I just swapped Sunday for Monday.

Why?  Because Kirstenbosch opened again today!

What a joy to walk around and see that trees and plants were still in the same place as a few months ago.  They don’t need us around them to carry on being what they are and doing what they do.  They don’t need  to be micro-managed to thrive and bring pleasure.

Many if not most of the plants and trees in the garden have probably been selected and planted by humans. Then they were planted in the area where they had the best chance to fulfil the promises held in the seeds.

Once planted, they were cared for but left alone to do their thing.

Why do we so easily complicate our own live by micro-managing relationships (personal and in business) that could have and even should have left alone after being established, taken good care of, except for occasional weeding?

In your team, is every member currently ‘planted’ in the area where they can be and do their best – without being micro-managed to the nth degree to be who they are not and can never be?  Limited by suffocating rules, regulations, daily check-up reports, and and and… ?

Stephen Covey famously said, “Don’t keep pulling up the flowers to see how the roots are coming. Be patient. You can’t violate this process.”

Like the Chinese bamboo tree – you plant the seeds and for 4 years nothing visible happens above the ground. In year 5 it grows something like 30 metres!  All the time it has been preparing itself for performance by growing a strong root system to support the rapid growth.

Let’s decide what trees and plants we want in our personal and business gardens.  Take time to select the best seeds and seedlings of what we want.  Plant them in the team garden so they can be who they are and thrive.  Feed them.  Water them.  Get rid of the weeds.  And we may just be cultivating a top-quality harvest of teamwork and results.

Monday, Monday, so good to me!”

 

“Keep patience…. For even TIME needs TIME.” ― Mayank Sharma, A Cocktail of Love

Over the weekend Richard and I were having a performance check-in conversation when the conversation drifted to the ‘check’ part.

We digressed (as usual) and ended up caught in a blinkblaar-wag-‘n-bietjie thorn tree (colloquially known as the ziziphus mucronata, or buffalo thorn).

“The young branches of the tree are a very distinctive zigzag shape, symbolizing that the path of life is never straightforward. There are two very sharp thorns at the nodes, a small hooked thorn pointing backwards – reminding us never to forget from whence we came, and a long sharp thorn pointing forwards – representing the path ahead.”

We talked about the good feeling we get when we ‘check off’ something as completed.  For that we usually use “A check mark, checkmark or tick (British English) is a mark (✓, ✔, etc.) used (primarily in the English speaking world) to indicate the concept “yes” (e.g. “yes; this has been verified”, “yes; that is the correct answer”, “yes; this has been completed”, or “yes; this [item or option] applies to me”).”

 Then, the ‘learn and improve’ productivity habit squeezed its way into our conversation and twisted the traditional checkmark into a crooked checkmark.  A ziziphus checkmark.

Let’s not just check something (often in a rush) and feel good that it’s completed.  Slow down for a moment.  Reflect on the activity we are checking off.  What worked?  What did not work?  What can I learn from this to make my future better?

Make a note somewhere (Outlook, OneNote, Evernote, piece of paper) and at the end of the week create some more ziziphus time.  Marvel at everything you have learned during the week.  And make your next week better.

What can you lose by giving this a shot: For the next week, use ziziphus checkmarks when you complete something.

Pause.  Think back. Learn.  Plan forward.

Viva the crooked check mark, viva!

 

“Learning from experience is a faculty almost never practised.” –  Barbara W. Tuchman

 

About a week ago Three Anchor Bay was all over the news with the storm in Cape Town.

Pictures like this one, and videos went viral as people shared news that was exciting, scary, dramatic, and not something that happens every day. If this were the state of the weather every day of the year, it would not be shared.

 

 

On Sunday I went for a walk on the Sea Point promenade and took this picture of the same area at Three Anchor Bay. No wind, no storm.

How many videos and pictures did you receive on social and mews media about the beautiful, wind-free, sunny day in Cape Town?

Same place. Different conditions. Different newsworthiness.

Today you are the same you as yesterday. I am the same me. Is it not newsworthy that we woke up this morning, that we are alive, breathing and can continue with our lives?

Is it not exciting that we can feed our bodies and minds with things we choose to, and not allow others to walk through our minds with their dirty feet, to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi?

Is it not share-worthy that there are things in our lives that we can be grateful for?

