I did an incredibly hard thing this morning. I went to yoga, which I do to train my mental muscle more so than my physical body and wow was there a mental challenge waiting for me. With yoga what I find challenging isn’t the movements where you must move, because I’m in pretty good shape. Rather it’s the ones where you must remain still and that stillness burns, and burns deep.
Today after a series of postures of, while seated, holding our arms at 60 degree angles for extended periods of time we had the kicker – holding our arms horizontal, parallel to the ground, palms down and slightly cupped. For 10 minutes.
Now as you might imagine this wasn’t a physical exercise. You can always keep your arms up another few seconds. But boy after about 6 minutes this was very challenging for me, and my right arm started to shake quite violently as my poor central nervous system got a bit confused. I was even thinking to myself every excuse in the book …. I don’t feel so good from the people smoking at the braai last night, I don’t want to strain my shoulders too much before tomorrow’s overhead squats, oh it would be so much easier to put my arms down now.
But I didn’t. I’m proud to say that I knew this was a mental test, I knew I could do it, and furthermore that I’d be pretty mad at myself the whole day if I didn’t. Just like I’m still mad at myself for putting the bar down in my round of 9 thrusters last time I did Fran. Some things you just don’t forget.
But what is that really but a form of judgement? I judge myself that I did well this morning, and that I stuck to my diet for 15 days now despite temptation, peer pressure, whatever. I judge myself ill that I planned to do some work today and I didn’t, and I’m unprepared for tomorrow morning’s 11am meeting. The list goes on. Is this a good thing or a bad thing, judging ourselves?
I recently read a fascinating opinion piece about race andracism in South Africa. I think the analysis is spot-on and reminds me of a similar awareness I came to in America. You just absolutely cannot put yourself into the shoes of someone else with a different skin colour. As much as I might try to understand, I have to accept that I really just can’t. Even trying to come to grips with this is hard, especially in a country like South Africa where the legacy of apartheid has not just left a disproportionate amount of wealth in the hands of the white minority but poor schools and class-based segregation continue to perpetuate race-based inequality.
Now me, I fancy myself a pretty open-minded person. I try to judge people by how they act and what they are capable of, not by the colour of their skin. However, I’m also a self-admitted intellectual snob. I like the people I associate with to be smart: not necessarily well-educated, but capable of rational, logical thought and stimulating conversation. Boredom kills me, and lack of stimulation = boredom.
However, as Malcolm Gladwell taught us in Blink, we all form snap judgments. All the time. Stereotypes aren’t there because we’re bad people, they’re there because we need to form mental shortcuts because we are imperfect human beings with imperfect brains.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s not actually what someone does that matters, it’s the intent behind it. If someone at work doesn’t drop everything to do something I want done, I could (and sometimes do) get annoyed. But hey, I’m the centre of my universe not of theirs. At the end of the day, what matters less is someone’s current ability or achievements, what is more important is how much effort they are putting in. Not how our society often sees it, though.
Again I’ll use a CrossFit analogy because I can. When you’re starting out, maybe you can’t do pullups. Maybe you can’t use the recommended weight (certainly when I started I could do neither). You reduce the workload to your current capacity. Work hard, get stronger, build up to it. Don’t show up, or don’t try, or half-ass the other parts (diet, sleep) that are required to be great: well then expect the results you get.
And THAT is what I hate about the legacy of apartheid. It’s controversial, sure, and not universally true. But under apartheid, blacks and coloureds were specifically put down and told they would never amount to anything. You say that enough to anyone and they start to believe it (the reverse is also true by the way, so thank you to my parents, and to St Paul’s, and to my wonderful mentors at Ask Jeeves, Exit41, and now, and to my coaches at CCF). Now, that legacy lives on in a dirty, vile way: many people believe they can’t, and so they don’t try. Or, it’s easier to ask for a handout than it is up upskill yourself.
