Wunderwill

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Week 1 – ‘The Invisible Man’ – Review

So a week in and one book down. Yes, I’m surprisingly pleased that I found myself able to meet my very first weekly deadline. Here’s a short summary of my opinion of the book, The Invisible Man, and the themes therein. Spoiler warning that I will reveal plot details here in case anyone wishes to read it for themselves first.

The review

The Invisible Man is the story of a man. An invisible one. You may have gathered that from the title – top marks for clarity in naming the story.

Imagery and storytelling

I enjoy the way the entrance of this strange gentleman is painted in the opening chapter. Staggering into the Coach and Horses inn “more dead than alive” and demanding food and a fire. Ironic for a character whose distinguishing trait is his invisibility that the descriptions of his grizzly appearance are such a triumph. The man, Griffin, is invisible but his clothing is not. Swiftly Mrs Hall, the landlady, attributes the thick bandages with which he adorns his face to “an accident or op’ration or something”.

Through the eyes of the people who inhabit the villages and towns of late nineteenth-century Sussex a tale of this outsider unfolds. At first he is treated with suspicion, being speculated upon and judged to within an inch of his life. This soon turns to fear as his horrifying secret is revealed and he increasingly puts it to use for his own advantage with dramatic results.

Interesting origins?

In the later chapters I found my interest waning somehow. Griffin describes to Dr. Kemp the method by which he made himself invisible, and the ensuing fleet through the streets of London trying to figure out his next moves. Looking back, it was no doubt a thoroughly action-packed account of how one man twisted the laws of nature to endow himself with a power of his own desiring, and how rapidly and cruelly he found that there were obstacles and disadvantages in abundance with this predicament.

Maybe it is simply the fact this part of the story is recounted through dialogue, and felt to me like it jilted the narrative of the storyline. But it serves as a necessary tool for getting to the questions on every reader’s lips “How did he do it and why?“.

Power and virtue

What is most interesting in the whole story is its depiction of how such a unique and unfathomable power can quickly corrupt a man. Griffin became consumed with his desire to be invisible and hid his studies and experiments away from prying eyes so that he could keep the secret for himself. By achieving his aim he only amplifies his isolation and he now runs the risk of being the target of a witch-hunt of sorts. His ambitions to use his power for personal gain turn to desperation to reverse the effects of his own diabolical experiment, but he has no-one to turn to for help. He continues his quest for an ‘antidote’ whilst also remaining challenged with hiding the fact of his invisibility.

The frustration of it all makes him violent and delirious with rage. This anger becomes directed at anyone who dares cross his path (a bit harsh when they could not have seen him coming anyway). It culminates in his twisted hopes of casting a “reign of terror” over the region, seemingly for his own amusement as much as anything else. But the long conversation he holds with Dr. Kemp makes light of this. The hunt ensues to capture and bring him to justice.

Not such a great idea after all

The key here to me is this: had Griffin sought collaboration or co-operation in his scientific studies then he would have had at least another partner to counter-balance his rampant pursuit of this power. He himself overlooked the many disadvantages that would face him once invisible, but perhaps someone else could have persuaded him of their existence to warn against this extreme experiment.

The assumption was that most of the credit would be taken from him by a superior in the ranks of academia. Maybe he even have feared someone else granting themselves the power of invisibility before he would have the chance. But the idea of achieving reasonable acclaim as a scientist and intellectual was not enough; he dreamt of being a god amongst men. And like all ungodly dreams eventually he paid the price for it.

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Well there’s my summary. And I really would like to treat this as more than a mere reading exercise; as an opportunity to learn valuable lessons from key figures in history up to the present day through the medium of books.

The lesson

The lesson for us here today is this:

We all have our own ‘invisibility’. By that I mean we all have that seemingly glorious power which we desire, for the most part they are based firmly in reality but others may push the boundaries. Perhaps we seek to be the world’s most talented musician or sportsman. Maybe we desire being irresistibly attractive or supremely wealthy.

