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.
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.
Struggling to get started? Reply YES here fordirect Monday morning tips, tricks and inspiration to pursue your dreams with passion, purpose and claritywith Andrew. Discover thesame daily drive within.
Do you often feel dejected
because you know there’s something inside holding you back from living the life
you want? Maybe you just don’t feel good enough?
This past weekend I attended a
Tony Robbins’ immersion called ‘Unleash the Power Within’.
I’ve been a big fan and known about him for 20 years, but being in South Africa meant I was always on the other side of the world for his events.
Then I lived in London and he came! But timing was off as I had the pleasure of being visited by my parents for the first visit. Some of my housemates went and later I’d see them coming back with an ignited soul and eyes ablaze with passion.
That was 15 years ago; and how my
life has changed since.
Sounds like a long wait for his
transformative experience, but the value in my experiences leading up to the
past weekend are what made it deeply rewarding.
A tough few months
365 ubuntu climbs was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Achieving something that no one’s ever done was taxing both physically and mentally; with the equal reward upon completion.
Here’s the thing though, I thought
completing it would change old habits – specifically around not feeling good
I was wrong.
Feeling not good enough is like
thinking ‘I’ll be happy when…’ – it never arrives. You need to be happy now –
and I need to feel good enough now.
On my hill training after gym
today I realised something profound.
If you think achieving something monumental will give you confidence going forward – you already possess the strength to accomplish it. Which means its already inside you. The strength comes from INSIDE to finish the challenge – not suddenly rewarded at the end.
Which means no more excuses.
What does this have to do with Tony Robbins?
With 42 years experience and a PHD in results, there’s nowhere to hide
when he speaks to you. My girlfriend had gifted me a ticket and was right
alongside challenging her own inner monologues through the experience too.
By his own admission he’s not your guru. This is important because he’s creating a platform for sustainable change.
It’s not about what he says – its how he gets you to challenge the limiting beliefs that’d been holding you back.
Four days of intense twelve hour plus sessions with minimal breaks (if and) is specifically designed to push us beyond what we believe we can achieve. Day one ended with a fire walk across coals reaching temperatures of 1200° (Fahrenheit – about 600° Celsius)
I came into the event knowing we
were doing this. And even though as a South African that loves a braai
(barbeque for my international friends) I’ve never ever thought afterwards, ‘hey,
let’s throw these bad boys on the ground and do a quick fire walk’. With all
this knowledge, for some reason I wasn’t phased about it.
That was until Tony started getting real with us about what can happen if you lose focus and the injuries that have happened before. ‘About 1-1.5% of you will probably experience burns under your feet like a really bad sunburn and get blisters’
When presenting numbers, I know from
my corporate days to always use the bigger number (or in this case lesser) between
absolute numbers and percentages to convey your message.
1% doesn’t sound bad at all – but
80 to 120 people?? My stomach lets me
know apprehension has arrived.
My mind quickly darts to ‘what if
I get burned? Will my travel insurance cover fire walking??!!?’
I highly doubt it!
The voice of fear was desperately
trying to find a just reason to pull out.
But I didn’t come here to watch
others obliterate fear.
I’m here to let go of what no
longer serves me.
Walking on Fire
I believe I’ll be fine. I believe
Tony wouldn’t do this haphazardly (especially in a country where suing has
become a national sport)
No matter what – I’m doing this.
I listen intently to the instructions,
and visualise myself at the other end of the walk exploding in ecstasy having
Shoes off, we exit the stadium and
head to the parking lot focusing on our breathing and keeping our energy up. I’m
secretly hoping I’ll be close to the front with less wait time, the perfect
crack fear likes to exploit.
Anticipation is always worse than
Alas, I’m 2/3rds of the way back.
A sea of humans in the dark floating towards a waterfall.
I remember being told ‘GO!’
I remember doing my last move to
get fired up.
I remember the heat of the first
I remember being caught on the
other side by volunteers saying, ‘Wipe your feet!’ (sometimes pieces of coal
can get lodged under your feet or between your toes)
I remember the incredible
soothing the water being sprayed on my feet brought.
I’d done something so
…. And that feeling changed
something deep inside.
Why it changed my Life
Before the strut, my focus was successfully reaching the other side unscathed.
As I waited on the other side for
Jessie to snap a photo, my brain raced. I realised that in everyday circumstances
I’d find reasons to justify why others were more capable or better than I was
to achieve something.
This time, I saw those that went
before me as justification why I COULD do it.
The excuses evaporated like water
above the coals.
Intellectually I’ve known this
since my early twenties but understanding something and deeply knowing a
principle are two different things.
It’s why there’s no substitute
Walking across those coals forced
me to look at fear and deal with it immediately. Seeing how it used to dictate
my mental aspirations, like whether I’m good enough to teach the practices I learned
from climbing Table Mountain every day, means I know choose to focus on
pursuing what I know to be right.
Will there be people that think I’m
ill equipped for the job? I have no doubt.
Will there be negativity toward
my aspirations to empower others through teaching? Probably.
The detractors had no impact on
whether I succeeded in 2018, and so why would they be going forward? The great
thing about moving forward is detractors are stationery so soon enough; they’ll
be out of earshot.
I never doubted I was physically
capable of climbing Table Mountain every day for a calendar year. Time for that
clarity to apply in all other areas in my life as well.
As with everything in life, the real value is putting this into practice.
What fears are holding you back? If you’d be happy to share I’d love to
hear from you and see how we can take consistent steps together to overcome
Just like on those hot coals – that first step commits you to a new path of building momentum. I hope you’ll join me.
