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.

How context can assist you to avoid anguish and overcome self-sabotage

Context is akin to perspective – which is the ability to understand a moment in time relative to all the parts that made it possible.

Why is context important?

Context is seeing each piece of a puzzle versus simply looking at the entire picture. One of the most disingenuous things I see online is people selling ‘how to’ [insert solution here] for body, health, or wealth product usually followed by a magic number: 30 days, 3 weeks, 10 days. It’s catchy because honestly – who doesn’t want a quick fix?!

I have no problem when people share their success, as long as they’re honest about the process (each puzzle piece) and how long it took to achieve – the length of time between connecting each piece to build the puzzle (the result). It’s not about doubting whether they’ve achieved it. Success is valuable social proof it’s achievable, as long we’re honest about how that happened. It gets muddied because the effort isn’t sexy.

This is why context is both important and necessary.

What is the harm caused by misleading self-sabotage?

Without context, it’s easy to get excited about a 30-day challenge to achieve X sold by person Y. Remember the old TV commercials where muscle toned bodies used product X? ‘Just 5 minutes a day on blah blah blah will sculpt your abs!’ I guarantee that model didn’t build that body with that machine. That’s context. I can follow the program to a T and fall short – immediately defaulting to ‘what did do wrong?’ What’s wrong with me?

Most probably nothing.

Well – not entirely – I’ve defaulted to looking for, and ultimately falling for, a quick fix. There is always a share of the blame that lies with us. Being duped into creating a false expectation lies squarely on our shoulders. If it sounds too good to be true – it usually is.

Let’s take dieting as an example. The US diet and weight loss industry are worth $72 billion. Yet six out of every seven overweight or obese person will lose a significant amount of weight in their lifetime, but 95% of them will regain all the weight they lost within 3 years! That’s insane – not to mention a lot of anguish generated.

The biggest ‘secret’ the 5% used to maintain or keep it off?

They chose what their diet would be, enabling them to live a lifestyle they can maintain.

So simple – but when has simple ever been easy? Side note here – what we eat is more complex than simply losing weight; not all food is equal; some act as assets giving us energy and nutrients to fight disease medicine – while others act as liabilities slowing our system down and, if abused – harming them.

I highly recommend following Dr Norton https://www.biolayne.com/

There’s no magical pill. No one diet, although there are tons to choose from – veganism, carnivore, keto, paleo, Atkins…. It’s endless… yet the long-term studies show that it’s not the diet defining the weight loss – it’s adherence

This is a great example to show why focusing on the result versus the process can lead to negative thoughts about our lack of willpower or how we self-sabotage our progress. If we have unrealistic expectations, our lack of results in a certain time frame will aid our self-sabotage.

Up till now, context has been used as an external evaluation tool, but now let’s switch that inwards. Let’s get real here for a second – if I have zero value on being healthy, whatever diet I start or exercise I begin – I’m going to land up in that 95% pile, clearly – because 95% tells the story.

The good news is I can become more educated about how the 5% keep their weight off, like how the 1% generate tremendous wealth. The better my understanding of their actions linked to values, the greater my chance to build sustainable habits.

It’s why I build context into my talks when speaking to others about my world record attempt. My health and fitness is built on 22 years of experience. I’m sad to say I didn’t start with the right motivation. As a shy, insecure teenager – I started training at the gym because my internal dialogue was ‘A girl would only be interested in me if I had a great body.’ How’s that for low self-esteem? Mercifully, working at a retail store covered in pimples forced me to talk to the public and build relationships with my co-workers; and that bubble popped.

This is an example of having the wrong motivation with the right outcome! I’m grateful this happened so young. I did love playing sport all through school, which gave me a taste of being fit. Gym kept me linked to that world after school, and I’ve been training ever since. When I lived in Cape Town, the outdoor life is what excited me the most. Hiking in the mountains on a clear winter’s day after rain gets my juices flowing – even as I type that! I don’t need extra incentives to get out and enjoy nature, it’s my soul food. Thus exercise became intricately tied to the value of being outdoors. I’ve now since linked it to two core values: self-development (answering the question ‘what am I capable of’) and using my capabilities in service to raise money for housing and education.

These powerful values bring me immense joy and gratitude for the body I was gifted at birth. After 22 years, I’ve experienced the ebb and flow of training hard, followed by lull periods (usually the cold dark rainy winters in Cape Town). Still, I have always managed to get back into it. My major puzzle pieces are:

  1. By training naturally at the gym (no steroids or other enhancers), my muscle memory helps me return quickly – and I know that.
  2. No matter how long the lull, three weeks back is all it takes to feel an increase in energy levels throughout the day – that feeling of optimizing my body is ingrained.
  3. I was never a morning person – but training in the morning gives me more energy for the rest of the day, and I feed my body. I’ve felt the physical difference testing out different times, and mentally having that achievement done and dusted instead of hanging over my head.

It hasn’t all been gym work and hiking, I also enjoyed nine years of playing touch rugby league every Wednesday night; I loooooved trail running for two years before my injury; promenade walks in Sea Point and New York; road cycling for eight years (thanks to living in Cape Town with incredible scenery and the worlds largest timed cycle race in the world as an incentive for training). These are important puzzle pieces to build the full picture of how I climbed a mountain every day for a year.

