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Last Sunday, during what turned out to be an highly educational breakfast, Travis Noakes gave me a run-down on what it meant to ‘have skin the game’.

One of the online dictionaries I checked also helped me understand the phrase. “Take an active interest in the success or failure of a particular project, activity, etc. because you are involved in a personal or financial way: If you want someone to make efficient choices, they have to have a little skin in the game.” Or: “incurred risk (monetary or otherwise) by being involved in achieving a goal.”

It’s now a week later and I have experienced the truth that I read somewhere that “If you have skin in the game you behave differently”.

Someone suggested I check out Scrivener as a writing and organising tool for my forthcoming Lightning Productivity series of super-short Kindle books. I did, and since a free trial was available, I downloaded it. Then the dabbling began. Mmmm let me look at this…maybe not…maybe tomorrow night…then it’s this and then it’s that… I was not making any progress. I was making inefficient choices.

This morning it changed. I bought Scrivener. I know “immediately” may sound like I am speaking in hyperbole, but just believe me when I said that immediately after putting a little skin in the game, my behaviour changed. I was engaged at a deeper level, committing time and effort to get to know and use the programme.

I was doing the same thing, but the value I got from it was vastly different. I was pleasantly surprised.

My experience made me think about my other projects – and I realised that despite buying many books, ‘how to’ courses, coaching and training programmes, I have not gained maximum value by just having them.

Ownership is insufficient.

Involvement and dabbling are insufficient.Commitment makes the difference.

Why don’t we do this before the end of the week – let’s take stock of all projects we have a vested interest in (monetary or otherwise) and in which we are involved in achieving a goal.

Then put a + or a – next to each of them. A + for the ones that we are committed to and working on. And a – for the ones we are dabbling in. Then cull the dabblers or commit to doing them. Even if the culling means we will lose the money/time/resources we have risked so far on the project, so be it.

To quote Mahan Kahlsa, “Let’s get real or let’s not play.”

“Scars signal skin in the game.”
― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

I wish you lots of scars by the end of the week 🙂

Sunday morning the Dylan Lewis cheetah sculpture on the steps at the Kirstenbosch Tea Room caught my eye.

As I was looking at it, I noticed people at the top of the steps, walking in my direction.

For some reason I wanted to focus on them. But I found my attention being distracted by the bigger picture – the magnificent 1003 m high Fernwood Peak, the shadows, trees, aloes and even the steps themselves.

It was hocus-pocus focus.

I moved closer to the sculpture and looked through the space between the cheetah’s trunk and the tree trunk.

This blocked out the distractions and I could clearly see and focus on the group of people coming down the steps.

How often don’t we want to focus on the task at hand, but all we achieve is hocus-pocus focus, tricking ourselves into thinking that we are focused but in reality our attention gets diverted by email, WhatsApp, SMS, phone calls, people walking in, and even our minds that go walkabout.

A case in point. As I was writing this, I Googled ‘walkabout’ and the headline Watch: Australian Goalkeeper Loses Mind, Goes On Crazy Walkabout grabbed my attention. Catchy. Very catchy! And down the rabbit hole I went. It is now a few minutes later. Time that I have wasted because watching that incident was a distraction and did not add value to my day (except that I can now use it as an example!).

My good friend and expert photographer Igno van Niekerk once taught me an important lesson – when taking a photograph you cannot focus on a subject unless you have first framed it. First frame, then focus. We focus on exercise and diet within the frame of health and healthy living. We focus on email or making phone calls within the frame of communication.

As soon as I used the sculpture as a frame to block out the distracting details, I could focus on the subject.

Just looking at the titles of two of Winifred Gallagher’s books makes me think that she must have taken a few lessons with Igno: The Power of Place: How Our Surroundings Shape Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions and House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live.

Our ‘room’ changes many times a day. Now we are in our computer room, then in a meeting room, then on the road, then at home, then reading a book, then at the desk, working on an important project. These are all different frames within which we want to focus and accomplish something. Let’s use the power of the cheetah’s body to frame our focus and block out things that take our attention away from what we want to achieve.

How?

Understand, communicate and protect our boundaries – our frames. Say ‘no’ to the catchy things that are lying in wait, ready to rob our attention. Go and work in an unoccupied meeting room. Go for a walk. Go for a drive.

Block out time frames in the calendar rather than ‘fine-printing’ it. A frame for communication. A frame for relaxation. A frame for travel. A frame for family. And then focus on the ‘fine print’ inside the frame.

In whatever frame you are, be there. Especially in your frame of mind.

First frame. Then focus.

As the expression paying attention suggests, when you focus, you’re spending limited cognitive currency that should be wisely invested, because the stakes are high.
— Winifred Gallagher, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life

Enjoy your Game Of Frames!

Seeing this picture posted by Nellie Swanepoel made it a worthwhile visit to Facebook. .

Reading the story behind this remarkable photo made a few things jump out at me.

