Embracing Challenges as a way to answer, ‘What am I capable of’?

Admiring the view after my 297th consecutive climb up Table Mountain, Cape Town.

It’s a hard pill to swallow – but my greatest teachers have all been times of challenge.

‘Challenge’ could be supplanted by the word ‘test’, and I like to think of life challenges as going to university. I chose my degree (life path) with specific classes (life lessons) and then teachers test my knowledge on those subjects at the end of each semester (challenges).

In life, the tests don’t come so ‘neatly’ though as I make choices affecting where I live, what I spend time doing, who I spend time with – all of which inform my thoughts helping shape ideas which ultimately inspire action – if they resonate with my highest values.

One of the most profound lines I ever read was:

When you pray for patience, God doesn’t just hand it to you, He gives you opportunities to practice it.

That means I can’t ask to be better without invoking the test associated with that. This profoundly shapes my mindset, instead of seeing wisdom as the ability to download information like Neo in the matrix – my skills are crafted through time and practice. There are no shortcuts in life and as Carl Jung so eloquently warned us: “Beware of unearned wisdom”

Wanting to be a better human being is noble – but am I prepared to do the work that makes that a reality? Am I prepared to journey into the underworld on a quest that tests my fortitude?

Understanding How my highest Values Inform my Actions

I’m drawn to reflect on any number of conferences, workshops and talks where experts share strategies and tips to be healthy. I’m struck by how simple all the strategies actually are. The wisdom is there – but nobody ever said simple meant easy.

I’ve come to learn an important (albeit simplistic) understanding: people who place a high value on health will invest time working on it.

The pursuit of happiness and a desire to feel fulfilled helped create a new metaphor recently: Follow my own treasure map, otherwise how can I be surprised when there’s no treasure because it’s already been picked up?

The real trick is to learn how to look inside and read my own map. What we can learn and teach each other are the key elements to follow through on our hero’s journey: Patience, Commitment, Discipline, Perseverance, and Confidence.

The ‘secret’ is making what we want a priority – and embracing the journey.

Look at the plethora of diets and exercise gurus selling ‘the next greatest pill/book/workout/diet/food/piece of exercise equipment’. After 22 years in the fitness world I’ve come across a handful of trustworthy people honestly laying it out from the beginning in simple terms: It takes hard work, discipline and consistency.

Being healthy and fit has always been a priority for me, so I make time for it. I’ve only just discovered that one of my driving forces is not ‘how successful can I be’ but rather ‘what am I capable of?’ – I’m now translating that physical knowledge into all the other areas of my life knowing my capabilities are limited only by how far I’m prepared to push myself.

Coupled with a deep curiosity about the gorgeous world we live in helps me say “yes” to things instead of “no.” Saying “yes” creates opportunities for new experiences and allows me to explore those capabilities.

All that culminated when I had the idea to climb Table Mountain every day for an entire year. I found my treasure map and if ever there was a challenge to face – THIS WAS IT!

Breaking Down Challenges into Core Components

I love solving problems because I enjoy figuring out the process of how to do things. Below is my attempt to break down challenges into their core components to see their benefits:

  1. They’re Bigger than anything experienced before (if at all) – tests/reveals character.
  2. Clear Problem – tests ability to solve and collaborate.
  3. Time based – test resilience and perseverance.
  4. All-encompassing and inescapable – requires mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual work.
  5. Unlocks wisdom – tests true desire.

Challenge implies I will experience discomfort, requiring innovative solution-based thinking that uses my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual prowess within a certain time frame – the reward being a sense of accomplishment coupled with deeper understandings about life, relationships and who I am.

Let’s see how I can write that out using my yearly climb up Table Mountain expressed in a ‘formula’ of the core components:

Having never committed to anything remotely audacious as this, I had to commit to no days off climbing through all elements, testing my physical strength, my mental fortitude to persevere on the same route and maintain enthusiasm, my emotional strength to cope with no days off or respite, combined with the spiritual purpose to understand myself and how to build community around my beliefs and contribute to society. My reward was wisdom gained from committing whole-heartedly to self-belief and discovering a repeatable template of what I’m capable of. 366 days of experiences shaped into one deep profound realization: I’m supposed to be having fun along the way as much as I know I’ll feel at the end.

Filling each day with gratitude and searching for it’s uniqueness (even when doing the exact same thing every day) showed me how much beauty there is. Even in repetition.

My experience with COVID-19:

While initially it looked like a six week struggle, that’s turned into a year (and could possibly be longer before things return to some form of normalcy) The major challenges within it have been maintaining a healthy lifestyle while overcoming the mental challenges forced isolation brings with it (I’m fortunate though that I have Jessie to share it with). It’s testing my physicality to stay fit in unusual ways, mentally as I’m unable to build new relationships in a city I’ve just moved to, emotionally as I deal with the strain of isolation and conflicting news reports mashed in with the uncertainty of how much longer there is to go. The spiritual challenge is the deepest one, how to connect with others struggling in these times and build a community to empower those being devastated by the effects of lockdown. The reward is a shared humanity as we all reach the other side of a once in a 100-year event touching all seven billion of us. Hopefully we come out of it with a deeper sense of gratitude for what we have, an understanding of what and who is important to us, and a deeper knowing of how connected we all are and a renewed sense of vigor on strengthening our society.

Difference Between Selecting a Challenge – and Life Throwing us One

Two things stand out from the examples above:

  1. Choosing a challenge gives the advantage of knowing how long it is.
  2. Just because life throws a challenge we haven’t experienced before, doesn’t mean we don’t have the tools to face it. Past experiences provide a way to adapt our mindset on how to tackle the new one.

Mindset. A word I hear almost daily. What I don’t hear as often – is Heartset.

I believe they work in conjunction and just like a muscle at gym – can be trained.

Mindset is developing the skills to overcome the urge to give up, or surrender to challenges. Mindset is an opportunity in the good times to prepare for the bad times. We can build habits we know work during good times to mimic when we feel out of sorts. We can recognize that we are a coin with two sides that constantly flips from one side to the other. It’s how we manage each flip and absorb the lesson from each experience to grow and level up for the next challenge that lies in wait – and it’s always there. This governs what we can control mentally and physically.

Heartset is developing the ability to listen to our intuition, realizing that out inner guidance system speaks to us putting a spotlight on the correct path to follow – even when our rational mind or society says ‘no ways! You gotta go this way!’ It’s about developing a more compassionate approach to ourselves which will ultimately translate into how we engage with the world around us.  This is the seat of our emotions and soul keeping us aligned with our highest purpose and values.

Next Question – So What?

It means there’s hope! We’ve all made it this far and instead of feeling overwhelmed we can take heart from our resiliency. It means we can take time to analyze our past to build templates of success for future challenges and if nothing else – know that whatever is thrown at us we’re capable of overcoming it. I don’t know if this template is helpful, but it’s a starting place to focus on what you have accomplished and overcome already.