I bet you’re thinking – so what does this have to do with me?

Building context reveals the small changes needed to build sustainable practices

Simon Sinek talks about understanding ‘your why’ in business, and as an individual, I speak about linking goals to values. The better we understand ourselves and be brutally honest – the greater our chance of building sustainable practices. Deep down, you know what brings you fulfillment – but there’s a wonderful tool from Dr. Demartini that can help you determine your values today (values are a fluid concept.) I’ve used that in conjunction with a numerology report to understand why I feel so passionately about certain things and not others. If you’d like an evaluation send me an email. No matter what – there’s help to begin your journey to understand who you are.

Brutally honest means unpacking why something is important and whether it’s my dream or planted by someone else (maybe even society). To see if it’s ours, we can distill any goal by asking: ‘is this helping me with my mission in life?’

No? Then that’s why you’re feeling resistance and possibly exhibiting symptoms of self-sabotage like procrastination, substance abuse, or negative self-talk in pursuit of your goal.

I remember my accountancy lecturer telling my mom I was lazy. Did she know I hadn’t taken accountancy at school? Did she know I was an A student in maths? Did she know I am the type of person that needs to understand how something works – the principle – by having things explained in detail?

Nope.

Thankfully, my mom knows me well enough not to judge me based on this assessment. Instead, we came up with a plan to do introductory self-paced courses going over the basics in six months. I went back the second year and passed. This experience showed me accountancy wasn’t for me. More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson around the word lazy – so often attributed to children. 

We are incredibly diverse as a species. Think about how many facets shape us:

  • Our bodies and how they function;
  • Where we are born;
  • Our parents;
  • Our greater family;
  • The schools we go to;
  • What inspires us;
  • What we love doing;
  • Our education (inside school and outside)
  • Where we get our worldly information;
  • Opportunities along our path;
  • Our exposure to different opinions;

And we keep searching for ‘the one thing’, a template to follow for happiness, fulfillment, success, and health.

I can understand why wealthy people with money as their success metric end up unhappy. We can follow a formula laid down by someone successful – but without their motivation, how can we possibly expect to feel the same sense of fulfillment? Or be surprised when we don’t feel the satisfaction they do? Imagine trying to bake a chocolate cake with ingredients meant for a soufflé?

Fulfillment comes from satisfying our soul, not our senses.   

I’ve been on a loooooooooooooooooong journey to understand this. When I climbed Table Mountain, I lived 100% according to my values, ignoring the outside world’s commentary. The noise deafens our soul’s words whispering to us gently, which is why I now understand the value in sitting in silence – meditating. It gives me the chance to embrace the void, where inspiration, creativity, and ideas to excite us are born. The irony is we believe we must work harder, longer hours to reach our goal.

That’s like running faster and faster on a treadmill wondering why the goal in front of us never arrives.

I often battle internally about where I am – versus where I believe I should be. I’m falling for the puzzle picture versus looking at each piece that created it. That generates anguish. It’s been my unease about teaching goal setting. While working on a goal-setting course, I realized that the most important element of setting attainable goals is a deep understanding of who I am and what I want.

That idea from the void set my soul on fire. It was as if a star ignited inside, unleashing unlimited energy within me. Sure I can break down how I executed that idea to make it a reality. Still, I didn’t consciously choose to climb every day – that gift came neatly wrapped up in an idea perfectly expressed in a sentence of eight words. If anything, the first step in goal setting should be learning to sit in silence.

The irony about self-development is that the journey isn’t about discovering anything – it just uncovers what’s already inside us all along. We currently have it all backwards. We’re more concerned with goals giving us something, than realizing it’s what we give that builds the foundation of achieving our goal.

So what next?

I hope you can see the value in developing a curiosity to understand the context of something before comparing yourself to others? A journey by definition requires action – which means movement, which involves taking a step. May I suggest your next step be putting this into practice? I know the more significant the inspired effort, the greater the corresponding result.

Here’s a suggested step by step guide to understanding how to build context into your life to unpack your goals and, who knows, maybe even uncover what sets your soul on fire:

  1. Context requires effort and research. Sit with this word and what you’ve read above. Take some time to digest it, and then write your thoughts on what resonates and what doesn’t.
  2. Articulate why you feel that way on each point. If you’re reading this, I’m 99% sure you have an internal drive to discover what you can become.
  3. What comes naturally to you? List them and goals associated with them.
  4. What fills your days and thoughts? If I asked, you could talk at length on? List them and correlate with the above.
  5. Now think about all the times you’ve beaten yourself up for not achieving a goal. Was that goal important to you? If so – did you dissect reasons preventing you from persevering? Was it simply because you gave up?
  6. Did you understand the context of what was required to make it a reality?
  7. Do you look at this post as a puzzle piece or the full picture? (I hope you answer puzzle piece!)
  8. Do you follow people that share how long they took to achieve what they did?
  9. Are you prepared to be in it for the long haul? Or want a quick fix?

I’m deeply committed to teaching others the benefits of pursuing their highest values because I’ve experienced how fulfilling it is and know the value it brings all of us if we do this. I have zero doubt about the purpose of what I share – whether in my writing, speaking, advising, or workshops – it’s to empower others to find their puzzle pieces – not follow others. Would you go on a treasure hunt and be happy there’s no treasure left after following someone else’s map?