They may be goals which are entirely worthy, but in and of themselves are hollow.

What good is being invisible if you have no friend in the world to share in the fun and bounty? What is the sense in possessing immense talent if you devote so much time to it that you deprive yourself of life’s simple pleasures? Where is the nobility in being rich or beautiful beyond compare if it inevitably drives bitter jealousy and vitriol towards you from others?

We must weigh up the pros and cons when we chase our dreams, or at least stay aware that there may well be cons also. A great edge in this regard is to surround yourself with the people who share enthusiasm for your dream but those who are unafraid to tell you what they think, to balance and moderate your ambition in the process.

Nobody achieves anything truly great on their own. It is a cliche, but all cliches are only so by being so often repeated, and if that is the case then there is always truth to them.

If you want something badly, you’re going to have to work for it and you’re going to have to work with others to get there. Seek the support of those whom you trust and also those with whom you hope to build trust. Because who is going to really trust you when you’re only just starting out on a journey to do something incredible?

Food for thought there.

 

My progress

I approached reading the book by breaking it up into 4 or 5 chunks then sitting with some music on to block out distractions for an hour or so at a time. I must have spent 7-8 hours reading in all, but it was a reasonably dense prose for a novel.

Keep an eye out for my next post where I’ll be selecting another book off the shelf to mine for fundamental life lessons – by which I mean I will waffle on about it until I get bored.

If you made it this far, then thanks so much for reading! Do leave any comments below, I will be sure to reply.

-Will

 

Announcing the Book-a-Week challenge!

Hello friends and aimless internet wanderers! Whatever brings you here is none of my business but I’d like to assume it has something to do with the themes of personal development which I’ve previously explored here in my blog (even if in reality you were intending to peruse some adorably humorous cat videos but accidentally clicked on the link to here instead).

My last blog post here detailed how I’ve had some more time to myself lately due to a broken ankle which needed resting. Well now I have to concede that that rest-period has been extended somewhat by a second injury to my left knee – caused when I slipped whilst using my crutches outside – for which I’ve needed surgery and a full leg cast.

Previously I tasked myself with making the most of this down-time, not frittering it away on day-time TV and too many naps. To this end I hit upon the idea of practicing my Spanish and beginning to learn several other European languages with Duolingo. I also downloaded an app (AnkiApp) which allowed me to use flashcards for learning foreign vocabulary, but which I eventually wound up using to learn the names and locations of every country in the world, plus the States of America and their capital cities. Whether this is wise use of my time is debatable but I think it taps into my dreams of exploring the world someday I hope.

For now though, with my doubly injured legs, that kind of exploring looks a long way off; which brings me to the idea of exploration of a different kind altogether, which I’ll get to soon…

Less talk more action. That’s the motto from now on. Rather than talking about doing things, I’ve decided it’s better to actually do something first and then talk about it. One inspiration for this attitude to life is Joel Runyon who runs the site Impossible HQ – check it out if you’re interested in learning how to make your life more purposeful and exciting to boot!

So, on that note I’ve decided to give myself a challenge! The idea for this has been gestating for a while but took shape when I re-watched the following TED talk: Why I read a book a day (and why you should too): the law of 33% | Tai Lopez | TEDxUBIWiltz

 

Why books?

Books are such incredible things. So much information at our fingertips, but easily ignored these days by many in preference for the more stimulating modern creations of TV/Cinema or the internet.

My idea is somewhat Stoic in nature, demanding a certain diligence to abstain from other more outwardly entertaining pursuits in the search of a more intellectually nourishing past-time. That’s not to say that books aren’t entertaining, far from it, but that they require a more active and focused engagement with the material in order to get the most out of the time spent reading.

Hence this is what makes my challenge a challenge in the first place – if I had said I was planning to watch a series of a popular TV box set every week I may well come away with fascinating insights and points for conversation but few people would claim that it was exactly an arduous undertaking!