It is true that bad news sells better than good news. We respond quicker to ‘bad news’ words than ‘good news’ words. Which of these fictional headlines would probably draw your attention and make you want to read more?

• “Anticipated unemployment numbers in next three months threatens economic recovery.”
• “Unemployment improves by 1% year-on-year.”

The article can be the same, but we tend to get drawn into ‘bad news’ stuff.

Yet people say they prefer good news to bad news.

So why not make this a day of spreading good news!

Make it simple. Write a one-sentence email to three friends/colleagues/associates and tell then just one thing you are grateful for today. It can be anything from being alive, having the sense of touch so you can type or activate a phone call, a beautiful sunrise, a glass of water, a special friend, the weekend, a day without load shedding…

Not sure what you can be grateful for? Here’s a list with 100 ideas.

From me to you: Today I am grateful that you have chosen to read this Monday Memo.

Let’s ‘viralise’ this good-news day, shall we?

“Gratitude means realizing that right now I have more of what really matters than ever before, no matter how difficult this moment might be.” – Greg Baer

Maybe this is already a historical picture?

If I understood President Ramaphosa correctly on Sunday evening, SA parks are now open for exercise purposes.  Kirstenbosch is a park, and walking is a form of exercise so my assumption -a and I will confirm this a bit later – is that I can walk in Kirstenbosch again.  That will be great!

I went to Kirstenbosch anyway on Sunday, to have an early lunch at the Kirstenbosch Tea Room (have a look and visit when you are next in the area), after passing my temperature test.  It was good to see everyone again – not to mention how nice it was to see and enjoy their bobotie again.

I stood at the barrier and enjoyed the view of the garden. The ‘gate’ was closed but the garden itself did not ‘close down’.  Nature was still being nature.  Flowers were still being flowers. Birds were still being birds.

The purpose of the barrier is (was?) not to protect the garden from the corona virus.  Nor to protect the garden from human beings.

Is the purpose of the barrier not to protect us? So, instead of being upset at ‘them’ for telling us to “Stay Out!”, should we not be thankful that the barrier is giving us a better chance of staying strong and healthy?

Thinking of all the interruptions, unnecessary phone calls, Zoom calls and ‘do you have 2 minutes’ requests we get every day – when we are busy with other things…  It probably won’t cost a lot of time or money to create and print (or make a voice recording) our personalised “I am closed” message. And since things are always better accepted if there is a reason for the request, you may want to add any reason for being ‘closed’.

Personalise it: “I am closed due to heavy workload.”  Not “This door is closed…”

“I am closed due to upgrading my mental operating system.”

“I am closed because I want you to grow and think.”

“I am closed because I care about you.”

This does not mean that you have stopped being you, that you have stopped caring about those who work with you.

If we are ‘closed’, could it not benefit those who come to us for quick-fix help if we give them an opportunity to discover the answers themselves? To become stronger and less dependent?

Like everything in life, our context guides us in the moment of choice, to protect our boundaries with a “I am closed” message, or to let visitors through.

When we understand our priorities and communicate our priorities up front (e.g. block out ‘No Fly Zones” in your shared calendars), we have earned the right to display our “I am closed” sign.

And, just like the barrier at Kirstenbosch, it does not have to a permanent fixture.

When people can see that it’s for their benefit, they will knock on your door less frequently.

Let me call Kirstenbosch to hear if I may approach or whether it’s still a “No Visitors Allowed” zone… and then respect that boundary.

A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect.” –  Anonymous

I was so excited when Jacques, manager of the Kirstenbosch Tea Room, told me on the phone last week that they can again serve sit-down meals!  Could not wait for Saturday to go there and just enjoy the environment even though I could not put a foot into the garden itself.

Saturday arrived, as days always do.  When I went outside, I stepped into a heavy fog.  One peek at Devil’s Peak and I decided to skip the outing.

Why did I make that decision?

Because of the story I was telling myself.  How cold it was going to be in Kirstenbosch, that I would have to sit outside because the inside would already be as full as it can be, given social distancing and the rest.  That I won’t be able to even see the closest tree through the fog. So why take the trouble – it’s not going be a pleasant experience.

Many assumptions are built into that story.  That the fog I experienced in the city bowl would be as thick in Kirstenbosch. That it would be full inside the tearoom.  And I can go on.

