Do You get Bored?

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“How do you not get bored doing the same route every day?”

This question’s about the fact I’m climbing Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge every day in 2018.

My answer on the mountain at the time was simple: No two days are the same.

That was my instant response answer, but the question sat like a splinter in my mind on the rest of the hike; day 76 of 365 summits.

Why don’t I get bored and what is boredom? I thought I’d explore it further in this piece.

What is Boredom

There are two times we’re bored: we’ve ‘nothing’ to do and/or doing the same thing over and over.

Parents will most likely identify most with the first type. Children complaining they’re bored because they aren’t able to do what they want.

In reality, boredom’s great (and necessary) because it stimulates creativity. Being bored means you must think, go within and tap into parts of ourselves that switch off when the TV or our dumb phones are on.

Understanding Boredom

In speaking about this to a group from the UK, words flowed through me I hadn’t thought about previously.

Boredom comes from pursuing things that are not driven by purpose. (With regards to a consistent daily routine)

Climbing Table Mountain every single day for a year just for some personal record would be boring as all hell to me.

Climbing Table Mountain every day to raise money and awareness for those born into extremely challenging circumstances has purpose.

It’s your mindset.

Different day – different people

I also challenge those who donate, to climb with me on a specific day, which means to date I’ve met amazing people and had 124 people walk up with me.

Would you get bored hearing about a mans struggle with depression, how he overcame it, developed techniques to do so and now teaches children all over the world how to find their voice and speak with influence?

Would you get bored listening to parents that met in India, lived in New York, packed up a good life there and moved to Cape Town to have a better quality of life with their children?

Would you get bored listening to your best friend share her challenges she’s going through and feel immensely proud at how she thinks and deals with challenges?

Would you get bored spending a Saturday morning with your only sister and her family that traveled 1400km to support you even when her health is something that prevents her from exercising the way she wants?

Now consider the fact that the weather from day to day can be dramatically different. One day clear blue skies2018.01.13

the very next day no view from the top at all 2018.01.14

What is your mindset?

Last year I climbed Table Mountain 49 times as part of my training regime while doing other hikes in-between to enjoy different scenery based on my geographical limitations this year. Training was mental preparation as much as physical. I told myself before every climb how excited I was and created the idea that I was hiking the equivalent of the day of the year. In other words, it may have been the 50th training hike, but I told myself this is day 277 of the year, and as such this is what it feels like after that many successive hikes.

Cultivating mindset doesn’t happen by accident, so here are some tips I’ve learned.

How to overcome boredom

Thinking about this question deeply I’ve developed 5 tips to cultivate your mindset so that you’ll never be bored again.

Tip #1: When you decide to do something there’s only one option – doing it.

It’s important to plan, this includes understanding all mental challenges that await you. You can train your mind to overcome it before you start.

I developed a healthy respect for what this challenge entails and more importantly, how powerful an impact it would make for people in need by completing it.

That meant there’s only one option to me – completing 365 hikes up Table Mountain in 2018.

When you give yourself alternatives the mind has options on what to focus on. IF you want to stop smoking the only option is being a non-smoker. Once you make that decision all you must worry about is today and the next moment. Period.

When you decide to do something there’s only one option.

Tip #2: Belief.

It’s one day at a time; step by step. Every day is a building block for the future, focus on what you learn and understand today, this builds belief within.

When you get through that, you get through the next day and before you know it – you’ve completed 15, then 79 days in a row.

Some days will feel easier than others. Some days will fly by. Perhaps outside factors will make your day more challenging, but you know what? It doesn’t matter what happens, you have the strength to overcome anything.

Tip #3: Outcomes drive behaviours, hence repetition doesn’t equal boring.

How many times have you eaten your favourite meal? Watched your favourite movie? Listened to your favourite song?

Over the years I’ve become accustomed to an important philosophy: The outcome drives the behaviour

I eat healthy because I know that means my body is getting nutrients it needs.

I exercise because I know it keeps my body and organs in good working order.

Whatever we do in life, especially things that we love, there’s a danger of becoming complacent and finding it boring. That’s why I say the end result drives behaviour, not your behaviour drives the result. Understanding why you do something is what builds healthy sustainable daily actions.

Tip #4: Gratitude is the foundation

When you stop being grateful for the fact that you can hear, then it becomes easy to get bored with listening to your favourite song.

If you lack appreciation for your body being fully abled, then you’d get bored being able to climb one of the 7 natural wonders of the world every day.

It takes a minute for your life to change dramatically. Nothing is guaranteed, and nothing is owed to you. Remember that.

Tip #5: What you focus on is what you get

If you worry about getting bored – you’ll get bored. If you love each day for the different options available to you then you’ll find new exciting things to experience each day.

Each day I get excited for the new experience that awaits me. I get excited for the fact that I AM doing it again! I’d rather be on the mountain than in traffic. I understand that I’m being blessed with healthy rejuvenating calming stress-relieving energy by being in nature. That each step is changing someone’s life for the better.

I focus on all the positive aspects about what I’m doing.

Start practicing today.

You don’t need to climb a mountain every day to put these tips into practice. Take breathing as an example, although it happens automatically do you get bored breathing? Take time to be aware and experience all the different ways you can breathe:

 : while walking

: while running

: while swimming

: while meditating

: while focusing on each breath

: doing breathing exercises

: out one nostril, in the other

Boredom’s born from expecting joy to be given to us; but when you can find joy in even the tiniest moment – you’ll never be bored again.

The choice is yours.

 Andrew Patterson is climbing Table Mountain every day in 2018 to build homes; teach children in under resourced schools to read; and increase the database for Leukaemia. Build. Teach. Life. To be part of the movement head to https://www.backabuddy.co.za/365-ubuntuclimbs

Love and respect. Thank you.

The Rain drop that Became a Tidal Wave

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This has been one of the most phenomenal weeks of my life.

I live by working for the best; planning for the worst; and expecting nothing – swapping expectation for appreciation.

As my project completes week two, these three states seem to cascade over me with regular occurrence. I’m doing my best to stay focused on what I need to do and be patient, have trust that it will work out the way it’s supposed to. And believe.

On the physical aspect, so far my body, specifically my legs, are holding up really well. I’m now seven days into uncharted territory, as the most training hikes in a row I did was nine. Every day I remain rooted in how my body is feeling and climb Table Mountain accordingly.

It’s amazing how quickly our minds can race away with ideas – on the first half of the climb while my legs still feel fresh, I can get excited that perhaps my physical challenge is not going to be that difficult? And then I’m brought swiftly back down to earth on the second half of the climb when my calves, hamstrings and knees start to feel drained of energy as the gap between steps seems to grow each time I climb.

Incredibly, the place I’ve decided to place a rock to represent each day this year, is the perfect place to break this top half up. Not too high that its basically at the top and not too low that the rest of the hike would make me feel despondent. Below is my rock and the corresponding view it has (on clear days!)

Having these little landmarks to celebrate arriving at (others being the contour path and half way rock) make such a difference in ensuring my mental state is always positive about climbing the 730m vertical rise. It’s been a great lesson in how to tackle other life or business goals.

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First Signpost – contour path

 

 

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Halfway Rock
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View from halfway rock

INSIGHT: Create short term achievable goals that help you get to your overall objective.

