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…
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!)
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.
This is something that effects all of us. We’re in this together. You’re reading this because it feels like we’re waiting for ‘the storm of the century’ to make landfall, and you don’t know which weather station to believe. It’s unsettling – and that’s why I’m focusing on the mental aspect of this to help minimise the stress you’re exerting on your body.
Let’s be honest – this isn’t the first time the media have focused heavily on feeding us a diet of fear. Even before this it was easy to feel overwhelmed wasn’t it? We have more access to problems all over the world every minute of every day than ever before. While Coronavirus is top of mind for everybody, I invite you to think about how this plays out in other ways keeping you in a fear cycle of ‘Oh no! What’s next’ – so you can start to be proactive and make better mental wealth decisions for future events.
Right off the bat the first action is a must when the information coming at you is fear based.
ACTION 1: Get Informed
That means listening to reputable sources, in the coronavirus case – it’s organisations like W.H.O (World Health Organisation), scientists and medical doctors that have educated knowledge.
Case in point – take the time to listen to the two videos included at the end of the article. One is from Dr Mike tackling the media’s poor coverage and how they’re spreading misinformation. It highlights how out of touch the media really is, whileproviding sound alternatives.
The other video I highly recommend is Joe Rogan’s interview with Michael Osterholm. The beauty of his podcast format is you get 90 minutes of discussion instead of trying to create click bait headlines or a five minute sound bite to keep viewers tuned in. This man is an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology.
He is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota. That’s credibility to take seriously.
Genuine concern about this is fine – panicking and acting irrationally based on misinformation is not. Listening to the experts feeds the next action.
ACTION 2: Take the Wheel of your mind
Understand that all the negativity in the world and external factors are outside of our control. Focusing on what you can do will empower yourself. If you’ve practicing to action one, then you know your actions are driven by facts and not fear. Rather know the worst case and how it effects you and what you can do – than listening to uneducated rhetoric causing you to panic and create unnecessary stress in your body.
Yes, this is a highly contagious infectious disease. Yes people are dying. Yes there are other diseases killing more people. The reality is no matter which way you slice statistics, it’s still a disease we dealing with. Are you being proactive in life or reactive? That brings us to the next action.
Look at these facts based on the information we have available – bear in mind as this spreads, this can change.
This isn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last, but worrying is like a rocking chair – it keeps you busy but it doesn’t get you anywhere. A better focus is how to strengthen what you’re naturally born with – Your Immune system.
You can immediately start by adding things like garlic, ginger, broccoli, turmeric, spinach and citrus fruit to your existing diet. It’s also time to take stock of behaviours like:
Are you exercising?
Are you maintaining a healthy weight?
Do you drink alcohol in moderation?
Are you sleeping enough?
What are your hygiene habits? How often do you clean your hands?
As important as physical health is what are you doing to boost your mental health? Pay attention to how much negative news takes up your day. What would happen if you replaced that with uplifting stories of what people ARE doing or new things to learn yourself?
Don’t know where to start? Sign up HERE for my 11 day course to guide you and help build a ‘power hour’ of productive healthy habits.
ACTION 4: Practice Gratitude
Expressing gratitude daily has been proven to boost both your immune system and your nervous system. You can say this out loud gargling through the foam as you brush your teeth. That’s two minutes twice a day giving you an opportunity to express gratitude for what you have in the morning, and what happened that day at night. Bonus points for writing them down!
The important part of expressing Gratitude, is that you’re alive now. If the thought of catching this virus scares you to death because you want to do more, that’s where the next lesson comes in.
ACTION 5: Take Action!
If you were faced with death tomorrow, what would you do?
I wouldn’t want to spend it trying to do ‘stuff’ – I’d make sure I spent every waking moment with those that matter most to me. That sobering thought should make you look back and think ‘yep, I’ve been doing my best to do what inspires me’ and not ‘oh shit there’s so much more to do!!’
Write. It. Down. You don’t need permission to do everything possible to make it happen. Experience the beauty in this world, take risks so that whatever next ‘catastrophe’ the world throws at us – not only are you mentally prepared but you’re already living your best life.
ACTION 6: Get Involved
It might not particularly apply here unless you have medical experience and are in a high contamination zone, but if a particular news story overwhelms you – I’ve learned the best way to turn that into a powerful force for inner peace and fulfilment: is to get involved.
There is no such thing as too little. Volunteering 20 minutes a month is not measured by your time – but by the impact it has on the person / animal / cause you’re passionate about. Tying back to lesson two, asking ‘how can I help’ creates meaningful dialogue with those closest to you about solutions, instead of moaning. It gets you searching for people already tackling the problem near you, instead of following the rabbit hole trapped in a fear loop. Imagine being involved in drastically changing the course of someone’s life? How would that feel compared to the hopelessness of reading another depressing article?
If you’d like to explore this further but not sure where to start – why not sign up HERE for our ‘Take back your power: building purpose’ course.
This is serious, but we’re all in this together. Let’s be sensible about our decisions. If you’re sick, stay home. If it persists – see a doctor. If you have unhealthy habits that put you at risk, start converting them into healthy ones. If you have pre-existing conditions that put you at risk, avoid public gatherings.
Help out the elderly and people suffering from pre-existing conditions that are most at risk of this. Use this as a positive reminder of what’s most important in life.
We all have dreams and aspirations, but not all of us turn them into reality.
