I initially thought I would avoid the COVID-19 topic in today’s memo, but since my musings are on things I observe and experience in real time, this would have been a blank memo if I did.

In these weird times, I have heard many people ask, ‘What am I going to do for 21 WFH days’ (I learned that WFH = Work From Home)? ‘What are you DO-ing?’ follows right after ‘How are you?’

It’s been said often but it’s not trite: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” It’s been attributed to many, but the man most frequently referenced is Winston Churchill, who used the phrase in 1940.

In fact, the words can be traced back at least to Niccolo Machiavelli who wrote, “Never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis.” Machiavelli, and Emanuel after him, understood that crises shake people out of their complacency, create opportunities to challenge conventional wisdom and give leaders some room to take on vested interests and achieve transformative change.”

What are the opportunities we are offered in this period of no live sports to attend in person or watch on TV, no live entertainment anywhere, no cable car rides up Table Mountain, a broken underseas internet cable slowing us down, no parties, no family get-togethers, no walks in Kirstenbosch…?

Is this not an opportunity to turn inward, to think deeply about the “old normal” we have created (by DO-ing certain things) for ourselves and the entire human population and to re-evaluate our values? What really matters most to us?

Is this not an opportunity to think about who, what and how we want to BE rather than just getting upset about ‘I have nothing to DO’? I recommend you search the “be do have” phrase (include the quotation marks and choose where to go next from the 479 000 hits. Refine your search for images, which tells a story in a simple way.)

I like the one I found at this website. In case you cannot see the print well in the picture, here’s the flow:

BE: Who am I and what is important to me? Based on this, I choose what to DO, my actions. My actions have an impact, and I HAVE (get) results and outcomes which I can re-evaluate and feed back into my be-ing.

Makes sense?

 

Erich Fromm said, “If I am what I have, and I lose what I have, who then am I?”

If my money defines me and I lose my money, who then am I?

If my job defines me and I lose my job, who then am I?

And, in these times, if my DO-ing used to define me before COVID-19 and I have now lost the ability to do those things, who then am I?

You see, all of this is outside-in. E.g. if an external ‘something’ is true or happens, then I will be happy/successful/at peace…

On the other hand, we cannot lose our choice of how, what and who we want to BE.

On 1 January I wrote my ‘to be’ list. These are not perfect examples, just what came to mind in the Dell in Kirstenbosch.

TO BE…
• Curious and learn something new every day.
• Patient.
• Someone who people feel free to approach with questions and even ask for advice.
• Creative. Ask people what their needs are and develop a product that will exactly meet their needs.
• Of value to my clients and broader community.
• Someone who leaves people with ‘shiny eyes’, a la Benjamin Zander.

Here’s a thought…why not use the opportunity that the COVID-19 crisis offers us, and think deeply about matters most to us now that the world has changed. Yes, it’s not going to change, it has fundamentally changed already.

Who, what and how do we want to be in this new reality?

“Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being.
Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric?
Think first about the foundations of humility.
The higher your structure is to be,
the deeper must be its foundation.”
– Saint Augustine

It’s there…

I was so happy that Kirstenbosch was still freely accessible to everyone on Sunday – and I hope it can stay that way in these unusual times!

The thought of standing on the Boomslang elevated walkway, looking out over the garden and all the way to the Stellenbosch mountains appealed to me and up the steps I went.

I took a slightly different route to get there (the road less travelled) and found myself underneath the supporting structure of the walkway.

You can read more about the design on this website. “Deep concrete foundations anchor ten steel columns, supporting galvanised steel components that were laser cut and fabricated off site, before being transported to the gardens and craned into place.”

Without the deep concrete foundations, without the ten steel columns, without the steel components on which the decking made from stained pine battens rests, there can be no walkway. No big picture vistas. Yet, when we walk the Boomslang and enjoy what it offers, we don’t think about the support structure that is not visible from where we are.

You and I are enjoying life on our personalised Boomslang walkway. We see life’s big picture ‘from a distance’ as we take the next small step to the end of our journey.

We have support systems, and although they are not always visible in the moment, they are in place. And we benefit from them. Your own spiritual “support system”, family, friends, colleagues, dentists, doctors, nurses, teachers (now mostly online), ambulance drivers, street cleaners, grocers, government structures… The list goes on and on and on…

Let’s make this a moment of gratitude for our support systems. Take a moment and write down the names of everyone and anything that is making even the smallest contribution to supporting your elevated walkway we call “Life”.

How about making a few calls, or write a few emails just to say, ‘thank you for being there for me’?

