End or beginning

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Every year, I look through all my photos that I’ve taken. It helps me just review, recap, and close that chapter in my life as I move on to the rest. The best or most meaningful photos I put into an album on Facebook which then also serves as a great resource to look back over years in the past.

It’s interesting how much makes it into the photos, and how much doesn’t. To watch the seasons change: photos of Starlings with bare trees, and Starlings with lush foliage. Sunrises at Cape CrossFit in the winter. The loneliness of solitary early morning training. Squat cleans, laughter, and teasing at CrossFit Kyalami in the summer. Weights on the bar that now look pitifully small; a reminder of areas I’ve improved, and areas I have not. The year of the shoulder injury.

The day I met people who are now friends. That workout. This restaurant. That meeting. This trip, that trip. Relationships that started; relationships that changed; relationships that ended.

So perfect it's like a bad painting

So perfect it’s like a bad painting

The year Joburg started to feel more like home than Cape Town.

The year I started to feel less like an American expat and more like a South African resident in more than just what my passport says.

The year my intuitive grasp of partnerships, sales, and P&L came more up to par with my understanding of product and marketing.

It was a year of tremendous learning; when I sit down to think about it. Sure, there were some boneheaded moves; some days I under-slept or over-slept or didn’t bite my tongue; some days I ate too much or drank too much or failed to read the writing I could so clearly see on the wall.

Like muscle ups with a shoulder injury aren't a good idea

Like muscle ups with a shoulder injury aren’t a good idea

One thing I have definitely learned in the past year is that the truism not to let other peoples’ opinions of you colour your own judgment or lead you down a path they think is right, is the most valuable advice we can adhere to. The only thing you can control is your own reactions, although those are sometimes hard actually to control, I find, but you can influence them.

The people around you can be erratic; emotional; unfair; mean-spirited; ignorant; childish (did I mention childish???); snide; rude; insensitive; and they can and do talk behind your back. Who needs enemies when some of your so-called enemies are more respectful and kind than your so-called friends, or when some of your customers over-react?

On the other side the people around you can be kind; loving; forgiving; insightful; humorous; supportive; loyal; dedicated; caring; surprising.

Breathtaking.

They can amaze you and surprise you and bring tears to your eyes if you let them. Or you can just take them completely for granted and focus on the negative. Or, both, because the world is not black and white.

Think about who you would rather be for the people around you. No one is ever going to be perfect. Try not to be that over-reacting customer to your own vendors. You do reap what you sow and knee-jerk reactions or criticisms … well as they say: karma’s only a bitch if you are.

As long as you’re legitimately comfortable with your path and your work output, don’t get too caught up in what other people say or think. The bad stuff AND the good stuff. It’s easy to get a big head. “This too shall pass.

The one time all year my emotions really got to me

Companies take on the personality of their leaders though, so leaders have to actually ‘man up’ as the saying goes and not let this kak get to us. We’re supposed to be the grownups, after all, even though sometimes, just sometimes, I really wish not to be the one to have to make all the decisions. But most times I wouldn’t trade that independence for anything. It’s what you want in an athlete.

Speaking of athletes; one of the most intimate relationships I know is between coach and athlete. You have to be willing to let someone see you fail over and over and over and over again. To let someone tear you down to build you up. That involves a heck of a lot of trust. To betray trust is, I think, the ultimate betrayal.

“Find people you admire and that are better than you, and work there.” – John Trupiano (paraphrased)

My job took me to China. For real.

In competition everyone wants to win. But the end and the means are actually the same thing. No one cares who won a game 20 years ago (usually). And also, really no one gives a damn how hard you had to work to get there. I have a much bigger appreciation for my team finishing things than for putting in crazy hours (although I do notice and appreciate when they go above and beyond).

Reminds me of a conversation I was having referencing a potential new hire I want to make in the second quarter or so. My friend said the guy was really good … but he might actually push and want to take more of a leadership role. My first reaction was: FANTASTIC. You can have that reaction when you’re confident. When people are threatened or afraid they behave strangely.

In business and in life; the means is just as important as the ends. Sometimes even more so. Using all the means at your disposal is one thing. Stepping on people: no. Being mean and rude: also no.

My fairy tale home

The people who have stuck out to me over the years have been the wise & empathetic ones; the really really dumb ones who have mucked things up for everyone; and the complete jerks.

Once I make up my mind about something or someone my mind doesn’t change.