These were not facts.  I was making up my own reality and based my decision on my story.

Who knows how different it could have been if I went?  If I went early enough, I could be the first guest and get a seat at the heater inside.  Maybe I could have met the most interesting person.  Maybe I could see the vista of the garden from the tearoom, way beyond the closes tree.

My good friend, and one of the wisest people I know, Igno van Niekerk, taught me that a story always inserts itself between what we observe or experience and how we feel about it, which in turn informs our decision about how we want to respond.

Observe/Experience => STORY => Feel => Response

What’s the story you tell yourself when…

  • You see, in bitterly cold weather, a beggar (with a mask) approaching you inside your warm car, as you wait for the traffic light to turn green?
  • Our President’s televised address to the nation, scheduled for 20:00, has still not started at 20:20?
  • When you see your Inbox flooded with 20 ne emails every hour?
  • When you ask someone to do something, they agree, and then don’t do it?
  • When you are doing a presentation of some sorts, and someone in the audience nods off?
  • When you decide to put something off to do later instead of right away when it should be done?
  • When you walk into your office and see piles of paper all around?

We are where we are in life because of the choices we have made along the way.  Stephen R Covey taught us that, ‘If you pick up one end a stick, you also pick up the other end of that stick.’ That ‘the other side’ of choice A is consequence A.  It cannot be different.

We make choices of what to do and what to leave based on the stories we tell ourselves – maybe lies?  How could life have been different If we made different choices?  Of course, we cannot answer the last question accurately, but it would have been different.

I am not suggesting we spend inordinate amounts of time, going into a state of deep meditation and reflection every time we are faced with a simple choice (“chicken or beef?”).  But maybe, just maybe, it could worth to pause when we are considering which ‘stick of life’ to pick up, or ‘stick of how I treat people who work with me’, or ‘stick of my career’, think through the stories we are telling ourselves about it before we pick up the stick?

To clear our mental fog before choosing.

It’s foggy here in Vredehoek again today.  I wonder if it’s also foggy in Kirstenbosch.

Musty Dusty

“Hello, Gerrit, and welcome back from your trip down the ‘must’ rabbit-hole! “

The word featured a few times in a zoom-chats over the weekend, so I just wanted to see what the dictionary said about ‘must’. Here I am back after an hour of rabbit-holing – but it was fun!

My 1 June memo was about ‘ships are safe in a harbour, but that’s not shat ships are built for’. When that came up in conversation, this reference came up:

Rust’s A Must
Mighty ships upon the ocean
Suffer from severe corrosion,
Even those that stay at dockside
Are rapidly becoming oxide.
Alas, that piling in the sea
Is mostly Fe2O3.
And where the ocean meets the shore,
You’ll find there’s Fe3O4.
‘Cause when the wind is salt and gusty,
Things are getting awful rusty.

We can measure, we can test it,
We can halt it or arrest it.
We can gather it and weigh it,
We can coat it, we can spray it.
We examine and dissect it,
We cathodically protect it
We can pick it up and drop it.
But heaven knows we’ll never stop it!
So here’s to rust, no doubt about it,
Most of us would starve without it.

– T.R.B. Watson
Corrosion Services Company, Ltd.
Toronto, Canada

And, as things go, ‘must’ rhymes with ‘rust’ and that triggered this memory:

Dust If You Must
Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

– Rose Milligan

I superimposed my life on these two pictures in my mind: My life-ship gathering rust. Some of the rust may fall to the ground as I move around. Some will cling to me. Maybe that rust needs to be ‘dusted’?

“Examine and dissect it”. Which parts of my life have become rusty? Do I want that to cling to me going forward, or should I ‘dust it’, let it fall to the ground, so I can be lighter and in a better position to paint a picture, write a letter, climb a mountain, read a book, listen to music, cherish friends…lead my for-now-rust-free life?

Yes, “rust’s a must” and we will rust. Is it not also a must to dust ourselves off, “To ready something so that it can be used again?”

Let’s get the duster, shall we?

 

“You can’t let fear paralyze you. The worse that can happen is you fail, but guess what: You get up and try again. Feel that pain, get over it, get up, dust yourself off and keep it moving.” – Queen Latifah

As I was leaving for the airport, I looked out the window, and there it was.  A cloud coming down the city-side of Table Mountain.

