Mirrors of the mind

One friend had the best quote a few months back: “If the mind is not healthy, the body certainly will not be.”
My stupid ass went back to training before I was fully healed. Everything is connected, so when my side and stomach felt ok but my left back was tight I ignored it. Maybe I didn’t want my coaches to see how badly hurt I really was (stupid of course because they also have eyes), maybe I just missed CrossFit, or the people I see there. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was pretty stupid: if I can’t squat without pain, what on earth makes me think I should be squat cleaning 47kgs for three reps and if one pullup hurts, why should I be trying to do 40 of them?
Yeah, well. Sometimes you go on autopilot, and this is part of my life, my routine, my social life, what keeps me balanced and sane. At least my focus was good if my performances were, in a word, inconsistent.
Monday was quite exciting because I had a chance to do a workout that I always seemed to miss due to travel or scheduled rest days or, ahem, injury. Diane: one of my favourite benchmark workouts because it involves one of my favourite things: handstand pushups! It’s 21 deadlifts @60kgs, 21 handstand pushups, 15 deadlifts, 15 handstand pushups, then 9, and 9. Now until you get really good handstand pushups at this volume is more about pacing than anything. My current max is 15 (Lynda, knowing that, decided to set a new gym record this week of 16 … so I’ll clearly need to go for 20 next time around!), but if you go to max in the first set you will literally not be able to perform the movement with the proper range of motion by the end of the second set. So you do 5, come down, shake it out, etc.
Anyway from this perspective it’s interesting because how much rest is enough vs too much is a fine line. So it was fun to play around with it. I was ecstatic about my time (7:41) because it smashed my (admittedly 1 year old!) PR of 15:38. And I even had 5 no reps (two where my head didn’t touch the bottom, and three where I couldn’t press out). So, room for improvement!
Tuesday I don’t remember but WEDNESDAY was horrific because everything hurt and I couldn’t do wall balls to save my life (one I threw and it went STRAIGHT up into the air instead of where it was supposed to be going). My performance was inconsistent, to say the least, and the same last week.
Not sure when I had the ‘aha’ moment, possibly while lying on the table at acupuncture with a new record 42 needles in my body (mostly in the back this time, yeesh!) but obviously I’m going through a lot at the moment. Physically recovering from injury and also a couple of different types of work to unwind old movement patterns. Emotionally, dealing with some quite painful things. If your mind isn’t healthy, your body won’t be. Combine the two and it’s no surprise that my performance has been, in a word, inconsistent. But instead of thinking it through, I just got frustrated that I was feeling out of shape. Actually, I’m probably not. I have had a couple of SUPER workouts in these past few weeks, so the fact that I’m feeling out of cardio shape probably has more to do with my throwing too much at my body than that I’m actually out of shape.
Or that’s what I tell myself but actually it doesn’t matter because this time I am going to rest until I’m actually better. Good news is after a good session with Emma Thursday evening my back released a lot. 
Exciting week at work: working on designing social enterprise diagnostics with Oriel, seeing some of the fruits of Lilian’s research, a two-hour meeting on the Heart website redesign, introducing Oriel to FoodTents, a BBBEE presentation by one of the senior consultants at the top BEE consulting firm in South Africa. This was interesting not only for the direct applicability of it but also for the examples: the speaker used to work at Anglo American and I remember reading in The Economist back in the day about the programs Anglo did to, for example, test their workers for AIDS and, if necessary, give them ARVs. Made sense even outside of the mandates of BEE: if your trained workers get sick and die, that’s bad for the bottom line.
The BEE legislation is under review now, which is interesting because it was originally promised not to be touched for 10 years (we are now 4 years in). Some things have worked well (the emergence of a black middle class). Some things have not (the famous ‘black diamonds’ and the difficulties applying in practice the theory of what was intended around such things as preferential procurement).
More importantly this week, Parliament voted in favour of a government secrecy bill. See the Zapiro cartoon and brief write-up here. Now I haven’t actually read this bill (hell I haven’t even gotten a shower curtain rod after almost a month) but the gist of it is that the government wants to make a lot of government actions and information classified and lock up any journalists who write about it. A lot of people are upset. Or, were on Tuesday, at least. Time marches on. We will see what happens next: advocacy groups are gearing up for a legal battle, and the discourse onthe subjectis quite interesting; it may in fact be that the popular media has misconstrued the main threat of the bill. I’m not going to repeat the discourse here. If you’re interested, read it. It was quite interesting to hear all the people quoting Benjamin Franklin this week.
