It’s a hard pill to swallow – but my greatest teachers have all been times of challenge.
‘Challenge’ could be supplanted by the word ‘test’, and I like to think of life challenges as going to university. I chose my degree (life path) with specific classes (life lessons) and then teachers test my knowledge on those subjects at the end of each semester (challenges).
In life, the tests don’t come so ‘neatly’ though as I make choices affecting where I live, what I spend time doing, who I spend time with – all of which inform my thoughts helping shape ideas which ultimately inspire action – if they resonate with my highest values.
One of the most profound lines I ever read was:
When you pray for patience, God doesn’t just hand it to you, He gives you opportunities to practice it.
That means I can’t ask to be better without invoking the test associated with that. This profoundly shapes my mindset, instead of seeing wisdom as the ability to download information like Neo in the matrix – my skills are crafted through time and practice. There are no shortcuts in life and as Carl Jung so eloquently warned us: “Beware of unearned wisdom”
Wanting to be a better human being is noble – but am I prepared to do the work that makes that a reality? Am I prepared to journey into the underworld on a quest that tests my fortitude?
Understanding How my highest Values Inform my Actions
I’m drawn to reflect on any number of conferences, workshops and talks where experts share strategies and tips to be healthy. I’m struck by how simple all the strategies actually are. The wisdom is there – but nobody ever said simple meant easy.
I’ve come to learn an important (albeit simplistic) understanding: people who place a high value on health will invest time working on it.
The pursuit of happiness and a desire to feel fulfilled helped create a new metaphor recently: Follow my own treasure map, otherwise how can I be surprised when there’s no treasure because it’s already been picked up?
The real trick is to learn how to look inside and read my own map. What we can learn and teach each other are the key elements to follow through on our hero’s journey: Patience, Commitment, Discipline, Perseverance, and Confidence.
The ‘secret’ is making what we want a priority – and embracing the journey.
Look at the plethora of diets and exercise gurus selling ‘the next greatest pill/book/workout/diet/food/piece of exercise equipment’. After 22 years in the fitness world I’ve come across a handful of trustworthy people honestly laying it out from the beginning in simple terms: It takes hard work, discipline and consistency.
Being healthy and fit has always been a priority for me, so I make time for it. I’ve only just discovered that one of my driving forces is not ‘how successful can I be’ but rather ‘what am I capable of?’ – I’m now translating that physical knowledge into all the other areas of my life knowing my capabilities are limited only by how far I’m prepared to push myself.
Coupled with a deep curiosity about the gorgeous world we live in helps me say “yes” to things instead of “no.” Saying “yes” creates opportunities for new experiences and allows me to explore those capabilities.
All that culminated when I had the idea to climb Table Mountain every day for an entire year. I found my treasure map and if ever there was a challenge to face – THIS WAS IT!
Breaking Down Challenges into Core Components
I love solving problems because I enjoy figuring out the process of how to do things. Below is my attempt to break down challenges into their core components to see their benefits:
They’re Bigger than anything experienced before (if at all) – tests/reveals character.
Clear Problem – tests ability to solve and collaborate.
Time based – test resilience and perseverance.
All-encompassing and inescapable – requires mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual work.
Unlocks wisdom – tests true desire.
Challenge implies I will experience discomfort, requiring innovative solution-based thinking that uses my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual prowess within a certain time frame – the reward being a sense of accomplishment coupled with deeper understandings about life, relationships and who I am.
Let’s see how I can write that out using my yearly climb up Table Mountain expressed in a ‘formula’ of the core components:
Having never committed to anything remotely audacious as this, I had to commit to no days off climbing through all elements, testing my physical strength, my mental fortitude to persevere on the same route and maintain enthusiasm, my emotional strength to cope with no days off or respite, combined with the spiritual purpose to understand myself and how to build community around my beliefs and contribute to society. My reward was wisdom gained from committing whole-heartedly to self-belief and discovering a repeatable template of what I’m capable of. 366 days of experiences shaped into one deep profound realization: I’m supposed to be having fun along the way as much as I know I’ll feel at the end.
Filling each day with gratitude and searching for it’s uniqueness (even when doing the exact same thing every day) showed me how much beauty there is. Even in repetition.
My experience with COVID-19:
While initially it looked like a six week struggle, that’s turned into a year (and could possibly be longer before things return to some form of normalcy) The major challenges within it have been maintaining a healthy lifestyle while overcoming the mental challenges forced isolation brings with it (I’m fortunate though that I have Jessie to share it with). It’s testing my physicality to stay fit in unusual ways, mentally as I’m unable to build new relationships in a city I’ve just moved to, emotionally as I deal with the strain of isolation and conflicting news reports mashed in with the uncertainty of how much longer there is to go. The spiritual challenge is the deepest one, how to connect with others struggling in these times and build a community to empower those being devastated by the effects of lockdown. The reward is a shared humanity as we all reach the other side of a once in a 100-year event touching all seven billion of us. Hopefully we come out of it with a deeper sense of gratitude for what we have, an understanding of what and who is important to us, and a deeper knowing of how connected we all are and a renewed sense of vigor on strengthening our society.
Difference Between Selecting a Challenge – and Life Throwing us One
Two things stand out from the examples above:
Choosing a challenge gives the advantage of knowing how long it is.
Just because life throws a challenge we haven’t experienced before, doesn’t mean we don’t have the tools to face it. Past experiences provide a way to adapt our mindset on how to tackle the new one.
Mindset. A word I hear almost daily. What I don’t hear as often – is Heartset.
I believe they work in conjunction and just like a muscle at gym – can be trained.
Mindset is developing the skills to overcome the urge to give up, or surrender to challenges. Mindset is an opportunity in the good times to prepare for the bad times. We can build habits we know work during good times to mimic when we feel out of sorts. We can recognize that we are a coin with two sides that constantly flips from one side to the other. It’s how we manage each flip and absorb the lesson from each experience to grow and level up for the next challenge that lies in wait – and it’s always there. This governs what we can control mentally and physically.
Heartset is developing the ability to listen to our intuition, realizing that out inner guidance system speaks to us putting a spotlight on the correct path to follow – even when our rational mind or society says ‘no ways! You gotta go this way!’ It’s about developing a more compassionate approach to ourselves which will ultimately translate into how we engage with the world around us. This is the seat of our emotions and soul keeping us aligned with our highest purpose and values.
Next Question – So What?
It means there’s hope! We’ve all made it this far and instead of feeling overwhelmed we can take heart from our resiliency. It means we can take time to analyze our past to build templates of success for future challenges and if nothing else – know that whatever is thrown at us we’re capable of overcoming it. I don’t know if this template is helpful, but it’s a starting place to focus on what you have accomplished and overcome already.
I love the line We will never be given anything we can’t handle – that alone has helped me through some rough times.
It also means that the more challenges I seek out with the clear intention of discovering who I am and what I’m capable of – the better equipped I become for future challenges which I can’t stress enough – are always there.
Knowing they’re there waiting for us like a hurdle in a race isn’t any reason to get disheartened – it just means the better we train the better our race will be. More importantly, the better equipped we become to assist others fresh on their journey of self-discovery.
Next to the tragic loss of life, one of the most devastating things about COVID-19 is the separation. We’re not meant to endure challenges on our own. While we always need to do the work ourselves – of course – it doesn’t mean we have to do it alone.
Never underestimate the power your kind gesture has on the person receiving it.
Knowing what help you need takes self-reflection.
Asking for it takes courage.
Applying it builds wisdom.
Would you like to apply what you’ve just taken in? Has this been helpful? I’d love to hear from you – reach out and let’s set up a call (Click here) and see how to analyze the challenges you’ve experienced and better yet:
Create one that helps you discover what you’re really capable of.
I believe we have an opportunity to build one of the most powerful communities rooted in compassion, love, and perspective.
And that starts by building strong individuals – like you.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” – World Health Organization.
This post is challenging because I know how emotionally charged COVID-19 is, primarily due to the devastation felt by so many. It’s difficult to separate noise from the truth these days – so I listen to my gut as I evaluate what people say and how their actions speak to that. What does someone stand to gain from what they’re sharing? Is there any conflict of interest?
We’re over a year into the pandemic now – which allows us to examine data to remove uncertainty around ‘what ifs.’ This is critical to take emotion out of our thinking as we make informed decisions on how to move forward.
This article serves to expand the scope of understanding and alleviate any fear built up around this virus and ‘opening up.’
Setting the Stage with Context
I’m saddened by the breakdown of “trusted” sources incapable of exploring all the possibilities, especially with anything contrary to the main narrative of COVID-19. I admit, being at the epicenter in New York as it turned into a ghost of its usual self last year, I was gravely concerned. For loved ones, and humanity at large. It immediately spilled into my behavior, cleaning every item from the grocery store before packing it away.
At that stage with fear circulating about the potential death rate of COVID-19, my biggest fear grew: what about people living in shacks where social distancing isn’t an option?
As it stands, 2.9* million souls have died. That’s 2.9 million families, friends, colleagues, partners mourning a loved one. My deepest sympathies go out to each of them – especially as funerals and gatherings have been stripped from them too.
