Read This!

30 Oct

As a little preamble, I must apologise for typos and grammatical inventions in this post. My proof reading skills are not working today. Scroll to the bottom and you’ll see why my head is a little fuzzy today.

Rather than banging on about my upcoming move, I thought I’d mention my Recipe for Staying Sane in Time of Change. With more time on my hand than even ‘The Big Bang Theory’ can fill, I currently find myself never without a good book, a TED talk video, a podcast (loving BBC 4 ‘The Bottom Line’  or  Coffee Break French) or if I can’t be bothered to read, I watch the digest videos on Readitfor.me (Genuis if you like business books, 10-15 minute animation videos telling you what the book is about). I am basically geeking out at the moment. Unfortunately that doesn’t make me clever as I still haven’t figured out how to hold on to new and valuable information. (I can however recite every single episode of Friends).

So, if you also like reading (which seems likely, otherwise you would not be reading this!) then, in no particular order of preference, here are a few recommendations from “Fab’s Book Club” and an example of how I make tedious connections between a book and my own life:

For anybody who is interested in history but feels like they could do with a ‘Can we actually just start at the beginning?’ approach, I thoroughly recommend E.H Gombrich’s ‘A little History of the World’. History in 40 chapters, really well written and great as an all-round history lesson that’s actually fun.

For those more interested in the other side of Now, there is An Optimist’s Tour of the Future written by my friend’s partner Mark Stevenson, who (or whom?) I will have the pleasure of finally meeting next week at Bonfire Night in Landan. The book covers various areas of science and technology, introduces some weird and wonderful people who are trying to make us live forever and gives non-scientists like me an idea of how nanotechnology can save us all. (That sentence really doesn’t pay justice to the book….sorry….). Again, a brilliant read for curious minds.

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’, Bill Gates, the Beatles and some Jewish New York Lawyers born in the 1930s all put in approximately 10,000 hours of practice before they were then given an opportunity that allowed them to capitalize on their talent. Bottom line is that success does not simply result from talent or practice or money or opportunity alone. (I am indeed very bad at summarising books.)

My very humble experience in the Practice Makes Perfect field is that having never been able to apply nail polish properly, I have forced myself to do it twice a week for a few months now, and voila, I am half decent at it. In fact, somebody asked me recently where I had my nails done…. (smug face)…. so there, me and Bill Gates. Same thing really.

I am not quite finished reading this book actually, but I am very much enjoying it. It basically investigates the reasons why some people succeed and others don’t. How important timing is (born 10 years earlier or later, Bill Gates’s life would have turned out very differently) and how a stimulating and nourishing home can make all the difference.

I have been thinking a lot of my own upbringing recently and how much of ‘me’ is my parents’s legacy and how much is of my own making. The fact that my parents had the money to pay for my hobbies and education, the encouraging attitude that it’s ok to try any hobby but with the condition that if money had to be spent (for a tennis racket or something) I had to stick with it for a while; the interest and patience to sit through hours of volleyball games and ballet performances; the courage not to stop me from choosing a profession that was very far out of their comfort zone and initially required me to work for free for a long time (I appreciate now how scary it must have been for them to see me wander off into media land) and faith in my skills, abilities and judgement – all that allowed me to become the person I am today. If they had not supported my various interests as a child, if they had not believed in education, if they had not had the money for me to study in America or if they had worked on me just a little more to study law, business or something similarly ‘proper’, I would now be a very different person. That year in North Carolina alone changed me and my outlook on the world profoundly and I would have never moved to the UK if it hadn’t been for that conversation on the beach with that lovely girl from Scotland (who is now one of my best friends) at the end of September 2002.

So, obviously I have to thank my parents for a lot. They never put misplaced pressure on me or pushed me into becoming a little ‘them’ (not to say that that would have been terrible!). I have no idea how planned their upbringing style was or what they would have done if me or my brother had turned to drugs, but I hope I will one day be able to offer the same mix of opportunity and support to my own children. Funny enough, after spending most of my life trying not to turn into them (isn’t it funny how often we focus on the negative character traits of our parents when we are younger), as I am getting older (sigh), I am becoming more and more like them! And I don’t mind. It’s probably fair to say that in terms of Nature I am closer to dad and in terms of Nurture I am closer to mum, and I catch myself all the time doing things ‘their way’. Damn you genes, blood really is thick!

(Of course I can also blame them for not introducing me to Marry Poppins or The Wizard of Oz as a kid, for letting me walk around with a terrible haircut when I was a teenager, for not really teaching me the value of money, for not making me study law which would have seen me enter a profession that would enable me to afford that lifestyle easily and especially for not making me take a writing course so I could one day write a blog with more structure!)

To end this little story, the one thing my parents gave me and my brother on our ways and that trumps everything, is unquestioned love and appreciation for family. If one of us needs help or support, the others are there at the drop of a hat. No questions asked. They will never stop being our parents and we will never stop being their children. And now that we are all almost grown-ups, we can all be there for each other with equal strength, and we are. And that’s something money can’t buy.

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Quick Bucket List Update:

– 1 cinema trip (The Ides of March – enjoyed it a lot! Gosling and Clooney after all…)

– Massive Halloween Party last night. (Costume is meant to be Marilyn Manroe after a little disagreement with Mr President, great fun, but the fake blood was a bugger to scrub off.)

Still lots to get through, but I am on it!

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