The graveyard


The graveyard is full of good people, and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Call me crazy but I do believe in karma (good and bad) and therefore what goes around comes around. Gabriel Garcia Marquez (he of Cien años de soledad fame), in his final public letter said that the only man we have a right to look down on is a man who we are trying to help off the ground.

When I get tired or stressed or cranky I most definitely get short with other people; I think most of us do. Goodness knows I’ve been around plenty of people who are like that! But think of the people you come into contact with – the domestic who probably doesn’t have running water at home, the car guard who can’t just walk up to a McDonald’s and apply for a job the same as an equivalently unemployed person could in most American cities.

To take the time to connect as humans, and actually to respect the people around you. I may have had some anger in recent months but actually this is not fair either. How can you be angry at people who don’t understand what you understand? It’s like being angry with a child, or a teacher being angry with a learner.

Just some fishing boats & barbed wire

Just some fishing boats & barbed wire

Well, I was telling my friends lately that one reason I will likely not ever be a coach or personal trainer is that I’m just not that patient with people. Serious athletes are easy, but why put your heart & soul in if most of your clients won’t do the same? I suppose part of the reason for my attitude is my own parents, who teach at university, and the frustrations I heard about my whole life of the students who just wouldn’t try very hard, or would whine and want good grades anyhow. Why work for people in the administration on one side and clients on the other who don’t care for the work you do as much as you do? No, I never want to be there in a professional setting.

So, the importance of choosing your partners and choosing strategic partners whose context and interests align with my own has been the key these last few weeks. As you make choices, certain doors shut.

Choose your enemies; choose your friends.

It has also been really good to separate in everyone’s minds the differences between a software company and a telecommunications service provider. I suppose it’s like a relationship: do we have similar lifestyles? Goals? Interests? Kids/no kids? Places we might consider moving to (or not)? How do we handle conflict? These things are actually quite critical the success of the relationship.

People from all walks of life. Captured together forever in a photo, but most of these people would never recognise each other again. Life.

People. Captured together forever in a photo, but most of these people would never recognise each other again. Life.

One of the things in business is this magical thing called an ‘exit.’ This is euphemism for getting your money out. You either sell out or go public. Either of those is an ‘exit.’ The focus on exits is an understandable one, but also curious.

Funny thing: sometimes you might have an unrealistic goal, or value in your head for your company. One of my friends I caught up with in the UK over the holidays was talking about all the little Wi-Fi hotspot companies that were on their way to the grave because they were losing money and shareholders refused to put them out of their misery.

The fate of a company, small or large, in a changing world, when it fails to see where the world is changing. Polaroid. Also remember the tech giants of the past, now relegated to second-tier citizens? IBM. Nokia. To survive and to thrive, are two very different things.

The graveyard is full of good people. No one remembers or cares the effort you put in. I’ve felt both sides of this, from me expecting to be thanked for something that was probably just my job on the one side, to others expecting recognition for things in the past on the other. It’s a bit of an exaggeration but honestly, no one cares who had a good or bad Open. It’s what happens on the competition floor at Regionals that counts.

Someone was saying the other day how “collaboration” was out and “partnerships” were in. I think there’s a lot to be said for that. Collaboration implies a loose connection whereas the connection of a partnership is deeper, longer-term, more serious.

From this week. Cocaine. Not really.

From this week. Cocaine. Not really.

One thing I know, as I was discussing with my new CTO, is that sometimes the best competitive move is a defensive one. Better to partner with a potentially strong competitor than let them go off on their own, even if that means compromising in certain areas where you’d rather not. But you cannot win every battle, and you must understand where you cannot compromise and where you must actually compromise.

It was a productive, if draining, short week. Friday was a public holiday (Good Friday), part of a four-day weekend as the Monday was also a holiday (Easter observed). I spent much of the week in long brainstorming sessions with Adam, getting everything that had been in my head for months and months out into whiteboards and Google docs. These next few weeks of evaluating our exact next moves and complementary solution set will be a lot of fun, but boy do we have a lot of work to do before the end of May.

She's guilty. Really.

She’s guilty. Really.

