Reputation & birthdays


A tale of two people I know. I know neither of them well, but both have reputations for having egos bordering on megalomania, arrogance, and the like. One has an excellent track record; the other more mixed.

Reputations are like stereotypes: normally they are based on something, but they can be overblown and in any event it is hard to escape the ad hominem. People talk. So-and-so is supposed to be smart so you give him the benefit of the doubt. Some other person is supposed to be arrogant so they make a comment and you look at it through the lens of your own expectation.

What’s my point? I always try to form my own opinion, to the degree that this is possible. In the case of one of these people, I do have to wonder if his reputation is more based on the reality that you’re not going to make an omelette without breaking a few eggs than on any sort of proper arrogance.

Or maybe I just haven’t seen that side of him yet. Or: he hasn’t let me see that side of him yet.

This is the other thing. As Lance so memorably said when we were standing in the car park of an office park in Midrand: the person with the highest EQ can control the conversation.

He may actually have said controls. I can’t recall. But I would actually emphasise the CAN. Because yes, you can … but do you always?

It’s like the daisies. Had we not stopped to get out of the car and walk, a lot of the subtle detail would have been missed. I can have a pretty good sense of what is going on in almost any human interaction; if I’m paying attention. Do I always? No. Because I don’t always care, or because I’m tired or stressed, or just moving too fast despite the fact that I do know better.

Next step: do I frame situations to get the outcome I want? Sometimes but not normally. I have a bit of a filter problem and I shoot from the hip. The direction I pay attention to; the small choices I just kind of wing it. Unless it comes to staff, because I understand the importance that my words, actions, and body language have on them, and so I try to pay attention at all times. Even if I’m joking around, there’s intention behind that too, and it’s working, as I can see in how our culture is developing.

It is now, however, reaching the point at which this approach will no longer do. This is one of my birthday resolutions. It’s actually ridiculous that for someone who preaches that you must either fix a situation, leave it, or at least stop whining about it, I sometimes sure do whine.

A birthday is almost like a new year beginning, and one that’s more relevant and personal than New Years.

You are what you believe. And, as one of my friends recently said, “If you can handle challenges, life throws them at you regardless of whether you are ready.”

Here is the other fascinating question: what came first, perception or reality? What came first, belief that you could accomplish something or the actual accomplishment? Jade advocates ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ and she’s probably right. Self-talk or other-talk amounts to the same thing: when it’s positive it pushes you up and when it’s negative it pushes you down.

Yep. I can snatch this weight. Problem is I'm power snatching it.

Yep. I can snatch this weight. Problem is I’m power snatching it.

My birthday was last week. I wasn’t really interested, but I did a little birthday in Somerset West followed by a birthday dinner with some girlfriends on the actual birthday. It was very interesting to see ladies from my different circles come together. I have some awesome friends!

What was really touching was the birthday card from my staff. Reading some of the comments literally brought tears to my eyes. I tell you what, I may sometimes have to rap their knuckles but at the end of the day I am lucky to have an amazing, talented, driven, hard-working team. You can’t hide in a startup. Everyone’s work ethic is as it should be at the moment, and everyone is [mostly] happy. As it should be. I work hard to make it that way and it’s good to know that they at least somewhat appreciate what goes into it.

You want people to perform well? Make them want to work hard. Don’t make them do it out of obligation.

A personalised cake. Nice touch.

A personalised cake. Nice touch.

As one does, I’ve been thinking back on how far I’ve come in the last year. A year ago I didn’t know what backhaul meant. Now, I’m leasing with some of the top people in the industry, and not only holding my own but even controlling the conversation in many cases.

My friend Amy is also switching jobs and countries and is getting that last minute mini crisis of confidence. I was telling her how it was for me. The first few months I had no idea if I could succeed at the role I was in, but I knew I would give it my best try. The 11th hour wasn’t the worst. It was the 13th when I realised just how complex the question was. It’s not like enterprise software where you have a target market and figure out what it wants and go build a product.

No, you’re in a commodity space with a multi-dimensional value chain, and lots of variables around how to win the installation, how to monetise, how to support, and what your sales & distribution channel should look like. I came into this thinking my job was to get good at playing Checkers. In fact we were playing the sort of 3D chess they used to play on Star Trek.

So it took me about 7 months to figure out the exact direction, another few months to figure out exactly what solution mix would allow that to be delivered, and now we’re in the fun phase of picking partners and negotiating what a partnership actually means. They say it takes about a year to learn an industry. I’d say I’m doing pretty well.

Actually I know I am, when I met just recently with someone who not only knows everything that goes on, but also pulls some of the strings behind the scenes. Or if not directly pulling strings, he at least subtly passes on contextual information … there was this one brilliant moment where I made an offhand mention of something and he then told me exactly what I wanted to know, without missing a beat, and I’m 100% sure this went right over the heads of the other people in the room.

What he said, twice? I hear you’re up to some interesting things. Aside from one of the things, he didn’t hear that from me. Message received.

