Friday, November 2, 2018

The future of this blog

A week ago or so, I was notified by EasyDNS that my domain would expire. It's been three years and I have to say that I'm truly sorry about the way I managed this blog in the sense that while I started out enthusiastic and published fairly regularly, doing the same became impossible because of my job. I also felt rather disappointed that I didn't have the audience I was looking for, so basically - I quit before things would start to look up.

Because I am running out of ideas about what I could write here and because I don't feel particularly excited about publishing reviews of the host of books I read during the summer (of which many were Erotica), I'm going to do something I am fairly good at. I'm going to be publishing buying guides about all sorts of book-related things. 

I've been working in affiliate marketing for over four years now and I have amassed a lot of experience in the field. I am not looking to overly monetize the site and I will not be reviewing any products that I haven't personally tried. I will, however, provide you with my personal advice on buying book-related stuff - both because I have bought so much myself over time, and because if I'm good at writing something, I'm definitely good at writing buying guides.

On occasion, I'll still publish excerpts from the non-fiction books I read (mostly for my job and for my personal development), and maybe I'll start writing some reviews, too. It's been just a couple of weeks, but I think I'm finally done with reading Erotica of any kind. I'm so over the cliches I find in these books and I honestly can't think of a good reason for which I read mostly books from this genre for almost a whole year. I did discover several interesting authors whose works I might return to in the future (Golden Angel being the one I love the most), but the rest of the books I read don't even deserve to be reviewed here, and I don't recommend them to anyone. 

If you have taken the time to check out this blog every once in a while, thank you. If you've quit doing so, I understand. 

2018 has been a really trying year for me in every way. Aside from my job, pretty much nothing went well this year. Fortunately, I still love what I do very much and I'm not really looking to do any changes on this account. Personally, 2018 was probably the most horrible year of my life. I've had to deal with several depression bouts, I even considered going to a therapist because I felt like crying all the time, and just last week, I had the most severe existential crisis of my life. I found it so hard to have a purpose and really understand what I was put on this Earth for... it's a feeling I can't even describe, but I felt incredibly lost.

Now that I am feeling just a little better and that I've realized that most people actually go through life without any purpose whatsoever and there's nothing wrong with that, I guess I'm beginning to be at peace with myself. I've always put so much pressure on myself, both while I was growing up and with regard to my personal relationships. Although I've been genuine with everyone, I'm starting to understand that people are selfish (just like I've been with some, over time) and sometimes, you just can't stop them from doing whatever they want. It's just how things are and it's not my place to change anyone's mind if they don't want to. 

People make mistakes and so do I, but I'm definitely hoping I'll make fewer in the future. so, I'm being optimistic and it's like a filter that was covering my eyes for so many months has now lifted and I can finally see things as they are. The crap I read this year didn't do anything but idealize the way I looked at relationships. There are no perfect people and there won't ever be any. 

My point is that I'm coming back. I'll probably get back to the schedule of posting four articles per month. I hope everyone who ends up here is happy and healthy and I'm wishing all the best to you, whether you're a reader or not. 

*Image via Pixabay
Continue reading The future of this blog

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

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Capital Gaines: Smart Things I learned Doing Stupid Stuff, Chip Gaines - Excerpts

Capital Gaines: Smart Things I learned Doing Stupid Stuff, Chip Gaines

 1. Some of the greatest success stories of all time come from people who were misunderstood or even miscategorized. Maybe their strengths weren’t noticed or valued. Perhaps they got a slow start or went about things in an unusual manner. They somehow didn’t fit into the world’s narrow definition of what constitutes achievement or success. Here are just a few of them.

2. When baseball was going well, my life was going well. But as soon as one thing went wrong, it seemed as though other areas of my life started to fall apart at the seams. It was a snowball effect, a chain reaction. So I pushed hard to make sure that every aspect of the game was perfect. There was literally no room for error.

3. Getting cut from baseball was something I never saw coming. And looking back, I can see that it could’ve played out one of several ways. First possibility: I could have dropped out of college and spent my days lying around the house with my five lazy roommates, eating a sick amount of pizza and getting really good at the video game RBI Baseball.
My backup plan of moving back in with my parents and having my mom wash my tighty-whities didn’t sound so bad either. The passion had been knocked out of me, and there was seemingly nothing good that could fill its place. Another possibility would’ve been to suck it up and get a part-time job to occupy my time—just a random job that I didn’t care too much about but that paid the bills. Sure, it would have meant giving up on my dreams, but at this point I would’ve resigned myself to barely getting by.
This option involved zero risk, and there’s something really appealing about not rising again after being hurt so profoundly. And although it didn’t sound as good as playing Nintendo all day, at least it would get me out of the house. Another possibility would’ve been to use every instinct and skill I’d developed over the years, find a new passion, and then go for it. I’d get off of the couch and be okay with hanging up my cleats so that I could pursue something different. And even if this new direction was different from what I’d always dreamed about, I would refuse to quit. Sure, it took me a few months to get my head on straight, but I was resolved to figure this all out. I’m smart enough to know that when you put in the effort and find a new passion and get back on track, good things are bound to happen.
This last scenario is just about the way it turned out. I may have dipped my toes in options one and two, but option three was what all of those years prior had equipped me for. So instead of becoming chronically despondent or detached, I chose a different approach. It took everything inside of me to step up to the plate again, but I did it. And then I gave it all I had.

4. I believed the baseball field was the perfect place to train me as a baseball player, but it turned out to be the perfect training ground for life as an entrepreneur. That can be true for you too, no matter what your passion is. Every ounce of energy you invest in pursuing your goals will help you grow toward God’s plan for you . . . even if you end up somewhere you hadn’t counted on. I can’t promise you there won’t be any curveballs in your life. But I’m positive that if you do the hard work and never quit—and pick yourself up when things go sideways—good things will be waiting on the other side.

