Life of Pi

A friend recently recommended I read the book Life of Pi, and out of this came two of my favourite quotes that I think I have ever read in a novel:

“I have nothing to say of my working life, only that a tie is a noose, and inverted though it is, it will hang a man nonetheless if he’s not careful.”

and;

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed foot soldier. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. You become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread.

 

Fear next turns fully to your body, which is already aware that something terribly wrong is going on. Already your lungs have flown away like a bird and your guts have slithered away like a snake. Now your tongue drops dead like an opossum, while your jaw begins to gallop on the spot. Your ears go deaf. Your muscles begin to shiver as if they had malaria and your knees to shake as though they were dancing. Your heart strains too hard, while your sphincter relaxes too much. And so with the rest of your body. Every part of you, in the manner most suited to it, falls apart. Only your eyes work well. They always pay proper attention to fear.

 

Quickly you make rash decisions. You dismiss your last allies: hope and trust. There, you’ve defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you.

 

The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene: it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”

 

The majority of the book is Pi thinking to himself so it will be interesting to see how a book with so little actual spoken dialogue translates to the big screen when the movie is released later this year.

Power of Words

Something anyone who follows my ramblings / retweeting on twitter will probably know is that I believe in the power of words. When used properly and in the correct context I believe they are strongest motivator in any walk of life. What most people probably don’t know is I also have quite the fascination with poetry that touches on this sort of area. There are 3 poems that rotate as my ‘Favourite’ and I have them framed in a place where I will see them everyday.

poems

I’ll include links below seeing as the text in the photo is hardly readable:

And I’ve included ‘Remember’ below because right now its probably my favourite:

Remember tonight, for it is the beginning of always.

A promise, like a reward for persisting through life so long alone.

A belief in each other and the possibility of love.

A decision to ignore simply rise above the pain in the past.

A covenant, which at once binds two souls and yet severs prior ties.

The celebration of the chance taken and the challenge that lies ahead.

For two will always be stronger than one.

Like a team braced against the tempests of the world.

And love will always be the guiding force in our lives.

For tonight is mere formality.

Only an announcement to the world of feelings long held, promises made long ago in the sacred space in our hearts.

-Dante (that’s right this came from the same guy that wrote The Divine Comedy)

So what do you guys think? Any poems you want to share back with me?

Measuring Success

Back during my undergraduate degree I learnt about the concept of Theory X and Theory Y; basically the former states people aren’t really interested in work and are simply there to earn money, the latter means that people are genuinely interested in the work they do and are happy to be there (this is a somewhat simplified explanation).

This theory has kind of stuck with me as I very much see myself in the ‘Y’ camp; if I find myself doing work I don’t enjoy I will endevour to find a way to change things up. However even though I see myself in this light all of the ways I seem to measure success are based on the ‘X’ way of thinking.

  • How much do I ‘own’ – Property, Gadgets, etc
  • My total salary
  • My job title
  • Relationship success (or in my case failure)

I can’t help but to compare myself to others and these are the main grounds on which I make the comparisons; up until recently I did not rank highly on any of these and it was getting me down a little.

I think the main comparison that any adult male will make is with his father and at my age I would rank my Dad as pretty damn successful. He left school after A-Levels so by the time he was 26 that meant he had 8 years experience working (and a pretty nice well paying position at HSBC), a house, a wife and perhaps the thing that gets to me most …. ME. I know times have changed in the last 25 years but I can’t even imagine myself in a position like that.

People are now expected to ‘lose’ 3/4 years to University (which I wouldn’t trade for the world) and then it does take a while to get to a decent position in the career ladder. House deposits are a pain in the arse to save for (especially if you are saving by yourself) when you are looking at £15,000 minimum; and if you don’t move home after University the ‘cost’ of your independence is significantly going to eat into this ability to save.

Where this is going is that I recently read an article about happiness and it talked about how these are almost meaningless methods of judging yourself … realistically there is always going to be a bigger house out there or a higher paying job. Instead we should be focusing on our experiences; would that £500 be best spent on buying a new TV or would you rather go see the Blue Lagoon over in Iceland? I am certainly leaning more and more towards the latter these days. The physical possessions (while cool) will keep you happy for a month or so until it becomes accepted as the norm, where as a trip to an area of natural beauty will give you memories to treasure for a lifetime (a trip to Niagara Falls is certainly something that I would likely never forget).

With this in mind I’m trying to make such a shift in my life; I’m attempting to visit more friends that have returned home after uni and see more of the country, I went to my first Live music gig seeing Joshua Radin perform in Camden (a separate blog about this coming soon), I went to the Olympic Badminton over the summer and I have tickets to see a touring orchestra who play music from one of my favourite composers; Nobuo Uematsu. All of these are things I wouldn’t have even considered a year ago and I have to say the memories have stuck with me so far so it sounds like its working.

