Love is the most powerful thing on the planet. Love will win out over hate, fear, distrust, anger, greed, envy any time. But it’s also a very scary thing: it’s so much easier to be sceptical or tear something down, or criticize than to build something up or put yourself out there. Entropy is a powerful thing as well. But over and over again in the last few weeks I’ve noticed people who are either making incredible leaps of faith and jumping off cliffs without quite knowing how deep the water is into which they will land, and people who are desperately, desperately unhappy or even just unsatisfied who won’t even get near enough to the edge to think about jumping.
A few weeks back I read a blog post by a Canadian friend who is in Durban for a few months and is visiting Cape Town this week. What really stuck with me about the blog post was the question that someone had asked her on the airplane on the way over here, which was the offhanded question: young lady, do you adore what you do? Luckily for her, she could answer yes. Luckily for me, so can I, and I think perhaps I appreciate this more because I have been on the complete other end of the spectrum where I didn’t like what I was doing, didn’t like where I was working, didn’t like a lot of things, complained about it all the time and never did anything about it. For far too much of my life, and that’s one of my biggest regrets. But no sense crying over spilt milk, and lesson learned.
Why do I adore what I do? I’m fighting the good fight, I’m building something essentially from the ground up, I am working with people who I love and respect, I’m learning every day, I’m anything but bored. I also adore where I am living, and maybe part of the reason is this whole thing about South Africa being the teenager to America’s adult. There are a lot of people here who are jumping off the proverbial cliff, and it’s inspiring to be around people like that. It’s inspiring to be around people who push your thinking, don’t let you get away with crap, and think big. Or maybe these are just areas where I appreciate help, because on my own I don’t push myself enough, or think big enough.
Having said that, sometimes jumping off cliffs (or letting go of ropes, perhaps) can result in injuries. Maybe you do run out of runway. Certainly there is collateral damage, and has been in our case where we have tried to do too much with too little money. Plenty of startups hit hard times, and at some point if you are successful it becomes part of the mythology. We don’t appreciate easy victories as much as the hard-won ones. That’s why I take my Ask Jeeves money for granted and why that first muscle-up is going to be so much more exciting than the first handstand pushup. What sucks, though, is the collateral damage although to the degree that there are victims we are adults, and if you understand the risks you’re taking you make your bed and lie in it as far as I’m concerned. But every story has at least two sides, right?
And yes, I accept that I have hurt, am probably hurting, and will continue to hurt people in doing what I’m doing. That’s about what I do, yes, but it’s also a fact of life. Sometimes taking a stand and doing the right thing isn’t about being popular, it’s about doing what’s right, and if that’s for me in my own life or for what I think is a higher purpose, so be it.
Jeremy said yesterday that what is important to him is being a role model for others to show that you don’t have to choose between doing good and doing well; almost to the point of thumbing his nose at his friends who may look at him askance now that he’s doing what he’s doing but isn’t yet making a lot of money. I guess for me, too, this is important: it’s important to act as role models to get good people into this sort of career and show them it is possible, but it’s also a bit of a thing for me because if there is one way to motivate me to do something it’s to tell me I can’t do it.
He was also saying that an important aspect of the work they are doing is bringing the children from disadvantaged areas into contact with more affluent white young people, and this is important because it de-mystifies the “other,” for one thing, and for another since a lot of the children don’t have fathers or father figures seeing male role models of any race is valuable. Two incredibly basic and true insights that had completely escaped me in over a year of working here, although granted I’m not really engaging at that level very much. But you can walk past the same thing day after day for years and never notice it, too.
I am, at the moment, a bit past my breaking point. A week ago I was sick for a day. Last weekend I woke up and I have no idea why I even went to the gym to do the workout because I was so not in the mood, and was exhausted physically and mentally. That feeling lasted for the next three days. I suppose I’m overtrained; I knew I was overtraining even though I felt fine but this is now the second time this has happened to me: I feel absolutely fine, maybe with an injury or two, then all of a sudden BAM I’m overtrained. Or in this case, possibly my ambient stress levels combined with [relative] lack of sleep and heavy training was just too much and my body and mind decided to rebel.