I love the line We will never be given anything we can’t handle – that alone has helped me through some rough times.

It also means that the more challenges I seek out with the clear intention of discovering who I am and what I’m capable of – the better equipped I become for future challenges which I can’t stress enough – are always there.

Knowing they’re there waiting for us like a hurdle in a race isn’t any reason to get disheartened – it just means the better we train the better our race will be. More importantly, the better equipped we become to assist others fresh on their journey of self-discovery.

Next to the tragic loss of life, one of the most devastating things about COVID-19 is the separation. We’re not meant to endure challenges on our own. While we always need to do the work ourselves – of course – it doesn’t mean we have to do it alone.

Never underestimate the power your kind gesture has on the person receiving it.

Knowing what help you need takes self-reflection.

Asking for it takes courage.

Applying it builds wisdom.

Would you like to apply what you’ve just taken in? Has this been helpful? I’d love to hear from you – reach out and let’s set up a call (Click here) and see how to analyze the challenges you’ve experienced and better yet:

Create one that helps you discover what you’re really capable of.

I believe we have an opportunity to build one of the most powerful communities rooted in compassion, love, and perspective.  

And that starts by building strong individuals – like you.

The world needs you and your gifts.

What is the best way to Honor the lives lost in the COVID-19 pandemic?

Respect. Honor. Remembrance.

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” – World Health Organization.

This post is challenging because I know how emotionally charged COVID-19 is, primarily due to the devastation felt by so many. It’s difficult to separate noise from the truth these days – so I listen to my gut as I evaluate what people say and how their actions speak to that. What does someone stand to gain from what they’re sharing? Is there any conflict of interest?

We’re over a year into the pandemic now – which allows us to examine data to remove uncertainty around ‘what ifs.’ This is critical to take emotion out of our thinking as we make informed decisions on how to move forward.

This article serves to expand the scope of understanding and alleviate any fear built up around this virus and ‘opening up.’

Setting the Stage with Context

I’m saddened by the breakdown of “trusted” sources incapable of exploring all the possibilities, especially with anything contrary to the main narrative of COVID-19. I admit, being at the epicenter in New York as it turned into a ghost of its usual self last year, I was gravely concerned. For loved ones, and humanity at large. It immediately spilled into my behavior, cleaning every item from the grocery store before packing it away.

At that stage with fear circulating about the potential death rate of COVID-19, my biggest fear grew: what about people living in shacks where social distancing isn’t an option?

As it stands, 2.9* million souls have died. That’s 2.9 million families, friends, colleagues, partners mourning a loved one. My deepest sympathies go out to each of them – especially as funerals and gatherings have been stripped from them too.  

Death is deeply personal, painful, and tragic. Never in history has our mortality been forced onto our radar simultaneously around the world. In most western culture’s death is taboo, not spoken about, never mind thought of as part of our journey.

That’s another topic entirely – but necessary to put context into our fear currently.

I applaud everyone’s genuine concern and desire to reduce deaths; however, taking a meta-view around what the lockdowns are doing has created one wish:

Can the care we exhibit to save people’s lives, be equally shown for the quality of people’s lives?

Growing up in South Africa exposed me to the reality of poverty. It’s heartbreaking. The exposure has entrenched a deeper perspective to evaluate decisions made in society more broadly and to think about its impact.

Like lockdowns.

This is where it starts getting a bit uncomfortable, maybe even heated for some. As it should! These are tough conversations to wrap our minds around, but it’s necessary to evaluate all sides, after all – isn’t that how we come to the best solutions?

I get suspicious when Facebook and YouTube start ‘deciding’ what’s suitable for us to hear and censor conversations contrary to the current narrative – like the fact that vitamin C is shown to help not just with coronavirus – but all colds and flu. Please take the time to listen to Dr. Andrew Saul talk about this censorship and details the benefit of vitamin C to save lives.

Life.

Possibly the most sacred word that encapsulates this precious gift our experience on this gorgeous planet truly is. This interview comes from someone that values it deeply – I don’t feel the same from mainstream media or governments. Shouldn’t we gladly embrace anything (no matter how simple it may appear) that saves lives?

I do wonder whether the heightened fear-based reactions to this pandemic has a deeper meaning, is it less about dying – and rather the confrontation about how we’re living? What we’re not doing with our life now?

The fear of a life unlived?

I certainly haven’t done everything I should’ve at this point in my life. I’m not immune to the human condition of failing to live up to my capabilities. Death is a reminder about why it’s necessary to work through blockages and live according to my beliefs and values. Knowing I will die – is why my focus is measuring how many people get an opportunity to use their life to express their talents?

I’ve always had a fatalistic view of life from as young as I can remember, but one traumatic event cemented this way of thinking.  

At 23, armed robbers stormed the store I was working in and robbed us. I couldn’t help notice his hand holding the gun shaking.

The first accidental shot fires off – ricocheting off the floor into my colleague’s leg. Moments later, the second shot fires off – bouncing off the floor and passing through my trouser material, narrowly missing my leg.

Next, he raised the gun – I didn’t wait to see if it was aimed at my head. I lifted my arms and bowed my head in submission – waiting for the third gunshot, wondering where it could hit me and survive.

It never came.

I could just as easily have been killed that day.

That day showed me how little control I have over what happens to me, and I started saying ‘yes’ to life more than I said ‘no.’ That created 18 years’ worth of ‘bonus’ experiences: the opportunity to experience living in the U.K. and USA, live in major cities like London, Cape Town, San Francisco, and New York; countless friends made, love shared & found with my wife, beauty felt. Almost gone in one moment.

Building an Awareness around our Outrage

Since then, my journey has incrementally developed my understanding of the lack of equal opportunities in South Africa, and frankly, throughout the world. This brings me to my wish: the quality of people’s lives.

Why does this matter?

Well – I see rage and judgment expressed about masks but is that rage expressed about people living in poverty?

We need to be honest with ourselves – In February, at the peak of the pandemic, the daily deaths worldwide were 17,704 – compare that to 10,000 children dying from starvation every day.

25,000 if you include adults.

Please read that again.

UNICEF estimates an additional 130 million people threatened by starvation through lockdowns, with an additional 150 million people pushed into extreme poverty.

I understand why the outrage is unequal – if I don’t experience it, why would it be a priority?

The reality is we have as much inequality in outrage – as we do in wealth.

I have no issue with outrage – as long as it’s not just focused on what affects your privileges. It’s easy to be outraged when we have the bandwidth to contemplate it; most people impacted by the decisions being made have no bandwidth – they’re just trying to survive and feed their families.

We are not responsible for a human being’s suffering – but we can be part of the solution to change their life once today.

We mustn’t get bogged down in comparing life’s challenges – but being aware is essential to provide context to our outrage and think about what we choose to chastise others over publicly. Is [insert outrage topic] really the standards we should hold ourselves accountable to? I understand how complicated it is to teach children on Zoom – I’ve seen it. Yet there are families without books, never mind laptops, for their children to learn.

