The Isle of Gold Book Review

I just finished reading Seven Jane’s debut novel The Isle of Gold.

When it came out, I interviewed Seven Jane, and shortly after I purchased the book on iBooks.

I reviewed this book on Goodreads as well.

This was a fantastic debut novel. It was exciting and blended history and mythology really well. I was loving it.

There was enough anticipation at every turn, wondering what will happen, what hardship will they face, how will they overcome. The pacing was great until the ending.

That was the only part I disliked.

The big fight that the whole book has been leading up to is skipped over. One character is revealed to be a mythological creature, and in my opinion, it was unnecessary amidst all the other surprise identities.

Even with my dislike of the ending, I’d say this book is a 4/5. I still highly recommend it, as everything else is excellent and well-written.

Recap: The War of Art

I went in expecting to love this book. At first I did love this book. I had my disagreements with Steven Pressfield, but they weren’t on the writing advice.

The War of Art is a collection of connected short essays about being an artist. Pressfield writes extensively on what he calls Resistance. Resistance is the personification of anything and everything that keeps you from doing your work.

This is my review of the book as a whole. I have some contention with various specific details that I might go into another time.


In the first part of the book, Resistance: Defining the Enemy, Pressfield sets forth the nature of Resistance. This section of the book was my favorite. It was relatable, though repetitive. I’ve encountered a lot of what he mentions in my own life and creative pursuits. I do think he goes a bit far in defining Resistance, in some cases, though. On page 55, for example, he discusses rationalization. He admits that the excuses may be valid, but still calls them Resistance. “Our wife may really be in her eighth month of pregnancy; she may in truth need us at home…. What Resistance leaves out, of course, is that all this means diddly.”

In the second part of the book, Combating Resistance: Turning Pro, Pressfield defines a “professional” and how to beat Resistance. This section boils down to “Just Do It.” The whole section is about sitting down and getting to work. Doing it despite Resistance. I’ve heard that before, so I did not find it particularly helpful or valuable. I’m implementing that in my own life. I have been for quite a while now. I’ve been blogging every day since October and have 167 other posts on this blog since July. Pressfield has a position about the distinction between pros and amateurs that I somewhat disagree with.

In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.

p. 63

This ignores the monetary hurdles committing full-time can have. If I quit my job at Panera to blog and write full-time, I will starve. I will not be able to financially support myself if I don’t keep writing on the side for now. It’s my true passion, yes, and I want to do it full-time because I love it so much. I can certainly take steps to changing this. In fact, I have. My poetry collection Inside a Writer’s Head is available for sale. I’ve applied to freelance writing jobs. I write every day and share my blog on social media. I have Patreon set up. But right now, I make no money so I cannot quit my job. It is what it is. I’m resigned to it only because I know I can and will change this reality. I call myself a “pro” even though I’m doing it as a labor of love because I show up every day.

In the last part of the book, Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm, Pressfield’s creative self-help book turns into a spiritual exploration. This part bothered me the most. Not because I’m an atheist. But because that’s not what I signed up for. I did not read this book to have Pressfield’s view of spirituality as it relates to art pushed on me. On the second to last page, he writes, “In the end, we arrive at a kind of model of the artist’s world, and that model is that there exist other, higher planes of reality, about which we can prove nothing” (p. 163, emphasis added). I have a problem with the lack of evidence in his assertions. I’m given zero reasons to believe his claims that inspiration comes from the Muses or angels or God or beings from invisible realms. He just says it must be that way, that it is that way, and I’m expected to accept it. This whole section of the book felt ridiculous and frankly unnecessary. I would have enjoyed The War of Art more without it.

Module 2 Project Wrap-up

This post will be updated on the 30th with any new information about my project.

It’s the last week of my portfolio project marketing my poetry collection.

I got my copies of Inside a Writer’s Head in the mail before expected, and I’ve sold three copies. I set up my sale page to direct people to last Wednesday, but haven’t gotten any sales through it yet.

I sold a copy to my boyfriend, my local library, and some long-time friends of mine. I’m sending a copy to Jacob Beman as a thank you for designing the cover.