The most exciting moment of my life always happens when I get a new piece of the puzzle – and take the first step on that path. I’m no longer constantly plagued by the anguish (it still pops up) that comes from trying to build my puzzle with someone else’s pieces. I still battle self-sabotage – but I’m kinder with myself as I master these ideas and keep pursuing what feels right, even in the face of steep ridicule or opposition.

Will you take the next step on your journey to living your purpose?

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

How would you like to look back on 2021?

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

These are all possible.

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

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

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

It’s called ‘50in50’.

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

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

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

Where do these Ideas come from?

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

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

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

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

The first state outline to be done on 19 February 2021

Building Purpose into Each Step

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

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

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

This challenge is for you IF:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the Word “NEVER” became my most Interesting Teacher

Covids new world has forced me to go within. Usually when I’m faced with uncertainty my first instinct is to examine my past and explore learning’s that helped me get to where I am. I’m accustomed to sitting at the feet of my most painful moments and learn.

“Never” immediately jumps out at me. I’ve had three massive ‘nevers’ that all turned into life altering experiences.

I’m NEVER going to live in London…I’m NEVER going to live in Cape Town…I’m absolutely NEVER going to live in the USA…

The universe heard me and yelled ‘hold my beer’.

The very things I denounced – wrote off even – became my greatest teachers, ushering in a host of memories to last lifetimes.

These 3 ‘nevers’ have become core pillars in my life creating memories spanning 17 years. Things I never dreamed possible as a teenager; each one of them (if given the chance) would do again in a heartbeat.

Maybe you’re currently being poked with opportunities but ‘never’ is holding you back? Maybe this will help you rethink it.

LONDON

Why would I want to leave South Africa’s perfect climate to live somewhere grey and miserable? I had zero desire to be like my cousins living in the UK, even though my gran is English giving me the opportunity to get an ancestral visa to live and work there for 5 years. My ‘never’ was based on limited knowledge – and yet I fiercely defended that I’d hate it.

Then my sister met Terence and I listened to his stories, in particular his travels around Europe.

Hmmmm – I did want to see Europe and earning £ not only trumps the Rand, but shaves 10 hours off a flight too!

Early in 2003 two months changed it all, I met a woman ‘fresh off the boat’ from the UK reinforcing Terence’s positive experiences immediately followed by my friend Jono deciding to move to London.

‘Why don’t you come across when you finish your degree? What do you have to lose?’

What did I have to lose?

This called for a weekend away in Mpumalanga driving four and a half hours to spend one night in an old train cabin. I loved long drives alone contemplating ‘the big life decisions’ of a 23 year old like this. The gorgeous scenery and music the perfect companions. Just quiet opportunity to experience my emotional reaction to this decision. Driving home I was leaning towards taking the leap, and the longer I thought about it my excitement grew.

‘I’m moving to London’

My two years not only turned me into a man, it built a bridge across the chasm ‘what if’ for all future instances.

CAPE TOWN

‘Cape Town is where you go when you retire!’ I proclaimed nonchalantly.

Spoken like a true Joburger with zero experience of Cape Town. I lie – I spent a week there as a 10 year old. Fate introduced me to a woman from Cape Town while living in London. Suddenly it looked a whole lot more interesting than a retirement option. I didn’t want to be 80 years old in a rocking chair wondering ‘what if’… so once again I abandoned my ‘never’.

While that relationship ended painfully, the experience in a city with hardly any support revealed my inner strength and resilience.

13 years showed the value patience and time brings. Especially in building quality networks of friends. Cape Town is my spiritual home – with mountains, water and plenty of wine it has everything but skiing to be my perfect place on earth. Living in London made me think about what lifestyle I wanted to live. I thought I’d found it.

The iconic Table Mountain provided a life changing opportunity – it sparked an idea to become the first person to climb it every day for a year: testing me physically, mentally, emotionally & spiritually. It also became a platform to raise money and awareness for housing, literacy and health. This experience became everything I needed to confront my self-doubt and understand what I’m capable of – all while creating a community around making a difference in others lives.

Cape Town taught me how to be patient while relentlessly creating a world of purpose and meaning, while in service to others – the essence of ‘Ubuntu’.

AND it led me to another treasure – my wife.

NEW YORK / USA

Having visited the US in 2013 for my dear friend’s wedding, I was able to tick my 3rd ‘must see’ city before I die: New York. (the others were Paris & Rome)

On this trip, while enamoured, felt no pull to ever emigrate to the US.

Enter Jessie in 2017 (then living in San Francisco) and after hitting it off, experienced her support for my climbs up Table Mountain all year (including 3 trips out totaling 2 months in South Africa) – learned first hand what her definition of commitment means through difficult times. It’s like voting between a politician that talks about what they’ll do – versus watching one with their sleeves rolled up doing what they say they’ll do.  

Being in San Francisco with her and having opportunities to explore this incredible land has been mind blowing. Now we live in New York, with more opportunities to build networks to teach the power of ubuntu and the impact of following our intuition.

The US has shown me how global our village truly is, and that no matter our background – we all need help learning to navigate the challenges of life.  