Born with varying degrees of opportunity, circumstances and resources – they act as unique challenges to overcome in order to realise our dreams. One thing we all possess though, is the capacity to make a decision to change our circumstances.
Wanting to do just that, I stumbled across Jim Rohn. As they say when the student is ready the teacher will appear. His video ‘ How To Set Goals For The Life You Want And How To Actually Achieve Them‘ details the power of writing down your goals. Goals are broken down into career, personal development, the things you want, the places to go (my focus today) and the people to meet. The aim: to tick them off and keep adding new ones. This gives you something to aim for and celebrate as you accomplish them.
This was in 2016; The Grand Canyon was 18th on my list. 3 years and some change later, words on paper become a link to one of the greatest days of my life.
This is by far my longest post, but just as the Canyon isn’t described as ‘Little’, so too would a 5 minute read do this an injustice. Get comfy as I take you on a journey.
The purpose is to develop your power by building a habit of listening to your thoughts and desires, writing them down, and taking the next step to make them come true.
If you want to 'cheat' - scroll to the bottom and see which lessons resonate with you, and apply in your own life.
Nothing could prepare me for the Grand Canyon. Nothing.
Firstly, I need to give you some context into why this dream metabolising into reality is so meaningful.
The Grand Canyon is our third stop in two days as we embark on an epic road trip organised by Jessie. Covering 1 215km (755 miles) across Nevada, Utah and Arizona from Las Vegas to Phoenix with nothing but the best nature has to offer in between.
Today’s our most adventurous by far. It starts with a 3am wake up to watch the Springbok rugby team play England in the Rugby World Cup final in Japan. It’s worth it – we beat them for our 3rd title, becoming the only team never to lose a final. You must understand though – 18 months prior we were probably at our lowest point in history. Two men’s leadership is what turned it around: The coach, Rassie Erasmus and our inspirational captain Siya Kolisi. Together they transformed a team at it lowest into the worlds best in record time.
It happens to be at the last place with WiFi to watch! We’d driven to Bryce Canyon yesterday from Zion, arriving as the sun kissed the horizon goodnight in a clear sky leaving in its wake a trail of colours melting into each other.
It’s November 2nd – and it’s freezing.
Sunrise is at 7:57 and pumped full of adrenalin there’s zero chance of going back to sleep, Jessie and I grab breakfast mercifully open at 6am. It’s all working out perfectly, giving us an hour to find a spot overlooking the canyon to enjoy the magic of sunrise.
We… are totally unprepared. The car says -11° C (12° F). The heater’s full blast but eventually we have to bite the bullet and leave our sanctuary, immediately my bodys like ‘what what WHAAAAT?!?!’
We’re 2 700m (9 0000ft) above sea level with the landscape dropping away from us. It feels like we’re on top of the world.
A cloudless sky is dotted with the final specks of stars, holding on for dear life to be seen. The horizon flickers with orange and yellow gradually burning the lilac sky as the sun is reborn.
Even the monotone dark shadow of the Canyon starts morphing into lighter shades revealing jagged monoliths rising out of the valley, as if protecting the ground running away from the rims edge.
Whatever pain we suffer thanks to the cold for this – it’s worth it. I’d balanced my phone close to the edge supported by a rock to ensure a steady time lapse video. Nature puts that adrenalin to use, a breeze picks up and blows my phone over the edge. Thankfully, I anticipated this and before Jessie even knows whats happened I’ve dived across grabbing it on its bobsled ride down. Barring almost losing my phone down the cliff, I hope this is a sign of what’s to come.
We head south across the Utah border into Arizona, spending over five and a half hours in the car covering 500km (311 miles) so we’re both thankful it’s autumn as the midday sun beats down through our windscreen.
My first clue to how unprepared I am for the sight of Grand Canyon should’ve been at Horseshoe Bend. I don’t ever recall seeing pictures of it before googling the Grand Canyon on this drive. It grabbed my attention amongst the plethora of pictures, but it never crossed my mind to check where it is.
We’d quickly stopped at Lake Powell to walk across the bridge admiring the dam wall and the river gorge. It’s already impressive, at 305m (1000ft) the Chrysler building would be devoured with just 14m of the spire visible.
It certainly gets my juices flowing, but we’re completely oblivious to the fact that Horseshoe Bend is 10 minutes away. Sometimes not having everything planned out leaves space for beautiful surprises.
The flat fifteen minute walk up to the edge does its job to erode any expectation. Geography taught me about horseshoe bends as part of river ecology, who knew I’d see THE Horseshoe Bend. Eventually the river will cut through the bend creating an oxbow lake. Just a couple more millions years I guess, it’s only taken 5 to get here.
Everything ‘missing’ below us – is thanks to the tireless carving skills of the Colorado River.
That. Blows my mind.
I’m not afraid of heights, but standing on the edge certainly gives my stomach butterflies. A boat making its way upstream to visit a group camping on the riverbank helps add scale. It’s breath taking – what an unexpected treasure!
The next three-hours is a mixture of flat lands quickly morphing into majestic twisting mountain passes. Huge shadows in the distance usually reserved for clouds reveal deep cracks in the earth – as though an earthquakes ripped it open.
Finally, we turn off the freeway towards the Parks South Rim gate. The lengthy journey’s been building my excitement to fulfill a dream born 15 543km (9 658 miles) away. Much like the walk to horseshoe bend, the drive into the park is unassuming dense with trees either side.
And then it happens.
