Pin the Tail on Your Inner Donkey: Awaken the Giant Within, by Tony Robbins
What you're doing is not producing the result you want, and you have to change your approach. Remember that your perceptions are controlled by what you focus on, and the meanings you interpret from things. And you can change your perception in a moment, just by changing the way you're using you physiology or by asking yourself a better question.
I have a love-hate relationship with Tony Robbins and his philosophy of success. He is problematic as fuck, and not as popular with younger generations as he was with mine, but the core of his self-improvement formula really did improve my life. I used to listen to his "personal power" cassette tapes while working out, and come back to Awaken the Giant Within every so often for a checkup. If you don't know what a cassette tape is, ask an old person.
Basic Tony Robbins: If you're not successful, you should change (1) your state of mind and/or (2) your behavior. EVERYTHING comes down to those two things. People are hard-wired to pursue pleasure and avoid pain; therefore, you get where you want to go by associating massive pleasure with doing what you should do to get there, and massive pain with doing the other thing.
Which means, if you want to lose weight, you psych yourself for it with a combination of fat-shaming yourself and constantly picturing the healthier, stronger, more attractive you that you want to be, and you WILL get there. (Remember, this is for people who WANT to change their bodies, not for people who are content the way they are. It's still problematic, but maybe not quire as much as one might think). Similarly, if you're not satisfied with the amount of money you have, think positive thinky-thoughts and WANT it more, and you'll get a better job, own your own business, become rich as Bezos, if only you're motivated enough.
And if you have a disability that prohibits exercise and the only available jobs pay shit wages, then---you're not trying hard enough. Actually, the book is completely silent about that part.
But there are other things. Changing your state of mind instantly with physicality. I have gotten myself temporarily out of depressive episodes by grinning a big dorky grin and saying "Da-WOOOO-ba" in a Warner Bros. cartoon voice or by doing the robot dance.
Or the use of words like "curious" instead of "confused", "misunderstood" instead of "rejected", "a wee bit peeved" instead of "angry" and "challenged" instead of "overwhelmed" Robbins calls this "transformational vocabulary". I call it "fun with words", and my friends the words have gotten me through some really bad times.
Oh, wait. Did I say "really bad times"? I meant "surprising, moving and shaking, times of opportunity."
Robbins doesn't drop names. He backs them up into a truck and dumps them. He has met with and interviewed hundreds of successful politicians, business leaders, athletes and entertainers to find out what they did to make it to the top. His books are full of true anecdotes about people with dreams who achieved those dreams, just like you can if you set goals and think like these wonderful, successful role models did. Unfortunately, this book was written some time before being published in 1991, and some of the amazing, successful people Robbins holds up as role models have not aged well. read his book, and savor the irony of inspirational feel-good stories about John DeLorean, Pete Rose, Lee Iacocca, T. Boone Pickens, OJ Simpson, Mother Theresa, and---YES! Bill Cosby, and---YES! Donald Trump.
And now, Robbins has his own sexual harassment scandals. Remember the lesson of Croesus and Solon, and never meet your heroes.
Bottom line: There's a variety of good stuff that often works in Awaken the Giant Within. It's a resource I return to frequently (and so is Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), and I highly recommend everyone read it at least once, but it is not perfect (for a discussion of the barnacle-encrusted underbelly of the S.S. Positive Thinking, see Brightsided, by Barbara Ehrenreich).
Little Ado About Nothing: The Life and Death of Harriet Frean, by May Sinclair
"Ugly. Being naughty was just that. Doing ugly things. Being good was being beautiful like Mamma. She wanted to be like her mother. Sitting up there and being good felt delicious. And the smooth cream with the milk running under it, was delicious too."
Poor Harriet Frean! Her life (not the reading experience) is one of the dreariest in fiction. She lives with her parents; her parents age and die, she runs out of inheritance and has to live in a smaller drearier house; eventually, she dies too. It's a short book; Sinclair spares us from having to endure every moment.
The most significant point of Frean's life is when a young man, engaged to someone else, declares his love for her and wants to break the engagement and marry her instead. she tells him it wouldn't be fair to his current fiancee and sends him back to her. Her father, whom she adores, says she did the right thing. The couple, who didn't really like one another, have a miserable life, and Harriet has no life worth speaking of.
Again, after her father dies, Harriet and the widowed mother have the chance to live in a pretty place by the seaside, where the air is clean. they turn it down because "it wouldn't be right to abandon father's grave." the bad air of the village contributes to the early deaths of both women.
Similarities with this plot exist in many first-wave feminism stories, from The Awakening to The Bell Jar. Women with nothing expected from them (except self-sacrifice) and nothing given to them, whose lives are wasted for want of an opportunity to grow into their full power and thrive.
Sea Sickness: The Shadow-Line, by Joseph Conrad
"It never occurred to me that I didn't know in what soundness of mind actually consisted, and what a delicate and on the whole unimportant matter it was. With some idea of not hurting his feelings, I blinked at him in an interested manner. But when he proceeded to ask me mysteriously whether I remembered what had passed just now between that steward of ours and that man Hamilton, I only grunted sour assent and turned away my head."
