Radiators and drains

One of my favourite parts of my trip last weekend was talking with Jo about hiring, and firing, and working with people. Unfortunately now the best way to get me to be really boring is to ask me about my job because I will go on, and on, and on. I wake up in the morning and I think about it, and I go to bed thinking about it. My mind even wanders onto it at times when it really shouldn’t. But it’s ok because I’m having fun.

On Wednesday night I had the pleasure of dinner at The Roundhouse with two charming gentlemen, Doug and Allister. I recently described Doug as someone who I don’t know very well but with whom I have a very intimate relationship. Actually, I love him, no two ways about it. You don’t need to have worked with someone that long to know, and I know: he’s one of the rock star calibre people. He’s like a South African Chris Hanaoka (ex-coworker from Ask Jeeves days who was a VP at Yahoo! and is now a GM at Microsoft). Just one of those people that no one can say anything bad about because there is nothing bad to say. He’s even a super nice guy. Allister I just met on that occasion but I immediately took to him because he is the walking talking South African version of the archetype of a St Paul’s boy. You can’t make this stuff up. Plus, he understands the difference between plurals and possessives.
Oh yeah, the food was pretty damn good. So was the wine. So not paleo, but so worth it. Seriously one of the best dinners, and most fun I’ve had at a dinner, for quite a while. I really must start getting more sleep on Wednesday nights though. Starting maybe the week after next.
On our trip Jo was talking about how all people are essentially either radiators or drains. She didn’t invent this concept, nor did the guy she heard it from (just Google it, it’s been around for a while). It’s the same concept as sunrise people and sunset people. Some people just inject life into things, and some people suck the life out of things. Some people are drains disguised as radiators, and they are dangerous and poisonous.
Now Doug just makes me smile and he’s now worked with me closely enough to start to get a sense of who I am, what I’m good at, and what I’m not. I am not kidding when I say that he knows me better than people who have worked with me for years, and this is probably his greatest gift. I don’t think a drain disguised as a radiator would ever fool Doug. He’s hard core and calls it like he sees it. So when Doug tells me something, about myself, or someone else, or a business model, or whatever, I tend to listen. OK when he started going off about Reebok and CrossFit I shut him down but that’s another matter.
He told me that my greatest strength isn’t what I thought it was. I would have said either my ability to see the big picture, distill data to meaning, and make order out of chaos (in other words, strategy), OR that I’m good with people. I can as easily talk to an engineer as a salesman. I was meeting customers this week and the back story about myself that I told was completely different based on the person, because I naturally sense what’s going to resonate with them. Sure, I sometimes talk too much. But I can be charming when I want to be, and that makes up for a lot. I think we all tend to tune ourselves to who we’re speaking with … I just perhaps enjoy the process more than the next person.
What Doug told me? My greatest strength is my enthusiasm. In other words, I’m the ultimate radiator. Which might actually mean that I am a natural salesman. Which might actually mean that I’m going to rock at this new job.
I am loving what I’m doing though. Well except for this one meeting where I really wanted to impale myself through the head with a stick, and there is sometimes more babysitting and handholding than I’d prefer, but on balance it’s 99% awesome. More importantly, I am getting exactly what I wanted out of this experience which is rapid learning. By necessity, I’m learning how to think and make fast decisions on my feet, with incomplete information, and have just-in-time research and data. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Just like CrossFit. Welcome to the jungle.
OK there are a couple of things that aren’t great but overall I’m pretty happy with my ability to prioritise, keep stress under control, and do what I do so well. I met a lot of our Cape Town-based customers this week which was great, got a chance to eat at Starlings Café again with a great guy who is very knowledgeable about sales in this industry and gave me some good tips. It’s a funny thing, you always forget that one great form of market research is to talk to industry experts. I’ve saved myself a bunch of time already by not having time and just asking people who would know ‘here’s what I’m guessing or assuming – am I right or wrong?’ If enough of them say the same thing, that’s enough certainty for me when there are 100 other things to be thinking about. Check that, 200 other things to be thinking about.
The great thing is how well my past work experience suits me for this. The telecom exposure. The enterprise sales. The hospitality industry. The techie speak. My techie is like my Afrikaans. I can understand most of it but I can’t speak it. OK it’s a little better than my Afrikaans. It’s good enough that the technical guys I speak to can understand that I’m not just a complete business/marketing/sales bozo (of which plenty exist).