Wednesday evening I went to a networking event that featured a couple of speakers, the one I really went to the event to hear was discussing cognitive biases and how to avoid them in product design (focused on web usability, as that is his area of expertise). I didn’t learn much I didn’t already know, but I did talk to him for a good long time afterwards. It’s always great to meet likeminded people, and the direct application of cognitive biases is an interesting twist. It’s also good, I suppose, to exercise the brain in a way I used to exercise it … redesigning the web site and writing copy for it has made me dig up some of my old usability skills. If there are two things in business I’m passionate about, it’s customer value propositions and good product design.
While I’m on the subject I’ll share a tidbit I picked up from a TED talk clip recently. Most companies talk about what they do, then maybe how they do it, and if you’re really lucky, why they do it. But as a customer you don’t actually care what the products and services are. You have a problem you want solved and you want to know can this organisation help me, how, and how much will it cost? Lower barriers to sale, in other words. Rather you should talk about why you do what you do (remember, you’re in business to solve a customer’s problem not to entertain yourself), then how and what.
I am presently trying to figure out how the bloody hell to get my cats from Boston to here, which I really should have done on one of my last visits but you need to apply for the import permit 6-8 weeks in advance, which I never wound up doing far enough in advance of my travel. Having said that, the paperwork and veterinary certificates are the easy part. The hard part, actually, is figuring out how to get them here. There are so many factors involved. If you take them as baggage when you fly, that’s probably the cheapest option (although I’m not sure of this), and you need to make sure you are flying a pet-friendly airline. Some airlines apparently do not climate control the cargo hold which would literally cause my cats to die on the flight between Boston and Europe. Not ideal, obviously.
But I’m not planning on going to the States until next July-August and in the meantime fostering the cats is a massive inconvenience for the people who have stepped up to the plate to help. If you think I hate asking for help normally, imagine how I feel NEEDING help. But if you are not flying with your pets, the airlines do not seem, for the most part, to have services that offer shipping the animals. You have to go through a cargo company, of which there are about 50 listed in Boston. Of these, I need to know the ones that a) either are pet-friendly or work with pet-friendly airlines and b) do in fact ship from Boston to Cape Town. Add to this the difficulty of not being able to call U.S. numbers (gonna try Skype on the weekend).
My point being: these web sites, which is where I have started my search, are anything but customer-centric. And here I feel like I’m lecturing people all week: WHAT is your desired social impact? WHY before what and how. My prefrontal cortex is tired.
This manifested the other day when I was driving somewhere, I was late, and there was massive amounts of unexpected traffic. And I’m sitting there, absolutely fuming, even though I know fully well that all I’m hurting is myself. Ironic, isn’t it? If you can’t eat your own dog food, how do you expect anyone else to? And it’s when your prefrontal cortex is tired that you eat the chocolate cake. Or the three chocolate slabs. Luckily I’ve avoided that. Not that I haven’t been tempted, mind you. Awareness is the first step; it’s the mindless actions that always get us.
On a final note, consider the following two aphorisms:
  • If better is possible, then good is not enough.
  • Perfection is the enemy of good.
Which is most applicable to a given situation? Classic MBA answer: it depends. In sport, maybe the first one (and even that is situational, competition vs training). In business, maybe the second one (lots of talk of minimum viable product and iteration this week!). 
  • “He seemed fairly interested. So I was happy to listen to his rubbish.” – Jon
  • “That’s a nice improvement, hey?”  – Chris
  • “But the thing is – the person who wrote that book should have met [name removed].” – Peter
  • “Just …. Don’t shoot the messenger, man.” – Ellie
  • “I don’t have enough ice cream in my life these days.” – Hollie
  • “It’s just when you’re feeling better that you should rest just a little bit more.” – Hon
  • “I could but then I’d also have to be obsessed.” – Adrian
  • “Note to self: don’t drink beer at work then come to CrossFit.” – Adrian
  • “Where there’s smoke there’s fire hey.” – Adrian
  • “Welcome to Africa. We don’t buy softwares.” – George
  • “That’s hard!!” – Phil (that’s what she said … actually I’d just explained what I do for a living)
  • “THIS is the sort of place I hang out, and THESE are the sort of people I hang out with.” – Phil
  • “So you like getting stuck with needles?” “ F*ck! No!!” – Jacques & Ellie (this was funny mainly for the vehemence of my response)
  • “We had a budget. We were allowed to kill 5 people a year before anyone asked any questions.” – John 
  • “Most of us don’t breathe properly.” – Emma 
  • “Their opinions are simply their opinions. Nothing else.” – Dale
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