There are 1.6 billion children out of school because of worldwide lockdowns. I imagine the quality for the majority of children learning online dropped dramatically too. Having spoken to my friend that teaches – the quantity of work just to get by is staggering.

I wonder how many ‘thank yous’ they’ve received? If you’re reading this take this as my highest gratitude for your service.

I also have the utmost respect for parents juggling work, homeschooling, stress, emotions, partners, and more. I can understand, too, if parents’ outrage is fueled by having no bandwidth to process the current circumstances. Life is unbelievably complex at the moment.

It’s an unbelievably tough situation we find ourselves in; everyone deserves our respect as we collectively mourn the loss of loved ones.

Let’s start thinking about how we honor their memories and the sacrifice these souls have made going forward. It’s time for compassion.

How do we honor those that have died from COVID-19?

I heard a beautiful purpose-led discussion with Dr. Zach Bush on the Rich Roll podcast initially aired a year ago, on March 26th, 2020. His heartfelt hope-filled epilogue directed at nurses, doctors, and practitioners on the front lines succinctly encapsulates the spirit of what I’d love us to embody:

“Life is something much greater than human. Life is a gift. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of the loss, and get better at acknowledging the gain of a life well-lived. This was a person that loved, it’s a person that has created in their lifetime. ….. a state of being that is free of fear, let them be part of the message that this virus is trying to teach us. Let them know that it is not in vain, that we will learn from this, that we have taken too many steps away from our purpose, our real nature, our real potential. Let them know that they are part of the rise of consciousness on the planet and not the collapse of biology. 

Yes, this disease is killing people. Yes, we want to protect as many people as possible – but there are alternatives that aren’t born from fear.

Let’s stop trying to box everything as right or wrong. We can simultaneously hold two opposing views: this virus creates suffering through death, and it causes suffering through lockdowns. There are over 40 million new jobless claims as thousands of small businesses close and people’s ability to earn a living is shattered.

The speed at which this virus spread across the world has shown us how connected we truly are – we can use that to spread positivity just as quickly.

Let’s break down lockdowns, asymptomatic spreading, and our own immune system as a start.

LOCKDOWNS

If lockdowns worked – the truth is we wouldn’t be in this position today. A detailed open letter to the FBI has been put together from ten prominent figures regarding lockdowns’ validity (and criminality).

We are writing this letter to request that a federal investigation be commenced and/or expedited regarding the scientific debate on major policy decisions during the COVID-19 crisis. In the course of our work, we have identified issues of a potentially criminal nature and believe this investigation necessary to ensure the interests of the public have been properly represented by those promoting certain pandemic policies.

This document is compiled by Michael Senger (lawyer), Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Spalding (he has extensive knowledge in trading with China) Sanjeev Sabhlok, Ph.D. (from India), and Maajid Nawaz (political activist & the founding chairman of Quilliam, a counter-extremism think tank that seeks to challenge the narratives of Islamist extremists) to name a few.

The full article (a 69-minute read) is available here for you to see the detail they provide to back up each point in their investigation. Namely:

  • Evidence about the origin and historical precedent of lockdowns;
  • The scientific literature and debate behind them;
  • The provenance and quality of predominant COVID-19 testing protocols and models;
  • The motivations, biases, and qualifications of confident prominent lockdown supporters; and
  • The source of public-facing communications surrounding these policies.

Re lockdowns, they say:

“Not only are lockdowns historically unprecedented in response to any previous epidemic or pandemic in American history, but they are not so much as mentioned in recent guidance offered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”). Judge Stickman continues:

“Indeed, even for a ‘Very High Severity’ pandemic (defined as one comparable to the Spanish Flu), the guidelines provide only that ‘CDC recommends voluntary home isolation of ill persons,’ and ‘CDC might recommend voluntary home quarantine of exposed household members in areas where novel influenza circulates.’ This is a far, far cry from a statewide lockdown”

This begs the question as to why all governments have been so quick to implement this?

ASYMPTOMATIC SPREADING

One of my biggest worries (and I imagine all of ours) was this notion that we could feel fine, have the virus, and spread it to loved ones and possibly those that are elderly or immune-compromised. Not only has this never been the case with any virus in history, but ALL the data ‘supporting’ this comes from China. No other country has been able to replicate this scientific analysis.

DATA ON CONSEQUENCES OF LOCKDOWNS

“Data from the website yelp.com has shown that over 60% of business closures during the COVID-19 crisis are now permanent, amounting to more than 97,000 businesses lost in the U.S. Nearly half of black-owned small businesses have been wiped out. Unemployment in the United States reached as high as 14.7% and highways jammed with thousands of vehicles awaiting their turn at food banks. Nearly 5% of the United Kingdom population went hungry during the first three weeks of lockdown.”

If governments are so concerned about helping minorities – enforcing prolonged lockdowns is clearly counterintuitive.

INCREASE IN SUICIDE

“In Japan, government statistics show suicide claimed more lives in October than Covid-19 has over the entire year to date.

And, despite being at virtually no risk from COVID-19, as a result of lockdowns, children have suffered the most of all. Nearly one in four children living under COVID-19 lockdowns, social restrictions, and school closures are dealing with feelings of anxiety, with many at risk of lasting psychological distress. In recent surveys of children and parents in the U.S., Germany, Finland, Spain, and the U.K. by Save the Children, up to 65% of the children struggled with feelings of isolation.

Children’s health and intellectual development have regressed.”

We are going to have to work very hard with our youth to manage their mental well-being.

Their conclusion finishes with a chilling understanding about why we all go along with it:

“For the general public, the idea that anyone might accept some outside incentive to support such devastating policies while knowing them to be ineffective — needlessly bankrupting millions of families and depriving millions of children of education and food — is, quite simply, too dark. Thus, the public supports lockdowns because the alternative — that they might have been implemented without good cause — is a possibility too evil for most to contemplate. But those who know history know that others with superficially excellent credentials have done even worse for even less.”

This is why it’s incumbent of us to speak up and share these facts with people still scared by a narrative that stands behind ‘back the science’ – but has failed to provide a report what that science is as this.

IMMUNE SYSTEM

I am not a medical doctor. In no way am I giving medical advice – I’m a concerned citizen who researches this information to share. It’s for you to ask your doctor and make your own decision.

I posted the link to the video on Vitamin C and how anything on Facebook or YouTube related to natural remedies was hidden, suppressed, censored. Why?

Why would something cheap, easy to do, and SAVES LIVES be suppressed like this??

Sadly, the main driver looks like money. What has a more significant margin – a vaccine or a box of vitamin C?

$40 for a new vaccine that hasn’t been tested against all strains, OR

$20 for 250 doses of immune support? (a daily cost of 8c)

One is man-made – the other produced by all animals naturally as a defense mechanism. Even though we lived in the epicenter in New York for a couple months, I was never fearful. I believe in the power of our immune system – after all, ours is the product of thousands of years of evolution, tweaking, adapting, and allowing the human race to still be around.

