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On Saturday, I sat.  For about 30 minutes, as I was covering the last kilometre or so to the first robot as you enter  Fish Hoek at the bottom of Ou Kaapse Weg.

As you can see, there was a long queue forming behind me.  The queue in front of me was stationary most of the time, crawling ahead about 5 meters  at a time every now and then. Which was more ‘then’ than ‘now’.

Some motorists could not take this any longer, turned around and rushed back to where they came from just a few minutes ago.  My guess was that they were going back maybe a kilometre or two to take the alternative route to Noordhoek, or a different route to the same robot they were heading to anyway.  Maybe they believed it would take them less time to get there even if it was farther.

I wonder what the final thing was that made them turn around.  Boredom?  Extreme frustration?  Inability to wait things out? A crisis at home?  Or urgency addiction, urging them to be on the move, be busy, rush around even though the rushing  could cost more than being patient?

In all this, I was visited by the CIA once again.  “Gerrit, is this situation in your direct Control (C)? Do I hear a no?  Can you Influence (I) it? Do I hear another no? Mmmmm.  Well, if that is the case your best approach to the situation would be to Accept it and Adapt (the A) to it.”

Buried in “accept and adapt” is another choice – what do we choose to use as ‘adapting mechanism’?

Some people chose the ‘be busy’ option by turning around and finding a different way, even though there was no guarantee that the alternative route could not also be waiting with a surprise delay.  Others chose to sit it out. Neither option is right nor wrong.

One should, however, think it through.  What are the possible outcomes of your choices?  And then base your choice on those possibilities.

In some instances, in the past, I chose the ‘at least it feels as if I am making progress’ option.  On Saturday I used the 30 minutes of slow progress to turn the inside of my car into a concert hall and enjoyed a piece of Beethoven I don’t often listen to.

“Slow down to speed up” is the one productivity principle that people find most difficult , yet most beneficial, to implement.

Shall we declare the week of 2 December 2019 to be ‘the week of the pause button’? To look before we leap.  To think before we speak. To not be busy just for the sake of feeling productive, but actually being productive.

To consider options carefully before we choose. And then throw ourselves whole-heartedly into our choice.

Shall we dance? Slow dance?

Human freedom involves our capacity to pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight.

~Rollo May

I enjoyed an indoors weekend, working on the online community for the current Meaningful Productivity programme, and also having fun with going through the process of getting a version of my Productivity Breakthrough: “8 Basic Work Habits to Rapidly and Sustainably Increase Productivity” course on Udemy. Interesting and a lot of fun was had!

These actions were triggered by reading chapter 2 of the bookTHRIVE! – Stop Wishing Your Life Away by Alan Weiss . Although we have not yet met, I see Alan as one of my mentors.

My good friend Richard de Villiers and I are ‘working the book’ chapter by chapter, getting together for a weekly 30-minute call to share what we are going to implement from all the wonderful thoughts and advice Alan offers.

I have Alan’s permission to quote sections from chapter 2, Wishing is to achievement what watching TV is to aerobic fitness. This resonated so strongly with me that I “pulled the trigger” on a few projects and am happy to say that I completed two items today. Feels good.

I quote at random, with no comment or interpretation. I hope you find it valuable too.

“Weekly I watch people miss opportunities because they are wondering whether there might be something better around the corner. Publish the article, take the tickets in front of you, seize the opportunity that presents itself. You can always ‘fine-tune’ and adjust, but get your ass in gear.”

“The key, therefore, is to empower ourselves. Now, ‘empowerment’ has become a buzzword of dubious worth, so let me define what I mean by it here: Empowerment is the ability to make decisions that influence your life and/or the outcome of your work.”

“I don’t stand in lines, or endure long holding times on the phone. I take control of my life. I find alternative means.”

”If you agree to be on a fundraising committee and you hate fundraising, you’ve allowed yourself to be disempowered.”

“One of the worst crimes against your own humanity is disempowering yourself. That means that you willingly allow decisions which influence your life to be taken away from you, or refuse to make them.”

“Life is about success, not perfection.”

“ ‘Empowerment’ means something. You need to make it mean something for you, or else someone or something else is running your life.”

“We tend to look back at our lives bemoaning what we should have done. I call this ‘the view of the wake’ since we are looking back where the boat has already sailed (and it might as well refer to a wake where one views a deceased body – metaphorically your own). The trouble when you stare at the wake is that you fail to see the new opportunities appearing constantly through the windshield.”

“You have the personal accountability to look for opportunities that can enhance your life, work, interests, and relationships. That accountability is going to be nearly impossible to live up to if you … bemoan your past instead of becoming excited about your future.”

“If we spent as much time planning and seeking opportunity as we did wishing that we had done things differently, we’d all be in much better shape.”

“It’s never too late to move your focus to ‘What should I do?’ and away from ‘What have I done?’ Instead of bemoaning ‘What if?’, you’re assessing ‘Why not?’”

