Dennis The Messiah

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(Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding)

The orphanage was urgently in need of funds. With a thousand other institutions actively competing for both deserved attention and desperate funding, it was only unfortunately logical that some organisations would be left behind both in terms of structure and substance.

They say that hope springs forth from sources unforeseen. The harbinger of hope for this dedicated non-profit organisation was one of its youngest inmates. Dennis was brought into this facility as a seriously ill one-year old abandoned to his cold fate in a secluded alley. Amidst torrential downpour the wailings of the child were almost lost to the world but for the uncanny aural sense of the janitor of the orphanage, who coincidentally was on his way home.

Six years and a diagnosis of autism later, Dennis began to paint. Colourful images of animals in repose and frolic. His latest was that of a donkey against a striking background with a sunflower clasped between its teeth.

The secretary of the orphanage, pursuant to a public appeal arranged for a public exhibition. Connoisseurs hailed Dennis as the next Albrecht Düre.

The children had found their savior. The small messiah had ensured that the orphanage would never face a resource crunch!

(Word Count: 200)

This story was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

The 5 A M Club – Robin Sharma

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Robin Sharma’s latest work “The 5 A.M Club” (“the book”) presents itself as a formidable contender for “The Worst Book of 2018” award. Extraordinarily insipid, extremely uninspiring and inexplicably long-winded, the book is well served remaining unread! Replete with borrowed quotes, resonating with irrelevant similes, and riding on a by now familiar philosophy, Robin Sharma feebly and futilely attempts to package old wine in a new bottle. Unfortunately, the damaged quality of the bottle deteriorates the very essence of the wine.

So what exactly is the “5.00 A.M Club?”

A simple, ordinary message stretched to an unimaginably inordinate degree

The message being dished out by Mr. Sharma is neither innovative nor novel. The basic idea being to jump out of one’s bed at 5.00 A.M in the morning and perform a set of activities involving the exercise of both mental and physical faculties. THIS IS IT both in a nutshell as well as in the philosophy’s entire expansion. However, what could have been ensconced within a precise tract or even a pamphlet is extended, elongated and elaborated in a most painful manner that makes a reader plough through 314 excruciating pages.  The fact that in a book titled “The 5.00 A.M Club”, it takes 51 pages for a character to actually wake up at 5.00 A.M speaks volumes about the peripheral irrelevance that masks the core matter.

A story that is totally irrelevant

In order to convey a purely simplistic message, Mr. Sharma bizarrely elects to employ a story telling method which exasperates and enervates the reader to an infuriating degree. Yes, you really become tired reading (or at least trying to) the book. It is an unenviable chore trudging through a morass of pages that has at its centerpiece three characters. An entrepreneur who comes perilously close to taking her own life, courtesy an attempted investor coup before a seminar transforms her. Wearing bracelets with inspirational quotes etched on them, she signs on to become a member of the 5.00 A.M Club. She is joined in this endeavor by an artist who keeps fidgeting with his dreadlocks when not repeatedly mouthing “def” for “definitely. The mentor for both the entrepreneur and the artist is a quirky billionaire who when not mouthing quotes picked from Gibran to Seneca or doing dervish whirls and hand stands, spends time taking his two students on freewheeling tours to Mauritius, India, Italy and South Africa, imparting the tenets of the 5.00 A.M club. To assist him in this endeavor he keeps addressing his students as “cats” while himself using surfer slang such as “gnarly” to such a liberal extent that the reader feels like taking a sail boat over the book!

Pareto Principle in Action with Corny Passages

80% of the book is an astonishing exercise in futility. A communication that could have been accommodated within 20-30 pages takes up a whopping 314 pages. Pages that are packed with passages so reeking with irrelevance that they are enough to make the reader tear her hair out in sheer white frustration! Sample this:

“The artist laughed as a baby gecko jaywalked across a broad plank. He took off his black shirt in the dazzling sunshine, exposing a Buddha-sized belly and man breasts the size of fleshy mangoes.”

“…. she admitted as the skin on her forehead scrunched together like a rose contracting in the cold.”

 “. the artist interrupted with all the energy of a puppy seeing its owner after a long day alone.”

Invest in a book of quotes instead

In addition to beginning every chapter with a famous quote, the book strings together sayings at a speed which would put even the reproductive capabilities of rabbits to total shame! Quotes by the renowned and the reviled fly at you from all angles making both deflection and assimilation equally impossible. One would do well instead to invest in a book of quotes and peruse the same meticulously.

Read these Alternative Books

The 5.00 A.M club borrows liberally from the philosophies of luminaries such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and also pop psychologists such as Malcolm Gladwell. In the event one manages to get through the tedium and torture of the “5.00 A.M Club”, the following books may serve as the perfect antidote:

  • “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi;
  • “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg;
  • “Eat, Move, Sleep” by Tom Rath;
  • “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey;
  • “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill;
  • “The Empires of the Mind” by Dennis Waitley
  • Read these Alternative Books

The George Orwell Rule

Mr. Sharma, while meticulously putting together the powerful sayings of many greats who have trod on this Planet, seems to have missed out on a set of most important rules – the immortal Six Rules laid down by George Orwell. One of the rules postulates, “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”.

If only this rule was followed the “5.00 A.M club” would have been an eminently readable book.

The “5.00 A.M Club” – deserving of a pass.

 

 

Vonnegut’s Prescription

(Photo Credit: Sue Vincent)

Knowing neither the subtleties of similes nor a metaphor’s essence

Casting aside logic and caving not to rationale and its neat set of rules;

With impulse for a cause and spontaneity as a natural consequence

The heart charts an unpredictable destiny using its own set of tools.

