Tess Brookes has always been a Girl with a Plan. But when the Plan goes belly up, she’s forced to reconsider. After accidently answering her flatmate Vanessa’s phone, she decides that since being Tess isn’t going so well, she might try being Vanessa. With nothing left to lose, she accepts Vanessa’s photography assignment to Hawaii – she used to be an amateur snapper, how hard can it be? Right? But Tess is soon in big trouble. And the gorgeous journalist on the shoot with her, who is making it very clear he’d like to get into her pants, is an egotistical monster. Far from home and in someone else’s shoes, Tess must decide whether to fight on through, or ‘fess up and run …
10 and I are currently reading Dan Brown’s latest opus, Inferno. We’re late, we’re aware of that, but it doesn’t make the book any less interesting.
This is not the first time he and I read something together. Toward the end of our LDR, we read the Fifty Shades trilogy together. We’d catch up on each other to see whether we’ve reached a particular point in the plot, and we’d share our opinions on the characters involved. He’d wish he was Christian Grey on his helicopter ride to SF, and I’d bitch about Elena. It was fun.
Summer is officially over. As fall looms, my wish list is bombarding me with the season’s most-anticipated literary heavyweights.
This fall will have you sticking to your reader 24/7 – whether you’re the local bookstore frequenter or the one practically glued to your Kindle.
With the likes of bestselling authors Malcolm Gladwell (“Blink”, “Outliers”, “The Tipping Point”, “What the Dogs Saw”), Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love”, “Committed”), Mitch Albom (“Tuesdays with Morrie”, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”, “The Time Keeper”), and Dave Eggers (“What is the What”, “Zeitoun”, “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”), I’m filling my nightstand with to-reads that the publishing world has been buzzing about.
“Young people! With their hurrying and their worrying and their wanting all the answers now. They wear me out, the poor, harried things. Don’t come back, I always tell them. Don’t come back. Youth is still where you left it, and that’s where it should stay. Anything that was worth taking on life’s journey, you’ll already haven taken with you.”
When I pre-ordered the book back in April, I was having high hopes for another round of Kinsella’s frolicsome adventures. I mean, when I read her previous standalone, I’ve Got Your Number, which was released on Valentine’s Day last year, I consumed all 448 pages within less than 48 hours. I was hooked – as I’ve always been to her novels after Madeleine Wickham decided to get herself a pseudonym. Wedding Night was nothing short of a fun ride, but the plot was unexpectedly weak.
By now, it’s blatantly clear that I love to explore the human mind and learning the best ways to mind my brain for optimum function.
Even though for a while now I’ve finished reading Earl Nightingale’s record, The Strangest Secret, I’m still taking my time to re-read every word written on it in order to guide me through life as I apply the invaluable skills I’ve learned from the author, because I believe real learning takes place by doing.
As a creative by vocation, and having earned a Bachelor’s in the fine arts, most people I know would think that I’d go spending the rest of my life wandering about the world in complete rebellion with myself, trying to sell and to protect the abstractions I deeply hold at heart, and promptly assume that these abstractions I profess come in the form of hand-drawn sketches, digital illustrations, or canvas paintings.
The statement above is true – except for the latter clause.
My medium is the written word, and I’ve long committed myself to it without my noticing that it has chosen me, instead of me choosing to write. Perhaps one day when I’ve left this world, a curious biographer would paint the abstract picture of my life, but for me, words were always there long before I entered high school and college, and today, much as for as long as I’m present, I’m just going with Czikszentmihalyi’s flow.
In the midst of chasing deadlines and baking ideas for stories in my head, I come back now and then to the chapters of Nightingale’s manual. It occurred to me that for as much as, I dare say, 99%, the book makes a claim that the human mind is the source of all the things you truly need to fulfill the deepest desires in your life.
In an individual chapter wholly dedicated to the mind, “Your Most Valuable Creative Tools”, Nightingale argued that even though technology has, in the last century, developed at a speedier light than human intelligence, computers can only remain as good as the person who programmed them.
Technology has superior mechanical skills, but it does not have the unlimited cognitive reserve humans are blessed and endowed with.
In other words: We can think. Machines cannot.
This is why I love the three-pound sponge in our head: The brain is where you hold the potential to create anything you wish for in your life, materialize it into reality, and continuously solve problems to make better decisions as you go conquering challenge by challenge.