I’m being taught to ingrain the principles of taking life one day at a time, one step at a time. Be prepared and know what you need to do to such a degree that every time you wake up, you know exactly what needs to be done to accomplish your major goal and larger than that: your vision.

I really do believe that we are better together and it’s when our heart is at the core of what we do; that we bring others along on a combined journey. A journey that has far more power than an individual can accomplish on its own.

The story of the Rain drop

There is a story of a raindrop that from the clouds up above, saw a town suffering with a lack of water. A natural dam had formed upstream, blocking the flow of water to the town.

He tried his damnedest to fall down to earth, reach the river, and break the dam down. Alas, each time he tried he failed. His heart sank as for the umpteenth time he returned to the sky unsuccessful. His best friend saw him despondent and asked him what was wrong.

Sharing his story, the friend listened keenly and just before the end of the story, another rain drop overheard him and asked him to repeat it. Determined, the three friends tried together to fall to earth, make it to the river and try smash through the dam.

Now it was three raindrops returning back to the sky with sad faces.

More people noticed the three droopy mouths and soon a large crowd formed around the three as they shared their attempt to break the wall down. The crowd started to chatter among themselves when the booming voice of a thunder cloud suggested each rain drop in the crowd gather as many of their friends and family, and get them to bring their friends and their families.

Millions upon millions of rain drops came having heard the story. The thunder cloud transported them upstream and told everybody to fall together and try land in the same spot. They listened and once they hit the land they quickly gathered in the water creating a flash flood.

In a short space of time – they broke through the natural dam, rescuing the town from the drought.

While the one rain drop wasn’t able to save the town on his own tried time and time again – it was he that sparked the others to join and with their sheer numbers and force – together saved the town.

We are better together.

Many of us discount our ideas or doubt that we can have an impact. I’m here to tell you to banish that thought from your mind. For good.

There will always be negative nancies trying to block the water, but don’t let them pull you into their reality. Stay true in your positive one.

The world needs people like you.

If all those rain drops stayed in the clouds the town would have all but died out. One act collectively can transform lives.

I’m inviting you to be part of 365 Ubuntu Climbs. I want you to close your eyes and imagine living in a shack; having children that can’t read yet and you barely earn enough to feed the family let alone send the to a better school. How would you feel hearing that you or a loved one had Leukaemia and you had a 1 in 100 000 chance of finding a match?!

Now I want you to picture:

  • Leaving your shack behind as you get the the key to your own house…
  • See the benefit of a new system that helps teachers educate children to read…
  • Matches patients with donors…

Imagine getting a second lease on life when it felt like all hope had gone.

See the ripple effect as people, down and out, start being given a helping hand.

Lets this year, put the ‘humanity’ into habitat for humanity; put the ‘heart’ into One Heart for kids… and be the ‘Sunflower’ (symbolizes longevity) in the Sunflower Fund.

Humanity, Heart, Longevity.

The very things we all deserve and can work towards.

Together.

For all.

You can donate and help me here:

https://www.backabuddy.co.za/365-ubuntuclimbs

2017 – A Year to Remember

2017 review

I write this as I wing my way back to Cape Town having spent a soul feeding week in the African bush with my family.

My dad reminds me today would’ve been gran’s 100th birthday. I don’t believe in coincidences. I’m about to embark on an ambitious year – and this is another heart warming moment of synchronicity to experience.

2017 has been one heck of a year.

I love the opportunity of hindsight to explore the events of the previous year. To “connect the dots” as Steve Jobs once said.

Here are the six most impactful events of my year and what each of them taught me.

1. Starting my year in Jokulsarlon, Iceland

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I chose to spend New Years in Iceland, in a tiny village called Vik. I shared the most incredible NY eve of my life with two other intrepid travellers from France. Never in our wildest dreams could we have predicted we’d see the northern lights dance above our eyes as Icelanders set off fireworks lighting the snow covered mountains up in red. Nature and man combined to create a show I will always remember.

They suggested I visit the area further east called Jokulsarlon, Glacier Bay.

A drive that belongs in the National Geographic Hall of fame awaited me and my prize: a receding glacier that’s created a deep bay filled with icebergs effortlessly floating. Ice that breaks off is ushered out to sea where the Atlantic uses its creativity to place blocks of ice across the black sandy beach as if it is it’s private art gallery.

Here – some 15 906 kilometers away from home as near to the edge of the world I’ve been – I feel for the very first time a tremendous love of my home. Our home. Earth. What a gift this planet is for us. My heart was expanded standing mesmerised by the beauty around me. Being so alone and yet incredibly connected all in an instant.

What changed in me: alone and in the harshest conditions I’ve ever experienced, I felt a realisation that we are never lost; just temporarily unsure. All it takes is asking for help and we can immediately be back on track. That sometimes its in being lost that we get to experience incredible surroundings with heightened senses that we’ll look back on with fondness and appreciation.

2. Having to find a new place to stay

This would be my seventh year in my flat and around February/March I had a thought “at some point I’m going to have to find another place to stay”.

I had no idea a few weeks later my owners would message me to say they needed to move back in and I needed to be out by end of May.

The rental market in Cape Town, and specifically the Atlantic Sea Board, has become a nightmare. Rental prices have sky rocketed and availability of units has all but dried up like our water due to people preferring AirBnB instead.

A dear friend suggested I write down absolutely every detail of what I wanted in my new flat. I was incredibly specific. After two months of searching with no success, it appeared I may have to take friends up on their offer to put my stuff in storage and stay in their spare room.

I looked at my list often and held steadfast in my belief I would find a place that met ALL the requirements. I had some wobbles where I thought “maybe I should just be happy with a few?”

Two weeks before I need to be out the managing agents of my current building send me a text “813 will be available beginning of June – do you want it?”

This came moments before I left for a weekend away. I was desperate to see it soonest and had to be happy with arranging a viewing Monday night. It was dark and with belongings all boxed up I didn’t quite fully grasp how perfect the flat was. I did get a good feeling about it and immediately messaged to say I’ll take it.

Only once they’d cleaned carpets and repainted and I moved in did I fully grasp how much of my list it satisfied – one of my favourites being able to lay in my bed and see Lions Head (those who live in Cape Town will understand what a rarity that is)

What changed in me: my absolute faith and belief. I was tested for sure; but being tested is how we gauge where we are in life. That I’d be in my same building, six stories up (literally moving up in the world) with my flat directly opposite the lift to move my furniture into is almost too good to be true and yet – here I am.

It’s been another massive stride for me to completely accept that whatever we want, we can get. Which is especially important for point number 4 coming up.

3. Going through a retrenchment

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I was emailed by a head hunter barely an hour before our department was going to hear what changes were being made. Before that point, based on the importance of my role, I confidently assumed I was going to be safe. That email triggered an immediate awareness that not only was my role in the firing line – but that this was the end of my time at Distell. My gut was speaking loud and clear.

My role had become a ‘promotion’ and even as others confidently suggested there was no one else qualified to do the job; I just knew it wasn’t going to happen.

I was right.

I was offered other roles but knew it would be disingenuous to myself and Distell to take them. I had lost faith in the company and didn’t feel any of the other roles suited my career progression. I’d just be taking it to have a job. I had a funny feeling something big was coming from this. I was terrified, especially at the fact that my future’s slate had been wiped clean.

I trusted it would be the best thing that ever happened to me – and I was right.

