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’
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
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
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
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
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.
This is something that effects all of us. We’re in this together. You’re reading this because it feels like we’re waiting for ‘the storm of the century’ to make landfall, and you don’t know which weather station to believe. It’s unsettling – and that’s why I’m focusing on the mental aspect of this to help minimise the stress you’re exerting on your body.
Let’s be honest – this isn’t the first time the media have focused heavily on feeding us a diet of fear. Even before this it was easy to feel overwhelmed wasn’t it? We have more access to problems all over the world every minute of every day than ever before. While Coronavirus is top of mind for everybody, I invite you to think about how this plays out in other ways keeping you in a fear cycle of ‘Oh no! What’s next’ – so you can start to be proactive and make better mental wealth decisions for future events.
Right off the bat the first action is a must when the information coming at you is fear based.
ACTION 1: Get Informed
That means listening to reputable sources, in the coronavirus case – it’s organisations like W.H.O (World Health Organisation), scientists and medical doctors that have educated knowledge.
Case in point – take the time to listen to the two videos included at the end of the article. One is from Dr Mike tackling the media’s poor coverage and how they’re spreading misinformation. It highlights how out of touch the media really is, whileproviding sound alternatives.
The other video I highly recommend is Joe Rogan’s interview with Michael Osterholm. The beauty of his podcast format is you get 90 minutes of discussion instead of trying to create click bait headlines or a five minute sound bite to keep viewers tuned in. This man is an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology.
He is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota. That’s credibility to take seriously.
Genuine concern about this is fine – panicking and acting irrationally based on misinformation is not. Listening to the experts feeds the next action.
ACTION 2: Take the Wheel of your mind
Understand that all the negativity in the world and external factors are outside of our control. Focusing on what you can do will empower yourself. If you’ve practicing to action one, then you know your actions are driven by facts and not fear. Rather know the worst case and how it effects you and what you can do – than listening to uneducated rhetoric causing you to panic and create unnecessary stress in your body.
Yes, this is a highly contagious infectious disease. Yes people are dying. Yes there are other diseases killing more people. The reality is no matter which way you slice statistics, it’s still a disease we dealing with. Are you being proactive in life or reactive? That brings us to the next action.
Look at these facts based on the information we have available – bear in mind as this spreads, this can change.
This isn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last, but worrying is like a rocking chair – it keeps you busy but it doesn’t get you anywhere. A better focus is how to strengthen what you’re naturally born with – Your Immune system.
You can immediately start by adding things like garlic, ginger, broccoli, turmeric, spinach and citrus fruit to your existing diet. It’s also time to take stock of behaviours like:
Are you exercising?
Are you maintaining a healthy weight?
Do you drink alcohol in moderation?
Are you sleeping enough?
What are your hygiene habits? How often do you clean your hands?
As important as physical health is what are you doing to boost your mental health? Pay attention to how much negative news takes up your day. What would happen if you replaced that with uplifting stories of what people ARE doing or new things to learn yourself?
Don’t know where to start? Sign up HERE for my 11 day course to guide you and help build a ‘power hour’ of productive healthy habits.
ACTION 4: Practice Gratitude
Expressing gratitude daily has been proven to boost both your immune system and your nervous system. You can say this out loud gargling through the foam as you brush your teeth. That’s two minutes twice a day giving you an opportunity to express gratitude for what you have in the morning, and what happened that day at night. Bonus points for writing them down!
The important part of expressing Gratitude, is that you’re alive now. If the thought of catching this virus scares you to death because you want to do more, that’s where the next lesson comes in.
ACTION 5: Take Action!
If you were faced with death tomorrow, what would you do?
I wouldn’t want to spend it trying to do ‘stuff’ – I’d make sure I spent every waking moment with those that matter most to me. That sobering thought should make you look back and think ‘yep, I’ve been doing my best to do what inspires me’ and not ‘oh shit there’s so much more to do!!’
Write. It. Down. You don’t need permission to do everything possible to make it happen. Experience the beauty in this world, take risks so that whatever next ‘catastrophe’ the world throws at us – not only are you mentally prepared but you’re already living your best life.
ACTION 6: Get Involved
It might not particularly apply here unless you have medical experience and are in a high contamination zone, but if a particular news story overwhelms you – I’ve learned the best way to turn that into a powerful force for inner peace and fulfilment: is to get involved.
There is no such thing as too little. Volunteering 20 minutes a month is not measured by your time – but by the impact it has on the person / animal / cause you’re passionate about. Tying back to lesson two, asking ‘how can I help’ creates meaningful dialogue with those closest to you about solutions, instead of moaning. It gets you searching for people already tackling the problem near you, instead of following the rabbit hole trapped in a fear loop. Imagine being involved in drastically changing the course of someone’s life? How would that feel compared to the hopelessness of reading another depressing article?
If you’d like to explore this further but not sure where to start – why not sign up HERE for our ‘Take back your power: building purpose’ course.
This is serious, but we’re all in this together. Let’s be sensible about our decisions. If you’re sick, stay home. If it persists – see a doctor. If you have unhealthy habits that put you at risk, start converting them into healthy ones. If you have pre-existing conditions that put you at risk, avoid public gatherings.
Help out the elderly and people suffering from pre-existing conditions that are most at risk of this. Use this as a positive reminder of what’s most important in life.
We all have dreams and aspirations, but not all of us turn them into reality.
Born with varying degrees of opportunity, circumstances and resources – they act as unique challenges to overcome in order to realise our dreams. One thing we all possess though, is the capacity to make a decision to change our circumstances.
Wanting to do just that, I stumbled across Jim Rohn. As they say when the student is ready the teacher will appear. His video ‘ How To Set Goals For The Life You Want And How To Actually Achieve Them‘ details the power of writing down your goals. Goals are broken down into career, personal development, the things you want, the places to go (my focus today) and the people to meet. The aim: to tick them off and keep adding new ones. This gives you something to aim for and celebrate as you accomplish them.
This was in 2016; The Grand Canyon was 18th on my list. 3 years and some change later, words on paper become a link to one of the greatest days of my life.
This is by far my longest post, but just as the Canyon isn’t described as ‘Little’, so too would a 5 minute read do this an injustice. Get comfy as I take you on a journey.
