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

How are Your NY Resolutions going?

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Milestones seem to be raining down on me this week – hopefully a great omen for a water strapped Western Cape this winter.

It’s incredible to think what’s transpired in two years since I started writing my blog; never mind the fact that I pledged to hike Table Mountain 365 times this year and as it stands: just this past week I hit triple digits for consecutive days (none missed) hiked up Table Mountain and successfully hosted my first ever fundraising event. To date:

  • 108 consecutive days hiked up Table Mountain
  • 53 days alone
  • 55 days taking 206 people up with me
  • R176 000 raised to build a home; teach a child to read and give someone with leukaemia a second chance at life
  • 682 km of hiking with 73km just vertical climbing (equivalent of 20.5 Mt Everest Summits)
  • 186 567 Calories burned, the equivalent of 2 248 glasses of wine

That second last stat is the one that doesn’t compute the most. Which leads me to my very first lesson I’ve learned these past few months.

    1. One day at a time, step by step

Goals can become overwhelming. Work or personal. What’s important is the daily action you take and thereby focus on. I’m not going to lie – 100 consecutive days hiking still seems daunting and outside the realm of reality; never mind the fact I still have 257 days left. However, now that I have 100 under my belt I have no doubt I’m going to achieve it because I have a formula that’s proven.

Breaking targets down into smaller bite size chunks is what will get you through.

  1. Be Open to the Unexpected

Rain, Lightening storms, gale force winds, fire, sore throats, people feeling sick (and being sick) on the mountain – there are no guarantees. I have a plan B and C in place for such days and thankfully, haven’t had to execute them.

Ask for the best

Plan for the worst

Be ready for anything

All these three mindsets require one important aspect: planning.

  1. Swap Expectation for Appreciation.

While training last year I thought anyone taking longer than two hours going up meant I’d have to walk up without them for my sanity.

My perceived value: was getting to the top.

Then I started my challenge and that all changed. I began to naturally fall into a rhythm of walking with whomsoever at the back. That’s when something extraordinary happened to me: incredible conversations flowed.

I understood people donating and choosing to hike up 730 vertical meters for a cause greater than ourselves is the real value of 365 Ubuntu Climbs. THAT’s what this is all about.

Individuals pushing their own boundaries and physical capabilities is the order of the day.

I appreciate every single person that’s joined me on this journey.

GPUU4656Dexter’s (far left) first time and it rained the whole way up – no complaints once!

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International guests from the UK Joining
  1. Time is not an Excuse

Many people have asked “what do you do???” or “how do you work” because of the perceived time spent hiking on Table Mountain. I even had a gent recognise me on the mountain and proclaim “I wish I was retired to join you”. Simply put, even WITH 40% of my monthly hikes being double the time I’d take if I was always on my own – I’m only hiking 10% of a month.

That’s 3 full days.

Let’s say you sleep on average 8 hours a day that equates to 10 days. That means hiking AND sleeping adds to 13 days combined. We’ll use February which only has 28 days to prove the point. IF you work 8 hours a day that’s 7 days. We’ve just hit 20 days and you still have 8 24-hour days to do what you want.

What I’m saying here is what you prioritise you will achieve.

There are no excuses.

If you have a family, that will be your priority and it will demand your time. Point is – you have time for your family because it’s a priority.

Be honest about the real reasons you not following your gut and passions.

Time is not it an excuse.

  1. Keep. It. Simple.

Spending time in nature means I observe it. The ability of flowers to grow out of cracks in cliff faces; vegetation staying green through a drought; flowers lasting three days (pink flower to right). If you want to grow – grow!

Life. Finds. A way. You can too.

Fire burns old vegetation so new seeds can prosper. There’s no good or bad it just is.

I’ve subsequently come to the decision on the mountain that, for me, there’s no such thing as bad.

What I thinks ‘bad’ today, in 6 months time becomes the best thing that ever happened to me.

The Sunflower Fund – an organisation designed to help other families not suffer the death of a loved one – was born from one sons death. It’s a tragedy beyond epic proportions for a mother; yet so many families since then have loved ones because she acted on her experience.

The ‘bad’ I see that is disturbing? Is good peoples apathy in life.

Unintended consequences

One thing you’ll never be able to predict, is the unintended consequences of you taking action. The incredible people you’ll meet – many wanting to help you. The inspiring conversations you’ll have. The lessons you’ll learn along the way, particularly about yourself and how you view life.

Life is a continuous flow whereby we’re constantly developing. No one got to the top of the mountain just standing there thinking about it. None of us have the answers first time, the ones that can share their successes are the ones that took that first step and kept going. No matter what.

The question is – how bad do you want it?

It can be scary as all hell but that’s just because its like standing in front of a dark room before you flip the switch.

I’m telling you from experience.

Flip the switch.

MOtivation

Do You get Bored?

bored

“How do you not get bored doing the same route every day?”

This question’s about the fact I’m climbing Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge every day in 2018.

My answer on the mountain at the time was simple: No two days are the same.

That was my instant response answer, but the question sat like a splinter in my mind on the rest of the hike; day 76 of 365 summits.

Why don’t I get bored and what is boredom? I thought I’d explore it further in this piece.

What is Boredom

There are two times we’re bored: we’ve ‘nothing’ to do and/or doing the same thing over and over.