What changed in me: I started trusting to my gut and I also made a conscious move to start making decisions based out of love and not fear. Worrying about a pay-check and where money was going to come from was staying out of fear. I was done with that.

With uncertainty abounding I was a week from leaving when an idea dropped into my head that would (and subsequently already has) change my life.

4. Receiving the simplest idea

Table mountain

Driving past Table Mountain the idea to hike up every day for a year was given to me and so 365 Ubuntu Climbs (Ubuntu is the spirit of humanity) was born.

Henry Ford said ‘whether you think you can or you can’t – you right’

I believe I am the luckiest traveller in the world, and that is why I saw the northern lights on New years eve. I have countless stories I can share about that. If you believe nothing good ever happens to you guess what…… nothing good ever will.

Taking the retrenchment with the faith and knowing that something amazing was going to come from it was rewarded a mere 8 days before my final day.

The idea set my soul on fire. Even when most people couldn’t grasp the enormity of what this meant, it didn’t waiver me from the endless possibilities it would create – both for me and others.

The idea was a simple one and using it as a platform to show people how easy it is to give by sponsoring me R1 a day would later develop into an audacious goal to use that money to positively empower 1 million people. Even as I sit here I can tell you that with each day that passes new ideas and exciting ways to achieve this goal flood my brain.

What changed in me: For the first time in my life, nothing but absolute self belief in achieving this feat existed in my psyche. This would be tested as the six month countdown began to such a degree that I almost allowed myself to get talked out of it from people who hardly know me. This taught me about how others can only see things from their perspective (which is based on their value system and experiences). They were looking at a piece of the puzzle telling me why that piece was a waste of time; while I was looking at the finished picture. It’s like arguing with a baker that egg, flour, milk, coco powder and villa essence mixed together will taste disgusting. Until they eat a slice of the cake created.

The greatest gift of all this year has been born from this idea. A deeper understanding of human behaviour, and not taking on others limited beliefs as my own. Just because you don’t believe you can do something doesn’t automatically mean that I can’t. In fact, I can see all the naysayers faces when everything I can see crystal clear in my mind comes into physical form.

It’s not about proving how right I am – it’s about following through on a simple idea that has the power to change a million peoples lives. Isn’t that something worth pursuing and being part of in 2018?

5. Speaking in front of 2000 people

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Once the 365 Ubuntu Climbs idea was given to me, I believed I could take this globally never mind to the rest of South Africa. I was introduced to a pioneer called JT Foxx, a man no stranger to naysayers and trolls, blazing trails across the world and giving people opportunities to elevate their success. A man who’s organisations credo is ‘powered by your success’.

He was hosting a Global event called ‘Money Wealth Business conference’ in Johannesburg on August 12th. People from as far as North America, Australia, Europe and Asia attended with the many local South Africans. It was the opportunity I’d asked for.

Not only had I spread my message to Johannesburg, but I now also had international supporters donating in support; even travelling from Switzerland to walk up with me.

What changed in me: I realised the power of following your heart and what you can accomplish when your soul’s been set on fire. What can feel like simple self development choices a year ago; like doing the “Courageous public speaking course” with Simon Ekin, could turn out to be instrumental later on. Like giving me the platform to speak in front of such a large audience. Passion speaks louder than being polished – and authenticity creates connection.

This has become the catalyst to show me how important to it is to have the courage to follow our hearts desire. That sometimes the worst thing we do to ourselves is over think things and the best gift we can give ourselves is to go for it. Take action. Move forward. That stumbling is better than standing still.

Nelson Mandela – who’s 100th birthday would’ve been in 2018 — said “it always seems impossible until its done”

My question is: Why couldn’t you be that person?

6. Traveling (again) to America over my birthday

JT Foxx hosted the Mega Success event at Disneyland in November and I’d have the opportunity for more coaching at his house afterwards. With no travel in 2018 I took the plunge and dipped into my bond to pay for the ticket. Something most people would frown upon as careless; but my gut said there was opportunities waiting for me I’d never otherwise get staying behind in Cape Town.

Ten months after arriving back to the day from my European vacation, I boarded a plane on my 38th Birthday bound for the US for the second time in my life.

Thanks to an amazing human being, Jessie Stuart, I was able to extend my trip by a week and stay with her in San Francisco. She’s an incredible human being that does fantastic work with Pencils of Promise, a non-profit dedicated to building schools in the poorest countries around the world. Her passion and enthusiasm for life, travel and focusing on what we can do instead of what’s wrong – is what we need more of in this world. Throw in the opportunity to travel with one of my best friends Lisa and without stepping foot off the plane, I already knew what a transformative three weeks these would be.

What Changed in me: my openness to listen to people with varying opinions to my own expanded. Life is about evaluating all the available information at our disposal and making our own informed decisions. Too often we follow one set of principles blindly or as gospel (religion, politicians, self help gurus, business giants, health experts) instead of understanding there is no one right way; but there is a right way for us – listening to our intuition and developing a deeper trust in our own decision making.

Success, much like happiness, is not a destination but rather a result of what we do and how we live our lives. Chase excellence, and success will follow. Chase fulfilment in everything that you do and happiness will abound.

We’ll never live in the absence of fear, of pain, of doubt, of difficulty.

But we can choose to push through bravely with love in our heart; with an understanding that pain can create drive to improve our lives; doubt is is just a made up ; difficulty is essential to develop appreciation and gratitude.

Stop hoping trying and wishing and start doing.

2018 will be a success because I will work and act in a way that I will create it. I won’t try I just will. Thoughts are nothing without actions. I am climbing Table Mountain every day in 2018 as living proof that powerful ideas while powerful – are meaningless without doing something with them.

If you had challenges in 2017 – be grateful for them.

My wish for you in 2018 is not just to feel inspired; but to feel inspired enough to act.

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Pushing my limits; What can YOU Learn?

Table mountain

The last few months have been incredibly introspective for me.

Spending the bulk of my time alone on the mountains, in preparation for climbing Table Mountain every day next year, has allowed quality ‘me’ time.

It’s been interesting to watch myself see-saw between feeling inspired and feeling disheartened. I’ve been working aggressively through old negative behaviors – specifically self sabotage. It can creep up on you quickly and once your mind has hold of it: becomes diarrhea.

No one ever said self development was easy, and as with most things we tend to want the optimum results now without walking the path. Once again I am being taught patience and to choose gratitude for the learning’s instead of beating myself up for the fact I don’t already know it.

Over sixty hikes have taught me that and more; and I’ve quickly realised the similarities of conquering an obstacle every day, to the path of life.

Here are five insights I’ve gained:

1. One step at a time

We somehow create mountains out of molehills. Obstacles always seem to be harder, longer or even insurmountable. The trick?

Just get started.

It’s just one foot in front of the other that gets you up Table Mountain. Know your end goal but don’t focus too much on it otherwise it becomes daunting. Having an understanding of smaller targets that are easily achievable (where half way is; how many turns there are going up) diverts your attention from the total task at hand.

Interestingly enough, doing it this way has resulted in some of my fastest times up Table Mountain. You become enthused about hitting and reaching the smaller milestones rather than constantly overwhelmed by what still needs to be achieved.

2. Remain focused

I’ve almost twisted my ankle on the final few steps coming down after completing nearly 7 000 steps – why? Because I became cocky in a sense of thinking ‘ag just the last few steps who needs to concentrate’ and its exactly in that moment something happens.