As do I in my sporting life. In the past few weekends I’ve spent a grand total of over 10 hours in the gym (all in sessions of 3+ hours) with my fellow Regionals competitor, Lara. We’ve done now two metcons side by side, and two partner metcons and both times it was really great. I may not be in great shape at the moment but it’s great to have another girl who’s at about my level (she’s better: I’m not gonna lie!) to throw down with. The first workout, after cleans where I went up to about 90% of my max having not done heavy cleans in months due to my shoulder, I came off the 2k row 20 seconds behind, caught up and passed her on the 50 handstand pushups, finished the 50 toes-to-bar maybe 20 seconds behind, then fell a bit behind on the 50 thrusters before my shoulders just gave out on the overhead walking lunge. Shoulder stability not what it could be -> more rehab & gymnastics needed!

But seriously what a horrible chipper workout! It was so hot that day and I was doing my toes-to-bar in such full sun by the time I got to the thrusters I was thinking “gah, REALLY?” Did 5 and did NOT want to do the next 45. But this is CrossFit, not a thing where you choose to quit unless there’s something really wrong.

That left me sore for a day or two. Consolation, post-coffee, was to chill with Carla & Gary at The Grand by the Waterfront (in what felt like 40 degree heat!!!), followed by not one but TWO dinners with one of the guys from Mobinil on his last evening in Cape Town. Ahh, my life is indeed not uninteresting. I really miss having Carla around. She’s cool for lots of reasons: being human, being real, and she’s absolutely beautiful to watch in movement. I guess it’s the modern world; I’m now used to being on WhatsApp nearly daily with people in various continents & countries. You can almost feel connected. Almost.

My lovelies :)

My lovelies 🙂

Fast forward to a few days later and I found myself in Kalk Bay talking partnership over a bacon & brie omelette. File this one, too, under completely unexpected a few months back. Manoeuvrings of a chess board. One very strange thing about business is that you never actually know what’s happening when you’re not in the room. Who knows what deals are going down until they’re done? Well, I suppose that depends. Secrets do indeed have a way of getting out!

A few hours watching the world go by, followed by a long lunch with my friend Jo who I hadn’t seen in months. Kalk Bay, sunshine, people watching, and discussing life, surprises, love, expectations, and the importance to me of physical strength. I’ve become as much a physical snob as an intellectual one, but by golly, I have a hard enough time keeping away from cheesecake & chocolate! This is not how competition season is supposed to be. Sigh.

My lunch view

My lunch view

Easter weekend in Cape Town was one of athletics! My roommate Kate ran the Two Oceans ultra-marathon – 56km, and a hilly 56km at that! While she ran I slept in, then went to the gym to do some heavy cleans & power cleans to destroy the legs, before attempting 2012 Regionals WOD 4, which was: 50 back squats @43, 40 pullups, 30 shoulder to overhead @43, 50 front squats @29, 40 pullups, 30 shoulder to overhead @29, 50 overhead squats @20, 40 pullups, 30 shoulder to overhead @20. Now, my shoulder isn’t perfect and getting weight from overhead back to my shoulder strained it, so in a brilliant move (ha!) I decided to substitute 30 handstand pushups for the first shoulder-to-overheads. Great idea except that it let Lara get much further ahead of me, and then I ripped both my hands on the pullups. Not the most fun.

After a little break, we did a partner workout which was an absolute nightmare. We decided that 5x500m rowing sounded dreadful because we were tired so instead decided on 200m of shuttle runs, 10 burpees, and 14 dumbbell snatches @20kgs per round. Brilliant. After one round I wanted to claim I was tired or injured and stop, but that is not what one does. We were FINISHED after six rounds.

Right when we were done was time to pick up Kate, who was so bonked from the race (race director messed up and there was insufficient hydration available to runners – VERY BAD) that she didn’t know where she was enough to direct me to her. Thank heavens for Google Maps, as I finally found her!! She was happy and so was I because a double burger & coffee awaited me at Hudson’s! Later on that evening we went down to Kommetjie for a dinner/braai, and I’ll be the first to admit that I may have been more wrecked than Kate!!

The next morning up and at it again: this time to finish my strength cycle. Made it up to 80kgs for front squats (for reps, not max), but my body was so fried from the day before, which was greater than my normal volume, that I have never felt so mentally tough for finishing a strength portion of a workout.

