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We’re approaching the end of the month of August, and I find myself feeling a bit melancholic…

On Sunday we celebrated my sister Elsabé’s 82nd birthday, one of a number of people in the family with August birthdays.

My father was also born in August – 1903. Both he and my mother passed away in the month of August, albeit 3 years apart, 86 and 83 years of age respectively.

August seems like a family favourite for births and deaths…for living and dying…

On Friday, after shooting videos in Durbanville for an upcoming e-learning course about Productivity Breakthrough (yeah!), I visited my parents’ grave. A chilly wind was blowing, and after a period of reflection on the life we’ve shared, I got back into the car to warm up in the late afternoon sun.

It was then that a white rabbit showed up on the green grass, crossed the road and disappeared between the graves. I moved the car forward slowly, and there it was… and we looked each other in the eye for quite a while…

Seeing a white rabbit in a graveyard seemed to be a bit of a paradox, because (as I understand it) rabbits symbolise Spring, a time that in turn symbolises new life and rebirth. New life and rebirth in a graveyard?

This message was reinforced when I noticed new growth, new life, on my yesterday-today-and-tomorrow plant – the same one that looked more dead than alive recently!

Maybe it is true that some parts of us must first die before we can experience new growth.

Maybe it is time to reflect on our lives, get real and acknowledge parts that may be dying slowly…

Reading… The joy of solitude… The joy of being with friends… Meditation and prayer… Self-knowledge… Self-acceptance… Expanding our knowledge… Exercise… Loving… Asking for help… Celebrating success… Learning from mishaps…

It is the month of August, and I find myself being flooded with the energy of renewal and revival of the dead branches on my life tree…

 

Quote: “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” – Anne Bradstreet

Grab a funductive day!

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I did a bit of pre-spring cleaning this weekend.

I went through the records and feedback from workshops of the past 15 years, and decided to only keep the signed attendance registers. You can see the result in the picture.

As I looked at the now empty ring binders, I thought about the people whose handwriting I was looking at… are they still enjoying the benefits of the workshop after all these years? If yes, that’s great, and if not, why not?

Which surfaced the question: “Whose task is it to make sure that the knowledge and skills obtained at a workshop are implemented?”

That evening the answer came to me when I read the chapters “How to separate tasks” and “Discard other people’s tasks” in the book – The Courage To Be Disliked – How to free yourself, change your life and achieve real happiness. The situation under discussion in those chapters was that of a child having a hard time studying. What would you do if it was your child? Withhold privileges until the homework has been done? Some other form of punishment/encouragement, maybe?

The root question is: “Whose task is it to study?”

And the answer? To quote: “There is a simple way to tell whose task it is. Think, Who ultimately is going to receive the end result brought about by the choice that is made? It is that person’s task, and while we give all the assistance we possibly can, we don’t intrude.”

The way I see it now, is that my task is to prepare the best possible content for my events, deliver it in the best possible way, make available the best possible support system, but it is not my task to enforce or even check up on implementation.

The one that is ultimately going to receive the end result of choosing to implement what they received, or not, is not me – it is the other person’s.

It is their task.

And I must realise and accept that other people are not living to satisfy my expectations!

“Intervening in other people’s tasks and taking on other people’s tasks turns one’s life into something heavy and full of hardship…. discard other people’s tasks. That is the first step toward lightening the load and making life simpler.”

Are you and I taking on other people’s tasks, maybe not delegating what could and should be delegated? Are you still saying “Yes” when a “No” would have rightly allocated ownership of the task where it belongs? What are the long-term consequences, both for you and the other person?

How many more of your own important things could you attend to by removing other people’s tasks from your plate?

You should only do what only you can do…

Quote: “What we want for others doesn’t work unless they want it for themselves.” — Bryant McGill

Enjoy your “plate-cleaning” week!

A few weeks ago, I visited the Indalu Game Reserve near Mossel Bay.

On that cold winter afternoon, I was rubbing my hands together when we boarded the jeep for the game drive. I enjoyed and learned from the stories our guide, Gerhard, told us about the people who used to live on the farm.

Back at the office, I saw ten, maybe 15 heads mounted on the walls – “trophies”.

I could not help but wonder why on earth people do that. Is it a celebration that rifle technology beats the natural ability of the animals to escape the bullet? Is it maybe a reflection of a poor self- image of the person who killed them – kind of “look at what I can do”? Is it to stroke the hunter’s ego?

Why do we hang our framed pieces of paper on the wall, telling the world that we were successful at college or university? Qualification “trophies”? To say we are proud of our achievement? To build credibility?

In reading up about it, I saw the hunters say they do it as a sign of respect for the animal they “took”. That the animal on a mount is “alive for ever”. They do it for the story behind the trophy. And they tell the story over and over.

For some reason, in the same moment, I felt sorry for both the animals and the hunter who “took” them.