From the article: …it was the first time he managed to get the perfect shot he was after. “I had in mind the type of shot I wanted to get,” Biro said.

My thought: Stephen Covey popularised the phrase “begin with the end in mind”. Your life and my life – do we know what we want to get? Really? Let’s create our future in our minds, see it clearly and make it visible in writing or in pictures.

From the article: “I knew it would be tough.”

My thought: Are we prepared for the obstacles and resistance we might get on the road to what we want? Have we explored different avenues? Toolbox packed appropriately?

From the article: “Getting right up to the water’s edge, Biro waited on the ground with camera in hand, staking out the perfect shot.”

My thought: One of the things renowned photographer Dewitt Jones said is to ‘put yourself in the place with most potential’. Biro did. Are you and I in the place of most potential? Are we in the right job? Did we choose the right career? The right partner? The right country, even? In the mindset of most potential? (Watch a 4-minute highlight of Dewitt’s talk Extraordinary Visions.)

Also, Biro waited. He had patience. In today’s fast-moving world, instant gratification remains a big drawcard. “Good things come to those who wait.” Biro waited. Good things came to him.

From the article: Biro took a “few hundred” photos. Capturing dive after dive, Biro managed to snag his perfect shot.

My thought: How often have I not given up after one attempt? If you are in the right place, working towards what you want, never give up. Do and do again. Until we snag the perfect life.

From the article: [Biro] started to get a little nervous about how the eagle was getting so close he could feel the breeze coming off his wings.

My thought: The road ahead may not only be difficult; it may also be dangerous. Be mentally strong and stick to your task.

From the article: “I did tell the people behind me if he landed on my head, ‘Somebody please get the shot,’” Biro joked.

My thought: Maintain a good sense of humour. Don’t take life too seriously.

From the article: Biro says he was surprised by just how much people took to it.

My thought: When we achieve what we want, we may be surprised by the appreciation people show for our achievement. So, when we reach the goal, let’s celebrate – we might even be surprised that we’ve made it!

Biros’ experience, the process not just the result, is inspiring me to seek greater clarity about my life purpose, seeking the vehicle of most potential to fulfil it, look ahead along the road this vehicle will travel on and prepare well for what lies ahead.

And to keep a grin on the chin.

“There is no heavier burden than an unfulfilled potential.”

Charles Schulz

Sunday afternoon. V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. I was walking back to my car in the car park when it happened.

Here I was, deep in thought after my short ‘research’ visit to check out smart phone options. Suddenly, there were about 20 people rushing towards me from the direction in which I was walking. They all wore the same uniform, and were carrying the same thing, that looked like a toolbox. What on earth was happening?

Then I saw the name and logo of a car-wash company that operates in the parking garage on their uniforms. Not washing cars in one spot, but the employees walk around and wash cars where they are parked.

What’s going on here? A strike?

Then I noticed the time. 17:01.

Earlier, I was actually puzzled on my way from where I parked my car to the shops that not one of the 3 car-washers I passed asked me if I would like to have my car washed. Strange.

But seeing the time made me understand. If they got a job at twenty minutes to five, they would probably not be finished by 5pm. And 5pm is pack-up-and-go time. At one minute past five the flock of car washers was on their way to hand in washing kits and cash up.

Outside I saw more of these employees from close-by car parks on their way to the V&A.

If each of these people effectively stopped offering their services half an hour earlier, that’s a lot of productive IGT (Income Generating Time) gone. Is that the best outcome for the company and the individuals?

This made me think of a quote attributed to a number of people, but I think David Hanna was the original source (happy to be corrected): “Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it gets”.

There once was an executive who was concerned to see employees stream out of their multi-storey office building just a few minutes after 5pm. Every day. He engaged the help of a consultant, who reported back to him that since they were on a cost-saving exercise, the aircon was tuned off at five minutes past five and the escalators stopped working at ten minutes past five.

The system was perfectly designed to spew employees out the front door from just after 5pm. There should be no surprises at this result. Behaviour follows design.

Are you surprised at the behaviour/results of an organisation, which can include your business, teams, departments, divisions, companies – and families?

Maybe it’s time to take a step back and check out the design of that organisation?

It cannot deliver results different to those it has been designed to deliver.

And our own lives? Are we living by default or by design? What legacy do we want to leave? Will our current ‘life-design’ deliver that?

Maybe it’s time to step back and also review our current design – we have it whether we know it or not. We have either created it consciously, or it’s there by default.

Let’s review, and if need be, hit our ‘Life Reset’ button.

“Right now, your company gets the results—good or bad—that it was designed to get. If your vision of the future differs from your current situation, if you want to get better results, then you must change the way you do things. If you don’t, how can you expect results that are any different from what you’ve already achieved?”
~Tom Northup~

Freddie Marais. Louis Hugo. They passed away in the last few days.