The purpose is to develop your power by building a habit of listening to your thoughts and desires, writing them down, and taking the next step to make them come true.
If you want to 'cheat' - scroll to the bottom and see which lessons resonate with you, and apply in your own life.
Nothing could prepare me for the Grand Canyon. Nothing.
Firstly, I need to give you some context into why this dream metabolising into reality is so meaningful.
The Grand Canyon is our third stop in two days as we embark on an epic road trip organised by Jessie. Covering 1 215km (755 miles) across Nevada, Utah and Arizona from Las Vegas to Phoenix with nothing but the best nature has to offer in between.
Today’s our most adventurous by far. It starts with a 3am wake up to watch the Springbok rugby team play England in the Rugby World Cup final in Japan. It’s worth it – we beat them for our 3rd title, becoming the only team never to lose a final. You must understand though – 18 months prior we were probably at our lowest point in history. Two men’s leadership is what turned it around: The coach, Rassie Erasmus and our inspirational captain Siya Kolisi. Together they transformed a team at it lowest into the worlds best in record time.
It happens to be at the last place with WiFi to watch! We’d driven to Bryce Canyon yesterday from Zion, arriving as the sun kissed the horizon goodnight in a clear sky leaving in its wake a trail of colours melting into each other.
It’s November 2nd – and it’s freezing.
Sunrise is at 7:57 and pumped full of adrenalin there’s zero chance of going back to sleep, Jessie and I grab breakfast mercifully open at 6am. It’s all working out perfectly, giving us an hour to find a spot overlooking the canyon to enjoy the magic of sunrise.
We… are totally unprepared. The car says -11° C (12° F). The heater’s full blast but eventually we have to bite the bullet and leave our sanctuary, immediately my bodys like ‘what what WHAAAAT?!?!’
We’re 2 700m (9 0000ft) above sea level with the landscape dropping away from us. It feels like we’re on top of the world.
A cloudless sky is dotted with the final specks of stars, holding on for dear life to be seen. The horizon flickers with orange and yellow gradually burning the lilac sky as the sun is reborn.
Even the monotone dark shadow of the Canyon starts morphing into lighter shades revealing jagged monoliths rising out of the valley, as if protecting the ground running away from the rims edge.
Whatever pain we suffer thanks to the cold for this – it’s worth it. I’d balanced my phone close to the edge supported by a rock to ensure a steady time lapse video. Nature puts that adrenalin to use, a breeze picks up and blows my phone over the edge. Thankfully, I anticipated this and before Jessie even knows whats happened I’ve dived across grabbing it on its bobsled ride down. Barring almost losing my phone down the cliff, I hope this is a sign of what’s to come.
We head south across the Utah border into Arizona, spending over five and a half hours in the car covering 500km (311 miles) so we’re both thankful it’s autumn as the midday sun beats down through our windscreen.
My first clue to how unprepared I am for the sight of Grand Canyon should’ve been at Horseshoe Bend. I don’t ever recall seeing pictures of it before googling the Grand Canyon on this drive. It grabbed my attention amongst the plethora of pictures, but it never crossed my mind to check where it is.
We’d quickly stopped at Lake Powell to walk across the bridge admiring the dam wall and the river gorge. It’s already impressive, at 305m (1000ft) the Chrysler building would be devoured with just 14m of the spire visible.
It certainly gets my juices flowing, but we’re completely oblivious to the fact that Horseshoe Bend is 10 minutes away. Sometimes not having everything planned out leaves space for beautiful surprises.
The flat fifteen minute walk up to the edge does its job to erode any expectation. Geography taught me about horseshoe bends as part of river ecology, who knew I’d see THE Horseshoe Bend. Eventually the river will cut through the bend creating an oxbow lake. Just a couple more millions years I guess, it’s only taken 5 to get here.
Everything ‘missing’ below us – is thanks to the tireless carving skills of the Colorado River.
That. Blows my mind.
I’m not afraid of heights, but standing on the edge certainly gives my stomach butterflies. A boat making its way upstream to visit a group camping on the riverbank helps add scale. It’s breath taking – what an unexpected treasure!
The next three-hours is a mixture of flat lands quickly morphing into majestic twisting mountain passes. Huge shadows in the distance usually reserved for clouds reveal deep cracks in the earth – as though an earthquakes ripped it open.
Finally, we turn off the freeway towards the Parks South Rim gate. The lengthy journey’s been building my excitement to fulfill a dream born 15 543km (9 658 miles) away. Much like the walk to horseshoe bend, the drive into the park is unassuming dense with trees either side.
And then it happens.
I might look calm but inside I’m like anyone ten seconds away from meeting their hero. My eyes are teased with snippets. Stepping through the trees the true scale slams into you as though opening a door to a flooded room.
It’s the kind of beauty worth traveling from distant galaxies to see. It stirs something deep inside.
One thing’s for sure, the word ‘Grand’ doesn’t do it any justice.
To put the scale into perspective – the distance from the rock of Gibraltar to Africa’s nearest point is 14km (9 miles) which is almost 4 kilometers (2 miles) LESS than the widest gap between the north and south rim and instead of flat like the ocean textured with colour and millions of years of craftmanship. This chasm easily fits one and a half Table Mountains from Cape Town. The late afternoon sun caresses every undulation for the shadows to act as guides for our eyes.
The top of the cake is the whiteish Kaibab limestone, which gives way to a sheer wall of Coconino Sandstone of similar colour. Next the rock changes outfit to a redder colour as first the Hermit Shale dazzles your eyes before the Supai Group takes over the baton. Now it’s the Redwall Limestone having a turn before the red shade is replaced by the grey Mauv limestone. We’re getting closer to the Canyon floor as an infusion of the green, purple and browny red layer of Bright Angel Shale hooks our attention. Tapeats and Great Unconformity layers add some yellow before the lowest layer currently dancing with the river, is Vishnu Schist, a dark grey granite.
These are just a taste of the 40 layers that combine to create one of the most jaw dropping inspired moments of my life. How amazing Jessie and I are both in our 40th year seeing it for the first time together.
I’m grateful it’s so quiet too. The perfect soundtrack for this view is silence, instilling grandeur usually reserved for mountains.
In this moment, nothing but love and peace exists.
Under the Canvas
We’re still 50 minutes away from our ‘home’ for two nights, enough time for the stirred waters to settle.