I’m expecting more sales after I announce the giveaway winners, because every entrant is getting a coupon code for my sale page. If you haven’t entered and want a chance to get the ebook for free, check out the giveaway page. It explains how to get four different entries to maximize your chances of winning.

The main video this week is a reading of some poems from the collection. I’m editing the two short videos I made reading related poems today. They will be up by the end of the month for sure, but I’ll be working on getting them out today.

I started my Instagram at the beginning of the month. In that time I’ve gained 47 followers. I’ve posted once a day every day.

On Twitter:

Twitter Followers.png

On Facebook:

FB page activity.png

I posted every day on Facebook and Twitter as well. I shared the images from Instagram and most days I also shared my blog post for the day. This week that was poems from Inside a Writer’s Head.

At the end of this month I will have created 6 Youtube videos, hit 61 straight days of blogging, run a giveaway, increased my social media presence, and sold 3+ copies of Inside a Writer’s Head.

I structured my week fairly loosely. I created the blog post(s) for the week first, as they would serve as a base for the video(s). For most of the month, I didn’t plan my Instagram posts, and read through my poems to choose lines for the images every morning. This last week I had already selected which poems were going on my blog, so I shared those on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to tie everything together.

I typically spent 2-3 days shooting and editing video. It could have taken less time, but devoting time around my job it took that time. Some of the videos took less time, because I had less video to edit before it was done, but one week the video was 17 minutes to start, and one of my videos reading poetry was initially around 20 minutes.

I really learned how to make a single, coherent, focused product through video making and through the daily blogging exercises I’ve been doing. I have to keep a video focused on the topic of that video. I have to keep a blog post focused on the topic for that blog post. To do that, I have to center myself and my thoughts on that topic and focus myself on it so I produce content that stays with my chosen theme.

Next month is the writing month in Praxis, so I will continue my daily blogging. I also plan on running another giveaway, this time with more possible prizes including the Inside a Writer’s Head ebook, a pdf of my novella The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan, coupon codes for the poetry collection, the bonus content, and maybe another mystery prize. I’ll also continue making at least one video/week.

Module 2, Week 3 Project Update

This week has been the most problem-free so far, but still had its challenges.

I mentioned in my first project update that I had problems with my proofs from BookBaby. I actually found a new problem in the new proofs they sent me.

I had written the acknowledgements before I knew who was designing the cover for Inside a Writer’s Head. I thought I’d be working with Alexandra Wagner, so I wrote her name in. I ended up working with Jacob Beman, as I’ve mentioned. That was great and I shared that information. But I forgot to update the acknowledgements.

I noticed that it was wrong and had to message the BookBaby support team to figure out how to resolve it. I submitted a new book file, and they agreed to fix that one mistake in the ebook for me. They have a fee for additional changes or for submitting a new file, but they made an exception because it was just one mistake.

I got my new design proofs back, and I should get the books I ordered by the end of the month. I’m still not entirely sure when the ebook will be available for sale, though.

Last week I had the idea of running a giveaway of the collection. I acted on that the day after having the idea and posted about it on Instagram. I made it possible for any person to have three changes to win, one from each social media platform I’m on — Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To enter people have to like and share the post and follow my account on that platform. Then I send them their entry number(s) as a direct message.

Right now I’m tracking entries in a spreadsheet recording the person’s username, the platform(s) entered on, and their entry number(s). I also expanded the possible entries to my blog and pinned the post with the explanation of how to enter each way. So far only four people have entered. I’m trying to keep talking about it so people will be more likely to see it and enter. I mention it in my photo posts with poetry quotes on them.

I’m not sure if my audience is currently too small to run a successful giveaway or if people don’t care or both. That’s something I’ve noticed about my project. Because I’m just starting out building my platform and interacting with people on social media and sharing my work more, I have a small audience and very little incoming interaction. 26 people like my Facebook page, 27 people follow me on Twitter, and 41 people follow me on Instagram. I get the most interaction on Instagram, but I feel more limited by the necessity of images. I need to practice creating photos for my blog posts in order to promote them on Instagram as well.