In the aforementioned chapter, Nightingale postulated that there are 4 basic powers of the human brain:
♥ The Power to Absorb
The ability to take information, knowledge.
We do this by looking, listening, touching, tasting, and smelling, by using all five of our senses and keeping the gateways of our mind always open.
♥ The Power of Retention
The capacity to retain knowledge and recall it.
Our brains are like endless rows of filing cabinets with relatively few packed file drawers full of all sorts of information. There’s always much room for more.
♥ The Power of Judgment and Logical Thought
The more facts we feed our brain, the more able
it is to reason and judge intelligently.
♥ The Power of Imagination
The ability to think creatively.
Don’t these powers look old school to you?
As a self-proclaimed self-help junkie, there really is nothing new to every book I’ve consumed since the first Chicken Soup for the Soul that I’ve read when I was 9 (stacked dustily in the decks of Popular Bookstore in Singapore).
Except that now, with this post, I conclude that the brain is your biggest tangible asset above all – even above money, goods, and shelter.
Lately, I realized that when we truly open ourselves up and take advantage of all of our senses to their fullest capacity, you start picking up a deeper level of insights you’ve never thought you could pick up.
You start paying double attention to your surroundings, particularly to those that interest you, and you start baking them into your mental cabinet for a certain period of time before you decide they should be promoted into the long-term memory or not. While you decide, you reason. Every time you decide, you exercise reasoning, using sound, critical thinking and logical thought. Should you be left with no choice in the face of indecision, the power of imagination opens you up wide to new ways of thinking things through.
I decided quite some time ago that I am a lifelong learner and will always be. It is logical to think that because I’m still 23 years of age. I don’t know how arrogant I’ll become in the next decades to come, but I know what I don’t want to be: The know-it-all – simply because I believe I don’t know better.
* * * * * * * * * *
A valuable lesson I learned today
This afternoon, I learned something noteworthy from someone that is only a couple of years my senior, but have accomplished so much more than even older folks: People tend to dislike difference – doesn’t matter if it’s a good difference or a bad difference. Why? Because it is a natural inclination so often practiced today to choose the lazier way to think – to stick within the comfort zone of your own thinking pattern rather than taking a leap of faith and step out of fear, the fear of believing that something other than your own truth is equally true.
So I asked, how do you deal with that kind of pressure, that kind of thoughts from people who’s holding you back?
Well, inertia is not the solution, that’s for certain. You may have asked a thousand questions in your head that’s causing you to struggle, finding all the right reasons why you are the way you are, thinking about all the things that could go wrong and all the negative things that people would say about you if you are not behaving like other people who have grown comfortable behaving robot-like within society’s unwritten rules, all the while you are hindering yourself from living out your full potential.
But what’s more important than all that thought is this: Be your own person.
“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd,” Albert Einstein once said. “The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before,” and along with that, you have to accept that it’s inevitable to come across those who are displeased with your difference and your uncompromising will to conform.
It’s the price the creative person must be willing to pay in order to realize her impact to the world – by using all the 4 freely-given powers of the mind, and by having the courage to, just, be.
It’s an imperfect world after all, isn’t it? At the end of the day, there’s nothing really for you to lose if you would just be who you truly are, other than those discouraging thoughts others conjure up about you when you bravely take the road less taken.
We all know that there is no one-way road to achieving success. Even if there is such an established, perfectly-constructed system, no one has ever succeeded, not even those who have achieved success, in clearly showing others how to get there, though Varun Chablani has made a close call in the clever illustration below.
If we only take a closer look, you’ll find that the successful person just decides to succeed.
The successful person is the first and the last to know nothing but to catch the one train in time to get himself toward Success.
Looking at the illustration, the successful person starts his humble beginnings at Opportunity and go straight to the railroad station before he misses his train, disregarding the appeals of Bohemianism (draft beers) or the endless spin of Conceit (self-engagement). Once on board under the Right System, the successful person takes no second glance at Hotel Know It All, an imprisonment appealingly masked as knowledge, because he has admitted himself to knowing nothing but catching his train.
Only by withholding his good habits and virtues could the successful person bypass Bad Habits and Vices in order to get into the promised land of the System, wherein the biggest and the only hurdle before success is overcoming the Lack of Preparation tunnel, a dark path where the successful person has chosen to learn True Knowledge and gain wisdom.