 

Inventing the arrow, Artificial Intelligence and everything in between

Paying obeisance to cold protocol, laws of nature and the tenets of mass assembly

With competition for siblings and monopoly as off-springs to continue the reign

The brain creates its own future observing neither the dictates of glory nor infamy.

 

Castles built by the calculating machinery of the head lay destroyed by the complex mechanisms of the heart

While Fantasies woven by an energetic and love-struck heart are rend asunder by a ruthless head;

Reconciling the tug and push of these two warriors calls for the mastery of an ancient and painful art

A task that has left many a component of humanity confused, tired and at times even dead.

 

A dose of John Steinbeck for the mind & a generous measure of Scott Fitzgerald for the soul

Vonnegut to calm racing thoughts and Hemingway to lend a measure of equanimity

Orwell in the morning and Huxley at night in an attempt to plug the gaping hole;

Always having the antidote of Dostoevsky to guard against the perils of dangerous vanity.

This is a response to the #writephoto Prompt – Imagination curated over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.

Possibilities Infinite

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(Photo Credit: Crispina Kemp)

It was his path of spontaneous creation and crushing doom

A way that had for passengers the siblings, hope and despair

This was the trail where blazing light merged into fearful gloom

Imparting the quintessential lessons of life, whether bitter or fair.

 

On many days he had walked holding her hands with a spirit unshackled

While on other days he was the solitary reaper, walking towards a destination unknown

The woods had reverberated with their laughter, so pure and unburdened

The trees now bear testimony to his screams of pain which in intensity have grown.

 

The whispering wind carries with it a treasure trove of tales so tantalizing to parse

The beaten tracks hide within their ruts the power of a thousand possibilities and myths;

Trees gnarled and twisted under whose shade he lay with her counting the shiny stars

He still continues stumble along the path and its widths.

(Word Count: 150)

Written as part of the Crimson’s Creative Challenge #10 More details regarding this challenge may be found HERE.

A world in need of healing

(Photo Credit: Dale Rogerson)

Stubbornly disregarding the recommendations of the sincere real estate agent, Venky moved into the semidetached property which was in crying need of repair. Come to think of it, the whole world seemed as if it required some prompt and urgent fixing. Instead of dismantling barriers between nations, walls were proposed to be erected; instead of respecting green canopies that breathe life, holes were being punched into the ozone layer.

Venky latched the door closed and observed that the panel of glass was splintered and taped over in an unprofessional and hasty manner.

Splintered hopes, shattered glass!

(Word Count: 96)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

 For the complete list of entries, please click HERE

Friend of a Friend – David Burkus

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On the 6th of May, 1973, in a paper curiously and paradoxically titled, “The Strength of Weak Ties”, American sociologist and Professor at Stanford University, Mark Granovetter revealed the proposition that acquaintances are likely to be more influential than close friends, particularly in social networks. Weak ties as he called them, were more likely to connect social networks and also act as bridges. This research paper did more than just pique the interest of its readers or merely arouse their curiosity. As of November 2018, according to Google Scholar, “The Strength of Weak Ties” boasts a jaw dropping 50,000 citations, making it the most cited work in the Social Sciences.

So what exactly are these weak ties and how best can we exploit them to further both our personal and professional prospects? Is there an overlap between personal and professional ties? These are some of the key questions which David Burkus grapples with in his extremely readable, evocative and essential book, “Friend of a Friend of a Friend….” (“the book”).

The term ‘networking’ ought to be a contender for one of the most used, and perhaps – abused words in the English vocabulary. Networking has been the subject of a million books and a billion pages all urging their readers to follow stereotypical paths ranging from the pedantic to the preposterous. However, as Mr. Burkus points out, more often than not, this “working the room” strategy leaves people with more than just a sour taste in their mouth. “In one study researchers Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino and Maryam Koucchaki found that even just thinking about networking leaves most people feeling dirty.” Instead, citing the extraordinary examples of ‘super-connected’ personalities such as the entrepreneur Adam Rifkin, philanthropist Scott Harrison and producer Brian Grazer, Mr. Burkus says, “understanding how networks work, how to navigate them, and how to tend to the community they represent is what determines a lot of your career success and a lot of organisation’s ability to perform. Knowing who your friends are and who their friends are, so you can gain a better understanding of the community, will lead to better odds that your network will enhance your success.”

From this stems what reads like a most counter intuitive proposition which Mr. Burkus offers his readers.  Even though our spontaneous reaction might be to reach out to the people with whom we are closest to and with whom we have been interacting for decades, it might be more valuable to reach out to those with whom we have rarely connected for years or even decades. Why? The people we know best usually know the same people and also know what you know. “Our weak ties often build a bridge from one cluster to another and thus give us access to new information. Even though the strong ties in our life are more likely to be motivated to help us, it turns out that our weak ties’ access to new sources of information might be more valuable.”

The most fascinating aspect of this ‘antithetical’ or even heretical work is the plethora of real life examples embedded between its covers. Burkus embarks on an assiduous story telling saga as he brings together personalities and events spanning a variety of disciplines. From how Michelle McKenna-Doyle, SVP, and CIO of the NFL became – the SVP and CIO of the NFL to how the prolific movie producer Brian Grazer tapped into his weak ties to become the man who gave the world, indelible movies such as Apollo 13, Liar Liar, A Beautiful Mind, and 8 Mile, Mr. Burkus highlights the importance of striking conversations with people with whom one may have hardly interacted.

Every Chapter in the book ends with a pragmatic “From Science to Practice” summary where he highlights key tasks for his readers to strengthen and build upon their weak ties. He also provides links to online resources for honing and practicing the skills required to improve upon building up one’s weak ties.

One would do well to push aside the tried and tested Rolodex and instead pick up “Friend of a Friend” by Davis Burkus instead. When did you say was the last time that you interacted with the buddy with whom you shared your dorm room while at the University?