I then made the switch from the trophies on the wall to the trophies in my mind. What do I keep on the walls of my mind – and why? What stories – ego trips, lies, even – do I keep telling myself?

Am I maybe keeping a bad experience “alive for ever”, telling people about it all the time to get their sympathy? Am I telling the same story of a successful business venture over and over to impress people?

How about a different kind of trophy – something you achieved without harming animals or professors? Like how you succeeded, Monday to Friday, in ending your day with a review of the day (suggestions for daily and weekly reviews are available at this Dropbox link), feeling good about what you have achieved, and looking ahead to tomorrow?

How about keeping a “success log” or “victory log”, and at the end of every week write about your successes of the week? I found it very motivational to write, and then weekly review, my “trophy of the week” while getting into a new diet.

Imagine how great you will feel when looking at your own trophy wall, and share it with colleagues, family and friends! I cannot visit you in person to see your “trophy wall” –- but will you share some of your success stories with me in a return email? Can’t wait!

Quote: “I’m getting excited before every single game. The trophy at the end is less important than the process itself.” – Roman Abramovich
Enjoy your week of creating success “productivity trophies”!

This stack of compressed cardboard boxes, paper containers and what once must have been beautifully designed and produced product packaging caught my eye, and made me wonder…

Who designed the packaging? Was she proud of it? How much did she get paid? How long did it take? Did she enjoy it? Why did she come up with this specific design?

If the designer and the whole “creation chain” were to look at the stack of “no longer useful for what it was designed for” packaging, what would they feel like? Would they be happy with the progression from “I-dea” to “I-did” to “I-died”?

Who is the designer of the “packaging” for your life? No one else but you. What does it look like?

“Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one that decides how you live” – from The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga.

Towards the end of his 86 years on the planet, my father often said that one of the regrets of his life was that he never wrote a book. When we asked him what the title of the book would have been, he said: “The Regrets of My Life”…

You and I are on our way to “I-did” and “I-died”. How will we feel when we get to “I-did”, when we look at and reflect on the “compressed version” of our lives? Well-designed? Did we live by design or by default? Do we have any regrets?

And if we feel that somehow we’ve failed ourselves, remember what Jim Rohn said: “Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. We do not fail overnight. Failure is the inevitable result of an accumulation of poor judgment and poor choices. … Now here’s the great news: Just like the formula for failure, the formula for success is easy to follow: It’s a few simple disciplines practiced every day. How? By making the future an important part of our current philosophy.”

Do you have a clear picture of your future, just like the packaging designer must have had? If not, you cannot make it part of current philosophy and every day live out the formula for success.

If you have clarity, does it not then become fairly simple thing to practice a few disciplines every day? Like laying bricks, when building a house, helps to create the ultimate result, you can lay your success bricks – “a brick a day keeps regret away”.

Rather than dying with regrets of not having had the productive, happy and fulfilling life that you have always wanted, take a few minutes at the end of every day and look back on just that day.

Connect with your current and long-term priorities – if you do not have any, maybe this is the time to figure out what your life priorities (a major decision-making tool) are?

Did you do what you set out to do? If not, what were the “cross currents” that swept you off course? Still cannot say “no”? Still allowing interruptions? Still have a wandering mind? Still overwhelmed? How can you avoid/prevent this from happening again from tomorrow onward?

Every day has an end. Choose well how you end it.

Every life has an end. Choose well how you live it.

Be the best brickie you can be!

Quote: “Life has no remote….get up and change it yourself!” ― Mark A. Cooper

For the last two years my good friend Jo Kearney has been transferring the farming skills and principles necessary to grow vegetables in an economically sustainable manner to learners at Tyelerha Skills Training Centre in St Marks, near Queenstown in the Eastern Cape.
Just last week these three proud and happy learners could reap the rewards of their hard work when they sold these high-quality vegetables to local community members as well as several retail outlets in and around Queenstown.

Good job, Jo! Good job, learners! Good job, carrots!

Carrots like those in the picture don’t come from nothing. They come from seeds planted in the right environment and then taken care of, following the techniques and principles for growing carrots. Carrots don’t just ”show up” one day after planting. It takes effort to prepare the soil, select, plant and nourish the seeds and then the plants, and pull out any weeds.

And it takes patience.

Knowledge, skill, effort and patience make for great carrots!

We understand this natural law, yet we rush and expect instant results from a human process of changing work habits and implementing skills and principles to make us more productive.

We buy the latest shiny gadget and expect to be more productive immediately.

We read a book, watch a video, even attend a workshop and expect that just by being there and doing that, will miraculously increase our productivity. Being in a workshop, being in front of your gadget or book is like being a tomato seed. It won’t change without being planted.

The potential to change and become more productive is already in you – just like the potential to grow is already in the carrot seed. You are the your own “carrot seed” that will bear great veggies when planted in the right “culture”, cared for appropriately and giving natural processes the time to unfold.