Once the successful person saw the light at the end of the tunnel, he becomes successful by autopilot: His train follows his soul beyond the Gate of Ideals across the straight, unobstructive path toward Success, while those who have never gotten onboard in the train could only get to Weak Morals at best, unless they finally choose to make the wise decision to succeed.
Then again, we all know that there are far too many successful people who have been welcomed into the promised land, gained wisdom, and practiced morality without getting onboard in their trains, right? Those who get back on their feet after falling into Failure have found the harder road toward Success by their own ideals.
The public secret
As you may already know, I’m reading the dean of personal development’s spoken word 1956 record The Strangest Secret, which has sold Earl Nightingale over 1 million copies worldwide even during his time.
Inspired by Napoleon Hill’s 1937 opus Think And Grow Rich, Nightingale wrote the book in honor of history’s most prominent successful persons, their succeeding contributions, and the strangest, yet most remarkable secret of all time, which has preceded these successes in the past as well as the extensive successes achieved today: We become what we think about.
This secret is synonymous with the message written on some of the best-selling self-help books in the industry today, namely Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret and the Hicks’ Ask And It Is Given.
Nonetheless, in Nightingale’s own words, success is defined by “the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” By this definition, he has devoted a whole chapter to explore the intrinsic value of success, which I think is convincing because let’s face it – success feels better achieved by effort than when it is given.
This chapter is, arguably, a quotation-filled minefield that reflects how we often corrupt the very power of human thought in our lives by thinking in negative terms. Take a look at these clips:
1. A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.
2. A man is what he thinks about all day long.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
3. The greatest discovery of my generation is
that human beings can alter their lives by
altering their attitudes of mind.
4. We need only in cold blood act as if
the thing in question was real and it will
become infallibly real by growing into
such a connection with our life that
it will become real. It will become so knit
with habit and emotion, that our interest
in it will be those which characterize belief.
5. If you only care enough for a result,
you will almost certainly ascertain it.
If you wish to be rich, you will be rich.
If you wish to be learned, you will be learned.
If you wish to be good, you will good.
Only you must then really wish things
and wish them exclusively
and not wish at the same time
a hundred other compatible things just as strongly.
6. If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
7. This is one of the greatest laws in the universe.
Fervently do I wish I had discovered it as a very young man.
It dawned upon me much later in life and I found it to be
one of the greatest, if not my greatest discovery, outside of
my relationship to God. And the great law briefly and simply stated
is that if you think in negative terms, you’ll get negative results. If
you’ll think in positive terms, you will achieve positive results.
That is the simple fact which is at the basis of an astonishing law
of prosperity and success. In three words, ‘believe and succeed’.
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
8. Our doubts are traitors and make us lose
the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.
9. People are always blaming their circumstances
for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances.
The people who get on in this world are the people who
get up and look for the circumstances they want and
if they can’t find them, make them.
George Bernard Shaw
(see Making Miles: Week 39)
In other words, the secret acts like a mirror.
To live a successful life means creating our own reality, and doing so deliberately by using the power of thought.
You’ve probably picked it up from Chablani’s illustration, as well as from your own observations throughout the history of mankind: The road to success is, more often than not, a long and lonely one.
As someone who is prone to overthinking, I believe that I’ve created my everyday reality and am responsible for all my setbacks. It’s comforting to say personal achievements out loud, yet looking forward, it’s all too scary to realize them in the first place.
How you decide to succeed, therefore, makes all the difference.
Right now, at 23, I’m lucky to say that the rest of my life still offers a relatively thick block of blank canvas for me to fill. Because I’m aware that every decision I make, both the major and the minor ones, will eventually make a life that constitutes the sum total of my thoughts, I intend to exceed fulfilling my needs by going after my wants quietly.
I envision a life brimming with abundance of my own ideals, and by ideals, I don’t see material gains as much as I see time-tested virtues I particularly value become practiced and crystallized into reality, namely integrity and perseverance.
I’ve had enough of feeling guilty for rejecting others for fear of the attempt. Reframing fear as a motivator and maintaining love as my drive has served me well so far.
I hold Bob Dylan’s definition of success true, which I also believe was a precursor to Steve Jobs’ lifetime achievements as a father, a brother, a husband, a thinker, an innovator, and a hungry fool: “What is money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”
Oh, what freedom it is to desire what you already have.
“Success is going to bed at night in peace,” affirmed Stanley to me once, and I couldn’t agree with him more.
So tell me: What does success mean to you? Share your story on the comments section below.