How the Word “NEVER” became my most Interesting Teacher

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.

LONDON

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

‘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.

NEW YORK / USA

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…

How to Convert New Years Resolutions into Every Day Solutions

Enjoying a view on the way to the top at Crater Lake, Oregon

Goal setting.

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:

  1. Resolution categories
  2. Resolutions by generations
  3. Likelihood they’ll be achieved (broken down by segments above)
  4. 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 IS the 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 Balance online 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:

  1. What am I capable of?
  2. What am I made of?
  3. What are my philosophies that act as my guiding principles?
  4. When do I want to be filled with joy, now or sometime in the future?
  5. 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.

It’s one day at a time, step by step.