5. It’s just human nature for couples to turn their insecurities and animosities against each other during life’s more challenging seasons.

 6. Juggling being co-workers along with being a married couple can feel like walking a tightrope at times. The hardest part for us is turning off the work side of things and focusing on us. We have to be really intentional to not talk about business all the time. For example, we have to choose not to discuss project lists, payroll, or an upcoming client on date night. When we get home at the end of the day, the business truly needs to be out of sight and out of mind; our babies and our marriage must be the only things in the world that matter. This has proven to be one of our biggest challenges and is definitely easier said than done.

 7. It starts with being willing to be seen and known and loved for who you are, as you are. Then you have to be willing to turn around and do the same, loving your spouse in their totality: flaws, blemishes, and quirks included. It’s from there that you can begin to forge a trust where creativity and compassion can grow strong. Taking on the world as a unified, fortified duo is not just a romantic notion; it’s a powder keg. Together you can set the world on fire.

 8. I’m still a huge advocate for trusting your instincts and taking leaps of faith when it matters. There are plenty of things worth rushing into the unknown for. But don’t be dumb. Save your courage for when it counts.

9. If I ever run for public office one day, there’s a good chance my stump speech will be about making it illegal to live in fear. The reason I’m so passionate about this topic is that fear will literally ruin every single facet of your life; it cripples everything. You know how hurt people hurt people? Well, scared people scare people. And thus, the cycle of fear continues on. Fact: life isn’t safe. You could do A, B, and C all perfectly right, and then BAM! All of a sudden D will show up and D wasn’t even on the guest list.

 10. A lot of people spend their days walking in fear of failure, pain or even death. But things like disease or war still find their way past triple-locked doors. No alarm system can keep these things away. And I just don’t see the point in putting energy into doing what isn’t possible in the first place.

11. For the rest of your days, you can live in fear of what could happen. You can walk instead of run, drive instead of fly, or leave the big city and move out to the suburbs. But you simply cannot protect yourself from the things beyond your control. I don’t want to make this too depressing or anything, but right now, at this very minute…
There are nuclear weapons being tested and chemical weapons being further developed while a quarter of humanity lives without electricity There are more than a hundred different varieties of cancer, with many different causes, but no dependable cure. There are more than one hundred fifty million orphans in the world, and nearly eight million children die of preventable diseases every year because they are too poor to afford treatment. Twenty-nine thousand kids under five years old die because of poverty every day.
 You see where I’m going? If we let every potential threat out there dictate how we feel, there’s a decent chance we’ll all curl up into the fetal position and never leave the house. Sometimes too much information is immobilizing.

 12. I vote that instead of fretting about the problems in this world, we all become part of the solutions. This happens through our willingness to make small, brave decisions. No one is born a hero. It takes a lifetime of courageous choices to get there. So quit dodging hard things. When you make the choice to duck left to avoid something scary, you could miss a beautiful opportunity on the right.

13. If you don’t ask out the girl (or guy), you risk ending up alone, too scared to pursue a relationship. If the thought of traveling to a foreign country terrifies you and you bow to that, you miss out on experiencing the big, exciting world that’s out there just waiting on you to discover it. Say you never apply for (or accept) a job that feels beyond your capabilities, but instead choose to stay in an easy, safe position that never requires you to grow, change, or build something that matters. That’s not just sad for you; it’s sad for the rest of us, because we need what you have to give.

14. The other thing about the presence of fear in the process of decision making is that it can severely cloud your judgment. Fear dressed up as wisdom provides poor counsel. It lures you into thinking that if you will just trust it, it will afford you some level of control. But guess what? You’re not in control. So I’m calling bull on that illusion. It’s time for a wake-up call. Maybe a little cold water in the face couldn’t hurt. Life isn’t safe, remember. But life can be wonderful if you choose adventure rather than fear.

15. There’s a scene in this movie that I watched with the kids, We Bought a Zoo, where the dad gives his son an amazing piece of advice. This is the direct quote. I know because I made Ella get up and pause the movie so I could write it down. Then I played it back a second time: “Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.
Just, literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” That’s it. That’s the stuff. Each time you muster up what it takes and go for it, the next go-round becomes that much easier. Real and important changes begin with small, courageous acts. It’s never too late in your story to take a step away from fear. And the good news is that both optimism and courage are contagious. No hand washing necessary. Simply catch and spread.

16. Nobody remembers if you cross the finish line bruised and bloody. They just remember that you stayed the course. Don’t get hung up on how ugly the race may have looked. In the end, all that matters is that you finish.

17. Listen to me here: if you’re going to make a bet, bet on yourself. Of course you won’t always win. Life doesn’t work that way. But if you don’t at least try, how could you ever know what’s on the other side?

18. I’m a firm believer that figuring things out on your own is more effective than being given something on a silver platter. And that belief is at the heart of my personal leadership strategy. I expect our team to dive in headfirst. They don’t have time to doggie-paddle. We pride ourselves in on-the-job training and solving problems. I like people who work first and ask questions later. As soon as I get a sense that they’re sitting back in their comfort zone, avoiding a challenge, I push them off the ledge. That may sound harsh, but people who know my heart understand my intentions behind this. I’ve got a different take on the whole concept of sink or swim. In my opinion, you win either way. If you swim, that means you’re capable. If you sink, that simply means you need more practice. It’s less of an ‘if you don’t make it, you aren’t good enough’ mindset and more of an opportunity to truly assess where you are and what you still need to work on.

