Want to Build Hope and Community with another Unique Ubuntu Challenge?

How would you like to look back on 2021?

As the year you explored ubuntu? As the year you created a healthy relationship with exercise? As a year you changed a child’s life by helping them learn to read? By changing someone’s life currently living in a shack? By Changing a communities capability to teach their children by building a school?

These are all possible.

It’s been quite an overwhelming year. I don’t know about you – but the sheer scale of death and economic hardship being experienced sometimes feels insurmountable.

And then I’m reminded about my challenge 3 years ago that 99.9% thought was insurmountable: Climbing a mountain every day for a year. With ‘Ubuntu’ as my guiding principle to create a more compassionate world – 744 people of all fitness levels joined me pushing their own capabilities in the process, and together we fundraised almost R1 million building a home for orphaned and vulnerable children; providing 12 of the poorest primary schools with literacy aids teaching children to read; and created 60 new donors with the Sunflower Fund to help them save lives.

My greatest lesson that year was what we can accomplish when we work together. It’s in that spirit that I have another challenge for us.

It’s called ‘50in50’.

Each week the challenge is to create the outline of each state in America tracking a walk/run/cycle across 50 Saturdays – and you can join! I don’t expect you to do it to scale! (Unless you’re Ryan Sands or Rich Roll in which case crack on) The outlines are the tricky parts as you’ll see below. I’ve decided to start this challenge on the 50th day of the year: 19th February 2021.

50 weeks may sound like a big commitment – but in reality the challenge isn’t about long we commit to something. The challenge is what we do today.

While the pandemic continues to affect the lives of so many, the importance of being healthy, having a bigger purpose to focus our energy on, and supporting each other in the process has never been more apparent. The aim is to build a community around what we can do & control our inputs even while external forces continually change and challenge us. We’re all in the same storm – we just using different boats. The way I see it, if you have space in your life raft, pulling one person in changes their life. This time I’ll be asking people to donate $50 aiding companies already doing great work to build our communities and make them stronger.

Where do these Ideas come from?

This inspiration is thanks to my friend Stephan Pieterse.  His charity fundraiser, a biennial event ‘The Gratitude Run’, was hosted virtually instead of at their usual venue Lourensford Wine Estate in Somerset West. This gave me an opportunity to participate in New York, even  though it’s 12 525km away. One of the 4 categories was ‘creative’ – so using my sports tracker to create a picture, I tried to create a heart with D4D in the middle (Their charity is called ‘Distance 4 Difference’). I shared this map with our friend here in New York and she exclaimed, “Oh that looks like the map of Ohio!”

Those 8 words made me ponder the fact there are 50 states – and two days later the question ‘what if I created an outline of each state?’ inspired my next ubuntu challenge. I’ve added another element just for some fun to see if I can climb the elevation gain of each state across the 50 weeks –a mere 93 967,7m or the equivalent of climbing the Empire State Building 365 times (No I won’t be climbing it every day, unless you have a contact for me to chat to about this??)

The best part about this challenge is just as you can join me from wherever you are – I can still complete my weeks challenge if I travel.  

I’ll be going in order of each states ratifying the constitution of the union – starting with Delaware. Fun Fact: It’s the home state of the current sitting president Joe Biden (46th) and he’s the first president to be elected from this state. It got its name in 1610, after the first governor of Virginia, Sir Thomas West, Lord De La Warr.

The first state outline to be done on 19 February 2021

Building Purpose into Each Step

The charities supported by the donations you can choose from are:

  1. Habitat for Humanity (RSA or East Bay and Silicon Valley area) – building homes.
  2. One Heart for Kids (RSA or New York) – building literacy.
  3. Pencils of Promise (Africa or New York) – building schools.

50in50 isn’t just building community to support one another through unprecedented times, it’s building our discipline; our commitment to helping others; compassion for others circumstances; and last but certainly not least – a healthy habit that contributes to a strong immune system.

This challenge is for you IF:

  1. You’re tired of making New years resolutions about health and/or exercise that evaporate by Valentines day.
  2. You haven’t been severely affected financially by the pandemic and wish to help others out of their hole.
  3. Want to use 2021 to create a milestone in your life of positive change.

Not only will it be fun to recreate each states map, but we’ll forever be changing the course of another human beings’ life. That’s priceless. I’ll be working closely with each charity to provide you with interesting facts about what your impact means to children finally getting a safe building to learn in; learning to read; or own their first home that has running water and their own toilet.

Rabbi Tarfon who lived almost 2000 years ago around 73CE said, ‘You are not obliged to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.’ Covid has certainly shown me how we’re only as strong as our weakest link, and why it’s important to do what I can to empower others.

Understanding the essence of Ubuntu means working on two sides of the same coin: personal development & working together for the betterment of mankind.  I Changed my definition of how to measure success to support this; to borrow Nelson Mandela’s words:

A beautiful part about this challenge is that, just like climbing a mountain, we all arrive at different levels of fitness – BUT – with consistency and perseverance we can track our progress as we travel through the various states creating our own United States of America.