The introduction swears that this is a WWI novel, or a metaphor for it. I see no connection. This is yet another one of Conrad's psychological sea adventure, set around Singapore and the Indian Ocean. In the first part of the book, fate tries to steer the narrator into avoiding a horrific small ship command, but he ends up on the ship, becalmed. with disease and madness rendering the crew useless in the face of the consequences of the previous captain's fuckery. With a lot of meditation about ghosts and fate and other somber subjects. as usual.
Wodehouse Without the Humor: Crome Yellow, by Aldous Huxley.
"And what will be MY place in the Rational State?", Dennis drowsily inquired from under his shading hand."
"Mr. Scogan looked at him for a moment in silence. "It's difficult to see where you would fit in," he said at last. "You couldn't do manual work; you're too independent and unsuggestible to belong to the Larger Herd; you have none of the characteristics required in a Man of Faith. As for the Directing Intelligences, they will have to be marvelously clear and merciless and penetrating." He paused and shook his head. "No, I can see no place for you. Only the lethal chamber."
There's a hint of Brave New World in the planned rational utopia of the odious Mr. Scogan; otherwise Crome Yellow is quite far from what most people think of when they think of Huxley. It's about a young man who spends a bit of vacation time at a country estate populated with independently wealthy dilettantes too earnest to be funny and too eccentric to be taken seriously. They spend their days fiddling around with art, philosophy, writing and games, lecture and read to the protagonist; then, after flirting unsuccessfully with one of the women for a while (she feels sorry for him), he goes back to London.
They have names like Bracegirdle and Barbecue-Smith, and I expected them to be wot-wotting like Bertie Wooster, but they didn't. they were too dull to be fops, and too clever to be upper class twits, and I might have enjoyed a weekend's conversation with some of them, if I could get the others to shut up.
The book jacket billed it as a "satire', though it didn't make much of a point about society; neither was it intellectual nor funny. Stuff happened, and then more stuff, and then it ended. But for the brief romance and sketchy characterizations, nothing really happened. And so it goes.
Daisy Buchanan of Europe: The Green Hat, by Michael Arlen
"It has occurred to the writer to call this important history The Green Hat because a green hat was the first thing about her that he saw: as also it was, in a way, the last thing about her that he saw. It was bright green, of a sort of felt, and bravely worn: being, no doubt, one of those that women who have many hats affect 'pour le sport'."
I draw comparisons with The Great Gatsby because of the similarity of the time period, the casual entitled destructiveness of the wealthy main characters, and the fact that these were among the first stories in which motor vehicles were an essential part of the plot.
Iris Storm, the woman in the green hat, is not really much of a Daisy Buchanan. She is considered a "scandalous woman", largely due to an incident that happened on her wedding night. Most of her peer group--as with Crome Yellow, they're of the Bertie Wooster caste, with the comic foppishness stripped away to reveal the nasty underbelly--her peer group either shuns and scolds her, or patronizes and pities her, or attempts bunglingly to be friendly, all the while acknowledging that they don't understand her, in a "Wot shall we do about Iris?" sort of way. And, about the time my patience was worn to the breaking point, the denouement made it all worth it. So I won't say it out loud, even though you've probably guessed the gist of it already. Well recommended.
All of Brecht in one Volume: The Last Days of Mankind, by Karl Kraus
"During the Battle of the Somme. Gate in front of a villa. A company of front-line soldiers, wearing their death-defying countenances, marches by into the foremost line trenches.
"CROWN PRINCE: (at the gate, in a tennis outfit, waving to them with his racket): Do a good job!"
I'm finding that most post-WWI books are ither less than 150 pages, or more than 500. The Last Days of Mankind, selected for its appropriate-for-these-tinmes-title, is longer than Faust, and seems to me impossible to perform outside of a minimalist Brechtian style, as countless unnamed privates, officers, judges, beggars, war prostitutes, idle rich onlookers, and personifications enact an alternate WWI that continues until there's no one left to fight. There are cameos by Hindenburg and other historical characters with actual names, but the only two characters with distinct long-term identities are "The Optimist" and "The Pessimist", who appear in parks and cafes between war scenes, to comment and punctuate like a Greek Chorus about how foolish everyone is.
There is much bitter, cynical humor. A court-martial officer who has just sentenced some young soldiers to be shot is told that the sentence cannot be carried out because the accused were juveniles who are legally too young for execution. Instead of changing the sentence, he alters their ages on the official documents, to make it right. Soldiers dying under horrific war conditions, without boots, blankets, food nor medicine, have nice patriotic notes sent home to their families, asserting that they died after important service to their nation, well-cared for and given the best medical treatment. Retreating soldiers are shot for having failed to drive off the enemy, by their own officers, who subsequently wonder why there is now no one between them and the enemy.
And so it goes. Eventually, the Human race has succeeded in killing itself off, and the Voice of God says "I did not will this", and that's how the play ends. I could hear the Kurt Weill music--still uncomposed as of Kraus's time--throughout.
