2014

i

“In this life, it doesn’t matter what you know. It matters what you do.”

So key I had to restate this. Related: it’s not what you’re capable of that matters. It’s what you actually do. This was explained to me years back – if you measure a muscle and it has the theoretical strength to do something like bench press 100kgs, that means nothing unless the human that has the muscle is able to recruit it to complete an actual lift.

A few posts ago, among other things, I wrote about the lessons I’d learned in the last year or so.

Having had a few more weeks to reflect, and also rest my brain, I realise that there was something even more fundamental.

Stellenbosch ... one of my favourite places on Earth

Stellenbosch … one of my favourite places on Earth

Talk is cheap. Action is what matters. Nothing new here. But you will never have intrinsic motivation in yourself, or promote it in those around you, unless there is skin in the game. You can have action without intrinsic motivation, sure. But it will be a shadow of what it would otherwise be.

So if your job, like mine, involves coalition-building and persuasion, your big challenge is to figure out how to get sufficient skin in the game. It takes two to tango. Sometimes more, in the business world.

When I started the year, I thought I was running a Wi-Fi company. And I was. I did know that the value wasn’t in the Wi-Fi but what you did with it, and that the innovation was in the business model, the packaging, and the go to market approach.

By the end, I realised that this was necessary but not sufficient. The last few weeks of the year came a few opportunities and potential partnerships from completely left field … or so I thought because I was looking from inside the telecoms box.

Hills are for sprinting

Hills are for sprinting

Damn these boxes! They’re like Russian dolls; I keep breaking through one just to discover I’m in another.

And breaking out of a box doesn’t always necessarily help. It’s like Chutes & Ladders. Sometimes, going up a ladder isn’t actually what you really want to be doing.

I also learned just exactly to what degree righteous indignation is my Kryptonite. Man, ugly stuff comes out when I do my absolute best and get slammed for it, especially if that absolute best is relatively pretty damn good.

Lessons are easy. Applying what you’ve learned is hard. This is why I always seem to find myself back on the same exact hamster wheel – running as hard as I can just to keep in the same place, and getting increasingly stressed out about it.

What is the definition of insanity, again?

Sandy Helen ... one of the scariest things on the planet

Sandy Helen … one of the scariest things on the planet

So yeah. Changes, yes, but more fundamentally, the same old shit. Although the stakes were definitely higher by the end of the year, in almost every conceivable way.

How many times have I said that I won’t try to predict the future because I have been wrong so many times? Yet still.

No way when I woke up on January 1st at J’s house in Vermont could I have predicted the various twists and turns and new people that would come into my life. Some friends that are now close I’d only met a few months before the end of 2013. I didn’t even know what was what at WAPA yet. A vicious new enemy had yet to really emerge. Skyrove and my staff had all my loyalty.

Not all of the vignettes come out in the photos or the quotes.

Rush hour at Rivonia & Witkoppen

Rush hour at Rivonia & Witkoppen

Doing Filthy Fifty during a 12-hour period where I wasn’t quite sure if my world was imploding or not.

Finding something I needed in the halls of Internet Solutions, of all places.

Feeling physically ill watching Jason on his final rope climb at Regionals.

Whiskey & stories of crazy Cairo at 2am in Hermanus with my Egyptian friends.

These guys :)

These guys 🙂

Sitting in the same park I’d sat in a year earlier, consciously reflecting on the differences between then and now.

Standing on a rainy street corner in Paris close to midnight.

Seeing my father playing with every chien he came into contact with.

Driving through the French countryside listening to Jeremy Loops.

Watching France win a World Cup match in Paris with Cedric.

The look of near panic on a guy’s face who had previously been dismissive to me when he met me in a new context and put 2&2 together.

Having my luggage searched by the police at Cape Town airport while on a conference call with France … the best part is when they said my protein powder looked like heroin. Apparently heroin is green. Who knew?

Being elected as Chairperson of WAPA at breakfast.

That rush of excitement every time I see the Johannesburg skyline.

I love this city.

I love this city.

