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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

BE the Panda: Escape the herd of mediocrity, and be the rare animal you're meant to be...

Have you ever found yourself asking somebody else, "what should I do?" Or how about, "what do you think about this?" Or even, "do you think it is okay if I...?"

And then you lean in, waiting upon the answer that will determine what you do next.

(I know I did it ALL the time. It was an unconscious addiction. So much so that I was living everybody else's life and could hardly ever make a decision on my own.)

But there's something wrong with this picture? No, not the one above with the pandas... there's plenty wrong with that... but the one with you asking others for their approval.


(Give yourself 5 points and a star on your head if you guessed correctly, and 3 points just because you're reading such a cool blog article.)

The answer is that needing approval equals living by the status quo which equals boring in grayscale which equals not you. If you do the math, asking for approval means you are giving people the opportunity to tell you how to live. And because they cannot imagine the wonder and unique brilliance you'll bring to the world in being yourself (yet - they will soon!), they'll insist you do what everybody else is doing.

And there's only one solution to this equation when you want to do something, don't ask for the opinion of others.

Oh, and on a side note, there is no such thing is status quo anyway, it's a fallacy.

Status quo is like Santa for grown ups. You think it's real, but in the end it's just something people make up to make sure you're acting by their definition of 'good'.

Ask ten people what is normal and you'll get eleven or twelve different answers. You may also get a few strange looks. Believe me, I've tried.

And on yet another side note, if you're not going crazy now, you will if you keep doing what other people want of you... even if you don't recognise why you're going crazy.

I do digress.

So what do you to?...

Be the Panda

Pandas are rare and everyone loves them because they don't pretend to be brown bears. If you stop worrying what other people think, and be yourself ALL the time, the strange thing is, people will LOVE you for it.

Being yourself and following what feels right to YOU is like being the Lady Gaga of every day life. Doing what others want you to do, is like being the Rebecca Black of everyday life - a watered down version of yourself.

But there is much more to being the panda. It will re-connect you to the wisdom of your soul. You'll be more happy, passionate, enthusiastic about life, successful and well-liked. Life will unfold in perfect harmony. This is the power of the way of the panda.

So I want you to say after me (but remember, only if it feels right)...

"I am the Panda. I will do what I feel is right in every situation, and will not compromise myself for the standards and opinions of others. I release any need to be approved in any way, because I am spectacular in my own way and only need my own approval - which I readily give. From today onwards, I pledge allegiance to the way of the panda."

So why do people need to ask for somebody else's approval?

The reason we want to be affirmed in our actions is probably a primitive instinct. The one that keeps us together so we can survive the threat of sabre tooth tigers and start building communities outside of caves.

It once served us, but it doesn't now. It just takes the colour out of life and clubs baby seals. Okay, I may have lied about the baby seal bit, but I didn't lie about the colour bit.

If you want to live the fullness of life, and be the best person you can be, then listening to others whining and giving their two cents won't get you there. And remember, if you want to be more than those around you in the mindless heard, you need to think differently to those around you.

The panda never lies

This is an important element for the way of the panda. You cannot pretend to be unique and rebellious, but really be following a sub-culture that fakes panda-um. And you shouldn't be different for the sake of being different. Listen to the inner panda.

So what is inner panda (or inner guidance)?

Great question. Love to see your proactive questioning. Star on forehead there!

Inner guidance is your gut feelings. If you ask yourself, does this feel right, and it does, then go forth. If it doesn't feel right, then don't go forth - your inner panda is saying no go.

So perhaps it is not the act of listening to someone's advice that goes against Tao of Panda, but implementing said advice into your life when it doesn't feel right or takes you away from your true self.

It is that easy, but it should be a moment by moment practice. If you do that, you'll be absolutely amazed at the results. As I said, you'll be happier, more successful, and have better relationships with those around you. And you'll be more confident because you'll know people love you for you!

Now go forth my little panda cubs and cubbettes!

Enjoy this post?  For more short stories, comic introspection, and articles written for the Panda inside, subscribe to this blog.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Great spirits, Einstein! Should you really try the impossible?

I have been sucked into MY OWN novel!

Yes, it is true. Well, not literally true. For if it were, then who may I ask is writing this blog?

But true in a very abstract not-really-true type way. I have been sucked into my book, and am facing the type of "impossible" challenges my characters would face - just with a tad less fantastical slant.

Like my book's characters, I am taking on the world despite those who try to stand in my way. Creatures known as the nay-sayers.. and if you read my previous blog entry, it is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I said they'd be there, and lo and behold, they are.

Did I predict it or did my expectation open my eyes to it? Bit like "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" For those playing at home, according to a panel of experts that included a philosopher, geneticist and chicken farmer, it was the egg. So, good.

(See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/may/26/uknews for more on this age-old problem finally solved.)

But to be great, I think you do come up against great opposition. In fact, is any dream big enough if most people think you can do it? According to a panel that consisted of me, myself and I, the answer was unanimous "no". The conclusion came after minimal serious back and forth deliberation in front of the mirror.