Death is deeply personal, painful, and tragic. Never in history has our mortality been forced onto our radar simultaneously around the world. In most western culture’s death is taboo, not spoken about, never mind thought of as part of our journey.
That’s another topic entirely – but necessary to put context into our fear currently.
I applaud everyone’s genuine concern and desire to reduce deaths; however, taking a meta-view around what the lockdowns are doing has created one wish:
Can the care we exhibit to save people’s lives, be equally shown for the quality of people’s lives?
Growing up in South Africa exposed me to the reality of poverty. It’s heartbreaking. The exposure has entrenched a deeper perspective to evaluate decisions made in society more broadly and to think about its impact.
This is where it starts getting a bit uncomfortable, maybe even heated for some. As it should! These are tough conversations to wrap our minds around, but it’s necessary to evaluate all sides, after all – isn’t that how we come to the best solutions?
Possibly the most sacred word that encapsulates this precious gift our experience on this gorgeous planet truly is. This interview comes from someone that values it deeply – I don’t feel the same from mainstream media or governments. Shouldn’t we gladly embrace anything (no matter how simple it may appear) that saves lives?
I do wonder whether the heightened fear-based reactions to this pandemic has a deeper meaning, is it less about dying – and rather the confrontation about how we’re living? What we’re notdoing with our life now?
The fear of a life unlived?
I certainly haven’t done everything I should’ve at this point in my life. I’m not immune to the human condition of failing to live up to my capabilities. Death is a reminder about why it’s necessary to work through blockages and live according to my beliefs and values. Knowing I will die – is why my focus is measuring how many people get an opportunity to use their life to express their talents?
I’ve always had a fatalistic view of life from as young as I can remember, but one traumatic event cemented this way of thinking.
At 23, armed robbers stormed the store I was working in and robbed us. I couldn’t help notice his hand holding the gun shaking.
The first accidental shot fires off – ricocheting off the floor into my colleague’s leg. Moments later, the second shot fires off – bouncing off the floor and passing through my trouser material, narrowly missing my leg.
Next, he raised the gun – I didn’t wait to see if it was aimed at my head. I lifted my arms and bowed my head in submission – waiting for the third gunshot, wondering where it could hit me and survive.
It never came.
I could just as easily have been killed that day.
That day showed me how little control I have over what happens to me, and I started saying ‘yes’ to life more than I said ‘no.’ That created 18 years’ worth of ‘bonus’ experiences: the opportunity to experience living in the U.K. and USA, live in major cities like London, Cape Town, San Francisco, and New York; countless friends made, love shared & found with my wife, beauty felt. Almost gone in one moment.
Building an Awareness around our Outrage
Since then, my journey has incrementally developed my understanding of the lack of equal opportunities in South Africa, and frankly, throughout the world. This brings me to my wish: the quality of people’s lives.
Why does this matter?
Well – I see rage and judgment expressed about masks but is that rage expressed about people living in poverty?
We need to be honest with ourselves – In February, at the peak of the pandemic, the daily deaths worldwide were 17,704 – compare that to 10,000 children dying from starvation every day.
25,000 if you include adults.
Please read that again.
UNICEF estimates an additional 130 million people threatened by starvation through lockdowns, with an additional 150 million people pushed into extreme poverty.
I understand why the outrage is unequal – if I don’t experience it, why would it be a priority?
The reality is we have as much inequality in outrage – as we do in wealth.
I have no issue with outrage – as long as it’s not just focused on what affects your privileges. It’s easy to be outraged when we have the bandwidth to contemplate it; most people impacted by the decisions being made have no bandwidth – they’re just trying to survive and feed their families.
We are not responsible for a human being’s suffering – but we can be part of the solution to change their life once today.
We mustn’t get bogged down in comparing life’s challenges – but being aware is essential to provide context to our outrage and think about what we choose to chastise others over publicly. Is [insert outrage topic] really the standards we should hold ourselves accountable to? I understand how complicated it is to teach children on Zoom – I’ve seen it. Yet there are families without books, never mind laptops, for their children to learn.
There are 1.6 billion children out of school because of worldwide lockdowns. I imagine the quality for the majority of children learning online dropped dramatically too. Having spoken to my friend that teaches – the quantity of work just to get by is staggering.
I wonder how many ‘thank yous’ they’ve received? If you’re reading this take this as my highest gratitude for your service.
I also have the utmost respect for parents juggling work, homeschooling, stress, emotions, partners, and more. I can understand, too, if parents’ outrage is fueled by having no bandwidth to process the current circumstances. Life is unbelievably complex at the moment.
It’s an unbelievably tough situation we find ourselves in; everyone deserves our respect as we collectively mourn the loss of loved ones.
Let’s start thinking about how we honor their memories and the sacrifice these souls have made going forward. It’s time for compassion.
How do we honor those that have died from COVID-19?
“Life is something much greater than human. Life is a gift. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of the loss, and get better at acknowledging the gain of a life well-lived. This was a person that loved, it’s a person that has created in their lifetime. ….. a state of being that is free of fear, let them be part of the message that this virus is trying to teach us. Let them know that it is not in vain, that we will learn from this, that we have taken too many steps away from our purpose, our real nature, our real potential. Let them know that they are part of the rise of consciousness on the planet and not the collapse of biology.
Yes, this disease is killing people. Yes, we want to protect as many people as possible – but there are alternatives that aren’t born from fear.
Let’s stop trying to box everything as right or wrong. We can simultaneously hold two opposing views: this virus creates suffering through death, and it causes suffering through lockdowns. There are over 40 million new jobless claims as thousands of small businesses close and people’s ability to earn a living is shattered.
The speed at which this virus spread across the world has shown us how connected we truly are – we can use that to spread positivity just as quickly.
Let’s break down lockdowns, asymptomatic spreading, and our own immune systemas a start.
If lockdowns worked – the truth is we wouldn’t be in this position today. A detailed open letter to the FBI has been put together from ten prominent figures regarding lockdowns’ validity (and criminality).
We are writing this letter to request that a federal investigation be commenced and/or expedited regarding the scientific debate on major policy decisions during the COVID-19 crisis. In the course of our work, we have identified issues of a potentially criminal nature and believe this investigation necessary to ensure the interests of the public have been properly represented by those promoting certain pandemic policies.
Evidence about the origin and historical precedent of lockdowns;
The scientific literature and debate behind them;
The provenance and quality of predominant COVID-19 testing protocols and models;
The motivations, biases, and qualifications of confident prominent lockdown supporters; and
The source of public-facing communications surrounding these policies.
Re lockdowns, they say:
“Not only are lockdowns historically unprecedented in response to any previous epidemic or pandemic in American history, but they are not so much as mentioned in recent guidance offered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”). Judge Stickman continues:
“Indeed, even for a ‘Very High Severity’ pandemic (defined as one comparable to the Spanish Flu), the guidelines provide only that ‘CDC recommends voluntary home isolation of ill persons,’ and ‘CDC might recommend voluntary home quarantine of exposed household members in areas where novel influenza circulates.’ This is a far, far cry from a statewide lockdown”
This begs the question as to why all governments have been so quick to implement this?
One of my biggest worries (and I imagine all of ours) was this notion that we could feel fine, have the virus, and spread it to loved ones and possibly those that are elderly or immune-compromised. Not only has this never been the case with any virus in history, but ALL the data ‘supporting’ this comes from China. No other country has been able to replicate this scientific analysis.
DATA ON CONSEQUENCES OF LOCKDOWNS
“Data from the website yelp.com has shown that over 60% of business closures during the COVID-19 crisis are now permanent, amounting to more than 97,000 businesses lost in the U.S. Nearly half of black-owned small businesses have been wiped out. Unemployment in the United States reached as high as 14.7% and highways jammed with thousands of vehicles awaiting their turn at food banks. Nearly 5% of the United Kingdom population went hungry during the first three weeks of lockdown.”
If governments are so concerned about helping minorities – enforcing prolonged lockdowns is clearly counterintuitive.
INCREASE IN SUICIDE
“In Japan, government statistics show suicide claimed more lives in October than Covid-19 has over the entire year to date.
And, despite being at virtually no risk from COVID-19, as a result of lockdowns, children have suffered the most of all. Nearly one in four children living under COVID-19 lockdowns, social restrictions, and school closures are dealing with feelings of anxiety, with many at risk of lasting psychological distress. In recent surveys of children and parents in the U.S., Germany, Finland, Spain, and the U.K. by Save the Children, up to 65% of the children struggled with feelings of isolation.
Children’s health and intellectual development have regressed.”
We are going to have to work very hard with our youth to manage their mental well-being.
Their conclusion finishes with a chilling understanding about why we all go along with it:
“For the general public, the idea that anyone might accept some outside incentive to support such devastating policies while knowing them to be ineffective — needlessly bankrupting millions of families and depriving millions of children of education and food — is, quite simply, too dark. Thus, the public supports lockdowns because the alternative — that they might have been implemented without good cause — is a possibility too evil for most to contemplate. But those who know history know that others with superficially excellent credentials have done even worse for even less.”