Having one of the most important insights of my career that came as I was speaking extemporaneously in front of the Joburg sw7 crew.

Having my heart in my throat on the two occasions when I felt I was in clear & present physical danger.

Getting very bad news while in the car on the way to Durban for a competition.

Looking at one of my UWS teammates who had just done something amazing with a feeling that can only be described as joy.

Feeling for the first time how the second pull of the clean is supposed to feel.

Speaking at Africacom.

Having a whole Skype call while idling in a loading zone in Rosebank.

Watching my friends get married.

Moving out of my Cape Town apartment.

I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it a hundred times more: I don’t cry over spilt milk. I don’t sweat the small stuff, and I guess it wouldn’t be accurate to say I don’t sweat the big stuff. But I don’t let it dominate me.

I've always loved hibiscus

I’ve always loved hibiscus

As my friend Beatrix once posted on Facebook, shortly before dumbbell snatching her team to the CrossFit Games (and defeating our second-place team in the process): I will not be shackled by fear!

But that’s just words. Some things scare me indeed, and as much as I wish this was a completely true statement it is not. It is only partially true. I won’t be shackled by minor fears.

I’m not patient, but I can be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I’m not actually necessarily in the right market at the right time for what I am presently working on. But I don’t care. There are other advantages to being here.

I often say to overseas partners that this is a “value-conscious” market. You can’t sell cool. You have to sell ROI. This is a good thing because it sharpens the knife. There is so much wasted human potential creating things like bobble-head dolls and trading on ignorance and stupidity.

I think life is too short and too precious to be one of those people; to be an also-ran.

At the same time, my patience is wearing thin in a few places.

I also love roses, windmills, and bright blue skies

I also love roses, windmills, and bright blue skies

When I was younger, like 22 or so, immediately post-Jeeves, I was the adult version of a teenager. I had worked four years for an internet startup and done things people with 20 years of experience had never done. I kind of thought I knew everything (or would figure it out); although granted I knew that there was a lot I didn’t know: finance, sales, how to actually form and negotiate strategic partnerships. At that point in my life I could figure out how to make most things work. But I couldn’t visualise new things.

So what did I really learn? Probably the single biggest thing is what I see as a rise of horizontal players that partner with vertical players, ideally crossing the boundaries of traditional industries. And you challenge the status quo not with size and might but with doing stuff they need, that they can’t. Goliath never had a chance indeed.

The other thing? It’s arrogant to think that just because you know better you’ll succeed. It’s not just about the right ideas and the right execution. Or that and the right connections.

No, I think I’ve figured out how you make your own luck. Pick your proverbial bedfellows carefully.

I’ve not ever been one for new years’ resolutions. You either commit to something or you don’t, and a change in the calendar doesn’t change anything.

Having said that, there is always a time to be deciding things and therefore the key question, after a prolonged rest, was: to what, exactly, do I want to commit myself in 2015?

When I was growing up I used to dream that I could fly. I don't dream that dream any more.

When I was growing up I used to dream that I could fly. I don’t dream that dream any more.

A few things I know. A few I suspect. And a few, I probably haven’t encountered yet. The future, after all, is none of our business.

And a few will fall by the wayside, or I will reverse course.

Only a foolish person is a slave to consistency bias.