 19. (...) if you want to do well in your work, don’t get caught up in the job-title mentality. Let your work speak for itself rather than relying on some title that someone else gave you or confining yourself to a simple job description. It’s just so easy to let that title box you in. If you’re low man on the totem pole and your title hints at that, then you may put yourself in that box rather than think of ways to go above and beyond, exceeding every expectation. On the other hand, if you’re a head honcho with a big title, then you’re likely to rest on it. You may settle in and get comfortable. And that’s exactly what you don’t want if you really want to grow professionally.
Continue reading Capital Gaines: Smart Things I learned Doing Stupid Stuff, Chip Gaines - Excerpts

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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Smart Trust - Stephen M. R. Covey (Excerpts)

Smart Trust - Stephen M. R. Covey - Quotes I liked

One time, I hired a guide to take me fly-fishing. While we were fishing, he asked me, “What do you see?”

“I see a beautiful river.”

“Do you see any fish?”


Then he told me to put on a pair of polarized sunglasses.

Suddenly everything looked dramatically different. I could see through the water, and I could see fish—a lot of fish. Suddenly I saw enormous possibilities that I had not seen before. The fish were there all along, but until I put on the glasses, they were hidden. (...)
• What kind of glasses am I wearing?

• Where did I get them?

 • Are they creating the results I want in my life?

• Are they enabling me to see the abundant possibilities that exist for creating prosperity, energy, and joy?

2. I remember a time years ago when I was traveling with my parents. We visited a less developed country that was known to be corrupt. We hired a driver we thought we could trust to take us several places, and we left a number of watches and other gifts we had purchased in our bags locked in the trunk of his car while we did some sightseeing. When we returned, we checked inside our bags to make sure the boxes were all there. They were. But when we got back to the U.S. and opened the boxes, we discovered they were all empty!

3. Experiences such as these affect us on a personal level. Even more, deeply wounding experiences—such as discovering someone has lied to you, finding out your spouse has cheated on you, going through a difficult divorce (either as a spouse or a child), having a “friend” talk about you behind your back, discovering drugs in your child’s room, having your wallet stolen, finding out that your child has been mistreated at day care, or having a business partner continually break promises to you—can easily shift an innate propensity to trust into an acquired propensity to distrust.

Just as with blind trust, it’s sometimes easy to put on the glasses of distrust. In fact, if we start out wearing blind-trust glasses but then get seriously burned, we often swing the pendulum to the other extreme and trade them in for thick glasses of distrust and suspicion. It seems like a natural response in a low-trust world. It’s an approach that’s easy to hide behind. It feels safer and less risky and that we’re more in control. It can make us appear more careful, more intelligent. It seems more expedient in an urgency-addicted world where the focus is on short-term gains rather than long-term sustainability. Moving quickly to distrust and suspicion is the common response of society to almost any violation of trust because it is the easiest lever to pull and seems to provide the best legal and defensive cover.

Experiences such as these affect us on a personal level. Even more, deeply wounding experiences—such as discovering someone has lied to you, finding out your spouse has cheated on you, going through a difficult divorce (either as a spouse or a child), having a “friend” talk about you behind your back, discovering drugs in your child’s room, having your wallet stolen, finding out that your child has been mistreated at daycare, or having a business partner continually break promises to you—can easily shift an innate propensity to trust into an acquired propensity to distrust.

Just as with blind trust, it’s sometimes easy to put on the glasses of distrust. In fact, if we start out wearing blind-trust glasses but then get seriously burned, we often swing the pendulum to the other extreme and trade them in for thick glasses of distrust and suspicion. It seems like a natural response in a low-trust world. It’s an approach that’s easy to hide behind. It feels safer and less risky and that we’re more in control. It can make us appear more careful, more intelligent. It seems more expedient in an urgency-addicted world where the focus is on short-term gains rather than long-term sustainability. Moving quickly to distrust and suspicion is the common response of society to almost any violation of trust because it is the easiest lever to pull and seems to provide the best legal and defensive cover.

4. You’ve likely been scripted, conditioned, and/or experienced into primarily one set of glasses or the other. Whichever glasses you wear tend to magnify the evidence that fits your paradigm and filter out the evidence that doesn’t, and they significantly affect the degree of prosperity, energy, and joy in your life. Keep in mind that the differentiation is not all or nothing, black or white. You may be wearing a strong prescription or a mild one. You may switch back and forth. You may even be wearing bifocals, so to speak—looking at your professional relationships with distrust and your personal relationships with blind trust or vice versa. Or you may view your family with blind trust and people dating your daughter with distrust. The point is that whatever glasses you’re wearing at any time are affecting the way you see the world—and as a result the quality of your life and your ability to enjoy relationships with others and work with them to accomplish meaningful goals.

5. In the end, reciprocity works both ways: When we extend trust, we generate trust; when we withhold trust, we generate distrust.

6. Sometimes it’s incredibly hard to overcome intense experiences that can script us for a lifetime. But it’s possible. Even if all we can start with is a bias to believe, we can work on building that bias. We can put on our trust glasses and look more thoughtfully at the world around us. We can analyze how trust plays out in other people’s lives and relationships as well as in our own. We can study it. We can test it. We can take steps to build trust—and perhaps even take an occasional leap of trust—and notice the results.

7. When people work interdependently, most want to be aware of the intentions and motives of the others involved. The best way to address this issue is simply to declare intent. Doing so increases awareness and diminishes suspicion.

When we don’t tell people what we’re going to do, they’re often not aware of it or looking for it. Therefore they may not recognize its fulfillment as a trust-building promise kept or as evidence that we (or our team or our organization) behave in a manner they can count on. In addition, they’re missing an important piece of information they need to assess credibility and make informed decisions. Though it’s clearly better not to declare intent and deliver anyway than to declare intent and not deliver, our failure to declare intent may cause us to come across as someone who stands for nothing—someone with no promise, no purpose, no hope to offer, no brand, or no value. And in today’s crowded marketplace that decreases trust.