This is why it’s incumbent of us to speak up and share these facts with people still scared by a narrative that stands behind ‘back the science’ – but has failed to provide a report what that science is as this.
I am not a medical doctor. In no way am I giving medical advice – I’m a concerned citizen who researches this information to share. It’s for you to ask your doctor and make your own decision.
I posted the link to the video on Vitamin C and how anything on Facebook or YouTube related to natural remedies was hidden, suppressed, censored. Why?
Why would something cheap, easy to do, and SAVES LIVES be suppressed like this??
Sadly, the main driver looks like money. What has a more significant margin – a vaccine or a box of vitamin C?
$40 for a new vaccine that hasn’t been tested against all strains, OR
$20 for 250 doses of immune support? (a daily cost of 8c)
One is man-made – the other produced by all animals naturally as a defense mechanism. Even though we lived in the epicenter in New York for a couple months, I was never fearful. I believe in the power of our immune system – after all, ours is the product of thousands of years of evolution, tweaking, adapting, and allowing the human race to still be around.
So why isn’t there a focus on the impact lifestyle has on our immune system?
I only know about this because I benefitted from my formative years being a wasteland of infections: whooping cough, mumps (which took the last of my hearing in my left ear), tonsilitis, ear infections by the dozen, chickenpox – all cast indescribable trauma on my parents spending endless days and nights worrying about me in hospital. In a heartbreaking moment enduring another whooping cough episode, I declared, ‘I don’t want to be Andrew anymore.’ I can’t imagine what that did to my parents.
Little did I know this was my immune systems Navy SEAL training to become an elite force against infections. I haven’t had a flu shot since leaving school – and might have had flu once?
Being Careful Doesn’t Make Me “Anti”
The vaccine story becomes even trickier because there are loads of factors to evaluate the risk factor. Age bracket; Health, pre-existing conditions, diet. the current number of deaths in my age group (the US only) is 0.04% – that’s without looking at any other health factors. If you have pre-existing conditions, are worried for your health or life, or in an age bracket where you feel concerned – I genuinely hope you’re able to be vaccinated soonest and feel comforted with added protection.
Again – I’m perplexed how much emphasis has been given to vaccines as THE support for our immune systems.
I understand why masks and vaccines have become people’s savior. Our immune system is complex, and also our responsibility to manage.
Society is only as strong as our weakest link. Imagine how different this past year would’ve been if we had a healthier population? There are many reasons for disease, and I hope a spotlight is shed on the importance of food being a source of medicine for our bodies. I’ve been saddened by the lack of communication in media and government about what people can do to strengthen their immune systems.
There’s a wonderful article by Harvard Medical School with 9 simple ways to build a healthy lifestyle that supports a robust immune system. There’s no silver bullet, and it’s up to each of us to decide what a healthy lifestyle looks like and means to us.
Worst of all: fear switches off the immune system.
It’s a fascinating evolutionary development. Think of your immune system as an army; when an army is at war, they need additional food and resources to defeat an enemy. That means whatever energy we have is dedicated to the effort of defeating them. Now imagine suffering from an infection and coming across a tiger. The body recognizes the tiger is a more immediate lethal threat, thus diverting all energy resources to the flight receptors (your legs, lungs, and heart) to speedily escape!
It can’t do both.
Engaging in endless hours of fear-driven media, YouTube or T.V, listening to how many new cases and deaths is the equivalent of coming across a tiger. We’re literally cutting off our own supply chain to the army designed to defeat the enemy. That’s like living in fear of being burgled and constantly leaving your front door wide open.
What we feed our minds, is as important as what we feed our bodies.
How do we build a more engaged, conscious community?
I hope understanding the complexity of health is the start.
Becoming armed with as many facts to remove emotional bias eliminates fear-based irrational responses. Commit to listening to all sides of a discussion with an open mind – like people at The Great Barrington Declaration, which say:
As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.
Coming from both the left and right and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health – leading to more significant excess mortality in years to come. The working class and younger members of society are carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.
My dad sent me a well-constructed video by actuaries articulating all these points. This was shared by a Biz news – one of the few media outlets with this assertion: their community’s intelligence should never be underestimated and they never overestimate their knowledge on a topic.
I love that. This is essentially what this article is all about.
Right on cue – YouTube has taken down the video citing “….removed for violating Community Guidelines” – utter RUBBISH. Thankfully, PANDA has a backup so you can visit their website (Pandemic – Data & Analytics) and see what they’re doing for yourself and peek behind the curtain of the digital dystopia YouTube are busy creating through censorship.
PANDA’s response to being de-platformed is
“After half a million views, an outpouring of emotional positive responses, no complaints about veracity & 100 likes for every dislike, BizNews presentation, “The Ugly Truth about the COVID-19 Lockdowns” was de-platformed by YouTube.”
These are reputable sources providing facts and data to support their position. It’s worth taking the time to investigate them all.
The most impactful word I heard Nick Hudson use in his presentation succinctly captures the fear being generated:
Homosapienophobia – everyone is dangerous until proven healthy.
I am glad to confirm that asymptomatic (otherwise known as healthy people) cannot spread the virus.
I am not dismissing the disease or the deaths – simply that the methods being used are not based on reality and are doing severe damage. We can no longer ignore the other side of this coin.
How do we move forward?
With compassion. Towards everyone.
Share this information with as many people as possible to reduce the amount of unnecessary fear being circulated. There’s a reason for concern; yes. Concern is healthy – fear is excessive and detrimental.
Lift all Covid-19 specific restrictions and mandates
Offer protection to vulnerable individuals
End mass testing, contact tracing, quarantining, and lockdowns
Ensure public transparency of all efficacy and safety data of vaccines
Reassert open scientific debate and freedom of speech, opinion, and choice.
This will ease the pressure, but by no means relieve it.
Next, we need to ramp up how we think about building our communities again, incorporating the quality of people’s lives as a priority.
Evaluate our Health
We need to share as many podcasts and information about our micro gut biome (Dr. Zach Bush talks about it but check out his website too!) Spend time learning about how food can fuel and nourish your body to naturally assist your immunity. Watch that Vitamin C discussion!
Get Fit & Build Community at the same time.
Let’s honor the lives lost in the best possible way – and work together to build ubuntu into every act we take moving forward. I’ve created the 50in50 challenge to stay fit, challenge my mind, and build community by raising funds for education and housing – I’m nine weeks in. It has two aspects:
Recreate each American State’s outline using my sports tracker,
Climb the equivalent of every state’s elevation by the end – roughly 365 Empire State buildings, an average of nearly 2km of vertical climbing (1,2 miles) every Saturday morning.
This isn’t about how much – it’s about participating and getting support in the process. If you think the numbers above are out of reach – note that I started with 103 flights a year ago (44 minutes) creating a 12-week plan to incrementally built up my fitness, taking a further eight weeks to reach 660 flights (my current capabilities). We’re talking about building a healthy sustainable lifestyle.
It’s not about how much we do – it’s about committing to building the practice. Pledge to join whenever your state comes up (see list for each week below) while using it as a way to invite people to make investments in building communities again. No amount is too small and there’s strength in numbers, after all – for someone with nothing, our something – means everything.
All while creating a healthy lifestyle that contributes to a robust immune system.
I’m committed to demonstrating there are no quick fixes, but we can develop sustainable healthy habitats filled with purpose aligned to our true values. We can create a world where we grow and use resources to support those without hope and opportunity with a hand up. Who’s with me?
Please share with someone you know is feeling overwhelmed by everything, and if that’s you – reach out to me and let’s chat.
Context is akin to perspective – which is the ability to understand a moment in time relative to all the parts that made it possible.
Why is context important?
Context is seeing each piece of a puzzle versus simply looking at the entire picture. One of the most disingenuous things I see online is people selling ‘how to’ [insert solution here] for body, health, or wealth product usually followed by a magic number: 30 days, 3 weeks, 10 days. It’s catchy because honestly – who doesn’t want a quick fix?!
I have no problem when people share their success, as long as they’re honest about the process (each puzzle piece) and how long it took to achieve – the length of time between connecting each piece to build the puzzle (the result). It’s not about doubting whether they’ve achieved it. Success is valuable social proof it’s achievable, as long we’re honest about how that happened. It gets muddied because the effort isn’t sexy.
This is why context is both important and necessary.
What is the harm caused by misleading self-sabotage?
Without context, it’s easy to get excited about a 30-day challenge to achieve X sold by person Y. Remember the old TV commercials where muscle toned bodies used product X? ‘Just 5 minutes a day on blah blah blah will sculpt your abs!’ I guarantee that model didn’t build that body with that machine. That’s context. I can follow the program to a T and fall short – immediately defaulting to ‘what did I do wrong?’ What’s wrong with me?
Most probably nothing.
Well – not entirely – I’ve defaulted to looking for, and ultimately falling for, a quick fix. There is always a share of the blame that lies with us. Being duped into creating a false expectation lies squarely on our shoulders. If it sounds too good to be true – it usually is.
The biggest ‘secret’ the 5% used to maintain or keep it off?
They chose what their diet would be, enabling them to live a lifestyle they can maintain.