Never take any step for granted.

I’m learning to become mindful not mind full. Many people have asked about what happens if I get injured next year. I believe injury happens when we are not prepared, we lose focus or is a manifestation of our own self doubt in our abilities to do what’s in front of us.

That last one I know because as a twelve year old I broke my arm two days before a football final while practicing. Why? Because I didn’t believe I was good enough to be in the team and contribute meaningfully.

Watch your thoughts carefully.

Every step we take in life must be with purpose and focus towards what we want. The moment we take our eyes off what we doing in the moment or allow self doubt to creep in is when we invite the mini disasters into our life.

3. Be grounded in appreciation and gratitude

Every climb I connect with the first step of the mountain in a show of gratitude for the fact that I not only have able legs, but a healthy body to support my climbs safely.

I have family members who’ve had to spend afternoons in bed because their bodies have been a debilitating drain on their energy. Most people I know suffer with illnesses throughout the year; some have chronic back pain. Some in wheelchairs. A few examples of things that others have to deal with daily that most take for granted.

Our bodies are our temples and one of the most sophisticated pieces of equipment on this planet. Being mindful of each step allows me to fully be present in my body and feel each step; how one tiny adjustment means I don’t feel niggles in my knees. It allows me to listen to my body and go at a pace that tests me but doesn’t put unnecessary stress on it.

To me, being active celebrates the gift this body I’ve been given is.

4. Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable

JT Foxx stresses this point and this practice is helping me realise why it’s so important. Often the body feels under duress or that it’s tiring. I’m learning how we can push ourselves past that initial ‘pain’ which enables us to achieve more than we dreamed. This has helped on the really hot climbs where, taking an hour versus two, in searing heat doing strenuous exercise makes a huge difference.

It’s amazing that often my mind feel my body is on the brink of ‘sorry buddy – we need a break or we shutting down’ and yet; on most occasions doesn’t come and you can push through it.

I can tell you that this alone is the biggest lesson I’ve learned that will help me when those dark days come next year. When my body perhaps feels like it won’t manage and yet, will make it so long as I just start.

Uncomfortable just means we outside the range of what we know as normal. What we’re used to. Means we’re challenging what our own minds deem possible or impossible.

In our own minds.

Nelson Mandela said ‘it always seems impossible until its done’

Like I said – just take the first step.

5. Reward equals the risk we take

This is a biggie.

If you playing it safe and expecting to get massive returns; you living in a dream world. Small step outside comfort zone equals small reward on the other side.

Huge strides pushing your own boundaries and limitations means there’s an equal reward of learning and growth on the other side of that.

Ultimately we need to all learn to forget about everyone else (when it comes to growing) and focus on ourselves.

Am I better than I was yesterday?

What have I learned this day/week/month/year that helps me become a better person for tomorrow to push the boundaries even more?

Don’t just live with purpose – live on purpose. There’s a word we can all use every day that could transform everyone’s lives.

Believe.

In yourself.

In each other.

In a better world for all.

I do. So don’t take my word for it – rather watch how I create that reality and decide if you prepared to take action for yourself.

You won’t regret it. Of that I’m certain

You

You won’t regret it. Of that I’m certain.

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I’m having a Bad Day

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Bad days are just like commercials; they annoy everybody but eventually they go away.

Don’t you hate it when something goes wrong and someone says ‘everything happens for a reason’?

Yes they’re right – but it’s not what I need to hear in that moment.

The focus is largely always on the positive side of life, as if that’s the constant normal state that exists. The ‘bad days’ are neatly forgotten or ignored when they are an important part of our lives.

How do you generally feel about negativity or the ‘bad days’ you have? Most of us try and push through or suppress them and pretend everything’s ‘fine’. Get on with it, so to speak.

I know this. I’ve lived it, but the reality is we wouldn’t know what a good day feels like if we didn’t have the bad. We wouldn’t know what happiness is without experiencing sadness and pain.

I know what you thinking – do I really need to have bad days?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: Try this

  1. Get a blank piece of paper.
  2. Draw a Y and X axis – 0 being sad and 100 happy on Y axis and 0 to 100 being years on X axis.
  3. Think of your earliest happy memory and plot that.
  4. Now think of a sad time after that and plot that.
  5. What was the next happiest memory after that? Plot that too.
  6. Keep going until the present day.

Welcome to the cycles of your life.

Point number one: Every bad experience is always followed by a good one. And visa versa.

You might still be asking ‘Yeah but do I really need to experience the bad??

Absolutely! Why?

Appreciation

If happiness was just dished out willy nilly no one would appreciate it. Just look at this planet we’ve been given: pollution and abuse run rampant.

Think of someone who just gives their children whatever they want whenever they want. On a scale of 1-10 rate how highly those kids appreciate what they have… or are they always asking for the next thing?

Life becomes easier when we accept there are going to be bad days; maybe weeks (Anything longer than that and deeper questions need to be asked – nobody is supposed to have sustained misery)

I’d like to offer you my tip when these bad days roll in.

Embrace them. Don’t fight it. If it becomes the absolute worst day ever, let it. Swear at the world if you have to. Curse everything and everybody out of frustration. Be the spoilt toddler that isn’t getting their ice cream.

It’s like doing a controlled burn so you don’t have a runaway fire later on.

Get. It. Out. Of. Your. System.

Deep down you know it’s not going to last and that when the sun shines tomorrow it will be better (even if its just a tiny bit) Allow yourself to feel what its like to be down, depressed, angry, hopeless, fearful and disillusioned.

You give yourself such a hard time when these days occur and feel you should push it down; put on a brave face and soldier on. Tell everyone how ‘amazing’ life is while secretly dying a slow death inside. I’ve even told a friend to rent ‘Schindler’s List’ just so she could cry even more and really release everything that was bottled up inside. (It worked by the way)

By embracing these days you allow yourself to move on quicker. All the while moving forward with less baggage. We’re ‘human beings’ not ‘human nofeelings’.

What have I learnt by doing this when others are having a bad day?

Listen.

Too often we try (and I’ve been guilty of this too many times) and jump into solution mode. When actually maybe all they need is an empathetic ear to listen. I’ll never forget my mom telling me ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.

Just remember there’s a difference between sharing and whining; this isn’t about having a pity party and bemoaning how tough your life is – because then the next question coming your way is: ‘okay, so what are you going to do about it?’

You have all the strength and power within you. Believe in that. Empower yourself when times are good so that you know you can make it through the bad ones.

You going to have another bad day. Make peace with that, and don’t get stuck thinking that it’s going to last forever. Who knows – maybe there’s a lesson in those days that will change your life forever.

You’re allowed bad days, so don’t be so hard on yourself when the next one rolls around. One magical thing this mind-set allows you is perspective; it allows you to look deeper at what is happening and why.

After all; everything that happens to us is based on a decision we’ve made at some point.

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Retrenchment or Rebirth?

Rebirth

Even after the most destructive fire – life finds a way and transforms the landscape.

On the face of it – being retrenched sounds like a disaster.

But why?

We get accustomed to a way of being. We become settled in our comfort zones. We settle for ‘this is the best we can do’.

We also prefer to listen to all the talk from everyone about ‘how tough it is out there’ and take on everyone else’s fears. And THAT is where we make our biggest mistake.