So why isn’t there a focus on the impact lifestyle has on our immune system?

I only know about this because I benefitted from my formative years being a wasteland of infections: whooping cough, mumps (which took the last of my hearing in my left ear), tonsilitis, ear infections by the dozen, chickenpox – all cast indescribable trauma on my parents spending endless days and nights worrying about me in hospital. In a heartbreaking moment enduring another whooping cough episode, I declared, ‘I don’t want to be Andrew anymore.’  I can’t imagine what that did to my parents.

Little did I know this was my immune systems Navy SEAL training to become an elite force against infections. I haven’t had a flu shot since leaving school – and might have had flu once?

Being Careful Doesn’t Make Me “Anti”

The vaccine story becomes even trickier because there are loads of factors to evaluate the risk factor. Age bracket; Health, pre-existing conditions, diet. the current number of deaths in my age group (the US only) is 0.04% – that’s without looking at any other health factors. If you have pre-existing conditions, are worried for your health or life, or in an age bracket where you feel concerned – I genuinely hope you’re able to be vaccinated soonest and feel comforted with added protection.

Again – I’m perplexed how much emphasis has been given to vaccines as THE support for our immune systems.

I understand why masks and vaccines have become people’s savior. Our immune system is complex, and also our responsibility to manage.

Society is only as strong as our weakest link. Imagine how different this past year would’ve been if we had a healthier population? There are many reasons for disease, and I hope a spotlight is shed on the importance of food being a source of medicine for our bodies. I’ve been saddened by the lack of communication in media and government about what people can do to strengthen their immune systems.

There’s a wonderful article by Harvard Medical School with 9 simple ways to build a healthy lifestyle that supports a robust immune system. There’s no silver bullet, and it’s up to each of us to decide what a healthy lifestyle looks like and means to us.

Worst of all: fear switches off the immune system.

It’s a fascinating evolutionary development. Think of your immune system as an army; when an army is at war, they need additional food and resources to defeat an enemy. That means whatever energy we have is dedicated to the effort of defeating them. Now imagine suffering from an infection and coming across a tiger. The body recognizes the tiger is a more immediate lethal threat, thus diverting all energy resources to the flight receptors  (your legs, lungs, and heart) to speedily escape!

It can’t do both.

Engaging in endless hours of fear-driven media, YouTube or T.V, listening to how many new cases and deaths is the equivalent of coming across a tiger. We’re literally cutting off our own supply chain to the army designed to defeat the enemy. That’s like living in fear of being burgled and constantly leaving your front door wide open.

What we feed our minds, is as important as what we feed our bodies.

How do we build a more engaged, conscious community?

I hope understanding the complexity of health is the start.

Becoming armed with as many facts to remove emotional bias eliminates fear-based irrational responses. Commit to listening to all sides of a discussion with an open mind – like people at The Great Barrington Declaration, which say:

As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.

Coming from both the left and right and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health – leading to more significant excess mortality in years to come. The working class and younger members of society are carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

My dad sent me a well-constructed video by actuaries articulating all these points. This was shared by a Biz news – one of the few media outlets with this assertion: their community’s intelligence should never be underestimated and they never overestimate their knowledge on a topic.

I love that. This is essentially what this article is all about.

Right on cue – YouTube has taken down the video citing “….removed for violating Community Guidelines” – utter RUBBISH. Thankfully, PANDA has a backup so you can visit their website (Pandemic – Data & Analytics) and see what they’re doing for yourself and peek behind the curtain of the digital dystopia YouTube are busy creating through censorship.

PANDA’s response to being de-platformed is

“After half a million views, an outpouring of emotional positive responses, no complaints about veracity & 100 likes for every dislike,  BizNews presentation, “The Ugly Truth about the COVID-19 Lockdowns” was de-platformed by YouTube.”

These are reputable sources providing facts and data to support their position. It’s worth taking the time to investigate them all.

The most impactful word I heard Nick Hudson use in his presentation succinctly captures the fear being generated:

Homosapienophobia – everyone is dangerous until proven healthy.

I am glad to confirm that asymptomatic (otherwise known as healthy people) cannot spread the virus.

I am not dismissing the disease or the deaths – simply that the methods being used are not based on reality and are doing severe damage. We can no longer ignore the other side of this coin.

How do we move forward?

With compassion. Towards everyone.

Share this information with as many people as possible to reduce the amount of unnecessary fear being circulated. There’s a reason for concern; yes. Concern is healthy – fear is excessive and detrimental.

  1. Taken from PANDA’s website:

In brief:

  1. Lift all Covid-19 specific restrictions and mandates
  2. Offer protection to vulnerable individuals
  3. End mass testing, contact tracing, quarantining, and lockdowns
  4. Ensure public transparency of all efficacy and safety data of vaccines
  5. Reassert open scientific debate and freedom of speech, opinion, and choice.

This will ease the pressure, but by no means relieve it.

Next, we need to ramp up how we think about building our communities again, incorporating the quality of people’s lives as a priority.

Evaluate our Health

We need to share as many podcasts and information about our micro gut biome (Dr. Zach Bush talks about it but check out his website too!) Spend time learning about how food can fuel and nourish your body to naturally assist your immunity. Watch that Vitamin C discussion!

Get Fit & Build Community at the same time.

Let’s honor the lives lost in the best possible way – and work together to build ubuntu into every act we take moving forward. I’ve created the 50in50 challenge to stay fit, challenge my mind, and build community by raising funds for education and housing – I’m nine weeks in. It has two aspects:

  1. Recreate each American State’s outline using my sports tracker,
  2. Climb the equivalent of every state’s elevation by the end – roughly 365 Empire State buildings, an average of nearly 2km of vertical climbing (1,2 miles) every Saturday morning.

This isn’t about how much – it’s about participating and getting support in the process. If you think the numbers above are out of reach – note that I started with 103 flights a year ago (44 minutes) creating a 12-week plan to incrementally built up my fitness, taking a further eight weeks to reach 660 flights (my current capabilities). We’re talking about building a healthy sustainable lifestyle.

It’s not about how much we do – it’s about committing to building the practice. Pledge to join whenever your state comes up (see list for each week below) while using it as a way to invite people to make investments in building communities again. No amount is too small and there’s strength in numbers, after all – for someone with nothing, our something – means everything.

All while creating a healthy lifestyle that contributes to a robust immune system.

I’m committed to demonstrating there are no quick fixes, but we can develop sustainable healthy habitats filled with purpose aligned to our true values. We can create a world where we grow and use resources to support those without hope and opportunity with a hand up. Who’s with me?

Please share with someone you know is feeling overwhelmed by everything, and if that’s you – reach out to me and let’s chat.

After all, my mother taught me well:

A problem shared is a problem halved.

