Feelings – do they make you soft?

Have you heard of Hendri Coetzee? Well, I never had until I got an email with this subject line and first line about a week ago. Apparently he is an adventurer and was recently killed by a crocodile (what a way to go, really …) and maybe there is a warning in that, who knows, but he did have some interesting things to say in his last blog post that mirror a lot of what I have been pondering in recent weeks and months about decision-making, risk, fear, and doubt. Actually, fear and doubt are the devils we must fight because they stop us from accomplishing a lot of what we could accomplish if we only tried. On the other hand, they are useful safety valves because without fear and doubt we would undoubtedly (no pun intended …) do a bunch more stupid things than we actually do? So where is the right balance: I suppose that is what we are all trying to figure out.

Anyway here is the excerpt (sic; there are some typos!):

“It is hard to know the difference between irrational fear and instinct, but fortunate is he who can . Often there is no clear right or wrong option, only the safest one. And if safe was all I wanted, I would have stayed home in Jinja. Too often when trying something no one has ever done, there are only 3 likely outcome: Success, quitting, or serious injury and beyond. The difference in the three, are often forces outside of your control. But this is the nature of the beast: Risk.

Anyone who is good at what they do, be it marketing, sports or hairdressing will tell you they trust their instincts. There are rational explanations for people making the right choices based on information they could not have known beforehand but only because we live in a rational world. If you chose this option and believe that all that all there is to know is already known, then that is your boring truth, keep me out of it. Whatever the real reason, I think we all agree that people who can go successfully beyond facts are the ones who excel in any, and all fields.”

Here’s my take, and I am not sure but that I’ll change my mind soon because I am feeling a bit out of sorts and not quite centered at the moment, although I feel much better today than I did Friday. But what I think is that to feel is important: we are human after all and compassion is critical, and it is important to be able to relate to everyone you encounter on their level. Spirituality is important but I suppose it’s like language: if you start talking in a language someone doesn’t understand you’re going to lose them.

But anyhow to feel is important, to experience is important not only in relating to others but in experiencing life fully and living in the moment. I don’t do this enough, as was brought home quite clearly yesterday when I was quizzed on the matter! But to be engulfed by emotions and made irrational by emotions: this is the ego taking over and is actually quite dangerous. Some of the biggest mistakes I have ever made in my life have been as a result of over-reaction from emotion, and I can see this quite clearly, hindsight being 20-20.

So my viewpoint is that feelings don’t make you soft. Emotions don’t make you soft either, but they do make you stupid if you let them control you rather than the reverse. And, as always, do not forget the loss-aversion bias. We are so afraid of change that we let that control us too, and as I said above fear and doubt are two of the most dangerous emotions around. Another one, of course, is over-confidence which is why it is critically important to have our critics and people who bring us down to earth (or reality checks of one sort or another – this is one reason that I love CrossFit in general and our coaches in particular; I’m still working on getting this in my professional life but watch this space over the next few months).

In the meantime I continue with my own self-discipline. Wednesday was not a good day for me. I rated myself a 1/10 in terms of focus; I was all over the map. Thursday was better, it was more of a 7. Friday was something like a 4: I was tired from not enough sleep the night before (I was at a braai and by the time the meat went on it was nearly 10pm and by the time I went to bed it was after midnight!). I was also jetlagged and couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings, and so was going to the gym in the evenings … all sorts of things to throw my rhythm off. But in retrospect I am glad I slept in that day because on Friday afternoon I met a CrossFit celeb (Chad Mackay, #12 in last year’s CrossFit games, in town from Australia for a couple of days). So that was super cool.

Thursday was a pretty fun day work-wise too. We went out with some potential investors (they were from Sweden and were loving the heat!) to check sites for property development, and then met with an experienced property developer in the afternoon. During this visit I discovered something that I had no idea existed: indoor braai rooms! How I got through all of 2010 without learning of the existence of these escapes me.

I also love that one of our experts that we consult with, who I’m going to meet for coffee in a week and a half to talk coaching, actually knew what I meant when I referenced Aristotle’s view of the best form of government. Now, you don’t see that every day but then again I suppose you don’t let the rest of the crew go check the inside of a potential factory site while standing around talking about what makes a good leader, and why capitalism and democracy are the best of a bad set of solutions, either. Love this guy, although this may have been the period during the day when I got the sunburn (I think I spent a grand total of 45 minutes in the sun…).

Wow the internet is slow. I had actually forgotten and somehow it didn’t seem *that* much faster when I went back to America in November but maybe it’s that I spent more time there recently and now I am noticing again. You can’t just stream a YouTube video live! Oh well you take the good with the bad I suppose. I’m also re-adapting to driving down very narrow streets and passageways. I think you get quite spoiled in America because everything is so big!