8. What happens if you can’t deliver on a promise? What happens if circumstances change or something critical comes up and you absolutely can’t do what you’ve said you’re going to do?

One answer is to create, in addition to a contract, a relationship of trust that reflects the reality of today’s rapidly changing world. (...) Another answer is to be wise in the kinds of commitments we make.

*image via Leclife

Continue reading Smart Trust - Stephen M. R. Covey (Excerpts)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

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Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman - Excerpts

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman - My favorite quotes

The psychologist Gary Klein tells the story of a team of firefighters that entered a house in which the kitchen was on fire. Soon after they started hosing down the kitchen, the commander heard himself shout, “Let’s get out of here!” without realizing why. The floor collapsed almost immediately after the firefighters escaped. Only after the fact did the commander realize that the fire had been unusually quiet and that his ears had been unusually hot. Together, these impressions prompted what he called a “sixth sense of danger.” He had no idea what was wrong, but he knew something was wrong. It turned out that the heart of the fire had not been in the kitchen but in the basement beneath where the men had stood.

System 2 also has a natural speed. You expend some mental energy in random thoughts and in monitoring what goes on around you even when your mind does nothing in particular, but there is little strain. Unless you are in a situation that makes you unusually wary or self-conscious, monitoring what happens in the environment or inside your head demands little effort. You make many small decisions as you drive your car, absorb some information as you read the newspaper, and conduct routine exchanges of pleasantries with a spouse or a colleague, all with little effort and no strain. Just like a stroll.

It is normally easy and actually quite pleasant to walk and think at the same time, but at the extremes these activities appear to compete for the limited resources of System 2. You can confirm this claim by a simple experiment. While walking comfortably with a friend, ask him to compute 23 × 78 in his head, and to do so immediately. He will almost certainly stop in his tracks. My experience is that I can think while strolling but cannot engage in mental work that imposes a heavy load on short-term memory

Suppose you must write a message that you want the recipients to believe. Of course, your message will be true, but that is not necessarily enough for people to believe that it is true. It is entirely legitimate for you to enlist cognitive ease to work in your favor, and studies of truth illusions provide specific suggestions that may help you achieve this goal.

The general principle is that anything you can do to reduce cognitive strain will help, so you should first maximize legibility. Compare these two statements:

Adolf Hitler was born in 1892.

Adolf Hitler was born in 1887.

Both are false (Hitler was born in 1889), but experiments have shown that the first is more likely to be believed. More advice: if your message is to be printed, use high-quality paper to maximize the contrast between characters and their background. If you use color, you are more likely to be believed if your text is printed in bright blue or red than in middling shades of green, yellow, or pale blue.

The illusion of pattern affects our lives in many ways off the basketball court. How many good years should you wait before concluding that an investment adviser is unusually skilled? How many successful acquisitions should be needed for a board of directors to believe that the CEO has extraordinary flair for such deals? The simple answer to these questions is that if you follow your intuition, you will more often than not err by misclassifying a random event as systematic. We are far too willing to reject the belief that much of what we see in life is random.

Changing one’s mind about human nature is hard work, and changing one’s mind for the worse about oneself is even harder.

Some regularities in the environment are easier to discover and apply than others. Think of how you developed your style of using the brakes on your car. As you were mastering the skill of taking curves, you gradually learned when to let go of the accelerator and when and how hard to use the brakes. Curves differ, and the variability you experienced while learning ensures that you are now ready to brake at the right time and strength for any curve you encounter. The conditions for learning this skill are ideal, because you receive immediate and unambiguous feedback every time you go around a bend: the mild reward of a comfortable turn or the mild punishment of some difficulty in handling the car if you brake either too hard or not quite hard enough. The situations that face a harbor pilot maneuvering large ships are no less regular, but skill is much more difficult to acquire by sheer experience because of the long delay between actions and their noticeable outcomes. Whether professionals have a chance to develop intuitive expertise depends essentially on the quality and speed of feedback, as well as on sufficient opportunity to practice.

The psychologist Paul Rozin, an expert on disgust, observed that a single cockroach will completely wreck the appeal of a bowl of cherries, but a cherry will do nothing at all for a bowl of cockroaches. As he points out, the negative trumps the positive in many ways, and loss aversion is one of many manifestations of a broad negativity dominance

A good attorney who wishes to cast doubt on DNA evidence will not tell the jury that “the chance of a false match is 0.1%.” The statement that “a false match occurs in 1 of 1,000 capital cases” is far more likely to pass the threshold of reasonable doubt. The jurors hearing those words are invited to generate the image of the man who sits before them in the courtroom being wrongly convicted because of flawed DNA evidence. The prosecutor, of course, will favor the more abstract frame—hoping to fill the jurors’ minds with decimal points.

Regret is an emotion, and it is also a punishment that we administer to ourselves. The fear of regret is a factor in many of the decisions that people make (“Don’t do this, you will regret it” is a common warning), and the actual experience of regret is familiar. The emotional state has been well described by two Dutch psychologists, who noted that regret is “accompanied by feelings that one should have known better, by a sinking feeling, by thoughts about the mistake one has made and the opportunities lost, by a tendency to kick oneself and to correct one’s mistake, and by wanting to undo the event and to get a second chance.” Intense regret is what you experience when you can most easily imagine yourself doing something other than what you did.

