All it takes is 2mm

2mm is all it takes.

Last week Monday I visited my (why do we say “my”?) physician for my annual check-up.

Just as well that I went because if he did not pick up a 2mm difference somewhere in ECG pattern when he compared it to the previous one, there was a 50% chance that I would have suffered a fatal heart attack before the end of 2018.

That’s the prognosis of both the doctor that did a coronary angiogram, as well as the surgeon who will begin the bypass procedure at 14:00 on Monday.

There’s no Kirstenbosch beauty or Sea Point promenade experience to reflect on this week.

But the 2mm dip made me see the beauty of my beating heart and the amazing technology that made it possible to detect a potential Widow Maker in real time.

OK, I will release your attention now, with a serious request: pick up the phone. Now.  Call your doctor and make an appointment.  Now.

Eliminate your 2mm dip.


Quote:  “To measure is to know.” – Lord Kelvin


I could see right through it. And it was beautiful.

I have no idea what this plant is called, but its message is name-independent. It shows the world exactly what it is – not a yellow daisy or a King Protea. And it does not spend time and effort on becoming what it is not.  It casts its shadow, true to its own self.

So different from what happens when two male gorillas engage in a battle. I read in Power Questions that there’s quite a demonstration.

“They circle each other, and circle again, and again. In the process, they rake their hands in the dirt, scooping up handfuls that when thrown in the air make quite a dust storm.

This is Gorilla Dust. Nothing decisive happens. The gorillas just keep circling and circling.

Often when asked a direct question, the person you’re asking will throw up Gorilla Dust. They don’t want to give you a direct answer. They circle around and around.”

How much wasted, unproductive time can we avoid if we are transparent, tue to ourselves, rather than throwing up gorilla dust to impress or mislead others – and ourselves?

When it’s time to get to the point, get to the point. Alan Weiss writes: “If a UFO landed on your roof, and green men started talking to your dog, I wouldn’t need background because there is none that will help. However, most people would want to tell me the breed and name of the dog. Get to the point. Life is short.”

My point: Be who you are. Be transparent. Be beautiful. Just as you are.

Quote: “The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.” ― Deng Ming-Dao, Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony

It is what it is

Lewis Hamilton won the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi Autodrom on Sunday – his 70th career win.

But he did not feel good about his victory and said “It doesn’t feel great. I don’t think I’ve ever finished first and feel the way I do right now.”

Why? After all he was the winner! He wanted to win and so did Bottas, Vettel and every other racing driver.

It had to do with team orders to him and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. Bottas started well and drove a flawless race and was set to win his first race of the season until he was instructed by team management to let Hamilton pass, so Lewis could win and secure a 50-point lead in championship points over Vettel and team Ferrari, virtually assuring that team Mercedes will win the championship.

One of the productivity principles we teach is that of flexibility, being able to adjust to changes in context. Hamilton illustrated this when he said: “We (Mercedes) always have a plan, but it’s always difficult to predict what is going to happen in a race. It is what it is.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff: “We will have the meeting before the race and then see how it develops in the race,” he said. “Lewis doesn’t want it because he wants to do it for himself, and Valtteri doesn’t want it because he needs this victory.”

The team situation was more important than the individual’s situation. A question that will remain , however, was if this sacrifice of Bottas was necessary as Hamilton already had a 40-point lead before the race with 5 races remaining.

You plan your day and your week (and your life) – and then something changes. You have a choice to fight against the new context (and in the process probably waste a lot of time and energy) or you can choose to have Hamilton’s approach and say, “it is what it is”.

So, if you have planned a long weekend with your family and on Thursday your boss says that something has just happened and unless you work the weekend the consequences could be dire for the company.

Now it’s decision-time. Do you stick to your plan and let whatever will happen to the company as a consequence just happen? Or do you take the bigger picture into account, wishing well instead of hardship for the company directly, and indirectly for you, and say “it is what it is”, cancel your non-refundable weekend bookings and plans, and work overtime over the weekend, without complaining about it?

