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…


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