Why is ‘Never’ my most interesting teacher?

  • Never was a word I hid behind to avoid leaving my comfort zone.

17 years of memories and experiences from travel, friendships, work, personal growth, exercise, music, weather, world records, love, food, perspective, and cultures wouldn’t have happened by staying within my safety zone back in Johannesburg.

  • Never showed me what seems bad today, might be exactly what I need for beauty tomorrow.

I’ve stopped looking at things in isolation and search for the lessons instead. There are opportunities I cannot even fathom yet by being in New York – pandemic and lockdown aside – just being here creates avenues of potential I could only read about back in Cape Town.

  • Never has shown me the value in being present in my experience, but forward thinking enough to explore my challenge at a deeper level.

In a nutshell – behind ‘Never’ stands some of the greatest experiences of my life. If I listened to those nevers? I wouldn’t be the man I am today.

Those 17 years being pushed have taught me how much we need each other. I haven’t been able to accomplish anything without the support of others. Not everyone has the tools for deep introspection to really understand what drives them – and that’s why I’m grateful I studied numerology to provide those insights. It’s not the be all and end all; but from personal experience its acted as a tremendous rudder.

I interestingly came across this realisation from Rebel Wisdom in the UK on their website – We have to do the work ourselves, but we don’t have to do it alone. ­

They’ve arrived at their own version of an African proverb if you want to fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

That’s Ubuntu right there.

No matter how much we think we progress, we keep coming back to ancient principles of togetherness. And that’s my next challenge: building a community of support. As we each journey inward re-imagining a new vision for our lives discovering what we’re capable of, we become living examples on how best to navigate the outside world in harmony with the planet – and each other.  

Are you ready to discover what you’re made of? Why not start the conversation with the first person that comes to mind…

How to Convert New Years Resolutions into Every Day Solutions

Enjoying a view on the way to the top at Crater Lake, Oregon

Goal setting.

2021 is upon us and – no doubt – many think it hasn’t arrived soon enough.

I can’t even begin to imagine what you’ve been through in 2020. My friend Astrid said it best; ‘We’re all in the same storm,  we just have different boats’. Sums it up perfectly.

The new year brings with it optimism for new opportunities. A whopping 74% of Americans made resolutions. No surprise after the year we’ve had, 45.59% of the resolutions are improving health; while family as a category makes its debut with 24.7% (I also suspect due to the year we’ve had). I highly recommend reading Catherine Choi’s full article here which breaks down:

  1. Resolution categories
  2. Resolutions by generations
  3. Likelihood they’ll be achieved (broken down by segments above)
  4. Reasons for not achieving them.

It’s a great summary.

A dose of Reality

On average, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. And only 8% will achieve them (Ref: www.thetimestribune.com)

So why is this still a thing?

I believe because we’ve been lied to. We’re told setting lofty goals is what will ‘change our lives’ (as if we need to wait until the new year starts too, to make that happen)

Stop waiting for a new year. Stop waiting for next week. Stop waiting for a better time.

Just. Stop. Waiting.

Without creating a clear understanding of what to do today, most attempts fail because the end point is made out to be the most important.

I’ll be happy when…. I’ll be successful when… I’ll be healthy when….(feel free to insert your relevant health, relationship, career, money, exercise goals appropriately)

My most valuable lesson learned while becoming the first person to climb Table Mountain every single day for a year:

The process IS the goal. Fall in love with the process, and you’ll enjoy the process as much as reaching your goal.

If the goal is to lose weight – falling in love with a healthy lifestyle will create that as a natural by-product. Much like plants don’t aim to make oxygen – they just want to grow using their inputs sunshine, water and carbon dioxide.  

Practical steps to turn NY resolutions into Daily actions

Firstly, one of the most debilitating ruts – is being sucked in by technology. I think we can all agree the lock-downs have worsened this. Whether endless scrolling on social media or binging Netflix and YouTube videos, we’re left feeling unsatisfied and drained. The scary thing is we’ve been purposefully sucked in by companies competing for our attention because we’ve become the commodity. One of the greatest gifts I’ve given myself is learning how to use my phone – instead of it using me.

Becoming intentional means knowing what my problem is and who can solve my problem – that’s where NourishX’s Digital Balance online course comes in. Taking me through a step-by-step approach highlighting what the issues are (most of which I didn’t even realise!) and then providing simple solutions to take back control of my phone and ultimately my time – is a game changer. It’s helping me build healthy habits to lose that sinking feeling in my stomach about not having enough hours in the day. Instead of distracted I now feel nourished.

One of their greatest tools is how they work with me to build the habit gradually, which brings me to the next important point:

Sustainability. If one word sticks out in this piece, I hope that’s it. Defined as being able to maintain at a certain rate or level.

Therein lies the key: maintain.

Designing a lifestyle that fulfills you and leaves you energised and full of purpose each day is the goal yes? By focusing on what we love and wish we did more of, will naturally improve how we feel.

Losing weight has a finite point; but then what? That is an infinite challenge, which explains how you can reach it and still be unhappy (or not as happy as you’d hoped) and then what? Step 1 is making sure we match an infinite challenge (mindset) with an infinite approach (actions).