There is no “silver bullet” on the market to answer this question. I think how one deals with it has a lot to do with clarifying expectations up front, so that if something like this comes up, there is no anxiety, feelings of being “done in” of misalignment. The clarified guideline can simply be that company priorities supersede personal priorities. And that “is what is”.

To be able to say “yes” or “no” to people’s request coming your way requires a point of reference. The question is “Whose point of reference (point of view) do we use?” To quote Bottas: “From the team’s point of view, it was the ideal result, but maybe not ideal for me.”

Make peace with your answer to that point-of-view question, and then happily dance the dance of the team/family member, even if it means sacrificing a personal victory for the good of the team…

Quote: “Unpredictability means what it means. I don’t know how you define it. It is what it is.” – Michael Keaton

Enjoy an “it is what it is” week!

Annie get your gun

“What is a sundial, Mommy?”

At first, I was surprised to hear the young girl ask her mother this question while I was reading the 1920 inscription made by T R Miller on the sundial in Kirstenbosch on Sunday. I mean, really? How could she not know what a sundial is?

And just a few minutes later, another child asked his father about the same sundial: “Does it work?” after his father briefly explained to him how a sundial works.

It made me think…

Just because I know what a sundial is and understand the basics of how it works, and indeed that it works (provided the sun is shining!), that does not mean that everyone else has the same understanding.

Just because I know how to save 40 minutes every day by using some tips, tricks, and techniques while working with MS Outlook, it does not mean that everyone else does, and I have no right to assume that they should know how to do it and therefore be disappointed if they don’t.

If you know how to do a certain task, can you expect that everybody else should be able to do the same task in the same way if you were to delegate it to them?

In the same breath, don’t hang on to tasks that someone else should do and could do, even if it took some guidance, training and your time. If you can delegate and you don’t are you not a thief? Stealing your own time and stealing a growth opportunity from someone else?

Should delegating not – even if it takes time – become a natural thing to do? Just like a sundial does when the sun is shining?

Try it. Enjoy it. Learn from it. And who knows – you may then give the same response to the question “Does it work?”, as the father gave his son in response to his question if a sundial works:


Folks are dumb where I come from
They ain’t had any learnin’
Still they’re happy as can be
Doin’ what comes naturally
· – Irving Berlin (Annie Get Your Gun)

On Sunday I was in two minds about using the morning to finish an important task or go to Kirstenbosch with a friend for breakfast and a morning of enjoyment and learning.

I was browsing the internet to catch up with the storm Florence in the USA since I know someone in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is in the predicted path of the storm, when I saw the headline in the Washington Post: “We’ve so overscheduled our kids that doctors are prescribing playtime”.

In no time I was in my car! Playtime is what I wanted – never mind needed…

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, has written quite powerfully about the value of “under scheduling” and recommends that you leave open space in your calendar that is not allocated to anything and use it for thinking, bouncing ideas off people or whatever shows up. He “under schedules” 30-90 minutes per day.

Going hand-in-hand with this, is the practicing the Pomodoro technique – taking a short break after working for between 25 and 45 minutes (as example). Set your timer for the time period you want to work in a focused manner, and then break for about 5 minutes when it sounds. Reset the timer.

I started doing this again a few weeks ago, and just taking a short walk outside, looking out over Table Bay, seeing Simonsberg in the distance and becoming aware of the beauty of Devil’s Peak as I stroll back to the apartment, disconnects me from the computer screen and whatever I was working on. It refreshes my mind and energises me.

I am again taking charge of my “playtime”, not only over weekends, but also during the working day.

You don’t need a doctor to prescribe playtime. You can give it to yourself – free of charge. Here’s a bit of a challenge: go to your calendar now and block out 30 minutes of “unscheduled time” for today. And then for tomorrow. And… you get the idea!

No two minds for me again. I rediscovered that life is not about “either or”, but about “both and”.