You are part of my support system – thank you for reading my musings!

You have to rely on your support system. Growing up, I always thought it was a sign of weakness to ask for help, but now I realize it’s really a sign of strength to say, ‘I need help, I can’t do it all.’ – Kerri Walsh

Saturday brought so many unexpected joys!

I took a wonderful trip all along the coast from Cape Town to the Harold Porter nature reserve in Betty’s Bay, then to Kleinmond and back to Cape Town via Highgate and the Elgin Valley.

One of the takeaways from Harold Porter was that in one place one sees both the big picture and small picture.  From magnificent vistas to the smallest drop of sticky liquid on the flycatcher. One should be open to both. Each has its own story to tell.

Just like life.

There are details that need attention within the bigger picture we have for our lives.  The conversation I had over a cup of coffee with Ferdi Steffens illustrates this.

A few weeks ago, I invited responses to my one-question survey: “What would your number one challenge be for living a productive, successful and fulfilling life. If you have no challenges, please write that as response and let me know how you ‘got it right’.”

In his unique way, Ferdi highlighted seven ‘career flycatchers’, which am quoting with his permission (thank you, Ferdi!):

“I have submitted the survey with a “nothing” answer….let me tell you why.

There is no one silver bullet to get to the point of being comfortable in your career. There are a few things one should get your head around and then of course implement those. Thinking about it gets you nowhere. Action gets you going.

  1. If you’re in it for the money, then get out! Money is necessary and fills a few voids… However, if you are in a job because of the pay-check only, you WILL be frustrated. There has to be more to the job than the money. Money should be an outflow of the success you enjoy and not the objective by itself.
  2. If you’re in it because that’s what someone else expected you to do, then you will also be unhappy. Stop doing what others want you to do and start doing what is best for yourself.
  3. If you’re doing it for the status, you’ve missed the plot. I don’t care what others think of me or my profession. I am not them and what they think is their problem, not mine. I make sure I enjoy what I do, and I do it for myself, not them.
  4. Take pride in what you do. If you cannot be proud of what you do and put your “signature” on each piece of work at the end of every day, then you’re only doing it for the sake of doing it – it’s meaningless. If you cannot do something and be proud of the end result (no matter what it is), then it only means that you are going through the motions and for sure you will be frustrated because as humans we want to inherently feel a sense of pride – and that brings satisfaction.
  5. The opposite side of the same coin in point 4 is the fact that you should stay humble. Don’t worry about who gets the public credit. As long as you know you have done your best and your “signature” is at the back of the piece of work, you will feel satisfied knowing you’ve done a good job and contributed to the success irrespective that someone else gets the credit.
  6. Never stop learning and never shy away from an assignment even if it is outside of your field of expertise or outside your “Job Description”.
  7. Lastly – know that every job has its ups and downs. Learn to celebrate the ups and embrace the downs so that you can learn from it – even it means that you realise that you are in the wrong job because that should then give you a kick in the whatsitsname to change direction…”

Thank you for your wisdom and guidelines, Ferdi!

 

Living a purposeful, productive AND fulfilling life is our big picture – the vista.  How we get up the mountain to enjoy the view is in the details, the steps we choose to take – the careers and jobs we choose.

Choose wisely.  Avoid being seduced by, and staying stuck in, a Ferdi Steffens ‘flytrap’!

I wish you a wonderful week – let’s keep our career flytraps hungry…

 

 

 

“Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.”
– Katherine Whitehorn

Seriaaaaas?

Last week we did our annual ‘benefit survey’ to see what people are getting from the workshops they have done with us, specifically to help them use Outlook as their productivity partner and not just for managing email and meetings, like most other people in most other companies do.

While it was great to see that 92% of respondents are now more in control of their work, knowing what they now know about the programme 98% would have chosen to sign up again, 64% have less stress, 98% deal with email more effectively and 66% have fewer distractions. That’s all good news.

While it is the individual’s responsibility to implement what they get at the workshop, there was one thing that was a bit disconcerting: 2% of people never even tried implementing the system, 51% have fully implemented it and 47% implemented it, but struggle to maintain it. My takeaway: We must review the process we recommend for implementing the key principles of personal productivity.

A phrase I heard for the first time last week is going to help us help future participants get even more implementation bang for their buck.

“Signals Of Seriousness” – you familiar with the phrase?

“Signals of Seriousness” signals (to others and/or ourselves) our intent to do something, to take action, to see it through. It can apply to changing a small habit or developing a new career – anything, really.

Implementing a new system of workflow management using Outlook as your tool, also has Signals of Seriousness, which can be practical and action oriented, or symbolic.