Climbing Table Mountain every day in 2018 was an idea inspiring me to bring people together focusing on what I can do; instead of on the problems.
This has never been done before and having completed it – I know why. It was the most taxing challenge on all levels: Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Everything was tested – and I never had a days respite.
I had plenty of fears and doubts creeping in before and during – but I always knew with every cell in my body that I could achieve this to get peoples attention – and participate. And that was summit Table Mountain. Every. Single. Day.
The greatest lesson you can take away from this, is that all the power and strength it took for me to complete this – lies within you as well; and when you believe that? Will take your life from ordinary to extraordinary.
Below is my thank you letter I sent to all the investors of 365 Ubuntu Climbs. I’ve decided to share it in general too because doing something that’s never been done before, doesn’t happen in isolation. It takes a strategy of what you want to accomplish; how you plan to do that; what help do you need from others; and gratitude to appreciate being able to do all of it.
Here it is:
Thank you for taking action and empowering others, so that:
– 7 families now have a warmer home to come back to after work instead of a shack. – 30 new families will hear that their loved one has found a match because of the people added to the donor registry, and – 5 Schools have parents sleeping a bit easier knowing that their children are being taught to read through the books donated because of you.
It’s been a busy year, but that’s no excuse for writing so late – while I may be incredibly disciplined climbing a mountain every day, admin isn’t my strong point and procrastination is a daily battle. Apologies for taking so long to let you know about the final numbers and more importantly – to thank you.
Below I’ve included:
Media Coverage & stats
Links to each charity for continued support
Special mentions – The Monthly club and The Mandela Ubuntu Award
A year in numbers – stats
Cash Handover pictures
It’s hard to put 2018 and my gratitude into a letter. I cannot stress this enough – you were responsible for creating an incredible experience. By receiving this email, you’re in my deepest gratitude and will always hold a special part in my life.
365 Ubuntu Climbs wouldn’t have been nearly as soul inspiring without your participation. The 738 climbers that joined; the 500+ donations received and meeting the people we helped, taught me the essence and understanding of ‘Ubuntu’, and what it feels like when we work together. It was a humbling experience to be on the generous receiving end of time, money and spirit.
Together, we raised R 535 679,15 – split between The Sunflower Fund, Habitat for Humanity and One Heart for kids (including the R28 524 received in cash over the 12 months see below for handover pictures) These organisations continue to provide these services – if you’d like to keep supporting them, click on the links below:
The first stair and the final stair climbed – with 970 898 stairs climbed in-between
Thanks to all the media support, we managed to reach just shy of 56 million people (these are not absolute numbers) worth around R5.9 million in awareness, which essentially equals R17.7 million for the three companies. This excludes all the shares and posts you all did with your support. This reminds me that exposure alone is not enough. If it were and 1% of people donated R1 per climb, we’d have raised R16 800 000 every month. Take heart from these numbers because it shows whats possible when action is taken why it’s also important to bring others along with us. You made the difference.
When a house is built, we don’t expect the plumber to build the whole thing – so we shouldn’t be relying on governments alone to solve challenges.
Just look at what we achieved in a year that has long lasting implications to not just families today – but their generations to come. We’ve helped break the cycle of poverty. Most of you only know my name or my face through this project, but I’m certainly no island and last year wouldn’t have been possible without the special group of people I’m surrounded by: My Parents, My Sister and her family, my extended Family, My friends, and my girlfriend Jessie.
Initially, I included everyone that contributed to the success of 2018. At last count there were over 50 people – so I decided to leave that out and prevent this from becoming a short story. It’s another reason why currently writing my book is important to me: I get to share the details of all the incredible people and their efforts. From gifts across the oceans to international and local fundraising events done. From sending me on my way at 4:33am in person to messages of well wishes from afar – everything played its part in getting my weary legs over the finish line and my spirits high.
THE MANDELA CLUB
Considering this challenge took place in his 100th anniversary, it felt fitting to name this award after him. Going above and beyond is not always about the money. This group of people helped raise over R75 000. The people getting this award are:
Astrid Gillwald and the Crook family – the late Joshua Crook, his brother Matthew and mum Susan.
Joshua was introduced to me and the project simply because Astrid shared what I was doing with him in Australia. Astrid also invited me to speak at her Women’s Property Network events and spoke with Warren Brusse at SA Property Network, where I was invited to speak twice too. He was also part of the final day climbing party after multiple summits and donations.
Joshua and Susan shared my posts and story with people in person and online and Matthew even joined me on climb 110.
This is a powerful message, that its not about how much we donate individually – but how we get behind one another and share it within our own networks. You never know what may come of it.
A special memorial climb up Table Mountain was held on Australia Day this year, January 26th, in honour of Josh and his late wife Roxanne. Both families joined in an emotional tribute to two special souls.
THE MONTHLY CLUB
These 9 people donated every month:
Iwona & Jono Smit
John & Di Smale
Allan McCreadie (LA Barista mobile coffee company) Mark Giese Nixi Kennedy Kym & Karl hill Ragmah Solomon Lisa Thompson-Smeddle Gary Light Thank you for being a constant throughout my year and making me smile at the end of each month!
BY THE NUMBERS:
The money raised is what I am most proud of; what I did to achieve that: is a very close second. I thought I’d share some interesting insights about the year below.
A MASSIVE thank you to Safety Mountain Tracking for always having a volunteer tracking us and ensuring everyone got off the mountain safely; as well as Cape Union Mart for their clothing sponsorship – the rain gear in particular was helpful beyond belief.