We listen to other people’s fears.

True – I don’t have kids to worry about and I’m sure that would have an impact on my outlook, but I believe retrenchments are a fantastic opportunity to truly take stock of what we want.

I’m being retrenched. Fact; but now more than ever the phrase ‘we get what we focus on’ is important.

I have a choice: focus on how difficult things could be or choose to believe in the abundance of the universe and do what I need to and allow opportunities to flow.

It’s incredible how people come into your life to help you. I’m already experiencing this. I also love how an idea will suddenly appear in my head. The incredible start to what’s step one in creating a better life.

Thoughts create words

Words create actions

Actions create habits

Habits create character

Character creates destiny

Positivity is my filter I choose to look at everything that happens to me. If your mind is not a fertile breeding ground for positive thoughts to appear then how can you create a positive life?

I’ve been through worse, eight years ago the company I worked for was liquidated. I had no job, limited experience and no vision to create a direction for my life. The world’s economy was in free-fall and my friends in the recruitment industry told me they had no prospects for me. Thankfully, I had tremendous support from my folks to help me through that difficult time.

Jump back three more years and having no idea about who Distell actually were, when recruitment companies asked ‘who are the top 5 companies you’d like to work for’ I listed them every time. Even with a conscious wonder of how I could add value to them.

Enter that loss of my job and I was propelled into a career that enabled me to do just that in a specialised field to not just Distell – but Coca Cola as well.

We can’t see into the future and we have no idea who we’ll meet and what opportunities will present themselves to us.

And therein lies the lesson from that experience: we don’t have to know all the answers; we just have to be open to and believe they will, in fact, happen.

My last day is incredibly on my mother’s birthday – the woman who gave me life.

When I look back to that day in years to come I will see that this was my rebirth.

 

I see my life  like Lego.

Only we don’t have the instructions.

Every experience, work related or otherwise, is another building block added to help create my masterpiece. Each on its own apparently meaningless but truthfully a beautiful opportunity that releases my ability to think creatively on how they fit together; and release the potential to shape my own future.

And together – builds my own unique fun design to play with every day.

I can’t wait for my next block to play with.

 

Confessions of a Writer

Stephen king quote

Every time I post a new article, it’s like asking a woman out on a date.

The groundhog experience of writing that never has the same response. It’s an interesting world to live in: being evaluated and judged on your thoughts and views on topics.

I was recently at the Franschhoek Literary Festival – as a writer, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing other writers speak. Some of the speakers were 30 book veterans; others weekly columnists. I imagined myself up on stage talking about my books; my muses; my processes I have for writing and explaining how it is I became a writer.

And on a more introspective level:

Become honest with myself that I am one.

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I read a fascinating article in the Guardian on why we love books and why festivals like the one I just attended are regularly sold out.

“The answer lies in the power of stories.

Stories have been around since time began; they tell us what it is to be human, give us context for the past and insight towards the future. A narrator’s voice replaces stressed, internal monologue and takes us out of our life and into the world of the story. Paradoxically, we think we are escaping ourselves but the best stories take us back deeper into our interior worlds.”

This is a brilliant description of what a reader might experience at the hands of a writer. But what about the latter? This writer would like to let you in on a few of his secrets.

  1. Where it began

I never had any aspirations of being a writer. In fact, I only remember one of my English pieces in creative writing getting an A (ironically it was about being in Cape Town – my new found home).

My writing developed because I was a terrible communicator. Talking about my problems used to make me feel as though I was in a bad dream, where I wanted to speak but had no vocal cords. I’m still not entirely sure whether it was related to all my insecurities or if it was because I didn’t want to burden anyone else with my problems. I felt that I just needed to sort them out myself. Thankfully I’ve worked through that (mostly).

I still have the first ‘Book of Andrew’ – my tributes to, and way of recording, the beauty in my life:

  • Drawings
  • Statements (I suppose what today would be memes)
  • My observations
  • Poems
  • Songs
  • My expression of happiness

It was a way for me to take the constant chatter in my head and turn a blank page into something meaningful. For me, it was far easier than expressing myself in person – especially when I was having, what mom eloquently named, “growing days”.

It was almost as if writing gave me the opportunity to become the ‘communicator’ on paper that I wished I could be in real life.

Writing was, and is, a way I could express myself completely.

  1. My nudge to think of writing more seriously

It’s amazing how the universe works. After swearing I would never move to the UK, low and behold, I ended up there towards the end of the 2003 summer.

These were the days before communication channels like Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook et al. It was either email or phone cards – and emails were the cheaper option for weekly correspondence.

It started innocently. I’m blessed with a family that is not just involved, but invested in my life; and so I’d write an email once a week about my adventures living in London Town. With family back in Johannesburg and some over in Canada, I enjoyed sitting down to collate my experiences of the past week to share with them. And as an extra bonus, I got to relive all of it a second time!

My mom and aunt started writing back to me expressing their admiration for my writing; and even though they are avid readers, I brushed it off as family bias. (Truth be told, I still have to catch myself in awe that people actually read what I write).

Being in London provided me with the unique opportunity to get outside of my comfort zone every day and forced me to think about what was going on in my life and what I was experiencing. I started an unofficial diary but until a few months later, hadn’t dabbled in writing about anything other than my own experiences.

  1. Short stories before my first novel

I met a woman and started writing short stories over email. It never progressed more than that though – maybe because I didn’t believe I could write a full story or that it would be any good. It was almost as if I had ADHD and, after more than a handful of pages, I’d become bored and prefer to start a new story.

Enter someone else to give me a push towards writing a full novel. The deal: she’d give me the title and I’d write her a story; sending her pages once I’d completed them (probably between seven to fifteen at a time). This was the first time I was pushing myself to develop a story and characters; but writing was slow for the first eight months.  And then the universe intervened once again.

The company I was working for at the time was liquidated. I was out of work for four months. There’s only so many new job postings you can look at and apply for in a day. Thankfully I had my writing to keep me occupied – else I’d have gone nuts.

Almost a year to the day I started writing my first novel, I finished it. It is and will always no doubt remain one of my favourite experiences of all time.

What has writing taught me?

The article I mentioned above talks about readers wanting to ‘escape themselves’ only to go deeper within themselves. I think writers have to go even deeper. The evidence is in the blank pages painted with our tears, crinkled with our frustrations and illuminated with our love. Our stories take you on a journey. I consider that a gift and a privilege.

It is why I endeavour to always leave my readers (or as I like to call you – my conscience) with positives. Not JUST positives – tangible concepts that are implementable right now.