VIRGINIA23 April 2021
NEW YORK30 April 2021
NORTH CAROLINA07 May 2021
RHODE ISLAND14 May 2021
VERMONT21 May 2021
KENTUCKY28 May 2021
TENNESSEE04 June 2021
OHIO11 June 2021
LOUISIANA18 June 2021
INDIANA25 June 2021
MISSISSIPPI02 July 2021
ILLINOIS09 July 2021
ALABAMA16 July 2021
MAINE23 July 2021
MISSOURI30 July 2021
ARKANSAS06 August 2021
MICHIGAN13 August 2021
FLORIDA20 August 2021
TEXAS27 August 2021
IOWA03 September 2021
WISCONSIN10 September 2021
CALIFORNIA17 September 2021
MINNESOTA24 September 2021
OREGON01 October 2021
KANSAS08 October 2021
WEST VIRGINIA15 October 2021
NEVADA22 October 2021
NEBRASKA29 October 2021
COLORADO05 November 2021
NORTH DAKOTA12 November 2021
SOUTH DAKOTA19 November 2021
MONTANA26 November 2021
WASHINGTON03 December 2021
IDAHO10 December 2021
WYOMING17 December 2021
UTAH24 December 2021
OKLAHOMA31 December 2021
NEW MEXICO07 January 2022
ARIZONA14 January 2022
ALASKA21 January 2022
HAWAII28 January 2022
WASHINGTON04 February 2022
SOUTH AFRICA11 February 2022

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…….

Habitat for Humanity: Leading the R(Heart) Way

I may be turning 40 later this year, but arriving at Habitat for Humanity’s West Oakland workshop feels like my first day of school. I have some life changing relationships with Habitat South Africa in Cape Town thanks to 365 Ubuntu Climbs – but the slate’s clean here.

The same old mind games of nerves and demons like ‘will I be good enough’ to help coming up.

I’m put at ease immediately as Gus introduces himself and welcomes me to the workshop. It’s a place to volunteer with their Playhouse program, and has become my ‘Carpenters Apprenticeship’. I’ve always wanted to learn to work with my hands and specifically wood.

The number 1 rule & reminder of why we here

What better way than to learn while helping a company with its mission


‘We provide affordable homeownership opportunities to qualifying
households. To qualify, you must show a need for housing, be willing to partner with Habitat by contributing sweat equity in the construction of your home, and demonstrate the ability to pay.’

Handouts disempower. They’re give Hand Ups to start a new cycle of hope.

‘Our Playhouse Program is one of the many innovative fundraising tools we use to work with community volunteers to broaden our impact and empower more families through affordable homeownership. Playhouse volunteers spend a full or half day at our Oakland or Milpitas workshop, getting playhouses ready for assembly. Once completed by sponsoring groups, playhouses are donated to children through partnering organizations like Blue Star Moms. We provide all the tools and training necessary to put together the start of a child’s dream playhouse!

A circular economy of love.

Volunteerism’s taught me more than just carpentry – Gus’s been sneakily teaching me an important component of leadership that the world needs – heart.

EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS

Imagine running a company with a ‘staff turnover’ of 95%? And still achieving your objectives, seems unreal right?

And yet they continually achieve their aim to get Playhouse sets ready for corporate team builds (literally!) to raise money and build homes.

In 2018 they completed 550 in the Bay Area alone!

It’s a remarkable feat and I now understand how he leads this.

Nervously waiting to hear what I’ll be doing and already contemplating making a catastrophic mistake, Gus takes me and another volunteer through the full playhouse program, safety, who benefits and why it’s important. My heart center is immediately triggered, and I know I’m in the right place.

He leads us to a section with the sides of the playhouse laying on sawhorses, freshly painted from the morning shift.

Whew…. Painting – I can do that!

I’m quickly introduced to the ethos of the workshop when I see a massive spill of grey paint.

‘Don’t worry about that or about dropping paint yourself. If you do – our rule is simple: you have to make a heart with it’

What an amazing idea!! I instantly see five hearts in my vicinity. Such a simple but transformative way to turn mess into love. Lesson 1 and I’m not even an hour in, and a universal truth about leadership given right away.

I realise this now being back multiple times, Gus treats every new person with gratitude and appreciation taking time to explain everything in enough detail as needed to make people feel included in a finished product of purpose that few get to experience.

It was a simple task, painting; but I already felt great fulfillment as each stroke provided the base paint for future artwork.

HEART FOCUSED

Wanting to share my appreciation on what I’ve learned from Gus and his team made me think deeper than just highlighting surface reasons for their success; and creating another ‘follow this number of things’ list to be a successful leader.

There’s enough of those out there.

Communication, patience, gratitude, being an expert in your field and catalysing a team are all important components yes – and consistently demonstrated by him; but something extra special weaves them together.

It’s his heart.

It’s been a privilege to watch leadership like this in action which, week after week, brings complete strangers together at various stages of the playhouse life cycle – learning new skills and working together to produce a focused outcome.

Gus’s humour is brilliant and an effective way he ensures us adults enjoy the process as the children we building playhouses for.

‘Remember our critics are 3 feet tall – it doesn’t need to be perfect; just safe. Have fun with it!’

Below are some great pictures to show you the timeline in the life of a playhouse. Gus has ‘taken me under his wing’ and always shows me new tools to use and how easy it is to be safe using them.

‘Tools are not dangerous, but how we use them can be. Everything’s designed to keep you safe.’

I wonder. Is his heartfelt leadership molded by this tradesman’s understanding: A poor workman always blames his tools – to become such an effective leader? It could explain his care to transfer knowledge to newbies like me to optimise our output.

Together with his creations of templates means an incredible amount of time is saved because the template is always your reference point.

Side note – it’s amazing to see how much quicker I learn through action compared with old school memorisation.

I think Gus’s also mastered the art of ‘letting go’ of what he can’t control (like this fact: with every home built – 3 new people become homeless in the Bay area) His why is so strong it permeates throughout the workshop, and he doesn’t get phased by things not being ‘100%’.

WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT

The team builds* are always amazing. I particularly enjoy this nugget I always here:

Oh I’m not creative I won’t be able to draw or paint or be part of the art department

Every. Time. And I’m constantly blown away by the creativity and quality of Playhouses created and decorated according to the child’s chosen theme: Dogs, Space, Princess, Cars… you name it! Just look at the pics below to see for yourself.

Being at the builds mean I’ve met some of the families receiving the playhouses. It’s an experience too beautiful for words to capture on paper.  

It feels like being in the presence of all the best qualities humans have to offer at the same time.

Seeing a parent tearing up at the sight of a playhouse created with love for their child by strangers? Their gratitude, smiles, love and appreciation are what sit with me as I cut each piece of wood for hours on end now. I know exactly what impact that small action leads to.

Sometimes the most rewarding work is not the most glamourous.

Perhaps if we all started treating our jobs and careers like this – wanting to learn and grow while impacting other people with love – there’d be less job dissatisfaction and people would feel more connected to one another?

Just a thought – and something I’ll keep promoting!

Another thought: to think this was all learned from doing something far outside my comfort zone.