Friday night we had a very awesome braai in Newlands with our new friends from Sweden. I was sort of the Northern hemisphere representative so we talked about everything from the weather, to my co-worker’s experiences growing up and attending South African schools, to the wine farms and tourism, and even a little bit of business. But everyone involved had a good time and although I had one more glass of wine than I’d intended I still got to bed at quite a reasonable hour and got in a lot of sleep before the Saturday workout (which was a BEAST – prowler pushes and lateral burpees, where instead of jumping up you jump sideways about 2 feet and up about 1 foot). I never knew a burpee to be so painful. As an example: when I did the 100 burpees a week ago I did them in 6:40, which happens to be 400 seconds or one burpee every 4 seconds. In this workout, and granted I started with a bunch of prowler pushes, I did about 40 burpees in 4 minutes (240 seconds), or one burpee every 6 seconds. So by my math that’s 50% harder, folks!

I picked up my race number for the Summer Trail Series (which starts Wednesday with a 6.5km race – I am so excited!!), and then my co-worker, and finally one of our visitors who was leaving that day and we went to the Biscuit Mill for wine and food (in that order), and in my case stocking up on my grassfed meat. Then we quickly went by Camps Bay so he could dip his toes in the very cold Atlantic before catching his flight.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening catching up and planning with my boss. This helped me get back into the zone a little bit; I guess it’s a bit to be expected that after essentially a 4-week break I would be a bit out of sorts. But it was a very productive and chill Saturday (actually it was very hot, so taking a quick dip in the very cold pool before we got started was absolutely key!). To be fair it wasn’t that hot, but it felt hot enough! I was so tired that I ignored all other temptations and went to bed at something like 10pm. I had wanted to go to bed early Friday night but obviously that didn’t happen early enough for my liking but my body needed the rest. I felt much better today.

And today was also quite cool! First thing I got up and went to yoga, and this class was divided essentially into three parts: a more active part to get the heart rate going, a part that was less active to work on our organs (this was the hardest part for me, holding my hands extended over my head for 5 minutes was very tough because my shoulders were extremely sore from I think Friday’s workout), then finally a lengthy meditation. Now this was the coolest part for me: at the very end something very strange started to happen, not like when my central nervous system went into shock but I just started to feel an intense connection and energy, and definitely a shifting mental state. Hard to describe; I mean how do you describe the taste of an apple except in comparison to other things, and I don’t really have anything to compare this to. But I also noticed my heart rate and breathing speeding up, so I was almost stepping outside myself at the same time as I was definitely very much in the moment. Unfortunately this was pretty well near the end of the session (I guess, I may have lost track of time). Apparently the entire meditation was about 12 minutes. To me, it felt like 5. In any event, very cool: Ilana said I must have entered a meditative state, and that was definitely my first time ever having done that. I can see now how it could be addictive!

So, flush with the excitement of that I went down to Muizenberg to connect with a friend (and meet a new person over Skype) to talk about potential ideas for a business plan competition around providing a solution for some of the water problems; we are thinking of concentrating on the Eastern Cape. We accomplished quite a bit for an initial discussion and have our work cut out for us over the next few weeks!

A quick hike up the mountain followed our work and wow, what a view! I think I could probably stay forever up there. There is something about Muizenberg and the view to the east, now I wouldn’t want to live there because it gets dark early as the sun sets over the mountain but the town itself is lovely and the mountains out by Stellenbosch and Strand are some of my favorites. I still need to get back to Tygerberg at dawn, once dawn is at a little more reasonable of a time!

The final real event of the weekend was my first Kirstenbosch concert. Jack Parow was playing and really, I was just curious to see Jack Parow at Kirstenbosch. I described this on Facebook as something like seeing Snoop at Carnegie Hall … not exactly a good example of Jack Parow at his peak, and a very short concert, but something to witness just as a cultural oddity. Well, plus the homebrew that the yeast I smuggled into the country in November helped produce was very tasty.

So a great first few days back in the Mother City. If it’s possible, I’m looking forward to the next two weeks even more: got quite a lot of fun things planned on the social calendar, and ramping things up at work. But first, I need some sleep!

– “What do wild dogs, black rhinos, leopards, and leaders have in common? They are all endangered.” – Casper
– “You don’t have to be foolhardy and believe that what is isn’t.” – Adin
– “Are you saying I should get my wine?” “Um ….. yessssss…..” – Ellie, Peter
– “No, no, no … well, ok, yes.” – Max
– “Destiny.” – Peter
– “Stop chalking up! You’re not Chris!” – Roland

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