Wednesday, September 26, 2012

30 Day Challenge Update

The month is winding down, and my 30 day challenge is almost over. Not sure if I'll devise a new challenge for October, but if I do, it will more than likely be very different than this one. Which in case you weren't following, was to perform 500 push ups, walk 60 miles, read 5 books, and publish 20 blog posts.

Well, I can tell you right now, that I am not going to complete this entire challenge. It looks like all that I'll be able to accomplish will be the reading and blogging portion of the challenge, which in itself is a noteworthy achievement. Eh, not really, but you know what I mean, it's better than nothing.

1. Walking and Push-ups.

Funny thing is I thought the walking part of the challenge would be the easiest. It should have been. I was off to a great start, but I ended up stubbing my toe really bad the second week in, that I could barely walk, put me out of commission for over a week. And then we got hot weather again, back into the hundreds, and at that point, even though I was able to walk short distances, I was so far behind, that I would pretty much have to walk 20 miles a week just to catch up, and with the hot weather, I didn't feel that I had the energy to do it. So that's that.

As for the push ups, I set the bar way too high there. I hoped this goal would motivate me to do more push ups, but what I failed to mention was that I hadn't done a single push up for months prior to setting this goal. So, after doing my first few sets, it sank in that I was not physically prepared to do this particular segment of the challenge. In this case, it wasn't just a matter of mind over matter, but matter not being able to keep up with the expectations and demands of the mind. In other words, the body has its limits. I know that I could complete this goal, but I needed more time. I needed to start with a smaller goal. Sometimes, it's not just a matter of thinking yourself into being able to do more, sometimes you really can't, or at least you need more time to prepare, with proper rest and conditioning. That if you don't listen to your body, and stop and rest when you need to, you'll end up injuring your body as a result. Oh well. Next time, I'll make sure I can do 100 push ups, before attempting to do 500.

Lesson learned: Be prepared. Know your limits. That's a good rule of thumb.

2. Blogging.

As for the blog posts. I'm fairly certain I'll be able to reach this goal, only need four more posts this month after this one. So no problem there, but I will say that it has been very difficult for me to do. There have been many days, including today, that I had absolutely no desire to write. I had no great ideas, nothing really exceptional worth sharing, and very little energy to share it. Like I said before, had it not been for this challenge, I wouldn't have published half of what I have. But when all is said and done, did I publish anything really great as a result of this challenge, that I wouldn't have done otherwise?

Not sure. I need some more time to go by, in order to look back and assess the merits of what I have written. I'm my very own worst critic. But sometimes what I initially don't think much of, in terms of what I've written, when I look back on it in the future, I see that it wasn't all that bad. Sure, maybe it was a bit rough, could use a some editing, maybe there is more that I could add to it, important ideas and examples I failed to mention, to expand upon it for clarification, but overall the basic draft that is there, isn't as bad as I initially thought it was. This tends to be the case more often than not.

Was this challenge really worth it? Yeah, I think it was. I'm sure there are lessons to be gleaned from this experience, of working under pressure, that I'm still processing, but will probably fuel some great ideas later down the road.

3. Reading.

As for my reading challenge, so far it has been kind of a disappointment. As of today I've completed 4 of the 5 books I set out to read, and am half way through the 5th book, but for the most part, I only enjoyed two of the books, namely The Fools Progress and The Hidden Persuaders, and even those I only gave 3 out of 5 stars to. So, in other words, haven't read anything exceptionally great this month, and no 4 or 5 star books in quite some time. The alien book was okay, but nothing special, nothing new. And same goes for that Henry Miller book. Though I will say that The Colossus of Maroussi is best read aloud, slowly like poetry, something I wasn't able to do consistently, because it would have taken twice as long, but even so, I didn't really get much out of it, it kind of dragged on, was pretty much a lot about nothing. Kind of like this post, eh?

4. The 48 Laws of Power.

*This is not a review! If you want to learn more about the book, a summary of what it's about, click the link. This is just a long rambling post of some of my first impressions, which for the most part, are not good.