In fact, the second in fact for this blog entry, it was my good pal Albert Einstein (a pal in the very abstract not-really-true type way) that famously said:

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.

He clarifies that:

The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices, but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence and fulfils the duty to express the results of his thought in clear form.

Now I am not really sure if he had me in mind when he said this... but it is perhaps unlikely given I was not born yet. (But the statements perfectly dovetail my hypothesis that to realise a big dream, you will come against opposition and nay-sayers)

This of course, is not to say that I am (and you are) a great spirit and my (your) nay-sayers are mediocre minds (especially since many of your nay-sayers may be related to you or your friends). More to say that we are all mediocre minds until we realise we are actually great spirits and reach for the "impossible"... did that sound corny to you too?

And although at first the nay-sayers can drag you down with their 'advice', once you realise the above you realise the nay-sayers are really your greatest supporters (in the not-really-abstract very true type way).

When people say you can't do it, that it's "impossible", but you do it anyway, then you have done something they will describe as "great". If not "great", then (at the very least) they scratch their heads and call you "lucky".

But in the end, it doesn't matter what they think, because luckily they can't think your thoughts. What matters is you did it.

So take this away. If you are wanting to self-publish, or do something others think is 'impossible', you have been blessed with a great opportunity. A great opportunity rather than having been burdened with a 'I must prove you all wrong' attitude, or a 'they stole my dreams' complex. Actually the former of the two might not be such a bad attitude.

In the comment section I'd LOVE to read what 'impossible' things you have pulled off despite a herd of nay-sayers muttering, shaking heads and rolling their eyes in your larger than life shadow. Let's laugh in the faces of the hoards of tall poppy cutters.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Taking the Road Less Travelled - An Audacious Plan to Self-Publish Fiction

I've got that movie trailer voice in my head. And it is saying something like (fade to black):

One man with no experience... decides to take on the publishing world...

And then they'd be sounds of cars, the beeping of crossings, and people's shoes hitting the tarmac.

With a self-published fiction book.

And then it would cut to me, and give a quick montage of what might be in store for me in the coming weeks. Because yes, deciding to self-publish a NOVEL, is a cardinal sin amongst 'intellectuals' - and that, and like, but like whatevvvveeerr. 

AND especially in the audacious manner I'm planning to do it.

But that's why it excites me (cue the waving flag in the background). It is the unknown. The challenge. The adventure.

Sure, I could've listened to the wise-heads (i.e. the ones that get uncomfortable when you deviate from their mental construction of 'social norm') and gone down the typical route... Submitting a manuscript into a publisher. Waiting 12 months for a few rejection letters (perhaps) and an offer to publish the book (perhaps).

Then, as a first time writer, I'd be given like 0.02 cents for each book sold, they'd do a "merde" job of marketing it (excuse the French), and they'd make me re-write it so it sounds "merde" and make the cover "merde". And then after a half-arse "merde" result, they'd discontinue it and the story would be dead. ("No reprints Mr. Newton, zee story does not sell!" ... yes, someone with a dodgy German accent would have published my book, and done a French job of it.)

Then, as a result of my baby being flushed down the toilet, I would spiral down into writer's depression... drink cheap wine for breakfast from a casket, not wash for weeks justifying the waves of tears have done a good enough job at cleansing my body, start yelling obscenities at the mirror and at my shadow, and end up shivering, rocking back and forth in the foetal position on a motel floor watching Two and a Half Men re-runs (because it just won't be the same without Mr. Epic Winning) with my seven pet stray cats and whispering "damn you Mr. Fake-German-accent-man".

That is not a "rock-star from mars" type attitude, Daniel, but the very pit of 21st Century society.

A risk not worth taking when you extrapolate the likely cause and effect with Chaos Theory science as I have just done.

So instead, I am taking the road less travelled - a road I recommend to anyone in any endeavour. The "risky" (read: "madman dreamer") road. The road that perhaps one of the characters in my book would take if they were in my position. The road that shouts "I don't care (too much) about what you think, I'm going to do something a little loco."

But as the seasoned traveller of roads less travelled, Dr. Livingston, wisely once said, or would've said if he were living right now and self-publishing his first novel (and writing this blog entry), "a road less travelled, may have bumps, but it is the friction that creates the diamond."

(I think he may have stolen two different clichés there.)

But how very wise of hypothetical Dr. Livingston. Very wise indeed.

So with his great hypothetical mixed-cliché advice ringing in my ears, today I set forth to become the most successful self-published writer since Moses wrote the ten commandments (I hear Moses' descendants are still getting royalties on it! Sweet! - I apologise in advance for that one). Or even, dare I dare to say daringly, more successful. Muhahahaha.  (Perhaps too early to mention my plans of world conquest???)

Wish me luck and a nay-sayer ray gun as I step into the unknown and rocky land of self-published fiction. I hope you come along for the ride (read: buy my book and subscribe to my blog)! Hehehe.

Coming to a blog near you.