FINAL THOUGHT TO PONDER

Feeling deflated by life? Pop down to your local ‘for purpose’ business and donate your time. I know Habitat certainly appreciates it. There’s nothing like perspective to put the wind in your sails again.

Mary Gates, Bill Gate’s mom, was an incredible woman. She set the tone for his upbringing by being on numerous NGO Boards and involving him. It’s no wonder he’s formed the Gates foundation with his wife Melinda .

She expresses the most beautiful truth at the end of his latest Netflix Documentary:‘When we have these specific expectations of ourselves, we’re more likely to live up to them. Ultimately, it’s not what you get; or even what you give.

It’s what you become’    

               ————————————————————

*Team builds have up to 10 people per playhouse with each team being split into builders (4), roofers (3) & the Art Department (3) with everyone painting once initial jobs completed. Check out some pics below 

Please contact Habitat for Humanity at teambuilding@HabitatEBSV.org to arrange your own purposeful team (real) build.

Final Assembly putting the walls together, and attaching the roof

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!

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

Taking Stock of 2018

Table Mountain Panoramic 365 Ubuntu Climb summit

It’s December – and for many that means a downhill slide into holiday mode; a panic for many parents about what to do with children on holiday and navigating the busy malls for Christmas presents.

To me, it represents 11 months of successfully achieving what I set out to do in January: 336 successful climbs up Table Mountain out of 365 with no injuries or any illnesses worth speaking about and 29 days to go…

I cannot begin to express my gratitude enough for my healthy body and legs – even though it’s something I do before every climb.

November’s a wonderful birthday month for me as well many friends and family; all Valentines Day babies methinks.

I’d always known my birthday was 56 days away from the end of the year but never calculated that meant it was the 309th day of the year.

This year I turned 39. You can’t script things like this and has been the type of amazing synchronicity experienced all year to remind me how special this year was meant to be.

And not just on one or two days – but all of them.

Sunset climbing back down 365 Ubuntu Climbs Cape Town Table Mountain

Looking back – Before you look Forward

I invite people climbing with me to take a moment to look back down the mountain; to appreciate for a moment how far they’ve come and what they’ve already accomplished.

Goals are great. They give me a direction to work towards and purpose in some cases. I’ve learned that climbing mountains gives me opportunities to learn valuable life lessons, one of which is – that the end goal and view at the top is not the be all and end all. Its about learning to value beauty in each step as much as the view at the top.

It can be a hard slog no doubt – but no one ever said you had to do the whole thing in one go. We’re allowed to stop every now again and look around.

That’s what I feel like I’m doing now with climb 337 looming. Stopping and looking around at whats come before me.

People have experienced snippets of what I’ve been through but as with most things in life, until experienced for yourself you can never truly understand.

The closer I get to the end now the further away it feels; I haven’t had a day off all year.

A wall of cloud on the summit of a 365 Ubuntu Climb Table Mountain
These kinds of majestic gems await me on some of my summits

Daily Thinking for Final Stretch

I learned when I get closer to the top and/or the bottom, my tendency is to want to ‘just get there’. This is how accidents happen. When I try push my already fatigued body and mind, I lose focus and start thinking about the end instead of the next step – so I’ve taught myself to maintain the same steady pace no matter how close to the end and excited I become.

I need to do just that for the next 28 days.

With immense excitement looming it’s hard.  When your girlfriend (who lives in San Francisco) is flying in under 2 weeks time and your whole family will be coming down from Johannesburg around Christmas time to support me; the mind has plenty to distract you with.

Distracted is dangerous, just look at car accident statistics – an estimated 52% happen within 8km of the home.

I sat with my performance coach around what data we’re going to measure this last month that can be used to analyse my efforts when I’m done. Heart rates, sleeping, emotional state, physical state you name it. We can compare these stats when I’m fresh again next month and do speed tests on the same route.

This is the most dangerous time now, these next few weeks. Keep the mind strong.

These words from him are valuable – particularly that I’ve fallen twice in ten days in exactly the same spot on the way down. Luckily just caused a stiff ankle nothing sprained.

It happens that quickly.

Distractions are compounded by every person you meet asking “whats next?!” and “what are you going to do on January 1st?”

At least the second one is easy to answer: I’m doing my 366th climb in a row and my last solo climb. This is to take stock of what I’ve accomplished in 2018 and how many people we – you and I – have helped by donating time and money to those living in appalling conditions.

Fulfillment comes from walking your most authentic path; Significance is when you can align that to empowering others in the process.

Its interesting to me how people’s reactions have flowed since having this idea.

1st Phase: That’s crazy, why on earth would you want to do that for a whole year?

2nd Phase: (usually only hear this much later on) you’ll never finish

3rd Phase: Oh you’re going to miss this when you not climbing anymore

4th Phase: Whats next??

(sidenote – asking what’s next is expected from someone who’s asked all the relevant questions and understands the persons current feelings and state of mind)

Lessons from these Questions

Very few people are ever willing to sit with someone in their pain or discomfort and challenges. The reality is no one is on this planet to save anyone else. Not when it comes to how you think and what you choose and how you act.

  1. Stop projecting

Recognising that all my responses are based on my experiences and what I would do in that person’s situation.

  1. Ask questions

Listening to understand means asking questions to learn where someone is right now.

  1. Think about the present

Its always easier to say than do but getting a gauge of where someone is right now based on what has happened, is far better than trying to play crystal ball and predict what someone’s future will be. The future is made up of tons of ‘right now’ decisions.

  1. Not my job to convince

Whether my project, religion, Politics, diets, exercise regimes – you name it. It’s not my jobs to convince people whats right for them. It’s my job to hold people accountable to learn to think for themselves and use what they know in action of service to others. What good is it knowing something great and keeping it all to yourself? Significance…

  1. Empathy and understanding

Understanding what someone is going through from their perspective means I can learn why they do certain things or behave in a particular manner. Just because something seems illogical to me, doesn’t mean its very real for them.

Misty Cable car Table Mountain 365 Ubuntu Climbs
We don’t always see where we going – but taking action every day means we’ll get there eventually

Final thoughts

One of the greatest things I’m doing, is learning from other’s behaviour. Sometimes most of these things appear innocent and not detrimental to others. And maybe it isn’t. But is it not worth behaving in a way that helps someone in your life feel completely supported and safe to share their current state of mind?

We live in a world fraught with enough pain and negativity – its time for each individual to start evaluating if they feeding that; or if they shining a spotlight on where all the beauty in this world lies.

I know what I’m choosing

Andrew Patterson is climbing Table Mountain every day in 2018 and raising money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity (housing) One Heart (Education) and The Sunflower Fund (Leukaemia) by inviting people to sponsor R1 per climb. head over to http://www.365climbs.com to be part of the Ubuntu Family.

