Humble Pie




I finally did it. It’s funny … I know, of course, that I’m not perfect. And I am my own harshest critic, by far. And yet, I think pretty highly of myself, which of course you know if you know me at all. But, this week, I have been forced to re-evaluate myself because in a couple of different areas I pushed myself beyond my capacity.

So, of course, I spent a lot of time evaluating what happened and what I concluded was that I had been moving so fast that I wasn’t taking the time to a) figure out what I was actually trying to accomplish and b) wasn’t planning. I was just moving, and doing, and that’s actually quite stupid, and actually when I really thought it through I realized that what I was doing wasn’t even actually in line with what my actual goals are, which makes it all the more strange to me that I was doing what I was doing. It’s always interesting when you act in a way that is out of character for you, especially if you don’t know why. For all the personal growth I’ve experienced over the last few months in terms of becoming more aware of my mental state and the influence that my mind has over what I can do and the outcome I create in the world, it was a little bit shocking to realize that I was just moving so fast that I was being stupid and not thinking. But, not surprising because my tendency is to move fast. Apparently, too fast if it means that I start going down the wrong road!

Also, I tend to get a big head when things go well and then I will sometimes drink and talk shit and really, there is just no reason for that. So, it’s good to be cut back down to size from time to time, some of which was from external things and some of which was from reflecting, HARD, on the external feedback.

Anyway we had an internal review which pointed out a lot of, shall we say, areas for improvement in one of the areas in which I had been working. That’s the bad news. The good news is, we took the time to analyse what we had done wrong, and are taking steps to make sure that we do better going forward. One piece of advice I will give to anyone reading this is that I always respect people more when they take responsibility, and openly taking responsibility and even going above and beyond the constructive criticism you receive to admit to other areas where you think you didn’t do well is actually quite helpful in another way – no one can criticize you behind your back if you openly admit where you messed up! Of course, we all have blind spots […apparently!!] but being defensive gets you nowhere, and one thing I love about here is that there’s not a huge amount of assigning blame because really, who cares. It’s all about ok, fine, we under-performed in this area, how do we correct the problem going forward. It is a very healthy form of reflection (and one that I try to do on a personal level as well). Awareness is the first battle.

I also was pretty mad at myself because for the first time in my working career I had stretched myself so thin that I wasn’t effective. I can’t say that I didn’t think this was possible because of course at some level I knew it had to be but there is a big difference between knowing something in theory and actually experiencing it in practice, and also you don’t really know when you’ve crossed a line until you’ve crossed it. There is a very fine line between pushing yourself as hard as you can go, and pushing yourself too hard.

Yeah so anyway my comment in the last post about sleep … I got a really good amount of sleep Sunday night and it turned out to be a good thing because we had a really fun workout early Monday morning, and I just kicked the heck out of it. I always do better when I have someone at about my level to push me, and today one of the other guys was literally with me at almost every step – sometimes I was a step ahead, sometimes he was (ok, yes he had a 24kg kettlebell to my 16), but that was just awesome. The workout was three rounds and we just powered through them … about 90 seconds a piece and I was really happy to see that the final round took only 5 seconds longer than the first round. It really is true that you perform significantly better when you’ve slept enough; this is going to be an interesting pull these next few weeks and months between work and the gym, I know it (oh and that thing … what’s it called … a social life??).

Two more CrossFit things: on Tuesday we had to do this exercise called manmakers. So we had to choose our weight and after choosing too low of a weight for Saturday’s workout I didn’t want to make the same mistake. It was funny though, I tried with the 7.5kg and thought ‘this is easy!’ then with the 10kg and thought ‘hmm, all right, this is a bit challenging for one … sure I can do 30, it will just be a little painful…’ But there was a lot of “are you guys ALL SURE that you have the weight that you want to use for this workout” going on so I was wondering to myself if I was just being stupid. Turned out pretty well all things considered, it was appropriately challenging. Next up was wall balls and jumping rope. Now this was interesting because I was for some reason a bit tired this day (oh, wait, I remember why instead of going home to eat dinner and go to sleep like I planned I went to yoga then out for what was supposed to be one drink and wound up being like 90 minutes…) so on the third round after far too many missed wall balls I was trying to do 90 jumps and I was tired … really tired. Especially my wrists, because our coach made me use a heavier rope. So I decided to put myself in ‘the zone’ and guess what happened: first of all, the pain went away [mostly] and secondly I started jumping rope faster. A LOT faster, like almost twice as fast. Then by realizing this I lost concentration and missed a jump, but boy is that cool. Only problem is that I can’t do it when the movement requires thought, or is just something heavy. But I’m pretty excited for when I finally make it out to do a 400m time trial.