I might look calm but inside I’m like anyone ten seconds away from meeting their hero. My eyes are teased with snippets. Stepping through the trees the true scale slams into you as though opening a door to a flooded room.
It’s the kind of beauty worth traveling from distant galaxies to see. It stirs something deep inside.
One thing’s for sure, the word ‘Grand’ doesn’t do it any justice.
To put the scale into perspective – the distance from the rock of Gibraltar to Africa’s nearest point is 14km (9 miles) which is almost 4 kilometers (2 miles) LESS than the widest gap between the north and south rim and instead of flat like the ocean textured with colour and millions of years of craftmanship. This chasm easily fits one and a half Table Mountains from Cape Town. The late afternoon sun caresses every undulation for the shadows to act as guides for our eyes.
The top of the cake is the whiteish Kaibab limestone, which gives way to a sheer wall of Coconino Sandstone of similar colour. Next the rock changes outfit to a redder colour as first the Hermit Shale dazzles your eyes before the Supai Group takes over the baton. Now it’s the Redwall Limestone having a turn before the red shade is replaced by the grey Mauv limestone. We’re getting closer to the Canyon floor as an infusion of the green, purple and browny red layer of Bright Angel Shale hooks our attention. Tapeats and Great Unconformity layers add some yellow before the lowest layer currently dancing with the river, is Vishnu Schist, a dark grey granite.
These are just a taste of the 40 layers that combine to create one of the most jaw dropping inspired moments of my life. How amazing Jessie and I are both in our 40th year seeing it for the first time together.
I’m grateful it’s so quiet too. The perfect soundtrack for this view is silence, instilling grandeur usually reserved for mountains.
In this moment, nothing but love and peace exists.
Under the Canvas
We’re still 50 minutes away from our ‘home’ for two nights, enough time for the stirred waters to settle.
We’ve already hiked 15.5km (just under 10 miles) in Zion and Bryce Canyon’s 4km ‘quickie’ was the equivalent of scaling the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco (61 flights) racking up 5 hours on our legs. We have all day Sunday to explore so we’re eager to chat to the staff to figure out what our best options are to maximise our time.
Enter Krocky, a Canyon expert and nominee for ‘Best First Impression Ever’.
Table Mountain taught me the importance of asking an experienced local the right questions. There’s already a handy guide describing route options detailing distances, elevation drop/gain, time it’ll take and difficulty levels as you can see below. My point is made with this line about attempting a rim to river hike:
If you think you have the fitness and expertise to attempt this extremely strenuous hike, please seek advice from a park ranger.
Fitness: I’ve been training like a demon possessed in San Francisco in preparation for my next challenge averaging 150 flights of stairs per day over anything from 2-3 hours. That’s almost doing Table Mountain up and down every day. As for Jessie? I watched her fly across 10 time zones and smash 6 consecutive climbs up Table Mountain. I’m not worried. She’s a machine.
Expertise: Our backpack will have food, water, space blankets, a torch, a backup charger for the phones, maps of the routes, emergency numbers, warm clothes and snacks for good measure. With sunrise at 6:52 and sunset at 17:30 a start latest 8:30 gives us a 9 hour window to finish; excluding a 30 minute twilight bonus period.
The weather looks perfect, so my biggest concern is time.
Krocky patiently listens to our detailed explanation of what we’ve done through his experienced lens of a Canyon veteran. To his credit, he’s not outright telling us not to go all the way down – he makes sure we’re being realistic about our capabilities, which I respect. I’ve seen too many people unprepared on Table Mountain putting others lives at risk not to take this seriously.
“Just so you know – when I hauled ass, I took 3 hours to get down to the river on the South Kaibab trail. It’s 4700ft drop in elevation you’ll need to climb back up, so if you do this it’s going to be one heck of a day”
Krocky had our full undivided attention, we’re grateful for his time. I quickly calculate 3 hours 30 minutes down gives us 5 hours and 30 minutes to climb up including time for breaks. I know we can climb Table Mountain in an hour – which although shorter in distance is far steeper than the Grand Canyon.
So far so good. Plus my intuition isn’t sounding any alarm bells.
“Now South Kaibab has no water on it at all – it has two bathroom stops but no water. So if you come back up that way you’re gonna need enough water to get home. You’re lucky, November’s probably the best month all year to do this. Don’t be fooled though it could be snowing at the top and 75° (24° Celsius) at the river. Use loads of sunscreen.”
We’re starting at the coldest time of the day, so if we’re warm with enough space in the backpack to shed layers later – we’re golden.
“Now if you do make it all the way down – and again I’m not recommending you do – but if you do, I highly recommend coming up the Bright Angel Trail which will finish at the Grand Canyon village. Depending on what you decide, leave your car there and catch the park bus across to the start of South Kaibab trail. Not only does this route have water points, but essentially you have a river / stream running next to you the entire time. If you run into any rangers by all means – DO NOT tell them your going all the way to the river”
Boy am I glad I ended our hike early on Friday to leave some extra gas in the tank for the legs! Krocky gives us a knowing grin.
“Be safe out there and enjoy the Canyon – you’re in for a treat”
He wasn’t lying.
A Day Steeped in Awe
Some ‘technical difficulties’ with the fire stove in our tent means we got smoked out. Opening the ‘window’ and ‘door’ flaps wide open in freezing conditions to clear it isn’t ideal. It’s only the next day, after sharing with reception what I thought was my poor fire making skills, that the manager himself checked it out and finds that the chimney’s blocked. Unfortunately, after a long day I wasn’t thinking straight which means no fire – and sleeping in freezing tent.