Andrew Patterson 365 Ubuntu Climbs Table Mountain

 

5 Essential Lessons for any Challenge

Orange Breasted sunbird2 climb 272 365 Ubuntu Climbs
Sunbird (male) quietly surveying the city below                      Photo Credit: Natalie du Preez

As I sit here I can’t believe nine months of the year have come and gone.

Thirty nine weeks have rocketed past and being in an extreme challenge like this, climbing Table Mountain every day, brings with it extreme learnings.

Observing  how many people focus, even 277 days into my challenge, on what could go wrong and ‘negative aspects’ – weather, injury, sickness, ‘stuck in Cape Town’, you name it, it’s been said.

It’s the perfect mirror of life.

Few think about all the positive aspects – seeing the mountain in every way imaginable; the phenomenal views from my office; the personal growth; the extraordinary people I get to meet; and the conversations that brings with it.

Ignoring the difficulties I face would be fool hardy. It’s important to understand all the aspects of a challenge including difficulties – just don’t focus on them.  This reality of potential dangers was given to me when Gert, challenging himself to climb Table Mountain every day in September, sprained his ankle badly with just five days left. It can happen that quickly.

My focus cannot waiver for one second.

What a Week

This year, last week was the second longest amount of time spent climbing the mountain – but because of the extreme weather differences; my toughest to date.

Thankfully, I only had two solo hikes and five amazing groups to pull me through. Not just any groups:

Top of Table Mountain Heritage DayMonday: two special men, Bulelani and Siyabonga, started a tour group called Corner2corner tours and arranged a group to climb up on our National Holiday – Heritage Day. Not just hike up though – clean the mountain too. They believe the mountain gives us so much that they wanted to give back to her. It was 30 degrees at 11am and after a bitterly cold month, a bit of a shock to the system. Everyone made it up and we walked off with three full bags of rubbish removed.

VML Foundation Day climb on day 270Thursday: VML, a creative agency worldwide with offices here in Cape Town, have a yearly day to volunteer with various organisations – I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of them. This day was windy, icy cold, wet and downright miserable for a tricky ascent and descent. This usually deters people, but fourteen amazing people came and challenged themselves for the benefit of others. They had wonderful smiles, never complained and helped each other get down safely. Real team spirit.

Family climb 271 365 Ubuntu ClimbsFriday: I’m blessed with an amazing family and Aunty Di and Uncle John have been terrific with their support. Having seen them (they live in Durban) in February they promised they’d be back in September and would join – this was the day. After loads of rain, they were treated to the spectacle that is Table Mountain with rivers in full flow and waterfalls galore; even paths become water features. Their spirit and tenacity to get up adds to my memories of people who’ve pushed their limits; and chatting about all their holiday ‘s overseas is how I get to travel this year: vicariously.

Climb 272 365 Ubuntu ClimbsSaturday: a fellow blogger for Future Females and friend, Natalie, joined with her husband. We had a hot day again; thankfully with a breeze. My legs were taking strain, and they were happy to stop often and get pictures (picture above is hers!) much to my weary legs delight. Hard to fathom the previous 4 days were all cold and wet, and tomorrow is going to be even hotter…

Tibetan Monks on top Table Mountain 365 Ubuntu Climbs

Sunday: Lisa, Amanda and Alice brave a 06:30 start – always impressed by people willing to do that on a Sunday. Its Amanda’s birthday too! We start early for two reasons – on hot days sunrise hikes equal avoiding the heat and we have the privilege to host four Tibetan Monks, an astrologer and a healer all the way from India at the top. It felt as if the monks were already at the top and hauling me up step by step as we ‘rushed’ to ensure we didn’t keep them waiting. Thankfully we made it up in time meeting them at the cable car. This experience would never have happened without this challenge happening and my good friend Nicci connecting us. Something I could never have predicted.

Although I’m not a practicing Buddhist – I resonate with their desire for peace and love to permeate this planet – the reason they’re here, creating colourful sand mandalas.

Experiencing another belief and cultures ritual and respect for nature and our mountain was beautiful. Seeing them in their robes and prayer flags flapping in the wind was soothing and even though I had no idea what they were saying in prayer – felt at peace.

Being the end of the month too I chose rock number nine: a physical representation of another month completed.

I was originally keeping these but before meeting the monks, had the idea to rather take them all back at the end of the year and create a memorial pile on the Platteklip Gorge hiking trail. Hearing him speak about releasing attachment reinforces the idea.

Geshe wished to hold it and shared some beautiful words with me about what I’m doing. Though our time was brief together, it was reminded of quality over quantity.

What Can You Take Away from This?

As I said extreme challenges bring extreme learning and realisations after this week some are becoming ingrained in me:

  1. Focus on today. Even the toughest week came to end and the same is true for great weeks. Simply focusing on today’s climb means I give it every opportunity to become one of the most memorable ones.
  2. Lose attachment. Weather, health, mementos, even people. Things can change so quickly and holding on to something keeps you rooted in the past. A perfect follow on to point #1 because this keeps you grounded in today and what you can
  3. Find the flow. This has been one of the unexpected challenges of the year. I had grand designs of what needed to happen and what I needed to organise; yet the best experiences have all come from allowing the climbs to happen with whomever is supposed to join. Set your intention of what river you want to use, and let it take you where it needs to. Stop trying to control everything. This becomes the difference in creating meaningful experiences as opposed to a bucket list tick box exercise.
  4. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Everyone’s in a rush: to find a partner; to be successful, to be first, to get up the mountain. All this means is you miss the opportunities along the way to see the beauty in each step, in life. Why do people burn out? Feel disconnected? We’re rushing to this appointment while making the next. Slow down. If I’d come out the gates trying to do every climb as fast as possible my body would’ve shut down months ago. My legs may be fatigued – but my heart and soul are energised.
  5. Gratitude is not important; its essential. Every climb starts with gratitude for my health, my legs that work and are strong enough to do this every day; my eyes to see the beauty around me and my mind that is actively learning every day from this experience. Gratitude for the mountain being so close to where I live and providing me a spiritual path to walk every day and always teaching me. It takes less than five minutes to show gratitude and once you start? You realise all the ways you’re blessed. Family, partners, friends, their support, and it helps spot the greatest beauty in the tiniest moment. Beauty is not one big thing – it’s an endless string of moments.

 

See you on the mountain

Andrew Patterson is climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town every day in 2018 helping raise money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity (housing) One Heart (teaching children to read) and The Sunflower Fund (increasing the donor database for blood diseases like Leukaemia) To donate visit http://www.365climbs.com

Nelson Mandela’s 100th Birthday: How He Influenced Me

Neslon Mandela

Today would’ve been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, it coincides with my 199th hike up Table Mountain joined by Elliot (from Langa) and Raquel (Switzerland) – this makes it 100 days that I’ve been joined by people this year. My gran was Swiss and if she were alive – would’ve also been 100 today.

Life’s synchronicity is beautiful.

His first seed planted with me

I was thirteen years old when Nelson Mandela visited our school and spoke to us. The youngest boys always stood in front which that day, was our blessing.