Perhaps it is my yearning to be seen as ‘intellectual’ and ‘stoic’ in nature that I see this as a valiant task, however there are of course many notable benefits to reading regularly, whether for pleasure or education: see this article for some of the benefits of reading – How and Why to Read a Book – at the Art of Manliness, another favourite blog of mine.

 

The challenge!

My plan then is to prepare an intro for my chosen ‘book of the week’ at the start of each week and then make another post at the end of the week outlining how I got on. I’ll also try to include:

  • What I liked/disliked about the book (basic critique)
  • Whether I learned anything from it
  • Comments about the style of writing
  • How easy it was to read
  • My method of reading – i.e. Cover to cover, scanning or active reading
  • How much time I physically spent reading it (to track over time whether this improves)

The plan for this challenge is still in the early stages and may change over time, but my hope is that perhaps when I have made a focussed effort to read more often, given a few months to a year’s time I could be in a place where I would have my own ideas for writing a short novel of some sort. That is a challenge for another time however!

 

This week’s book choice…

So for now I can announce that my very first book of the week is:

This is a book which I’ve had on my shelf for a while after picking it up for 50p at a charity shop. The story sounded interesting from the blurb, and of course H.G. Wells was a pre-eminent genius of science-fiction writing (The War of the Worlds being a more well-known example of his work due to popularisation in radio and film). What appeals to me most however for making this my first pick is that it is relatively short in form; only ~47,500 words/150 pages.

At an average reading speed of 200 words per minute (wpm) this would take about 4 hours for the typical reader to finish. However I find that I often take longer to read something for comprehension – I tend to try and consciously visualise all the details in my head as I go along which bogs down the process somewhat. This is a skill which I hope to improve on as I read more actively.

There could be a lot to learn by the way of imaginative plot points and unfamiliar language to entangle – the book was written in 1897, and the form of English will undoubtedly differ significantly from modern literature.

 

Check back this Saturday, when I hope to follow-up this post, to see how I did and what I made of the book!

 

-Will

Making Lemonade.

A quick update after an extended and unintended break from posting here.

I broke my ankle at the weekend and given the situation there is much to dwell on and feel rather depressed about. But strangely enough, I’m coping rather well.

The school of hard knocks has given me a valuable opportunity to make the most of my coming time as an invalid and put some additional effort into advancing my musical experience, knowledge and skills. A prime case of being able to take lemons and make lemonade. And I’m not even remotely Beyonce.

But that doesn’t mean that since my ankle bones have fallen out of alignment the stars will do the opposite. If anything I have to put even more effort into my activities because everything is made a little bit more difficult by being restricted with a mobility issue. However, the diminishment of my worldly freedom poses a case of being trapped with myself, my thoughts and a smaller selection of activities.

Once again, the TV and sofa beckon but I must stay vigilant. Instead I will reach for my notebooks and pens, my laptop and word processor, my guitar and keyboard. I have the chance to make something of this temporary confinement and I’d better not waste it.

On that note, I’m going ahead with two performances this Friday and Saturday, despite the impediment. The Friday evening being a fundraiser at a pub for a good cause, where I will perform a short solo set of 30 mins. The Saturday afternoon being a free local festival where I will play guitar for a fantastic female singer, a novel experience that I’m both looking forward to and nervous about considering we’ll only have the morning immediately preceding the show to practice in the same room together.

So now I’m off to practice my songs lest I make a fool of myself on stage in the not-too-distant future!

-Will

Lost.

This presents itself as one of the first big challenges in my adventure of beginning to write a blog. For the first time now, I am without a prompt, and need to choose the subject for myself.

Naturally in this situation, I gravitated towards the feeling which it evokes. That sense of being ‘lost’. Of not knowing where to go from here.

This is something I’m sure we’re all familiar with. Especially those of us without a clear idea of where we’re going in life, career-wise – which let’s face it, is pretty much everyone! Some may have a steady career they’re content with for now, but most of the time we will always return to the question of ‘What is it that I really want to be doing with my life?’