Jessie ends up putting on all the clothes she’d laid out to get dressed in the morning. Long johns, thermal socks, an extra t shirt and about three more layers of jackets – and she’s still cold under our duvet and blanket. I’m envious when I wake up getting changed in the cold.
We’re on target happily sipping coffee and tea warming our hands enjoying a Canyon sunrise. I don’t have the superlatives to express how warm my heart is absorbing the view.
Our plan’s simple: take it as it comes. Our intention is clear: we want to reach the river. If either isn’t sure about making the trip back in time – we’ll immediately turn around.
Under the Canvas are fantastic. They clearly listened to Jessie’s reason for our visit, a pre birthday card and drink waiting for me in our tent. Experiences are not just about what you do – it’s where you stay. Krocky set the stage for how everyone would treat us and after our phenomenal dinner – are disappointed we leave too early to enjoy breakfast. They have us covered though, we’re able to choose a packed lunch prepared fresh before we leave. Our stomachs are incredibly happy about this as both our meals are delicious. After filling our water bottles, we still buy 3L spare. It’s not predicted to be that warm, but rather safe than sorry.
Parking at the ‘end’ (in case) we wait for the first bus to collect us, only two other women with almost zero leg coverage with us. Madness! Not just any women though – trail runners. Seriously fit trail runners. They’ve completed Iron Man. Okay that explains the madness.
“You’re running it?? All the way down to the river and back up Bright Angel Trail, wow that sounds insane. How long do you think it’ll take?”
“Uuuuuuum, about 9 hours?”
Jessie and I share a look. Same route. Same hopeful time. Only we’re not running.
“How far down are you guys going?”
With Krocky’s words ringing in my ears I casually respond, ‘Oh we’re don’t know, just gonna see how we feel and decide as we go”
“Yeah that’s a good idea”
It would’ve been fun to see their faces if we told them the truth.
Once the bus drops us off, they set their watches and disappear over the rim. I’m not put off by their estimates, their time doesn’t make sense. If we hadn’t spoken to Krocky we’d probably panic. Although, I’ve learned from my runs up and down mountains in Cape Town that sometimes running wears you out so much, that the difference between power walking and running/walking can be a few minutes. Granted that’s over smaller distances but still. Maintaining a good speed power walking versus burning myself out trying to run is also far more enjoyable. Either way – we’re positive and ready to rock!
We start 3 minutes off our planned time filled with excitement and anticipation. That is, until this sign 7 minutes later:
“Don’t be like Victor!”
I can’t help but laugh. Especially as Jessie points out it’s not a red shirt he’s wearing! Ouch….
It seems a bit extreme, but I guess it’s here for a reason.
We quickly start understanding the scale. Dropping down we’re able to compare the thin layer on the far northern side to whats around us. That thin line is about a 10-story building and puts the thicker lower layers into perspective, only 445 story’s to go.
Even though we start in freezing temperatures, I’m happy to be in the shade cast by the rims edge. It’s going to be a loooong day, the less we’re in the sun the better. It’s almost an hour before we emerge out of the shadows and need to shed layers.
It’s so unusual climbing down a ‘mountain’ first. It’s completely foreign to me. The path’s wide enough for mules to transport goods and people down to the Phantom Ranch which has basic rooms and only open April to October. Krocky suggested their restaurant to visit – although it will add another 40 minutes to an already arduous hike. Still, it’s good to have options.
The mules follow the opposite route, only going down Bright Angel path and up the South Kaibab trail. We’d see quite a few groups of people using this option, needing to step aside and squeeze against the cliff as they pass. Once all our warm clothes are off and in the backpack, I kind of feel like a mule myself. I laugh thinking about a mule seeing me and saying ‘I’m glad I’m not you buddy’
This trail is predominantly along the ridges, constantly giving us panoramic views to marvel. It takes us 40 minutes to reach our the first reference point on the hiking guide: the majestic vantage point aptly called ‘ooh aah’.
It’s like being on another planet. A cloudless sky highlights the stark contrast of the grey, brown and red layers capped by white icing. Can you imagine being one of the first European explorers arriving here? Crossing the great plains to suddenly arrive at this? No one back home would believe them.
Now you just type ‘Grand Canyon’ in Google and hit images to see every picture linked to that tag word ever taken. It’s not the same though. I’m grateful for that otherwise what would be the point of traveling?
There are precious few that understand what it means to connect to this place more than a day trip. There are 6 Native American tribes, Hualapai, Havasupai, Navajo, Paiute, Novi and Zuni in this region that see it very differently through a myriad of lenses. A place to be feared and respected. A harsh land but a place of opportunity. It’s inspired centuries of cultural expression. It’s sacred to them. A holy site. They share history, but more than anything, they call it home.
Kaibab is a Paiute word and means “Mountain Lying Down,” their term for the Grand Canyon. Much of the hiking trails are based on the old migration paths used by the Native Americans for centuries as they followed the rhythms of nature, and even though this route was made in 1924 – imagine what it must have been like doing this hundreds of years ago. Climbing down commands your respect and full attention and adds to the appreciation of this landscape.
Snaking along the ridge, a vast ‘plateau’ roughly halfway down is sprawled below us. It’s like a plain I imagine reams of wild animals roaming as they forage on the sparse vegetation.
