“Workaholism is really shit.”

So I woke up Monday morning to the news that Cisco had bought Meraki. Six months ago I had never heard of Meraki, and all of a sudden this completely changed my world in some ways, although in other ways not at all.
The news kicked off a very, VERY interesting week. Settling into the new offices, deepening friendships over email, getting my ass handed to me in the gym, and oscillating between excitement at some new opportunities, worry over competition and market windows, screening potential new hires, stepping into some sales situations, annoyance at crooked people and mean people, and starting to hit my groove as a manager.
One thing anyone should know about me: I am honest, I am fair, I am reasonable but do NOT get on the wrong side of me. If you show that you’re untrustworthy or you make an unwarranted personal attack on anyone I consider to be on my team, our relationship changes, and it changes forever. Over the years I’ve learned to take constructive criticism better, just as I’ve learned to take compliments better, but if you criticise me or mine in a way that I think is unjust …. Don’t do that, rather. Makes life a lot easier.
On the flip side, I really, really care about people and about relationships. I am now getting a chance to practice some of my theories about how to do things properly, which is to say: treat co-workers right, treat vendors fairly, treat customers with respect and do right by them, don’t just close a deal that’s not a good long-term fit.
We are now starting to move the ball down the court on some topics we’ve been discussing for a while. You can only achieve progress through focus on one thing at a time. So, prioritise and focus.
Oddly, and randomly, I feel much more at home in our new offices than I ever did in the old ones. There’s probably several reasons for this, but one of them is awesome new neighbours!
I had two very interesting meetings this week. One was with a prospect, and of all the things we discussed, what struck me most was the bit about how easy it is to get a big head when you’re living in Cape Town. You can be a big fish in a small pond very easily here. At the same time you can be meeting with someone who is either famous or incredibly rich and people can walk right by you oblivious, so it’s not that small of a town after all. Then a few days later I was having a meeting with someone whose career I could do well to imitate. I’ve always had a bit of a startup junkie in me … I don’t think I’m an early-stage girl but either a take something small and make it big or turnaround specialist type role.
I would certainly not call myself a successful business leader yet. I have some things I’m good at where I have a track record, and some other things I’m still learning. I may have potential but there are also high expectations for me, which is, I suppose, not a terrible thing. Point being: kindred souls recognise each other.
So Monday night after a very humbling workout (one of the ones you want to quit but don’t), I drove over to Kenilworth area to have dinner with one of my favourite people. The evening light on the mountain was … stunning. It was at that moment that I finally felt at home again. The few nights of good sleep and good food didn’t hurt. It’s nice to have made the switch from chocolate bars to broccoli and from wine to protein shakes. Although we did have a few whiskeys, and instead of going home at 10pm we instead left the restaurant at 1am. Well … no regrets.
It was at that dinner that the title of this blog post was uttered by my companion. I was relaying the story of one of the quotes below … I was mailing to someone in California about Merisco (Meraki-Cisco) and I said something about how I was surprised he was answering emails on a Sunday night … well, one never stops working. He replied to say he had his workaholism under control, so I quickly replied that since it was 1am there he wasn’t fooling anyone.
Here’s the thing: we brag about workaholism, sort of like in certain circles overtraining can be a badge of pride as well. But if it prevents us from living life properly, it’s kind of a problem. Now work may be fun for me when I love it and I’m learning. When I was at Ask Jeeves International, my friend Chris and I used to have competitions to see who could stay up later into the night working. He always won. Always. But it’s also true, when I’m up late doing the emails I literally didn’t have the two minutes during the day to write, and then I don’t get 9 hours sleep but rather 7 and it impacts my training, well, that’s kind of a problem. But it’s also a choice hey: we play the hand we’re dealt unless we go back to the dealer to ask for a few new cards.
For me, I have to get more out of it than what I put into it. Maybe I’m crazy but the times in my life that I look back on when I was really the absolute happiest where when I was head over heels in love with the work I was doing. I really do reject the notion that as much as you want it to be more, a job is just a job. At least for me.