There are a few ways of dealing with this sense of dread at being adrift in life, without a clear map for the future (or indeed, if we do have some semblance of a map, knowing our current position on it).

  1. Look inwards. Ask yourself deep questions that at first make you squirm until you break through and just be honest with yourself. No-one else needs to know what goes on here, so you’re free to explore any option. Replay your life in your mind and pick out the points that evoked strong emotions then have a go at deciphering why you felt that way, and if it might be the start of your search for meaning in life.
  2. Look outwards. Put away the journal and pen, just get out there and do stuff! Doesn’t matter too much what it is. Do things which you really want to do. Do things which you really don’t want to do. Experience the world in it’s full spectrum, and then maybe you’ll land back down at the ground with a clearer idea of that map we talked about earlier – what it looks like, and where you are on it.
  3. Don’t look at all. Complain when things are not going the way they should be – even if you don’t know how they should be going. Sit around at home and when pertinent questions eventually come into your head about life, google them to see what others’ opinions are and whether there’s anything you can learn before you eventually decide to take some action. Shut the curtains, feed the dog/cat, put your feet up with a cup of tea, switch a random, mundane television program on, and try to drown out the horrible nagging inside your head that says ‘Hey. Come on, this isn’t right. Surely there’s something better we could be doing about this.’

If you hadn’t already guessed it, then number 3 is the wrong way. It’s also the way that I dealt with things for an awful long time, and hey, sometimes I’m probably still guilty of it. There’s nothing inherently bad about any of the actions described, but if you have made yourself a commitment to self-discovery, unveiling your passions, reaching for higher goals, or anything of the sort, then why would you waste any longer than you can avoid in putting all that good stuff off?

The general idea here is, there really are only 2 basic and effective ways at finding your place in life. Looking inside and looking out. That’s it. You could dress them up in all sorts of fancy ways and spin them off as something new, but I can’t really imagine how there’s fundamentally anything more than that (though I’d love someone to correct me, point out something blindingly obvious, and show me how much there still is to learn about life – please comment below!)

Also, and crucially, to give yourself the best chance of success of calibrating this internal life-compass you’re going to have to use and balance both methods effectively.

Writing pages and pages to yourself, probing and analysing is all well and good, but not if it comes at the expense of physical action! Likewise, blindly taking up any opportunity presented to you and going all-out-balls-out to do and see everything you can will only burn you out, also possibly leading you away from more suitable pathways or opportunities that a little introspection might have revealed.

And then I guess there is a third method. But really not a method of any sort. It’s the reward for your good work.

Stop looking for a moment. The constant search may well leave you snow-blind, so put aside your thoughts for a while and just enjoy not looking. Be mindful however – a very popular word right now – and you can make this time relaxing, re-energising even, rather than simply a way to drown out the noise and send yourself on a guilt trip for getting through two cartons of ice cream and half a series of Game of Thrones in an evening, then wondering where all the time went.

 

This is really all rather preachy of me, and I can’t claim to be a world-class expert in any of this type of thing. What I’m trying to do is to share some thoughts about what is essentially a common-sensical approach to shedding that feeling of being lost in life.

It doesn’t matter that you’re lost. Pretty much all of us are lost.

When you start looking however, you start to forget all about how lost you are. You start to experience all the things going on in life around you and inside of you.

It becomes less about the destination, and more about the journey. Adventurers and explorers since the dawn of time practically have had to experience being lost – it’s just a fact of exploration. So try to see yourself as an adventurer – ’cause why not – and just then you might realise, that it’s actually pretty exciting to be lost.

And you never know what’s waiting in the blank spaces of that map.

-Will

Revolution.

I’m certainly building something here, even if I’m not quite sure exactly what that is right now. And that’s ok.

So it strikes me as daunting when I’m asked the LYL start-a-blog challenge prompt for today “What revolution will you lead?”