Quote: “f you don’t take the time now for relaxation, you will have to make time later – for hospital.” – Someone on the Internet.

Have a fun week!

Sunday was a great day to be in Kirstenbosch University! It was a beautiful spring day and the flowers are already showing their true colours.
At the tea room there is a trail that takes you straight up Table Mountain. The sign at the beginning of the trail caught my attention.

The inviting headline reads “Beyond the Garden – Explore the natural beauty of Kirstenbosch”.  The hiking safety checklist ends with “If you are not properly prepared, rather take a shorter route, or come back another day.”

And “If you get lost on the mountain retrace your steps but if you get lost in mist, stormy weather or the dark, find shelter (e.g. under a rock overhang or dense bush), keep warm and dry, and wait it out.”

In life we can live within our own (beautiful) garden, where it is safe, and we are familiar with the routes to take, and what to do, and we know where to go to find what we are looking for.

Or we can choose to venture “beyond the garden”. To explore the beauty of life that is waiting beyond the boundaries of our comfort zones.

When thinking about going beyond your current life-garden, heed the details of the sign – are you properly prepared for the “steep gorges, sheer cliff faces and notoriously changing weather, AND muggings” that may be waiting for you as you venture out?

If not, maybe come back another day.

Or wait it out.

Look before you leap. Look right, look left, look right again and then quickly cross the road. Slow down to speed up. Proper preparation prevents poor performance.

This week’s special offer: Festina Lente!


Quote: I walk slowly but I never walk backward.  – Abraham Lincoln

On being and dating

Saturday, 1 September, was “Spring Day” – or was it?

In the Southern Hemisphere the “natural date” for the arrival of spring 2018 is on Sunday, 23 September (vernal equinox) – at 03:54 to be exact.

1 September has been declared “the beginning of spring” basically, for simplicity. Back in 1780 an international group of meteorologists decided to break the year up into four quarters, each one starting on the first of a month (at least, according to this source).

So, my greeting of “Happy Spring Day” to the lady who made my day with the first cup of coffee at the Kirstenbosch Tea Room was maybe a bit ill-timed.

I asked her if she was enjoying the day so far, and she was. I then asked if this day will be different to any other day… The sun came up and will set. Customers will come in, order something, enjoy it, some will be difficult and upset, they will pay, and leave. Sometimes there will be a tip, and sometimes not.She said: “Yes, all of that will happen today. But that doesn’t matter. Today is a beautiful day. It is Spring Day. It’s a good day. That means my mood is good. And nothing that happens today will be able to change my mood.”


I mentioned this exchange to someone else in the garden a bit later, and she said “Yes, happiness comes from within…”

I can choose to be happy. I can choose to be in a good mood – and stay in the good mood.

On Sunday, when someone behind a till asked me the “How are you today?” question, I responded playfully with “I think I’m OK”. You should have seen her frown! Her next-till colleague looked at me as if I was a bit crazy and said: “ How do you mean you have to think about it – you surely know it!”

These experiences served as a confirmation to my “re-positioning mindset” about productivity improvement, something I referred to during the Productivity Mastery webinar last Tuesday (you can watch it here) that drew very positive comments – begin at “BE”, then follow with “DO” and get “HAVE” as a result. Don’t be bent on having the latest OS or smartphone, or just doing the latest cool tricks. Without the foundation of “be-ing” it can all become a bit meaningless.

With the voice of the Kirstenbosch lady in my ears “My mood is good. And nothing that happens today will be able to change my mood”, every day can be Spring Day. Every day can be a productive day.

Happy non-Spring-Day-Spring-Day!


PS: When I arrived at Kirstenbosch I took the picture you see above and posted it to Facebook (welcome to make friends there) with this comment: “New category of ‘time’… not ME time or CHILL time … but BE time…”. Look at your Calendar. How much BE-time is there? How much HAVE-time? How much DO-time? How do you feel about that?

Quote (one of my favourites): “First, say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do.” – Epictetus

Have a funductive week!