Here are a few examples that apply to the ‘implement what you’ve learnt’ scenario for Outlook Productivity:
• Attend the workshop. That’s a biggie.
• Being present.
• Dedicate time to implement what you’ve learned. Make it visible in your calendar.
• Tell people what you are doing.
• Get an ‘accountability buddie’.
• Attend fortnightly refresher webinars.
• Take the next uncomfortable step. Saying ‘no’ to people might be very uncomfortable, but its signals to others that you are serious about protecting your boundaries.
• Your stance (“mental or emotional position adopted with respect to something”) on making this happen.
• A symbolic signal of seriousness: A mug or T-shirt with a message to match your intention – a reminder of what matters most.

Is there anything you would like to change or implement or get done? Do you think that having signals of seriousness could support you in making it happen?

If ‘yes’, you know what your next (uncomfortable?) step is: Write them down. Tell people about it. Set aside time to work on it. What is the most uncomfortable thing you can do next to get you going? What’s the worst things that can happen if you do it? If that thought doesn’t make you shiver or break out in a cold sweat, why not just do it?

I will really appreciate it if you would let me know what a few of your past signals of success have been, and what your signals of success are for something you are working on at the moment. Thanks.

Have a S.o.S week!

As usual, the ‘university’ of Kirstenbosch did not disappoint in offering a lesson or two on Sunday. I enjoyed a (for me!) a brisk walk from Gate 2 down to Gate 1, then up to the Boomslang from where I could again, looking out towards the Stellenbosch mountains, realise that life always has a bigger picture.

We get so caught up in the day-to-day stone-chipping that we easily lose track of why we are chipping stone and how every stone we chip fits into the bigger cathedral of our lives.

On my way down to the Dell and Colonel Bird’s bath the plaque with a brief history of the origin of Kirstenbosch and the role that Henry Harold Welch Pearson (professor of Botany at the South African College) played in founding the garden in 1913. On Pearson’s death on 3 November 1916 (he was 46 years old) he was buried in Kirstenbosch, his epitaph reading “If ye seek his monument, look around”.

What struck me on Sunday was this sentence (circled in the picture): “Pearson arranged his professorial duties so that he could devote Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday to the Garden. His evenings were spent walking around the Garden, inspecting work and arranging various matters with the Curator and Ranger, and attending to Garden correspondence, writing up his research notes and reading.”

We don’t see that “Pearson did not have time for reading.” He arranged his duties so that he could read.

We don’t read that “Pearson had too much to do and was overwhelmed by all the things on his plate.” He arranged his duties so that he could do what needed to be done about the thing so close to his heart.

We don’t read that “Pearson was not sure about his purpose.” He arranged his duties so that he could pursue what simply had to be done to make his purpose ‘happen’.

He knew what was important. He took charge of his calendar, scheduled specific times of the week to attend to what mattered most to him.  He did not leave it to chance. He did not allow his calendar to take charge of him. He probably was a proactive person who made life happen rather than waiting for life to happen to him.

Therefore, we can now look around and see his monument.

Stephen Covey loved to to tell the story of getting the big rocks in the jar first so that you could then fill the jar with pebbles and sand. To attend to the most important things first. You cannot get everything in if you do it the other way around.

Do we sometimes, even often, say that we don’t have time? That our plate is too full? That life is hectic? That we are in the whirlwind? That we are so busy with everyday things that we neglect the important things in our lives? And tomorrow and the next week is a repeat performance?

Just because figuring out what our ‘big rocks’ are, is not urgent, we don’t do it and then forever vacillate between what to do and what to leave. . Is it family? Church? Studies? Self? Spirituality? Exercise? Making money?

What is your and my ‘Kirstenbosch’ legacy?

Pearson arranged his duties so that he could work on Kirstenbosch.

If he could take control and arrange things to attend to his ‘big rocks’, what’s stopping us?

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen R Covey

Let’s keep rocking around the clock with those big rocks!

Why not do it anyway?

image

It was Goldilocks weather in Kirstenbosch on Saturday, and I enjoyed the day there with Marlene.

Another visit was scheduled for Sunday morning and when I looked outside just after 5am it seemed to be a repeat performance, and I looked forward to it.

But then the weather changed, and I was having doubts about whether it was worth going because it was cold and looked like it would be rainy and windy. Richard asked if I wanted to go to the same place two days in a row…

I just started reading the book “Year of YES”, so said “YES”. Even if you visit the same place two days in a row, there will be something that’s different – maybe a flower died overnight, or there will be a different bee working in another flower. Same place, yet different.