How should I know? I’m just a 22 year old kid with a mild coffee addiction and a still-gleaming MacBook. Who would follow someone like that in a revolution of any kind?

I’m inclined to say no-one. And I’m inclined to believe that, up to a point. Because it isn’t that kid who would be leading something. He’s the precursor sure, but it’s the person he wants to be who should lead the revolution which he dreams up. Whatever the revolution is, it should definitely be aligned with his personal values, unique strengths, weaknesses, and differences. But it should also be striving to put all of those attributes to good use in a way that only that currently-clueless kid can.

 

In part, this question is already answered for myself, because it was the final question in LYL’s ’27 questions to find your passion’ workbook that I diligently took myself through a few months ago if I remember rightly. To which my answer at the time was “Getting people to care about the wider world…”, which is kind of vague though well-intentioned. But that followed on to a point which I still believe has a rather useful application for many people.

I posit that the more us humans take notice of what is going on around us, whether that is intense suffering or celebration of great civil achievement, and involve ourselves in taking real action to change that world for the better – in some small way at least – then the more capable we will be of seeing our own personal problems in perspective. Moreover, those trivial problems which only spark unnecessary worry within our minds could cease to be problems at all when the mind and body are engaged in something which is clearly a much higher priority for one’s self and the wider world together.

We can help people to make a difference in the world, not because they should out of any moral obligation, but because it just might save them from themselves at times!

When anxiety or depression creep in, having a genuine commitment to a project which greatly benefits one’s community and therefore brings you into close contact on a regular basis with other like-minded people, could be just the antidote. It is this part of it which is so crucial, in so many ways, to so many other successful revolutions. People need to feel like they are a part of something worthwhile.

Now I’m not suggesting what the particular problems this revolution could tackle will be because it is up to the members of that revolution to decide, depending upon circumstance and priority. I’m sure the collective will of good-natured individuals will direct such a cause towards worthy goals.

But this does all lead me on to ideas which I came across recently when reading a book ’18 minutes’ by Peter Bregman. Specifically the part where it mentions 3 key motivators (this in turn is taken from a book, ‘Human Motivation’ by David McClelland). These are:

  1. Achievement (the desire to compete against increasingly challenging goals)
  2. Affiliation (the desire to be liked/loved)
  3. Power – expressed in one of 2 ways:
    • Personalised (the desire for influence and respect for yourself)
    • Socialised (the desire to empower others; to offer them influence and respect)

Now my point is that whatever project we are tasked with, in this revolution of taking on worthy, positive challenges in order to help people see beyond themselves and into the wider world, it must allow each and every individual wherever possible to meet all three of these criteria, in order to have the most impact for the most people.

Why? Because when all of these things are in place, motivation will be at its maximum, and that leads to positive benefits for both the individual – by being brought out of themselves and in a state of flow working on something engaging and challenging – and the project at hand, since a large amount of people working with great motivation can surely achieve great things!

The basic formula by which we can meet all these criteria is to ask ourselves before choosing or planning a project:

  1. Is it both meaningful and challenging enough? Is there roughly a 50-70% chance of success, leaving room for constructive failure?
  2. Will it allow people to relate to each other socially through the project, connecting those like-minded individuals in a powerful way to give them a sense of affiliation?
  3. Will people be recognised for their contribution? Do they have the chance to influence outcomes/decisions (personalised power), or to give others the chance to do the same (socialised power)?

 

So in answer to the question, what revolution I will lead… well I’m still not exactly sure. And this is all really just a hypothetical exercise in making me think about the future, to get excited and dreaming of achieving something truly great.

But I hope I’ve at least touched on an idea from which something can be taken as I go forwards in life, either with this blog, my musical career or something else entirely perhaps. Who knows?

All I ask as you finish reading this post (and thank you by the way if you go this far!) is to ask yourself whether there are things you are worrying about which aren’t necessarily worth that much attention, and whether there are things much more worthy of your attention out there that you could focus on? Because it won’t just help them. It could just be your saving grace too.