I climbed 970 900 stairs in 40 days 4 hours 18 minutes and 43 seconds on the mountain. I covered 2 429km – which is just 400km shy of walking the entire coastline of South Africa. I climbed a total of 262,8 vertical kilometers – the equivalent of 71 Mt Everest.
In 365 climbs:
175 – were solo climbs. 22 – Most solos in a month both January and August 9 – Most number of rainy climbs in a month, belongs to August (bear in mind this wasn’t the actual number of days it rained, just when I was rained on. Tried to avoid it where possible) 40 – Total number of rainy climbs 4 – most number of consecutive rainy climbs 1 in every 4.5 days – how much i averaged climbing up and down. 280 – Number of times used cable car. R2.29 – the cost of each cable car ride using their yearly pass. 125 – days climbing alone and using the cable car down – my fastest day was May 2nd climb122 in 1:18:35. I did almost the same time a week later, on climb 129 – 1:18:58. 50 – days done alone up and down. My fastest climb was 1:55:50 on June 17th climb 168. 190 – days when people joined.
155 – number of times those climbs were just up and down cable car. We averaged 2:58:54 compared to 1:48:35 when I was alone. 35 – number of days joined going up and down, we averaged 3:54:17 compared to 2:39:18 when I was on my own. 9 – Most consecutive days alone (this was the end of June and 2 days in July) 12 – Most consecutive days with people (this was in December) 193– days started early (before 8:30 – remembering sunrise in winter is just before 8am) 33 – days starting around 6am, most common time starting. 53– days between 8:30 and midday 59– days between 12 and 15:30 60– days starting after 15:30 04:33 – Earliest start time (January 1st to watch sunrise up top) 18:07 – Latest start time (December 17th – I was on my own and would summit before dark) 22 – number of barefoot climbs.
I couldn’t go the entire year completing early morning climbs. Winter climbing was especially weather dependent and always tried to go when ‘safest’. This meant, especially in summer when heat demands climbs either start before 7am or after 15:30 – that sometimes I would do a late afternoon climb and then get up 12 hours later and do an early climb. Effectively two climbs in a day.
45 – number of times this happened, almost every week. 7 – most days in a month a late climb followed by an early one happened: December. 13 – Most consecutive early morning climbs (February 27th to March 11th) 7 – Most consecutive late afternoon climbs (January 26th to February 1st)
The Final Rock
The Ubuntu pyramid
Picture 1: I picked a stone every day to represent the climb, the people joining, your donations made that day, and ultimately the people we empowered together.
This was the final rock picked to sit atop the Ubuntu pyramid. There’s a stone in there with your name on it.
Picture 2: The Ubuntu pyramid complete with the final triangular rock on top. It reminds me that just because you can’t see the first rock – doesn’t mean its not as important: it created the foundation.
Habitat Cash Handover
One Heart cash handover
The year was about inspiring people to see what can happen when we work together – now – and forever. But now is more important! Now that I know it’s possible, I will continue to work on expanding this idea. I wish you could meet the people who’s lives you’ve touched. Seeing and feeling the gratitude from another person because of how you’ve helped them is one of the most rewarding moments you can experience.
You Get What You Focus On
I chose to focus on what I could do – and you know what? All year I was surrounded by incredible human beings; because dickheads don’t want to get up early on their weekend to climb a mountain for someone else. Its not about ignoring what challenges we experience and living in a bubble – it’s about choosing to let go of what and who doesn’t serve you. Its your choice.
There are more movie critics than there are producers.
It’s easy to point out what others don’t do right. The real question is: what are you going to do that sets. Your. Soul. On Fire.
I’ve been procrastinating on my writing like you cannot believe since finishing my challenge – I think I’ve finally found a groove.
In many ways the past three months have shaped this first post of 2019, of which more will be coming your way as I ground my learning into tangible insights to share.
Coming to San Francisco is like becoming a child; I see and experience everything for the first time.
Fresh city smells as winter rains falls; sweeping views transformed as nights veil descends and the new sounds of their famous cable cars bustling down Washington Street. An overload for the five senses but more importantly: another opportunity to learn.
I forgot how many day to day decisions have become second nature that I take for granted:
Knowing where the grocery stores are, how long it takes to walk there. What food they have! How its laid out, what it costs, and even just what the difference in taste between 2 products is.
Then there’s figuring out how the city fits together like a jigsaw; how different our words are for the same thing – traffic lights not robots. Cilantro not coriander. People not understanding my accent on the phone. Finding a barber to cut my hair decently (that serves beer believe it or not!)
Which gym to choose?? I think you get the idea
In primary school, a Greek boy arrived age 6 speaking no English. The teachers encouraged us to be patient and be teachers ourselves.
Thankfully, I have an amazingly supportive partner that’s helping me (together with her friends) to learn and settle in quicker than doing it alone. Now I’m the Greek boy
Learning from others
One thing I’ve been blessed with, is having the opportunity to sit with, speak to and learn from inspirational people.
Today’s post is dedicated to Joyce – our blind neighbour.
A Japanese American, Joyce has lived in San Francisco since the age of 22 in 1972. As an artistic woman, she expressed herself through dance and painting.
Her sight was always poor requiring her to wear glasses. As a ballerina she was unable to wear them during shows. She was never worried though because in practice, she learned to understand spatial awareness – not needing to see the edge of the stage, but rather operated in a finite piece of space.
As a painter, she constantly pushed herself to look at every day items from another perspective. To learn to see things differently. She loved the challenge and enjoyed it.
When she speaks to you about that, you feel her joy about that.
Fast forward to 1992 and she meets the love of her life. Wayne. Three years later she moves in with him – and hasn’t moved since.