Skeleton Point is our last stop in the ‘be careful’ range before dropping into the red zone. All you can do is marvel at the ‘mountain ranges’ towering above you in every direction. Natures Colosseum. It also means we’ve descended 640m and traveled 4.8km (3 miles). Next is The Tipoff a further 500m down and the equivalent of climbing down Table Mountain to sea level and already 100m back up.
Only we still have another 330m to reach the river.
The Colorado river looks deceptively close, the turquoise green line meandering between the V shaped jagged cliffs. An Australian couple are nervously contemplating whether they should turn back. I’m grateful for Jessie’s machine like powers; we’re feeling great after 2 hours 20 minutes – comfortable we’re on track to beat sunset.
Less assured, they ask us our plans. We share Krocky’s advice, but they have no food and no warm clothes. Deciding to go the whole way, we pair up and get to chat them for the next 30 minutes down to the river. Sharing where we’re all from – they congratulate me on our win yesterday which is a nice surprise. I’ve become accustomed to few American’s knowing rugby let alone follow the World Cup. They’re on a epic journey themselves, taking three months off to do a road trip in a camper van up the west coast finishing in Canada.
Being over the river on the Kaibab suspension bridge is mind blowing. If this was Horseshoe bend, the cliffs looming above would be the rim. Now that’s the plateau with another entire ‘mountain’ to climb above that.
This is all from erosion. EROSION!! It’s astounding. It’s one thing for existing mountains to change over time thanks to weathering and gravity – this is just erosion?? Okay I suppose gravity must be given some credit too. This is an amazing display of what is possible with patience and time, never giving up and being persistent.
I wander if the dams have impacted the erosion by disrupting the natural cycles at play?
Teddy Roosevelt had the foresight to create national parks and protect the endless beauty on display. He said it best:
“I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”
Only One Way: UP
Used to the sheer drop on Table Mountain, this climb’s been far gentler and manageable, with pockets of steep sections zig zagging down. In contrast though, we’ve traveled 12km (7.5 miles) versus Platteklip’s 2.1km direct route. It’s taken us 3 hours 19 minutes and 11 seconds. I’m comfortable we’re within the range to enjoy a reasonable pace. I’ve had experience climbing up Table Mountain in the dark, so even IF we take longer, I know it’s far safer than if the reverse were true. You’re always stable as you place your next step to stabilise and pull yourself up.
Nevertheless, we cross back over the river on Bright Angel suspension bridge – choosing a shaded spot to eat our packed lunches, fueling the legs for the tougher second half of the journey. We watch a river raft party navigate some rapids, careful to avoid the swirling whirlpool below us.
With a moment to chill at the river, I finally grasp the Victor warning. If this was summer? I’d never make it back up in the heat of the day. Granted – with mid-summer sunsets at 19:48 you have time to start later. I’m sure there’s great places to swim for a couple of hours, but even if there’s shade – the stifling heat radiating out the Canyon must be unbearable. If I ever do this in summer, it’ll be with a night’s stay at the bottom enabling a 5am start for both to beat the heat.
The path follows the river for about 2km before it sharply turns left turn at another toilet station – now with more water to refill. So far, I’d say Krocky’s descriptions have been spot on.
This path is completely different. Climbing up the cracks of the Canyon we’re always dwarfed by towers of rock above us, the only view is what the isn’t obstructed ahead.
TIP:If you only have time or the capacity to see one trail: Pick the South Kaibab Trail and take loads of water.
Both are completely different experiences, but to truly experience the vastness and magnitude of the scale you’re a part of for a moment in time – is inspiring, humbling and its own rite of passage to appreciate.
There are few places that make me feel ‘home’, filling me with deep inner peace and gratitude for the beauty I’m given, wanting only one thing in return: respect.
The Grand Canyon joins Iceland, The Karoo, Table Mountain and Yosemite in my top five.
The stream means this route is greener and lush with vegetation, even hanging gardens as plants cling to the rock walls as though they have suction cups for roots. The contrast is incredible, and I’m reminded the most important aspects that make today possible:
My strong legs that work
My healthy body
My eye sight
My girlfriend Jessie
On the way down, we’re always aware of what’s coming. Now, it feels like we’re being tormented as each layer above feels like the rim – just to have more cliffs above that. At one point the layers so thick I have to do a ‘pano’ pic just to get it all in. It feels daunting after already completing 800 vertical meters. The never ending tease of another false summit dwarfed by the next challenge.
With an extra 20kgs (44 pounds) on my shoulders, my legs, knees and ankles are managing better than expected – my shoulders and back on the other hand are taking serious strain. Again – I’m eternally grateful for the time of year, as most of the climb happens in the shade. The lower trajectory of the sun allowing the rim to protect us. I’m doing my best to keep a steady pace, constantly monitoring the time to make sure we’re on track. Every now and again seeing glimpses of the Australians further back. They should be okay.
I’m extremely grateful that Jessie’s able to do such extreme things and we’re able to enjoy the conversations that flow while doing these types of things. Today’s talks center around all the emotional challenges that we’ve gone through in our lives and what we’ve learned.
Today’s been a beautiful way see the Grand Canyon – but more importantly FEEL it too. There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of nature than up close and personal on your own steam. I now understand my souls calling early in life to make this a ‘must see’ experience in my lifetime. All thanks to Jessie spoiling me for my 40th.
I know I’ll be back.