-Will

My elevator pitch.

You know the drill. One minute or so in an elevator with a very unique opportunity to communicate your idea to some great entrepreneur or like-minded businessperson who could help translate your little idea into a huge, earth-shatteringly real product or service.

Except it’s not that at all.

You’re just stuck in a lift with another perfectly ordinary person like yourself and a few moments to kill when they (unusually in Britain I must say, but you never know – it could happen) decide to strike up a conversation with that sure-fire pathway to deep and intriguing commentary on personal life that is “So what do you do?”

My challenge here is to create a response for myself which is many things at once: interesting, genuine, replicable yet adaptable, and perhaps most importantly concise.

So what do I do?

Here goes:

 

“I’m starting a career for myself in music by writing and performing both alone and in collaboration with others. I’m excited to meet new people and share my talents in a way that gives people enjoyment plus insight into my personal story. Performing really makes me feel alive, and has helped me build the confidence to recover from my struggles with mental health that I hope to intwine with the stories or messages of my songs. I care about building something more than just a means of entertainment however, and that’s why I’m looking for opportunities to give back to my community and society in unique and valuable ways.”

 

Let’s test that pitch here right now then. How does it stack up to my descriptors mentioned above?

Interesting?… well to me perhaps, because I start imagining what my future really does entail and that’s obviously exciting stuff to my naive little prefrontal lobe up there.  On the other hand it could well send someone else’s spiralling off into a coma given the right conditions.

Genuine? Well I tried to be, but of course there’s some spin put on almost every word there, but as long as I project honesty in my personal interactions, that should count for something. That’s the real test here, me saying this thing out there in the real word to real people who talk back and react instantly. That should be an interesting test.

Replicable yet adaptable? Well, I might have to write it on a post-it note or flash card to get the gist down but after that I should be set to sound like a brainwashed robot on tranquillisers dictating SIRI-like a pre-scripted and very spun-out garb of information about myself and aspirations. Okay that’s a bit harsh, but the key is the second part here: it has to be adaptable also, and that only comes when people react or ask questions that I can then create some sort of secondary response to and change my tack when it comes to presenting myself.

And lastly, concise? Pretty concise by my books. Then again, my usual responses when talking about myself, as in what I do or who I am, are maybe a word or two and rather deflective away from that very personal subject. So this might mark a new starting point in my social presentation and self-esteem perhaps. It gives me somewhere on which to adapt and edit to my needs or advantage in order to create personal connections with people in which they have a pretty good idea of who I am and where I’m coming from.

That sounds quite good to me!

 

So why not let me know in the comments below.

If you were stuck in an elevator with a dishevelled and slightly bewildered amateur musician who painted this particular picture of himself over the course of 30 seconds or so, what would be your impression? Would you ask further questions? Or would you nod politely then keep jabbing the button for your floor one thousand times until you can get away from this self-obsessed and cloud-cuckoo-land lunatic? Be honest… I won’t bite. It’s only a hypothetical elevator. I’m not actually within biting distance if that puts your mind at rest.

-Will

This is where it starts.

My first post here commemorates my new commitment to writing regularly to explore aspects of life and myself that I might otherwise not have engaged with.

The decision to go full out and turn this into a blog coincided with my needing to prepare a brief presentation of my history and future career intentions for an interview at a music college next Tuesday. The email about the Start a Blog Challenge 2016 from Live Your Legend came through this morning, and I thought, ‘Hey, why not?’ It is certainly something I’ve thought about in the past, but had no clear idea of what I’d want to say or subjects to explore.

Here I think I have an opportunity to tap into my desire for a career in music and create something out of that which I can hopefully share with others and be proud of in time!

For now though I won’t say much as I hope to expand on this in  the week to come. I do hope that this will hold me accountable to reaching my goals and maybe help in finding new ones to aim for, rather than simply being an exercise in making my procrastination efforts appear more elaborate than ever! Only time will tell.

– Will

 

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