Being appreciative

There’s a fine line between being critical enough to diagnose and correct fault, and just being critical. How harsh is too harsh? At what point do you become high maintenance? At what point does self-criticism turn from a self-improvement tool to a re-enforcement of negative self-perception?

On Sunday I ran a trail race. I once used to be quite good at these things, but my metabolic conditioning is not very strong at the moment, firstly, and secondly … well, there is no secondly. I’m just not in ‘cardio’ shape. But my overhead squats are pretty kick-ass … at least when my shoulder and wrist stay stable.
Anyway as always you learn lessons in such a situation. I always knew that long distance stuff like this is more mental than anything, and I also learned that my mental muscle is a bit tired at the moment. I just didn’t feel like keeping up with the leaders, so I didn’t really try, and the end result was predictable.
I also learned that you can’t run in anger for too long. I didn’t start at the front of the pack so instead I had to overtake all these slow pokes and run around them … and as a result I lost a lot of unnecessary energy, exhausted my ATP stores, and wasted a lot of time.
Now on the positive side: it has been years since I’ve been able to run a trail race and not be afraid of the downhills because of my right ankle which was sprained three times in as many years, the last time very VERY badly. This time, amazingly enough, I could actually run down the single track downhills with relative ease. And THAT is one of the reasons to trail run – to just lean into the downhill, let your body go, and reach crazy speeds, all while not being quite sure where your feet are going to land, but figuring it out as you go along.
Monday-Tueday was a Joburg trip. It turned out to be very well timed trip as I met some key people, got some key insights, and started to see just how exactly to make the puzzle fit together the way I want. It’s always good to know yourself well, your own strengths & weaknesses, and also to have a sense of what the competition is doing, why they are doing it, and who you need to be afraid of and why.
One thing I’ve learned is that there are two things I’m doing, that might be the key thing, that the others are unlikely to copy. Because either would be too scary for them, but for me, I have no choice.
On a related point, my positioning is appealing and I can tell because the indirect players in the value chain are telling me so. When you end a meeting and the OOH guy literally hugs the OTT girl, you’re probably on the right track. Just … I have to hurry.
Monday night I went to a networking event and in the words of my pal J … I really do have a knack for meeting the right people. I was having one of those times when I was not necessarily in a networking mood; I was tired, I didn’t really know anyone except for this one guy who I don’t like or trust, who I was hoping wouldn’t see me … so I walked up to the people at the end of the bar and introduced myself. Turns out they worked for a company I’d been meaning to contact but never got around to. An hour later they had introduced me to another good contact, and we’d had a good meeting of the minds.
Then I went out to dinner with a friend who is in the middle of a couple of very rough transitions right now; one of which is to leave his current job. For a number of reasons, all of which I agree with. But heck, that still takes courage and a lot of it.
Courage? So CrossFit, like life, like work, always involves some of those moments where you think: I am in no way prepared to do what is being asked of me. But then again, neither are the other competitors in the lineup, and more importantly than them: to heck with it, I’m going to do it anyway. And no, I’m not going to fail.
One of the things that I do by nature is to see all the various areas for improvement. I finish a workout or  a lift and the first things that run through my mind are how I could have done better.
This is a useful self-improvement tool. But … It may also be overly self-critical, in a game where the mental aspect is arguably more important than the physical. You have strength, conditioning, technique, and then the power of the mind.
I was in a meeting Monday afternoon with a man who is a successful entrepreneur and businessman, but also just quite an interesting person. Our companies are becoming closer partners and each time we meet we learn more about each other, as one does. Somehow this whole subject came up, and he gave me a very clear message, almost a warning: that I needed to take care to be more appreciative. No specific ‘or else’ because there are a lot of potential ‘or elses.’
That night, after my networking event & dinner, I got back to my guest house and there was the 2009 annual report of this guy’s company, with his photo plastered everywhere. OK so far so random. Then I had a dream, and in my dream a cat I used to have came to visit me. This cat was killed by a car after I moved to South Africa (I shamefully admit to allowing emotional abuse push me into letting the poor cat be an outdoor cat at all to begin with … but hey we all have our weaknesses). Long story short, I dreamed about a dog losing part of a limb, then my dead cat came to say hello, then I woke up.
Be more appreciative, because you just never know how long something or someone is going to last. Message received.
Started my next day with a good long training session. The photo above just about sums up that day. Lots of technique and efficiency work. It was nice, actually, REALLY nice since my first meeting wasn’t until late morning, to be able to spend three hours in the gym. Yep, definitely a luxury this CrossFit thing.
Just like ‘when do we see you again’ is a lot better than ‘oh you again,’ it has now gotten to the point where when I fly back to Cape Town it no longer feels entirely like home. I was driving into the city (again, after landing in rain after leaving a stunning day up north), and as I came around the bend on De Waal Drive all I could think was what a beautiful backwater this city is.
Charming, wonderful, multi-cultural, and with character that extends past shopping malls and office parks. But if what I like is getting things done, and you can’t do new things without having those personal relationships, I will be spending more time in Joburg. How much more is the question.
Trying to be more appreciative makes me also appreciate Cape Town that much more. It is magnificent.
I got home that night hoping to see my cat, and give her some love since I’d woken up in the morning dreaming of the other cat. No such luck, as she was missing when I arrived home. If there is such a thing as the universe conspiring to tell me something about appreciating what I have while it’s still around, it would literally be shouting at me right now.
I think I get the message. But what I do with it is another matter.
  • “A strange kind of winter.” – Jarred
  • “Yes. It is how you going to deal with it.” – Neil
  • “I’m just going to sit back and wait for that to happen. Because we need it to happen.” – Craig
  • “I think I know who you’re talking about.” “Yeah. I drop really subtle hints.” – Ellie & Craig
  • “Approaching — would take courage.” – Doug (or not)
  • “I don’t normally share this with people. But you will understand it.” – Doug (way to give a girl a compliment!)
  • “They have a plan. The rest are just lucky.” – Doug
  • “We have to control our emotions. So that we can control our thoughts.” – Doug
  • “And also, no one takes you seriously [if you don’t live in JHB].” – Byron
  • “I’ve never trusted him.” “Your instincts are good.” – Ellie & my Monday night date
  • “I think what you’ve just seen is the end of the beginning.” – Lance
  • “If you look around the table and you can’t see who the sucker is, the sucker is you.” – Lance
  • “This is not a book club.” “It’s not?” – Rick & Ellie
  • “You kicked over the chalk bucket the last time you were here!” – Jason
  • “Oh my God. I can’t believe I just called CrossFit ‘my alone time.’” – Ellie (but it is)
  • “I want to no rep Spencer Hendel!” – Rick
  • “I’m not quite sure where this is going but it’s going somewhere.” – Mark
  • “No. I’m going to do it.” – Ellie 


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