While I’ve tried to convey what this experience means to me – I can safely tell you that nothing will ever do it justice until you experience it yourself. All I ask – is that you give yourself as much opportunity to explore and watch time evaporate. Don’t cram this in, make it a priority. I believe you’ll leave it with a deeper appreciation for life.
After 7 hours and 39 minutes and 20 seconds covering 27 km (17 miles) – we’re back on the rim. A full hour ahead of schedule with ample time to enjoy a bar snack and well-deserved beer before watching the sun set over this sacred place. The perfect bookend to an unforgettable day.
What a way to celebrate my last Sunday as a ‘thirty something’ year old.
We get back in time to hear Krocky’s tales of the Canyon as part of his unorthodox quiz night, his smile relieved as much as it is congratulatory.
‘Krocky, is this ‘Victor’ sign really necessary’ I say bringing up my picture.
‘Oh yeah! In Summer there’s at least one person every day like that’
There you go. Don’t be like Victor – speak to Krocky and get the best advice for the experience of a lifetime. Although sad to be leaving, we’re given a new dream to reach for as they hand us their ‘passport’ to get stamped at their other locations: Moab, Yellowstone, Glacier Park, Zion, Great Smoky Mountains and Mt Rushmore all great places – but that’s not enough so they’re adding Acadia, Yosemite, Sonoma, Catalina Island and Joshua Tree to the list.
Again – we’re ready! We’re excited to meet each ‘Krocky’ to maximise our experience.
What. A. Day. Now it’s time to cap it off under the stars, under which even the Grand Canyon is dwarfed.
How does this apply to you as you carve your own life through layers of challenges?
Keep room for spontaneity in your life, the room will always be filled with unexpected treasures.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will always give you bonus opportunities to enjoy.
Just because you want to do something, doesn’t mean you can. Be realistic about matching your capabilities with what’s required.
Never be too proud to seek council from someone more experienced than you.
Be prepared. More information makes better decisions resulting in more enjoyable experiences.
Do less in a day with more intention, and the experiences will create profound memories instead of tick boxes you forget like boxes in the garage.
Always be grateful for your experience and timing.Always
Become an ambassador for these oasis of beauty
Goals linked to experiences, enrich your life beyond measure
I may be turning 40 later this year, but arriving at Habitat for Humanity’s West Oakland workshop feels like my first day of school. I have some life changing relationships with Habitat South Africa in Cape Town thanks to 365 Ubuntu Climbs – but the slate’s clean here.
The same old mind games of nerves and demons like ‘will I be good
enough’ to help coming up.
I’m put at ease immediately as Gus introduces himself and welcomes me to
the workshop. It’s a place to volunteer with their Playhouse program, and has
become my ‘Carpenters Apprenticeship’. I’ve always wanted to learn to work with
my hands and specifically wood.
What better way than to learn while helping a company with its mission
‘Weprovide affordable homeownership opportunities to qualifying households. To qualify, you must show a need for housing, be willing to partner with Habitat by contributing sweat equity in the construction of your home, and demonstrate the ability to pay.’
Handouts disempower. They’re give Hand Ups to start a new cycle of hope.
‘Our PlayhouseProgram is one of the many innovative fundraising tools we use to work with community volunteers to broaden our impact and empower more families through affordable homeownership. Playhouse volunteers spend a full or half day at our Oakland or Milpitas workshop, getting playhouses ready for assembly. Once completed by sponsoring groups, playhouses are donated to children through partnering organizations like BlueStar Moms. We provide all the tools and training necessary to put together the start of a child’s dream playhouse!
A circular economy of love.
Volunteerism’s taught me more than just carpentry – Gus’s been sneakily teaching me an important component of leadership that the world needs – heart.
Imagine running a company with a
‘staff turnover’ of 95%? And still achieving your objectives, seems unreal
And yet they continually achieve
their aim to get Playhouse sets ready for corporate team builds (literally!)
to raise money and build homes.
In 2018 they completed 550 in the
Bay Area alone!
It’s a remarkable feat and I now understand how he leads this.
Nervously waiting to hear what
I’ll be doing and already contemplating making a catastrophic mistake, Gus
takes me and another volunteer through the full playhouse program, safety, who
benefits and why it’s important. My heart center is immediately triggered, and
I know I’m in the right place.
He leads us to a section with the
sides of the playhouse laying on sawhorses, freshly painted from the morning
Whew…. Painting – I can do that!
I’m quickly introduced to the ethos of the workshop when I see a massive
spill of grey paint.
‘Don’t worry about that or about dropping paint yourself. If you do – our rule is simple: you have to make a heart with it’
What an amazing idea!! I instantly see five hearts in my vicinity. Such a simple but transformative way to turn mess into love. Lesson 1 and I’m not even an hour in, and a universal truth about leadership given right away.
I realise this now being back multiple times, Gus treats every new person with gratitude and appreciation taking time to explain everything in enough detail as needed to make people feel included in a finished product of purpose that few get to experience.
It was a simple task, painting; but I already felt great fulfillment as
each stroke provided the base paint for future artwork.
Wanting to share my appreciation on what I’ve learned from Gus and his
team made me think deeper than just highlighting surface reasons for their
success; and creating another ‘follow this number of things’ list to be a
There’s enough of those out there.
Communication, patience, gratitude, being an expert in your field and catalysing a team are all important components yes – and consistently demonstrated by him; but something extra special weaves them together.
It’s his heart.