Ran into Jeremy the other day, just randomly, and wow how different both our lives are from two years ago. He’s touring internationally, which is (surprise!) much more glamorous to hear about than to do. It used to be unusual to hear his songs played on the radio. Now he’s advertised on Highveld Stereo as one of the attractions at various festivals, and he goes on as a guest on 5FM and takes the obnoxious interviewer to town. Love.

Actually my favourite moment was when one of my friends at dinner came out with this line: “Do you know Jeremy Loops? I just shared his photo he posted on Facebook of how the weather in Cape Town is all miserable and rainy and cold but it’s nice and warm and sunny in Joburg where he is.” I can identify. Ahh to be a Cape Town celebrity. It is a small town indeed.

Speaking of, Justin Stanford’s 30th birthday party was the weekend before my birthday, and this was the second birthday party of the day after my friend Julius’ springbok potjie birthday bash. So much fun although once it got to about midnight I just wanted to go home and sleep, because I was doing the math about how late I would have to wake up the next day if I was still to get my 8 hours of sleep.

Two kinds of springbok potjie. Yum!

Two kinds of springbok potjie. Yum!

Also, the heels were really high. I wonder what that does to my mobility.

What’s really striking about all this? The people in my life who are important and close to me: who has come and who has gone.

Back to basics I suppose. Sleep, nutrition, training, opportunity cost in terms of what to do and what not to do, treasuring the relationships that matter. I wish I were better at remote relationships i.e. with my family but apparently I’m not so I just need to book those plane tickets for the holidays!

  • “I’m not actually coaching.” – Ellie (why did I say that? I never coach!)
  • “Can you BELIEVE that? There’s CrossFit in CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA?” – an American visitor to CCF
  • “Just so you know, the way I’m going to do this, only half your body is going to be protected from the bees.” “Which half???” – Jeff & Ellie
  • “Take no prisoners!” “Do I ever?” “No.” – Jade & Ellie
  • “I’m signing away our first born child. I mean … not *our* first-born child.” – Ellie
  • “So technically, I’m a she-Devil.” – Ellie
  • “It wasn’t Ubuntu Server.” “It wasn’t Ubuntu Server.” “It wasn’t Ubuntu Server.” – Ellie, Rudolph, and Stefan
  • “There’s nothing you can’t do.” – Rudolph
  • “He must have thought you were weird.” “No. He just thought I was dumb.” – Adam & Ellie
  • “You know what I said about having all the cards? Well I think I just gained three.” “Oh. At least!!” – Ellie & Jeff
  • “You probably shouldn’t have told me that.” – Ellie
  • “I’ll retire when I’m dead.” “Me too.” – Ellie & Alex
  • “This is worth making time for.” – Ellie (Don Quixote tendencies??)
  • “It’s not Wi-Fi. It’s just connectivity.” – Ellie
  • “You operate like we do.” – my friend Z
  • “Who brought this to him? You?” “Yes.” “Well done.” – John & Ellie
  • “He can see where things are going.” – Z again
  • “But I’m extreme.” “You ARE extreme.” – Ellie & Jeremy
  • “We can’t really put through a proposal without knowing anything.” – Adam
  • “Oh really???” “Yes, really.” – Pete & Ellie
  • “I think that would speak volumes, if I’m totally honest.” – Pete
  • “We’re totally behind you.” – Pete (love hearing that almost as much as ‘don’t worry’)
  • “Not only your passion, your foresight.” – Pete
  • “I don’t think you know him, but he admires your stats.” – part of an email I received!
  • “I’m just sorting out my social life. Don’t worry. It won’t take long.” – Ellie
  • “Different people are …. Different.” – Ellie
  • “Good news, we are not addicts.” – Cedric (his rationale was priceless)
  • “In the meantime I’ll just think of this as ‘Slap a Spice Girl.’ And the Loerie Awards were in September.” – Ellie
  • “It has to be perfect.” – Ellie (not a word I use lightly!)
  • “I love that you’re using words like this.” – Andre
  • “I can imagine it’s awkward.” – Rudolph
  • “He’s so red!” – Stefan
  • “It just goes to show how you really don’t know someone until you know them.” – Jade
  • “CEOs can’t be people pleasers.” – Dorothy
  • “No one walks into a situation thinking: ‘I’m going to be wrong.’” – Ellie
  • “These are horrible!” “Well you look good doing them!” – Ellie & Megan
  • “No one warns you about that part.” – Allister
  • “And everybody knows better!” – Allister
  • “You’re going to be more right than others because you’ve got direction.” – James
  • “I don’t read. I study.” – James
  • “I’m not climbing trees right now. Not in these shoes.” – Ellie
  • “I don’t even know what’s going to happen to me in these next few months.” – Ellie
  • “You haven’t told me anything I don’t already know. It’s not that hard to know what’s going on, as long as you’re paying attention.” – Ellie (/care enough to pay attention)
  • “I’m not training. I’m just doing a 1 rep max.” – Hes
  • “I think it was five rounds of wall balls and power cleans.” “Sounds plausible.” – Ryan & Ellie
  • “You only piss me off once.” – Hes
  • “You’re all class.” – Steven
  • “Online shopping is one of the last forms of delayed gratification that we have.” – Sam








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