We’ve already hiked 15.5km (just under 10 miles) in Zion and Bryce Canyon’s 4km ‘quickie’ was the equivalent of scaling the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco (61 flights) racking up 5 hours on our legs. We have all day Sunday to explore so we’re eager to chat to the staff to figure out what our best options are to maximise our time.
Enter Krocky, a Canyon expert and nominee for ‘Best First Impression Ever’.
Table Mountain taught me the importance of asking an experienced local the right questions. There’s already a handy guide describing route options detailing distances, elevation drop/gain, time it’ll take and difficulty levels as you can see below. My point is made with this line about attempting a rim to river hike:
If you think you have the fitness and expertise to attempt this extremely strenuous hike, please seek advice from a park ranger.
Fitness: I’ve been training like a demon possessed in San Francisco in preparation for my next challenge averaging 150 flights of stairs per day over anything from 2-3 hours. That’s almost doing Table Mountain up and down every day. As for Jessie? I watched her fly across 10 time zones and smash 6 consecutive climbs up Table Mountain. I’m not worried. She’s a machine.
Expertise: Our backpack will have food, water, space blankets, a torch, a backup charger for the phones, maps of the routes, emergency numbers, warm clothes and snacks for good measure. With sunrise at 6:52 and sunset at 17:30 a start latest 8:30 gives us a 9 hour window to finish; excluding a 30 minute twilight bonus period.
The weather looks perfect, so my biggest concern is time.
Krocky patiently listens to our detailed explanation of what we’ve done through his experienced lens of a Canyon veteran. To his credit, he’s not outright telling us not to go all the way down – he makes sure we’re being realistic about our capabilities, which I respect. I’ve seen too many people unprepared on Table Mountain putting others lives at risk not to take this seriously.
“Just so you know – when I hauled ass, I took 3 hours to get down to the river on the South Kaibab trail. It’s 4700ft drop in elevation you’ll need to climb back up, so if you do this it’s going to be one heck of a day”
Krocky had our full undivided attention, we’re grateful for his time. I quickly calculate 3 hours 30 minutes down gives us 5 hours and 30 minutes to climb up including time for breaks. I know we can climb Table Mountain in an hour – which although shorter in distance is far steeper than the Grand Canyon.
So far so good. Plus my intuition isn’t sounding any alarm bells.
“Now South Kaibab has no water on it at all – it has two bathroom stops but no water. So if you come back up that way you’re gonna need enough water to get home. You’re lucky, November’s probably the best month all year to do this. Don’t be fooled though it could be snowing at the top and 75° (24° Celsius) at the river. Use loads of sunscreen.”
We’re starting at the coldest time of the day, so if we’re warm with enough space in the backpack to shed layers later – we’re golden.
“Now if you do make it all the way down – and again I’m not recommending you do – but if you do, I highly recommend coming up the Bright Angel Trail which will finish at the Grand Canyon village. Depending on what you decide, leave your car there and catch the park bus across to the start of South Kaibab trail. Not only does this route have water points, but essentially you have a river / stream running next to you the entire time. If you run into any rangers by all means – DO NOT tell them your going all the way to the river”
Boy am I glad I ended our hike early on Friday to leave some extra gas in the tank for the legs! Krocky gives us a knowing grin.
“Be safe out there and enjoy the Canyon – you’re in for a treat”
He wasn’t lying.
A Day Steeped in Awe
Some ‘technical difficulties’ with the fire stove in our tent means we got smoked out. Opening the ‘window’ and ‘door’ flaps wide open in freezing conditions to clear it isn’t ideal. It’s only the next day, after sharing with reception what I thought was my poor fire making skills, that the manager himself checked it out and finds that the chimney’s blocked. Unfortunately, after a long day I wasn’t thinking straight which means no fire – and sleeping in freezing tent.
Jessie ends up putting on all the clothes she’d laid out to get dressed in the morning. Long johns, thermal socks, an extra t shirt and about three more layers of jackets – and she’s still cold under our duvet and blanket. I’m envious when I wake up getting changed in the cold.
We’re on target happily sipping coffee and tea warming our hands enjoying a Canyon sunrise. I don’t have the superlatives to express how warm my heart is absorbing the view.
Our plan’s simple: take it as it comes. Our intention is clear: we want to reach the river. If either isn’t sure about making the trip back in time – we’ll immediately turn around.
Under the Canvas are fantastic. They clearly listened to Jessie’s reason for our visit, a pre birthday card and drink waiting for me in our tent. Experiences are not just about what you do – it’s where you stay. Krocky set the stage for how everyone would treat us and after our phenomenal dinner – are disappointed we leave too early to enjoy breakfast. They have us covered though, we’re able to choose a packed lunch prepared fresh before we leave. Our stomachs are incredibly happy about this as both our meals are delicious. After filling our water bottles, we still buy 3L spare. It’s not predicted to be that warm, but rather safe than sorry.
Parking at the ‘end’ (in case) we wait for the first bus to collect us, only two other women with almost zero leg coverage with us. Madness! Not just any women though – trail runners. Seriously fit trail runners. They’ve completed Iron Man. Okay that explains the madness.
“You’re running it?? All the way down to the river and back up Bright Angel Trail, wow that sounds insane. How long do you think it’ll take?”
“Uuuuuuum, about 9 hours?”
Jessie and I share a look. Same route. Same hopeful time. Only we’re not running.
“How far down are you guys going?”
With Krocky’s words ringing in my ears I casually respond, ‘Oh we’re don’t know, just gonna see how we feel and decide as we go”
“Yeah that’s a good idea”
It would’ve been fun to see their faces if we told them the truth.
Once the bus drops us off, they set their watches and disappear over the rim. I’m not put off by their estimates, their time doesn’t make sense. If we hadn’t spoken to Krocky we’d probably panic. Although, I’ve learned from my runs up and down mountains in Cape Town that sometimes running wears you out so much, that the difference between power walking and running/walking can be a few minutes. Granted that’s over smaller distances but still. Maintaining a good speed power walking versus burning myself out trying to run is also far more enjoyable. Either way – we’re positive and ready to rock!
We start 3 minutes off our planned time filled with excitement and anticipation. That is, until this sign 7 minutes later:
“Don’t be like Victor!”