“You can’t afford to talk to yourself or anyone else in terms of ‘If only’ and ‘I wish I had’. That’s like watching the rerun of a sporting event and hoping it turns out differently the second time. You can’t change your personal history, but you can prevent it from ruining your future.”

“Wishing, like talk, is cheap.”

“Stop wishing. Start acting. Reach for the stars.”

I wish you an action-packed week.

Empowerment is the ability to make decisions that influence your life
and/or the outcome of your work.
– Alan Weiss

My car window was down when I stopped at the robot at the intersection of Rhodes Ave and Union Ave after a most enjoyable morning in Kirstenbosch.

There are usually quite number of men selling all kinds of things at that point, and today just after noon was no exception.

I never asked this gentleman’s name, but we had a most inspiring albeit very brief conversation.

He: “How’s your Sunday morning so far?”

Me: “Very good thanks, and yours?”

He: “Very good, thanks.”

Me: “Made some money already today?”

He: “Not yet. But there is still a chance. As long as there is a chance, I am having a good day. And when I can speak to someone like this, that makes my day.”

Just before the lights changed to green, I got his permission to take a picture and share his good-day-smile with you.

“As long as there is a chance, I am having a good day…”

Just this morning, in our online group for one of our mastermind groups, Cathy shared thoughts about the value of Gratitude Journaling. What an appropriate context for this man’s attitude and smile. He is grateful that he still has a chance to earn some money. To speak with someone through an open car window.

And I am grateful for the few moments with him.

How often don’t we rush through life behind closed windows? Cutting ourselves off from things that could “make my day”?

How often don’t we look back and dwell on the emptiness we see in the time that lies behind us (noon today for they guy at the robot) instead of taking a view that there is still a chance ahead of us that for something that will make our day?

Won’t that perspective give us a chance to be happier? And more productive?

A study at the University of Oxford showed that happy workers are 13% more productive. I enjoyed this reference to The Happiness Advantage, which identifies gratitude as one of the “seven principles of positive psychology”. Srinivas Rao says that “Happiness is a skill that can be developed. And with practice, we can raise our baseline level of happiness.”

How? With a daily Gratitude Journal.

Whether you use one of the many available apps, a digital document or a notebook doesn’t matter. Express your gratitude for something that has happened during the past 24 hours. Write it down. Even send a ‘gratitude email’ to a few friends.

“As long as there is a chance, I am having a good day…”

Why not take a chance on your gratitude journal?

What you focus on is what you tend to notice in your life. If you’re always focused on the things that suck, that’s going to colour your perception of reality. One of the simplest ways to shift that perception is with a gratitude practice.
– Srinivas Rao

 

Faan

I met Faan Naude for the first time on the beach at Vleesbaai.

It was a rainy September morning and I was quite surprised to see him and his wife walking on the beach with their dog. Nothing strange about it, except that Faan was on crutches.

I stopped by and we chatted while it was raining very softly.

Faan contracted polio when he was 2 years of age. As he grew up, he developed a keen interest in rugby and told a coach he wanted to play. The coach just gave him one look and turned him away.

In that moment Faan said to himself, “I will show you.” He took up wrestling, persevered and ended up wrestling for the national team.

He did not allow his physical condition to get him down. Rather, it spurred him on.

Every time I now walk on this beach, I think of Faan and his story. And about the things that I have given up on in my life so far, or things that I allowed to get me down. In comparison to a man that was stricken by polio so many years ago, my issues seem so insignificant.

Within the bigger picture of life and living, does it matter that I failed Mathematics solidly and had to sacrifice a December holiday while at varsity to study for the February ‘repeat’ exam (which I thankfully passed)? Was it worth getting all depressed about it, feeling sorry for myself for being in a situation that I brought on myself by not studying properly?

Or when a budding business relationship evaporates for no obvious reason?

Or like this weekend, when I came to Vleesbaai with friends for a business strategy session and the weather is such that, over 3 days, we could not even fit in one strategic braai?

In contrast to Faan’s condition, “These things too shall pass.”

Since feeling the rain drops on my face that morning with Faan, my perspective of ‘bad experiences’ and disappointments has changed

When we find ourselves stuck, but we keep going, we will get through the dip.

How can we get better at thinking beyond the immediate ‘bad experience’?

From Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi:

• “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”- Eleanor Roosevelt. How can we get better at withholding our consent when others or situations dump ‘inferior!’ on us?

• “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” – Mahatma Gandhi. How can we get better at hearing and seeing things for what they are, and not try and figure out “the story behind the story”, to not allow others’ dirty feet into our minds?

How could life change if we could just accept the things we cannot change, instead of making a Drama In Three Acts about it? And, like Faan, turn it around?

When I said goodbye to Faan two months ago, I said hello to the possibility of putting things in perspective.

Thanks, Faan, I thought about you again today, about the wrestler inside your polio-stricken body, crutching along on the beach with a happy story to tell and a twinkle in your eye.