Other than THAT, though, fantastic, fantastic week. We signed all but one of the social enterprises we want to accelerate into our programme, of course we can’t actually do everything we want to do until we can generate the income to hire more staff but, well, you have to start somewhere. And that makes me a glass-half-full type person I guess.
Here’s a quick rundown:
• Signed up See Saw Do, Greenpop, Love to Africa, Urban Guerrilla, and Uconomy to acceleration services contracts.
• Met Matt from Creative Spark because Justin said we should meet. The more I try to get away from tech, the more it sucks me back in.
• Lunch with Henk from Skyrove at the Woodstock Deli. His vision for Skyrove is very cool, actually, and it’s almost even more cool to hear him list off the mistakes he’s made to this point (mainly related to building a product before fully understanding the customer). He’s a smart cookie, and you can bet he won’t make the same mistakes a second time.
• 27dinner at The Wild Fig. Mostly the usual crew were there; had a great time. Managed to wind up in some silly photos and be one of the last ones to leave the bar even though I wasn’t drinking. Wound up talking for 45 minutes or so to one of the guys who runs the biggest VC firm in the country (or at least in Cape Town). He sees the same things that I do, and we’ll be talking further.
• Skype call with Nick Busink in Switzerland. He’s going to be coming down here in 2 weeks, and I couldn’t be more excited. Looking forward to talking through our challenges and opportunities with him.
• The weekend saw a hiking trip, where we overnighted at a tented camp in Kommetjie right by the lighthouse and the water. It was rustic but luxurious and so much fun: a great bonding experience with a ton of awesome CrossFitters and their significant others!
• Braai Sunday night with Katharine, the aforementioned Canadian friend, Roland and Jobst, at Wim & Hanlie’s gorgeous place.
• Over to Peter & Mandy’s new place (in Newlands, right up the road from Trevor Manuel’s heavily guarded pad!) to do some prep work for the Greenpop Jumpstart workshop Monday. By the end of this, I was so tired I couldn’t even speak. Peter was laughing at me; he’d never seen me like that!
• All-day Jumpstart workshop for the Greenpop team. This was quite an intense exercise for me, at least.
• Dinner with Katharine, who is super cool (then again any friend of Ellen Dickenson’s is going to be cool, right??)
• Hanging out for one last evening with Chad & Kathryn Green. It upset me more than I admitted at the time, to say goodbye to them.
• Dinner with Charlotte & Andy at Limoncello (which I’d been wanting to try for ages). Interesting discussion around finding and pushing your own personal boundaries: what I probably love about CrossFit more than anything else is those WODs where I am so in the zone that I get tunnel vision, can hardly feel the pain, and nothing else matters.
A few new PRs in the last week: a new ground to overhead PR of 53kgs on a thruster ladder of all things: can’t wait to see what my 1RM clean & jerk turns out to be: maybe for the first time my ability to get under the bar will be the limiting factor which would be super cool. Also, a new PR on unbroken handstand pushups of 15 … not too bad, and I’m probably one of the weird rare people whose max handstand pushup PR is higher than pullups. Yeah well I’m a freak; what’s new?
But I guess the most exciting thing to happen to my overtrained ass in the last week or so was that Jobst asked me and I accepted the captaincy of the CCF team for the CrossFit Games. This means I get the responsibility of assigning people to workouts, and the sequence within each workout. I won’t bore everyone here with the details of the Regionals workouts. If you’re super curious you can check them out here. I will admit that it’s been a lot of fun to think through the strategy of who to assign to what workout, in what order, etc. I may be snowed in by emails but you can bet the ones that I replied to were those relating to the team workouts.