Regret is one of the counterfactual emotions that are triggered by the availability of alternatives to reality. After every plane crash there are special stories about passengers who “should not” have been on the plane—they got a seat at the last moment, they were transferred from another airline, they were supposed to fly a day earlier but had had to postpone. The common feature of these poignant stories is that they involve unusual events—and unusual events are easier than normal events to undo in imagination. Associative memory contains a representation of the normal world and its rules. An abnormal event attracts attention, and it also activates the idea of the event that would have been normal under the same circumstances.
Continue reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman - Excerpts

Thursday, May 3, 2018

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994) - A Personal Review

My favorite movie – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption is one of those movies you always remember after seeing. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman make an exceptional pair as two convicts that spend their time in a prison. The story of the main character, Andy Dufresne, brilliantly played by Tim Robbins, is an example of courage and tenacity and it lets the film viewer know that everything’s possible when one sets one’s mind to it.

But what’s so special about the story? Andy, the main character, is found guilty of a crime he did not commit. After spending his whole youth as a successful banker, Andy is convicted to a sentence of life in prison.

Naturally, he thinks that he will never be able to integrate into the convicts’ community. To his surprise, however, he doesn’t find a crowd filled with dangerous individuals. Instead, he gets to befriend several of his prison companions, and one of them stands out as Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding.

Red is the guy who can get you anything you want, cigarettes especially. He comes off as a makeshift entrepreneur, and some might believe that his intentions aren’t always pure as he always tries to make more money off of the rest of the inmates, but the truth is that Red is a good guy and is quite honorable. So how do these two eventually become friends?

Although Andy mostly keeps to himself and finds it hard to interact with the rest of the people in prison, he does have to talk to Red at some point to ask him to get him a tiny hammer. Andy claims that he will need the tool for his rock collection, but later on in the movie, the real reason will be revealed.

Red is an enigma to many of the inmates as he manages to keep his hopes up in spite of the fact that the parole board rejects his pardon attempts time and time again. In a way, this is a symbol of how racism might affect the opinion of law enforcers, and how African Americans are always thought of being more prone to becoming criminals than Caucasian Americans.

What makes it so difficult for Andy to integrate with the rest of the inmates is that, as one might expect from a prison, it’s mostly filled with uneducated people. The fact that he’s educated and skilled as a banker, as well as the fact that he comes from a rich background automatically sets him apart from the crowd. It doesn’t take long for Andy to understand that making friends is going to be nearly impossible in a place like this, where most anyone tries to take advantage of another individual. The friendship that grows steadily between Red and Andy is unexpected for both of them.

The prison environment is colorful, to say the least. It holds a wide variety of criminals, and as one might be able to guess, nobody claims they did the crime. Everyone seems to have been framed for their crimes. There are several episodes that might be considered violent, but what impresses the film viewer is their complete realism. It would be wrong to romanticize a place like jail.

Despite desperately wanting to prove his innocence, Andy never gets his case reopened, and that’s because the prison’s warden uses him to sort out his finances. The warden is one of the most vicious film characters ever to have been invented as he tries his best to create as many obstacles as possible for Andy so that he never loses him. As a skilled banker, Andy is a prized ‘possession’ of the warden.

When Andy starts to understand that he might never be able to see the outside world again, he develops a plan and creates an escape method that will never be suspected by his inmates or guardians.

Although it is based on a novel written by Stephen King, the movie has a somewhat happy ending. King is known for his grimy and horror stories, and this one gets in the same category as The Green Mile, another movie masterpiece that’s ironically also based on another of King’s novels.

In the end, Andy did lose part of his life because of an unfair sentence, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t start over anytime. And being so resourceful, that’s precisely what he does. In short, this movie tells us that we can always hope for the better, no matter how difficult our current situation might be.

Photo via IMDB
Continue reading The Shawshank Redemption (1994) - A Personal Review

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

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Start With Why by Simon Sinek (Excerpts)

1. Just about every person or organization needs to motivate others to act for some reason or another. Some want to motivate a purchase decision. Others are looking for support or a vote. Still others are keen to motivate the people around them to work harder or smarter or just follow the rules. The ability to motivate people is not, in itself, difficult. It is usually tied to some external factor. Tempting incentives or the threat of punishment will often elicit the behavior we desire. General Motors, for example, so successfully motivated people to buy their products that they sold more cars than any other automaker in the world for over seventy-seven years. Though they were leaders in their industry, they did not lead.

Great leaders, in contrast, are able to inspire people to act. Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained. Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired. For those who are inspired, the motivation to act is deeply personal.

2. If someone were to hold up a bank with a banana in his pocket, he would be charged with armed robbery. Clearly, no victim was in any danger of being shot, but it is the belief that the robber has a real gun that is considered by the law. And for good reason. Knowing full well that fear will motivate them to comply with his demands, the robber took steps to make his victims afraid. Fear, real or perceived, is arguably the most powerful manipulation of the lot.

3. If fear motivates us to move away from something horrible, aspirational messages tempt us toward something desirable. Marketers often talk about the importance of being aspirational, offering someone something they desire to achieve and the ability to get there more easily with a particular product or service. “Six steps to a happier life.” “Work those abs to your dream dress size!” “In six short weeks you can be rich.” All these messages manipulate. They tempt us with the things we want to have or to be the person we wish we were.

Though positive in nature, aspirational messages are most effective with those who lack discipline or have a nagging fear or insecurity that they don’t have the ability to achieve their dreams on their own (which, at various times for various reasons, is everyone).

4. People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. This is the reason Apple has earned a remarkable level of flexibility. People are obviously comfortable buying a computer from Apple. But people are also perfectly comfortable buying an mp3 player from them, or a cell phone or a DVR. Consumers and investors are completely at ease with Apple offering so many different products in so many different categories. It’s not WHAT Apple does that distinguishes them. It is WHY they do it. Their products give life to their cause.