Oh ok I lied … had a long talk with my boss Friday afternoon; again on the power of the mind and how to manifest the reality that we want rather than turn the negatives into reality. But it’s fascinating for me how everything he says both resonates in terms of “normal life” experience but also in athletics. Like when I lift some easy weight I don’t really need to concentrate because I can be lazy and just muscle it up. But when the weight gets heavier you can’t get sloppy like that and if I don’t concentrate, I miss the lift. So many times I go to start the lift then literally stop, and stand up (or whatever) because I know I am not ready. Like yesterday morning was kind of pathetic, I was just mentally tired (gee I wonder why) and so once I got past like 30kgs I couldn’t clean properly … just wasn’t getting my elbows around fast enough, even though I know the movement perfectly well, but my head wasn’t in the right place. And then once I got into that mode, it was kind of all over. What I will soon learn to do is fix my mental state so this is not a problem, but I am not there yet.

So what happened at work this week? Spent a good amount of time working by myself to draft then with my rock star boss to refine the incubation framework for seed phase. This is both fantastic because I love this sort of work: designing and systematizing, because the more I know this the more I’m going to be able to hold the incubator accountable as a client, and because designing out the meetings, tasks, and deliverables will really enable us to get this up and running so effectively. It’s just exciting.

We are also trying to recruit for a few positions and I was a bit shocked at how when reviewing these CVs I was racial profiling … nope: not South African, nope, not black. Wow, amazing how BEE plus the reality on the ground has affected me, and, when you think about it *especially* me!

While I’m on the subject, here is another contrast with America: in the States you are lucky to get a politician’s main secretary on the line. Here, MPs answer their own emails and promptly (within hours).

Good work quotes of the week:
• Addiction? It’s good for some things
• Coffee? Are you sure that’s a good idea? Maybe Red Bull
• Unfortunately that’s become a way of life – timing it down to the last second!
• If you quit before the finishing line, you never reach the finishing line
• In the battle between water and a rock, the water always wins

So it was a pretty busy week socially, too, which is probably why I didn’t do a great job of sleeping after Sunday night! I had friends over for dinner on Monday and Thursday. Thursday was particularly funny because I knew my propane was running low but it actually ran out in the middle of sautéing vegetables for the frittata I was making. Fortunately the oven is electric, and necessity being the mother of invention, I finished dinner in the oven. Great conversations, though: any time I can get people to talk about my latest fascination and the power of focus, I am happy.

Wednesday night was an “until next time” braai for one of the guys from the gym who is going back to Sweden for a bit to visit family, but he really feels at home here. Everyone has their place on the planet, I guess. It’s a hard position he’s in, and I really empathise with that. I think the highlight of the evening (after a certain point I had so much wine that I don’t remember many details at all!) was the strawberries he had somehow managed to procure. Holy heck they were good! Oh, and one of my coaches informed me that I don’t actually need to eat carbs (I was saying, truthfully, I would love to live off of just protein and fat … there is a certain amount of fiber that you need of course, but salad is really just a vehicle for olive oil and avo anyway!). I took that one to heart the next day (no pun intended) when I was in meetings from 9:30-4pm, then had Purple Heart coaching. All I ate until dinner was random macadamia nuts, biltong, and some beef or something I had in the fridge.

Luckily for me, I don’t really get hung over. But I do get dehydrated, and like an idiot I had left my water bottle at the gym (not to mention my cell phone at this guy’s house … what a disaster I was that day!). But the glasses at work were all tiny so I decided to be a little different and filled a flower vase up with water. I love that at heart you can admit to being out drinking the night before as long as you show up to work in time and are mentally sharp. After all, my co-workers already think I’m nuts when it comes to diet and water intake, so this amused me more than it did them I think! It was also odd that on that day I got an incredible number of comments about how fabulous I looked. I guess I should stay out drinking late more often. Oddly enough, despite everything I felt the most tremendous sense of peace that day. Go figure.

Last night was an informal dinner with three of the Henley executive MBAs who will be working with us for the next week. That was quite enjoyable – they are smart, interesting, insightful, and they actually chose specifically to work with us rather than choosing the group and being assigned to an NGO. Can’t wait to meet the rest of the team, although I am quite sure I will be completely exhausted a week from now! Right now – off to the gym then over to Newlands for some work. 🙂

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