So simple – but when has simple ever been easy? Side note here – what we eat is more complex than simply losing weight; not all food is equal; some act as assets giving us energy and nutrients to fight disease medicine – while others act as liabilities slowing our system down and, if abused – harming them.
There’s no magical pill. No one diet, although there are tons to choose from – veganism, carnivore, keto, paleo, Atkins…. It’s endless… yet the long-term studies show that it’s not the diet defining the weight loss – it’s adherence.
This is a great example to show why focusing on the result versus the process can lead to negative thoughts about our lack of willpower or how we self-sabotage our progress. If we have unrealistic expectations, our lack of results in a certain time frame will aid our self-sabotage.
Up till now, context has been used as an external evaluation tool, but now let’s switch that inwards. Let’s get real here for a second – if I have zero value on being healthy, whatever diet I start or exercise I begin – I’m going to land up in that 95% pile, clearly – because 95% tells the story.
The good news is I can become more educated about how the 5% keep their weight off, like how the 1% generate tremendous wealth. The better my understanding of their actions linked to values, the greater my chance to build sustainable habits.
It’s why I build context into my talks when speaking to others about my world record attempt. My health and fitness is built on 22 years of experience. I’m sad to say I didn’t start with the right motivation. As a shy, insecure teenager – I started training at the gym because my internal dialogue was ‘A girl would only be interested in me if I had a great body.’ How’s that for low self-esteem? Mercifully, working at a retail store covered in pimples forced me to talk to the public and build relationships with my co-workers; and that bubble popped.
This is an example of having the wrong motivation with the right outcome! I’m grateful this happened so young. I did love playing sport all through school, which gave me a taste of being fit. Gym kept me linked to that world after school, and I’ve been training ever since. When I lived in Cape Town, the outdoor life is what excited me the most. Hiking in the mountains on a clear winter’s day after rain gets my juices flowing – even as I type that! I don’t need extra incentives to get out and enjoy nature, it’s my soul food. Thus exercise became intricately tied to the value of being outdoors. I’ve now since linked it to two core values: self-development (answering the question ‘what am I capable of’) and using my capabilities in service to raise money for housing and education.
These powerful values bring me immense joy and gratitude for the body I was gifted at birth. After 22 years, I’ve experienced the ebb and flow of training hard, followed by lull periods (usually the cold dark rainy winters in Cape Town). Still, I have always managed to get back into it. My major puzzle pieces are:
By training naturally at the gym (no steroids or other enhancers), my muscle memory helps me return quickly – and I know that.
No matter how long the lull, three weeks back is all it takes to feel an increase in energy levels throughout the day – that feeling of optimizing my body is ingrained.
I was never a morning person – but training in the morning gives me more energy for the rest of the day, and I feed my body. I’ve felt the physical difference testing out different times, and mentally having that achievement done and dusted instead of hanging over my head.
It hasn’t all been gym work and hiking, I also enjoyed nine years of playing touch rugby league every Wednesday night; I loooooved trail running for two years before my injury; promenade walks in Sea Point and New York; road cycling for eight years (thanks to living in Cape Town with incredible scenery and the worlds largest timed cycle race in the world as an incentive for training). These are important puzzle pieces to build the full picture of how I climbed a mountain every day for a year.
I bet you’re thinking – so what does this have to do with me?
Building context reveals the small changes needed to build sustainable practices
Simon Sinek talks about understanding ‘your why’ in business, and as an individual, I speak about linking goals to values. The better we understand ourselves and be brutally honest – the greater our chance of building sustainable practices. Deep down, you know what brings you fulfillment – but there’s a wonderful tool from Dr. Demartini that can help you determine your values today (values are a fluid concept.) I’ve used that in conjunction with a numerology report to understand why I feel so passionately about certain things and not others. If you’d like an evaluation send me an email. No matter what – there’s help to begin your journey to understand who you are.
Brutally honest means unpacking why something is important and whether it’s my dream or planted by someone else (maybe even society). To see if it’s ours, we can distill any goal by asking: ‘is this helping me with my mission in life?’
No? Then that’s why you’re feeling resistance and possibly exhibiting symptoms of self-sabotage like procrastination, substance abuse, or negative self-talk in pursuit of your goal.
I remember my accountancy lecturer telling my mom I was lazy. Did she know I hadn’t taken accountancy at school? Did she know I was an A student in maths? Did she know I am the type of person that needs to understand how something works – the principle – by having things explained in detail?
Thankfully, my mom knows me well enough not to judge me based on this assessment. Instead, we came up with a plan to do introductory self-paced courses going over the basics in six months. I went back the second year and passed. This experience showed me accountancy wasn’t for me. More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson around the word lazy – so often attributed to children.
We are incredibly diverse as a species. Think about how many facets shape us:
Our bodies and how they function;
Where we are born;
Our greater family;
The schools we go to;
What inspires us;
What we love doing;
Our education (inside school and outside)
Where we get our worldly information;
Opportunities along our path;
Our exposure to different opinions;
And we keep searching for ‘the one thing’, a template to follow for happiness, fulfillment, success, and health.
I can understand why wealthy people with money as their success metric end up unhappy. We can follow a formula laid down by someone successful – but without their motivation, how can we possibly expect to feel the same sense of fulfillment? Or be surprised when we don’t feel the satisfaction they do? Imagine trying to bake a chocolate cake with ingredients meant for a soufflé?
Fulfillment comes from satisfying our soul, not our senses.
I’ve been on a loooooooooooooooooong journey to understand this. When I climbed Table Mountain, I lived 100% according to my values, ignoring the outside world’s commentary. The noise deafens our soul’s words whispering to us gently, which is why I now understand the value in sitting in silence – meditating. It gives me the chance to embrace the void, where inspiration, creativity, and ideas to excite us are born. The irony is we believe we must work harder, longer hours to reach our goal.
That’s like running faster and faster on a treadmill wondering why the goal in front of us never arrives.
I often battle internally about where I am – versus where I believe I should be. I’m falling for the puzzle picture versus looking at each piece that created it. That generates anguish. It’s been my unease about teaching goal setting. While working on a goal-setting course, I realized that the most important element of setting attainable goals is a deep understanding of who I am and what I want.
That idea from the void set my soul on fire. It was as if a star ignited inside, unleashing unlimited energy within me. Sure I can break down howI executed that idea to make it a reality. Still, I didn’t consciously choose to climb every day – that gift came neatly wrapped up in an idea perfectly expressed in a sentence of eight words. If anything, the first step in goal setting should be learning to sit in silence.
The irony about self-development is that the journey isn’t about discovering anything – it just uncovers what’s already inside us all along. We currently have it all backwards. We’re more concerned with goals giving us something, than realizing it’s what we give that builds the foundation of achieving our goal.
So what next?
I hope you can see the value in developing a curiosity to understand the context of something before comparing yourself to others? A journey by definition requires action – which means movement, which involves taking a step. May I suggest your next step be putting this into practice? I know the more significant the inspired effort, the greater the corresponding result.
Here’s a suggested step by step guide to understanding how to build context into your life to unpack your goals and, who knows, maybe even uncover what sets your soul on fire:
Context requires effort and research. Sit with this word and what you’ve read above. Take some time to digest it, and then write your thoughts on what resonates and what doesn’t.
Articulate why you feel that way on each point. If you’re reading this, I’m 99% sure you have an internal drive to discover what you can become.
What comes naturally to you? List them and goals associated with them.
What fills your days and thoughts? If I asked, you could talk at length on? List them and correlate with the above.
Now think about all the times you’ve beaten yourself up for not achieving a goal. Was that goal important to you? If so – did you dissect reasons preventing you from persevering? Was it simply because you gave up?
Did you understand the context of what was required to make it a reality?
Do you look at this post as a puzzle piece or the full picture? (I hope you answer puzzle piece!)
Do you follow people that share how long they took to achieve what they did?
Are you prepared to be in it for the long haul? Or want a quick fix?
I’m deeply committed to teaching others the benefits of pursuing their highest values because I’ve experienced how fulfilling it is and know the value it brings all of us if we do this. I have zero doubt about the purpose of what I share – whether in my writing, speaking, advising, or workshops – it’s to empower others to find their puzzle pieces – not follow others. Would you go on a treasure hunt and be happy there’s no treasure left after following someone else’s map?
The most exciting moment of my life always happens when I get a new piece of the puzzle – and take the first step on that path. I’m no longer constantly plagued by the anguish (it still pops up) that comes from trying to build my puzzle with someone else’s pieces. I still battle self-sabotage – but I’m kinder with myself as I master these ideas and keep pursuing what feels right, even in the face of steep ridicule or opposition.
Will you take the next step on your journey to living your purpose?
We’ve all been there. A colleague. A friend. Maybe even a family member – espouse something different to what we think. It’s a challenge. In the past I’ve been guilty of dismissing them as stupid or ignorant.
The last few years have shown me, it was I that was stupid and ignorant.
Mainly because I’ve been able to correlate what I see with what I do, instead of pretending that what I see is simply an observation of the outside world.