5. Dell came out with PDAs in 2002 and mp3 players in 2003, but lasted only a few years in each market. Dell makes good-quality products and is fully qualified to produce these other technologies. The problem was they had defined themselves by WHAT they did; they made computers, and it simply didn’t make sense to us to buy a PDA or mp3 player from them. It didn’t feel right. How many people do you think would stand on line for six hours to buy a new cell phone from Dell, as they did for the release of Apple’s iPhone? People couldn’t see Dell as anything more than a computer company.

6. Knowing your WHY is not the only way to be successful, but it is the only way to maintain a lasting success and have a greater blend of innovation and flexibility. When a WHY goes fuzzy, it becomes much more difficult to maintain the growth, loyalty and inspiration that helped drive the original success. By difficult, I mean that manipulation rather than inspiration fast becomes the strategy of choice to motivate behavior. This is effective in the short term but comes at a high cost in the long term.

7. Consider the experience of buying a flat-screen TV at your local electronics store. You stand in the aisle listening to an expert explain to you the difference between LCD and plasma. The sales rep gives you all the rational differences and benefits, yet you are still none the wiser as to which one is best for you. After an hour, you still have no clue. Your mind is on overload because you’re overthinking the decision. You eventually make a choice and walk out of the store, still not 100 percent convinced you chose the right one. Then you go to your friend’s house and see that he bought the “other one.” He goes on and on about how much he loves his TV. Suddenly you’re jealous, even though you still don’t know that his is any better than yours. You wonder, “Did I buy the wrong one?”

Companies that fail to communicate a sense of WHY force us to make decisions with only empirical evidence. This is why those decisions take more time, feel difficult or leave us uncertain. Under these conditions manipulative strategies that exploit our desires, fears, doubts or fantasies work very well. We’re forced to make these less-than-inspiring decisions for one simple reason—companies don’t offer us anything else besides the facts and figures, features and benefits upon which to base our decisions. Companies don’t tell us WHY.

8. Once you know WHY you do what you do, the question is HOW will you do it? HOWs are your values or principles that guide HOW to bring your cause to life. HOW we do things manifests in the systems and processes within an organization and the culture. Understanding HOW you do things and, more importantly, having the discipline to hold the organization and all its employees accountable to those guiding principles enhances an organization’s ability to work to its natural strengths. Understanding HOW gives greater ability, for example, to hire people or find partners who will naturally thrive when working with you.

9. I’d like to introduce you to our imaginary friend Brad. Brad is going on a date tonight. It’s a first date and he’s pretty excited. He thinks the woman he’s about to meet is really beautiful and that she makes a great prospect. Brad sits down for dinner and he starts talking.

“I am extremely rich.”

“I have a big house and I drive a beautiful car.”

“I know lots of famous people.”

“I’m on TV all the time, which is good because I’m good-looking.”

“I’ve actually done pretty well for myself.”

The question is, does Brad get a second date? (nope :)))

10. Now consider how most companies do business. Someone sits down across a table from you, they’ve heard you’re a good prospect, and they start talking.

“Our company is extremely successful.”

“We have beautiful offices, you should stop by and check them out sometime.”

“We do business with all the biggest companies and brands.”

“I’m sure you’ve seen our advertising.”

“We’re actually doing pretty well.”

11. Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whoever’s left.

12. The feeling of trust is lodged squarely in the same place as the WHY—the limbic brain—and it’s often powerful enough to trump empirical research, or at least seed doubt. This is the reason why so many manipulations are effective; we believe that, for better or worse, others know more than we do. Clearly, four out of five dentists know more than us when choosing chewing gum (but what about the one holdout . . . what did he know that the others didn’t?). Of course we trust the celebrity endorsement. Those celebs are rich and can use any product they want. It must be good if they are putting their reputation on the line to promote it, right?

You probably answered that question in your head already. Clearly they are endorsing the product because they are getting paid to. But if celebrity endorsements didn’t work, companies wouldn’t use them. Or perhaps it’s the fear that they “might” work that fuels the million-dollar wink and a smile that encourages us to choose one car over another or one lipstick over another. The fact is, none of us is immune to the effect of someone we know or feel like we trust influencing our decisions.

13.All the products and services that the company sells, all the marketing and advertising, all the contact with the world outside communicate this. If people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it, and if all the things happening at the WHAT level do not clearly represent WHY the company exists, then the ability to inspire is severely complicated.

14.In the course of building a business or a career, we become more confident in WHAT we do. We become greater experts in HOW to do it. With each achievement, the tangible measurements of success and the feeling of progress increase. Life is good. However, for most of us, somewhere in the journey we forget WHY we set out on the journey in the first place. Somewhere in the course of all those achievements an inevitable split happens. This is true for individuals and organizations alike.

15.Money is a perfectly legitimate measurement of goods sold or services rendered. But it is no calculation of value. Just because somebody makes a lot of money does not mean that he necessarily provides a lot of value. Likewise, just because somebody makes a little money does not necessarily mean he provides only a little value. Simply by measuring the number of goods sold or the money brought in is no indication of value. Value is a feeling, not a calculation. It is perception.

Continue reading Start With Why by Simon Sinek (Excerpts)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

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Chasing His Puma by Golden Angel (Personal Review)

Review -- Chasing His Puma, Golden Angel

To be honest, I'm kind of ashamed I'm starting to review books by the amazing Golden Angel beginning with this particular title. If you've checked out my website before, you know I am a huge fan of erotica because it relaxes me like no other genre. Sure, in many cases, the books from this genre are predictable, and if the writers don't have a lot of experience behind them, they can be poorly written.

But that is definitely not the case with Golden Angel's books. She is an amazing writer and I came to read one of her works by accident. I stumbled upon a freebie on Instafreebie and it's called Stripping the Sub. It was one of the most unique books I ever read that deals with BDSM, and I, of course, went on to read all of those that are part of the Stronghold Doms series, which I won't be able to forget too soon. I'm eagerly waiting for the next release, Hot Vanilla, which is said to come out somewhere in the month of October of this year (2018).

