When you get the same message twice on the same day, it’s time to pay attention.

My Sunday morning walk on the Promenade at Mouille Point, brought me to a building site that was blocked off from the sidewalk with a fence. In the distance behind the fence I could see Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain covered with “the tablecloth”.

I wanted that picture.

But I had a problem – the fence.

Often, the solution to a problem is in the problem. In this case the solution was to move the camera so that the lens was positioned in the space between two bars. That space of “nothing” held the key to getting the picture I wanted.

For lunch I was invited to join my son Henry and family at De Volkskombuis in Stellenbosch. For parking I was showed to the area facing the sport fields of Paul Roos Gymnasium. The mountains around Stellenbosch formed the ideal backdrop.

I wanted that picture.

But I had a problem – the fence.

Using the same solution to the same problem I experienced the morning, I got my picture.

How often, when we are faced with a problem/challenge, we focus so hard on the things that (seem to) define the problem, like the metal rods in these examples, that we miss the glaring solutions that lie in the space between these things?

Without getting too analytical:
• We want to achieve something. We have an end in mind (“I want that picture”).
• We have the resources to achieve it (I had my imagination, the camera, the time and the scenery).
• Then something spoils our dream – the problem (the fences).
• Realising that the solution to the problem can lie in the problem, we look at everything that defines the problem – not only the “hard”, immediately perceivable issues (metal rods) but also at whatever lies in the space between them.

As we exchange 2018 for 2019, reflect on just one problem/challenge you have right now that you don’t want to carry over into the new year. I’m sure you have already spent a lot of energy and time defining and working on the problem.

Why not revisit it and see it in its totality – look for some “gaps” that may have eluded you?

The solution to your problem may just be hiding in the problem, waiting there for you to find it!

Quote: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” ― Albert Einstein


Just to let you know…I have been working away quietly with AOSIS to produce your online Productivity Breakthrough course.

It is structured using the “8 Basic Work Habits to Rapidly and Sustainably Increase Productivity” as framework.

51 short, on-demand videos, together with application exercises and assessments make up this course.

You can get more info at https://aosis.co.za/news-article/80, and also enter your name to be notified when the course is launched within the near future.

See you “on the other side”!

Hand-off fishing?

On my early Saturday morning walk on the never-ending beach at Vleesbaai, I walked past 6 fishing rods in tubes “planted” in the sand.  One of the fishermen was taking a nap and the other one was reading a book and eating an apple.

Disconnected from their lines in the water.

I watched how the one man baited his hook, walked maybe 20 meters into the ocean and cast the bait to land behind the waves. He then put the fishing rod in the holder, en retired to his spot in the sand, looking at the rod every now and then to see if there’s anything happening at the business end of the line, hoping that the big one will bite.

The way I used to fish (as a kid with my father) from the beach is to bait the hook, walk into the water, cast and then stand at the edge of the water, holding the fishing rod and keeping my fingers on the line so I could “stay in touch” with what’s going on at the other end of the line.

Every morning when we get up, we cast our lives into the ocean called “life”, having made a choice earlier about which ocean we want to fish in (call it your mission/vision/calling…). Do you cast your days into the dentist ocean, the consultant ocean, manager ocean, entrepreneur ocean, CEO ocean, family ocean, or probably a mix of these…?

Once you’ve cast your day into the ocean, do you retreat to “your spot in the sand”, disconnected and not feeling what’s happening at the business end of your day? Hoping that your “big one” will bite? Or do you keep your fingers on the line, sensing what’s going on, feeling the way the water is pulling and getting excited about little nibbles at the “bait”?

When you ask someone to help you, do you abdicate or delegate? Do you “fire and forget” and withdraw or stay in touch, listening and supporting?

Life gives us little signals all the time, helping us to stay in touch with reality. To be aware of what life is trying to tell us, we must be connected, fingers on the line so we can pick up the signals.Neither of the fishing techniques I mentioned above are “right” or “wrong”. The one you choose depends on what you want to achieve.

Tight lines!

Quote: “Stop putting an effort into those who show no effort towards you. There’s only so much you can do before you’re wasting your energy and time.” – Found on Pinterest

Meet Cornelius.

I met him Sunday morning at Rocklands Beach, and we chatted for a few minutes. I want to hear more.

He is homeless, but not hope-less.

He does not have a job, but he creates an income.

I guess one could say Cornelius is the “beach-keeper” at Rocklands.

Here are a few snippets from his story, as he told it to me.

He arrives at Rocklands every day, having spent the night at a homeless shelter under a bridge, where they get water but not food.

He cleans the beach every day of the week, and on Christmas and New Year and all public holidays as well.

I asked if he works for The City – and got “the look”. “No, I don’t work for the City”.

And for time off? “I don’t need holidays – my work here is my holiday.”

A young lady jogged past us, then stopped and came back to chat with him, with a big smile. This was obviously not the first time they talked. She is getting back into shape to be able to run competitively again. He kept on encouraging her all the time to keep going. She left with a smile, saying that she will be back talk more the next day.

Three or for more ladies stopped and chatted. One promised that she would bring him a sandwich a little later.

And money? “Sometimes people give me a donation of R50 or R100”.

He has spent time behind bars long ago but has been clean of drugs and alcohol for years now.

“I enjoy what I do. Sometimes when I come here the beach is full of stinking seaweed and I clean it. I do what I can do. I don’t make big eyes at other people and what they do. I don’t stick out my hands and take what belongs to others.”

A simple approach to life and living that can work for anyone, anywhere.