To recognize something in another – is impossible to do without having that trait. Not something I want to admit. Truth is, I have the capacity to be a bigot, a misogynist, a racist in any given moment. We all do. We’re human. Does it define who I am or how I behave every day? Definitely not! But to sit here and pretend I can’t be any of those is disingenuous and defeats the purpose of the title of this article.
A good place to start is embracing that no one is morally superior to anyone. Ever.
It’s a complex world. Even siblings growing up in the same household with similar experiences can turn out drastically different. I’ve softened my approach by asking the question ‘If I was born elsewhere in the world, would I still believe this?’
Religion is the easiest example to use here. A Christian may have views about Hindus, but would they hold that same view if they were born in India – would they still be Christian? Sadly, my subconscious reaction is usually to justify my position is the right one.
Maybe it’s related to the reason most of us avoid change: It’s hard.
Is it solvable?
I love solving problems and to solve one, I must understand it.
While news media and social platforms tell us how divided and polarized we are, a recent Harvard Study showed “80% of Americans are “happy” to engage in conversations with those with opposing views in the future if the conditions are right”
Whew… that’s a huge relief. If that figure were under 50%, I’d be worried.
It’s pretty tough to solve issues if half the population won’t even engage with you. Mercifully, that’s not the barrier – so what is?
No one would falter him for avoiding an overtly racist and anti-Semitic group, yet he chose the opposite. He uncomfortably engaged them using deeper questions with the intention to understand them. Conversation was his weapon, and he’s since assisted about 200 Klan members to leave.
I love that.
‘They come to their own conclusion’
That’s how we create long lasting change. Shaming someone into action creates acting. Inspiring someone into action creates change – Daryl exemplifies this to a T.
If a black man can sit with a Klan member – I can sit with anyone with an opposing view to mine.
How can we implement this?
Some intellectual humility on my part is a good start. Next, instead of allowing knee-jerk reactions to dominate my decision making, I ask questions like ‘how much more information could there be?’ The recent decommissioning of Dr Seuss books is a great example.
My first reaction was disdain for rampant cancel culture and wokeism once again going too far. Thing is – my reaction was based purely off a headline. I had no idea if this decision was an internal one – or external pressure. If it was one book – or all or all of them. I didn’t even know the reason why.
I have a long way to go to override my subconscious rampaging elephant, but one falter isn’t a reason to give up trying.
Writing this helps me see how valuable this test was to recognize how quickly it happens and how to catch myself. I now know it’s only six books that won’t be reprinted and it was Dr Seuss Enterprises decision.
My initial reaction was wrong. Ouch. Owning up to mistakes and being wrong is hard – but it’s a great ally in becoming a better human and growing.
Thankfully, I recently heard Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist based in New York, interviewed about Can a divided America heal. Besides insightful, it introduced me to their free resource OpenMind, helping people overcome bias. It was illuminating to hear why it’s easier to witness bias around me or in others, than it is within myself.
OpenMind’s program, as their website says, is “A scalable, evidence-based approach to constructive dialogue. Our learning tools equip people with the mindset and skillset to communicate constructively across differences.”
The perfect tool to build our skills. This is akin to climbing up a treacherous mountain for the first time. I can do it alone and get lost and frustrated, or use a professional guide to take me and save time – and make every step enjoyable and prevent me from giving up.
I’ve just completed the individuals course which I cannot recommend enough! OpenMind also has courses for Academics, Workplace, and Community & religious organizations. There are eight sections of 30 minutes each as well as four 45-minute interactions to practice discussions with a partner.
As Daryl says, there’s a difference between being stupid and ignorant – and by understanding my own bias I can certainly change my interactions by bringing curiosity back into subjects I have little knowledge. Let’s be honest, with our access to all information from all over the world all the time, we’re bound to have some disagreements with friends and family.
We have an information surplus, but a lack of wisdom. Experts like Jonathan guide our journey to become more compassionate communicators across differing backgrounds, beliefs, and values.
Here’s the outline of their course:
No matter how polarizing the topic – I believe there is always common ground to understand one another’s position and be more compassionate with a view different to mine. We won’t agree on everything and that’s okay – there are tools available to empower ourselves for these situations.
The important thing is to focus on what is the end result we ultimately want?
For example, can we all agree that every child should be taught to read and be educated? Great! Let’s focus on how we make that possible, instead of getting stuck in disagreements about the cause of the problem. It’s certainly important to recognize mistakes so as not to repeat them – but collaborating on how to achieve this, is the best way forward to maximize efficient use of resources.
If we get stuck, a great question to ask is ‘would the children and parents care about this topic?’ – if the answer is ‘no’ – we’ve strayed off the purpose and objective we’re pursuing. Is this discussion serving the purpose of our shared objective?
And the better I become at this? The better I communicate with others; the more I break the cycle of automatic responses and build a bridge with compassion and understanding.
I hope you’ll take that next step on this continuous journey with me, and share this with someone you think will benefit.
As the year you explored ubuntu? As the year you created a healthy relationship with exercise? As a year you changed a child’s life by helping them learn to read? By changing someone’s life currently living in a shack? By Changing a communities capability to teach their children by building a school?
These are all possible.
It’s been quite an overwhelming year. I don’t know about you – but the sheer scale of death and economic hardship being experienced sometimes feels insurmountable.
And then I’m reminded about my challenge 3 years ago that 99.9% thought was insurmountable: Climbing a mountain every day for a year. With ‘Ubuntu’ as my guiding principle to create a more compassionate world – 744 people of all fitness levels joined me pushing their own capabilities in the process, and together we fundraised almost R1 million building a home for orphaned and vulnerable children; providing 12 of the poorest primary schools with literacy aids teaching children to read; and created 60 new donors with the Sunflower Fund to help them save lives.
My greatest lesson that year was what we can accomplish when we work together. It’s in that spirit that I have another challenge for us.
It’s called ‘50in50’.
Each week the challenge is to create the outline of each state in America tracking a walk/run/cycle across 50 Saturdays – and you can join! I don’t expect you to do it to scale! (Unless you’re Ryan Sands or Rich Roll in which case crack on) The outlines are the tricky parts as you’ll see below. I’ve decided to start this challenge on the 50th day of the year: 19th February 2021.
50 weeks may sound like a big commitment – but in reality the challenge isn’t about long we commit to something. The challenge is what we do today.
While the pandemic continues to affect the lives of so many, the importance of being healthy, having a bigger purpose to focus our energy on, and supporting each other in the process has never been more apparent. The aim is to build a community around what we can do & control our inputs even while external forces continually change and challenge us. We’re all in the same storm – we just using different boats. The way I see it, if you have space in your life raft, pulling one person in changes their life. This time I’ll be asking people to donate $50 aiding companies already doing great work to build our communities and make them stronger.
Where do these Ideas come from?
This inspiration is thanks to my friend Stephan Pieterse. His charity fundraiser, a biennial event ‘The Gratitude Run’, was hosted virtually instead of at their usual venue Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West. This gave me an opportunity to participate in New York, even though it’s 12 525km away. One of the 4 categories was ‘creative’ – so using my sports tracker to create a picture, I tried to create a heart with D4D in the middle (Their charity is called ‘Distance 4 Difference’). I shared this map with our friend here in New York and she exclaimed, “Oh that looks like the map of Ohio!”
Those 8 words made me ponder the fact there are 50 states – and two days later the question ‘what if I created an outline of each state?’ inspired my next ubuntu challenge. I’ve added another element just for some fun to see if I can climb the elevation gain of each state across the 50 weeks –a mere 93 967,7m or the equivalent of climbing the Empire State Building 365 times (No I won’t be climbing it every day, unless you have a contact for me to chat to about this??)
The best part about this challenge is just as you can join me from wherever you are – I can still complete my weeks challenge if I travel.
I’ll be going in order of each states ratifying the constitution of the union – starting with Delaware. Fun Fact: It’s the home state of the current sitting president Joe Biden (46th) and he’s the first president to be elected from this state. It got its name in 1610, after the first governor of Virginia, Sir Thomas West, Lord De La Warr.
Building Purpose into Each Step
The charities supported by the donations you can choose from are:
Habitat for Humanity (RSA or East Bay and Silicon Valley area) – building homes.
One Heart for Kids (RSA or New York) – building literacy.
Pencils of Promise (Africa or New York) – building schools.
50in50 isn’t just building community to support one another through unprecedented times, it’s building our discipline; our commitment to helping others; compassion for others circumstances; and last but certainly not least – a healthy habit that contributes to a strong immune system.
This challenge is for you IF:
You’re tired of making New years resolutions about health and/or exercise that evaporate by Valentines day.
You haven’t been severely affected financially by the pandemic and wish to help others out of their hole.
Want to use 2021 to create a milestone in your life of positive change.
Not only will it be fun to recreate each states map, but we’ll forever be changing the course of another human beings’ life. That’s priceless. I’ll be working closely with each charity to provide you with interesting facts about what your impact means to children finally getting a safe building to learn in; learning to read; or own their first home that has running water and their own toilet.
Rabbi Tarfon who lived almost 2000 years ago around 73CE said, ‘You are not obliged to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.’ Covid has certainly shown me how we’re only as strong as our weakest link, and why it’s important to do what I can to empower others.