Tragically, he died in 2011 and she was devastated. This is when I heard something I perhaps wouldn’t believe if it wasn’t first hand.
‘I lost the rest of my sight soon after that, and thankfully too. Having to learn the city all over again from a new perspective kept me away from the debilitating grief.’
Learning to ‘see’ again saved her life.
Watching and talking as we walk to dinner, she shares her knowledge of ‘seeing’ this way. Her spatial awareness is incredible – hitting a knobbled patch of pavement asked ‘is there an alley?’
There certainly was. She was spot on.
Sitting at the feet of Teachers
Okay – we were at a restaurant so it wasn’t exactly her feet, but it felt like I should be. Hearing her talk about catching the bus, buying groceries, going to her favourite restaurant and how cooking takes four hours were bringing learning a ‘new’ city into perspective.
Imagine going blind aged 61?
I don’t want to use the word terrified, but just closing my eyes trying to feed myself is a scary thought.
Not Joyce though, to escape her pain she threw herself into learning how to ‘see’ the world with this new experience.
She’d taught herself from an early age to be excited to learn new ways of experiencing things – and this was just another opportunity.
We were celebrating the Japanese tradition always done on 3rd of March (3) – Hinamatsuri or Girls Day. It’s interesting to note that Japanese do not celebrate Mothers or Fathers Day; they choose to celebrate what will come (the children) versus what has come (the parents)
She shared her knowledge about the fact Japan only opened its borders in 1853 – not by choice – but because an American Commodore demanded they open ports by sailing into it.
See from Others Perspectives.
Its not always what we do that’s harmful – but how we do it.
I learned that the hard way in my twenties; when I saw how I spoke to friends and family. How I spoke bordered on abuse.
Seeing Joyce in the streets perhaps you’d feel compelled to help, no? First thinking from our own perspective that it’s impossible to get around without someone helping.
Joyce gives some advice we can all learn from.
Ask – instead of assuming someone needs help ask first. In many cases its more difficult being led by someone you don’t know or trust compared to walking with your cane. If someone was really in trouble, they’d cry out for help.
Listen – when someone accepts help listen to how they need it. She prefers someone walking behind with hands on her shoulders and NOT in the middle of the sidewalk. When she walks alone, bright vest and cane, the curb provides her a straight edge compared with the middle. Like walking with your hand along a cliff face. As she says ‘close your eyes and tell me where straight is’ – a frequent command given to her.
Respect – one woman yelled at her to get off the streets because its dangerous. Some people tug at her to walk with them. As you can imagine this can be quite distressing and more importantly – breaks her concentration. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. If you are curious, set an intention to find out just what life is like for someone living with a disability (as most people call it) or their gift.
Change behaviour – Its one thing to change our own behaviour, but we can all do more to teach others how to stop feeling awkward when we meet or see someone with a disability. Just with most things in life – when in doubt speak up and I’ve never heard of someone being upset with someone that respectfully and genuinely wants to learn about another person’s circumstances.
Walking around San Francisco, I pay much more attention to sidewalk cracks, how fire hydrants, lamp posts, signage, trees and post boxes are Joyce’s daily obstacle course. I’m more aware of colours, textures – and the ease and speed with which my five-minute walk up a nine-storey hill takes to get to our neighbourhood grocery store – a store that makes their own honey on the roof I might add!
Joyce is one of those people that radiates; with her smile, her words – and her heart.
She reminded me why one of my daily things I express gratitude for – is my five senses, to experience this incredible planet we live on.
Don’t you get bored doing the same route every day?
When you understand peoples behaviour reveals who they are, then you realise this question gives me an insight into what the person asking me is going through.
The short answer is the mountain and climb are different every single day. However,your mindset determines exactly what the outcome will be. Instead of saying “You’re doing this for a year?” I say, “I’m only doing this for a year”.
First statement creates struggle; second one generates gratitude – and all with one word.
It goes deeper than this, which I discovered when I was constantly asked the question and realised I needed to think deeper about it. I realised boredom is a lack of appreciation for the gifts you have every day. Your health, your legs, your eye sight.
Just ask a Leukaemia patient who’s not just stared death in the face, but upon receiving a transplant must face up to three months of solitary in hospital to reduce risk of infection during a vulnerable time.
No outdoors. Limited interaction with friends and family. Now let’s talk about boredom and whether they would trade that room for a chance to climb a mountain every day.
‘Bad’ weather as an excuse
I use inverted commas there because I no longer believe there’s bad weather; just bad preparation.
I’ve climbed in all kinds of treacherous weather ranging from heat waves to bitter cold; insane winds reaching 100km/h to torrential rain. Sometimes these can be combined.
The reality is: my challenge lasts 2-5 hours (depending who’s with me and weather conditions) and then I get to go home to secure flat that’s warm and dry.
It’s over for the day.
For the thirty million South Africans living in informal houses, every storm brings with it the panic of what will happen to my home. Flooding is most often a cause from torrential rain and the first family member home from work will start ‘emptying’ the water from their shack and attempt to dry what little items they have.
Wind means there’s potential for other homes to become missiles and your homes relentlessly battered on the Cape Flats by the wind. Until it stops – there is no respite.
We can throw in fires on the mountain. These may mean having to choose different routes, but in an informal settlement can devastate thousands of shacks. All because one person may have been reckless causing many to lose every single item they own. The mountains vegetation and life will recover and so too will most people – but the people have nowhere else to go.
Not knowing how to read; living in poverty and time before a donor is found – are all 24/7, 52 weeks a year challenges until help and empowerment are given.