What I was not prepared for, was the dramatic change in the weather. It started to drizzle, and the most beautiful rainbow appeared as if by magic. I doubt that I will ever again be presented with the opportunity that I captured in this picture.

And then the wind turned into a micro storm, giving me another experience that I have never had there before and maybe never will have again.

Life lessons for Gerrit:

  • Say YES for doing something that might seem unpleasant.
  • When you do, amazing things can happen.
  • Visiting the same place more than once is actually a different experience every time.

I go into this week with a fresh awareness of the possibilities that lie waiting in the familiar things. To experience the possibilities, we must engage with it.

Having meetings with the same people – again? It might be about the same topic. But it’s not the same people. They might look like the same person on the outside, but maybe there’s a storm brewing on the inside. Or a rainbow that just needs our eyes to be open to see it. We don’t know what their life was like since we last saw them…

Teaching the same subject year after year? It’s not the same experience – your students are different.

Your friends are different today from what they were yesterday.

The people we work with every day are different every day.

Email today is different from yesterday’s email.

Even the task we procrastinated yesterday is not the same today – it could be worse!

What opportunities that we usually would avoid, can we say YES to this week and have a new experience of the “same old thing”? Maybe even a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity?

Let’s pluck up the courage and engage with these things, and just see what happens.

We might just be pleasantly surprised.

“You cannot change what you refuse to confront.” – Marc Chernoff

Will be nice to hear from you about what you did!

I wish you a productive, successful AND fulfilling day.

Just decide

Greetings from Windhoek, where I am experiencing rain and more rain. It’s beautiful…

I arrived in Walvis Bay from Cape Town on Thursday and then off to Swakopmund for an Outlook Productivity workshop on Friday. Saturday, I travelled to Windhoek with my host, Kerrie Mostert, who you see in the picture with four massive Omajowa (Termite Hill) mushrooms.

Shortly after leaving Swakop, Kerrie said he was wondering if we would get guys on the side of the road selling these mushrooms. It rained the previous day and these mushrooms (so I have learned) came up and grew to this size during the night.

And you bet, we saw a man standing on the die of the road with mushrooms. We did not stop. After a short distance Kerrie said, “We might get more guys selling mushrooms between here and Windhoek. But then again, there might be no-one. There’s no guarantee.”

So, he turned around and bought the mushrooms which he turned into a masterpiece-dish that evening.

What had just happened? A decision had to be made. The end in mind was to create and enjoy Omajawa mushrooms that evening with the braai. Information at hand to inform the decision: We saw a man selling Omajawas. The probability of getting the mushrooms that would make the desired result possible if we bought it from him was 100%. There was a possibility of another opportunity closer to Windhoek so the mushrooms would not have to be in the car so long if we bought it later. The probability of that happening was anywhere between zero and 100%.

With the information at hand the decision that had the best change of giving us what we wanted was to turn around and get the mushrooms.

Don’t we sometimes (often?) overcomplicate our lives by clouding our thinking with possibilities that have zero chance of happening – yet we entertain them? Like that we will be fired should we say NO to our CEO? Or that if we do not respond to emails immediately, we will be seen as uncooperative? Or that if we take a brain-refresher for 5 minutes every hour we will be seen as lazy? That if we do not stick to the agenda in a meeting we will be seen as inflexible?

That if we take the time to work on our purpose, our reason for getting out of bed every morning, our Ikigai, that it is a waste of time that we could have used to rush, rush, rush and get more things done – even if they were not our ‘right things’?

Imagine having a crystal-clear purpose (e.g. Omajawa salad) for our lives and then focus exclusively on the essential activities that are aligned with our purpose. It’s there for the taking. But then we must first get rid of the cloud of unnecessary uncertainty we carry around with us.

We did come across another mushroom seller. But could not bank on that 100km back.

The best decision we can make is the one we make considering information at our disposal. And not to regret our decision later, even if information then surfaces that could have influenced our decision when we made it.

It’s no use crying over spilt milk.

“Successful people make decisions quickly (as soon as all the facts are available) and change them very slowly (if ever). Unsuccessful people make decisions very slowly and change them often and quickly.” – Napoleon Hill
…andin the same vein…
“Studies have shown that the most successful people make decisions rapidly because they are clear on their values and what they really want for their lives. The same studies show that they are slow to change their decisions, if at all. On the other hand, people who fail usually make decisions slowly and change their minds quickly, always bouncing back and forth. Just decide!” — Anthony Robbins
Have a great decision-making week.