It’s a simple concept. But who ever said simple was easy? Step 2 is having the awareness and deep introspection to understand what drives and engages us to pursue infinite actions. Another reality dose: Even when you know exactly what you love doing and pursue it – there will be challenges and it’s hard.

It’s why falling in love with the process is critical. Mindset trick: To keep that internal flame burning infinitely, start seeing challenges as fuel for the fire, instead of an anchor.

Create your perfect day which is sustainable as you move through life and grow. Building discipline with sustainable habits means you can progressively increase your effort.

Some questions I constantly use to help me:

  1. What am I capable of?
  2. What am I made of?
  3. What are my philosophies that act as my guiding principles?
  4. When do I want to be filled with joy, now or sometime in the future?
  5. What did I learn from my last challenge?

Our life is a journey – fall in love with exploring your process today.

Final reality check: if you thought the answer to your problems lay at the end of this post, NOPE, this is the first step in building your awareness. Now you need to decide what lifestyle you want and start actively pursuing it every day injecting purpose into your actions and being relentless in your execution.

Take today to reflect on all the challenges you’ve overcome to make it this far. Doesn’t that fill you with pride? That same strength exists to tackle what sets your soul on fire. Now is the time to pursue that with passion and relentless energy.

Do you need help creating what that looks like? Reach out to me here and let’s chat.

It’s one day at a time, step by step.

How to Unlock Self-Doubt’s greatest Gift

PHOTO CREDIT: Seth Winterhalter

A gift from self-doubt? I hear you ask suspiciously. I know! Who knew right?! If you’re like me, then you’ve probably been plagued by self-doubt in your life. That’s 40 years’ worth of struggle for me. Frankly, I’m over it.

Let me take you through the events that unlocked it for me.

Self-Doubt’s icy grip

Self-doubt’s frustrating. I get a great idea, only for that little gremlin to arrive and keep poking me, “Are you sure you want to do that?”

It doesn’t take long for it to call back-up: its wicked stepmother fear.

Fear’s that dark room with a supposed grizzly monster waiting to do unthinkable things to me.

But when has that ever happened??? The worst parts I mean. I’m still here. I haven’t lost any limbs to monster fear activity.

It makes sense that my DNA is encoded with the fight or flight response to being outside of my comfort zone. In the stone age being alive meant what I was doing was working – and stepping out the cave jeopardised that.

No matter how many times I rationalise this though, it doesn’t stop self-doubt from creeping in. Ever.

So, what can I do??

Unlocking the gift

There is hope. I recently enforced an 11 day ‘silent retreat’ while on our stay home order in New York. This was the result of attending NourishX’s ‘digital balance’ course and seeing how much I use my phone each day and how quickly that time becomes a full month out of the year. Throw in a bombardment of news from every angle about COVID-19 and quite frankly, I’d had enough.

I needed a mental break away from the barrage of fear being pushed into the world.

It was exactly what I needed.

The break gave my mind the freedom to explore ideas like self-doubt from a place of love without distraction, to analyse it’s recurring role in my movie.

It was only on the Tenth evening that I wrote this epiphany in my reflections before bed:

‘We can’t remove self-doubt – it’s ALWAYS going to nag us – like our moms to pick our clothes up off the floor. They only stop nagging when we take action and pick up the clothes! It’s not the self-doubt (nagging mom) that’s the problem, it’s the inaction that is’

Mind. BLOWN.

Jesus only took 40 days in the dessert. I took 40 years…

Jokes aside, I’m incredibly grateful to understand this at such a young age.

I re-framed my understanding of self-doubt and realised it’s not something to overcome: it’s a guide, a neon sign shining ‘THIS WAY’.

How crazy is that???

Fear and self-doubt are actually here to show me the way.

That’s their gift – they confirm I’m on the right path.

What I love about this revelation, is it reinforces all the ancient wisdom around flowing with life, not forcing it.

Think about it. Who ‘wins’ in any battle?

Good versus evil. Man versus woman. Beach versus ocean.

Self-doubt isn’t something to overcome – but rather understand and use.

Instead of succumbing to it, I’m learning to pause and reflect realising:

The bigger the doubt, the greater the growth waiting on the other side of taking action.

It’s about the Journey

Since my teenage years, I strive to improve, grow and learn. I was aiming for a specific point I was supposed to reach before serving others.

The question at the center was always ‘why am I here?’

That’s a pretty broad (never mind daunting) question, implying something to reach waaaaaaaay in the distance.

It was only while climbing the stairs in our building training for my next challenge that I had a better question enter my head:

‘What am I made of?’

I tell you, it was like fireworks went off in my brain! Such a simple question to constantly push me to do my best now. Whatever I learn, will be carried into my next challenge I create to face; or the bigger ones like a world-wide shutdown.

This was first taught to me climbing Table Mountain every day for a year and I’m happy to report – the lessons were learned! I know this because my gratitude and enjoyment happened every day – and not when I completed it. It happened along the entire path – and not just at the top.

This taught me why someone can experience depression or a lack of fulfillment when completing a goal.

The goal doesn’t bring fulfillment, appreciating the growth along the way does.

I have a bonus secret to share:

Whatever idea you have that sets your soul on fire? Everything you need to achieve it is already inside you. It won’t magically be given to you once you complete it, as though a queen appears to knight you.