I Can’t leave Cape Town
It’s true that committing to climbing every day means I’m ‘stuck’ here. Most people we are helping can’t ever leave Cape Town; never mind just one year.
This was highlighted to me when visiting Klapmuts primary where the principal and teachers explained most children have never seen Stellenbosch (15km away) and if they do – exclaim how big the buildings are. At most they’re seven stories high.
I love that on their school hall walls they have four murals: The Sphinx; The Statue of Liberty; The Sydney Opera house – and Table Mountain.
By helping teach these children to read they have a chance at an education and a chance at going there one day. And that – is priceless.
Pain and Fatigue
I’m adding this one even though it’s not part of who we support because it’s such a valuable lesson.
My legs and body having no day off was always the great unknown. Becoming fixated on the pain and weariness of my legs on each climb is easy, and then I was taught a lesson by a special man.
Lifa broke his neck playing rugby and decided the doctors were wrong when they said “you’ll never walk again” – he’s slowly but surely taught himself to sit upright; then stand; and now walk with crutches. This man is beyond special.
Having successfully navigated Lions Head up and down with friends he wanted to climb Table Mountain. The people at Petro Jackson Fund had met me and sharing my story suggested getting in touch. He did – and only because he’d made it up Lions head, did I entertain the idea.
On climb 145 we made it to the Waterfall and due to time constraints – had to deliver the bad news we were turning around. We’d never make the cable car in time and going further only risked more chance of complications to climb back down. Repeat – time was why we wouldn’t make it. Remember, he’s climbing with crutches – and with more time I believe he would’ve made it.
For two hours I watched the human spirit in action with determination and smiles to match. I named that rock he sat on after him and every time I go past it, I think of him and I’m reminded that whatever pain I have in my legs – it’s something he and others hope to be able to experience one day.
His achievement fans my flames and that pain and fatigue reminds me what a gift the ability I have is, to do this every day.
Graffiti on the Mountain
On climb 106, I started for a late afternoon climb, with enough time to see the sunset. Within fifty stairs, I saw the first of fourteen rocks spray painted. Not tiny things – entire boulders with the last reminder two thirds up.
It was disgusting and hideous to think that someone could do this. I was trying to contain my anger when something completely opposite occurred. I had two missed calls for the Safety Mountain Tracking people.
Andrew, we have a hiker in distress on Smuts track and you’re the closest – can you help us?
At this stage I was at my fittest and still feeling fresh, so I was able to climb the rest (a little more than halfway) in thirty minutes and then trail run along the eastern table to the highest point, Maclears beacon, and then down smuts track to where the five people were with two SANParks rangers.
Thankfully, because this would be crucial later.
The helicopter was unable to land on the incline and so rescue teams had to carry the woman down. I’d stupidly taken my torch out my bag thinking there was no need for it. How wrong I was.
The ranger asked if I could lead the four people back down Skeleton gorge but with fading light and no torches, I suggested radioing the cable station to ask to wait for us. They agreed and the safer option along the top was what we took. Before setting off, I saw one friend removing the woman’s jewellery and phone; it was only then I realised she’d passed away – a heart attack.
Those spare minutes gained earlier enabled us to navigate the climb back up to the top table in twilight safely. Along the top, we passed two rescue teams thankfully with spare lights for the final stretch in darkness. Darkness wasn’t what made this the most difficult walk of my life though.
The four friends were in a complete state of shock and showed immense gratitude when we finally arrived back down safely.
At the bottom, I was no longer thinking about the graffiti.
I used to misconstrue having something that others; like legs that work, or opportunities, or money, as something to feel guilty about.
I’ve subsequently learned guilt is wasted energy. Instead I now do two things:
Appreciate what I have even more
Use my gifts/opportunities to empower those born into more challenging circumstances than my own.
The choice is ours.
See you on the mountain.
Andrew Patterson has climbed every day in 2018 to raise money for three incredible organisations. To be part of the change you wish to see in the world head over to http://www.365climbs.com and add your voice to become part of the Ubuntu Family
It’s December – and for many that means a downhill slide into holiday mode; a panic for many parents about what to do with children on holiday and navigating the busy malls for Christmas presents.
To me, it represents 11 months of successfully achieving what I set out to do in January: 336 successful climbs up Table Mountain out of 365 with no injuries or any illnesses worth speaking about and 29 days to go…
I cannot begin to express my gratitude enough for my healthy body and legs – even though it’s something I do before every climb.
November’s a wonderful birthday month for me as well many friends and family; all Valentines Day babies methinks.
I’d always known my birthday was 56 days away from the end of the year but never calculated that meant it was the 309th day of the year.
This year I turned 39. You can’t script things like this and has been the type of amazing synchronicity experienced all year to remind me how special this year was meant to be.
And not just on one or two days – but all of them.
Looking back – Before you look Forward
I invite people climbing with me to take a moment to look back down the mountain; to appreciate for a moment how far they’ve come and what they’ve already accomplished.
Goals are great. They give me a direction to work towards and purpose in some cases. I’ve learned that climbing mountains gives me opportunities to learn valuable life lessons, one of which is – that the end goal and view at the top is not the be all and end all. Its about learning to value beauty in each step as much as the view at the top.
It can be a hard slog no doubt – but no one ever said you had to do the whole thing in one go. We’re allowed to stop every now again and look around.
That’s what I feel like I’m doing now with climb 337 looming. Stopping and looking around at whats come before me.
People have experienced snippets of what I’ve been through but as with most things in life, until experienced for yourself you can never truly understand.
The closer I get to the end now the further away it feels; I haven’t had a day off all year.
