Reflections on 2012

Talk is cheap. Getting around to the important things is hard.
It’s a hectic thing to live up to your potential. I was just telling my brother that he possesses a rare skill which is to have an intuitively good sense of what is a good approach, or the right approach. But for him and me, knowing what to do is actually the easy part. It’s doing it, or working with others to make such things happen, that’s hard.
Well, I learned a lot about myself last year, and I expect this coming year is going to be similarly interesting and challenging, if not more so. I’m excited and terrified at the same time.
One of the conversations I had on my Reebok ad shoot that stuck with me is how I was chatting to one of the actors who was saying just how exhausting his job is. When the cameras roll, it doesn’t matter how tired you are or what else is going on but you need to perform in that moment in the way that the producer wants. I told him I’m quite familiar with that, between maybe being exhausted and showing up to CrossFit and flipping the switch anyway, to my job where again I may be exhausted or maybe I have to deal with an irate customer or a high-stakes business meeting or even just things that are annoying me that I’d rather postpone …. But you just find a way when in those situations to perform at your best. Most of the time, at least.
And I honestly believed myself when I said I thought this was hard. But then he one-upped me and he said you know what? It’s easy to get excited about your own life. Imagine trying to get into the character of some random person, in a way that reflects someone else’s vision. Not so damned easy.
Well, so, I can look back over the last year with hindsight. I had fun compiling my top photos of the year, a project I started in 2010. I noticed something in the photos that I selected: when I’m really in the moment, I’m not taking photos. Some of the most memorable times of this year didn’t make the photos. But there were the various CrossFit competitions, the beauty of Cape Town, San Francisco, and Vermont, the great South African roadtrip with Susan, and the … experience …. that was the time on the road with Tailgate32.
There is some similarity in architecture between Colorado frontier towns and Bristol, Vermont. I like to take photos of flowers and animals (and clouds and sunsets), and I am pretty sure I took more photos of Dustin (the camera man) than anyone or anything else while on the road with Tailgate32.
Looks like many of my raw CrossFit numbers improved by 5-20% in the last year. Many others stagnated or may have even gotten worse, as I struggled with a bad injury that left me unable to kip, or jump, or do any sort of violent movement of my core.
I made a pretty dramatic job change, and, so far so good. I have definitely met some very interesting people as a result of this. I’m a believer in a way that I wasn’t sure I would be when I set out. I guess that’s only a good thing.
There are some changes I have identified that I need to make. As I’ve said, never a fan of New Years resolutions. But this is a good time of year to reflect and set goals.  
Since I’ve started this blog I’ve written down a review quarter-by-quarter, but this year that didn’t seem right. This year actually had three phases to it:
  1. The CrossFit Games season
  2. The injury …. And the drift
  3. Skyrove
The CrossFit Games season
In which I started off on a detox diet, felt really awesome, slept 8+ hours a night, didn’t drink a drop of alcohol for five months, and poured my entire heart into a competition only to realise that my best wasn’t good enough. You can’t be the only hero in a team of six. But hey at least I managed to snatch that 32kg dumbbell enough times to keep us in the competition so in a way, this was a big win because I realised that there’s a lot I could do if I just set my mind to it.
  • The good? The control, the improvements in performance, and how I felt physically.
  • The bad? Losing. The body image issues I developed (yes, the leaner I am the more issues I get, paradoxically). The resentment I developed after the loss, as a result of mis-aligned expectations from the start. The smug moral superiority trap I started to fall into.
  • The ugly? The injury. And competing with the injury (not very smart). Threatening to punch Paul (while stone cold sober). Not very nice of me. It’s not life or death, and your competitors aren’t the enemy; they are just the competition.

The injury …. And the drift
I was really, REALLY badly injured. I am not at all sure why I kept training, when simple things like twisting my body and touching my toes caused pain. I guess I thought I could heal faster than I did, and I realised I needed the distraction from what was happening (or not happening) at work. It was at around this time that I learned that I’m far too much of a control freak to be a consultant, and that there needed to be more enterprise in the social enterprises I was working with. Social impact is the raison d’etre of course, but without sufficient startup capital and a business focus first, we were stuck in an opportunistic cycle of mediocrity. So when I was approached again in June to leave Heart, this time I listened.
  • The good? Taking up qigong. Learning how to listen to my body better. Learning how to focus on form while fatigued (a work in progress but I’m immensely better than I was a year ago). Finding some kick-ass therapists and figuring out how to use them.
  • The bad? F*ck, I was injured. I couldn’t practice the half of my goats. I had to watch the CrossFit Games. But then again I couldn’t have competed anyway, it was hard enough to deadlift 60kg weights let alone try and clean & jerk them. I had finally reached the end of my rope with a place where I’d poured in my heart & soul, only to come up a bit short on results and nothing but nothing upsets me more than coming up short where it counts.
  • The ugly? That I was dumb enough to train through an injury like this. I should really be smarter than that, and I really kind of thought I was.