I’m picking the clothes up off the floor now without being shouted at.

I hope you do too.

If you want more information on the Digital Balance Course click HERE

4 Surprising Tips from Navy Seal Training for Surviving Sacred Seclusion

Almost half the worlds population is under some form of ‘stay at home’ order. By definition, anytime we’re ‘forced’ to do something, it’s harder than if we’d chosen it. We do have a secret weapon though to defeat any obstacle in our path: the ability to learn.

Why not learn from the best then? Listening to an interview with retired Navy Seal Andy Stumpf recently, he shared some insights into Navy Seal training new to me. As trainee and trainer, he’s uniquely positioned to understand what it takes to make it through.

Navy Seal training or BUDs (Basic Underwater Demolition) is some of the most grueling in the world – it’s difficult to find definitive numbers but it looks like only 6% of men that enter this training complete it. Considering there’s only about a 3% difference in physical capabilities, there’s clearly something else that separates those that complete the training – from those that drop out.

I’m immediately drawn in by his humility as, while trying to make sense of the corona situation, he states:

‘I’m not an expert at all, uh – probably on anything in my life. But one thing I have experience in, is surviving and thriving in high risk situations with high stress… the most dangerous thing you can do, is lose control of your emotions or let your emotions take over your decision making cycle’

‘We need to start talking about we more than me’

That is the sentence that perked me up and primed me for the wisdom that followed.

Here are the 4 biggest lessons I took away from his chat

  1. Focus on what’s in your control

The training’s designed to teach recruits to let go of things outside of their control and to focus on what’s within their control.  

Things outside my control right now is the virus and government responses. Which is probably why you reading this at home. No real choice there; but we do have choice over how we decide to view staying at home.

‘I’m being forced to stay home’ versus ‘I can stay safe at home’ is a vastly different mindset.

Did you notice the title? I used ‘Sacred Seclusion’ instead of Lock down. Language is important and I loved that term I heard yesterday.

While at home we have the choice to consume 4000 extra calories or find innovative new ways to exercise at home. It’s easy to sit on the couch and watch movies all day, but it’s just as easy to choose to learn a new language, start researching how to build an online business – write that book you’ve always wanted to. It’s in your control.

I suggest using the time you’d normally commute to work as your time to build a new habit.

As Mandela lived – ‘use your time wisely, you have a limited time on earth’

PRO TIP: Break the ‘difficult’ goal into the simplest action it takes to start. The scary prospect of writing a whole book becomes easy when starting with ‘write a sentence’. Starting an exercise regime becomes ‘get dressed in active wear and do 1 sit up’.

2. Keep your world small

Photo Credit: Spec Ops Magazine

This resonated with me because it’s what I used to complete my challenge to climb Table Mountain in Cape Town every day for a year. I was forced to think of a way that didn’t overwhelm me. A whole year?? Yeah that can freak me out a bit. One day at a time – step by step? I can manage that.

Put yourself in the shoes of a student in BUDs. You’re in a constant world of pain with no idea of what’s coming next. I can only imagine how debilitating that must be when day one is hell – and there’s another 179 days ahead. You’re just trying to survive.

It was as an instructor that Andy saw the story arc of what was happening and why they did this – it’s a physical test for sure: but they’re using the body to test the mind.

When guys quit as a student they disappear. As an instructor he was able to question them.

‘Why? You said this was your lifelong goal it’s all you ever wanted to do. Why?’

‘I got overwhelmed’

They did the opposite of keeping their world small.

There’s two ways to look at BUDs: it’s 180 days; or a sunrise and a sunset – 180 times. Think about how quickly our world changed and how many weeks have passed already. At the time of writing this its April already. You can keep your mind strong by adopting this principle.

The ultimate test in BUD’s is ‘hell week’ and this is where that principle gets drilled down even further. Already four weeks into training, it starts on Sunday evening and ends Friday afternoon with only 2 hours sleep on Wednesday. Most guys who quit, do so before Tuesday.

‘Don’t look at it as five days. Just make it to your next meal – they have to feed you every six hours.’

Stacking six hours on another six hours and focusing on the next meal – no matter how much pain or cold you’re in – gets you to that next meal which is a reprieve and mental reset to continue.

Makes sacred seclusion look like Christmas every day!

Stressed, tired, hungry, hypothermia, exhaustion induced hallucinations – these extreme conditions allow the instructors to strip away all the layers of ego, revealing who has one important quality.

3. We over Me

Photo Credit: New York Post

This is tested immediately, everyone’s assigned a swim buddy you can’t be more than six feet away from at any time. Suddenly, you’re ordered ‘go swim!’ and forget about the buddy dashing off. That inevitably leads to being punished for leaving him behind and the buddy gets punished too.

They’re being taught there’s penalties for forgetting him and other people suffer consequences by the way you act.

Slowly but surely – two weeks builds ‘we’ and not me until it becomes ingrained. BUD’s is not about finding the fittest men alive; it’s about finding the ones that can work together as a team. You don’t want to be in the most high pressure stressed environment second guessing the person next to you.

Right now we’re in a ‘we instead of me’ training camp – only we’re separated in our homes.  We’re seeing how important our own actions can be, when collectively done together. Imagine what other social challenges we can collectively tackle when combining forces like this? Some people want to put out petitions to government to open up alcohol sales again while others are turning their homes or businesses into factories to make protective gear for health care workers.