Daily Thinking for Final Stretch
I learned when I get closer to the top and/or the bottom, my tendency is to want to ‘just get there’. This is how accidents happen. When I try push my already fatigued body and mind, I lose focus and start thinking about the end instead of the next step – so I’ve taught myself to maintain the same steady pace no matter how close to the end and excited I become.
I need to do just that for the next 28 days.
With immense excitement looming it’s hard. When your girlfriend (who lives in San Francisco) is flying in under 2 weeks time and your whole family will be coming down from Johannesburg around Christmas time to support me; the mind has plenty to distract you with.
Distracted is dangerous, just look at car accident statistics – an estimated 52% happen within 8km of the home.
I sat with my performance coach around what data we’re going to measure this last month that can be used to analyse my efforts when I’m done. Heart rates, sleeping, emotional state, physical state you name it. We can compare these stats when I’m fresh again next month and do speed tests on the same route.
This is the most dangerous time now, these next few weeks. Keep the mind strong.
These words from him are valuable – particularly that I’ve fallen twice in ten days in exactly the same spot on the way down. Luckily just caused a stiff ankle nothing sprained.
It happens that quickly.
Distractions are compounded by every person you meet asking “whats next?!” and “what are you going to do on January 1st?”
At least the second one is easy to answer: I’m doing my 366th climb in a row and my last solo climb. This is to take stock of what I’ve accomplished in 2018 and how many people we – you and I – have helped by donating time and money to those living in appalling conditions.
Fulfillment comes from walking your most authentic path; Significance is when you can align that to empowering others in the process.
Its interesting to me how people’s reactions have flowed since having this idea.
1st Phase: That’s crazy, why on earth would you want to do that for a whole year?
2nd Phase: (usually only hear this much later on) you’ll never finish
3rd Phase: Oh you’re going to miss this when you not climbing anymore
4th Phase: Whats next??
(sidenote – asking what’s next is expected from someone who’s asked all the relevant questions and understands the persons current feelings and state of mind)
Lessons from these Questions
Very few people are ever willing to sit with someone in their pain or discomfort and challenges. The reality is no one is on this planet to save anyone else. Not when it comes to how you think and what you choose and how you act.
Recognising that all my responses are based on my experiences and what I would do in that person’s situation.
Listening to understand means asking questions to learn where someone is right now.
Think about the present
Its always easier to say than do but getting a gauge of where someone is right now based on what has happened, is far better than trying to play crystal ball and predict what someone’s future will be. The future is made up of tons of ‘right now’ decisions.
Not my job to convince
Whether my project, religion, Politics, diets, exercise regimes – you name it. It’s not my jobs to convince people whats right for them. It’s my job to hold people accountable to learn to think for themselves and use what they know in action of service to others. What good is it knowing something great and keeping it all to yourself? Significance…
Empathy and understanding
Understanding what someone is going through from their perspective means I can learn why they do certain things or behave in a particular manner. Just because something seems illogical to me, doesn’t mean its very real for them.
One of the greatest things I’m doing, is learning from other’s behaviour. Sometimes most of these things appear innocent and not detrimental to others. And maybe it isn’t. But is it not worth behaving in a way that helps someone in your life feel completely supported and safe to share their current state of mind?
We live in a world fraught with enough pain and negativity – its time for each individual to start evaluating if they feeding that; or if they shining a spotlight on where all the beauty in this world lies.
I know what I’m choosing
Andrew Patterson is climbing Table Mountain every day in 2018 and raising money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity (housing) One Heart (Education) and The Sunflower Fund (Leukaemia) by inviting people to sponsor R1 per climb. head over to http://www.365climbs.com to be part of the Ubuntu Family.
As I sit here I can’t believe nine months of the year have come and gone.
Thirty nine weeks have rocketed past and being in an extreme challenge like this, climbing Table Mountain every day, brings with it extreme learnings.
Observing how many people focus, even 277 days into my challenge, on what could go wrong and ‘negative aspects’ – weather, injury, sickness, ‘stuck in Cape Town’, you name it, it’s been said.
It’s the perfect mirror of life.
Few think about all the positive aspects – seeing the mountain in every way imaginable; the phenomenal views from my office; the personal growth; the extraordinary people I get to meet; and the conversations that brings with it.
Ignoring the difficulties I face would be fool hardy. It’s important to understand all the aspects of a challenge including difficulties – just don’t focus on them. This reality of potential dangers was given to me when Gert, challenging himself to climb Table Mountain every day in September, sprained his ankle badly with just five days left. It can happen that quickly.
My focus cannot waiver for one second.
What a Week
This year, last week was the second longest amount of time spent climbing the mountain – but because of the extreme weather differences; my toughest to date.
Thankfully, I only had two solo hikes and five amazing groups to pull me through. Not just any groups:
Monday: two special men, Bulelani and Siyabonga, started a tour group called Corner2corner tours and arranged a group to climb up on our National Holiday – Heritage Day. Not just hike up though – clean the mountain too. They believe the mountain gives us so much that they wanted to give back to her. It was 30 degrees at 11am and after a bitterly cold month, a bit of a shock to the system. Everyone made it up and we walked off with three full bags of rubbish removed.
Thursday: VML, a creative agency worldwide with offices here in Cape Town, have a yearly day to volunteer with various organisations – I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of them. This day was windy, icy cold, wet and downright miserable for a tricky ascent and descent. This usually deters people, but fourteen amazing people came and challenged themselves for the benefit of others. They had wonderful smiles, never complained and helped each other get down safely. Real team spirit.