I was talking with my friend Riaan, who runs a local tech company. They say it’s lonely at the top. Well, if you’re CEO then you have staff, and you can’t quite be friends with them because there must still be this authoritative relationship there. They look up to you. You have to be a leader, be inspirational, and take a lot of responsibility. That’s a lot of pressure.
Then you have your board of directors and shareholders, who are also all looking to you but from the top down. They are valuable mentors and advisors but they also can’t quite be friends in the same way as if you didn’t have this working relationship and they aren’t exactly peers either.
It’s like you’re at the centre of an hourglass with pressure from both sides. This can’t be good for your emotional health, he was saying, and he’s right.
Speaking of putting yourself under undue pressure, I’m pretty well over my days of trying to persuade anyone about CrossFit and paleo. I definitely get that they are not suited to everyone’s personalities, but they work for me. Not taking it any further than that. I’ve done enough nutritional research to understand some of the basics and you can go down this never-ending rabbit hole of comparing various different ‘diet’ plans. I was eating poorly overseas, gained a bunch of weight, I’ve now lost 2 kilos in a week and a half and I feel much better. I suppose at a certain level you do become a creature of faith but whatever: you do your thing, I’ll do mine, I don’t have time to advocate my way or the highway. I sometimes do wish I didn’t eat as many animals as I do, but you take the bad with the good.
Well, getting back to training has been fun, at both CrossFit and qigong. I had to miss Friday’s CrossFit workout so I went and did a CrossFit workout in the Virgin Active at like 8pm on a Friday night, which was amusing at least to me. I unfortunately tweaked my back a bit testing my deadlift strength. Still tender I guess, but much better: I can now, mostly, train without fear, which is no small thing. Also, my body is craving training again rather than the first few days where I almost had to drag myself: when you train in the morning and mid-afternoon comes around and you’re itching to get back at it, you know you’re getting back to where you should be.
Now is the time for me to make some decisions, which means planning what data I need to make those decisions. This is a lot of fun for me. Here we go!
Another interesting conversation from the week was related to commitment. I love telling the story of John and the popcorn, because it’s really all about intrinsic motivation and commitment. Like last year in competition season I didn’t have a drink for over five months, and for a good month or so I didn’t have any sugar or starchy carbs, and no red meat for about three weeks. It was easy. The reason it was easy was because I decided to do it. I didn’t make a half-hearted commitment and then feel guilty later … I made a real commitment. When we’re ready and motivated we commit. I feel like we should quit bashing ourselves around for presumed failures of discipline. We make false promises to ourselves all the time, and that’s the problem, not our actual behaviour.
Yoda was right: do. Or do not. There is no try.
  • “I like him already.” – Ross
  • “Don’t get the wrong impression — I have my workaholism well under control.” – Steven
  • “Life is a caveat.” – Doug
  • “It’s a local place.” – Doug
  • “That man is going to be very successful. Mark my words.” – Doug
  • “The second sort, those are the game-changers.” – Doug
  • “There are other things in a coffee shop besides coffee.” – Sipho
  • “You only get attention because we like you. 😉 We’re such personable people. (Steven taught me that word and I insist on using it now).” – Robert
  • “The question is not are you upset, it’s are you surprised.” – Michael
  • “Not my fault.” – David (I never said it was….)
  • “I think I can tell if you put vodka in my water!” – Ellie
  • “When you fall in love, you don’t know when to stop being in love.” – Tony
  • “Well, he’s in sales too.” – Ellie
  • “Wisdom is not age-related.” – Tony
  • “I hate her!” “Why do you hate her?” “I don’t hate her.” – Sam & Ellie
  • “It’s kind of tough for honest people like us to realise there are bad guys out there.” – Michael
  • “I’ve been four times already.” – Riaan
  • “But to me, work is play.” – Riaan 

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