It’s been a privilege to watch leadership like this in action which,
week after week, brings complete strangers together at various stages of the
playhouse life cycle – learning new skills and working together to produce a
Gus’s humour is brilliant and an effective way he ensures us adults
enjoy the process as the children we building playhouses for.
‘Remember our critics are 3 feet tall – it doesn’t need to be perfect; just safe. Have fun with it!’
Below are some great pictures to show you the timeline in the life of a
playhouse. Gus has ‘taken me under his wing’ and always shows me new tools to
use and how easy it is to be safe using them.
‘Tools are not dangerous, but how we use them can be. Everything’s designed to keep you safe.’
I wonder. Is his heartfelt leadership molded by this tradesman’s understanding: A poor workman always blames his tools – to become such an effective leader? It could explain his care to transfer knowledge to newbies like me to optimise our output.
Together with his creations of templates means an incredible amount of time is saved because the template is always your reference point.
Side note – it’s amazing to see how much quicker I learn through action compared with old school memorisation.
I think Gus’s also mastered the art of ‘letting go’ of what he can’t control (like this fact: with every home built – 3 new people become homeless in the Bay area) His why is so strong it permeates throughout the workshop, and he doesn’t get phased by things not being ‘100%’.
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT
The team builds* are always amazing. I particularly enjoy this nugget I always here:
‘Oh I’m not creative I won’t be able to draw or paint or be part of the art department‘
Every. Time. And I’m constantly blown away by the creativity and quality of Playhouses created and decorated according to the child’s chosen theme: Dogs, Space, Princess, Cars… you name it! Just look at the pics below to see for yourself.
Being at the builds mean I’ve met some of the families receiving the
playhouses. It’s an experience too beautiful for words to capture on paper.
It feels like being in the presence of all the best qualities humans
have to offer at the same time.
Seeing a parent tearing up at the sight of a playhouse created with love
for their child by strangers? Their gratitude, smiles, love and appreciation
are what sit with me as I cut each piece of wood for hours on end now. I know exactly
what impact that small action leads to.
Sometimes the most rewarding work is not the most glamourous.
Perhaps if we all started treating our jobs and careers like this –
wanting to learn and grow while impacting other people with love – there’d be
less job dissatisfaction and people would feel more connected to one another?
Just a thought – and something I’ll keep promoting!
Another thought: to think this was all learned from doing something far outside my comfort zone.
FINAL THOUGHT TO PONDER
Feeling deflated by life? Pop down to your local ‘for purpose’
business and donate your time. I know Habitat certainly appreciates it.
There’s nothing like perspective to put the wind in your sails again.
Mary Gates, Bill Gate’s mom, was an incredible woman. She set the tone
for his upbringing by being on numerous NGO Boards and involving him. It’s no
wonder he’s formed the Gates foundation with his wife Melinda .
She expresses the most beautiful truth at the end of his latest Netflix Documentary:‘When we have these specific expectations of ourselves, we’re more likely to live up to them. Ultimately, it’s not what you get; or even what you give.
It’s what you become’
*Team builds have up to 10 people per playhouse with each team being split into builders (4), roofers (3) & the Art Department (3) with everyone painting once initial jobs completed. Check out some pics below
Please contact Habitat for Humanityat teambuilding@HabitatEBSV.org to arrange your own purposeful team (real) build.
My last post was about feeling inspired and
removing blockages. Inspiration is the easy part, today I’m sharing 8 tips I’ve
used successfully to help you act on your inspiration and implement daily
rituals to become part of the 9%
We’re all trying to improve something, but no matter how inspired we get, as soon as we’re back to our real life it’s a slippery slope back to old patterns.
‘Unleash the Power Within’ was exactly like
the moment I had the idea to climb Table Mountain every day for a year.
My soul. Was on. Fire.
Opportunities flooded me from the idea and I focused on the solutions to each problem or challenge I’d face (like having no days off for an entire year, gale force winds, seriously cold and wet weather but a few) instead of letting them dissuade me.
As strong as that was, the outside world came
along to poke its negativity holes in my full bucket of water.
One by one the holes started spewing more water until it felt like there’s no more inspiration left.
Should you just give up? Never! Can you do anything to negate that? Absolutely! It’s why you here.
I hope this creates opportunities for ideas to flow and for you to feel what it’s like to have your soul set on fire. Mind, body and spirit in synch, like a grand cosmic alignment.
Living your purpose.
Set an Audacious Goal
This gives you a clear place to work back from. Get fired up because now you can break down what needs to happen each day. Training or preparation – essentially – becomes a way to condition our brain to enjoy pushing our capabilities for our ultimate goals.
Have fun with it! I’m currently doing hill training in preparation for my next event and I love pushing extra each day. Comparing today versus yesterday and this week versus last week, and tracking progress creates the only competitive streak that matters: being better than you were yesterday.
HOT TIP: Going bigger stretches you; when your gut feeling is one of great excitement – go for it! Don’t keep it bottled up and don’t let others dissuade you – they can only meet you at their level of experience and understanding.
2.Do One Thing Now
Thinking about aaaaaaall the days ahead will drive you insane and most likely overwhelm you.
Focus on a simple fact: I just need to act today.
I had six months to train my mind and body.
I worked out a plan on how to be ready for the audacious challenge of tackling
the vertical equivalent of 71 Mt Everests.
You know what I started with?
I stopped using the lifts.