Friday: I’m blessed with an amazing family and Aunty Di and Uncle John have been terrific with their support. Having seen them (they live in Durban) in February they promised they’d be back in September and would join – this was the day. After loads of rain, they were treated to the spectacle that is Table Mountain with rivers in full flow and waterfalls galore; even paths become water features. Their spirit and tenacity to get up adds to my memories of people who’ve pushed their limits; and chatting about all their holiday ‘s overseas is how I get to travel this year: vicariously.
Saturday: a fellow blogger for Future Females and friend, Natalie, joined with her husband. We had a hot day again; thankfully with a breeze. My legs were taking strain, and they were happy to stop often and get pictures (picture above is hers!) much to my weary legs delight. Hard to fathom the previous 4 days were all cold and wet, and tomorrow is going to be even hotter…
Sunday: Lisa, Amanda and Alice brave a 06:30 start – always impressed by people willing to do that on a Sunday. Its Amanda’s birthday too! We start early for two reasons – on hot days sunrise hikes equal avoiding the heat and we have the privilege to host four Tibetan Monks, an astrologer and a healer all the way from India at the top. It felt as if the monks were already at the top and hauling me up step by step as we ‘rushed’ to ensure we didn’t keep them waiting. Thankfully we made it up in time meeting them at the cable car. This experience would never have happened without this challenge happening and my good friend Nicci connecting us. Something I could never have predicted.
Although I’m not a practicing Buddhist – I resonate with their desire for peace and love to permeate this planet – the reason they’re here, creating colourful sand mandalas.
Experiencing another belief and cultures ritual and respect for nature and our mountain was beautiful. Seeing them in their robes and prayer flags flapping in the wind was soothing and even though I had no idea what they were saying in prayer – felt at peace.
Being the end of the month too I chose rock number nine: a physical representation of another month completed.
I was originally keeping these but before meeting the monks, had the idea to rather take them all back at the end of the year and create a memorial pile on the Platteklip Gorge hiking trail. Hearing him speak about releasing attachment reinforces the idea.
Geshe wished to hold it and shared some beautiful words with me about what I’m doing. Though our time was brief together, it was reminded of quality over quantity.
What Can You Take Away from This?
As I said extreme challenges bring extreme learning and realisations after this week some are becoming ingrained in me:
Focus on today. Even the toughest week came to end and the same is true for great weeks. Simply focusing on today’s climb means I give it every opportunity to become one of the most memorable ones.
Lose attachment. Weather, health, mementos, even people. Things can change so quickly and holding on to something keeps you rooted in the past. A perfect follow on to point #1 because this keeps you grounded in today and what you can
Find the flow. This has been one of the unexpected challenges of the year. I had grand designs of what needed to happen and what I needed to organise; yet the best experiences have all come from allowing the climbs to happen with whomever is supposed to join. Set your intention of what river you want to use, and let it take you where it needs to. Stop trying to control everything. This becomes the difference in creating meaningful experiences as opposed to a bucket list tick box exercise.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Everyone’s in a rush: to find a partner; to be successful, to be first, to get up the mountain. All this means is you miss the opportunities along the way to see the beauty in each step, in life. Why do people burn out? Feel disconnected? We’re rushing to this appointment while making the next. Slow down. If I’d come out the gates trying to do every climb as fast as possible my body would’ve shut down months ago. My legs may be fatigued – but my heart and soul are energised.
Gratitude is not important;its essential. Every climb starts with gratitude for my health, my legs that work and are strong enough to do this every day; my eyes to see the beauty around me and my mind that is actively learning every day from this experience. Gratitude for the mountain being so close to where I live and providing me a spiritual path to walk every day and always teaching me. It takes less than five minutes to show gratitude and once you start? You realise all the ways you’re blessed. Family, partners, friends, their support, and it helps spot the greatest beauty in the tiniest moment. Beauty is not one big thing – it’s an endless string of moments.
See you on the mountain
Andrew Patterson is climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town every day in 2018 helping raise money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity (housing) One Heart (teaching children to read) and The Sunflower Fund (increasing the donor database for blood diseases like Leukaemia) To donate visit http://www.365climbs.com
Today would’ve been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, it coincides with my 199th hike up Table Mountain joined by Elliot (from Langa) and Raquel (Switzerland) – this makes it 100 days that I’ve been joined by people this year. My gran was Swiss and if she were alive – would’ve also been 100 today.
Life’s synchronicity is beautiful.
His first seed planted with me
I was thirteen years old when Nelson Mandela visited our school and spoke to us. The youngest boys always stood in front which that day, was our blessing.
I was too young to fully take in the message he gave us, but thankfully able to go back into our school’s magazines archives the sentence ‘his message to the young boys was that the privilege they enjoy carries responsibility.’ Reminds me 25 years on.
Being a white male in South Africa means there’s a dark past attached to you. My journey to come to terms with that and what it means hasn’t been an easy one. As recently as five years ago, I thought ‘I didn’t personally benefit from Apartheid.’ And thought I was kind of ‘in the clear’ if you will.
This was an uneducated thought rooted in ignorance.
It took a woman by the name of Dr Jackie Naude (author of Finding the Rainbow) to come to Distell and provide a transformation workshop to begin to change this. She provided and open forum discussing a painful past from an objective point of view in a safe environment. The first time I had a detailed explanation of our past in this manner.
Understanding what the British did to the Boers (Afrikaners) by putting women and children in concentration camps (yes that’s right, the British invented this); The Afrikaners rule and desire to never be subjugated again, creating apartheid through to the release of Nelson Mandela and how he, somehow, managed to stave off a full blown civil war – a horror I can’t even begin to comprehend.