Understanding the essence of Ubuntu means working on two sides of the same coin: personal development & working together for the betterment of mankind. I Changed my definition of how to measure success to support this; to borrow Nelson Mandela’s words:
A beautiful part about this challenge is that, just like climbing a mountain, we all arrive at different levels of fitness – BUT – with consistency and perseverance we can track our progress as we travel through the various states creating our own United States of America.
There’s always strength in numbers so these are the ways to get involved and help:
You can pick a cause and donate.
Take part yourself and donate what you can (R50 or $50 a month is great!)
Take part and invite 1 other friend to join as an accountability partner.
Join and create your own team to represent your own state/city and see if you can finish top of the leader board.
Think of people who are looking for a supportive community to build a healthier lifestyle and/or want to empower others and share this with them.
I’ll finish how I started: how would you like to look back on 2021?
Anythings possible. I hope you’ll join me in making 2021 a year to remember (for all the right reasons!)
Covids new world has forced me to go within. Usually when I’m faced with uncertainty my first instinct is to examine my past and explore learning’s that helped me get to where I am. I’m accustomed to sitting at the feet of my most painful moments and learn.
“Never” immediately jumps out at me. I’ve had three massive ‘nevers’ that all turned into life altering experiences.
I’m NEVER going to live in London…I’m NEVER going to live in Cape Town…I’m absolutely NEVER going to live in the USA…
The universe heard me and yelled ‘hold my beer’.
The very things I denounced – wrote off even – became my greatest teachers, ushering in a host of memories to last lifetimes.
These 3 ‘nevers’ have become core pillars in my life creating memories spanning 17 years. Things I never dreamed possible as a teenager; each one of them (if given the chance) would do again in a heartbeat.
Maybe you’re currently being poked with opportunities but ‘never’ is holding you back? Maybe this will help you rethink it.
Why would I want to leave South Africa’s perfect climate to live somewhere grey and miserable? I had zero desire to be like my cousins living in the UK, even though my gran is English giving me the opportunity to get an ancestral visa to live and work there for 5 years. My ‘never’ was based on limited knowledge – and yet I fiercely defended that I’d hate it.
Then my sister met Terence and I listened to his stories, in particular his travels around Europe.
Hmmmm – I did want to see Europe and earning £ not only trumps the Rand, but shaves 10 hours off a flight too!
Early in 2003 two months changed it all, I met a woman ‘fresh off the boat’ from the UK reinforcing Terence’s positive experiences immediately followed by my friend Jono deciding to move to London.
‘Why don’t you come across when you finish your degree? What do you have to lose?’
What did I have to lose?
This called for a weekend away in Mpumalanga driving four and a half hours to spend one night in an old train cabin. I loved long drives alone contemplating ‘the big life decisions’ of a 23 year old like this. The gorgeous scenery and music the perfect companions. Just quiet opportunity to experience my emotional reaction to this decision. Driving home I was leaning towards taking the leap, and the longer I thought about it my excitement grew.
‘I’m moving to London’
My two years not only turned me into a man, it built a bridge across the chasm ‘what if’ for all future instances.
‘Cape Town is where you go when you retire!’ I proclaimed nonchalantly.
Spoken like a true Joburger with zero experience of Cape Town. I lie – I spent a week there as a 10 year old. Fate introduced me to a woman from Cape Town while living in London. Suddenly it looked a whole lot more interesting than a retirement option. I didn’t want to be 80 years old in a rocking chair wondering ‘what if’… so once again I abandoned my ‘never’.
While that relationship ended painfully, the experience in a city with hardly any support revealed my inner strength and resilience.
13 years showed the value patience and time brings. Especially in building quality networks of friends. Cape Town is my spiritual home – with mountains, water and plenty of wine it has everything but skiing to be my perfect place on earth. Living in London made me think about what lifestyle I wanted to live. I thought I’d found it.
The iconic Table Mountain provided a life changing opportunity – it sparked an idea to become the first person to climb it every day for a year: testing me physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually. It also became a platform to raise money and awareness for housing, literacy and health. This experience became everything I needed to confront my self-doubt and understand what I’m capable of – all while creating a community around making a difference in others lives.
Cape Town taught me how to be patient while relentlessly creating a world of purpose and meaning, while in service to others – the essence of ‘Ubuntu’.
AND it led me to another treasure – my wife.
Having visited the US in 2013 for my dear friend’s wedding, I was able to tick my 3rd ‘must see’ city before I die: New York. (the others were Paris & Rome)
On this trip, while enamoured, felt no pull to ever emigrate to the US.
Enter Jessie in 2017 (then living in San Francisco) and after hitting it off, experienced her support for my climbs up Table Mountain all year (including 3 trips out totaling 2 months in South Africa) – learned first hand what her definition of commitment means through difficult times. It’s like voting between a politician that talks about what they’ll do – versus watching one with their sleeves rolled up doing what they say they’ll do.
Being in San Francisco with her and having opportunities to explore this incredible land has been mind blowing. Now we live in New York, with more opportunities to build networks to teach the power of ubuntu and the impact of following our intuition.
The US has shown me how global our village truly is, and that no matter our background – we all need help learning to navigate the challenges of life.
Why is ‘Never’ my most interesting teacher?
Never was a word I hid behind to avoid leaving my comfort zone.
17 years of memories and experiences from travel, friendships, work, personal growth, exercise, music, weather, world records, love, food, perspective, and cultures wouldn’t have happened by staying within my safety zone back in Johannesburg.
Never showed me what seems bad today, might be exactly what I need for beauty tomorrow.
I’ve stopped looking at things in isolation and search for the lessons instead. There are opportunities I cannot even fathom yet by being in New York – pandemic and lockdown aside – just being here creates avenues of potential I could only read about back in Cape Town.
Never has shown me the value in being present in my experience, but forward thinking enough to explore my challenge at a deeper level.
In a nutshell – behind ‘Never’ stands some of the greatest experiences of my life. If I listened to those nevers? I wouldn’t be the man I am today.
Those 17 years being pushed have taught me how much we need each other. I haven’t been able to accomplish anything without the support of others. Not everyone has the tools for deep introspection to really understand what drives them – and that’s why I’m grateful I studied numerology to provide those insights. It’s not the be all and end all; but from personal experience its acted as a tremendous rudder.
I interestingly came across this realisation from Rebel Wisdom in the UK on their website – We have to do the work ourselves, but we don’t have to do it alone.
They’ve arrived at their own version of an African proverb if you want to fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
That’s Ubuntu right there.
No matter how much we think we progress, we keep coming back to ancient principles of togetherness. And that’s my next challenge: building a community of support. As we each journey inward re-imagining a new vision for our lives discovering what we’re capable of, we become living examples on how best to navigate the outside world in harmony with the planet – and each other.
Are you ready to discover what you’re made of? Why not start the conversation with the first person that comes to mind…
2021 is upon us and – no doubt – many think it hasn’t arrived soon enough.
I can’t even begin to imagine what you’ve been through in 2020. My friend Astrid said it best; ‘We’re all in the same storm, we just have different boats’. Sums it up perfectly.
The new year brings with it optimism for new opportunities. A whopping 74% of Americans made resolutions. No surprise after the year we’ve had, 45.59% of the resolutions are improving health; while family as a category makes its debut with 24.7% (I also suspect due to the year we’ve had). I highly recommend reading Catherine Choi’s full article here which breaks down:
Resolutions by generations
Likelihood they’ll be achieved (broken down by segments above)
Reasons for not achieving them.
It’s a great summary.
A dose of Reality
On average, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. And only 8% will achieve them (Ref: www.thetimestribune.com)
So why is this still a thing?
I believe because we’ve been lied to. We’re told setting lofty goals is what will ‘change our lives’ (as if we need to wait until the new year starts too, to make that happen)
Stop waiting for a new year. Stop waiting for next week. Stop waiting for a better time.
Just. Stop. Waiting.
Without creating a clear understanding of what to do today, most attempts fail because the end point is made out to be the most important.
I’ll be happy when…. I’ll be successful when… I’ll be healthy when….(feel free to insert your relevant health, relationship, career, money, exercise goals appropriately)
My most valuable lesson learned while becoming the first person to climb Table Mountain every single day for a year:
The process ISthe goal. Fall in love with the process, and you’ll enjoy the process as much as reaching your goal.
If the goal is to lose weight – falling in love with a healthy lifestyle will create that as a natural by-product. Much like plants don’t aim to make oxygen – they just want to grow using their inputs sunshine, water and carbon dioxide.
Practical steps to turn NY resolutions into Daily actions
Firstly, one of the most debilitating ruts – is being sucked in by technology. I think we can all agree the lock-downs have worsened this. Whether endless scrolling on social media or binging Netflix and YouTube videos, we’re left feeling unsatisfied and drained. The scary thing is we’ve been purposefully sucked in by companies competing for our attention because we’ve become the commodity. One of the greatest gifts I’ve given myself is learning how to use my phone – instead of it using me.