P.S. I have not actually ever sent in a manuscript to a publishing house, but I am not adverse to someone doing so. If you want to send your manuscript to a publishing house, I wish you good luck, and see you where the roads meet... in the Amazon.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Ninjas of My Blog and the 'About Me' Section

Drawing of the archetypical ninja, from a series of sketches (Hokusai manga) by Hokusai. Woodblock print on paper. Volume six, 1817.

Dark clouds glided over the crescent moon. Few guards walked the fire lit passageways of the stronghold. The time to scale the walls and enter at the designated entry point was now.

But there was something that held the ninjas back...

'The Last King of Shambhala'. The alter ego of Daniel Grant Newton, the kick-ass author of this blog, and author of the book that is not about him, but conveniently of the same name. A convenience that may prove confusing for readers, but that which would favour the Judo Lords of Google.

He was the target, but also the biggest threat to any ninja. His mere name made one loyal ninja go to the market instead of coming on the mission, one stay home, one eat roast beef, one not eat roast beef, and made yet another run, run, run all the way home.

Don't be mistaken - these ninjas were freakin' awesome with their swords. Their master had even announced that this generation of ninjas were: "freakin' awesome with their swords."

(Their spirits had been ceremoniously bound to their sword at birth, and they were to never use another sword in their life.

They trained with the same sword night and day. And they were able to fling their sword about with ease and precision, slicing through watermelons hanging from beams in the dojo.

All ninjas have watermelons hanging from dojo ceilings at all times, and these ninjas had videos of themselves on YouTube cutting through them in slow motion to a backing of energetic freeware music. So you know they are the real deal.)

But as they say, the pen is mightier than the sword, and the keyboard is mightier than the pen. And being a writer and an artist, 'The Last King of Shambhala' (or Daniel Grant Newton if you will), was proficient with both pen and keyboard. He could touch type with one hand and twirl a pen as to created the illusion that it was made of jelly with the other hand.

This struck fear into even the coldest assassin ninja. They pull their electric blankets over their head at night fearing his pen and keyboard combination moves.

Finally, one ninja, the leader, growled at his companions. "Do not just stand there. We have a job to do."

His ninja companions had all accidentally been exposed to a poisonous gas on their last mission that, although did not handicap their poison-proof bodies, made them lose their short-term memory. This proved handy if they were being interrogated, but a menace when they had a job still to do.

"What was our mission?" they asked in unison.

"Our mission," said the leader ninja, "was to get inside the head of The Last King of Shambhala so we can write an About Me section for his blog."

One ninja stepped forward. We'll call him 'Fred' for convenience sake. And we'll call the leader ninja 'Dominick'.

(In reality, ninjas don't have names. They just have a grunt that identifies them. This grunt is derived from the noise made by their first kill.

Unfortunately for 'Dominick', the leader ninja, his first kill was a horse. He had accidentally kicked it too hard with his ninja legs when he wanted to proceed forward. But as tradition insisted, he was henceforth known as "Nnaaayyyy".)

Back to the story...

Fred, the ninja who stepped forward, asked, "But we know so much about our target. We know his real name is Daniel Grant Newton. We know he is writing a novel series called the 'Akashic Records Series', and that the first book is 'The Last King of Shambhala'. We know he began life with reading and writing difficulties, jumbling letters and writing letters back to front and upside down. We even know we are a figment of his imagination. We know enough to write the 'About Me' section ourselves."

(At this point you may be wondering how Fred, who apparently lost his memory, can remember these details about Daniel's life.

Great question. Fred's memory, as well as the other ninjas affected by memory loss, was actually a very weak ploy in progressing the story. It helped explain certain story elements by needing Dominick, the leader, to explain information to the reader that the ninjas should already know, but suddenly began working without warning when convenient to the lazy writer.

It was thus classified as 'temperamental convenient memory loss'. This can affect mates who owe you money, or criminals caught by law enforcement officers. See a movie if problems persist.)

Dominick nodded as he heard Fred rattle off facts about their target, before holding up a hand to stop him.

Their leader knew that Fred was right, but he also knew getting inside Daniel's head would reveal much more than simple facts. Human beings were not 2D as some of their literary counter parts are. We are not all characters from the movie 'The Tourist'.

Dominick turned away from his companions for dramatic effect, and the other ninjas appeared out of focus like they were in 'Bold and the Beautiful'.

"Fellow ninjas, there is more to..." he began, but was interrupted by a whistling noise and a strong breeze.

He spun around with his sword poised. All his ninja companions had been knocked unconscious.

"Daniel?" whispered Dominick. His eyes scanned the shadows. "I know you are there. You will surrender, and give me a proper 'About Me' section for your blog. I will not leave without it."

Suddenly, with a stroke of the keyboard, Dominick had his feet swooped from underneath him. He hit his head hard, but before his eyes flickered to black, he saw Daniel Grant Newton - The Last King of Shambhala - standing over him.

"Perhaps, but not today," wrote Daniel. "We shall meet again, Nnaaayyyy. Sleep well."

And with that, a proper 'About Me' section for this blog was lost forever.