And on that note, I’d like to share with you what my writing journey has taught me to date:

  1. Don’t dismiss positive praise. Look at the source. My family had nothing to gain from embellishing their praise. Nor did they have a history of telling me what I wanted to hear. So always consider the source and patterns of where the praise is coming from.
  2. Criticism (good or bad) says more about the other person than you or your writing. I did a video on my Facebook page around ‘being wrong’ and I believe it’s a concept we should really reconsider. All our experiences and viewpoints differ. Not better or worse. Just different. I’ve become more open to creating dialogue rather than simply trying to get across my point of view. Because even though I may have something to share, I’m often the one that ends up learning something new. 99% of people have enjoyed my book but I’ve also had it compared by one person to a Mills and Boon novel. Ouch. But that was their experience and therein lies the beauty of stories – one can be written with an intention, and yet interpreted in so many other ways.
  3. Be yourself. If I try to write what I think people will like, how would I decipher what that is exactly? There are 7 billion people on this planet! People respond to authenticity. I believe it’s something we all aspire to be all the time. Authentic in the absence of judgement. I’m nervous every time I post something new, but what keeps me going is the fact that I’m being true to myself; how I want to live my life. BUT – I know I don’t know everything and I need to be open to comments on my writing which highlight gaps in my thinking or illuminate something to which I’ve never been exposed to before. Again – I never stop learning.
  4. Sometimes it’s easy; sometimes you wonder ‘What the f@#k’. Those four months at home writing day after day gave me a window into what it would be like to write full time. Some days it flows as if you’re plugged into a machine and downloading information with fibre-optic speed; other days it’s a struggle to write one sentence. Isn’t that a great metaphor for life? Some days we feel in the flow; others we feel whatever we do is like wading through mud. Don’t get disheartened – the struggle days are outnumbered by the good ones; and every day you feel is a battle will be followed by one where everything works out.
  5. Value time. If you love something – set aside time to do it as often as possible. I’d even say every day – even if it’s simply ten minutes. I recently read this quote on Tim Ferris’s blog: “You can do so much in 10 minutes’ time. Ten minutes, once gone, are gone for good. Divide your life into 10-minute units and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activity.” – Ingvar Kamprad, Founder of the furniture brand IKEA
  6. Be bold – it’s worth it. We build things up in our minds and human nature tends to lean us towards focusing on the negatives. ‘Who will read it?’; ‘He won’t want to talk to me’; ‘The world will swallow me whole if I do x’. The rewards I’ve gotten from writing (nothing monetary) have been some of the most uplifting moments of my life. Had I not listened to my family, this would never have been written; you’d be looking at a blank page. Just give whatever it is you’ve been afraid to try a go. I promise you – it’s absolutely exhilarating.
  7. Just Start. Sometimes the hardest part is opening the laptop or grabbing a pen. I can come up with uncountable reasons why now isn’t a good time to write. Most of the time, though, these blogs included, just writing the first few words is the crack in the door I need to open it wide.

Insecurity – A 20 Year Journey

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I’m not entirely sure what I’m expecting heading back to my hometown Johannesburg for my 20 year reunion; but there’s definitely butterflies floating around in my belly.

Not everyone’s keen on returning to reunions though for various reasons, perhaps bad memories from high school – some mates have never been back to their school never mind aspirations of attending their reunions. There’s the possibility of not being as successful as others? Maybe our relationship status makes us nervous. Society creates ‘templates’ and if you’re not following it; ‘what’s wrong with you’ or ‘why’ are generally the recipient’s responses.

I’m incredibly proud that I’m a King Edwards old boy and even more so seeing that the traditions and ethos of the school haven’t just been maintained – but elevated to new levels.

Attending is also a great opportunity to put some of my beliefs into practice too. I’m grateful I did, visiting the school that shaped me into the man I am today was insightful.

We joined the assembly before a tour of the grounds; followed by golf and then what became a very entertaining dinner. My day starts at 06h30 driving to school the exact way I did back in 1997; only I’m not in the passenger seat. All the emotions and feelings of being at school come flooding back – the good and the bad. I had a mixed high school but I’m thankful for that. Life isn’t all roses.

I didn’t slot into any one specific group back then. I played a variety of sport and as such interacted with some of the more popular boys but was also in the Latin class. We were a small class that had a mix of everything. Academics, the deputy head boy and prefects; some of the best actors and debaters too. We had guys playing cricket, rugby, rowing, squash, basketball and athletics as well as some that played no sport. A mixture of boarders and day boys all from diverse backgrounds.

This all worked to shape my young mind, I was also getting the added benefit of a life education in people skills.

Twenty years evaporate in an instant

How I’ve changed since matric (thankfully, otherwise that really would’ve been a failure on my part) I’ve been blessed to live in three cities; work abroad and travel to fourteen countries. My mind’s been opened significantly through all my travels and I’m richer for it.

I’m also four inches taller and twenty kilograms heavier than my younger self; a completely different hairstyle too with less of it to boot and not as many greys as I’d like (yes, you read that correctly) Needless to say, some of the guys take a while to remember exactly who I am. But for the most part, strap on our uniforms and we may as well be in matric again.

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Lesson #1: Self Development pays off

I was terribly insecure back then. Just walking into the school every morning was a struggle; fast forward twenty years and walking into the quadrangle seeing familiar faces is actually a great experience. Talking to guys I’d either been intimidated by or perhaps wished I could be more like was now as easy as brushing my teeth.

What I learned: How I felt back in school was completely my own doing. My insecurities about being liked or being good enough to want to be friends with was all in my head. My behaviour was created by my thoughts, making me seem aloof or distant to those around me so the cycle continued.

Greatest transition from young Andrew: learning that it’s okay not to be liked by everyone and the best you can do is be yourself. That’s how you attract and become friends with those that will matter in your life and vice versa.

Do everything required to be the person you’d most like to spend time with and be friends with.

Lesson #2: Success is different to everyone. Avoid comparisons.

One of the first questions asked is ‘Are you married’ and if you nod your head quickly followed by ‘kids’?

I’ve come close but as yet haven’t been married and currently single too. (I think my wife’s playing the world’s greatest game of hide and seek.)

What I learned: Everyone’s path is different and there’s no ‘right way’. In fact the best response from one of my classmates was ‘Are you happy’. I most certainly am. ‘Then that’s all that matters mate’

Greatest transition from young Andrew: Up until I had my first kiss at 19, I wondered if any woman would ever be interested in me romantically. Now I look back on some profound relationships with exceptional women that, just as King Edwards VII School, made me a better person. Combined with the first lesson above, I’m comfortable walking into a situation where I know I’ll be the only guy in my position – and be okay with that. Whatever traits you wish you had, you can have them it’s never too late.

Measure your progress against yourself, not anyone else.

Lesson #3: Our school years are so important

I was fortunate to go to such a great high school. In fact my Latin teacher is the one who inspired the name of my blog when he told us ‘dare to be Renaissance Men’. This meant that between school and home I was challenged to be my best; always be a gentleman and have an unwavering respect for myself and others.

It’s fascinating to hear all the stories of where everyone’s paths have taken them. It’s inspiring to see how they’ve become champions in their various fields but more importantly: life.

What I learned: It doesn’t matter who you are on this planet, we’ll all experience utter moments of bliss, death and setbacks. The sooner we realise that it’s not what happens to us that defines us – but rather how we choose to move forward that does; our lives change.

Greatest transition from young Andrew: I decided one drive back from school that what I was doing wasn’t working. I wanted my life experiences to be better. It’s taken years of trial and errors and looking back on how I’ve progressed, I’m eternally grateful for that decision. None of us are perfect; we all have hopes and dreams; all of which can be achieved.

Figure out what’s most important to you and never compromise on that.

My biggest change in those 20 years?

In Matric I was consumed with me. How will I make the first team; why am I not as popular as other boys? Whereas now, I’m more externally focussed on what I can do for others while constantly working on being the best person possible. A far better balance and focus that has allowed me to cultivate some truly incredible friendship groups that add such colour and value to my life experiences.