When I need something, and I don’t mean want: when I NEED something, I find a way to get it.

And when I’m over something, I’m over it.

Not the prettiest picture from Paris … but a perfect moment

Everyone is different and part of being a human being is understanding, or trying to understand, the best way to inter-relate with those around you. Maybe this one’s an introvert, so that means something. Maybe this one is has just tumbled off a mountain bike and is feeling a bit cautious, so now might not be the best time to ask if he wants to go bungee jumping. Give it a rest. Maybe that one is stressed and exhausted or just clearly in a bad mood for something that has nothing to do with you; don’t take it personally. Maybe this one’s on a deadline; not the best time to bother such a person for your own satisfaction of whatever sort.

Life is about knowing when to push and when to back the hell off. Sometimes you can be oblivious or exhausted and not really be paying attention to what the other person wants or needs just then. But continue to ignore signs at your peril, if you care about the relationship. But that’s another thing: sometimes you just don’t, sad as that is. Some relationships are orders of magnitude more important to me than others.

Was chatting to Brian about the plagues of short-term thinking. It’s now the number one thing this sharp software developer looks for in a job; and it’s a funny thing. Sometimes you can be bamboozled in the hiring process (he was), because of course everyone says they care about the long-term. Until the quarterly earnings report goes out. Which really leads back to two things: preparation and expectations.

Diane. Not a PR.

Do I expect to walk into the gym and hit a 90kg clean tomorrow, or string 10 muscle ups together? Nope. But it will happen in time, if I keep working at it.

I’ve never been one for new years resolutions because I think they are quite silly. Who needs a new numeral to decide to make a change? It does coincide with competition season so there is that; from the day after I land it’s a whole new ballgame, and I mean that in a couple of ways.

Yes, really.

The best or strongest competitor doesn’t win on game day. The most prepared competitor does.

So life’s not fair. If it was, this would all be too easy. You need something to complain about. Just try not to compound the situation.

We tend to keep falling into the same traps over and over again. Like you can do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis on a business you can do the same thing for a person on the back of a napkin. Know your strengths and weaknesses because opportunities and threats are harder to see, and they change all the time.

Possibly my favourite photo of the year. Dominic 😀

This isn’t a resolution, but a goal. I have a couple of work goals but when it comes to me, my goal is a simple one. Treat myself with as much care as I afford my work. My job is what I do; the results and reputation of the company are obviously very much intertwined with me, but that is not an excuse for making choices that implicitly put that above everything else. I shouldn’t have to trip over you or have you bash me across the head for me to notice you.

In the words of a somewhat wise/somewhat completely crazy CrossFit competitor: “Whenever I get too serious, I take a week off.” But the thing is, easy to say/hard to do; and, like me, you may sometimes need to ask me three times if he’s really all right.

Nelson Mandela memorial, Nelson Mandela Square

If you care, keep asking.

But also know when to stay the hell away. I think this year is going to require peace, discipline, beast mode, and even some ruthless.

I know that I can’t predict the future exactly. But I do know one thing: it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

And … the most fun quotes from 2013:

  • “When someone’s in their season, you can’t touch them.” – quote from one of the Baltimore Ravens fans in Episode 3 of Tailgate32
  •  “It’s an extreme interpretation. But it’s not invalid.” – Lance
  • “I’m afraid all the time. But I do stuff anyhow.” – Andy
  • “I wonder how you’re able to pull it all out, sometimes.” – Adam
  • “You must work for your luck.” – Shirfu
  • “Sometimes … you just don’t listen to the truth.” – Riaan
  • “We need a relationship that’s based on –“ “– not lying?” – Rudolph & Ellie
  • “Have you met me? I’m not very patient.” – Ellie
  • “We must all find our nemesis and thrash it.” – Shirmo
  • “Perception is reality. But it’s also perception.” – Ellie
  • “The problem I have with him is that I believe everything he says.” – Ellie
  • “Most of them won’t understand what you mean, so you have to go with personality.” – Rapelang
  • “Hey, guys, the Ruckus dropped my connection.” “Yeah, we unplugged it.” – Ellie & Adam
  • “When others don’t see what you see, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” – J
  • “Ag! Nee!” – Lorinda (we were talking about talking behind other peoples’ backs)
  • “Just don’t stop.” – Rick
  • “Whenever I get too serious I take a week off.” – Rick
  • “They call it re-marketing. They don’t call it creepily following you around.” – Andrew
  • “My hands! I can’t grip the bar!” “I feel like puking.” – Estevan & Ellie
  • “I know exactly how you feel.” “I know you do.” – Rick & Ellie
  • “What the hell is a one-legged kip?” “I can’t even kip with two legs!” – Andrew & Ellie
  • “We can’t dictate fate.” – policeman
  • “That is SO sweet, it’s actually almost too much.” – Ellie
  • “I saw you were on your knees, so I knew it couldn’t be good.” – Wade
  • “You know what you’re capable of. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.” – Paul
  • “You can’t rip off the star.” – Kerry
  • “You’ve been quiet. Now you’re being cynical. Maybe you should go back to being quiet.” – William
  • “I’m planning to take over the world.” “Are you drinking the water here?” – Ellie & Christopher
  • “If you’re explaining, you’re losing.” – Paul
  • “Do they have Wi-Fi in here?” “No. You have to pay for it.” – overhead at O.R. Tambo
  • “It’s easy to point the finger when it’s someone else.” – Jade
  • “Don’t underestimate the power of those little statements.” – Chris
  • “That’s crazy.” “That doesn’t mean it won’t work.” “I didn’t say that.” – David & Ellie
  • “I’m American.” “Well, nobody’s perfect.” – Ellie & Sebastien
  • “I wonder what happened to the Ruckus dogs.” “They were stolen.” – Steve & Cedric
  • “I didn’t want to rock the boat. I said leave that to Ellie. She likes to rock the boat.” – Tim
  • “We’re not gossiping. I’m sharing information about an event in my life.” – Hes
  • “Merry Christmas.” – Jeff
  • “Welcome to the club.” – Cedric
  • “If a lot of people hate you, that’s a good place to be.” – Paul
  • “I didn’t give him full access. He just took full access.” – Rudolph
  • “And unfortunately for them, you’re also intelligent.” – Spencer
  • “Yeah. You learned your coach isn’t Jewish.” – Rick
  • “That’s not really a fair question, because the answer is always yes, even if the answer is no.” – Ellie
  • “Those skills we can replicate. We can’t replicate the thinking behind it.” – Maged
  • “I’m just going to sit back and wait for that to happen. Because we need it to happen.” – Craig
  • “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 & Lance
  • “I trust people until they give me a reason not to. But this is making me start not to trust people as much.” “That’s not a good thing.” “Or maybe it’s a very good thing.” – Ellie & Jeff
  • “They’re the ones that could upset the apple cart.” – Rudolph
  • “LA is a highway. Joburg is a shopping mall.” – a fan of Cape Town
  • “Every time I see you, I learn more. And I am more and more scared.” – a partner
  • “I have learned one thing. If you close your eyes you’re never going to see anything.” – Peter
  • “CEOs can’t be people pleasers.” – Dorothy
  • “And everybody knows better!” – Allister
  • “You’re going to be more right than others because you’ve got direction.” – James
  • “You only piss me off once.” – Hes
  • “I didn’t say you weren’t pretty. I said you wouldn’t pass for a girl.” – Ellie
  • “Anyone who knows you, or is getting to know you, knows that you’re serious.” – Neil
  • “Squat lower.” “Thanks, Judge.” “Thanks, Athlete.” – Ellie & Ty
  • “I never called you Captain Awesome. You called yourself Captain Awesome.” – Streicher
  • “Losing sucks more than winning feels good.” “So don’t lose.” – Ellie & Stephen
  • “We have friends in high places.” “Are you kidding me? You ARE the high places!” – Dominic & Ellie
  • “It’s hard to attribute success to anything other than statistical noise.” – Cory
  • “I’m tempted to say ‘nice job.’” – Dominic