Seeing how I loved her writing so much, I came to the conclusion that I should give her other books a try, too. That's how I ended up getting the entire Bridal Discipline series for my Kindle (I have a Voyage I am totally in love with). Since it's mostly about BDSM, too (even though the action is set somewhere at the end of the 19th century, if my memory isn't playing tricks on me), I ended up loving that series, as well.

I then moved on to an entirely different genre - paranormal romance. I love my shifters, especially werebears, and I donate to a bear protection program within the WWF (so yeah, I definitely have a thing for them), but I've never been particularly keen on the other types of shifters. Wolves are too high maintenance, felines are too lonesome, and maybe dragons are the other kind of shifters that I might like, since they're so hot - literally.

So when the opportunity to read Golden Angel's paranormal romance books arised, I said hell to the yeah and ordered them from Amazon. I liked the first, 'meh'ed the second,and now I'm writing about the third in the Big Bad Bunnies series.

What's it about?

If you end up reading the third book in the series first, you won't have lost anything in particular. Sure, the first two are great, too, but this one can be read as a standalone.

The Bunson family is one of a kind. They were kidnapped when they were kids and experimented on by a crazy doctor who managed to turn them into shifters. All of the brothers and sisters initially thought they were regular humans, but since they had shifter genes (they had had turtles, bears, and bunnies in their ancestry), they were a successful experiment. The only problem is that all of them turned out to be a mix of these three types of animals - they're huge and have claws and sharp teeth (ergo bear-like), they're fluffy and have big ears (ergo bunny-like), and they have a shell underneath their skin (ergo turtle-like).

To cut things short, I'm going to say that one of the main characters in this book is one of the Bunson brothers, Brock. Brock is a quiet type of individual who's looking to get revenge on Dr. Montgomery, the one who experimented on him and the rest of his family. Doc is a puma shifter who is a doctor and who tries to help Brock both physically and mentally. She's extraordinarily upbeat and optimistic even though she doesn't have the best past, either. But Brock doesn't know that, and so he tries to bring her down just a bit, every time they have a conversation.

Long story short, there's a lot of taunting and a bucket of sexual tension in this book. They end up going on a mission together, and they have to save themselves from a group of shifters who are on their tails (quite literally, since Doc has a pretty one). One thing leads to another.. and all that taunting might mean something else, not just that they're having a hard time working with each other.

Did I like it?

Well yes, of course I liked it. After all, that's why I'm reviewing it! I liked it a lot better compared to the second book in the series. I know we need a lot of information regarding the organization that Dr. Montgomery was a part of to be able to understand why it's still running and who the leader is. But honestly, Chasing His Squirrel was too long for me. Probably the shortest one in the series is the first, Chasing His Bunny, which I liked, as well. That one's pretty hot, too.

Simply put, this is a pretty good book if you're into paranormal romance, especially shifter romance. I don't consider myself a huge fan of the genre, but you might find me reading one once in a while.
On to the next books by Golden Angel, then! And I can't wait to review all of those in the Stronghold Dom Series.

So, definitely check it out if you're into this kind of thing.

Continue reading Chasing His Puma by Golden Angel (Personal Review)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

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The Red Scot by Twyla Turner (Personal Review)

The Red Scot by Twyla Turner Review

I really liked this book, which is also why I decided to give it a five-star rating on Goodreads. This is not my first encounter with the magnificent Twyla Turner, who is an incredible storyteller in my opinion and whose novels I will continue to read in the future. I also read Damaged Souls series and Winter's Beast, which I will both review as soon as I get the chance. I thoroughly enjoyed the Damaged Souls series!

Since this isn't my first novel by this author, I didn't really know what to think about it when I started reading it. The story is totally different compared to those from Winter's Beast and Damaged Souls, so I was a little taken aback. However, I loved the whole 'shy curvy girl meets shy brawny Scottish dude' plot. They were both adorable.

What's it about?

When she was a freshman in college, Payton almost got molested. If it hadn't been for three other girls who happened to be in the area where the event happened and who got her out of the entire situation, she could've ended up being raped. From that point, she lost her trust in pretty much all men aside from those related to her. She never went on a date again and ended up being a virgin at the age of 29.

One day, Payton decides that she would start going to the gym (called The Red Scot after the looks of the owner). She's coaxed into it by a work colleague, and when she gets there, she meets (or rather, sees for the first time) the owner, Bradyn MacTavish. He is a hunk of a man - very tall, muscly, strong, and an MMA fighter. Needless to say, Payton hates any kind of violence, so she's scared out of her mind whenever she has some kind of contact with him.

Bradyn is a bit awkward himself, especially when it comes to talking to women. He's had his one-night-stands before, but those didn't involve conversation. Now, he knows that what he wants with Payton is far more than just sex and he's willing to wait for her to realize that he's not the bad guy.

But somewhere in the dark, there's a threat that might be lethal to Payton...

I'm not going to reveal anything else because I don't want to spoil the book for you.

Is it worth reading?

If you like romance with a bit of sexiness, definitely give this book a shot. It's one of the most relaxing novels I've read in quite a bit. I'd like to make a note and say that it isn't kinky in the least. There are several steamy scenes, but there isn't anything that might shock erotica fans, for example.

I loved the whole 'curvy girls stay strong' vibe I got from this book. I found the relationship that Payton has with her friends to be endearing. They're always caring, and they've got each other backs. That's what true friendship really is. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment in the series (yes, The Red Scot is the 1st book in the A Curvy Girls Club series) featuring Mia, Payton's friend, as the main character. While I was reading her description, I got the feeling she's like Samantha from Sex and The City, if you know what I mean ;). I'd like to live vicariously through her experiences.