There’s always strength in numbers so these are the ways to get involved and help:

  1. You can pick a cause and donate.
  2. Take part yourself and donate what you can (R50 or $50 a month is great!)
  3. Take part and invite 1 other friend to join as an accountability partner.
  4. Join and create your own team to represent your own state/city and see if you can finish top of the leader board.
  5. Think of people who are looking for a supportive community to build a healthier lifestyle and/or want to empower others and share this with them.

I’ll finish how I started: how would you like to look back on 2021?

Anythings possible. I hope you’ll join me in making 2021 a year to remember (for all the right reasons!)

Head over here to register in 3….2…….1…….

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.

How to Unlock Self-Doubt’s greatest Gift

PHOTO CREDIT: Seth Winterhalter

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’

Mind. BLOWN.

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

4 Surprising Tips from Navy Seal Training for Surviving Sacred Seclusion

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

  1. 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

Photo Credit: Spec Ops Magazine

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

Photo Credit: New York Post

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.

I hope you emerge a magnificent butterfly.

8 Ways to Build Momentum

The longest journey starts with the first step.

9% of people buying online courses – finish them.

Not implement. Not become successful. Finish.

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%

Life Happens

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.

  1. 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.

My Onramp:

July: 1 weekly summit up Table Mountain.

August: 2 summits every week

September: 3 summits

October: 4.

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.

5. Your Focus

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.

8. Gratitude

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 realise how 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 your dreams.

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 for direct Monday morning tips, tricks and inspiration to pursue your dreams with passion, purpose and clarity with Andrew. Discover the same daily drive within.

Rediscover Your Power

Face your fears with your best foot forward

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.

Our Venue in Dallas, Texas

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 enough.

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.

A new set of standards on which to hold ourselves accountable.

What does this have to do with Tony Robbins?

Everything.

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’

Seeing the fires being prepared for the first time

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 not melted.

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 reality.

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 step.

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 ridiculously outlandish.

…. 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 for experience.

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 them.

Just like on those hot coals – that first step commits you to a new path of building momentum. I hope you’ll join me.

Andrew Patterson & Jessie Stuart feeling more aligned with their purpose

How Can You Learn From A World First?

365 Ubuntu Climbs thank you
Me pictured after finishing my last solo climb, number 366 on January 1st 2019

Thank You

(In about 8 minutes of reading)

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.

It worked.

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:

  1. Donation Total
  2. Media Coverage & stats
  3. Links to each charity for continued support
  4. Special mentions – The Monthly club and The Mandela Ubuntu Award
  5. A year in numbers – stats
  6. 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 Sunflower Fund  / Habitat for Humanity / One Heart for Kids

UKND0491

            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. 

nelson-mandela_650_330_70_s

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.

 

2018.01.01
My first climb, and sunrise on January 1st

2018.12.31
The final view sunset 31st December, the perfect book end

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!

Cape Town 365 Ubuntu Climbs final climb
The magnificent view on my last climb at sunset – I loved seeing the flat shadow

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 climb 122 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)

 

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.

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 believe in you – so take your first step today!

Perspectives on Lifelong Learning

Learning new City Renaissance Guy
From Cape Town to California

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.

rwts4764.jpg
The juxtaposition of city by morning and lit up with lights

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.

Renaissance Guy Learning to See Blog

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Fresh Eyes

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.

Renaissance Guy Quote
I think both are true

Learning Perspective

 

365 Ubuntu Climbs PerspectiveOne of the gifts bestowed upon me this year comes in the form of perspective.

It’s easy to make snap judgements on what I see or hear; because let’s face it – most things I comment on (socially, politically, environmentally) are based on my own experiences and beliefs.

I’d like to share some mind shifts I’ve had through dedicating a year to climbing the same strenuous route up Table Mountain – Platteklip gorge (a route most people detest) every day.

I’m going to relate them back to the three organisations its supporting: Habitat for Humanity; One Heart and The Sunflower Fund.

  1. Don’t you get bored doing the same route every day?

Stuck in a hospital room

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.

Three. Months.

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.

  1. ‘Bad’ weather as an excuse

drowned shacks

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.

shackfires

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.

  1. I Can’t leave Cape Town

 

Klapmuts primary school 365 Ubuntu Climbs talk
Children at Klapmuts primary at the handover where I had the privilege to speak about what I’m doing and why

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.

  1. 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.

Lifa Rock climb 145 365 Ubuntu Climbs
Lifa’s rock is the one in line with his head – yes he got up there!

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.

 

  1. Graffiti on the Mountain

Bonus lesson.

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.

Fading light climb 106 365 Ubuntu Climbs
The cable station sits alone (middle) in the distance as I race to the distressed hikers

Life and death climb 106 365 Ubuntu Climbs
View south as I race along

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.

Final understanding

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:

  1. Appreciate what I have even more
  2. Use my gifts/opportunities to empower those born into more challenging circumstances than my own.

The choice is ours.

See you on the mountain.

perspective quote 365 Ubuntu Climbs

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