Our mission at this point as there is no other team competing against us is to complete all the WODs either as prescribed or at the minimum movement standards. Then I can assemble a team for the CrossFit Games in late July in California, which would be a pretty damn amazing experience. So the drama of last week was around the rules for this workout. Check out the text, straight from the CrossFit Games web site:
Team Workout 5
9-9-7-7-5-5 reps for time of:
Squat snatch (135/95lbs)
Teams of two are comprised of one man and one woman. The man does 9 muscle-ups, then the woman does 9 muscle-ups. Then the man does 9 snatches, then the woman does 9 snatches with a separate barbell, etc. The pattern continues until they both have completed the entire workout. The ring height will be adjusted so that the bottom of the ring is one fist higher than the tops of the taller athlete’s fingers when standing with one arm extended. Athletes will begin standing under the rings. At Go, they will jump to the rings and perform the workout as described. If the rings are too high, the taller athlete is permitted to assist the shorter athlete in reaching the rings. A team’s result is their total time to complete the couplet. There is a 20 minute time cap for teams. If the team cannot finish in the time cap, their result is the time cap plus a one second penalty for each rep not completed. If both athletes are not able to complete a single muscle-up or a single snatch, they receive a DNF and the team is eliminated from the competition.
Clarification: As long as the team is able to perform one muscle-up, they are not DNF’d. If they reach the snatches, as long as the team performs one snatch, they are not DNF’d. If they perform at least one muscle-up but don’t get to the snatches when the time cap is reached, they are assessed the penalty second for each rep remaining in the workout.
Clear as mud, right? The way I read it before the clarification, both athletes must perform one squat snatch. The way I read it after the clarification, it’s still not clear whether or not BOTH athletes must perform one muscle-up or not. According to Jobst, all we need to do is one muscle-up, and then after Andrew does his 9 I can spend the rest of the time cap as I wish.
Anyway on a number of these there are a few things I am not 100% clear on, but we’ll get clarification from the head judge on how the rules will be interpreted so that we can do what we must do (if at all possible: 60kg and 43kg squat snatches were never going to happen!).
I’ll close by saying that I was tremendously inspired by the Greenpop team yesterday. They are all such beautiful, talented, lovely people, and they are part of what is going to change the world. I love how even though they are starting small, they have big ambitions and aren’t afraid to put everything out there at risk: friendship, career, saving the world. Similar, Andy from icologie: that man’s a revolutionary, and he knows what he’s doing, and understands the dynamics of how to get people to change their behaviour. We need to make it more easily accessible, though: “Everyone wants to do something but they just don’t know how.” – Lauren. True?
On a slightly different scale I dropped by the gym late one evening to talk to Jobst about the team workouts for Regionals and I was blown away by the love he showed with the new people in the basics course he was teaching, and then in talking after about the other athletes in the gym, myself included. It’s beautiful also to see the love that Jobst, Roland, and Chris have for the people at CCF. It’s genuine, and it’s really something to be cherished. We all make the world better in our own way (well, actually, a lot of people don’t make the world better, but of those who do there are different kinds of impacts).
• “Is that how you settle things where you come from?” – Jeremy
• “I’m watching him!” – Shaun
• “That’s not your hand!” – Jobst
• “You make people do the weirdest things, with a smile on their face.” – Jacques
• “You can NOT make anything stop you.” – Peter
• “Yeah, you kind of broke all the rules. Well, you’re an entrepreneur.” – Matt
• “Maybe you’ve got some time to do it. Between 2 o’clock and 3 o’clock in the morning.”’ – Peter
• “This movement needs more movement. We need to get more revolutionary in our thinking.” – Peter
• “You’re going to be slamming those things in two weeks, right?” – Graham
• “Elbow pain is usually just overtraining.” – Chris (I just love how he phrased this one … oh, nothing serious, just some overtraining…)
• “There are some corrections you just can’t make if you’re CrossFit HQ.” – Chris
• “I hope that was the right answer. It was the truth.” – Ellie
• “That’s what I have you for!” – Jobst
• “Where’s my scalpel?” – Fadio
• “It’s important to be serious about drinking.” – Daniel
• “It looks like we killed someone in this kitchen.” – Meggie
• “Did you predict a year ago that I’d be doing what I’m doing?” “No.” – Ellie, Jobst
• “Why, because you’re American?” – Jeremy
• “No, but you’ve gotta start somewhere.” – Misha
• “It’s like, take your bad attitude and get with the fucking programme.” – Jeremy
• “Destiny has a funny way of playing its hand.” – Peter
• “Hectic …. Good luck.” – Jaco
• “Hopefully I see you all soon enough to be nervous together with the people I love… ;)” – Chris
• “You don’t look anything like Kristan Clever.” – Andy