  • “Why are you so good when I say ‘stripper *ss?’” “Because you say it so often!” – Rick & Ellie [context is everything]
  • “I’ve been here so long that you’ve become predictable.” “No, you just keep doing the same thing over and over again!” – Wade & Rick
  • “Not every delusion that we arrive at is as harmless.” – Cory
  • “It’s becoming very clear that if I want to win this at this game, I have to be in the arena.” – Ellie
  • “Well, I used to drink a lot because I was unhappy. Now I drink a lot sometimes because I’m stressed.” “Which is a grownup word for unhappy.” – Ellie & Sam (touché!)
  • “Your writing skills have trumped your ability to run the meeting.” – Dale
  • “I need to fill you in on our strategy. Do you drink tequila?” – Riaan
  • “Don’t confuse confidence with lack of humility.” – Rob
  • “Fear can be worse than the injury itself.” – Mark
  • “Someone else has to give you the rest of the deck to play with.” – Claudio
  • “Relax. Tense muscles are slow muscles.” – JJ
  • “I don’t have a gift. I have a contract.” – a partner
  • “We don’t plan. We do.” – same partner
  • “But they can’t understand it. Because it’s changing all the time.” – someone who would know
  • “When I give you an instruction, do as I say.” – Rick
  • “After what he said, there was no doubt in my mind that we would work together.” – Tristan
  • “What exactly is your relationship?” – Greg
  • “Please don’t turn red.” – Cedric
  • “That workout sounds hard.” “You know how when you train really hard then laugh and you cough?? That.” – Rob & Ellie (Fight Gone Bad)
  • “Always hesitate. That way, they never know.” – Elizabeth
  • “Through my practice I’ve seen that you’ve gotten your hands on all sorts of things that you shouldn’t be able to. You must be very convincing!” – Rolf
  • “Why are you going there?” “Meeting.” “No sh*t. I was thinking a milkshake.” – Lance & Ellie
  • “We can do targeted advertising like falling off a log.” – Tristan
  • “Dominic made me do it is a good answer. I’ve met him.” – Sam
  • “I’m glad we met you too. We’re going to take over the world one sin at a time. Hahahaha!” “You do realise that your laugh is a little bit evil?” “Is it? Oh. Damn.” – Megan & Ellie
  • “You get this right, you’ll make millions. If not, it’ll flop in six months.” – Mark
  • “I didn’t tell her I was out with you again. I told her I was drinking with Afrihost.” – obviously can’t share this one
  • “What? No, they would never! Is he crazy? Has he ever met a mobile carrier?” – Ellie
  • “There is no darker place than where you went on Friday.” – Mike
  • “I can’t believe they lied about that! I can’t wait to tell EVERYONE!” – Ellie
  • “Some girl got 90 reps!!! Do you know her?” “Yes.” “But how about you? You can probably get 90 reps, right?” “Not today.” – Lisa & Ellie (I got 90 reps)
  • “What’s the women’s weight?” “33.” “Oh, that’ll be nothing for you!” “But this feels heavy!” “That’s 43.” – Conrad & Ellie
  • “A 2K row is not that bad.” “Did you just say a 2K row is not that bad?” “If you’re going to be doing Fittest in Cape Town, you may find that you’re doing something worse than a 2K row.” “….” – Jobst & Ellie
  • “Do you own a firearm?” “What does this have to do with my love life?” – Ross & Ellie
  • “You work A LOT!” – Andre
  • “I can’t help it that I’m dangerous.” – Ellie
  • “Drinking is good for you.” – Jason
  • “I don’t think ‘Mass Shootings’ is a good name for a product.” – Johann
  • “It’s the Matrix, dude. You’re laughing, but it’s true.” “I know.” – Ellie & Johann
  • “What’s your strategy?” “I don’t have a strategy. I just talk.” – Jonathan & Ellie
  • “Well, that was partly a sales tactic.” “It was also true.” – me & someone a few steps ahead of me
  • “The problem with South Africa is that you have to live in Cape Town, and you have to work in Joburg.” (truth)
  • “I didn’t say they were stupid. I said they were crazy.” – Ellie
  • “He wasn’t an admirer. He just wanted to sign a roaming agreement.” “Same thing!” – Ellie & Steve [not really…]
  • “Hello. I would like please a corkscrew, to open a bottle of wine. … No. I am not asking for a wakeup call for 7am.” – Cedric
  • “It’s not the first time he’s done something like this.” – Rudolph
  • “I think I’m outgrowing the cult.” “What? Did you have dessert?” – Ellie & Rob
  • “He’s quite innocent to my eyes.” “Oh, no, he’s quite terrifying too.” – Johann & Tristan
  • “The difference us is people like us are slightly broken. We enjoy the struggle.” – Nic
  • “Yeah, no, he’s good. But he’s in Cape Town.” – Stephen
  • “No one blew up my car over that; what you think they’re going to come after me for Camps Bay?” – Ellie
  • “No. Trust me. You’re ok.” – Adam
  • “In life, you’ve got two choices. You can take it …. Or you can leave it.” – Hes
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