I wasn’t just understanding how we got to the present day, I started to understand how Ibenefitted from a system purely because of the colour of my skin.
I started to understand I was privileged.
My Journey with Privilege
I understood that one of the biggest problems with BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) was the communication around it and that it wasn’t a call to immediately thrust previously disadvantaged people in to high positions; but rather an opportunity for business to understand the previous injustices and to work together with government to rectify this over a period of time.
This is a contentious issue but effectively, business buried its head in the sand not truly understanding the requirements.
White privilege is a phrase that makes most people feel guilt or shame. I know I felt very uncomfortable so avoided public talks about it and if it came up, tried to defend myself that I personally hadn’t done anything wrong.
This is not something to defend.
It led to a profound understanding I live with today and where one of 365 Ubuntu Climbs pillars was born:
Just because I’m not personally responsible for someone else’s suffering; doesn’t mean I can’t be part of the solution to help them.
Mandela’s Deaths Impact
I was driving on the highway past the airport, a profound sadness came over me as I heard it on the news. A quick gaze right and my eyes were met with a sight I’d seen every day twice a day for two years: shacks.
We’re not doing enough…I thought.
I started thinking about the 5 000 staff at Distell and I imagined every staff member donating R10 a month – that’s R50 000… then I realised our Southern Africa offices pay R50 per person for parking; not exactly an amount that hurts your pocket. Using that amount it quickly rises to R225 000! In one year: that’s R2.7 million.
And we think we can’t do more to help others?
On the rest of my drive took questions like who builds homes? How do I find them? And who do I speak to? All rolled around in my head.
Simply sharing this idea with colleagues over coffee’s where I got my first break – ‘you should contact Habitat for Humanity’. And so, my relationship with them was born. Distell human resources department didn’t bite, but the Corporate Social Responsibility department, with whom I’d built up a relationship thanks to my work with the Sunflower Fund – did.
They got involved and built two houses which, both times, I was away on business unfortunately.
Opportunities to Think Differently
The Jacob Zuma protests in 2016 made me question how the protests were being conducted, because I saw them creating more of a divide in our country. I asked (didn’t assume) why weren’t black people joining in? A quick response around a tragedy here called Marikana, a mine where 14 miners were shot (unarmed and running away) in the back, again opened my thinking.
There were no protests organised then.
It hit home the hypocrisy around what marches were organised and that the marches against JZ were only because whites were affected by his actions.
I was seeing how its not always what we say, but sometimes what we don’t say that can be as damaging. This made me realise another painful truth on my part.
I’d never spoken to any black person (friends or colleagues) about what life was like under apartheid.
To understand today you must understand your past. “YOUR” as in country not personal. That means talking to people with alternate views and experiences to your own.
Those were some of the most heart breaking and difficult conversations I’ve ever had in my life. I appreciated all of them taking the time to go back and open wounds to share the madness and atrocities they experienced. Its why I wrote ‘South Africans – It’s time to Wake Up’
It wasn’t about trying to make things better for them; it was about opening my eyes to understand why certain protests happen now.
You might not condone an action like burning tyres on highways, but you can understand where its coming from. Instead of replying in ignorance, I now have a conversation with compassion.
None of us are in control of the privileges we are born into.
Was everything easy for my parents? Definitely not. But this is where my false sense of entitlement came from – I compared struggles without fully understanding the varying degrees of struggle.
Struggles of life are vastly different to the struggle against oppression.
Privileges come in many forms and I’ll never forget driving with my mom as a youngster and a man was in a wheelchair working tirelessly up a long hill. He was grimacing, and my mother pointed out how grateful we should be. That, as well as his determination, have stuck with me to this day.
It’s another form of privilege I have and why before every walk I take a moment to be grateful for what I have – my legs that work and are strong enough to hike Table Mountain every day.
Privilege is a word that makes people feel uncomfortable. It’s a word that today implies guilt and shame.
I used to say: ‘can’t we all just stop living in the past and move forwards together’ and now I try put myself in the shoes of those that have been oppressed. How would I feel 24 years on and nothing changed?
Its easy to want to ‘just move on’ when you’re on the right side of privilege.
Instead of feeling guilty or uncomfortable that I have privilege – I now think about how I can use it to empower others.
I can’t change the past; but I can change how I think today to make a better future for all.
It’s not about taking responsibility for Apartheid. Its about taking responsibility for the privileges it afforded me.
It’s amazing what can happen when you decide to stop carrying around negative baggage and decide to recycle it into something useful instead.
His Legacy’s gift to Us All
Together with all the freedom fighters, they gave us a South Africa to be proud of. We almost had a civil war – and came through peacefully. That should be celebrated every day.
We have the most amazing constitution in the world. Be proud of that.
The people of this country have endured some of the biggest atrocities in the world – and their spirit was never broken and are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met on three continents. Just look at how we blew the world away in 2010. The smiles in this country are unparalleled.
You don’t believe we can make a difference? Go to www.365climbs.com and make a R50 donation and challenge everyone you know to do the same – and I promise – I will show you how wrong you are. Your contribution is invaluable.
If this project changes 8 000 peoples lives and each of those go forward and changes another 10 people, and then those people another 10 and another 10 then in 5 generations we have the power to empower 800 million people. That’s fourteen times our current population. You think you can’t impact 10 lives? Join us and be a part of that.
I want a phenomenal country for all that live here. Not just a few.
Imagine if you were living in poverty and got a helping hand out of it.
Asking questions is one of the most powerful forces for long lasting change. I speak from experience.
Instead of making social commentary about what happens in this country – I invite you to ask better questions and then: seek out those who can answer from their experience and not from their opinion.