Taking Stock of 2018

Table Mountain Panoramic 365 Ubuntu Climb summit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunset climbing back down 365 Ubuntu Climbs Cape Town Table Mountain

Looking back – Before you look Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Thinking for Final Stretch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It happens that quickly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4th Phase: Whats next??

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

Lessons from these Questions

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

  1. Stop projecting

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

  1. Ask questions

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

  1. Think about the present

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

  1. Not my job to convince

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

  1. Empathy and understanding

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

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

Final thoughts

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

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

I know what I’m choosing

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

Andrew Patterson 365 Ubuntu Climbs Table Mountain

 

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

Neslon Mandela

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

Life’s synchronicity is beautiful.

His first seed planted with me

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

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

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

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

This was an uneducated thought rooted in ignorance.

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

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

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

I started to understand I was privileged.

My Journey with Privilege

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

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

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

This is not something to defend.

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

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

Mandela’s Deaths Impact

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

We’re not doing enough…I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

Opportunities to Think Differently

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

There were no protests organised then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Legacy’s gift to Us All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thought

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

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

I hope to see you on the mountain soon.

Nelson Mandela Renaissance Guy Passion

A Week to Remember

365 Ubuntu Climbs Halfway view
After several days in rain and poor visibility – this greeted me on my halfway hike

Week 27 sees me starting on a memorable day – exactly halfway.

182 days behind me.365 Ubuntu Climbs halfway mark

182 days ahead of me. 365 Ubuntu CLimbs halfway mark up

Half way rock’s where my moment takes place (albeit that I must hike back down due to strong icy winds.) It snowed up top this morning but due to constant waves of rain predicted I chose the drier afternoon. After three days in the wet, I can safely say I loved being dry and having a view up top as well. Hard to believe I’ve climbed the equivalent vertical kilometers of 37 Mt Everest’s and raised R226 000. I’m very proud of what has been achieved with the help of all of you.

Interesting thought is that in life, we have no idea of when halfway will be. At any moment we could have less days ahead of us than we’ve got behind us.

I celebrate with two of my favourite ladies – Lisa and Jessie – at Mykonos in Sea Point. My brain still doesn’t compute that I’ve done 183 days (at that point) which is the equivalent of thirty-seven Mt Everest’s. How appropriate too then, that they’ve both done the most number of hikes; Lisa 19 Jessie 13 (at the end of her week here from San Francisco)

There isn’t enough paper in the world to talk about how special these two are and how they define support. Perhaps a chapter dedicated to each in my book is needed.

Wednesday Bonus

Joined by Carrey and her son, the four of us including Jessie on her second consecutive day, end up chatting to a tourist wondering if he’s on the right track.  William is from Holland and three days into his month-long visit.

We welcome him to join us instead of hiking alone. I’m rewarded with his tales of why he chose South Africa and that he spent a month in Nepal the previous year. I might not be able to travel this year, but with all the tourists that have joined me thus far? I feel I’ve been to many distant lands.

At 24 this man already is far wiser than his years.

Sharing his experience of acclimatizing to Nepal’s food, culture, altitude and being alone reminded me of my trip to Iceland and the value of traveling alone. His plan is to get tattoos from each place that speaks to what he learned while there.

His Nepal tattoo is incredible.  Just the story on the tiny village it was done in would be enough. Written in Nepalese, its one of their beliefs: Everyone you meet is superior to you in some way.

Gold nugget: In writing this I’m making notes to do my best to listen (not hear) more to understand what people share instead of just trying to respond with what I already know.

We head to Mojo market for a drink to chat more. San Francisco, Cape Town and Leiden only needing one beautiful thing to connect: our travels.

William enjoying the view on 365 Ubuntu Climbs Hike 185

Non-Profits versus For Profit companies

Jessie, who’s also involved in empowering others around the world by building schools with an organisation called Pencils of Promise, and I head to my dear friends 40th. I pick empty seats next to gents that own a gift store in Cape Quarter called Baraka. Incredibly, this happens to be the store where Jessie bought me gifts last year before she left.

