I Didn't Get Where I Am

How the rich and famous achieved their success

Tips and tricks from those who made it to the top

I Didn't Get Where I Am

How the rich and famous achieved their success

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Did you know that Frederic Chopin slept with wooden wedges between his fingers to increase the span of notes he could cover on the piano? Or that Marilyn Monroe often wore shoes with one heel slightly lower than the other, to increase the sexiness of her famous walk? Or that Lewis Carroll kept a record of every meal given to his guests so as not to serve them the same thing twice?

My trivia-crammed mind already contained plenty of these facts. But compiling the book was a total joy, because it gave me the excuse to discover a load more. Such as:

 

- Fred Astaire practised each dance until he could perform it while reading a book 

- David Cameron makes all his speeches with a full bladder - the heightened tension brings out a better performance

- Before every Grand Prix, Jenson Button sits on an inflatable gym ball, holds a steering wheel and drives an imaginary lap of the circuit, making all the appropriate noises. He invariably finishes within a second of his actual time

- When Jane Austen began her writing career, which she wanted to keep secret, she used small scraps of paper - this way she could quickly hide them under her blotter in case someone came into the room 

 


‘Full of insights into the psychology and tactics employed by all manner of top sportsmen, entertainers and boffins.' The Sun


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Content

Big Ben

On a visit to Big Ben, I was told that if you stand at the bottom of the tower with a portable radio and listen to the chimes on Radio 4 (they still transmit them live), you hear them on the radio before you hear them ‘for real’. I couldn’t believe it – but was intrigued enough to try it for myself. And you know what? It’s absolutely true. The bongs come out of the radio a fraction of a second before they reach your ears from the top of the tower. It’s something so silly, so counter-intuitive, that you have to tell people. (Well, I did.) Researching the explanation, I found that it’s because radio waves travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) rather than the 700 or so miles per hour at which sound waves travel. The signal travelling down the wire from the microphone to the BBC goes at the speed of light too. Hence the radio version overtaking the real one.

I realised that this would be the perfect way to teach the principle in school physics lessons. Instead of a boring teacher droning on that ‘radio waves travel at the speed of light’, illustrate it with this beautiful and quirky little fact. The kids will remember it then. I certainly would have done if my physics teacher had taken this approach. As it was I had to wait until I heard a piece of so-called ‘trivia’ in my thirties.