“Life is about perspective and how you look at something… ultimately, you have to zoom out.” – Whitney Wolfe Herd

Have a Faan week…

Fool’s Gold?

I could hardly look at the bright golden reflection of the rays of the early morning sun, just after 6 am Sunday morning on the Sea Point promenade.

It made me think of the story, “The House with Golden Windows”, which I paraphrase here.

A little girl lived in a small, very simple, poor house on a hill. Across the valley she could see a house with golden windows. She dreamed of living in a house with golden windows instead of an ordinary house like hers.

One day she cycled to the house with golden windows, only to see that the house was as simple as her own, and the windows were rather dirty – no golden windows.

Looking back across the valley as she turned to leave, she saw her little home with golden windows as the sun shone on it. Everything she dreamed of about the other house was right there in front of her nose in her own ‘golden’ house.

On my walk I thought about the golden windows that I have dreamt about in my life, only to realise after a while that I was chasing fool’s gold – it has no value but it looks like real gold.

Why do we fall in the trap of thinking that the solution is elsewhere instead of looking at what we already have?

Did the MBA really make a difference? And, if Igno did not stop me, would $5k spent on yet another course to become a better mastermind facilitator/marketer/writer/whatever really make a difference?

Totius wrote the poem Repos Ailleurs – Rest is elsewhere. One night, a passenger in a lighted train sees inside a little tent next to the railway track and thinks he would be so happy if he could just be in the tent. A young girl, standing next to the tent, wishes that she could be in the lighted train because that would make her happy.

Fool’s gold windows. A tent. A train. A mindset taking us elsewhere. Anything wrong with being where we are? With mining the real goldmine we have inside of us, waiting?

When I walked past the tall building that had golden windows from a distance, it showed its true drab outside – dull and lacking brightness.

Maybe the grass is greener on the other side just because there is more manure?

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.
– Norman Vincent Peale

Let’s find rest and peace where we are this week…

I want to share the wisdom of my 5-year old granddaughter with you today. I quote my daughter Lindie’s post.

“5-year old Nadia nailed CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) in a few sentences!

We were almost on our way to have tea at a friend’s house, and that was also the time I started looking for stamps which I knew I have bought but couldn’t find.

Me (for the 10th time): “Aaarrgghh where are the stamps?! I am sure they must be here!!”

Nadia: “Mama, you can choose to go on thinking about the stamps. Then you will be angry. But you can choose to think of your lovely friend Sharon and having tea with her. Then you will feel happy. It is your body and thinking, I cannot choose for you. But I think you know which one is better to choose”.

Let’s just say I took the advice.” ”

Nadia is 5 years old…and she teaches me (14 times her age, by the way!) that we should not ignore good advice, irrespective of its source.

Maybe someone who we don’t like, or an elderly person or a friend, or a very young person, or a stranger serves us with a probing question or good advice, but because we somehow link the value of the advice to the person instead of simply seeing it for what it is, we miss out.

Don’t we often also ignore our own advice?

When someone tells us something about ourselves that we do not like, assume that everyone is telling us that.

When someone tells us something nice about ourselves, assume that everyone is saying that.

Thank you, Nadia, for reinforcing that we have the freedom of choice, that we are responsible for our choices and therefore the consequences of our choices.

Let’s have a Nadia-awareness week, shall we?

“How do you like looking at the water – coming to you or going away from you?” I like asking that question to someone standing on a bridge over a stream with me.

There’s probably nothing in it, but I find it interesting to talk about their reason for saying that.

I was alone on the bridge over Skeleton Stream in Kirstenbosch on Saturday and asked myself the question. Before I could answer, I asked myself more questions – a few more thoughts and questions popped to the surface of the water in the stream.

Whether the water is coming or going depends on where you are in that moment. Water that’s ‘going’ from me is ‘coming’ towards someone else, just a few yards downstream. It’s the same water. Where we are determines how we see it.

People further upstream have already seen the same water that I am now seeing, albeit within a different context of trees, rocks and leaves floating on it.

The river of life is coming at us or flowing away from us depending on our current station in our life journey. Other people have been at pretty much the same station. What can I learn from them?

Maybe they stood their ground, fighting the rush of oncoming problems and challenges. Maybe they stood their ground, allowing the spray of the rush of life refresh them right where they were. Maybe they jumped straight into the stream of life without thinking about it too much.

Maybe they went head under in a rapid. Maybe they floated on their back in a calm pond on the side of the stream.

They were ‘on the bridge’ in the moment of choice. Not is the ‘past’. Not in the ‘future’.

Isn’t that all we have? The moment we are in?

And what we choose in the moment, to stay as we are or jump into the river of life and see what it has to offer, plays a big part in or sense of joy and happiness?

There’s no right or wrong choice.

There’s only our choice.

“Forever is composed of nows.”
― Emily Dickinson