Beautiful as always.

There was just one anomaly.  The cloud was moving UP the mountain and not coming down!

I don’t understand the physics of clouds so well, even though I owned (not read, not internalised) a book with that title once upon a time, in a space far, far away…

But my conditioning is that the clouds come howling down the 850m drop from Devil’s Peak to where I stay.  It does not gently drift upwards.

Towards the end of Sunday, I previewed my calendar for Monday. It looked perfectly ‘normal’ and I did not anticipate anything out of the ordinary to happen.  Sure, there would be a few pieces of sandpaper preventing a smooth glide towards bedtime, but that’s normal.

Now that the day is slowing down, my memo is still in my Drafts folder!  A tiny whirlwind sneaked in through the open door and caused some disturbance.

So, my apologies for only sending it to you now – at least it is still Monday!

Have you ever been caught ill-prepared because something seemed to be run-of-the-mill stuff, only to show its teeth and bite you?

The intriguing question is how we can prevent that from happening without getting paranoid about what could maybe, possibly go wrong?  Because going down that track could keep us very busy and depressed without getting anything done as we prepare for the 0.001 % chance that something out of the ordinary might happen.

A thought:  When something disruptive happens. Let it happen, deal with it and afterwards reflect on it with questions like ‘What just happened?’, ‘Why did it happen?’,  “What can I do to prevent it from happening again?’.  And keep our reflections in some form of a journal that we can revisit once a year or quarter or month or week and be surprised about what happened and how brilliantly we coped with it.

If we understand the conditions that led to the event, we might just be able to prevent it from happening again if those things are in our control or if we can influence it.  And if we cannot do anything about it, well, next time it happens we can say, ‘Nice to see you again’ and deal with it better.

I can not control the conditions that made the cloud move up the mountain.  But at least I now know that it can happen and won’t be so surprised next time!

Happy cloud-journaling!

 

“In life, you should expect anything to come up in any time, after that nothing will be an unexpected guest for you!”  ― Mehmet Murat ildan

Alan Weiss is right.  TIAABB.  There Is Always A Bigger Boat.

To quote from his book THRIVE

“There is always a bigger boat.  If you think you’ve found the largest, someone will build a bigger one.  Someone will have a nicer car, a better vacation spot, a more successful kid, a grander résumé.

Who cares?  I don’t, and neither should you.  If you want to Thrive, focus on your personal happiness, not your relative position to others.

Life is not about the “best,” “most,” or ”biggest”.  It’s about what makes you happy. There are three keywords there: “what,” “you,” and “happy.”

The key is: What makes you happy?  Not someone else’s “stuff,” and not in comparison to someone else and their stuff.”

I can share more, but rather get the book and enjoy it in detail and depth.

Being a laid-back kind of guy, I like Alan’s thinking.  Pecking order and hierarchy have never played an important part in my life – except when I was in the army.

I call myself a hardworking lazy guy.  I work very hard at finding ways in which to get the right things done – with as little effort as possible. 

So, I was  conundrumized  (ha-ha yes, it’s listed in the Urban Dictionary!  It is the state of being in which a person is faced with multiple choices and cannot decide which path to go down. ) when I read that in The Path to Glory is Paved by Hierarchy researched describe how teams with an established pecking order experience less conflict, have better coordination and higher productivity than teams where everyone has equal power.

I like productivity. I do not like pecking order. Maybe productivity and pecking order make up yet another paradox of high performance, like ‘slow down to speed up’?

OK sold.

But what I cannot understand is this kind of “creating-importance-by-pecking-order” conversation:

“I received 137 emails today and I am totally overwhelmed…”, says Jo Soap.

“That’s nothing,” chirps Wonderful Wendy, “I got 276.” (“So you see, I am higher in the pecking order of email overwhelm, and therefore more important than you.”)

I say this tongue in cheek, but I’ve heard this kind of conversation.

Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against self-improvement and growth.  That’s what we live for.  That’s one of the things that make us human.  Uncle Albert said “When we stop learning, we start dying.” 

Our point of reference should be us.  Am I as happy as I want to be?  Have I learned as much as I want to and need at this point in my life?  Am I as physically and mentally fit as I want to be? 

Relative to “me”.

Not relative to others.