Neslon Mandela at KES 1993 Renaissance Guy
1993 – the beginning of a sweeping change for South Africa

I was too young to fully take in the message he gave us, but thankfully able to go back into our school’s magazines archives the sentence ‘his message to the young boys was that the privilege they enjoy carries responsibility.’ Reminds me 25 years on.

Being a white male in South Africa means there’s a dark past attached to you. My journey to come to terms with that and what it means hasn’t been an easy one. As recently as five years ago, I thought ‘I didn’t personally benefit from Apartheid.’ And thought I was kind of ‘in the clear’ if you will.

This was an uneducated thought rooted in ignorance.

It took a woman by the name of Dr Jackie Naude (author of Finding the Rainbow) to come to Distell and provide a transformation workshop to begin to change this. She provided and open forum discussing a painful past from an objective point of view in a safe environment. The first time I had a detailed explanation of our past in this manner.

Understanding what the British did to the Boers (Afrikaners) by putting women and children in concentration camps (yes that’s right, the British invented this); The Afrikaners rule and desire to never be subjugated again, creating apartheid through to the release of Nelson Mandela and how he, somehow, managed to stave off a full blown civil war – a horror I can’t even begin to comprehend.

I wasn’t just understanding how we got to the present day, I started to understand how I benefitted from a system purely because of the colour of my skin.

I started to understand I was privileged.

My Journey with Privilege

I understood that one of the biggest problems with BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) was the communication around it and that it wasn’t a call to immediately thrust previously disadvantaged people in to high positions; but rather an opportunity for business to understand the previous injustices and to work together with government to rectify this over a period of time.

This is a contentious issue but effectively, business buried its head in the sand not truly understanding the requirements.

White privilege is a phrase that makes most people feel guilt or shame. I know I felt very uncomfortable so avoided public talks about it and if it came up, tried to defend myself that I personally hadn’t done anything wrong.

This is not something to defend.

It led to a profound understanding I live with today and where one of 365 Ubuntu Climbs pillars was born:

Just because I’m not personally responsible for someone else’s suffering; doesn’t mean I can’t be part of the solution to help them.

Mandela’s Deaths Impact

I was driving on the highway past the airport, a profound sadness came over me as I heard it on the news. A quick gaze right and my eyes were met with a sight I’d seen every day twice a day for two years: shacks.

We’re not doing enough…I thought.

I started thinking about the 5 000 staff at Distell and I imagined every staff member donating R10 a month – that’s R50 000… then I realised our Southern Africa offices pay R50 per person for parking; not exactly an amount that hurts your pocket. Using that amount it quickly rises to R225 000! In one year: that’s R2.7 million.

And we think we can’t do more to help others?

On the rest of my drive took questions like who builds homes? How do I find them? And who do I speak to? All rolled around in my head.

Simply sharing this idea with colleagues over coffee’s where I got my first break – ‘you should contact Habitat for Humanity’. And so, my relationship with them was born. Distell human resources department didn’t bite, but the Corporate Social Responsibility department, with whom I’d built up a relationship thanks to my work with the Sunflower Fund – did.

They got involved and built two houses which, both times, I was away on business unfortunately.

Opportunities to Think Differently

The Jacob Zuma protests in 2016 made me question how the protests were being conducted, because I saw them creating more of a divide in our country. I asked (didn’t assume) why weren’t black people joining in? A quick response around a tragedy here called Marikana, a mine where 14 miners were shot (unarmed and running away) in the back, again opened my thinking.

There were no protests organised then.

It hit home the hypocrisy around what marches were organised and that the marches against JZ were only because whites were affected by his actions.

I was seeing how its not always what we say, but sometimes what we don’t say that can be as damaging. This made me realise another painful truth on my part.

I’d never spoken to any black person (friends or colleagues) about what life was like under apartheid.

To understand today you must understand your past. “YOUR” as in country not personal. That means talking to people with alternate views and experiences to your own.

Those were some of the most heart breaking and difficult conversations I’ve ever had in my life. I appreciated all of them taking the time to go back and open wounds to share the madness and atrocities they experienced. Its why I wrote ‘South Africans – It’s time to Wake Up’

It wasn’t about trying to make things better for them; it was about opening my eyes to understand why certain protests happen now.

You might not condone an action like burning tyres on highways, but you can understand where its coming from. Instead of replying in ignorance, I now have a conversation with compassion.

None of us are in control of the privileges we are born into.

Was everything easy for my parents? Definitely not. But this is where my false sense of entitlement came from – I compared struggles without fully understanding the varying degrees of struggle.

Struggles of life are vastly different to the struggle against oppression.

Privileges come in many forms and I’ll never forget driving with my mom as a youngster and a man was in a wheelchair working tirelessly up a long hill. He was grimacing, and my mother pointed out how grateful we should be. That, as well as his determination, have stuck with me to this day.

It’s another form of privilege I have and why before every walk I take a moment to be grateful for what I have – my legs that work and are strong enough to hike Table Mountain every day.

Privilege is a word that makes people feel uncomfortable. It’s a word that today implies guilt and shame.

I used to say: ‘can’t we all just stop living in the past and move forwards together’ and now I try put myself in the shoes of those that have been oppressed. How would I feel 24 years on and nothing changed?

Its easy to want to ‘just move on’ when you’re on the right side of privilege.

Instead of feeling guilty or uncomfortable that I have privilege – I now think about how I can use it to empower others.

I can’t change the past; but I can change how I think today to make a better future for all.

It’s not about taking responsibility for Apartheid. Its about taking responsibility for the privileges it afforded me.

It’s amazing what can happen when you decide to stop carrying around negative baggage and decide to recycle it into something useful instead.

His Legacy’s gift to Us All

Together with all the freedom fighters, they gave us a South Africa to be proud of. We almost had a civil war – and came through peacefully. That should be celebrated every day.

We have the most amazing constitution in the world. Be proud of that.

The people of this country have endured some of the biggest atrocities in the world – and their spirit was never broken and are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met on three continents. Just look at how we blew the world away in 2010. The smiles in this country are unparalleled.

You don’t believe we can make a difference? Go to www.365climbs.com and make a R50 donation and challenge everyone you know to do the same – and I promise – I will show you how wrong you are. Your contribution is invaluable.

If this project changes 8 000 peoples lives and each of those go forward and changes another 10 people, and then those people another 10 and another 10 then in 5 generations we have the power to empower 800 million people. That’s fourteen times our current population. You think you can’t impact 10 lives? Join us and be a part of that.

I want a phenomenal country for all that live here. Not just a few.

Imagine if you were living in poverty and got a helping hand out of it.

Final Thought

Asking questions is one of the most powerful forces for long lasting change. I speak from experience.

Instead of making social commentary about what happens in this country – I invite you to ask better questions and then: seek out those who can answer from their experience and not from their opinion.

I hope to see you on the mountain soon.

Nelson Mandela Renaissance Guy Passion