Bottom line: Stop worrying about what others think and make sure what you think, is partnering with where you want to go.

Your twenty year future self will thank you.

 

How can Adversity lead to Opportunity?

Adversity

Adversity is opportunity dressed in disguise.

It sometimes feels like it follows us around though, doesn’t it?

People who overcome adversity, particularly in a larger sense, are often like inspirational or motivational speakers. Their stories are inspiring but we fail to connect with their accomplishments to incorporate into our daily lives.

I hope we can change that today.

This past Sunday I was due to ride my 8th Cape Town Cycle Tour (formally known as the Argus – I still call it that it’s so much easier) and my 4th year raising money and awareness for *The Sunflower Fund; an organisation formed out of tragedy that now helps so many.

Alas due to extreme wind the race was called off.

The previous day; however,  a fire had ripped through Hout Bay destroying countless homes leaving thousands of people with nothing but the clothes on their back. With the race being called off, food and water from the race’s unused hospitality section was donated to the victims; as was the prize money. That alone meant my heart was happier Monday morning than if I’d raced and gotten medal #8. Example number one.

The Sunflower Fund

Tina Botha lost her son, Chris Collett to Leukaemia at the age of 17 – a month shy of his 18th birthday. Read their story here

I personally can’t imagine too much worse than this. Death is never easy but to lose your child? How incredible then that she took their experience to generate this organisation to tirelessly work to increase the database of donors for people with Leukaemia.

This is one of the reasons I support them the way I do (and became a donor). The strength it took to overcome heartache has now generated something special that helps saves lives.

She wasn’t defined by what happened to her – she’s defined by how she reacted though.

But how does that help you with your daily adversity you face?

The Gray’s story

Brian took some time to chat to me about when their daughter was diagnosed with Leukaemia seven years ago – she was only three.

When they got a phone call like this they suddenly realised how limited their knowledge on the subject was; it just sounded like death.

Living in Pinelands turned out to be a blessing as treatment took place at the Red Cross hospital just five minutes away. The news meant both Brian and Sharon’s thoughts were running away with them. Thankfully the doctor and staff at hand were outstanding.

It was carefully explained that firstly, until the doc says panic there was no reason to. He meticulously went through the protocol of what would happen during the typical two and a half year process for girls this age; what each drug was and what it would do to her system (good and bad). They were also given great advice on how to keep her isolated when her immune system would be at its lowest.

Even in these darkest times they were blessed with being able to do everything in the best possible way to support her recovery.

“If you ask me a question, I will answer it honestly” he warned. “I won’t just tell you things you may not want to hear – like what is the survival rate”

They would still ask him that question.

Somehow just having a plan in place helped Brian in particular, and they had a purpose and short term goals to work towards. All welcome distractions from the worst outcome a parent can imagine.

It may have been over five years ago, but I could feel the emotion of what they went through. Hearing how Brian and Sharon fought through this time and the strain it put on each of them and in their lives, showed that even with a positive outlook it doesn’t change the fact that we are negatively affected by such experiences; physically and emotionally.

Adversity doesn’t keep time and they would sometimes have to rush their daughter to the hospital at 2am when her temperature soared; only to get home at 5am get changed and head to work.

Initially they thought that the staff were uncompromising – but soon realised they were committed to the kids first and foremost; not worrying about the parents feelings. As the treatment progressed they would see ‘new’ parents expressing the same frustrations and finally watch their penny drop that the ‘abruptness’ was because their job was to save these kids – not pander to what the parents were experiencing. The Gray’s would later be grateful for this.

Thankfully, little Ms Gray responded well to treatment and is now a happy ten year old with an added dimension to her very being. She’s a fighter who soldiered through her treatments; what at the time ended up being half of her life. I look forward to seeing how she uses that strength in the rest of her life.

Here’s the twist.

Having registered as potential donors for their daughter (they only start doing searches and comparisons if response to treatment doesn’t go well), Brian was contacted six months later to say he was a match.

Just try imagining this. You are watching your own daughter go through treatment – and you hear you can help someone who didn’t respond to it.

Adversity had inadvertently enabled him to save another human being.

He underwent two more tests to ensure he was a perfect match. Almost a year after his daughter had been diagnosed; he would become a lifeline.

For a week he got two injections a day to stimulate his body into making additional stem cells and pushing them into his blood stream. The day finally arrives and he sits quietly for seven hours as they draw his blood, and use a centrifuge machine to spin the blood and collect the stem cells.

There is no pain

Read that as everyone has no reason not to sign up to the registry and potentially save someone’s life.

In South Africa we have 73 500 people registered (about 0.14% of the population) versus a country like Germany, where being a donor is entrenched in their culture, has 9 million people registered (11% of the population)

To this day his recipient is doing well and now that the five year mandatory waiting period is up; Brian and his donor recipient can meet up. He hopes to meet the person and see them healthy and strong.

The family experienced tremendous hardships through this but learnt some valuable lessons.

  1. Time offers wonderful perspective. And these perspectives will always be revealed to you.
  2. Seek help. Brian openly expresses to me how he tried to be too strong for too long and eventually broke down. Speaking to a professional he was able to process this ordeal and now has a healthy respect for seeking help and often guides people today to seek the same. There is no stigma or shame in doing so.

Adversity means different things to different people.

It can change the course of our lives or just the course of our day. What stands out is no matter what it is – it’s the same mind-set we all need to push through to change it into an opportunity. Even if we don’t know what that opportunity could possibly be. We simply have to have faith that it’s there.

I believe part of getting through adversity is a belief that it’s more than just about us. Believing that we’re all here to help one another – in whatever way – cultivates a mind-set to push through darkness towards light. Look how the Grays overcame everything to help their daughter.

Once we overcome adversity we come out the other side a changed human being and that benefits everyone – not just ourselves. Case in point: Tina & all the Grays.

Some things to think about before adversity strikes:

  1. It takes time. Be kind to yourself and take the time you need to process what happens.
  2. Let go of attachment. Holding on to what we want versus what is reality will drive you mad.
  3. Only deal with what’s in front of you now. Your doctor may have found a lump but until you get the test results back it could just be benign.
  4. Don’t be a pawn, be a player. Decide whether you going to let it stop you, or you going to move forward the way you choose to. Players make the move.
  5. Feel your inner strength. We don’t give ourselves enough credit. Start feeling your inner strength and stop believing others ‘just happen to have it’ more than you do. Just ask Tina and Brian and never be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is one of the true signs of strength.
  6. Learn from others. We are not meant to do everything alone. Ask for help, get advice, and surround yourself with people who contribute to a positive mind-set rather than constantly berate you.

These can take time to build up so I found a great table with a way to frame questions you’d usually ask yourself to be more positive:

AdversityTable

Courtesy www.rebootauthentic.com

I hope you can find a daily practice that allows you to take the shit you’ve been given and use it as fertilizer to grow something new; something beautiful.

Maybe even a sunflower.

 

*If you’d like to register as a donor visit them at www.sunflowerfund.org.za  and if you’d like to contribute to their cause and help people get type tested – a cost of R2000 per person; their details are as follows:

The Sunflower Fund

 ABSA

 Account No: 405 183 4719

 Branch Code: 632005

 Hope begins with you

2017 – Building on 2016’s Lessons

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December is an interesting time of year for me. Within a week you have Christmas: a time to take stock and be appreciative of family, friends and your life as it is; and New Year: a time to reflect on another year passed, plan towards what you want and get excited about what lies ahead.