Combine that with the highest Gini co-efficient in the world, a decent amount of class-based guilt, and a charity- rather than social enterprise-driven culture and you get a large mass of people who have no inclination to work hard if they think they can just trick you into giving them something for nothing. This is South Africa’s curse. From what I hear, other African countries do not have this problem, to the same extent. But no problem is insurmountable; you must just understand intrinsic motivations of the individual and certain other aspects of behavioural psychology and actually put some thought into it.
But don’t expect everyone to react like you. Everyone is not you. And don’t expect everyone to drop everything for what seems to you should be their top priority. Most people are doing a lot of things, probably too many things, and suck at saying no. So smile and be grateful. That’s what I try to do, at least. It’s sure as hell not always easy.
Just the other day, Mona and I were talking about judgmental people (which in itself was a judgement), and we then proceeded to engage in gossip and judgement about some others. F*ck it’s easy to be holier than thou and on a moral high horse but really, we all do live in glass houses right?
But still. Everything matters. A re-post because this wisdomreally is that good. Here’s an excerpt:
“Imagine yourself standing on a long path. At the end of this path is your goal. Obviously you want to walk down the path towards your goal and here’s how you get there. Dozens of times a day you are faced with decisions and these decisions will dictate whether you walk towards your goal or take a step away from it. Make the choice to lift heavy today and take a step towards your goal. Skip the workout and take a step back. THERE IS NO STANDING STILL on this path. Every decision, and every moment of your life, you are either taking one step closer or one step farther from your goal.”
Been on a rest period (rested Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Thursday’s workout was quite fun, 3 sets of 5 back squats at 80% of our max (which happened to be exactly my bodyweight), and Chris came along to make a major adjustment to how I was holding the bar. Then we did a workout with walking lunges and overhead squats, which was a nice tune-up for tomorrow’s workout. I still struggle with the overhead squats but practice makes perfect.
There was a CrossFit Level 1 certification going on at our gym this weekend so I went to dinner with the two out-of-country trainers HQ flew in (one was from Finland and the other from the UK). Carne, of course. This caused my one unintentional cheat on my detox because I ordered sweetbreads assuming they were the easiest thing to digest on the menu besides liver and neglected to ask if they were breaded. Stupid. But considering how late it was by the time the men had decided what they wanted to order (I swear, I’d never seen people so excited over meat before. It’s like they don’t have it in Europe or something …. I mean I know it doesn’t taste as good and costs 3-4x as much but still … hehe).
Had a mini-Mindscape workshop Friday and an incredibly hectic acupuncture session Saturday. Yowzers. I had to sit and chat to Kim about qigong for a while afterwards before I felt safe enough to drive. But this diet has spurred me to expand my shopping repertoire and I have discovered a cool fish shop in Woodstock where you can buy any kind of fresh fish and they will fillet it right in front of you, and a kitchen store where they not only have drool-worthy knives but also an impressive spice collection. Will be good for once the weather is cool enough to make soups and stews.
Saturday evening was quite amusing as I went to a braai for my friend Deon who just landed a permanent job at Amazon (20,000 applications and 200 eventual hires – so there!). I had a chuckle on the way in because Somerset West is one of the few places I’ve been where you speak to the guards in English, with an American accent, and they reply in Afrikaans. I was doing ok until they started giving directions to the house and then I had to break down and admit I didn’t actually understand everything they were saying. I unexpectedly wound up also learning a thing or two at that braai because Deon’s cousin recently joined a powerlifting gym, so you can imagine what we talked about (yep, my back squat and how to improve it).
Now to see if I can’t finish up my birthday email to my wonderful brother Cyrus, who turns 30 today. What a wonderful gift to the world that man is. If I had to put together a dream team of doers to start a company or change the world, he’d be pretty damn near the top of my list. I think he’s got 20+ IQ points on me and is nicer than my self-centred *ss could ever hope to be. Hope you have a great day, rock star, and that your next decade of life brings light and love to the people around you.
- “I’m f*cking giddy.” – Karl
- “I might cry.” – Karl
- “If you want to be a champion, you must eat, sleep, and act like a champion.” – Mona