Inventions and design

You may debate the notion that human beings are a creative bunch but if you examine closely our mannerisms and the things we do, you may find yourself proven wrong – human beings are creative. It is perhaps an ancestral trait we have genetically adopted from our early ancestors, who had to learn to make weapons, use fire, make inventions to catch animals for food, or to improve farming, and to make these inventions better so as to improve yield. Or if you know someone at work who is physically lazy – to use the non-politically correct term – you might even say their creativity extends to words and thinking up reasons not to do things! There are two sides to creativity!

One of the most creative inventions ever to be invented was barbed wire. Quite simply it consisted of two lines of wire coiled together so the barbs were held in place and could not be easily separated. The inventor of barbed wire in 1876 was John Gates, and he used his invention to propel himself to great riches. But it wasn’t just the physical sale of barbed wire, which ballooned from 36 miles of production to 268,000 miles in just six years. Gates also displayed a keen business sense and gambler’s nose, and would wager against others that his product could keep wild Texan longhorns enclosed. So not only did he come up with an invention, he also came up with betting to earn more from his invention, and in the process get some free advertising from that as well!

If you look at the things that are around us – be they the light switch, electric bulb, computer mouse or piano – these things have become commonplace, but the design and the breakthrough to have come up with them would have required ingenuity and skill. (Incidentally, here is a list of interesting facts about the piano you may want to consider.) So the next time you are out and about, look at the things around you – it may be people cycling, or motorbikes – and try to appreciate the thought and design that have gone into it. Who knows, it may give you inspiration for your own!

Single parenting; a musical perspective

How are single parent families looked upon in your country? I suppose it depends on how liberal your society is. In western societies, single parent families are an increasing phenomenon and no one bats so much as an eyelid when someone claims to be a single parent. In more traditional societies such as those in Asian societies, families with parents who have separated are still looked upon as a social stigma, as if the parents are deficient in some way, and failed in their own relationship. And it can’t be easy growing up in these kind of families. There is of course the logistical problem of making sure children spend alternate amounts of time with both parents. But it is difficult not just for the parents. Children end up often spending different weekends with different parents. It may be awkward if both parents have partners, and the child ends up having to refer to mum’s boyfriend and dad’s girlfriend to other friend’s parents.

In Japan, a single mother spoke of how her daughter suffered anxiety as the result of being a child with no father around. The child was ostracised by her classmates and as a result, did not want to go to school and suffered from social anxiety. Gradually as the girl showed signs of going on a downward spiral as an emotional response to her parents breakup, her mother took drastic action. She had never heard from her husband, the child’s father, and had no intention of reconciling with him. Instead she made contact with an escort agency and enquired if there would be actors willing to play the role of a father who had left the family but sought some form of reconciliation. Now, this is a strange sort of request – most escort agencies only hire actors to play boyfriends or partners for an event or a day, but this was a long term job, so to speak. And it was a long-term attempt at a white lie in order to boost the child’s confidence.

The pianist and composer Camille Saint-Saens never knew his father; Victor died two months after his son was baptised, on the anniversary of his first marriage. Camille did not display much anxiety with the lack of a father figure, and went to achieve great heights in his music career. The lesson here to learn is perhaps not to let circumstances in life defeat you!

Health dilemma

Katherine H. is now a twenty-seven year old woman but in her late teens and during her University life, she suffered from mysterious, unexplained symptoms that affected her daily life. These included stomach pains, which were discomforting, but then progressed on to ailments such as fainting spells and tiredness, or her hair falling out, and severe joint pains which made it not only difficult to get out of bed but to go about daily life.

Can you imagine waking up first thing in the morning and that before you have even got ready for work the first part of your life is a struggle? Now we don’t mean the “I don’t feel like going to work” thoughts. Most of us will commonly have those, because there simply are days when our energy levels are low, we don’t feel like going to work, we feel unfulfilled because there may have been things we have been thinking of doing but can’t fit them all in. Or maybe even things such as lousy weather outside may lead us to reconsider our commute to work. We don’t mean all those kinds of thoughts in Katherine’s case. We are talking about having to run through debilitating pain just to be able to walk out the front door. The type where getting to arrive to the hard part of the day (i.e. work) is difficult enough – these are thoughts that people with daily long commutes, or disabled wheelchair users hammvemm to deal with.

Katherine’s pains worsened and finally she decided to visit her GP to seek a solution.