How do you create the right environment that will enable higher levels of productivity, in which your “productivity seed” can flourish?

Note the things that help you to be more productive when they are in place, e.g. baroque music playing in the background (or super-loud rock), no interruptions (or working in a coffee shop), access to high-speed internet (or interacting with paper), management support for whatever you are doing, realistic time frames, no need to stress about budget, using a specific system of workflow management, etc.

Then take responsibility to negotiate these things with your “gardener-manager/leader”, get them in place, follow routines that nourish you and get rid of the weeds like interruptions, distractions on your email and phone, time-wasting meetings and being rushed by unrealistic deadlines.

When you get this right and work in your new productive environment, life will have no choice but to deliver increased levels of performance and productivity in abundance.

Get the knowledge. Learn the skills. Put in the effort. Have the patience. Then harvest carrot-productivity!

Quote: “Every person has free choice. Free to obey or disobey the Natural Laws. Your choice determines the consequences.” – Alfred A. Montapert

Grab yourself a funductive week!

This was the sight that greeted me on Wednesday evening during dinner with Igno van Niekerk and his family in Bloemfontein – a malva pudding with a crust (intact when I first saw it) so seductive that I could not help but have some… thanks, Arné!

I wonder what my response would have been if I did not see the attractive crust first, but only the “inside”…  Probably not as enthusiastic, even though the appearance itself does not affect the taste.

How can we make our everyday actions more “attractive” in such a way that it draws us into doing them?  Almost “seduces” us into action?  A long “to-do” list is surely not he most attracting thing to look at.  How can we get ourselves to get stuck in and enjoy the sweetness of just starting with something and then sticking with it until it is done?

Maybe even a simple thing like renaming a “to-do” list to a “things to choose from”, or a “potential list” or “valuable things to choose from”  list, then putting it into your “evaluation oven” to form the most delicious crust on the one with the most potential, can attract us into action?

The 15-Second Principle” by Al Secunda provides a technique for “getting stuck into” doing something with determination and enthusiasm: “My goal was to figure out a more nurturing and efficient way to engage, return to and complete the things that are dearest to our hearts.”

Dedicating just fifteen seconds each day to a goal you really want to achieve will remove the blocks, build the momentum and provide enough power to get you exactly where you want to go, he argues.  The actual amount of time dedicated, he explains, doesn’t matter. The fifteen seconds is a minimum, an amount that no one could possibly begrudge. What is important is that it gets you moving (geekpreneur).

If you have a moment, please let me know what’s your “secret crust”-approach to starting your day with a bang and do the thing that has the most value for you down the line, even if it is not the easiest thing to do?

If you don’t yet have one, why not give “the 15-second principle” a go?

Quote: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

3 – 8 July 2018. Looks like just another few days jotted down somewhere. But what made them very special is that I shared them at Vleesbaai with too many family members to name in this limited space!

60 years ago, to the month, my father, brothers and assistants built our holiday house there (I was 8 years old at the time and my job was to take them tea!). Today we can still enjoy the fruit of his decision to build that house.

I went for a walk along the rocky coastline and sat down at a pool to enjoy some “being” time, watching small waves spill over into the pool, creating bubbles on the surface of the pool.

As the surface of the pool returned to calm, the bubbles started “popping”. I was amazed to see the impact of that insignificant event. As you can see in the picture, the hardly visible bubble (“a thin sphere of liquid enclosing air or another gas”) had an expanding “ripple effect” when it popped.

And there was nothing magic inside the bubble – just air that was captured in the thin sphere of liquid and then released again into the same environment from which it came – with the ripple effect…

What can you and I capture from our own daily experiences, and release that back into our environment with a bang and an ever-expanding impact?

What are the waves of insight, learning , questioning and reflecting that we allow into the pools of our minds? Do you read? Do you have constructive conversations (“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. – Eleanor Roosevelt”) with people whose opinions differ from yours? Do you sometimes sit at the seaside and just “be”? Are you open-minded to see and learn from small things?

A more important question might well be: “Do you CREATE the opportunity for capturing what life washes into your mind, creating bubbles that you can later pop and spread what you have captured?” Are you putting yourself in the place with most potential for “capturing and popping” (learning and sharing)?”

For this week: Let’s be humble and open-minded enough to learn. Let’s allow the waves of life flow into our consciousness, capturing something of value in a few bubbles. Write it down. Let it mature. Then seek out or create opportunities to pop the bubbles and let value ripple out at your team meetings, one-on-one conversations and family meetings.

Please share one of your “bubbles” with me by Friday and I will post a collection of “value bubbles” next week!

Quote: “In vain have you acquired knowledge if you have not imparted it to others.” – Deuteronomy Rabbah
Have a bubbly week!