The 5th and final book to read on my list, that I'm not sure if I will even finish, and may very well find a substitute for, is The 48 Laws of Power. I have mixed feelings about this book. Some of it is great, other parts I hate.

I've read 250 pages of it so far, and I've reached a point where it has become sort of a drudgery to read, mostly I think because I'm feeling rushed into reading it faster than I should be. It's due back to the library in a couple days and I cannot renew it. And I'm finding that it's not the kind of book you can speed read through without losing something in the process. You don't just read it, but actually need to study it. I wouldn't be surprised if there are whole classes dedicated to it, where people spend months reading and discussing this one book alone; and is certainly not something that one masters in one reading, let alone, in one week's time. You need more time to think about it, to absorb the ideas slowly. I mean, I could finish this book if I really wanted to, but my retention and comprehension would not be at 100 percent, probably not even 50 percent, because I ended up skimming over parts of it, so what would be the point.

However, that being said, not only do I have mixed feelings about the book, but I also have my doubts about its author, not sure it is wise to take advice about how to acquire power, from someone who has absolutely no real power himself. And aside from his observations of celebrities as a writer in Hollywood, pretty much the majority of this book appears to be something the author extrapolated from other books, rather than being based on anything he ever had any firsthand experience with himself, beyond being just a spectator, and not an actual participant. He's just a writer. He's not that rich. Hasn't worked in politics, or business management, or leadership prior to this book, beyond what has materialized as the result of it. Not that it discredits the book, but I think it hurts the book somewhat, and just that you might want to consider the source before implementing its advice, that's all.

It's comparable to some unemployed whiz kid who lives at home in his parent's basement, and never worked a day in his life, writing a book about how to get rich quick. He may have read every book on the subject and condensed the most essential material into his own book, but while the ideas may have a certain degree of soundness to them, they also may ring a bit flat coming from someone who has never actually applied them in a way that materialized the kind of results he promises. Where he's more of a poseur than a master. That's the vibe I get from The 48 Laws of Power. Just my opinion.

Another thing that kind of soured me to this book, is that when I first received it, I knew nothing about its author, but shortly later, I decided to look him up, and found a video clip of an interview with him on YouTube, and I was not impressed. The guy, although certainly smart and literate, also seemed like kind of a clueless schmuck. Does that make sense? Like some guy who got really good grades in school, but is kind of a goofball away from the books. Doesn't really have a "power vibe" going for him. Eh, but what good are first impressions, and from a video clip no less? I'm sure there is a rule in the book somewhere, about looking beyond appearances, and not underestimating your opponent, etc. etc. Yeah yeah yeah, I know. Just saying, I wasn't impressed with this guys video presentation of himself.

I guess I'm just a bit weary of this book. There's definitely some good material there, I'm not saying there isn't, though not sure it is really something you'd want to emulate in its entirety. Maybe some of it, some of it has relevance beyond the sphere of power, and more along the lines of personal productivity and success, but not all of it, and not for the reasons given.

I can tell you one thing, I have absolutely no interest in acquiring the kind of power spoken of in this book. The only reason why I'm reading it, was to get a better understanding of the psychology of power holders, not to become one of them, but to better defend myself against them, as more of a defense against deception and manipulation. Because the way I see it, The 48 Laws of Power, would more appropriately be called the 48 laws of Despotism, or how to be a Tyrant, without looking like one. "Smiling faces, smiling faces, sometimes, they don't tell the truth." so says The Undisputed Truth. It's the kind of book that would appeal to aspiring dictators. But this is also a good book to read if you are interested in understanding the mentality behind psychopathic power, the mental framework of those seeking to gain the whole world, only to ultimately lose their souls in the process. Okay, what I mean is, I think there are higher callings in life than seeking absolute power for absolute powers sake. This book does not explore them. They don't even factor into its equation. This is a book for the 'greed is good' crowd.

Still, I may finish reading it, but I definitely need more than a week to really get the most out of it. So I'll probably have to read it again some other time when I have more time and can do so at a slower pace.

*This is post 16 of 20, part of my "20 posts in 30 days" challenge.