Simplicity and the snake

Doug says my best attribute is my enthusiasm. I’ve been saying recently that I’m a salesman. Same thing. Maybe?
Prior to Doug, I had always thought my best attribute was my ability to make order from chaos and to communicate between different groups of people. I always thought that’s what made me such a good product manager: I could talk to sales, customers, marketing, AND engineering. I like all of them but I preferred the smartest ones, who were often, but certainly not always, the engineers.
The notion of a single best attribute is probably a stupid one anyhow. My worst attribute? Well at the moment probably I’d have to call it as overestimating my own capacity. My stupid ass decided it would be a good idea to do multiple workouts at the opening of a friend’s CrossFit box on day 4 of training.
Somehow I apparently forgot that would have been my fourth consecutive day of training, which is the stupidest thing ever because my cardinal rule of training is never train more than three days in a row. Especially when you’re coming off the work equivalent of Hell Week. Fun opening and cool to catch up with some of the guys and actually, come to think of it, while it may not have been the smartest thing, fatigue can cause weaknesses that I usually hide to manifest. And that mantra from the martial arts studio about leaving your ego at the door and not acting like a fool could be much more aptly applied to the rest of my life.
You would have thought I would have figured it out on Thursday. I was laughing at myself, having caught myself in the middle of that awkward moment where you realise that a) for at least the third time in the last hour, you have no idea what your coach just said and b) you just said a really, REALLY stupid thing. My mind only gets un-focused like that when I’m exhausted. At least my 1K row times were not as pathetic as they could have been.
But enough of my stupidity. Back to the subject at hand. This week I had a meeting with a guy who I was trying to sell Wi-Fi to, and this somehow led into a 20+ minute nutrition discussion. He kept saying that I should be a personal trainer or nutrition coach, because I sounded like I really knew what I was talking about, and when he asked questions I had good answers, and I clearly spoke with a passion.
But here’s the thing. It’s not my passion. Garth & Hermann: this is their passion. You can see it when you talk to them. Me? The salesman in me can project enthusiasm. What this guy didn’t realise is that I could care less whether or not he adjusts his diet as the result of what I tell him. I strongly suspect he won’t.
My parents teach at university, and one of the pieces of advice I recall them giving me was not to become a teacher, for a number of reasons but mainly because most students don’t care. And when you care about what they are teaching and they don’t care about learning, that is going to eat at you. Some people are better than me, to be motivated by the people they do teach and help. Me? No I’m definitely of the tough love sort. One friend was complaining about her coach who goes too far in the tough love direction and she may be right, I don’t really claim to know. I guess each athlete has a way that’s ideal for them to be handled.
I don’t even know what my ideal way to be handled as an athlete is; I suspect it changes based on my mood. I know what it is NOT, which is to say: ‘You’re doing it wrong’ without telling me, specifically and non-judgmentally, how to fix it. But figuring out the best way to coach every person who would walk in my door? Hell, it’s hard enough to run my company where I can boss people around if I want. As I’ve said many a time, forget carrots and sticks: the best carrot is carrot cake. Find someone’s intrinsic motivation and go from there.
To that end, I must say, potential bossiness aside, on Thursday morning we did the morning meeting a little bit differently and started off by listing our top priorities for the day in the technical team. There were about twelve. By the end of day Friday, almost all of them were done, including, much to my excitement, a chance to see how this Ruckus gear actually performs in a hostile environment. Honestly, that ain’t bad. My team is kind of kick-ass, and I really kind of love them. We just can’t operate at this pace forever.
You know, it was just an emotional rollercoaster of a week. I think that takes it out of you more than anything. Not unlike the insulin spikes we try and avoid!
I seem to keep getting off track in this post! I think it’s because my body is still very tired, and I’m about to go through to Byron who is, no doubt, going to knock me on my ass as he always does. Great plan for a Sunday night: get that CNS in repair mode, cook some fish, train qigong, fall asleep.
Speaking of sleep, yesterday afternoon I was literally fantasising about sleep. Then I took a nap, and recovered enough for the Chinese New Year celebrations at the martial arts studio. I wish I hadn’t been so tired, but on the plus side my exhaustion let me excuse myself after dinner rather than having to explain why I wasn’t drinking. You know, rules are rules, and that may actually be one of the situations where I would have made an exception. You do not want to offend your master for a reason that is, at the end of the day, arbitrary. Maybe I’ll just make sure I’m similarly exhausted when Kim’s birthday comes along (isn’t his mom beautiful, by the way??).
It’s a funny thing. I really do enjoy what I do, and when I enjoy something I really, REALLY go at it. But as I was walking to be a very, VERY late attendee at a dinner at Hudson’s on Friday night I was looking at all of these people having a good time in the restaurants, and bars and wondering what on earth I was doing. Skyrove isn’t everything. Even I will get burnout if I’m not careful.
This, now, is the year of the snake. The year of the dragon brings with it lots of dynamic change but it’s all the animals in one and it’s actually quite an upsetting time, apparently. The year of the snake is supposed to have a lot of the positive energy of the dragon without as much of the hectic.
Speaking of hectic? Regionals this year is going to be held in Joburg. As we all know, I know enough about training at altitude to be very, VERY afraid. After a bit of research it turns out that to acclimatize you need between 4-6 weeks, and 2 at a bare minimum. Well, I’ll head up there a week early for work and see how that goes. Can’t stress about things you can’t control, now can you?
Look, I don’t really know what my passion is. I was thinking about this. I used to love product management. Then I got bored. Then I was super into social enterprise. Then I realised I’m far too impatient for idealists or a world that doesn’t actually get blended value yet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m actually not sure it matters too much what I am doing so long as it’s mentally stimulating.
Skyrove is definitely that. It’s a technical industry with a bunch of super smart kids. I think it came to me when we were meeting with Kerry-Anne on Friday and she said I had an unusual talent for making the really complex simple, but without dumbing it down.
Making the complex simple: that’s what a good product manager does, and in reading Doug’s latest email to me, that’s essentially his feedback about what I’m doing best. So my passion, as best as I can articulate it from where I’m sitting right now, is to avoid boredom by bringing elegance and simplicity from confusion and chaos.
Sounds so nice when you put it like that. But I’m definitely more passionate about not being bored than I am about helping people change their lives.
  • “I’ll leave the unethical behaviour to him.” – Ellie
  • “When Merakis have problems, they have complicated problems.” – Tim
  • “I would urge you to be prepared.” – Shafiek
  • “How long have you been in sales?” “Fourteen years.” “Uh-huh. Takes one to know one.” – Ellie & Arthur
  • “Your biggest problem it outside of your control.” – Doug
  • “And you can sell like a mother*cker.” – Doug (I just get more and more dangerous I’m afraid!)
  • “I love it when I’m proven right.” – Doug
  • “That’s definitely a lot to start with.” “Welcome to our industry.” – Kerry-Anne & Ellie
  • “I wonder how you’re able to pull it all out, sometimes.” – Adam
  •  “Yeah …. We’ll just keep that part between us.” – Tim (I love when my guys do stupid things and then actually tell me about it rather than try to cover up!)
  • “I don’t like him very well.” – Gina
  • You can’t use that excuse every week!  – Bronwyn
  • I’m all for being customer-focused. But I’m not a doormat. – Ellie
  • “I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life.” – Hermann
  • “You had the biggest smile on your face afterwards hey!” – Nick
  • “There’s nuances to everything.” – Chris
  • “Positive energy and negative energy are both contagious.” – Jeremiah
  • “The Grand Master is here!” – Kim
  • “You must work for your luck.” – Shirfu 

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