Conversation was great all night and later that evening, one’s whole demeanour changes at the mention of my project and raising money, due to one question: ‘how do I know where the money’s going?’

Excellent question!

Simple answer: always ask – reputable non-profits won’t have any issue sharing all their info.

It’s something I’m trying to instill with people this year; to do their homework. Habitat for Humanity, The Sunflower Fund and One heart are all registered Non-Profits as well as certified with SARS (South African Revenue Service) to provide donors with Section 18A’s – a document that allows you to claim your donation back from the tax you owe.

What’s more interesting though, is where the discussion went after we answered his question. He wasn’t satisfied that not 100% of funds raised always goes to said causes. This baffles me. If 80% of funds raised goes to the cause and 20% to administration costs which allows the organisation to help people, isn’t that great? (Disclaimer here – check with each individual organisation what their percentages are – some guarantee 100% of donations go to their cause)

Why is it we so quick to judge where and what the money’s being used for with non-profits; and yet have no problem with business practices of For Profit companies?

There’ve been some serious abuses of money management in Non-profits, but there’s been just as many cases of fraud and unethical business practices in for profits.

Whether you donate money or buy from a company – is it not fair to say we know both have running costs?

Jessie put it beautifully when she said, ‘we vote with every dollar we spend’.

My wish is we’d hold more companies accountable for their business practices. We forget we have the power. If a company still tests on animals – everyone choosing not to buy their products because of that means they’re out of business.

When faced with deciding whom to donate to, here are some tools to help you separate the cheaters from the world beaters:

  1. Ask for Financials. Reputable companies will have these available for you.
  2. They are vague. Perhaps their websites don’t give too much information about what they do, how they do it, when they started, who the Directors are etc – but that could mean they inexperienced and simply use it as a funnel supplying emails and contact details instead. However, if making contact via these channels is difficult and vague, trust your gut as it will certainly alert you.
  3. Any organisation should be able to supply you with references for what they do. If a charity builds homes; ask for details of where and who received it. Again, if people get uppity with you on the phone to supply this and your gut sounds alarm bells – You have the right to say no. It shouldn’t be difficult to get info like this.

 

I said it twice already but its worth telling you again. Trust your gut.

The reality is we live in a society where scams are something to watch for, but just because one woman cheats on you doesn’t mean the rest will.  If you hear about a non-profit being ‘dodgy’ don’t paint all of them that way.

Be vigilant.

Ask questions.

Vote for a better world with how you spend your money.

See you on the mountain.

If you’d like to invest in 365 Ubuntu’s Project, please click on http://www.365climbs.com and you’ll be kept up to date with who we empower. Stay tuned for our delivery of books to help teach children to read coming up this month at two schools.

Renaissance Guy Andrew Patterson

Putting the Shoe on the Other Foot

give

There are many people ‘climbing’ their own personal mountains daily.

Today I want to transport you into the world of three people and what life is like for them; feel their daily climb.

The big difference: they can’t see the summit like an ordinary mountain so have no idea how much further there is to go.

The purpose isn’t to make anybody feel bad; nor guilty. These are wasted emotions and are signs you’re focusing on the wrong part of the equation. In fact, you should feel inspired and full of hope. The smallest actions combined with consistency can transform lives, landscapes and entire generations.

Sticking your head in the sand is one of the reasons people feel so isolated and disconnected. It’s better to know the truth and feel empowered to do something about it; than pretend nothing’s wrong and keep doing what you doing (because you can’t hide from truth no matter how isolated you make yourself)

We’re all one and working together for the benefit of all mankind is crucial and it’s where our path to ultimate peace starts.

You doubt donating R50 a month will make a difference? I’d like to put the shoe on the other foot and at the end – you tell me if that still rings true.

The following three stories all take place on the same day from different perspectives.

The Cursed Blessing

Having been in the grip of a terrifying water shortage, you’d think that the onset of Cape Town’s rainy season would be welcomed by everyone. This Tuesday saw the fifth straight day of torrential rain as the second massive cold front battered the cape of good hope.