Here’s to visiting my top 5 places to see over the coming years :)

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect. That’s a quote I’ve known for as long as I can remember and for the most part its true; the more I’ve done something the better I have got at it. But now I give it a little more thought I don’t think that I have been approaching it in the right way; practice isn’t enough. Take my Badminton as an example; for the last 3 years I’ve played on average maybe twice a week during the season but unless its a match (or tournament) there has not really been an overwhelming sense of urgency in anything I have done, its just going through the motions doing the same predictable stuff over and over again.

It’s training without an overall aim, there has been no part of my game that I have focused on and tried to improve. I’ve just turned up week after week doing the same stuff over and over again and assuming that because I am spending more time on court that I will get better. This is no way to strive for perfection. Perfection needs focus and goals.

I think I’ve come to realise this following a county tournament last weekend where I believe I more than held my own (missing out on the semi’s by a count back of just 8 points) including coming back from 18-10 down to beat a county pair and yet I continue to seemingly struggle in the lower level Local league. When it is required I can seemingly step up but on a week to week basis I’ve perhaps become arrogant about what I can achieve.

It might be the fact I’ve been injured for a week or so and I’m thinking about everything too much but I feel I should be achieving more than I am. My work life recently got a major upgrade and I suppose I feel I should be able to do the same with some of the stuff more personal to me as well.

On the contrary my recent surge of activity in the gym couldn’t be more opposite. Every activity I do in there has been tailored to help with my aim of getting stronger and hopefully a more ‘ripped’ body to go with it (Endgame: Ryan Reynolds body in Blade Trinity). While those sort of results are clearly going to take a lot of exceptionally hard to work get to I have set the bar high and am really pushing myself to try and get to it. Something that I can’t say I am doing with badminton where I am just plodding along seemingly being ‘Happy’ being a big fish in a little pond.

No more! Its time to start again from scratch and start the training with real purpose and focus. It’s strange that this blog has seemingly turned into a place for me to put words down in an aim to motivate myself but if it gets results then I say why the hell not. Hopefully soon I will actually have some half interesting stuff to talk about.

Midnight Contentness

I find myself sat here at midnight feeling pretty content with myself as I listen to the new Joshua Radin album. This is following an evening of watching the Olympics, playing an hour of pretty intense Badminton and finished with some general arse’ing around on Skype   while playing Battlefield 3.

I have no doubt this is due to my imminent change in employment, how it came about and the resulting two weeks holiday I have off between jobs. I had interviewed for a couple of jobs recently and even turned a few companies down before landing on something that really interested me. The one thing they all had in common was a sense of confidence in my interviews that I had never had in a professional context in the past. This is the first time I had progressed to a job similar to what I was doing before and it made such a difference; everything I said in the interview was conveyed with an understanding, knowledge and experience about the software and the techniques I use.

I suppose I’m writing this because I seem to know so many people who are graduating from University this year and finding themselves in the position I was in 2 years ago. They have the degree under their belts but the limited working experience is potentially causing doubts (it certainly did for me). My message to you guys is: it gets easier.

I was ridiculously lucky in the sense that the first job I applied for welcomed me with open arms (something that I will always be grateful for, given my lack of experience) and as it turned out I found passion in what I was doing. All of this was despite the fact that I knew very little about the field during my interview and was probably more than a little overwhelmed.

Here’s the bottom line: If you are getting interviews it means these companies are interested in you. Your skill set and qualifications make you attractive and now all you have to do is sell yourself in person. At this point it shouldn’t be a problem because I like to think I have awesome friends and frequently its the awesome people that get hired :)

I wish you guys all the best in your searches, just STAY POSITIVE. If anyone needs a hand in writing a CV that gets you noticed let me know :)

Improving Myself

One of my best experiences at Uni was joining the Badminton Club. I had previously played a lot of different sports to pretty high levels including Cricket, Basketball and Paintball. But upon arrival at Uni I didn’t quite take to the Cricket team at the time and as a result found myself starting a completely new sport after they caught my attention at freshers fair (this being Badminton).

This was one of the few sports I had never really played and it was nice to come in with no one having any expectations of me. I’m fortunate in the sense that I’m quite a natural sportsman and given a short amount of time I can look semi respectable; by the end of the first year the team had called upon me twice in times of sheer desperation for players.

But of all the memories it was the final term of my 2nd year that really stood out, this is when I had got to the point where I could almost hold my own with the big boys. As a result the intensity of training meant I improved exceptionally fast, so much so I could see myself getting better each time I played.

Having stuck with badminton for the following 6 years my improvements have slowed drastically and I haven’t experienced that feeling for a long time …. until now. I’ve just taken up running, in part to run a 10k race for children’s charity ‘Special Effect‘ and also to help with my fitness levels for badminton.

O.M.G. I forgot how good it feels to actually be able to see yourself improving with each time you do something. Today I flew by the place I started struggling last time I was out and shaved a good 3 minutes off my time over 3k (and this was following a meal so I wasn’t at my best). It’s at the point where I’m enjoying it so much I cant wait to get back out there.

I don’t know if anyone else feels this way but to me there are very few better feelings.

Yours Sincerely, Sports/Fitness Nerd

p.s. If you want to sponsor my run you can do so here.