Do they feed the Navy Seals alcohol? Here’s another important component about staying home we must learn from them:

The BEST Me, Empowers We

I agree that the training is set up to ingrain a ‘We’ mentality – but the truth is it’s done in conjunction with developing the best me. They’re not mutually exclusive.

This is the philosophy I follow – How do I develop the best Me to serve We?

No matter how we feel – we’re all in this uncertain time together. Some only allowed to leave home for groceries. Some at home but allowed to move freely, some are terrifies about where their next meals coming from not being able to work but essentially our home has become our world. We’ve all just entered our own BUD’s training, except it’s not voluntary.

So what if you flip it round to pretend this is voluntary?

Next, let’s be positive expecting the best but preparing for the worst. Say this ‘home time’ lasts until June 30 – that’s 77 days away at the time of writing – or sunrise and sunset; 77 times. The days wrack up just as quickly whether we do something – or nothing.

Great news though – all you have to think about is today.

Meditation, Exercise, Learning, Researching, whatever your new habit. All it takes is a decision to start and incorporate it into your daily life. Then suddenly you’ll find yourself 22 days into a habit of meditating five minutes every day; exercising three weeks in a row – and feeling better equipped to handle stress.

Resilience is your ability to get bent and come back better than before. What a wonderful opportunity this is to apply that resilience to your goal from a digestible perspective – and you’ll be well on your way to achieve an insane amount.

Can you ignore the big and focus on the small? And not get overwhelmed no matter what the news says? The best you is exactly what We need.

4. Make it a Priority

A habit you prioritize is kept through consistency. Even the fittest Navy Seals can go off the rails once their service ends.

It’s far easier to build smaller daily consistent actions than try a couple big sessions a week. Just think about the reverse – we pick up weight at a rate unnoticeable because we slowly but surely do less and less, and eat more and more.

Our lifestyles pre coronavirus have been put under a microscope. We have the time now to objectively evaluate what is working and what isn’t. Then the plan we put in place should be for a sustainable lifestyle, so if you’re training during your usual commute to the office – don’t give it up when you start again. You’ve built the habit, now keep making it a priority.

While many of us will experience the pain of losing a loved one and cannot be ignored – the rest of us are being given the gift of using our homes as a cocoon.

I hope you emerge a magnificent butterfly.

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

6 Reasons to Embrace Inconvenience

For most of my life, I’ve focused on being positive.

Not ignoring the negatives, challenges or problems – just choosing not to give them my attention.

Writing my book in San Francisco removed me from Cape Town’s routine. This has forced me to evaluate routines and the ‘convenience’ that’s built into that.

An epiphany about Inconvenience.

I’ve challenged myself to climb the equivalent of a hundred story building every day during the week.

The kind of hills at my disposal

Staying in Nob Hill, surrounded by steep hills in every direction, is perfect to get the ball rolling every day. Walking to gym or choice of writing venue for the day, means if I see a hill – I must go up.

It was on one of those hills taking me away from my destination that sparked a deeper reflection on inconvenience – and why it’s my ally.

It sounds counter intuitive: convenience is something I’ve come to associate with better.

But is it better?

In the short term – it appears so.

In the long term?? I’m leaning towards harmful.

Inconvenience is Your Ally

If you’re looking to

  • Build Value in your life
  • Improve decision making
  • Become more present
  • Achieve your goals  
  • Increase Propensity to Implement
  • and look after our planet in the process?

Keep reading…

  1. Build Value in your Life

Training to climb Table Mountain every day forced me to think of ways to prepare; one of which included a decision to stop using the lift.  Living on the 8th floor was just enough to create temptation. The lift is convenient, especially when you’re carrying bags and a cooler box from a weekend away, but choosing the stairs was a masterstroke in training my brain to accept inconvenience.

I can easily justify that the convenient option like taking the lift saves me time, which exonerates my decision.

Then I timed how long it takes: 1 minute 36 seconds.

Who doesn’t have that time to climb stairs?? No running or going faster than usual.

And yet the value gained physically, getting faster and fitter no longer huffing and puffing, and mentally, the inconvenient option becoming second nature no matter what; is invaluable.

Both helped me achieve something that’s never been done before.

2. Improve Decision Making

Walking home around lunchtime from ‘Habitat for Humanity’s’ workshop in West Oakland, there’s a corner shop with unhealthy gap filling snacks. I hadn’t eaten since last night’s dinner and my stomach was reminding me.

The hunger signal easily justifies ‘I must eat now’ and pardon the lack of healthy options (I should know – I bought crisps the first time I walked past!) This time I was more mindful and posed the question ‘would I’d die’ before getting home without eating.

No.

Then you don’t need to go inside.

Once in a while’s fine and I advocate living a balanced life – eating something deemed ‘naughty’ less than you eat healthy food, doesn’t make you unhealthy. BUT – just like climbing stairs every day became second nature – so too will ‘popping in’ to a corner store for a snack of the bulge creating persuasion.