More Human Misery: Summer; The Glimpses of the Moon, by Edith Wharton
"She was awakened by a rattling at her door and jumped out of bed.She heard Mr. Royall's voice, low and peremptory, and opened the door, fearing an accident. No other thought had occurred to her, but when she saw him in the doorway, a ray from the autumn moon falling on his discomposed face, she understood.
"You go right back from here," she said, in a shrill voice that startled her. "You ain't going to have that key tonight."
"Charity, let me in. I don't want the key. I'm a lonesome man."
I am getting seriously tired of Edith Wharton and her constant parade of lives ruined by combinations of hypocritical societal backbiting and poor choices, but I suffered through centuries of this crap from male authors through history, and I can put up with wharton too. She's part of the western canon.
Summer is about a girl brought down from an off-grid mountain hamlet somewhere in the Berkshires and raised in a nearby rural village by an amorous foster father, She dreams of going to a "big city" like Pittsfield, but doesn't make it because she's seduced by a young man who is going slumming before he marries a society girl. So she ends up with a wasted life in the middle of nowhere.
The couple in Glimpses of the Moon has no money, and spends their summer living among high society Europeans as their guests while pretending to be of them. each has the opportunity to divorce and marry someone more suited to them, who could support them...they even make commitments in ways that end up deeply embarrassing the other parties and burning bridges when they decide to resentfully stay with each other instead.
Should have stayed lost: The Return of the Soldier, by Rebecca West
"Ah", he said, "Madness is an indictment not of the people one lives with, only of the high gods! If there was anything, it's evident that it was not your fault."
Another short one, written soon after WWI, about a shellshocked soldier coming back to his native village with partial memory loss. he's forgotten which of two women he's really married to, and their mission is to bring his mind back so that he can be sent back to the front and get killed properly this time. Cheerful.
Vignettes: Cane, by Jean Toomer
Becky was the white woman who had two negro sons. She's dead; they've gone away. The pines whisper to Jesus. The Bible flaps its leaves with an aimless rustle on her mound.
From the very Caucasian-looking portrait on the cover, I had thought Jean Toomer was a Frenchman whose name was pronounced "Too-may". In fact, he was a major contributor to the Harlem Renaissance who was completely neglected in my education.
Cane is a collection of racially tinged poems, vignettes and short tales, set in the rural South and the urban North. More impressionist than plotted. Content note: the N-word is used frequently, and there are instances of extreme violence, usually more implied than graphic.
Town-o, town-o: The Fox, by DH Lawrence
"He had a ruddy, roundish face, with fairish hair, rather long, flattened to his forehead with sweat. His eyes were blue, and very bright and sharp. On his cheeks, on the fresh ruddy skin were fine fair hairs, like down but sharper. It gave him a slightly glistening look."
The allegory is ham-fisted. Two women are trying to work a small farm that they own together, but a fox keeps running off with their poultry. the women are helpless. They can't stop the fox. One of the women is even stared down by the fox hypnotically.
And then a man with a scheme, and with the facial features described above, comes along and resolves to marry that same woman and take the farm from them. As one does. you see where this is going immediately, right?
And it goes there. It's a novella. it's worth reading and it does what it does well.
Integrity in Action: My Life in Court, by Louis Nizer
"The principle by which I have guided my legal work is that law is truth in action. It is man's highest achievement, because it is the only weapon he has fashioned whose force rests solely on the sanctity of reason. The more it is codified, the more it is in danger of petrifying. Its primary function, to do justice, becomes circumscribed by rules and precedents, which all too often interfere with its attainment. In order to give stability to law, our legislatures enact statutes to warn us, and our courts issue legal opinions to guide us, but these become immense catalogs that can obstruct the view of simple justice. Their very complexity requires interpretive processes that provide new areas for conflict and error. The journey through the forest, which was to give us shade and shelter, becomes a hazardous undertaking in itself, and so diverts us that we may forget our original destination."
I was given this book as a gift shortly before graduating from law school, and I never read it until now. I read biographies of Clarence Darrow, William Douglas, Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall, F. Lee Bailey, Melvin Belli, Alan Derschowitz and William Kunstler.
I never got around to Nizer largely because I didn't know who he was. His name never came up in my legal studies or career, not once.
Nizer was a New York attorney in private practice, who had a high reputation for integrity and thorough preparation for trials. What he calls his "biography" is really a casebook of seven or eight civil litigation trials from defamation to personal injury to rich-people divorce, presented from initial consultation to verdict or appeal. More than half the text consists of transcript excerpts from Nizer's cross-examinations, which sometimes lasted weeks. Paper companies loved him; he had a team of assistants to carry the massive files full of documents to his trials.
His biography was apparently intended for casual readers, but it seems to me you need an understanding of civil litigation and a keen interest in the subject matter to read it for pleasure. I responded positively to it, naturally enough, and people considering law school could do worse than to go through it while deciding whether a legal career is right for them.
Comments are closed on this story.