I’ve realized during this project and from the Praxis Wednesday last week that I’m really building my creative brand. I initially wanted to sell my poetry collection, but it’s not available yet. Yes, I’ll be selling a product, but to interest people in that product, I have to sell them on me and my work more generally.

Because of that obstacle, this has morphed a bit in my mind into building creative habits, connecting with people on social media to sell myself and my blog. That will take time. It aligns with my longer-term goals of being a freelance writer or making money doing creative work.

For the video and blog content directly tied to my project, I talked about how I completed my poetry manuscript in two weeks. I made a video on the same topic, which is embedded in that blog post.

Next week, which starts Thursday, I plan to post some of the poems in Inside a Writer’s Head to this blog, so stay tuned! I want my video to be me reading those poems.

I’m thinking about posting recordings of me reading my work, from Inside a Writer’s Head, other poems, and short stories to SoundCloud, but I’m not sure if it would be worth the time. I also found out that there is a 3 hour upload limit for free accounts, which may be a problem if I do pursue this.

Recap: The Last Safe Investment

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

I received The Last Safe Investment: Spending Now to Increase Your True Wealth Forever by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsberg when I was added to the Praxis Workplace last January. I only recently read the book from start to finish. On November 6, Michael joined the Praxis community for a special call discussing The Last Safe Investment.

This post is about the book and that call. The notes and my response will be mixed together instead of separated.

I highly recommend this book, go read it, it’s absolutely fantastic.


Bryan and Michael propose not just a system of investment, but a whole new way of viewing life. This is big stuff.

It’s important to first explain how Bryan and Michael define investing in this book. That is the first thing that is drastically different than the normal, conventional perspective.

Investing is not just money you use to buy stock, or pieces of other companies, to try to make more money and benefit from the money that company makes. If, instead, you buy something that not only benefits the area of life it was intended for, but other aspects of life as well, you invested instead of merely consuming. The example in the book is of going to see a movie. One person watches an action movie with friends and buys candy, popcorn, and soda. The other person goes with some friends to see a documentary and discuss it after; they buy water for each person. Assuming they spend the same amount of money, the documentary viewer invested in their relationships, knowledge, and health at the very least. Investing is, then, choosing purchases that benefit multiple areas of life, not just the original context.

The big picture: True Wealth is not just about money, but also tribe and advisor equity.  By investing in yourself, others, and meaningful relationships, you can save money and have a support network that will eventually allow you to retire when you are ready to do so.

When you invest in yourself, you learn and practice skills to increase your ability to create value for others. This, in turn, increases what you are worth to others and how fat your paycheck is.

With the money you have now, regardless of how much or how little that is, you can already start investing in yourself. Even if you can’t afford a class on sales or resources on marketing, you can start investing. When you go to make a purchase, think about how that will affect other areas of your life. How much happiness will you get? After the purchase, reflect on how much happiness you actually got. Was it more or less than you expected? Did you benefit in other areas besides the original context? If you think about this every time you make a purchase, you will hone the ability to purchase systemically (thinking about your life as a whole) and in a way that most increases your happiness.

This exchange of money for goods/services/experiences for happiness is called your Happiness Exchange Rate. By increasing the amount of happiness you get from each dollar you spend, you make it easier to spend less money. When you are able to properly evaluate how much happiness you will get from a given purchase and think about how that purchase will affect other areas of your life, you will cut unnecessary spending as well.

It might sound absurd that you can save money by spending it, but if you reflect on your purchases to see how much happiness you get and what the systemic affect is, you can do just that. I started doing this myself. I created a spreadsheet with Google drive to track my spending and reflect on what I buy.

The majority of the book focuses on learning Super Skills, skills that are widely sought after and valuable in almost every context. These are interpersonal, creative, technical, and physical. (The physical Super Skills first benefit you, then create a trickle down effect to others. By investing in your health, you increase your ability to create value in general.) Each of those categories has skills under them. They are skills such as sales, leadership, writing, design, mental modeling, building a marketing crank, mental focus, and a clean, healthy appearance.