Choosing to wait doesn’t make that much of a difference bulge wise now – but that practice over a year adds up to 56 000 calories – the equivalent of doing burpees (the worlds most hated high intensity exercise) every day for 15 minutes for a year – or 21 minutes 5 times a week to balance the scales.

Try doing them for 5 minutes and you’ll never look at crisps the same way again!

Inconvenience didn’t kill me, and I satisfied the hunger with veggies at home – no burpees required.

3. Become Present

We’re told by ancient wisdom, meditation, mindfulness and modern-day philosophers to be present.

Typing this sparked another thought.

Every time we choose to make a convenient decision: taking the lift, eating an unhealthy snack, sleeping in instead of working out – are all opportunities to practice for future present moments.

Committing to climbing Table Mountain every day predicted what 365 present moments would look like.

‘I don’t feel like it’ days were hiding in there – I knew this from years of winters rolling around in Cape Town and hibernating; preferring the sanctity of my warm bed versus heading out into the cold wet darkness.

That wasn’t an option.

I pre-empted my old convenience default setting and slid the button across to light up the inconvenient one.

Daily practice choosing inconvenience made future ones come more naturally.

4. Achieve Your Goals

If you don’t have goals, how can you measure whether you’re on track today? Goals allow you to test if your choice of (in)convenience is assisting or hindering you.

On the physical front I base my health on cholesterol levels, sugar levels, resting heart rate, body fat percentage and how often I get sick.

Mental health is tougher to define, but I evaluate how I feel around gratitude, happiness, fulfilment, and how I’m seeking knowledge for growth.

The answers to all the above is proof of how well it’s going.

It’s never all perfect – and I’m okay with that. Learn to accept the fluidity of life and sometimes bad days will come. Just be conscious of allowing days to becomes weeks.

It’s easy to choose convenience, I know I can (and do!) with food. I really enjoy fast food, so I must consciously choose not to walk in the door. Instead, I create opportunities to reward myself (like with my new best – Johnny’s Doughnuts!) and build that into a healthier set of decisions.

Doughnuts: once a month treat. Fast food – limited once every two weeks.

Having a girlfriend on the same wave length is a massive boost. Thanks to Jessie – I now have celery juice (almost) every morning and healthier options around how we cook food, like Coconut oil, as well as a more vegetarian diet.

I view extreme diets and avoiding items I enjoy as unsustainable. I simply create a lifestyle which includes things like enjoying doughnuts once a month that keeps me on track to achieve my health goals.

5. Increased Propensity to Implement

Knowing something valuable means nothing if it isn’t used. Problem is – I don’t know what I don’t know.

The celery juice is a perfect example.

I’d never heard about the benefits until Jessie taught me and to understand them I highly recommend checking out the Medical Medium’s 10 Health Benefits of Celery Juice blog. Now we buy fresh celery and take turns juicing every morning.

Clean, cut, blend, juice in a nut bag, drink.

For convenience sake, I suggested juicing the night before, then it’s ready after training.

‘Nope – the best way to drink it, is immediately after juicing’.

Experts back up their suggestions because they tested it. I want the maximum benefits; it’s why I don’t spend three hours at gym when thirty minutes does the trick. So that idea immediately gets put on a greyhound to somewhere far, far away.

Buying it is another form of convenience, but is it fresh? If not, you end up paying more for something less effective. Instead of seeing it as a chore – I see it as another form of meditation and enjoy the process.

Two mason jars worth (around 500ml or 17 ounces) takes fifteen minutes to make.

You don’t always see results quickly; but a rash on my chest that my dermatologist couldn’t fix in eight years, is now gone completely.

Applied Knowledge is power, start implementing the healthy practices you search for and read about.

6. Help Our Planet

Turning my self-evaluation to pollution and our planet, shows how quickly I can change convenient behaviour. Here’s an example:

Take away coffee cups (biodegradable or not) – are a product of convenience. I love coffee, time is valuable, and I want to be able to drink while I’m on the go. Once that coffees finished in 10-15 minutes, it spends more than a lifetime polluting our planet.

Never mind the money being spent by buying coffee this way. Its estimated millennials spend $1100 (R15 400) a year on take away coffee. When you add up how many people are buying these take aways the stats become staggering:

  • 16 billion coffee cups used globally per year, which equates to
  • 6.5 million trees cut down
  • 4 billion gallons (15 billion litres) wasted every year, the equivalent of 40 000 homes using 300 gallons (1 135 litres) a day
  • Enough energy to power 54 000 homes per year

Same goes with takeaway plastic utensils, straws, shopping bags and plastic water bottles. Have no fear – check out this website on what solutions you can use HERE for the 10 every day products killing the environment.

Start Practicing

What’s your feeling now that you’ve read that? I suspect you’re thinking along the lines of good and bad?

It’s what I used to do (and still guilty on occasion) – all this does is force you think that only one is good and only one is bad. Not true. This is a perfect opportunity to practice a more constructive thought pattern.

I haven’t said convenience is bad once (go back and check), I’ve simply shared my view on how inconvenience can benefit your health, mindset and the planet.

As with everything in life, I’m learning that what is ‘good’ one moment, can be ‘bad’ the next.

What I hope you’ve seen is watering ordinary with inconvenience, in time turns it into extraordinary.

It’s your choice.

You read point five about implementing – so where are you going to practice this in your own life?

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!