I can’t help but laugh. Especially as Jessie points out it’s not a red shirt he’s wearing! Ouch….
It seems a bit extreme, but I guess it’s here for a reason.
We quickly start understanding the scale. Dropping down we’re able to compare the thin layer on the far northern side to whats around us. That thin line is about a 10-story building and puts the thicker lower layers into perspective, only 445 story’s to go.
Even though we start in freezing temperatures, I’m happy to be in the shade cast by the rims edge. It’s going to be a loooong day, the less we’re in the sun the better. It’s almost an hour before we emerge out of the shadows and need to shed layers.
It’s so unusual climbing down a ‘mountain’ first. It’s completely foreign to me. The path’s wide enough for mules to transport goods and people down to the Phantom Ranch which has basic rooms and only open April to October. Krocky suggested their restaurant to visit – although it will add another 40 minutes to an already arduous hike. Still, it’s good to have options.
The mules follow the opposite route, only going down Bright Angel path and up the South Kaibab trail. We’d see quite a few groups of people using this option, needing to step aside and squeeze against the cliff as they pass. Once all our warm clothes are off and in the backpack, I kind of feel like a mule myself. I laugh thinking about a mule seeing me and saying ‘I’m glad I’m not you buddy’
This trail is predominantly along the ridges, constantly giving us panoramic views to marvel. It takes us 40 minutes to reach our the first reference point on the hiking guide: the majestic vantage point aptly called ‘ooh aah’.
It’s like being on another planet. A cloudless sky highlights the stark contrast of the grey, brown and red layers capped by white icing. Can you imagine being one of the first European explorers arriving here? Crossing the great plains to suddenly arrive at this? No one back home would believe them.
Now you just type ‘Grand Canyon’ in Google and hit images to see every picture linked to that tag word ever taken. It’s not the same though. I’m grateful for that otherwise what would be the point of traveling?
There are precious few that understand what it means to connect to this place more than a day trip. There are 6 Native American tribes, Hualapai, Havasupai, Navajo, Paiute, Novi and Zuni in this region that see it very differently through a myriad of lenses. A place to be feared and respected. A harsh land but a place of opportunity. It’s inspired centuries of cultural expression. It’s sacred to them. A holy site. They share history, but more than anything, they call it home.
Kaibab is a Paiute word and means “Mountain Lying Down,” their term for the Grand Canyon. Much of the hiking trails are based on the old migration paths used by the Native Americans for centuries as they followed the rhythms of nature, and even though this route was made in 1924 – imagine what it must have been like doing this hundreds of years ago. Climbing down commands your respect and full attention and adds to the appreciation of this landscape.
Snaking along the ridge, a vast ‘plateau’ roughly halfway down is sprawled below us. It’s like a plain I imagine reams of wild animals roaming as they forage on the sparse vegetation.
Skeleton Point is our last stop in the ‘be careful’ range before dropping into the red zone. All you can do is marvel at the ‘mountain ranges’ towering above you in every direction. Natures Colosseum. It also means we’ve descended 640m and traveled 4.8km (3 miles). Next is The Tipoff a further 500m down and the equivalent of climbing down Table Mountain to sea level and already 100m back up.
Only we still have another 330m to reach the river.
The Colorado river looks deceptively close, the turquoise green line meandering between the V shaped jagged cliffs. An Australian couple are nervously contemplating whether they should turn back. I’m grateful for Jessie’s machine like powers; we’re feeling great after 2 hours 20 minutes – comfortable we’re on track to beat sunset.
Less assured, they ask us our plans. We share Krocky’s advice, but they have no food and no warm clothes. Deciding to go the whole way, we pair up and get to chat them for the next 30 minutes down to the river. Sharing where we’re all from – they congratulate me on our win yesterday which is a nice surprise. I’ve become accustomed to few American’s knowing rugby let alone follow the World Cup. They’re on a epic journey themselves, taking three months off to do a road trip in a camper van up the west coast finishing in Canada.
Being over the river on the Kaibab suspension bridge is mind blowing. If this was Horseshoe bend, the cliffs looming above would be the rim. Now that’s the plateau with another entire ‘mountain’ to climb above that.
This is all from erosion. EROSION!! It’s astounding. It’s one thing for existing mountains to change over time thanks to weathering and gravity – this is just erosion?? Okay I suppose gravity must be given some credit too. This is an amazing display of what is possible with patience and time, never giving up and being persistent.
I wander if the dams have impacted the erosion by disrupting the natural cycles at play?
Teddy Roosevelt had the foresight to create national parks and protect the endless beauty on display. He said it best:
“I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”
Only One Way: UP
Used to the sheer drop on Table Mountain, this climb’s been far gentler and manageable, with pockets of steep sections zig zagging down. In contrast though, we’ve traveled 12km (7.5 miles) versus Platteklip’s 2.1km direct route. It’s taken us 3 hours 19 minutes and 11 seconds. I’m comfortable we’re within the range to enjoy a reasonable pace. I’ve had experience climbing up Table Mountain in the dark, so even IF we take longer, I know it’s far safer than if the reverse were true. You’re always stable as you place your next step to stabilise and pull yourself up.
Nevertheless, we cross back over the river on Bright Angel suspension bridge – choosing a shaded spot to eat our packed lunches, fueling the legs for the tougher second half of the journey. We watch a river raft party navigate some rapids, careful to avoid the swirling whirlpool below us.
With a moment to chill at the river, I finally grasp the Victor warning. If this was summer? I’d never make it back up in the heat of the day. Granted – with mid-summer sunsets at 19:48 you have time to start later. I’m sure there’s great places to swim for a couple of hours, but even if there’s shade – the stifling heat radiating out the Canyon must be unbearable. If I ever do this in summer, it’ll be with a night’s stay at the bottom enabling a 5am start for both to beat the heat.
The path follows the river for about 2km before it sharply turns left turn at another toilet station – now with more water to refill. So far, I’d say Krocky’s descriptions have been spot on.
This path is completely different. Climbing up the cracks of the Canyon we’re always dwarfed by towers of rock above us, the only view is what the isn’t obstructed ahead.
TIP:If you only have time or the capacity to see one trail: Pick the South Kaibab Trail and take loads of water.
