Going it alone

America is a very individualistic society. I guess there is debate at the moment about how much we are really taught to think for ourselves in school but certainly compared to certain other societies we certainly tend to be very ‘me me me.’
Like most things this is neither good nor bad, just it is as it is, and whether it’s a positive or negative is very situational.
I most definitely have this in me. Quite a few things are coming together at this point in time that are making me think about the role our individualism, drive, and desire play in success or accomplishment. We know that most fails are mental fails, and subtle failures of not setting the bar high enough are the worst of all. I think this is what I suffer from the most, although this seems to be changing somewhat now.
Yoda had it right: it’s not only about whether you succeed or fail but where you set the bar. I have several times worked for companies where development groups hit all of their schedules, and management thought they were wizards. I thought they were sandbagging manipulators. Set your goals too low and you’ll always hit them.
At the end of the day this to me is what separates the great from the good. The good are content to sit at the edges of what makes them comfortable. The great jump off the edge into the unknown. The good are content to do better than everyone else, and even better than they were a few months ago. The great are always trying to be the best they can be.
Definitely not saying I’m great. On a good day, I’m good. But I know I can be great at times. A few weeks back a VERY smart guy compared me to someone else by saying that he was going to tell me something he couldn’t tell this other person, because the other person was smart enough, but he just didn’t think BIG enough. Of all the things anyone has said to me in recent weeks, this stuck with me.
The Goldilocks line between thinking big enough to make a difference but not so big as to be crazy or arrogant, is a hard one. You can sometimes meet someone and initially think ‘no this is wrong, this person is thinking too big, they are arrogant, they will fail,’ but then you listen more and realise they might just have what it takes. Or, the person whose reasoned plan sounds so logical and perfect …. But then they fail to deliver at every turn. Empty words.
Yet for all our talk of trying and learning and failing and reaching … we’re all afraid to fail. I recently told my troops that no one would ever get fired for making a mistake, even if it’s a catastrophic one and we lose a customer. There are very few promises I like to make because you can’t control the future. But this one is easy. Geez, I’ve already made some mistakes. I’ve done a lot more that’s been pretty good. But some of the waters I’m wading into have stakes that are very VERY big.
Oh well. I may not have realised what I was getting into but it’s pretty well too late now. It’s like that moment in last year’s Fittest in Cape Town competition where I was part way through the burpees on the final event and I was feeling some strain and I could see out of the corner of my eye one of my competitors that I thought was starting to catch up and I just wanted to stop, or quit, or slow down just a little. Because it’s so easy to do that. And then you just say to yourself: “No, I’m not going to let myself down, and I am better than these other women.”
It helps if you believe it. In the case of CrossFit, I actually do.
I compete for fun and personal fulfilment. I don’t take drugs, I don’t play mind games with my opponents to make them under-perform. I recognise that they are there to push me to be my best, not to beat at any cost. And you know what else? I’m pretty damn well-balanced. I have some technique issues I’m working on, but I am working on them and not ignoring them. My injury is healing. To be a good CrossFitter you need to be balanced. I’m not the strongest athlete around but I’m pretty strong. I’m not the best bodyweight athlete but I’m pretty good there too. I’m not too short, or too tall. I can do strict handstand pushups and ring dips for reps, and I regularly outlift some of the newer guys in the advanced classes.
So it would be interesting to see what I’d be capable of if I actually took it seriously. And perhaps I will.
But for the moment I’m in off-season mode and having a super fun time playing around, training at different gyms with different people, and seeing what happens. 45 second PR on Sandy Helen and I wasn’t even feeling that good that day. Ha, and Ballistix beach workout featuring yet more ocean running led to one of the most hilarious things I’d ever seen in Jean running literally on top of the water (in the first round … until he got a bit fatigued).
And then there’s work. Last weekend I was at a wine farm talking about Wi-Fi, yes, but also entrepreneurship. There seems to be this romantic notion of start your own company, take control of your destiny, get rich. Holy hell, nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s like the professional stunt man whose life most days is distinctly un-glamorous. So many people hate their jobs but you know, going out on your own is not the answer for most people. You give up the security of a guaranteed income and then you take that load on yourself? The startup phase has got to be the worst! You get through that and even still someone somewhere has to be sure that your company makes payroll and delivers on its commitments.
I’ve had this discussion with Riaan before, that companies take on the personality of their leaders. Just like CrossFit gyms do. You have a bad day and your company has a bad day. You need to harness this as a tool rather than letting it be a burden, and you need to make sure that you don’t wind up an ego-driven cult of personality, as tempting as that may seem a times. You can get excited at the big deals but at the end of the day you need to pay attention to all the details. Decidedly unglamorous. You always have to have your game face on, even when you’re not feeling it. It’s exhausting.
More on this next. But I had the pleasure of spending a little bit of time with a beautiful and insightful South African, now living in London, and talking about what I’d learned, how I was approaching my new work, and WHY I was absolutely livid at one of our customers. This is the sort of interaction I live for, that makes it all worthwhile.
It’s a strange thing to be a global citizen. This hot December thing feels so weird to me. I long for the dark and snow. I love London at Christmas time, and New England.
Who am I? Why am I here? I have no idea. There’s something about summer in Cape Town that makes me want to be a hermit. Not this year. Things are about to get serious.
  • “She was trying to get into your head!” – Lisa
  • “I need a hobby. If I have any income left after drinking wine.” – Dumi
  • “It’s nice to see you coming into your own.” – Nicola
  • “All of Joburg is a dodgy area!” – forget who said this but it’s not true!
  • “You need me to prove to you that your IT bands are tight?” – Roland 
  • “Are you models or normal people?” – overhead at fitting
  • “They’re not used to it.” – Helen
  • “If you want to run a business, it’s not the best idea.” – Stefan
  • “Please tell me you know who Michael Jordan is.” – Ellie
  • “OK cool then I’ll stick to bread.” – Tim
  • “Soon there’s going to be a NOC upstairs.” “But then we can’t call it the dragon’s lair!” – Ellie & Helen

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