blossomed.

We could now go further and faster, in more comfort and carry more weight than ever before. Progress, I hear you say. A fantastic thing is progress and these newfangled inventions. True.

But what of the poor people and animals mentioned previously who relied on the earlier tried and true methods of transport? Their existence and their livelihood depended on this now old fashioned and outdated technology. What about them?

Well, I personally don't know what happened on a day to day or month to month basis, nor how long a transition period there was, but transition certainly took place. Now the only 'horse-dawn carriages' are in places like Melbourne as tourist attractions.

Cars and trucks (and trains and planes as well, but let's not extend our argument too far) have completely taken over the role of these quaint methods of conveyance.

Book shops. Ah the wonder. They are such an institution. The shelves and shelves of paper and cardboard, printers ink, glue and sometimes string. The smell of new books, the smell of old books. The chesterfield sofas and crazy bentwood chairs that we happened upon in these oases of almost quiet; full of the soft sounds of riffling paper, and the low murmurings of cajoling voices “Oh My God, will you have a look at this one?” Fantastic. Beautiful, exciting, inspiring and emotionally intense.

Bookshops are the bees knees.

BUT. There is another way to read NOW. We can do it 'online' and on 'portable devices'. The same stories. Even the older ones (the historic, the famous and venerated texts) are all progressively being made available in a digital format. They don't smell. There are no sofas, no booksellers with unbelievable knowledge, (I could say encyclopaedic but that is too trashy), but the end result is the same. The information, the emotions, the feelings, beliefs, the wonderment is all still imprinted on the brain of the reader. We still even call these infidels readers for goodness sake.

We can take 1000's of books with us wherever we go and enjoy them at any time. In the light, in the dark and at all times and all places in between.

In a similar vein to that of old fashioned travel, reading is going to change. We are going to do it differently. We are going to transition, possibly completely, except for tourist curiosities, to the new world.

It is as inevitable as the march of the automobile. Whether it is a good or bad thing is a moot point. IT WILL HAPPEN. IS HAPPENING NOW. AS WE SPEAK.

While I know, James, we all love your passion for book shops, books in general; and we all follow your fights with Jeff Bezos, I wonder if it is all for nothing?

Is it possible your wonderfully generous money might be better spent? Instead of railing against online behemoths, and propping up an institution whose time has come?

Might you be better off spending the money to make online reading better? More accessible to the masses of people who do not read at all or do read but not as much as they might and do not embrace the joys of the electronic media? Easier, more exciting, more fun. More interesting.

  • Perhaps we could have online book-stores with extra special benefits.

  • We could have electronic book clubs.

  • What about huge global discussions about books and the meaning of life. I don't think it really is 42 by the way.

  • We could have huge webinars with everyone being able to see and hear what I did the other night. You know what I mean. You. Or other famous or infamous - read E L James) authors on Skype, in our own lounge rooms, our cars, our … (no I won't go there.)

They could be streamed, or recorded or both. Live questions could be asked and answered. Visuals and videos could be included.

  • Collaborative writing classes and group readings could happen.

  • Training in writing and other stuff related to reading might be the go

  • Authors reading their books for children. (So they can still have their nightly story even if their parents can't or won't do it for them.) Refer the following:

Could snuggling up in bed and reading a bedtime story to your children ever be a bad thing? An ABC Radio National program about whether 'Having a loving family is an unfair advantage' has questioned whether bedtime reading is causing an uneven playing field for more unfortunate children. British academic Adam Swift told ABC presenter Joe Gelonesi the benefits of the time-honoured custom were greater than a private school education.”

The worlds of writing and reading could collide with a bang greater than all the atomic bombs in the universe.

Books and reading could be even more important than ever before. A different kind of book experience.

  • No longer little out of the way places you can only get to on your next trip to NYC.

  • No longer elitist but for all.

  • No longer expensive books where the publisher takes more money from the sale than the creator of the work itself. (Perhaps that is a problem currently with Amazon, but there is no real competition is there?)

  • Free books for specific purposes/readers/topics

Note I'm not suggesting books are off the agenda, just the method of getting them to the reader. A change in the delivery mechanism.

It has started.

Perhaps you James, and/or other readers or writers can come up with some more new and innovative ways to make the electronic delivery of books better, more accessible, easier, more effective.

Perhaps there is even another as of now completely unheard of way of getting books to the reader?

Think about it. Those who can adapt best, survive. Those who cannot become extinct. Darwin discovered this scientific truth many moons ago, It is still as true now as it was then.

Comment please.

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