Becoming intentional means knowing what my problem is and who can solve my problem – that’s where NourishX’s Digital Balanceonline course comes in. Taking me through a step-by-step approach highlighting what the issues are (most of which I didn’t even realise!) and then providing simple solutions to take back control of my phone and ultimately my time – is a game changer. It’s helping me build healthy habits to lose that sinking feeling in my stomach about not having enough hours in the day. Instead of distracted I now feel nourished.
One of their greatest tools is how they work with me to build the habit gradually, which brings me to the next important point:
Sustainability. If one word sticks out in this piece, I hope that’s it. Defined as being able to maintain at a certain rate or level.
Therein lies the key: maintain.
Designing a lifestyle that fulfills you and leaves you energised and full of purpose each day is the goal yes? By focusing on what we love and wish we did more of, will naturally improve how we feel.
Losing weight has a finite point; but then what? That is an infinite challenge, which explains how you can reach it and still be unhappy (or not as happy as you’d hoped) and then what? Step 1 is making sure we match an infinite challenge (mindset) with an infinite approach (actions).
It’s a simple concept. But who ever said simple was easy? Step 2 is having the awareness and deep introspection to understand what drives and engages us to pursue infinite actions. Another reality dose: Even when you know exactly what you love doing and pursue it – there will be challenges and it’s hard.
It’s why falling in love with the process is critical. Mindset trick: To keep that internal flame burning infinitely, start seeing challenges as fuel for the fire, instead of an anchor.
Create your perfect day which is sustainable as you move through life and grow. Building discipline with sustainable habits means you can progressively increase your effort.
Some questions I constantly use to help me:
What am I capable of?
What am I made of?
What are my philosophies that act as my guiding principles?
When do I want to be filled with joy, now or sometime in the future?
What did I learn from my last challenge?
Our life is a journey – fall in love with exploring your process today.
Final reality check: if you thought the answer to your problems lay at the end of this post, NOPE, this is the first step in building your awareness. Now you need to decide what lifestyle you want and start actively pursuing it every day injecting purpose into your actions and being relentless in your execution.
Take today to reflect on all the challenges you’ve overcome to make it this far. Doesn’t that fill you with pride? That same strength exists to tackle what sets your soul on fire. Now is the time to pursue that with passion and relentless energy.
Do you need help creating what that looks like? Reach out to me here and let’s chat.
Boy does it feel like we’re far away from that; in the most polarised time in human history. Mainstream news and social media certainly fan these flames like the Santa Ana winds in California. But is that the truth?
Or are we doing a fabulous job of shining the spotlight on the minority of people that hold extreme views?
I think the latter. And not without reason.
If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma yet – I highly suggest you do. In a nutshell, it’s a sobering watch revealing the ‘dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations’.
It deepened my gratitude for switching off all their notifications popping up on my phone. That was back in the day when you’d get notified about some random person poking you, never mind an arbitrary post about their meal. Trying my best to cultivate a better relationship with my phone I switched off email notifications too. Still, its a work in progress, my screen time today is 5 hours 35 minutes with 36 pickups.
Besides actively trying to disconnect from the rubbish shovelled out daily by Facebook, Instagram, Google and mass media – I just returned from an epic 88 day cross country road trip with my beloved.
Initially an escape from New York’s four-month lockdown, it became a test, in real time, of what the mainstream narrative was. Opportunities presented themselves while on the road, so we turned one month into three. We love exploring, and with National Parks open the added bonus of spending healing time in nature made it an easy decision.
I don’t believe we’ll ever have an opportunity like that again.
2020’s been a rough year. Between Covid-19, the protests and now elections in a country reportedly so divided – surely some of our interactions across 31 States covering 21 000km would expose us to this vitriol, hatred, and bitterness?
It was the complete opposite.
I know it’s just one couples experience, but all we felt was warmth, connection, and open-hearted conversations. During a time where everyone’s on high alert thanks to covid – if EVER people had reason to demonstrate these negative characteristics with their mask off, it would be now (No not that mask – the kind people use to hide who they really are!)
Covid-19 is serious. Friends and family members have had it, thankfully with no deaths yet. Some friends haven’t been as lucky, losing loved ones. A father, a gran, an aunt. The pain and heartbreak exacerbated as early travel restrictions hampered grieving with remaining family members. Understandably, they support lockdowns.
Conversely I have other friends that lost their jobs, their livelihood through no fault of their own. ‘Punished’ for pursuing their passion in an industry like tourism. A natural response is a desire for things to open back up again to ease more pain being suffered by families struggling to put food in their children’s mouth.
They’re both right.
Unfortunately, this has been politicised with people in each camp vehemently defending their position; and accusing the others of insensitivity and stupidity.
I get it. I often see my desire to be right and defend my beliefs believing them to be true. I recognise now it’s more accurate to say that too, is a work in progress. My brain likes things to be neatly organised into boxes. Scenario P fits in this box which dictates response X. In an ideal world – great. In the real world: impractical.
We don’t live in silos, rather a world interwoven where decisions ripple across the entire pond.
Both experiences are real with genuine pain and suffering. That’s what makes this situation delicate. It’s pointless arguing who’s ‘more’ right. Instead, we’re better off understanding they’re both valid and a better question to answer is: how do we integrate both parties into a solution going forward?
If I look at decisions through one lens its easy to miss the possible ramifications elsewhere. I can choose to eat poorly now – but without the proper nutrients I starve my body of the tools to do what it does best: repair, grow and defend.
This trip gave me the opportunity to think. Covid created a massive pause for all of us. Being on the road showed me how multiple realities exist at the same time. Communicating from one perspective and ignoring another drives a wedge between us.
My clearest takeaway from all of this, is that the day we stop trying to enforce who’s right, and focus on collaboration – we might see how decisions effect people notin our position. Maybe we’ll think about prevention? It blows my mind how much money was generated out of thin air for the much needed stimulus package – but not done to create an education system that gives everyone an equal opportunity to create their own lives.
Instead of politicising Covid and trying to argue who’s right – why not recognise they both are? Where’s the leadership to put peoples lives ahead of a point of view? Where’s the leadership to respectfully tell us they don’t know 100% what this virus is doing? Where’s the humanity to build bridges of respect for each other’s position and cultivate an understanding that not everyone is being affected in the same way?
It’s a complex world we live in. We’re seeing how connected we all are and that decisions made don’t happen in isolation. Nor do they affect everyone in the same way.
As individuals we have a responsibility to understand all positions instead of vilifying any stance that’s contrary to our own. It takes more work to ‘fact check’ things as it’s called – but isn’t a family members life worth taking the time to understand nuance and the complexity of our world?
I don’t want to discount another person’s opinion that could save my family’s life – just because it comes from someone that doesn’t hold all my beliefs.
What am I doing to commit to a world that benefits others, the planet, AND myself?
Earth is the greatest home we could ask for. I knew that before the road trip – but sitting in silence as the sun and wind danced in Monument valley stirred my soul and reminded me: This is our HOME and We all deserve a chance to enjoy her beauty.
Multiple realities are true without diminishing each others importance, in the same way multiple species co-exist in harmony in nature.
Question is: what will it take to celebrate our differences and collaborate for everyone’s benefit?
Let’s start with love and compassion, and an intention to understand the position of someone who thinks differently to us. Lets follow natures lead.
A gift from self-doubt? I hear you ask suspiciously. I know! Who knew right?! If you’re like me, then you’ve probably been plagued by self-doubt in your life. That’s 40 years’ worth of struggle for me. Frankly, I’m over it.
Let me take you through the events that unlocked it for me.
Self-Doubt’s icy grip
Self-doubt’s frustrating. I get a great idea, only for that little gremlin to arrive and keep poking me, “Are you sure you want to do that?”
It doesn’t take long for it to call back-up: its wicked stepmother fear.
Fear’s that dark room with a supposed grizzly monster waiting to do unthinkable things to me.
But when has that ever happened??? The worst parts I mean. I’m still here. I haven’t lost any limbs to monster fear activity.
It makes sense that my DNA is encoded with the fight or flight response to being outside of my comfort zone. In the stone age being alive meant what I was doing was working – and stepping out the cave jeopardised that.
No matter how many times I rationalise this though, it doesn’t stop self-doubt from creeping in. Ever.
So, what can I do??
Unlocking the gift
There is hope. I recently enforced an 11 day ‘silent retreat’ while on our stay home order in New York. This was the result of attending NourishX’s ‘digital balance’ course and seeing how much I use my phone each day and how quickly that time becomes a full month out of the year. Throw in a bombardment of news from every angle about COVID-19 and quite frankly, I’d had enough.
I needed a mental break away from the barrage of fear being pushed into the world.
It was exactly what I needed.
The break gave my mind the freedom to explore ideas like self-doubt from a place of love without distraction, to analyse it’s recurring role in my movie.
It was only on the Tenth evening that I wrote this epiphany in my reflections before bed:
‘We can’t remove self-doubt – it’s ALWAYS going to nag us – like our moms to pick our clothes up off the floor. They only stop nagging when we take action and pick up the clothes! It’s not the self-doubt (nagging mom) that’s the problem, it’s the inaction that is’
Jesus only took 40 days in the dessert. I took 40 years…
Jokes aside, I’m incredibly grateful to understand this at such a young age.