Both are completely different experiences, but to truly experience the vastness and magnitude of the scale you’re a part of for a moment in time – is inspiring, humbling and its own rite of passage to appreciate.
There are few places that make me feel ‘home’, filling me with deep inner peace and gratitude for the beauty I’m given, wanting only one thing in return: respect.
The Grand Canyon joins Iceland, The Karoo, Table Mountain and Yosemite in my top five.
The stream means this route is greener and lush with vegetation, even hanging gardens as plants cling to the rock walls as though they have suction cups for roots. The contrast is incredible, and I’m reminded the most important aspects that make today possible:
My strong legs that work
My healthy body
My eye sight
My girlfriend Jessie
On the way down, we’re always aware of what’s coming. Now, it feels like we’re being tormented as each layer above feels like the rim – just to have more cliffs above that. At one point the layers so thick I have to do a ‘pano’ pic just to get it all in. It feels daunting after already completing 800 vertical meters. The never ending tease of another false summit dwarfed by the next challenge.
With an extra 20kgs (44 pounds) on my shoulders, my legs, knees and ankles are managing better than expected – my shoulders and back on the other hand are taking serious strain. Again – I’m eternally grateful for the time of year, as most of the climb happens in the shade. The lower trajectory of the sun allowing the rim to protect us. I’m doing my best to keep a steady pace, constantly monitoring the time to make sure we’re on track. Every now and again seeing glimpses of the Australians further back. They should be okay.
I’m extremely grateful that Jessie’s able to do such extreme things and we’re able to enjoy the conversations that flow while doing these types of things. Today’s talks center around all the emotional challenges that we’ve gone through in our lives and what we’ve learned.
Today’s been a beautiful way see the Grand Canyon – but more importantly FEEL it too. There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of nature than up close and personal on your own steam. I now understand my souls calling early in life to make this a ‘must see’ experience in my lifetime. All thanks to Jessie spoiling me for my 40th.
I know I’ll be back.
While I’ve tried to convey what this experience means to me – I can safely tell you that nothing will ever do it justice until you experience it yourself. All I ask – is that you give yourself as much opportunity to explore and watch time evaporate. Don’t cram this in, make it a priority. I believe you’ll leave it with a deeper appreciation for life.
After 7 hours and 39 minutes and 20 seconds covering 27 km (17 miles) – we’re back on the rim. A full hour ahead of schedule with ample time to enjoy a bar snack and well-deserved beer before watching the sun set over this sacred place. The perfect bookend to an unforgettable day.
What a way to celebrate my last Sunday as a ‘thirty something’ year old.
We get back in time to hear Krocky’s tales of the Canyon as part of his unorthodox quiz night, his smile relieved as much as it is congratulatory.
‘Krocky, is this ‘Victor’ sign really necessary’ I say bringing up my picture.
‘Oh yeah! In Summer there’s at least one person every day like that’
There you go. Don’t be like Victor – speak to Krocky and get the best advice for the experience of a lifetime. Although sad to be leaving, we’re given a new dream to reach for as they hand us their ‘passport’ to get stamped at their other locations: Moab, Yellowstone, Glacier Park, Zion, Great Smoky Mountains and Mt Rushmore all great places – but that’s not enough so they’re adding Acadia, Yosemite, Sonoma, Catalina Island and Joshua Tree to the list.
Again – we’re ready! We’re excited to meet each ‘Krocky’ to maximise our experience.
What. A. Day. Now it’s time to cap it off under the stars, under which even the Grand Canyon is dwarfed.
How does this apply to you as you carve your own life through layers of challenges?
Keep room for spontaneity in your life, the room will always be filled with unexpected treasures.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will always give you bonus opportunities to enjoy.
Just because you want to do something, doesn’t mean you can. Be realistic about matching your capabilities with what’s required.
Never be too proud to seek council from someone more experienced than you.
Be prepared. More information makes better decisions resulting in more enjoyable experiences.
Do less in a day with more intention, and the experiences will create profound memories instead of tick boxes you forget like boxes in the garage.
Always be grateful for your experience and timing.Always
Become an ambassador for these oasis of beauty
Goals linked to experiences, enrich your life beyond measure
I may be turning 40 later this year, but arriving at Habitat for Humanity’s West Oakland workshop feels like my first day of school. I have some life changing relationships with Habitat South Africa in Cape Town thanks to 365 Ubuntu Climbs – but the slate’s clean here.
The same old mind games of nerves and demons like ‘will I be good
enough’ to help coming up.
I’m put at ease immediately as Gus introduces himself and welcomes me to
the workshop. It’s a place to volunteer with their Playhouse program, and has
become my ‘Carpenters Apprenticeship’. I’ve always wanted to learn to work with
my hands and specifically wood.
What better way than to learn while helping a company with its mission
‘Weprovide affordable homeownership opportunities to qualifying households. To qualify, you must show a need for housing, be willing to partner with Habitat by contributing sweat equity in the construction of your home, and demonstrate the ability to pay.’
Handouts disempower. They’re give Hand Ups to start a new cycle of hope.
‘Our PlayhouseProgram is one of the many innovative fundraising tools we use to work with community volunteers to broaden our impact and empower more families through affordable homeownership. Playhouse volunteers spend a full or half day at our Oakland or Milpitas workshop, getting playhouses ready for assembly. Once completed by sponsoring groups, playhouses are donated to children through partnering organizations like BlueStar Moms. We provide all the tools and training necessary to put together the start of a child’s dream playhouse!
A circular economy of love.
Volunteerism’s taught me more than just carpentry – Gus’s been sneakily teaching me an important component of leadership that the world needs – heart.
Imagine running a company with a
‘staff turnover’ of 95%? And still achieving your objectives, seems unreal
And yet they continually achieve
their aim to get Playhouse sets ready for corporate team builds (literally!)
to raise money and build homes.
In 2018 they completed 550 in the
Bay Area alone!
It’s a remarkable feat and I now understand how he leads this.
Nervously waiting to hear what
I’ll be doing and already contemplating making a catastrophic mistake, Gus
takes me and another volunteer through the full playhouse program, safety, who
benefits and why it’s important. My heart center is immediately triggered, and
I know I’m in the right place.
He leads us to a section with the
sides of the playhouse laying on sawhorses, freshly painted from the morning
Whew…. Painting – I can do that!