Are we controlling our happiness or are others?

Wishing you a week of of making things better, knowing TIAABB.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. “ — Friedrich Nietzsche

I am the youngest of five brothers and sisters. And I am grateful to say that we are all in various levels of excellent health ranging between 70 and 83 YOPE. YOPE = Years On Planet Earth.

Here are the other four with mom and dad way back in 1946.

On Friday, seeing the fog over Table Bay, and knowing there were ships in the bay even though I could not see them, I thought that ‘clarity’ would be a nice theme for today’s memo. But it’s not. Maybe next week.

Because of our ‘Broesters’ (‘broers & susters’) good morning WhatsApp today.

I kicked it off by saying Good Morning and then shared a few things for which I am grateful today. One of which was that I am grateful for having four loving (and living!) sisters and brothers.

Almero (and a fine wordsmith he is) responded (very freely translated) with, “Gratitude is indeed a word that gets to work deep inside us and works wonders… Gratitude is a Great Attitude to cultivate and use.”

I Googled ‘gratitude’ and like this definition, “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

There are many ‘normal’ things I am grateful for. But how can I be grateful for problems, challenges, bad experiences? Should I even be grateful for things like Covid and what hat has brought me in terms of lost business opportunities and Kirstenbosch remaining in lockdown? In searching for an answer to my question I stumbled across this website “11 Ways To Find Gratitude, Even When It Seems Impossible”. One of the 11: “Remember only you can control you.”

More shared wisdom from Almero helps me today to be thankful for the current situation because it turned our ripples of change into a tsunami of going fully online with our productivity improvement opportunities:

• Turbulence is the official climate of entrepreneurship.
• Chaos is the friend of the entrepreneur.
• Stability is the friend of the status quo.
• An entrepreneur’s competitive advantage lies in being nimble and adaptable.

I like to think that these thoughts are not only for entrepreneurs but for everyone who wants to get the most from the opportunities that the moment has on offer.

So, I am grateful for being alive in these interesting times.

I am grateful that technology exists to share my thoughts with you.

And I am grateful for the ‘delete’ function in your email system because it offers you the opportunity to exercise choice – one of the few things we have total control over.

Forward with gratitude! It’s a Great Attitude

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” —Zig Ziglar

Today we head into Level 3.  Another change.   Another opportunity to reflect on what has happened since it all started, to learn from that and then move forward.

On Saturday, two NASA astronauts were shot into space.  The SpaceX rocket had to generate a tremendous amount of power to lift off, overcome the restraining force of gravity before it reached space and safely delivered its human cargo the international space station.  After every mission there is a debrief.  A time of reflection.

No wonder then that I found the topic of Si Ekin’s complimentary webinar on Friday so attracting that I joined: The surprising power of self-reflection.  It brought new insights and I learned a lot from the people on the call.  I will surely join Si’s future webinars.  The next one on 12 June is “Freedom and power with uncertainty”.

Our current Meaningful Productivity programme has also reached a point of reflection.  Time to check where we are and then move forward.

All these changes made me recall what J.A Shedd has once said, “A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

We all own a ship.  The name of the ship is “MY LIFE”.  At the moment your ship is safe in the harbour called “My Here and Now”, your current reality. Nothing wrong with that.  But would you agree that you have probably not yet reached the “final port” of your life?

That, maybe soon, you will weigh anchor and depart from where you are on the next journey.  And when you are safe in your next harbour, you will reflect on your life journey so far, learn from it and make your next journey better and safer.  You would have learned from your experience of past stormy waters, cross currents and howling tornados.

Each port is an opportunity to slow down and reflect before we continue.  I never realised that there are so many checklists for a ship leaving port.  For example, just for the engine rooms there are checklists for things to do 24 hours before departure.  Then at 6 hours, 1 hour and 15 minutes before departure.  There are checks to be made when the engines are running and again when the vessel is full away.

Lockdown Level 3 is begging us to rush off to live life to the full again, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Let’s just keep in mind that people who rush make up to 25% more mistakes than people who do not rush. Let’s slow down before we speed things up.  Let’s learn from our journey so far in the ship called My Life so we can safely arrive at our next port.  And then the next one…

Bon voyage!

“My new deliberate and slower pace has created a higher quality in my experiences.”  ― Lisa J. Shultz