Obviously we are faced with dilemmas from time to time. To go in to work or not to go in to work? To see a doctor or not see a doctor? Perhaps the thing to remember is to go with your head. If you have been unwell for long periods, something probably needs checking out. Don’t put it off by saying “I feel okay today”. Likewise if you don’t feel like going to work, just because you feel that way doesn’t mean you should act on your impulses. Go with what you know – if you are healthy, you can do it. The Romantic movement in music may have taught you to go with how you feel, and to be led by your impulses and feelings as if it were the human thing to do, but act on such advice with caution!

Teaching as a career?

Have you ever considered a career in teaching? You might think perhaps that you might want to influence the lives of the future generation, be an inspiration to the impressionable youths in their teens. You might have specialist skill and knowledge in an area. You may also have industry experience and can demonstrate the relevance of knowledge to a student who may be wondering how all this knowledge they are picking up in schools are of any use. Most students have a very narrow view of knowledge, they think that they only need job-specific skills and hence do not devote time to learning general skills. For example, those who are intending to pursue engineering do not see the importance of learning other skills such as music, even though music has been proven to teach skills such as creativity, problem solving, focus and perseverance, which would actually be useful for an engineering career! Being a teacher would be a useful career for steering youths in the correct direction.
But according to research done by the BBC, the popularity of teaching as a profession very much depends on where one chooses to be a teacher in. Countries such as those in the Far East are reputed to be the best. China, for example, leads the world in terms of the standing of the profession. Now you may question this: How does being a teacher in one of the countries in the world where personal liberties are controlled, rank as being one of the best teaching jobs in the world? If there is any doubt in your mind about this, then you must understand that this general statement was made not about the country, but the way teachers and other educators are perceived in the country. Teachers in China are respected and students realise that education is a way out to jobs in the cities, away from a future of agricultural farming and a life of making cheap sweatshirts in poor working conditions. Teachers are respected because they provide the possibility of a future away from labour professions.

It may be useful to combine teaching as part of a career. For example, the composer Arnold Schoenberg not only wrote his own music, but taught along side it. According the Finsbury Park Piano Teacher website, Claude Debussy was also of a similar vein. But teaching does not necessarily have to be your main activity. If you have a career in acting or writing film music, then you can fit in ad hoc teaching in between. Teaching is not a 9-5 activity, there are ways around it to fit flexibly.

Considering teaching now? Check out the various grades and routes into it. It might be a career you enjoy!

On Diet and Music

What would flicker through your mind if you encountered someone holding a grasshopper between their fingers and offering it to you? Your mind might be running through all the various possibilities, such as “Is he trying to show it to me?” Or maybe you might be thinking “That must be a special breed of grasshopper that is interesting to him”. And one thought that you might encounter, but quickly discount, is “Surely he’s not expecting me to eat that! Or is he?” And your fears might come to fruition if the person holding the grasshopper then uses his other hand to reach for a small bowl of soy sauce. It would take a remarkably naive mind to think at that stage “These grasshoppers drink strange things”. The grasshoppers are for eating!

We are accustomed to our burgers, chips and all other things that make our cuisine typically British. Think British food and what else do you think? Perhaps immigration may have altered the typical flavour of the country. For example, if you go to a city like Birmingham, where the population is largely Asian, you may think Chicken Tikka Masala is typically representative of the British cuisine. Over the last few decades cuisine has been a bit more diversified and even exotic, as snails egg porridge may attest. But grasshopper kebab? Surely you would think no way!
There are those that advocate an insect diet because insects are plentiful, reproduce faster than crops grow and livestock reproduce, and have less of a carbon footprint. The population growth we highlighted in the previous post means we have to be a bit more creative with food, because the existing levels of meat consumption is unsustainable.

We may not be always to produce enough food to feed an increasing world population but we will always be able to produce enough ways of entertaining it, especially now that storage for entertainment such as videos, music and all other media have increased exponentially. Those of us old enough to remember 1.44mb floppy disks will wonder how we got by on those storage. And if you are looking for more traditional forms of entertainment, think of how people used to amuse themselves, with skills such as learning an instrument. According to the Piano Teacher Crouch End website, it is a skill that will enriches you for life. Maybe form your own band like the Drifters! Just don’t call it The Grasshoppers!