I’m quickly introduced to the ethos of the workshop when I see a massive
spill of grey paint.
‘Don’t worry about that or about dropping paint yourself. If you do – our rule is simple: you have to make a heart with it’
What an amazing idea!! I instantly see five hearts in my vicinity. Such a simple but transformative way to turn mess into love. Lesson 1 and I’m not even an hour in, and a universal truth about leadership given right away.
I realise this now being back multiple times, Gus treats every new person with gratitude and appreciation taking time to explain everything in enough detail as needed to make people feel included in a finished product of purpose that few get to experience.
It was a simple task, painting; but I already felt great fulfillment as
each stroke provided the base paint for future artwork.
Wanting to share my appreciation on what I’ve learned from Gus and his
team made me think deeper than just highlighting surface reasons for their
success; and creating another ‘follow this number of things’ list to be a
There’s enough of those out there.
Communication, patience, gratitude, being an expert in your field and catalysing a team are all important components yes – and consistently demonstrated by him; but something extra special weaves them together.
It’s his heart.
It’s been a privilege to watch leadership like this in action which,
week after week, brings complete strangers together at various stages of the
playhouse life cycle – learning new skills and working together to produce a
Gus’s humour is brilliant and an effective way he ensures us adults
enjoy the process as the children we building playhouses for.
‘Remember our critics are 3 feet tall – it doesn’t need to be perfect; just safe. Have fun with it!’
Below are some great pictures to show you the timeline in the life of a
playhouse. Gus has ‘taken me under his wing’ and always shows me new tools to
use and how easy it is to be safe using them.
‘Tools are not dangerous, but how we use them can be. Everything’s designed to keep you safe.’
I wonder. Is his heartfelt leadership molded by this tradesman’s understanding: A poor workman always blames his tools – to become such an effective leader? It could explain his care to transfer knowledge to newbies like me to optimise our output.
Together with his creations of templates means an incredible amount of time is saved because the template is always your reference point.
Side note – it’s amazing to see how much quicker I learn through action compared with old school memorisation.
I think Gus’s also mastered the art of ‘letting go’ of what he can’t control (like this fact: with every home built – 3 new people become homeless in the Bay area) His why is so strong it permeates throughout the workshop, and he doesn’t get phased by things not being ‘100%’.
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT
The team builds* are always amazing. I particularly enjoy this nugget I always here:
‘Oh I’m not creative I won’t be able to draw or paint or be part of the art department‘
Every. Time. And I’m constantly blown away by the creativity and quality of Playhouses created and decorated according to the child’s chosen theme: Dogs, Space, Princess, Cars… you name it! Just look at the pics below to see for yourself.
Being at the builds mean I’ve met some of the families receiving the
playhouses. It’s an experience too beautiful for words to capture on paper.
It feels like being in the presence of all the best qualities humans
have to offer at the same time.
Seeing a parent tearing up at the sight of a playhouse created with love
for their child by strangers? Their gratitude, smiles, love and appreciation
are what sit with me as I cut each piece of wood for hours on end now. I know exactly
what impact that small action leads to.
Sometimes the most rewarding work is not the most glamourous.
Perhaps if we all started treating our jobs and careers like this –
wanting to learn and grow while impacting other people with love – there’d be
less job dissatisfaction and people would feel more connected to one another?
Just a thought – and something I’ll keep promoting!
Another thought: to think this was all learned from doing something far outside my comfort zone.
FINAL THOUGHT TO PONDER
Feeling deflated by life? Pop down to your local ‘for purpose’
business and donate your time. I know Habitat certainly appreciates it.
There’s nothing like perspective to put the wind in your sails again.
Mary Gates, Bill Gate’s mom, was an incredible woman. She set the tone
for his upbringing by being on numerous NGO Boards and involving him. It’s no
wonder he’s formed the Gates foundation with his wife Melinda .
She expresses the most beautiful truth at the end of his latest Netflix Documentary:‘When we have these specific expectations of ourselves, we’re more likely to live up to them. Ultimately, it’s not what you get; or even what you give.
It’s what you become’
*Team builds have up to 10 people per playhouse with each team being split into builders (4), roofers (3) & the Art Department (3) with everyone painting once initial jobs completed. Check out some pics below
Please contact Habitat for Humanityat teambuilding@HabitatEBSV.org to arrange your own purposeful team (real) build.
My last post was about feeling inspired and
removing blockages. Inspiration is the easy part, today I’m sharing 8 tips I’ve
used successfully to help you act on your inspiration and implement daily
rituals to become part of the 9%
We’re all trying to improve something, but no matter how inspired we get, as soon as we’re back to our real life it’s a slippery slope back to old patterns.
‘Unleash the Power Within’ was exactly like
the moment I had the idea to climb Table Mountain every day for a year.
My soul. Was on. Fire.
Opportunities flooded me from the idea and I focused on the solutions to each problem or challenge I’d face (like having no days off for an entire year, gale force winds, seriously cold and wet weather but a few) instead of letting them dissuade me.
As strong as that was, the outside world came
along to poke its negativity holes in my full bucket of water.
One by one the holes started spewing more water until it felt like there’s no more inspiration left.
Should you just give up? Never! Can you do anything to negate that? Absolutely! It’s why you here.
I hope this creates opportunities for ideas to flow and for you to feel what it’s like to have your soul set on fire. Mind, body and spirit in synch, like a grand cosmic alignment.
Living your purpose.
Set an Audacious Goal
This gives you a clear place to work back from. Get fired up because now you can break down what needs to happen each day. Training or preparation – essentially – becomes a way to condition our brain to enjoy pushing our capabilities for our ultimate goals.
Have fun with it! I’m currently doing hill training in preparation for my next event and I love pushing extra each day. Comparing today versus yesterday and this week versus last week, and tracking progress creates the only competitive streak that matters: being better than you were yesterday.
HOT TIP: Going bigger stretches you; when your gut feeling is one of great excitement – go for it! Don’t keep it bottled up and don’t let others dissuade you – they can only meet you at their level of experience and understanding.
2.Do One Thing Now
Thinking about aaaaaaall the days ahead will drive you insane and most likely overwhelm you.
Focus on a simple fact: I just need to act today.
I had six months to train my mind and body.