Parents will most likely identify most with the first type. Children complaining they’re bored because they aren’t able to do what they want.

In reality, boredom’s great (and necessary) because it stimulates creativity. Being bored means you must think, go within and tap into parts of ourselves that switch off when the TV or our dumb phones are on.

Understanding Boredom

In speaking about this to a group from the UK, words flowed through me I hadn’t thought about previously.

Boredom comes from pursuing things that are not driven by purpose. (With regards to a consistent daily routine)

Climbing Table Mountain every single day for a year just for some personal record would be boring as all hell to me.

Climbing Table Mountain every day to raise money and awareness for those born into extremely challenging circumstances has purpose.

It’s your mindset.

Different day – different people

I also challenge those who donate, to climb with me on a specific day, which means to date I’ve met amazing people and had 124 people walk up with me.

Would you get bored hearing about a mans struggle with depression, how he overcame it, developed techniques to do so and now teaches children all over the world how to find their voice and speak with influence?

Would you get bored listening to parents that met in India, lived in New York, packed up a good life there and moved to Cape Town to have a better quality of life with their children?

Would you get bored listening to your best friend share her challenges she’s going through and feel immensely proud at how she thinks and deals with challenges?

Would you get bored spending a Saturday morning with your only sister and her family that traveled 1400km to support you even when her health is something that prevents her from exercising the way she wants?

Now consider the fact that the weather from day to day can be dramatically different. One day clear blue skies2018.01.13

the very next day no view from the top at all 2018.01.14

What is your mindset?

Last year I climbed Table Mountain 49 times as part of my training regime while doing other hikes in-between to enjoy different scenery based on my geographical limitations this year. Training was mental preparation as much as physical. I told myself before every climb how excited I was and created the idea that I was hiking the equivalent of the day of the year. In other words, it may have been the 50th training hike, but I told myself this is day 277 of the year, and as such this is what it feels like after that many successive hikes.

Cultivating mindset doesn’t happen by accident, so here are some tips I’ve learned.

How to overcome boredom

Thinking about this question deeply I’ve developed 5 tips to cultivate your mindset so that you’ll never be bored again.

Tip #1: When you decide to do something there’s only one option – doing it.

It’s important to plan, this includes understanding all mental challenges that await you. You can train your mind to overcome it before you start.

I developed a healthy respect for what this challenge entails and more importantly, how powerful an impact it would make for people in need by completing it.

That meant there’s only one option to me – completing 365 hikes up Table Mountain in 2018.

When you give yourself alternatives the mind has options on what to focus on. IF you want to stop smoking the only option is being a non-smoker. Once you make that decision all you must worry about is today and the next moment. Period.

When you decide to do something there’s only one option.

Tip #2: Belief.

It’s one day at a time; step by step. Every day is a building block for the future, focus on what you learn and understand today, this builds belief within.

When you get through that, you get through the next day and before you know it – you’ve completed 15, then 79 days in a row.

Some days will feel easier than others. Some days will fly by. Perhaps outside factors will make your day more challenging, but you know what? It doesn’t matter what happens, you have the strength to overcome anything.

Tip #3: Outcomes drive behaviours, hence repetition doesn’t equal boring.

How many times have you eaten your favourite meal? Watched your favourite movie? Listened to your favourite song?

Over the years I’ve become accustomed to an important philosophy: The outcome drives the behaviour

I eat healthy because I know that means my body is getting nutrients it needs.

I exercise because I know it keeps my body and organs in good working order.

Whatever we do in life, especially things that we love, there’s a danger of becoming complacent and finding it boring. That’s why I say the end result drives behaviour, not your behaviour drives the result. Understanding why you do something is what builds healthy sustainable daily actions.

Tip #4: Gratitude is the foundation

When you stop being grateful for the fact that you can hear, then it becomes easy to get bored with listening to your favourite song.

If you lack appreciation for your body being fully abled, then you’d get bored being able to climb one of the 7 natural wonders of the world every day.

It takes a minute for your life to change dramatically. Nothing is guaranteed, and nothing is owed to you. Remember that.

Tip #5: What you focus on is what you get

If you worry about getting bored – you’ll get bored. If you love each day for the different options available to you then you’ll find new exciting things to experience each day.

Each day I get excited for the new experience that awaits me. I get excited for the fact that I AM doing it again! I’d rather be on the mountain than in traffic. I understand that I’m being blessed with healthy rejuvenating calming stress-relieving energy by being in nature. That each step is changing someone’s life for the better.

I focus on all the positive aspects about what I’m doing.

Start practicing today.

You don’t need to climb a mountain every day to put these tips into practice. Take breathing as an example, although it happens automatically do you get bored breathing? Take time to be aware and experience all the different ways you can breathe:

 : while walking

: while running

: while swimming

: while meditating

: while focusing on each breath

: doing breathing exercises

: out one nostril, in the other

Boredom’s born from expecting joy to be given to us; but when you can find joy in even the tiniest moment – you’ll never be bored again.

The choice is yours.

 Andrew Patterson is climbing Table Mountain every day in 2018 to build homes; teach children in under resourced schools to read; and increase the database for Leukaemia. Build. Teach. Life. To be part of the movement head to https://www.backabuddy.co.za/365-ubuntuclimbs

Love and respect. Thank you.