I re-framed my understanding of self-doubt and realised it’s not something to overcome: it’s a guide, a neon sign shining ‘THIS WAY’.
How crazy is that???
Fear and self-doubt are actually here to show me the way.
That’s their gift – they confirm I’m on the right path.
What I love about this revelation, is it reinforces all the ancient wisdom around flowing with life, not forcing it.
Think about it. Who ‘wins’ in any battle?
Good versus evil. Man versus woman. Beach versus ocean.
Self-doubt isn’t something to overcome – but rather understand and use.
Instead of succumbing to it, I’m learning to pause and reflect realising:
The bigger the doubt, the greater the growth waiting on the other side of taking action.
It’s about the Journey
Since my teenage years, I strive to improve, grow and learn. I was aiming for a specific point I was supposed to reach before serving others.
The question at the center was always ‘why am I here?’
That’s a pretty broad (never mind daunting) question, implying something to reach waaaaaaaay in the distance.
It was only while climbing the stairs in our building training for my next challenge that I had a better question enter my head:
‘What am I made of?’
I tell you, it was like fireworks went off in my brain! Such a simple question to constantly push me to do my best now. Whatever I learn, will be carried into my next challenge I create to face; or the bigger ones like a world-wide shutdown.
This was first taught to me climbing Table Mountain every day for a year and I’m happy to report – the lessons were learned! I know this because my gratitude and enjoyment happened every day – and not when I completed it. It happened along the entire path – and not just at the top.
This taught me why someone can experience depression or a lack of fulfillment when completing a goal.
The goal doesn’t bring fulfillment, appreciating the growth along the way does.
I have a bonus secret to share:
Whatever idea you have that sets your soul on fire? Everything you need to achieve it is already inside you. It won’t magically be given to you once you complete it, as though a queen appears to knight you.
I’m picking the clothes up off the floor now without being shouted at.
I hope you do too.
If you want more information on the Digital Balance Course click HERE
Almost half the worlds population is under some form of ‘stay at home’ order. By definition, anytime we’re ‘forced’ to do something, it’s harder than if we’d chosen it. We do have a secret weapon though to defeat any obstacle in our path: the ability to learn.
Why not learn from the best then? Listening to an interview with retired Navy Seal Andy Stumpf recently, he shared some insights into Navy Seal training new to me. As trainee and trainer, he’s uniquely positioned to understand what it takes to make it through.
Navy Seal training or BUDs (Basic Underwater Demolition) is some of the most grueling in the world – it’s difficult to find definitive numbers but it looks like only 6% of men that enter this training complete it. Considering there’s only about a 3% difference in physical capabilities, there’s clearly something else that separates those that complete the training – from those that drop out.
I’m immediately drawn in by his humility as, while trying to make sense of the corona situation, he states:
‘I’m not an expert at all, uh – probably on anything in my life. But one thing I have experience in, is surviving and thriving in high risk situations with high stress… the most dangerous thing you can do, is lose control of your emotions or let your emotions take over your decision making cycle’
‘We need to start talking about we more than me’
That is the sentence that perked me up and primed me for the wisdom that followed.
Here are the 4 biggest lessons I took away from his chat
Focus on what’s in your control
The training’s designed to teach recruits to let go of things outside of their control and to focus on what’s within their control.
Things outside my control right now is the virus and government responses. Which is probably why you reading this at home. No real choice there; but we do have choice over how we decide to view staying at home.
‘I’m being forced to stay home’ versus ‘I can stay safe at home’ is a vastly different mindset.
Did you notice the title? I used ‘Sacred Seclusion’ instead of Lock down. Language is important and I loved that term I heard yesterday.
While at home we have the choice to consume 4000 extra calories or find innovative new ways to exercise at home. It’s easy to sit on the couch and watch movies all day, but it’s just as easy to choose to learn a new language, start researching how to build an online business – write that book you’ve always wanted to. It’s in your control.
I suggest using the time you’d normally commute to work as your time to build a new habit.
As Mandela lived – ‘use your time wisely, you have a limited time on earth’
PRO TIP: Break the ‘difficult’ goal into the simplest action it takes to start. The scary prospect of writing a whole book becomes easy when starting with ‘write a sentence’. Starting an exercise regime becomes ‘get dressed in active wear and do 1 sit up’.
2. Keep your world small
This resonated with me because it’s what I used to complete my challenge to climb Table Mountain in Cape Town every day for a year. I was forced to think of a way that didn’t overwhelm me. A whole year?? Yeah that can freak me out a bit. One day at a time – step by step? I can manage that.
Put yourself in the shoes of a student in BUDs. You’re in a constant world of pain with no idea of what’s coming next. I can only imagine how debilitating that must be when day one is hell – and there’s another 179 days ahead. You’re just trying to survive.
It was as an instructor that Andy saw the story arc of what was happening and why they did this – it’s a physical test for sure: but they’re using the body to test the mind.
When guys quit as a student they disappear. As an instructor he was able to question them.
‘Why? You said this was your lifelong goal it’s all you ever wanted to do. Why?’
‘I got overwhelmed’
They did the opposite of keeping their world small.
There’s two ways to look at BUDs: it’s 180 days; or a sunrise and a sunset – 180 times. Think about how quickly our world changed and how many weeks have passed already. At the time of writing this its April already. You can keep your mind strong by adopting this principle.
The ultimate test in BUD’s is ‘hell week’ and this is where that principle gets drilled down even further. Already four weeks into training, it starts on Sunday evening and ends Friday afternoon with only 2 hours sleep on Wednesday. Most guys who quit, do so before Tuesday.
‘Don’t look at it as five days. Just make it to your next meal – they have to feed you every six hours.’
Stacking six hours on another six hours and focusing on the next meal – no matter how much pain or cold you’re in – gets you to that next meal which is a reprieve and mental reset to continue.
Makes sacred seclusion look like Christmas every day!
Stressed, tired, hungry, hypothermia, exhaustion induced hallucinations – these extreme conditions allow the instructors to strip away all the layers of ego, revealing who has one important quality.
3. We over Me
This is tested immediately, everyone’s assigned a swim buddy you can’t be more than six feet away from at any time. Suddenly, you’re ordered ‘go swim!’ and forget about the buddy dashing off. That inevitably leads to being punished for leaving him behind and the buddy gets punished too.
They’re being taught there’s penalties for forgetting him and other people suffer consequences by the way you act.
Slowly but surely – two weeks builds ‘we’ and not me until it becomes ingrained. BUD’s is not about finding the fittest men alive; it’s about finding the ones that can work together as a team. You don’t want to be in the most high pressure stressed environment second guessing the person next to you.
Right now we’re in a ‘we instead of me’ training camp – only we’re separated in our homes. We’re seeing how important our own actions can be, when collectively done together. Imagine what other social challenges we can collectively tackle when combining forces like this? Some people want to put out petitions to government to open up alcohol sales again while others are turning their homes or businesses into factories to make protective gear for health care workers.
Do they feed the Navy Seals alcohol? Here’s another important component about staying home we must learn from them:
The BEST Me, Empowers We
I agree that the training is set up to ingrain a ‘We’ mentality – but the truth is it’s done in conjunction with developing the best me. They’re not mutually exclusive.
This is the philosophy I follow – How do I develop the best Me to serve We?
No matter how we feel – we’re all in this uncertain time together. Some only allowed to leave home for groceries. Some at home but allowed to move freely, some are terrifies about where their next meals coming from not being able to work but essentially our home has become our world. We’ve all just entered our own BUD’s training, except it’s not voluntary.
So what if you flip it round to pretend this is voluntary?
Next, let’s be positive expecting the best but preparing for the worst. Say this ‘home time’ lasts until June 30 – that’s 77 days away at the time of writing – or sunrise and sunset; 77 times. The days wrack up just as quickly whether we do something – or nothing.
Great news though – all you have to think about is today.
Meditation, Exercise, Learning, Researching, whatever your new habit. All it takes is a decision to start and incorporate it into your daily life. Then suddenly you’ll find yourself 22 days into a habit of meditating five minutes every day; exercising three weeks in a row – and feeling better equipped to handle stress.
Resilience is your ability to get bent and come back better than before. What a wonderful opportunity this is to apply that resilience to your goal from a digestible perspective – and you’ll be well on your way to achieve an insane amount.
Can you ignore the big and focus on the small? And not get overwhelmed no matter what the news says? The best you is exactly what We need.
4. Make it a Priority
A habit you prioritize is kept through consistency. Even the fittest Navy Seals can go off the rails once their service ends.
It’s far easier to build smaller daily consistent actions than try a couple big sessions a week. Just think about the reverse – we pick up weight at a rate unnoticeable because we slowly but surely do less and less, and eat more and more.
Our lifestyles pre coronavirus have been put under a microscope. We have the time now to objectively evaluate what is working and what isn’t. Then the plan we put in place should be for a sustainable lifestyle, so if you’re training during your usual commute to the office – don’t give it up when you start again. You’ve built the habit, now keep making it a priority.
While many of us will experience the pain of losing a loved one and cannot be ignored – the rest of us are being given the gift of using our homes as a cocoon.