I worked out a plan on how to be ready for the audacious challenge of tackling
the vertical equivalent of 71 Mt Everests.
You know what I started with?
I stopped using the lifts.
I lived on the 8th floor of an apartment block. Forgot something at the shops? Off I went back down the stairs – get it – and back up. No excuses. No exceptions.
A small decision that was easily implementable with massive ramifications.
HOT TIP: What you think today, is the same as what will happen tomorrow. ‘I’ll start tomorrow’ is a phrase that keeps you busy but gets you nowhere – like being on a rocking chair.
3. Your Inner Voice
Dr John Demartini says ‘when the voice
and vision on the inside is more profound than all the opinions on the outside;
you’ve begun to master your life’.
It’s your life. It’s your tapestry of
experience you’re creating. Following through on an idea that ignites you
creates momentum for the next idea to arrive. You don’t need permission or
justification from the outside world.
99% of people didn’t understand or even
believe I could climb Table Mountain every day. Did it matter? Their opinions
weren’t the ones climbing the mountain.
HOT TIP: When you get an idea that inspires growth and positive change? It won’t matter what others have to say. Keep your actions aligned to why you got excited in the first place.
4. Highways have Onramps
Why? They allow us to transition from a slow speed up to what’s required. Think about what your onramp looks like to go from inspired to implemented.
My body wasn’t ready for 365 consecutive summits in 2017– so my plan was to ramp up my training getting the mind and body ready. I even simulated fatigue and ignored the ‘I don’t feel like it’ days by doing a leg workout at gym before heading to my first climb of the week.
July: 1 weekly summit up Table Mountain.
August: 2 summits every week
September: 3 summits
November I was in the United States rallying support for my challenge; which created an opportunity to climb after 27 hours of travelling back for Miami to Cape Town that afternoon I landed. Then I slept, woke up and climbed again.
December I completed eight days in a row mid-month as a final test of will and fitness.
I was ready.
HOT TIP: You’re building a habit; a new lifestyle – the only quick fix is making a decision in your mind. When you realise you’re in it for the long haul, you create incremental sustainable gains towards your goal.
Become dogged in your pursuit to achieve the outcome of your inspiration. You equal chance of failing as succeeding – so which one will you focus on?
Focus on failure and you’ll find excuses. Focus on success and you’ll find solutions.
It’s no good looking at the top of the
mountain wanting to be there. You’ve got to put one foot in front of the other
to make that a reality.
HOT TIP: You got excited and inspired for a reason. When those days of ‘I don’t feel like it’ come, focus on what got you fired up in the first place. Think of a way to get back into that state – a song. A special move. A vision board of everything you stand to gain. Then take that next small step to make it reality.
6. Linking Pain to Pleasure
Achievement lies on the other side of the
pain, be persistent and learn from the lessons you get to achieve your goal.
Climbing Table Mountain once is tough.
Twice will leave most people knackered and perhaps taking a bit longer to get
up off the toilet a couple days later.
I obsessed on the benefits of accomplishing something so outlandish. I believe in sharing what I learn so I knew I’d be able to share this and empower you to push through and successfully hit your goals.
‘Pain’ is simply the universes way of
testing resolve to see who genuinely wants what they desire. The greater the ‘pain’
– the greater the reward on the other side.
I say pain, but really its just a
readjustment to living outside our comfort zone.
If I’m doing it right, pain never goes away – and I know I’m growing.
HOT TIP: The hardest part’s getting started. You’re already a master at talking yourself out of it – so use that same skill to talk yourself INTO it. Do whatever it takes to get excited! Condition yourself to feel the way you do afterwards when the endorphins are flowing like the satisfaction of completing another workout. Today’s a success – celebrate that!
7. ‘Who’ instead of ‘How’
You don’t procrastinate because you’re
lazy. You procrastinate because you don’t have clarity on where you want
to go – or the next steps to get there.
In short, we get paralysed on HOW to
do it. That’s been me for the last five months prior to UPW.
The correct question is ‘WHO can I
enlist to empower me to get there?’ when I don’t have the answers.
Hiring coaches has created clarity on what to do next. Their 62 years of experience combined with a desire to create successful driven individuals focused on adding value back into the world, means our values align and their proven methods immediately put my train back on track.
HOT TIP: Stop agonising over how you need to progress and ask the question who can empower you to get where you want? Don’t be too stubborn to ask locals where to go when you’re lost. This is why coaching is so important.
Are you still not able to get yourself
pumped up to follow through and build momentum?
Practice daily gratitude.
Focusing on what’s already right in your life and all the ways you were challenged in the past to get to today builds joy in the moment now. You’ve made it! You’re here! Celebrate that and embrace gratitude.
Gratitude enables you to enjoy the process and be the fuel to your momentum.
HOT TIP: Swap ‘I have to’ with ‘I get to’. I’m grateful for my amazing body that looks after me and helps me experience the beauty in this world. Gratitude helps me appreciate the smallest things and realisehow blessed I am.
Demand Higher Standards
You know yourself better than anybody. Be realistic about your goals and what path to take. Wanting to be the best triathlete when you don’t even know how to swim makes no sense. You can do it! If you understand exactly how much work you need to put in.
Don;t beat yourself up if you miss a days. Or two. Weekly targets allow you to track consistency. Missing days should be an exception.
Again: What you think today – is what
you’ll do tomorrow.
Get into the habit of doing something when
you think about it.
Whatever your goal, crafting excellence
takes time – and the reward is a sustainable ingrained lifestyle to achieve
Now isn’t that worth taking time to savour?
Kick ‘one day’ to the curb. Switch the words around.
Struggling to get started? Reply YES here fordirect Monday morning tips, tricks and inspiration to pursue your dreams with passion, purpose and claritywith Andrew. Discover thesame daily drive within.
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.
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
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.
What does this have to do with Tony Robbins?
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’
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
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
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
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
…. 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
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
Just like on those hot coals – that first step commits you to a new path of building momentum. I hope you’ll join me.
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
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.
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
In the short
term – it appears so.
In the long
term?? I’m leaning towards harmful.
Inconvenience is Your Ally
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?
Build Value in your Life
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
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.
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.
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
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.
climbing Table Mountain every day predicted what 365 present moments would look
‘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
I pre-empted my
old convenience default setting and slid the button across to light up the inconvenient
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.