Well it’s not all been fun and games this week. My cat Tiger was hit by a car and killed, outside of Rob’s apartment in Somerville, MA. I adopted Tiger right after I moved to Boston. He was a sweet thing; he’d been abused as a kitten I think because if ever you raised any object near him he would run away in fear, and it always took him a while to warm up to new people or to remember who you were if he hadn’t seen you for a while. But once he warmed up he soaked up the love, I think he is one of the sweetest creatures I’ve ever known in my life. I decided to adopt him on a bit of a whim; when I was petting him at the shelter he was in a cage at the time and he got so excited at the attention that he started kneading the piece of rug he was sitting on, and wound up kneading it right out from underneath himself and he fell over. It was one of those moments of endearing cuteness. The whole too perfect thing doesn’t really work for me. What does work for me is that genuine love that you can’t hide through all the layers of defense.
But I loved my Tiger; until Hector came along he was my favourite. So I’m sad, but less so because I hadn’t seen him in a long time and he had lived a long and happy life.
Had a bit of a come to Jesus moment with myself and I’ve decided to focus now on healing rather than training and see if I can’t get this nagging injury just to be gone. I hate that I can’t do certain movements, and those are some of the movements I most need to practice. I need and want to be fully healthy; the gimp squad is no longer enough for me. It’s great that I’m hitting 90+kg back squats for multiple reps with ease, but that doesn’t mask the fact that I’m still hurting.
I was explaining to Bryony who tortures me every other week that there are a couple of things you need to do to be good at CrossFit. Firstly, you need to be able to ignore physical pain when it comes up in a workout. There is a certain mental laziness or weakness in ‘oh this hurts, let me just slow down a tad.’ But you must know the difference between not wanting to do one more rep, and not being able to do one more rep, and if you are not able to do one more rep, the appropriate rest time. Wait too short and you fail the next rep anyway. Wait too long and you’ve wasted time. I’m not sure if I can credit the fascial release with this but it has completely changed my perception of pain. I can now paint New Skin on an open wound and barely feel it, and I can be completely focused in a CrossFit workout when it’s “just” a matter of pushing through the pain.
I was telling Doug last week the story of the dumbbell snatch and everything I’d learned from it. That I should not be a drama queen. That I love being part of a team, and I’ll do anything for my team. That I prefer team players to prima donnas. That I should not set my goals too low. That teams only work well when everyone on the team is an equal level of committed. I really want us to have a strong team for next year. Even though I don’t know how that’s going to work right now. Personally I’m handling increased volume great; days that I only train once feel like rest days, and rest days feel like recovery days. But my schedule is getting more and more crazy. Something has to give. I can train hard but not on someone else’s timetable.
Well this is a problem that doesn’t have to be solved now. For now, I have bigger fish to fry.
  • “Pay attention when you’re here. That’s what you’re here for, anyway.” – Chris
  • “Oh, you know my brother? Did he behave himself?” – Peter (I love that this was his first reaction)
  • “It’s not the technique that’s awkward. It’s you that’s awkward.” – Shirfu (not talking to me but I love the concept!)
  • “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” – Gaspard
  • “By now you know what I mean when I say easy.” – Ellie
  • “I think you two are going to get on like a house on fire.” “That doesn’t sound good!” “I know. But it is.” – Doug & Ellie
  • “Cool, see you then, boss!” – Jeremy
  • “I think people forget that Australia and New Zealand exist.” – Tim
  • “Are you from South Africa?” – Malvin (he wasn’t talking to me)
  • “A container is not exactly something I can hide in my top drawer.” – Carlo
  • “You can’t exactly make a thruster easy.” – JP
  • “My customers don’t care about my web site, but my competitors do.” – for me to know and potential competitors to wonder
  • “You know you’re the most hardcore VC in Cape Town?” – Allister
  • “It’s your enthusiasm.” – Doug
  • “I’ve never seen a man so excited by a dessert!” – Ellie (or by punctuation, but that one is a definite positive)
  • “I’m sorry, you’re WHAT?” – Ellie
  • “We are going to be having tea and cake!” – Karin
  • “It’s almost our responsibility, in order to balance the scales a little.” – Ingi
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