I lived on the 8th floor of an apartment block. Forgot something at the shops? Off I went back down the stairs – get it – and back up. No excuses. No exceptions.
A small decision that was easily implementable with massive ramifications.
HOT TIP: What you think today, is the same as what will happen tomorrow. ‘I’ll start tomorrow’ is a phrase that keeps you busy but gets you nowhere – like being on a rocking chair.
3. Your Inner Voice
Dr John Demartini says ‘when the voice
and vision on the inside is more profound than all the opinions on the outside;
you’ve begun to master your life’.
It’s your life. It’s your tapestry of
experience you’re creating. Following through on an idea that ignites you
creates momentum for the next idea to arrive. You don’t need permission or
justification from the outside world.
99% of people didn’t understand or even
believe I could climb Table Mountain every day. Did it matter? Their opinions
weren’t the ones climbing the mountain.
HOT TIP: When you get an idea that inspires growth and positive change? It won’t matter what others have to say. Keep your actions aligned to why you got excited in the first place.
4. Highways have Onramps
Why? They allow us to transition from a slow speed up to what’s required. Think about what your onramp looks like to go from inspired to implemented.
My body wasn’t ready for 365 consecutive summits in 2017– so my plan was to ramp up my training getting the mind and body ready. I even simulated fatigue and ignored the ‘I don’t feel like it’ days by doing a leg workout at gym before heading to my first climb of the week.
July: 1 weekly summit up Table Mountain.
August: 2 summits every week
September: 3 summits
November I was in the United States rallying support for my challenge; which created an opportunity to climb after 27 hours of travelling back for Miami to Cape Town that afternoon I landed. Then I slept, woke up and climbed again.
December I completed eight days in a row mid-month as a final test of will and fitness.
I was ready.
HOT TIP: You’re building a habit; a new lifestyle – the only quick fix is making a decision in your mind. When you realise you’re in it for the long haul, you create incremental sustainable gains towards your goal.
Become dogged in your pursuit to achieve the outcome of your inspiration. You equal chance of failing as succeeding – so which one will you focus on?
Focus on failure and you’ll find excuses. Focus on success and you’ll find solutions.
It’s no good looking at the top of the
mountain wanting to be there. You’ve got to put one foot in front of the other
to make that a reality.
HOT TIP: You got excited and inspired for a reason. When those days of ‘I don’t feel like it’ come, focus on what got you fired up in the first place. Think of a way to get back into that state – a song. A special move. A vision board of everything you stand to gain. Then take that next small step to make it reality.
6. Linking Pain to Pleasure
Achievement lies on the other side of the
pain, be persistent and learn from the lessons you get to achieve your goal.
Climbing Table Mountain once is tough.
Twice will leave most people knackered and perhaps taking a bit longer to get
up off the toilet a couple days later.
I obsessed on the benefits of accomplishing something so outlandish. I believe in sharing what I learn so I knew I’d be able to share this and empower you to push through and successfully hit your goals.
‘Pain’ is simply the universes way of
testing resolve to see who genuinely wants what they desire. The greater the ‘pain’
– the greater the reward on the other side.
I say pain, but really its just a
readjustment to living outside our comfort zone.
If I’m doing it right, pain never goes away – and I know I’m growing.
HOT TIP: The hardest part’s getting started. You’re already a master at talking yourself out of it – so use that same skill to talk yourself INTO it. Do whatever it takes to get excited! Condition yourself to feel the way you do afterwards when the endorphins are flowing like the satisfaction of completing another workout. Today’s a success – celebrate that!
7. ‘Who’ instead of ‘How’
You don’t procrastinate because you’re
lazy. You procrastinate because you don’t have clarity on where you want
to go – or the next steps to get there.
In short, we get paralysed on HOW to
do it. That’s been me for the last five months prior to UPW.
The correct question is ‘WHO can I
enlist to empower me to get there?’ when I don’t have the answers.
Hiring coaches has created clarity on what to do next. Their 62 years of experience combined with a desire to create successful driven individuals focused on adding value back into the world, means our values align and their proven methods immediately put my train back on track.
HOT TIP: Stop agonising over how you need to progress and ask the question who can empower you to get where you want? Don’t be too stubborn to ask locals where to go when you’re lost. This is why coaching is so important.
Are you still not able to get yourself
pumped up to follow through and build momentum?
Practice daily gratitude.
Focusing on what’s already right in your life and all the ways you were challenged in the past to get to today builds joy in the moment now. You’ve made it! You’re here! Celebrate that and embrace gratitude.
Gratitude enables you to enjoy the process and be the fuel to your momentum.
HOT TIP: Swap ‘I have to’ with ‘I get to’. I’m grateful for my amazing body that looks after me and helps me experience the beauty in this world. Gratitude helps me appreciate the smallest things and realisehow blessed I am.
Demand Higher Standards
You know yourself better than anybody. Be realistic about your goals and what path to take. Wanting to be the best triathlete when you don’t even know how to swim makes no sense. You can do it! If you understand exactly how much work you need to put in.
Don;t beat yourself up if you miss a days. Or two. Weekly targets allow you to track consistency. Missing days should be an exception.
Again: What you think today – is what
you’ll do tomorrow.
Get into the habit of doing something when
you think about it.
Whatever your goal, crafting excellence
takes time – and the reward is a sustainable ingrained lifestyle to achieve
Now isn’t that worth taking time to savour?
Kick ‘one day’ to the curb. Switch the words around.
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