Archive for June, 2019

During the past 16 weeks I had the privilege of working with 8 outstanding individuals from one company who chose to do my Mastering Productivity programme.  We alternated online group and individual sessions all the time applying the productivity principles foundational to the programme.  We also decided to build a mastermind group into the programme.

It’s amazing that one can get to know someone quite well even with just online conversations

During our closing call on Friday I was very happy to hear from everyone what they got from the programme – and that they were able to apply that in a very practical way. Changing habits, saying ‘no’ instead of giving your time away to others, slowing down to speed up, prioritising, improved planning – and sticking to the plan –  to name but a few.

Two themes came through very strongly during the feedback as well as the mastermind of the day.

Clarity and Consequence.  On both personal and interpersonal levels. I want to share a few thoughts about clarity with you today – consequence can wait! Nothing new, but it’s only by repetition that we know that 3×3=9 and don’t know the answer to 38×84.

Clarity about our values, mission statement and priorities give us a point of reference to make everyday decisions easier.  What to do; what to leave. What to agree to; what to say no to.  And as a result, become more effective and enjoy life more by doing what you want.  Happiness!

But before we can harvest happiness, we must sow effort.

Our personal mission statement won’t arrive Tuesday morning by courier. No, we need to give up doing other things so we can free up time and space to discover our guiding light. I can assure you it is worth to put in the time if you have not yet done so.  Here’s a good starting point.

When we communicate with others, it is so easy to have a misunderstanding.  Often because we are in a rush and do not take time to clarify our understanding.  Not only in business, but also in our personal life.  To pause and say, “Let me just make sure I understand what you are saying”, can prevent hours of conflict.  Or when we speak with others, to ask them to explain back to us what their understanding is of what we just said.

The fuzzier things are the less we can do.

Thanks, ‘group of 8’ for helping me rediscover the importance and consequence of clarity.

“A lack of clarity could put the brakes on any journey to success.”

― Steve Maraboli ―


Closing thought: what will you NOT do this week in order to free up an hour to sow the seeds of your guiding light?

Have a fun time doing it!

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Saturday was a bright, chilly and rejuvenating morning in Kirstenbosch. I chanced upon  a flower bed with  the water sprinklers turned on.  As I walked  past, the position of the sun, the water spray and I came together in a Goldilocks moment and I was given a  beautiful rainbow.

After enjoying it from different angles I moved on.  When I looked back at the very same scene, it was still beautiful and intriguing, but the rainbow was gone.

The gardener who was taking care of the area, then turned off the water.

No rainbow.  No mist.  No streaks of sunlight and shadow. Almost as if something has died.

When the conditions are right, nature produces the rainbow.  It has no option. It just happens.

A rainbow day was added to my collection.  But I had to be there to get it.  Not in my bed.  Not behind my computer.  Not shopping.

Did  I meticulously plan that at 09:07 I would receive this gift?  No, I was just in the right place within the bigger intention of having an enjoyable morning in the garden.

I agree with Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi, authors of The Courage To Be Disliked that we should live like we’re dancing. We choose which dance we will be dancing through life.  The dance of the architect.  The dance of the teacher.  The dance of a business owner.  The dance of a team leader.  The dance of a mother. And then join the dance with the freedom and flexibility that the dance both offers and requires.  Not according to a minute-by-minute plan to be 346 cm away from the double-bass player at 21:37, in a north-westerly direction.

We will dance with rainbows.  We will dance through patches of light and shadow.  And then our stream of life-giving water will be turned off, and we will die.

Before that happens, let’s proactively put ourselves in the place of most potential to create the conditions in which we will not have a choice about living a productive, fulfilling and happy life, but  enjoy that as a result of our choice of active participation in life and living.

The conditions are different for everyone. How to find yours? We either know it intuitively or by keeping track of circumstances when we are in flow. The time of day.  Noise levels. Physical surroundings.  Energy.  Mood. Workload. Resources. Note it over time and discover your pattern unveiling your Goldilocks conditions. Here are guidelines to help you find your own pattern of high performance, from my late friend and business associate Jerry Fletcher.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there were people who were living unproductive, unhappy and unfulfilling lives… and then they tried Shiny Productivity Tool 1 – and that was too difficult.  Then they tried Shiny Productivity Tool 2 – and that was too expensive to buy after the free trial.  Then they found that they all along already have had the perfect productivity tool – knowing and following their own natural way.


Every person has free choice. Free to obey or disobey the Natural Laws.

Your choice determines the consequences.

Alfred A. Montapert

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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 🙂

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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.


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!

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