Practicing and mastering a handful of Super Skills in various areas increases the value you offer to others. If you are skilled in both sales and building a marketing crank, for example, since they go together, you can increase the effectiveness of each. Because marketing is meant to gather sales leads, knowing how to sell can help refine your marketing approach. Similarly, if you know design and how to build a marketing crank, you can create better, more effective designs to catch and keep the attention of potential leads. At the same time, this increase in value creation will increase your paycheck.

When you are more valuable, you will also have more control over when and how you work and who you work for. By investing in more Super Skills and thereby having more value to offer an employer, you can find or make work you love and make money doing it. (This is related to niching down, for that go see my Recap of Niche Down by Christopher Lochhead and be sure to read that too.)

When you combine this increase in pay with a decrease in the amount of money you have to spend to be happy, you gradually have a wider and wider margin of excess cash. That is your savings. That is the money you keep for retirement.

The greater your Happiness Exchange Rate and the greater your paycheck, the greater your savings. Savings is one of the three True Wealth assets.

The second True Wealth asset is advisor equity. Unlike traditional equity, which is partial ownership of something physical, advisor equity is an exchange of advise or mentorship now in exchange for compensation later. It’s built by interpersonal relationships and the compensation is based on gratitude, not obligation. For example, if I volunteer my time to regularly critique a friend’s writing, they may later offer me something in return.  What that may be depends on what they have and what they wish to give. That would be informal advisor equity, because it is person to person.

Formal advisor equity is typically given in cases of help or advice to a business or its owner. Formal equity is called such because there is a formal agreement of a certain monetary compensation. That could be a percentage of ownership of the company, or a certain payout based upon the money being made. But it is a straightforward, written agreement that John owes Bob X amount at Y time based on Z condition or whatever the case may be.

Advisor equity can come in a multitude of forms and often result in experiences that wouldn’t be available to you otherwise.

The third True Wealth asset is tribe. This amplifies the effects of advisor equity, especially within the tribe. A tribe, as Michael and Bryan define it, is a group of 15-150 friends who all know each other and share the same close bond with each other. Instead of having scattered, individual friendships or a smattering of small friend group, it’s possible to build a tribe. Instead of splitting your attention between your various friends, your friends are friends too, so by strengthening your relationship with friend A, you also stregthen your relationship with friend B.

The strength of a tribe lies in the shared values possessed by that tribe. If everyone cares about the well-being of every other member of the tribe, when one person has a hardship, the burden can be split among every other member. When everyone is supporting each other, if someone wants to take a risk and start a business but has to cut as many costs as possible, they may be able to float between houses.

I mentioned that tribe amplifies advisor equity within the tribe. By gaining advisor equity with one tribe member, by virtue of their word and their experience, you can then also have advisor equity with other members of the tribe before you invest time helping them specifically.

Not only does tribe amplify advisor equity and act as a safety net, but it can also increase your Happiness Exchange Rate. When you spend time with people you care about, you gain happiness and fulfilment. When the people you care about all care about each other, you can gain more happiness and fulfillment from your relationships with them. Instead of feeling spread thin by attempting to maintain too many friendships, you’re more fulfilled because your relationship with each tribe member is also tied to your relationship with every other tribe member.

Bryan and Michael don’t just think their plan works, they and their tribe actively live and practice this in their own lives. They have seen it work for them and for those close to them.

Praxis exemplifies this model, this ideology. The program is all about investing in your value to others. That may only be one facet of True Wealth as described in The Last Safe Investment, but knowing how to invest in your value to others is a vital step towards True Wealth. Also, the book is part of the program, and now Michael’s talk is part of the program. Praxians are not simply taking in Michael and Bryan’s book and ideas and thinking about them, but actively subscribing to the ideology and principles in their own lives.

The world is changing, careers are changing, with the internet the world is more global and people are less and less bound by geography for jobs, friends, or anything. As that happens, the necessity of value creation and a personal safety net increase. Experience matters more than a paper credential. A tribe to support each other in good times and bad is vital. Advisor equity is a safer, surer investment than companies you have no control over.

You are your most vital asset. Investing in yourself, your network, and in your ability to teach others are the safest investments you can make today to have a plentiful retirement later.