Good hope.

That’s all Jackie was holding onto as strong winds decimated shacks all around her in the Joe Slovo informal settlement, an area with roughly 146 000 ‘houses’ – none of which have their own toilets or running water. Everything is communal.

With torrential rain and gusts of wind whipping through the shacks a simple task of going to the toilet becomes extremely dangerous dodging missiles.

These storms always bring fresh fears of flooding and destruction to these fragile homes. While those living in standard homes made of brick dance in the streets, Jackie’s street is starting to look more like an offshoot of the Atlantic ocean – with every centimeter of water rising, her heart beat rises in unison.

With such few valuables already, losing more yet again feels like a cruel punishment with no crime.

How I would give anything for four sturdy walls around me right now.

On Death Row committing No Crime

Jack used to whoop with joy when it rained like this. Back in the days when he could put on his wellys and splash about in the streets celebrating one of the planets ingredients for life: water.

Those days feel an age away. Isolated in his hospital room, his only ‘access’ to the outside world for the past few months have been his window, tv and visitors allowed in one at a time.

Your body’s at it’s most vulnerable during treatment of leukaemia and the greatest threat is infection of any kind. Quarantine starts to feel more like prison than treatment.

Being cooped up in a single room was starting to take its toll on Jack and thoughts of whether a final walk down the corridor to death was not an easier option, started drifting into his head. This was no way to ‘live’. Even though he felt weak from all the medication and treatments – he would give anything to be outside. Feel the rain against his skin. Smell the freshness in the air. See water flowing on the streets instead of down his window.

If only I could be outside.

A Dire Future

While rain was relieving many peoples panic of the immediate future, Jessica’s thoughts were further down the line.

Her daughters adult life.

She may have be watching her play outside but her thoughts were rooted in the future.

Every parent wants the absolute best for their children. Especially when it comes to education. Jessica grew up in a time when, just because of the colour of your skin, you were dictated to get the bare minimum in education. She vowed that would never happen to her daughter.

She was feeling distressed as barely a few weeks into her daughters schooling the teachers hadn’t received any materials to start teaching the children to read. No books. No educational material. Nothing.

Panic gripped her heart as the teacher looked dejectedly up at her from behind her glasses. Like dying of thirst with nothing but sea water around.

She felt like she’d been preparing for a tennis match only to arrive and being told you playing water polo.

By some small miracle – if only the school had help to teach all these children to read.

…………………………………………………..

You just read that. In fact, 80% of children in South Africa at grade 4 level can’t read this. THAT. Does not bode well for our future.

What kind of workforce will we have in twenty odd years?

Just because we are not responsible for the problems of today does not mean we can’t help with the solutions of tomorrow.

I learned this recently which, I think, is important to remember. Past mistakes (no matter how far back) give us clues as to what lies in wait for our future.

Most people know the story of the Great Library at Alexandria; it rivaled our modern day internet with knowledge and scrolls from every corner of the globe – a truly impressive collection: for the few.

Maybe most of you know it was burnt? How many know it was set alight by the masses kept out from the library? Excluded from having access to all the knowledge at that time?

Knowledge is and should be free to all to have access to. Educated minds are inquiring minds.

I don’t know about you but I want to live in a country where everyone has the freedom to expand their minds – just by picking up a book.

We can help make this happen together.

I want to live in a country where we do everything we can to provide people with the basic right to safety and access to their own toilets.

We can make that a reality together.

I want to live in a country where everybody is a donor for leukaemia (and organ donors too!) to help those who contract the disease have a second chance at life.

Now – tell me with certainty R50 a month doesn’t make a difference?

Be part of the movement.

Believe.

Giving

Andrew Patterson is climbing Table Mountain every day in 2018 to do his part for social upliftment. Building homes with Habitat for Humanity; Empowering schools with One Heart for Kids and increasing the Leukaemia database with The Sunflower Fund. There is no amount too small (whatever number you thinking about imagine the other thousands of readers thinking the same thing – it adds up quickly) You can pledge your support at:

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