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
valuable means nothing if it isn’t used. Problem is – I don’t know what I don’t
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.
blend, juice in a nut bag, drink.
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:
billion coffee cups used globally per year, which equates to
million trees cut down
billion gallons (15 billion litres) wasted every year, the equivalent of 40 000
homes using 300 gallons (1 135 litres) a day
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.
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?
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.
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:
Media Coverage & stats
Links to each charity for continued support
Special mentions – The Monthly club and The Mandela Ubuntu Award
A year in numbers – stats
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 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.
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.
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!
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 climb122 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)
The Final Rock
The Ubuntu pyramid
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.
Habitat Cash Handover
One Heart cash handover
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’ve been procrastinating on my writing like you cannot believe since finishing my challenge – I think I’ve finally found a groove.
In many ways the past three months have shaped this first post of 2019, of which more will be coming your way as I ground my learning into tangible insights to share.
Coming to San Francisco is like becoming a child; I see and experience everything for the first time.
Fresh city smells as winter rains falls; sweeping views transformed as nights veil descends and the new sounds of their famous cable cars bustling down Washington Street. An overload for the five senses but more importantly: another opportunity to learn.
I forgot how many day to day decisions have become second nature that I take for granted:
Knowing where the grocery stores are, how long it takes to walk there. What food they have! How its laid out, what it costs, and even just what the difference in taste between 2 products is.
Then there’s figuring out how the city fits together like a jigsaw; how different our words are for the same thing – traffic lights not robots. Cilantro not coriander. People not understanding my accent on the phone. Finding a barber to cut my hair decently (that serves beer believe it or not!)
Which gym to choose?? I think you get the idea
In primary school, a Greek boy arrived age 6 speaking no English. The teachers encouraged us to be patient and be teachers ourselves.
Thankfully, I have an amazingly supportive partner that’s helping me (together with her friends) to learn and settle in quicker than doing it alone. Now I’m the Greek boy
Learning from others
One thing I’ve been blessed with, is having the opportunity to sit with, speak to and learn from inspirational people.
Today’s post is dedicated to Joyce – our blind neighbour.
A Japanese American, Joyce has lived in San Francisco since the age of 22 in 1972. As an artistic woman, she expressed herself through dance and painting.
Her sight was always poor requiring her to wear glasses. As a ballerina she was unable to wear them during shows. She was never worried though because in practice, she learned to understand spatial awareness – not needing to see the edge of the stage, but rather operated in a finite piece of space.
As a painter, she constantly pushed herself to look at every day items from another perspective. To learn to see things differently. She loved the challenge and enjoyed it.
When she speaks to you about that, you feel her joy about that.
Fast forward to 1992 and she meets the love of her life. Wayne. Three years later she moves in with him – and hasn’t moved since.
Tragically, he died in 2011 and she was devastated. This is when I heard something I perhaps wouldn’t believe if it wasn’t first hand.
‘I lost the rest of my sight soon after that, and thankfully too. Having to learn the city all over again from a new perspective kept me away from the debilitating grief.’
Learning to ‘see’ again saved her life.
Watching and talking as we walk to dinner, she shares her knowledge of ‘seeing’ this way. Her spatial awareness is incredible – hitting a knobbled patch of pavement asked ‘is there an alley?’
There certainly was. She was spot on.
Sitting at the feet of Teachers
Okay – we were at a restaurant so it wasn’t exactly her feet, but it felt like I should be. Hearing her talk about catching the bus, buying groceries, going to her favourite restaurant and how cooking takes four hours were bringing learning a ‘new’ city into perspective.
Imagine going blind aged 61?
I don’t want to use the word terrified, but just closing my eyes trying to feed myself is a scary thought.
Not Joyce though, to escape her pain she threw herself into learning how to ‘see’ the world with this new experience.
She’d taught herself from an early age to be excited to learn new ways of experiencing things – and this was just another opportunity.
We were celebrating the Japanese tradition always done on 3rd of March (3) – Hinamatsuri or Girls Day. It’s interesting to note that Japanese do not celebrate Mothers or Fathers Day; they choose to celebrate what will come (the children) versus what has come (the parents)
She shared her knowledge about the fact Japan only opened its borders in 1853 – not by choice – but because an American Commodore demanded they open ports by sailing into it.
See from Others Perspectives.
Its not always what we do that’s harmful – but how we do it.
I learned that the hard way in my twenties; when I saw how I spoke to friends and family. How I spoke bordered on abuse.
Seeing Joyce in the streets perhaps you’d feel compelled to help, no? First thinking from our own perspective that it’s impossible to get around without someone helping.
Joyce gives some advice we can all learn from.
Ask – instead of assuming someone needs help ask first. In many cases its more difficult being led by someone you don’t know or trust compared to walking with your cane. If someone was really in trouble, they’d cry out for help.
Listen – when someone accepts help listen to how they need it. She prefers someone walking behind with hands on her shoulders and NOT in the middle of the sidewalk. When she walks alone, bright vest and cane, the curb provides her a straight edge compared with the middle. Like walking with your hand along a cliff face. As she says ‘close your eyes and tell me where straight is’ – a frequent command given to her.
Respect – one woman yelled at her to get off the streets because its dangerous. Some people tug at her to walk with them. As you can imagine this can be quite distressing and more importantly – breaks her concentration. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. If you are curious, set an intention to find out just what life is like for someone living with a disability (as most people call it) or their gift.
Change behaviour – Its one thing to change our own behaviour, but we can all do more to teach others how to stop feeling awkward when we meet or see someone with a disability. Just with most things in life – when in doubt speak up and I’ve never heard of someone being upset with someone that respectfully and genuinely wants to learn about another person’s circumstances.
Walking around San Francisco, I pay much more attention to sidewalk cracks, how fire hydrants, lamp posts, signage, trees and post boxes are Joyce’s daily obstacle course. I’m more aware of colours, textures – and the ease and speed with which my five-minute walk up a nine-storey hill takes to get to our neighbourhood grocery store – a store that makes their own honey on the roof I might add!
Joyce is one of those people that radiates; with her smile, her words – and her heart.
She reminded me why one of my daily things I express gratitude for – is my five senses, to experience this incredible planet we live on.