In a nutshell, this book is sweet and hot enough to get your panties on fire. It was the perfect mix for me. The guy is tough, yet at the same time, really caring and attentive, and the girl is curvy and panicked but learns to drop her defenses once she finally starts trusting him. They make a lovely couple. I thoroughly enjoyed Bradyn's Scottish accent - that's how his lines are written. Note: she's African American, and he's Caucasian, so I really hope that doesn't bother you - it definitely did not me, it was SO HOT.

Get the book here if you want it.

Read some of my other posts:

The Villain & The Dove by Victoria Vale - Personal Review

J.K. Rowling's Favorite Books

Oprah Winfrey's Favorite Books
Continue reading The Red Scot by Twyla Turner (Personal Review)

Monday, April 2, 2018

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The Villain & The Dove by Victoria Vale - Personal Review

Review :: The Villain & The Dove by Victoria Vale 

Let me just take a second to take a breath and understand what I'm about to write. I finished The Dove, the 2nd book in the duology yesterday evening and I cannot stop thinking about the two main characters, the plot, everything in these two novels! I haven't been this excited about an erotica book since... wait for it... never! Well, maybe since I read the Mercy Trilogy by Lucian Bane. That one was also dark enough to make my skin tingle.

Oh, I can't tell you enough how much I enjoyed these two books. Ironically, if the first one hadn't been on sale on Amazon, I would've never found out about Victoria Vale. Now I am hooked and want to read all of her books! Yes, they were that good.

I'm going to make an effort to keep this review as composed as possible, but I can't make any guarantees. I am just too excited about this duology to stop myself from fangirling about them.

What are they about?

So, first off, these two are categorized as Regency Romance, so the action takes place somewhere between the end of the 1700s and the beginning of the 19th century, aka 1800s. I had to specify this detail because you'll get the main picture (historical background, how people used to behave/dress/talk etc). The action takes place in the United Kingdom - partly in Scotland and partly in London.

I enjoyed the way the first book, The Villain, began. Daphne is horseriding in the rain and in the middle of the night toward a destination we have no idea about. She is going to seek out a man, Lord Hartmoor, who lives in a palace, Dunnottar. (which, by the way, actually exists! I looked it up on Google, and it's there!)

Daphne wants to know why Lord Hartmoor has been after her family for some time and why eventually, his efforts ended up with her relatives being close to bankruptcy. As you probably imagine, it was really important for people back then to be financially potent, especially for women. If a lady didn't have a dowry, it was practically impossible for her to get a suitable marriage.

Adam (Lord Hartmoor) convinces Daphne to make a deal with him and give herself to him for thirty days and thirty nights in exchange for the answers she seeks so desperately. Needless to say, she had left the home of her parents without their knowledge, so she basically ran off to Scotland to demand answers from a (HOT) Scottish lord. The gesture was rather irrational, for a woman at that time, but Daphne wasn't known to abide by all of the rules of her society.

I can't give you any other details because I don't want to spoil the duology, but MAN! The things that Adam does to Daphne and how their story evolves over the course of the two books - I literally can't say anything other than OMG.  I can't even!

These two are like water and oil. One's pure, innocent, but highly corruptible, and the other's dark, vengeful, and tired of living with a burden for five years. While they don't seem to get along at the beginning, their bizarre relationship grows over time. They become accustomed to each other, and Daphne learns A LOT about herself and her physical needs. And yes, in case you were wondering, that deal I was mentioning earlier on also includes her having to give Adam her virginity. Which, as you know, was the 'get out of jail free card' of that time, meaning that ladies could get married only if they were pure - sexually.

What did I like about these two books?

I really enjoyed the characters and the way they were described. As a reader, I was actually capable of telling how Daphne and Adam looked like, so much so that I managed to picture them in my head (that rarely happens if the characters aren't interesting).

These two are at one another with a force that I haven't seen in other 'couples.' They both try to think they're in control, when in fact, none of them is. Sure, Adam is stronger than Daphne on all accounts, but in the second book, we get to see another side of him. He isn't the ruthless lord constantly seeking retribution anymore. In fact, he's pretty confused as to what he's feeling for Daphne and isn't willing to admit that he has other types of feelings for her. However, he might at times wish that she wasn't a member of the Fairchild family.

I also enjoyed the backstory, how the things that happened five years ahead of Daphne meeting Adam were explained, and the reasons that he is so hell-bent on getting his revenge. Nothing is what it seems in this duology, and I loved that a lot! It's very rarely that a novel manages to surprise me, and this one did! Sorry, but I read a lot of fluff erotica this year and last year and I've pretty much had it with the 'billionaire meets virgin who's willing to try BDSM' plots. Those are stupid.

But this book is intelligent, well-written, and it has you hooked so much that I finished both books over the course of one week - and I work full-time, and I'm pretty tired at the end of a working day.

Finally, I couldn't avoid telling you about the SEX they have. Sweet Cheeses! This guy... if only he existed in reality, really! Sure, there might be some rough scenes that not every erotica fan might enjoy, but he basically tries out all of his kinkiness on Daphne, and she adores it. Her body craves it and wants more of it although her mind is not willing to surrender. But when it comes to giving up her power sexually, she does it because she can't help herself. And Adam is especially good at convincing her. Really good. Believe me and read the book!

I'm sorry if this seemed like a big ole ramble, but I couldn't help myself. I am going to read everything that Victoria Vale ever publishes - she's won me as a reader forever.

*The featured image is Dunnottar Castle in Scotland. (via Pixabay)

Get the books here, if you want'em.
Continue reading The Villain & The Dove by Victoria Vale - Personal Review