Freddie encouraged me to get my book written and also came through to the book launch on 30 March. He was his usual self and make a few friends right then and there (just ask Amien Jacobs).

We just started unfreezing our minds about how we were going to collaborate again, picking up from before.

Now that will be no more, and I no longer have a friend who orders “black coffee – without the milk.”

I will miss Freddie’s wisdom and insight and warmness and friendship.

I lost touch with Louis after matric but still saw him at Vleesbaai during holiday times. I spent an evening with Louis and a few matric mates thanks to the initiative that Kalla Pretorius took to begin a WhatsApp group for the Matrics of ’67.

That was the last time I saw Louis.

But I will never forget the passion with which he joined in the conversation about values, objecting to statements made and vigorously giving his point of view.

Friday we may be attending his funeral.

 

Once someone asked a well-known Thai meditation master, “In this world where everything changes, where nothing remains the same, where loss and grief are inherent in our very coming into existence, how can there be any happiness? How can we find security when we see that we can’t count on anything being the way we want it to be?”

The teacher, looking compassionately at this fellow, held up a drinking glass that had been given to him earlier in the morning and said, “You see this goblet? For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it. I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over, or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’

When I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious. Every moment is just as it is, and nothing need be otherwise.”

~ http://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=2162~

 

Let’s make our moments alive precious.

It’s good to be back home! And I can now assure you that 14-hour flights are not number 1 on my list of fun things to do…

On Sunday morning, as I was doing some catch-up work at my desk, the sunrise caught my eye. Beautiful, as only a sunrise over Simonsberg in the distance could be. I happily shared the picture with a few people so they could also enjoy it.

Then just a few minutes later, the magic was gone. The golden sunrise picture was replaced by grey clouds. It wasn’t a gradual transition like I often see here. It was a case of ‘now you see it, now you don’t’.

Someone who I shared the two pictures with said that she could hardly believe it was the same landscape. Yet it was.

Isn’t it the same with opportunities in life? Now you have the opportunity, now you don’t.

Windows of opportunity open, and then they are gone.

It can be the same ‘landscape’ with the same players. But when the moment has passed, everything is different.

Maybe it’s at a team meeting and we have the opportunity to say something that could influence the course of the conversation – but we don’t. And then afterwards we think “If only I had said it at the time”. Too late.

Maybe it’s an opportunity to say, “I’m sorry”. But we don’t.It could be the opportunity to take the first step towards changing a habit. But we keep procrastinating because sticking with the habit does not yet cause us enough pain to encourage us to change.

It is the opportunity we have at the end of every day to look back and learn from the day and build our insights and new understanding of things into our plans for the next day and beyond.

It is the opportunity we have once a week to connect with the things that matter most to us (call it a personal mission statement, our values, our priorities…) to make sure we only do those things that will keep us on track to achieve what we really want to achieve and help us to say NO to everything that will take us off track.

It is the one shot we get at life. Now we have it, now we don’t.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
~ Alexander Graham Bell ~

And so, the last day of my trip to Australia is drawing to a close after an exciting last day in Sydney, ferrying to Manly, enjoying a walk and the vibe there and then back. Tomorrow morning at 03:00 SA time I begin the trek back home…

After the huge privilege of being part of Lindie, Ryno, Niene, Carli and Nadia’s holiday and school routines (thanks, Lindie!), I spent the last two days in Sydney.

I’ve never climbed so many steps in a single day in my life!

I stayed in an Airbnb in Kings Cross from where I walked all the way (only 3km) to the Royal Botanical Garden (Kirstenbosch is still my firm favourite!) and around the corner to the Sydney opera house.

About 7 000 horizontal steps took me there and back, and running around in the Botanical Garden because the gates close at 6pm and I could not find the right exit. With 5 minutes to spare, I found it..

Add to that climbing at least 200 vertical steps – and down again! Just the steps on the left were 84 (just had to count them!).

That’s where I met a father and his son. I was halfway up, taking a breather, and they were on their way down.

The boy wanted to speed things up a bit by jumping down many steps at the same time, but his dad said, “One step at a time, my son, one step at a time”.

Want to publish a book? Do it one step at a time.

Want to skyrocket your corporate career? One step at a time.

Want to a have team where people understand each other and care about each other? One step at a time.

Want to change from unfit to fit? One step at a time.

And once we have taken the first step, we need to exercise patience to witness growth and development. To let go of any idea of controlling the outcome. We can only trust the process.

Tomorrow at 03:00 SA time I will be boarding my flight from Sydney to Joburg. One step at a time.

And have 18 hours (just 1 080 minutes) to exercise patience until I land in Cape Town. One minute at a time

Isn’t it the only way?

Don’t keep pulling up the flowers to see how the roots are coming. Be patient. You can’t violate this process. Like the law of the farm, you have to plant, and nurture, and weed and water. Then the harvest. You can’t go into a crisis mode. There is no quick fix. There is no cramming system that will work.”
– Stephen R Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People