The dilemma of social responsibility

Is it the responsibility of the citizen to fill in socially for government? No doubt it appears that local government hopes that they will; it will reduce the social burden of the area by transferring it on to other citizens. And so you may find homeless people sat outside places, and wonder why the council does not intervene; and think that perhaps they are hoping the bulk of citizens will chip in and help, because it reduces the costs to the council for re-housing those who need social housing. The council does not have funds for these things anyway, and even if they did, the vote-per-dollar return is severely low on this. Spend £30-40 a day housing an individual buys you a vote after four years, from that individual – if he or she bothers to vote. That’s £36000 or more for a vote. Spend £500 on elderly services, make some noise about it, and you are likely to see a better return.

So local governments expect you to step in to fill the gap because there is no funding for that. The problem that the average individual faces is that we know giving money to the homeless is not a long-term solution to getting them off the streets to better their lives. Secondly, we also know that some people – a small minority, it must be stressed – of those who beg for charity actually are not in need, but find they can make quite a bit of a living doing that. (You can read many newspaper reports of people doing that and getting caught out.) Thirdly, we feel we pay taxes, and filling in even more for local government is a form of stealth tax.
But what does that do to us though? It means that every time we walk pass someone in need, we feel we have to steel ourselves against the compassion we naturally feel, becoming more guarded, less compassionate, more tough – despite all our senses to the contrary. It is building another form of disconnect between the practical reality of our lives and the way we think we should act.

Disconnect breeds mental health problems. Composers such as Hector Berlioz were prone to erratic behaviour. You can trace that to periods of isolation spend huddling in front of a piano. (You can learn more about Berlioz from the N8 piano lessons blog.) Fast forward that to computers in the modern century. But it is not just work that fuels disconnect. The things we see around us and how we have to dull our senses and deaden our reactions – all this does not bear well from the human race; it is just so opposite to how we were made!

Morning Routine

How much time does it take you to get ready in the morning? The majority of us, slightly over 56%, take any time between eleven and thirty minutes getting ready. Based on a recent survey, only 2% take less than five minutes, while at the other extreme, 3% take over an hour. 15% of those educated after high school and 9% of college graduates take ten minutes or less, while this is only 2% for those educated up to high school or less.

While education may appear to be a factor, there is of course more than just a function of education involved. There is a huge disparity and the amount of time it takes to get ready for both men and women. Gender has a role too. The time differential of the current “average individual” was measured across all activities for a survey, even giving as detailed breakdowns such as comparing shampoo times. In this case, for example, men average of three minutes per shampoo for a woman and two minutes for a man. While some time differences don’t seem substantial like that, they actually do add a bit when taken in a yearly context. In that shampoo example based on an average of 183 showers per year, women spend almost three hours more per year just on washing their hair. Other more general neutral activities like brushing your teeth and using mouthwash were more equal in times.

But of course and woman’s hair and make-up routine can be significantly increase a woman’s average morning routine time. Hair and make-up alone take up an estimated 39 minutes a day of a woman’s time. Over the year it takes 24 days 7 hours and 40 minutes just to be a woman, as opposed to 9 days 5 hours and 27 minutes for a man.
Of course some women choose to go without makeup, and some men have much more expensive skin care routine for example, but it’s an interesting study, not only in how you break down your time, but also in the expectations and norms that end up costing time, and not just money. Sort of like a pink clock tax perhaps!

But centuries ago, when men wore wigs (think back to portraits of composers such as Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven), it may have taken the men a lot longer to get ready!

The Forties

The forties are a defining moment in your career. At your forties, you are likely to have had a stable job, children, mortgage, It is an important time of your life – the consolidation of your work and life so far.

Another reason for the importance of the forties is a negative one. If you get passed over for an opportunity, unfortunately this means your slow decline within the organisation. Getting managed by people your aged is not the problem. It could be worse. At least you are not being bossed around by some young twenty something graduate with little work or life experience. Unless you happen to be some non commissioned career soldier in the army having to kowtow to orders from a recent graduate officer. But if you get passed over for managerial positions it means you get lumped together with the young new graduates, who will be eager to please, have more energy to expend, have less life commitments. And if opportunities present themselves to all you junior employees, it is them, young and still having years to give to the organisation, that will be considered.

