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!

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

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