I feel being overseas gave me an advantage over both and to be alone in Iceland allows a rare opportunity to have an inordinate amount of time to think. Surrounded by immeasurable beauty, it’s wonderful to get lost in my own thoughts evaluating my life. Where I’ve come from; how I’ve changed and what my intentions for my future are. I’m struck by the deepest sense of calm and connection in that week and I’m filled with appreciation.

Pure contentment.

Absolute admiration for this life we have and the experiences we can create.

My 2017 begins with this incredible sunrise.

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I was originally going to spend today writing and have a ‘quiet one’. With new information, however, I’m on my way again with another two and a half hours’ drive. Every turn around the next approaching mountain brings a new feast for my eyes. Iceland is like an experienced waiter; constantly bringing a new dish just as your current one is finished, complemented with a fresh glass of wine to create a taste sensation.

My eyes are twinkling with delight.

Just take a look at this terrifyingly beautiful glacier that looks like a sweeping tidal wave cascading over and between the peaks; frozen in time, their rich blue demonstrating their purity. I wish the scale could be truly conveyed in this picture.

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I’ve been blessed with many memorable New Year’s days; such varied and notable experiences like being with my family high in the Swiss Alps (also surrounded by snow) and dancing in the summer heat of Franschoek surrounded by happy smiles, authentic human beings and nature.

Today I get to add to this list: Jökulsárlón – Glacier Bay.

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I haven’t actually gasped out loud many times in my life. This is one of them. As a result of global warming this glacier has retreated nearly 4 km creating a lagoon filled with docile icebergs. It’s not that wide but its damage is not visible from the shore – it’s 250m deep!

Glaciers, icebergs and fragments of ice keep my soul captivated every second.

A stroll down to the beach (also black), brings a contrast to these sleeping giants: chunks of ice litter the shore as the sea declines its gifts.

Time is the sculptor; the beach is the gallery and the ocean the curator meticulously placing them across the dark sand for our delight. I could spend hours here in summer; but conscious of the time and not wanting to drive in the dark I reluctantly trudge off taking it all in one more time.

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This is the start of my year.

A thought from the beach starts to echo in my mind:

Without emotion and experiences, essentially each day is the same. If we can control how we react to our surroundings we have the power to shape our days so that there are far more good ones than bad. The only reason we say a day (or year for that matter) is “good” or “bad” is because of the lens through which we look at it – a lens which is ultimately created by the experiences we have.

As if the day isn’t to be outdone, I get to drive back and see the stage from the other side with another masterful sunset as my companion.

………………………………………………………………………………

This fortuitous man has the pleasure of being ‘introduced’ by one of my Austrian hosts K to three Icelanders: I, H and S. Incredibly, S had just recently spent three months travelling around South Africa. I consider this a real treat to be able to chat to them about their homeland and get an understanding of their culture, as well as experience their love of their island. Nothing better than feeling the passion that shines through people’s eyes as they talk fondly about their home.

By the end it’s settled: I’m coming back in summer and they are coming to Cape Town in 2018.

I look forward to both.

Slightly apprehensive about the 29 hours journey heading home having never done this length before, I wake up at 03:30am. Not being a morning person I’ve realised certain things are easy to get up early for and travel is definitely one of them.

I needn’t have worried; it was surprisingly breezy (barring an almost faux pas in Copenhagen resulting in me reaching the plane just in time to board). Perhaps it’s because I have twenty one days of experiences to reflect on. The special people I’ve met. The breathtaking beauty of three previously unexplored countries. Or calculating the distances I’ve travelled.. In the end I cover 26 643km by air; 1 832km by road and 84km by foot.

With so much time alone to reflect on my travels together with the varied array of experiences I have had means I get some incredibly valuable insights.

This is what I’ve learnt (or reaffirm in some cases):

  1. Positivity. A simple smile, hello and “how was your day” can kick start some of the great conversations of your life. Don’t be shy to take the first step with this. Small gestures can transform your experiences; you don’t need to make huge changes or seek out the best guru.
  2. Be still. Being completely alone in silence and solitude (no one in sight) is an invigorating feeling. I love this – the other day a friend of mine typed alone as All-one. When we get in touch with our true inner essence we experience our connection to everyone and everything. We are, in fact, never alone because we are All-One.
  3. Road trips. There’s nothing quite like them! Make sure you have a decent soundtrack to match – music can play such a key role in your experiences; especially if you are alone.
  4. Be open to asking, all knowledge is learnt. We’re not supposed to figure everything out on our own. Getting help and asking for it should be normal but most of us don’t do it. Don’t be afraid to ask. We can’t know everything.
  5. Duality of life. Everything can be a double-edged sword depending on your circumstance or view point. Snow is great to ski on but scary as hell when you need to drive on it. Learn to be cognisant of the bad side of the coin; but focus on and appreciate the good.
  6. No excuses. Don’t let ‘oh it’s so expensive’ stop you from exploring your home. You’ll figure it out. I ate 1 meal a day for 4 days in Iceland (maybe that’s why I’m actually 1kg lighter after my holiday). No one ever regrets the experiences they have.
  7. Travel alone at least once in your lifetime. Many may find this vastly outside of their comfort zone, but you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to meet interesting people along the way and experience adventures you might never have had if you were travelling with someone.
  8. Human beings. Culture, language, geographic location actually mean nothing. We truly are all the same. Embrace that. Start thinking of Earth as your home and not just the country you live in.
  9. Real connection. True connection could be the next revolution. Looking people in the eyes; seeing smiles; hearing laughter and different accents; hugging people – this is true connection and what feeds your soul. Technology has its place; creating deep meaningful connections is not one of them.
  10. People watching. Being alone means you have no one to talk to. Avoid your iPad or phone and watch people instead. Learn to sit in your discomfort and that being alone can be really fun. Watch how people interact, recognise your own behaviours in others and get an outside perspective on what you are like. It’s also interesting to see how differently we behave in the presence of beauty: some quietly admire the view; others try find their special pose in pictures to be forever remembered; others methodically try to achieve the perfect scenic shot with no humans in frame.
  11. Appreciation. Iceland could change in no time at all from a wonderland to a harsh intimidating and unforgiving place that I sometimes battled in; when this was the case it made me think of how tough it must be for those with disabilities. Difficult suddenly becomes near impossible. Twenty minutes for you could be an hour for the same task for someone else. Be grateful for the blessings you have.

This was an incredible journey. A real blessing to see old friends and make new ones. My travel bug has definitely grown with the feeding it got in 21 days – I look forward to the next adventure. But the best gift I’ve been given is a running start in 2017 and I’m truly excited about the milestones for this year. Writing two more books and preparing a Ted Talk just to mention a few.

I’d like to take a moment to thank you all for your support and taking time out of your days and lives to read my thoughts and experiences. My wish for all of you is that you find fulfilment in your daily life. Whatever fulfilment means to you; and perhaps that’s something to think deeply about? Learn to experience magic every day. I feel blessed that one of my ways to experience this is taking a blank page and transforming it into pieces like this. I love writing and I’m truly grateful for this gift each day.

Let’s see what richness 2017 brings for us to share.

Live with passion.

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