Then I had box jumps in my metcon and my body did not want to jump on the box! No spring to my legs at all. Surprise, surprise! Final workout, after some skill work, was another team workout. Six rounds of 8 burpees, sled pull then push with 30kgs on the sled, and 15 GHD situps. This was a funny one too; Lara was saying the day before that having someone there to push her made her go faster than she would have otherwise. Same for me! No backing down when a teammate is there or someone is watching. But on this workout her sled pulls were far faster than mine but my GHDs were way faster. If I have a skill I excel at, it’s GHD situps. I think that back flexibility may be good for something … now if only I had that same flexibility in my shoulders & hips!!

Round six...

Round six…

But wow; we sure did earn our lunch, before going on a driving tour of all the parks we could find in Oranjezicht area for an outdoor pullup bar where we could practice bar muscle ups since the bars at CCF pretty well suck for that. So much fun to explore parts of this beautiful, stunning city I’d never been in. Table Mountain from Oranjezicht is just so stunning and dramatic.

What’s all this made me realise? Firstly, it’s awesome to have a training buddy. Why? Spending four hours in the gym per day by yourself is very Rocky but not necessarily a ton of fun. It’s nice to have company. Some people go to the spa; we go to the gym. Habits could be worse, I suppose!

Second: things are easier together. There is safety in numbers and power in teams, so long as they are good teams and there is affection, respect, and trust.

One of the scenes from our tour

One of the scenes from our tour

Third: we have various insular worlds. No one cares about CrossFit outside of CrossFit. No one cares about kung fu & traditional Chinese medicine & qi outside of martial arts (although they should, including me, I can tell my qi is depleted from my eyes & hair, despite my recent sufficiency of sleep). No one cares about Wi-Fi business models or the changing telecoms market outside of this little crazy world I entered 20 months ago.

Arrogance, ignorance, and counting chickens before they are hatched. These are the things that get me going as a competitor.

Best way to get the best from me? Give me the same ammunition as the opposition, and the knowledge that I can win. The competitor in me will do the rest.

My main weakness as a competitor? Same as anyone: my own head. Hence practicing stuff you’re bad at (goats), training with heavy weights to take the fear away, and, the mind f*ck that is single movement modalities or dreadful couplets. The mind always fails before the body.

Here’s a fun one: simple visualisation. Do a max broad jump, then visualise yourself jumping 1m further. Open your eyes and jump. See what happens. Visualisation is the more important, underutilised tool, because, like strategic prediction, most people don’t know how to do it properly. It’s always a work in progress even for experts!

Use it or lose it. Moral of the story. Do or die and don’t not do something because it’s hard. Try it exactly because of that fact.

Or just go to the beach. #CapeTown

Or just go to the beach. #CapeTown

Funny thing about the graveyard: it really does bring some sense of scale to our little lives. But as the BH3 m*rathon weekend reminded me, every day that goes by we’re one day closer to death. Don’t rest, because your competition may not.

But here’s the other thing in this crazy little telecoms world: everyone’s so focused on name-dropping and this and that. Forget who you’re talking to, even forget your customer base: focus on your customer. Lose the market, lose your way. The graveyard is full of smart people. Being smart isn’t enough.

You also need to be good, with a touch of lucky.

  • “Don’t you recognise her? She’s famous.” “This one’s pretty famous himself.” – (no egos here….)
  • “My life is not uninteresting.” – Ellie
  • “Did you just say colonic irrigation?” “No. Department of Communications.” – Gary & Ellie
  • “Don’t think small. Not that you are.” – Tristan
  • “Are we missing anything?” “Probably.” – Ellie & Adam
  • “That’s a brilliant idea. I don’t know why you’re giving it away.” “Because I don’t think anyone else can actually do it.” – Christopher & Ellie
  • “Why are they asking me if their quote is accurate? And by the way, it’s not!” – Ellie
  • “What is that? 105?” “No. That’s 135.” – Ellie & Laura (I don’t do pounds!!)
  • “We would have been better off rowing.” “… Yeah …” – Ellie & Lara
  • “So I can run from here to there faster than you. So what? So f*cking what?” – Bobby
  • “Being kind is more important than being clever.” – Michael Jordaan
  • “I didn’t realise it was a competition.” “Everything’s a competition.” – Ellie & Lara
  • “I saw you the other day at Canal Walk. You were with three men in suits. You looked important!” “Who did? Them or me?” “You both did!” – Sandbar waiter & me
  • “Your whole life is changing so suddenly!” – Lara
  • “I’m here 50 minutes before my flight leaves! So EARLY!” – Ellie

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