JK Rowling’s commencement speech

“I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination…I was set free, because my greatest fear [failure] had been realised…. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”

JK Rowling, May 2008, Harvard University

-by far, the most eloquent language on this blog-


The Scarlett method

I found myself assembling a shelf of ‘old friends’ when I recently unpacked our book collection onto our new shelves**.

On my shelf of old friends, I found myself placing the books that I can’t put down when I read them, and I can read them over and over again.  I don’t only read these books, but  they are there if I need motivating, relaxing or just entertainment.  One of these books is, I am almost afraid to admit, Gone with the Wind.  Yes, yes, it’s intriguing and exciting and tragic and a top ten love story of all time, but really…I’m married so who needs Rhett Butler ;)?  This book is about “people who have gumption and people who do not,” in the words of Margaret Mitchell herself.  Scarlett O’Hara may not be kind or selfless, but she definitely has gumption (and good looks).  Before we go too far, I acknowledge that we may not approve of her methods or even her goals as the book goes on – but this post is about attaining goals, not making them, so the reader is fully responsible for any sketchy goal setting!

Throughout the book it is clear that Scarlett is undeniably going to finish what she plans to do.  She is able to effectively set goals and follow through.  Despite this, when she is about to undertake another act of self-preservation, she feels guilt that lingers from her antebellum Southern upbringing.  When she realizes she has no alternative that still allows for survival in her war-torn world, she exclaims, “Oh, I’ll think of that later!” to put her guilt aside until she has attained her goal. 

Now, bear with me, the next book I have chosen to read is Espresso Lessons by Arno Ilgner (that was on the ‘outdoor adventure’ shelf).  Arno Ilgner is the founder of the Warrior’s Way, a method to improve the psychology of rock climbers to enable them (us?) to evaluate and tackle challenges effectively.  The reason I have this particular book is because I took a Warrior’s Way clinic last year.  While the class occurred at our local Planet Granite and focused on rocks, the underlying principle is equally and heavily applicable outside of the rock gym: the most effective actions, thoughts or plans are those on which we have consciously and actively focused our full attention.  Attention is the key word.  If you are climbing, climb.  If you are resting, only rest.  This is the time to plan.  Once you start moving again, just keep moving how your body flows without letting your thought distract you.  In other words, if you have fear of falling, think of it later and focus on falling itself now.

I can’t seem to get over how striking it is that these books, a century apart and worlds different in context, lead to the same place.  In Scarlett’s case, her goals are survival-based and distraction is her guilt.  In the Warrior’s Way, the goals are self-improvement/achievement and the distraction is fear.  In my case, I’m still not sure on the goal and perhaps the distraction is the internet…  To attain the goal, invest fully in moving toward it or invest completely in devising the plan.  If the movement doesn’t match the plan completely, it’s ok – just get to a stopping point to reassess honestly.  And perhaps, when we’re not sure where to put our inevitable fear or guilt or anger or other distraction and we aren’t able to put it in the past, the indefinite future is just as good. 

**A note on the bookshelves: since one of our old Ikea shelves literally collapsed under the weight of our library,

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we decided to upgrade by buying 3 of the Klassik bookshelf from Scandinavian Designs.  I guess they are actually discontinuing this bookshelf, which is a bummer since it’s not terribly expensive and it’s much more structurally sound than the Ikea bookshelf since the shelves are supported by a bar rather than little tabs.  I guess these Scandinavians like to read more than the Scandinavians who work at Ikea…


I wanted to use this post to rail on The Tipping Point, but I best wait until I finish it until I try to take it apart.  So, I’ll reflect on It’s not you, it’s the dishes instead.  This book was originally called Spousonomics but was later renamed.  The premise is that the authors apply economic principles to marriage.  Just as economics tries to provide structure to how the deal should be struck, sposonomics tries to give guidelines as to the terms and format of that agreement.  If I say nothing else about the book, my major learning is that happiness stemming from a relationship can be fixed by both parties sitting down and working out an agreement.  My take: as in business, because each situation is different, no solution shall ever be the same.  And thus, we hope that we read enough case studies to learn from others’ experience and apply our learnings to our own life.

Each chapter in the book has exactly three case studies assembled from a series of interviews.  Some are weaker in proving their points than others.  Some of the couples’ problems could have been handled with solutions from more than a single chapter.  In *all* cases, the couples had to first identify the problem.  Then they had to sit down and come up with a solution.  Some ideas: chore distribution by total time of the couple rather than total time of the individual, take a time out before an argument heats up out of control, stay in the habit of being in love even if not inspired by mood, not being complacent that your spouse will always be there, set incentives between the couple for good behavior, compromise, open communication and don’t put off dealing with the issues because you never will.

The same problem can be solved with more than one of these techniques, but as Bryan says, just do something!

My questions: what if only one person thinks it’s an issue?  How to bring up the problem without bringing blame into the matter?