You could take a lesson from the military. Many start off on the non-commissioned scale, moving up as specialists to sergeant majors. A few then go off to officer training school, where they end up as lieutenants, the most junior of officers. But it gives them a shot at being general, the highest of the officers. You can’t be a general from being a sergeant major. Making the leap to the officer ranks gives you more avenues for promotion.

If, by your forties, you don’t make the transition towards managerial positions, in some sort of junior management role, then your career is likely to stall. That is because you are going to be overlooked in favour of the younger colleagues. Put it this way, if there is a promotion due upstairs, and all things being equal, employers know they can promote the younger person because it would be getting a cheaper salaried person to do the job.

Did you know the Italian music composer Giaocchino Rossini was already well established by the time he was in his forties? At the age of thirty seven he was already travelling and semi-retiring. He made his money off operas, and never wrote a work until three decades later! You can find out more about Rossini here and also read more music trivia from the Piano Teacher Crouch End N8 website.
Don’t let your forties slip by without planning!

The value of patience

Often you will hear people decry that they are no good with numbers, as if it excuses a lack of effort by confusing it with predetermined inability. Is there really an inborn inability to deal with numbers? We also hear misguided generalisms such as one being better with words than with numbers, as if the skills of language and mathematics cannot exist together side by side. But there really is no lack of understanding, it is more a lack of effort. And when I state a lack of effort, I don’t mean a lack of effort at working hard, I mean the lack of effort at patience and understanding.

When we attempt a new skill, we are more than likely not going to get it right the first time. If we do, then that skill was probably not that difficult in the first place and we would have actually not even considered it a new skill to begin with. After all, a skill implies something that requires some form of sustained effort to master. It is unlike you could play the piano to a good standard without even having touched it before.
Piano playing is a skill. But you could play the piano because you have mastered another instrument like the flute, and the crossover in musical knowledge allows you to attain a good entry level at the piano in a short attempt.

When we try something new without any previous overlap, we will make mistakes and not get it right. And this is where the patience comes in. We need to focus less on the end product and think about how we can achieve it. Often the realisation that one has to devote time and effort to get to that stage puts people off, because they realise they don’t have the patience to work at it, or the patience to try slowly. They are willing to do repetitions of an activity, but not patient enough to analyse if the activity is of value to warrant the time in it.

Learning a musical instrument can be a good way of teaching this kind of patience. With a keyboard instrument, you get the instant gratification of multiple sounds, and the realisation that if you are patient enough to work at it you can produce something quite good. And if you live in the Harringay area, why not get in touch with a piano teacher in N15? You learn songs you like, while developing the patience at getting better!

Social Media Possibilities

Your choice of social media may have more influence than you think. Research shows that a high percentage of social media users believe that the predominant choice of social media may reveal more of a user than the user himself or herself would like. This has particular relevance and bearing in terms of age. It is believed that your choice of social media may reveal how old you are. How is this possible? We tend to jump on the social media bandwagon when they are at the zenith of their powers, so depending on when you signed up and when these platforms hit popularity, we can make a rough estimation of the age of the user. The assumption of course is that we only stick to one or two social media platforms when we could actually be using many of them and have multiple accounts. And even on the same platform, we may have two identities. Irregardless of this, there is the perception that Facebook is for older people, while Instagram is for the younger generation.

Some social platforms may be associated more with certain age groups, but there is no denying that they all present opportunities for users to make income while monetising their followers. Users can sell any original product they create to their followers. If you have many followers, this presents many potential buyers for products such as crafts, web services, or web products. And even if you feel that you may not have an original product to offer, don’t be tempted to pass off someone’s original work as your own. You will at some point open yourself up to litigation. If you are a singer and doing a cover of someone’s song, make sure you apply for a mechanical license, after which you can sell your own version. It may even be more successful than the original. Elvis Presley, for example, popularised the song Hound Dog despite it being a cover version of the original. (You can read more about this from the Piano Teachers Harringay N15 blog.)

If you have no original product to sell, you can instead try making an income from affiliate marketing, where you earn a commission from selling other people’s stuff. You can set up a virtual shop easily – just be familiar with e-commerce. A third method is by being a social influencer, where the product promotion is less overt, but where someone gives the impression of being successful by virtue of using certain products, influencing others to follow suit.
Social media does open up a world of income possibilities. If you were based in Brighton and had an arts and crafts business, it would be helpful to join local groups on social media, and also link up with like-minded individuals outside of Brighton. Managed carefully, social media could help your business expand well.