Be friendly. Talk to people. Enjoy your work – make your work your holiday. Have a daily routine. Keep it simple. Encourage others. Don’t interfere. Don’t take what’s not yours. Don’t wait on others to create possibilities for you – find something to do, go do it and enjoy it.

Thank you, Cornelius.

I’ll be back.

My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
(Robert Frost – from “Two Tramps in Mud Time … is the most characteristic of Robert Frost, and speaks highly of the dignity of manual labour.”)

Enjoy your week – let’s keep it simple.

Same structures. Probably cost the same.

Same promise (the promise at the bottom of the pillar is “LADDER”).

But very different levels of fulfilment of the promise.

A ladder versus no ladder – just holes in the concrete. A trustworthy resource versus an empty promise leaving no trust in similar signs down the line.

My friend, the late Jerry Fletcher, once said: “You can only trust people to do what they have done.” Once a sign says “Ladder” but there is no ladder, will you instinctively believe the promise of a ladder again?

Stephen M R Covey wrote a book, The Speed of Trust. One does not need an advanced qualification to know that things just happen much faster and easier when people trust each other.

If a ladder is promised, it will be there.

When someone says, “Take it as done”, to know that it will be done as promised.

A deal sealed with a handshake while looking each other in the eye, without reams of paper in a “memorandum of understanding”.

In my Outlook Productivity workshops people often say they keep emails “just in case” they might need it again somewhere in the future. I am sure companies can free up terabytes of in-company computer storage space if people don’t feel they have to keep emails “just in case”.

Trust must be earned. It cannot be bought or demanded. For you to trust someone to get a job done, they must be worthy of your trust.

They must have both the competence AND the character to do the job. An eye-surgeon may be the best in world (competence) but if you hear that he sometimes operates when it is not necessary because he needs the money (character), will you go for the operation if he prescribes it? Or if he will never operate unless it’s necessary but to save money, he uses the same scalpel over and over and does not have proper surgical lighting in theatre but relies on few 100-Watt light bulbs?

To be trustworthy, both character and competence must be in place. An abundance in one does not make up for a shortfall in the other.

Let’s take this week and review our relationships where things may not be going so smoothly and there could be a lack, or perceived lack, of trust. What’s missing? Character? Competence? Both?

I came across these thought-provoking statements:
· Relationships are about trust, and if you have to play detective in your relationship, it’s time to move on.
· A relationship with no trust is like a cell phone with no service, all you can do is play games.

And if we discover a relationship that is not securely built on trust, what are the options?

We can hope that the next “ There will be a ladder” promise will be different to the previous ones that delivered empty holes – but remember Jerry’s words…

Or we can improve the other person/people’s competence by training and development.

Or maybe it’s time for either party to move on…

Quote: “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” – Stephen Covey

Just a few weeks ago this patch of earth in Kirstenbosch was a feeding ground for hundreds of bees and other insects. There were thousands of white and yellow flowers – a sight to behold.

On Sunday there was nothing. The magic and beauty were gone. Not to be repeated until spring 2019.

I was too late.

The window of opportunity to enjoy the spectacle has closed.

It wouldn’t help me one bit if I went to the Kirstenbosch Management and complained that the flowers were gone. Even if I told them that my circumstances were special, and I was unable to visit the garden the last few weeks due to medical reasons.

Deadlines define the end of windows of opportunity. If you miss it, it’s all over, maybe for quite a while.

Opportunities come and go. If we want to gain maximum benefit, we need to do something before the deadline arrives. Don’t use “my circumstances are different” as an excuse for missing it – it won’t open the window again.

A few words to chew on as we think about missed opportunities: fear of failure, procrastination, perfectionism, not knowing what to do, not knowing how to do it, no motivation, interruptions, distractions, no passion for the task…

Anything ring a bell?

Let’s get rid of our opportunity robbers, and dive into our open windows of opportunity with energy and determination. Make the apology, call your customer to sort out an issue, make the call you have been putting off, take the weekend off, talk with that disgruntled person on your team, visit more potential clients, get a physical check-up, lie on the ground with your child, exercise, think…

Let’s not wait for Spring 2019!

Quote: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ― Douglas Adams


Saturday morning, just after 6.

Something in Table Bay harbour caught my eye. A cargo ship lying “North-South” while all other ships were lying “East-West”.

Strange, until I saw tugboats at work on the ship. They were turning it 180 degrees from the way it came into the harbour, getting it into position to be moored.

Towards the end of their job, three tugboats were at it. Then the one left. After quite a while, the others also left.

Job done. Ship safely secured in the desired position. (I just had a look – it is still there.)

It could not have done it by itself. It had to ask for help from others and allow them to do what they do best. It did not resist or second-guess what the helpers were doing. It trusted the process and ended up where it wanted to be.

I often want to do things by myself (after all, independence is one of my top personal values). Website design. Copywriting. Course development. Marketing. Building infrastructure. E-learning courses. Aligning my life and getting it safely moored in a space that makes me productive, happy and live a fulfilling life.

Something the Philosopher said in the book The Courage To Be Disliked came to mind as I was reflecting on what I just saw. “The person who always has the will to help another in times of need—that is someone who may properly be called your comrade … My grandfather chose a lifestyle with the perspective of ‘people are my comrades, and the world is a wonderful place’.”

How could life change if we see people as comrades? Ready, willing and able to start up the engines of their tugboats and help us get into a better position? Allowing them to do what they do best, without resisting?

And afterwards set them free to help others as well.

Saturday morning, just after 7. Cup of coffee in hand, I enjoyed the sight of a job done well in Table Bay harbour.

Quote: “The strong individual is the one who asks for help when he needs it.” – Rona Barrett