Skyrove
My first executive gig. My return to tech. A chance to apply what I’d learned about management, entrepreneurship, and doing business in South Africa. More interestingly, a chance to apply my networking skills to sales and business development. Also, to get used to being in charge. It’s one thing to be a great individual contributor when someone else runs the show, because you can always bitch and moan behind their back. It’s a different thing when you sit in that chair. Also, an extended return to the States, meeting some very cool Wi-Fi industry execs & thought, and what is surely a once-in-a-lifetime experience with Tailgate32. I actually still cannot believe that I got to do that, or that it was as all-encompassing as it was. The circus.
  • The good? A chance to take something great and make it even more great, and start to walk the path I’d always sort of known I’d walk. Tailgate32. Minneapolis (we’ll always have the Mall of America field!). The Broncos game. Wi-Fi boys. Really starting to love the USA again. Being in the country (ok, at the Cisco after party!) for Obama’s re-election. Regaining my love for what I’m really good at.
  • The bad? Workaholism redux. Not knowing my own limits. Ego. One too many martinis (ok maybe like 7 too many!).
  • The ugly? Stress, stress eating, not sleeping enough. Knowingly and wilfully causing myself emotional strain and heartache.

What’s the main lesson of 2012 for me? Well, check the last blog post. I’ve discovered that I thrive on structure & positivity.
I’ve also come to realise that almost everything is in the head. This is what world-class athletes say, at least, and I suppose they would know. I will do what I set my mind to, because I know I can.
And this is only the beginning. Or, at least, it’s as far as I’ve gotten so far in the story of my life.

Of course, it wouldn’t be as much fun without 2012 in quotes:

  • “People are just completely lazy asses. Except for some people.” – Jobst
  • “If you want to be a champion, you must eat, sleep, and act like a champion.” – Mona
  • “It looks like a concentration camp for vegetables, if you must know.” – Peter
  • “Unfortunately for everyone involved, including me. Oh, wait, I guess I’m the only one involved.” – Ellie
  • “You guys, I seriously can’t remember the last time I had a beer.” “I can. It was two hours ago.” “Do you want a beer?” – Ellie, Joe, and Jon Jon
  • “It’s crazy to think that a good idea is not enough.” – Anton
  • “I’ve met a lot of people who I think are thinking about this space entirely wrong. You’re not one of them.” – Richard
  • “He was quite blown away by you.” – Peter
  • “Don’t give people too many chances.” – Henk
  • “Whining won’t stop it.” – Chris
  • “If you think about your hand, it’s going to hurt. Don’t think about your hand.” – overheard at the martial arts training centre
  • “Can I be a girl in this workout?” – Andrew
  • “If never lifted anything.” – Chris
  • “If you TRY for hero, your ego will fuck you over every time.” – Kerry
  • “It’s when you start to attach labels to it that you run into problems. When someone calls you ‘elite’ either you get a big head or you think about it for a second and realise you’re not so damn elite.” – Ellie
  • “Some people are just priceless!” – Jeff
  • “You’re not really going to go to gym, are you?” – Jeremy
  • “It’s my true wish that no one would refer to me as ‘crazy psycho Anton.’” – Anton
  • “He’s coloured. Does that count? Does coloured count as black?” – Ellie (gotta love the things BEE makes you say!)
  • “Today is Thursday? What’s tomorrow?” – Zaheer
  • “I’m not humble. I’m realistic.” – Ellie
  • “I’m not jaded. I’m realistic.” – Ellie
  • “Charismatic people can be dangerous.” – Ellie
  • “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, or the worst thing I’ve ever heard.” – Jeff
  • “And he’s the nice one? He doesn’t look very nice!!” – Zaheer
  • “I’m not whining. I’m just making conversation.” – Ellie
  • “You enter into the mouth of the dragon and it swallows you up.” – Amanda
  • “The zombie apocalypse is in my hip.” – Susan
  • “It’s all sparring. It’s all kung fu.” – Kim
  • “Vegetables don’t have fat!!” – Susan (this was part of a larger conversation that went something like: “Vegetables don’t have fat!” “What??” “Susan!!!” “Vegetables don’t have fat!!”)
  • “Don’t be dismissive. You don’t know what you’re dismissing.” – Ellie
  • “It’s Laa-Laa. What’s the worst that could happen?” – Ellie
  • “You were already part of the family. You just didn’t know it yet.” – Susan
  • “F*ck this workout.” – Norman
  • “It’s the mind that fails the body first.” – Derek
  • “If you compete, you must go either to win, or to have fun.” – Kim
  • “You do have a knack for meeting the right people.” – J
  • “I think what this country lacks is perspective.” – J
  • “But … rationality wins.” – J
  • “You might be able to fit a square peg into a round hole. But you’re probably going to damage the peg.” – Craig
  • “It’s not something you form an emotional attachment to. Like a dog. Or a child.” – Michael
  • “Do all your stories involve a bottle of wine, Ellie?” – Rob
  • “She can hold her own.” – Laa-Laa
  • “It’s too small to contain you.” – Richard
  • “Don’t question it. Just crush it.” – Richard
  • “I’ve learned that the better you are, the more humble you must be.” – Jean
  • “That’s my kung fu stance.” – Kim  
  • “Just … don’t let it affect your CrossFit too much.” – Susan
  • “Rationality always wins.” – Jaco
  • “Pretty sure he’s going to ask you to show him that walk on water thing.” – Steve 
  • “Master the technique, and speed will come.” – Shirfu
  • “A broken product is worse than broken sales, because you might not be able to fix your broken product. ” – Ellie
  • “How’s that going to be for you? You’re working for the man now. I mean … you *are* the man. But you’re still working for the man.” – Doug
  • “Welcome to the family, Madame CEO.” – Justin
  • “80% of them fail that test.” – Keet
  • “When you take a really big bite, and you don’t think you might choke, you’re probably not paying attention.” – Amy
  • “There’s nowhere to hide.” – Amy
  • “I think I’m going to throw up.” “Happy birthday, Ellie!” – Ellie & Coach Chris
  • “Well, you ARE a girl.” – Mike
  • “I didn’t invite anyone.” – Jaco
  • “I basically talk in awesome quotes, so it’s hard to write down all my eloquent speeches.” – Roland
  • “300% margin is better than a kick in the teeth.” – Laurie
  • “That was the second thing. Hey happy Monday! The third thing ….” – Michael
  • “No, you have THAT face.” – Michelle
  • “I’ve managed to get a picture of a warthog into a written submission to the Department of Communications.” – Dominic
  • “This is the industry of which you’re now a part.” – Edge
  • “If you bite too hard you’re not going to be a good team player.” – Rich
  • “You look tired.” – Kim
  • “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
  • “You can’t exactly make a thruster easy.” – JP
  • “There’s no value in free Wi-Fi if it’s awful.” – Dave
  • “This is a 27dinner, not a counselling session.” – Jess
  • “Schools are the worst designed games in existence.” – Danny
  • “Here is where we step firmly out of the realm of the scientific.” – Byron
  • “Forget like an oligopoly. It is an oligopoly!” – Ellie
  • “There’s always an angle.” – Jon
  • “The dog’s not stressed. Why are you stressed?” – Shirfu
  • “Being a CEO isn’t a small thing.” – Riaan
  • “I’ve just had a bottle of wine and you’re telling me to watch my language?” – Roger
  • “Any one of my fucking chickens would make a better President than Mitt Romney.” – Matt
  • “Can I just call bullshit on you, though?” – Cathleen
  • “I knew I liked you!” – Vinny (the enemy of my enemy is …)
  • “It helps to get obsessive.” – Michael
  • “You’re saying the company is the product?” – Michael
  • “You were so confident that I thought – ‘how could I possibly be right about this?’” – Cathleen
  • “I look at that thing and it just makes me feel defeated.” – Aidan
  • “You’re not wrong.” – Matt
  • “Everyone talks about how much they hate Oklahoma but I now fucking love Oklahoma!” – Dustin
  • “I almost started an electrical fire at the Mercury Lounge.” – Mike
  • “That’s not an accent. I’m just drinking.” – Aidan
  • “Sugar’s not a drug. It’s a way of life.” – Dustin
  • “This is awesome! I haven’t been to a truck stop in years!” “You were at one a few hours ago.” – Ellie & John
  • “Well, have to is a pretty strong word.” “As far as I can tell, you’re not even able to right now.” – Matt & John
  • “It’s called Stockholm syndrome.” – Mike
  • “Can we keep her?” – John
  • “Why are you wearing that?” “….Because I have to.” – Ellie & Aidan
  • “That wasn’t me. Oh wait, that was me.” – Ellie
  • “Yeah but you don’t count [as a girl].” – Dustin
  • “You’re running?!!?!” – Mike
  • “I’m not that drunk. Oh, wait, I am.” – Ellie
  • “Good luck staying sober.” – Henk
  • “I see now why they’re called Ruckus.” – Ellie
  • “Some …. Handle noisy environments better than others.” – Andy
  • “Maybe they don’t have one.” – Steven
  • “Two months? How is it that you’re sitting at this table, then?” – Nigel
  • “I don’t think he was expecting Romney to lie quite that much.” – Cyrus
  • “The question is not are you upset, it’s are you surprised.” – Michael
  • “Even though you’re obsessed with shoes you’re not a chick so it’s ok.” – Rob
  • “In case you haven’t noticed I have a bit of a type A personality.” “In case you haven’t noticed I have a bit of a type A personality.” – Rob & Ellie
  • “You’ve learned a lot, hey.” “I learned this yesterday.” – Anton & Ellie
  • “But I can’t tell them that!” “I know, but I can tell you that.” – Ellie & Riaan
  • “Attraction is part of leverage.” – Laurie
  • “I’m afraid that in general what you’ve all signed up for is a hard thing to pull off.” – Justin
  • “Cisco can’t think of Meraki as their nemesis.” – Adel
  • “A lot of the stupidity in Africa actually has a lot of thought behind it.” – Simon
  • “I didn’t say it was too heavy for me! I said it was heavy!” – Ellie
  • “It’s funny what we define as fun. Most normal people would look at you and say ‘You’re crazy!’” – Ryan 
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