  • “Sometimes the devil is stronger than the angel.” “What you’re really saying is, you’re the devil.” – Ellie & Jen
  • “Did you really just encourage me to go cause drama?” “You don’t need any encouragement! You’re going to do it anyway!” “Yeah, but you don’t need to encourage me!!”  – Ellie & Anita
  • “If you’re going to be arrogant, you have to be careful that there’s basis for that.” – Jade
  • “Sometimes a kick in the teeth is not a metaphor for anything else, it’s just a kick in the teeth.” – Mom
  • “I wanna be an agent of destruction! Where do I sign up?” “Stick around a while. You may move up in the world.” – Ellie & Dominic
  • “They’re already not playing ball.” – Dominic
  • “And This? What is this?” “That’s our bandwidth bill.” – Tim & Ellie
  • “You’re very calm & collected.” “Always.” – Allister & Ellie
  • “We think we are rational but we’re not. We’re good rationalisers.” – Sam
  • “He can call me whenever it’s convenient.” “He’ll call you after midnight.” – Ellie & Blake
  • “We had a good run.” – Rudolph
  • “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” – Brent
  • “I’m predictable. You’re predictable. You predicted my response to this whole thing, even down to my emotional reaction. Right?” – Ellie
  • “If you get this right, it’s huge.” – Dominic
  • “Being positive in a negative situation is not naïve. It’s leadership.” – Andrea
  • “It looks like a cat and it walks like a cat. But it’s not a cat. ” “It’s going to be a long night.” – Bassem & Maged
  • “It’s an OTT world.” “There is no hope.” – Ellie & Sébastien
  • “Don’t you recognise her? She’s famous.” “This one’s pretty famous himself.” – Ellie & Sébastien
  • “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
  • “No, man, I’m past anger. I’m onto scorn & condescension.” – Ellie
  • “So that was strike two. Strike three-“ – Ellie
  • “But in happier news, Selina Lo is now following me on Twitter.” “Who’s Selina Lo?” – Ellie & Kate
  • “Oh, f*ck you and your enthusiasm for life!” “It’s great to see you, too, Dominic!” – Dominic & Ellie
  • “Is there any way to get out of telecoms once you’re in?” “I’m sure it’s possible. I just don’t see how.” – Ellie & Enrico
  • “I follow you very closely. Not like a stalker.” “I’d be very careful about what you say next.” – Paul & Paul
  • “Oh my. I should Tweet that. I just got called Voldemort’s spokesperson.” – Voldemort’s spokesperson
  • “Just keep fighting. Keep fighting as hard as you can.” – Sam
  • “Yes you are. Now we just need to teach you how to drink.” – Rick
  • “’Core network’ is like ‘backhaul.’ It means whatever you want it to mean.” – Ellie
  • “How’s your mole? Is it a good mole?” “I don’t know. It’s not my mole.” – Paul & Ellie
  • “You must not let fate control your destiny.” – Shirfu
  • “Sometimes people don’t listen to me. They do eventually.” – Ellie
  • “I mean, really: what part of this is not personal?” – Lara
  • “I could have sworn I clarified that a minute ago. They must not be used to signing NDAs with companies that don’t exist.” – Ellie
  • “There is no doubt in my mind that you’ve got a monster on your hands.” – Ant
  • “Education without a dedication to truth is like an ocean without the water.” – Coach JJ
  • “Wait. So you’re a CEO, a trade union leader, and a labour court judge. Is there anything else I should know about you?” – Ellie
  • “Well that’s clearly not entirely true or you wouldn’t be bothering to call me right now.” – Ellie
  • “There is clearly a war.” – Wilfried
  • “What is this? This is a joke!” “No! This is Cybersmart!” – Josh & Ellie
  • “The easiest way to take a radio out is a rifle.” – Paul
  • “I love it. You’re so calm. I can be kind of high strung. And then you’re just like: ‘Why don’t you just do a layer 2 tunnel?’” – Ellie
  • “Wow. You really do know the right people.” – Donovan
  • “People who challenge you on real stuff. Not on bullshit.” “Amen.” – Katlego & Ellie
  • “I told him ‘When you get over your crisis, get me the information.’” – Neelay
  • “I took his money. And I told him ‘no.’” – my favourite lawyer
  • “That’s a nice jacket. Is that a VODACOM jacket?!?” – Tristan
  • “You playing in the sand pit with the big boys.” “I thought you were going to say with snakes!” – Neelay & Ellie
  • “Always, in life, it’s your fault.” – Fred
  • “These guys are smart but they are playing. And their play can be very destructive.” – Cedric
  • “Bwahahaha! You just said ‘unlimited voice.’” – Ellie
  • “What are you up to?” “World domination.” “No, that’s not f*cking vague at all!” – Jaco & Ellie
  • “That’s like drinking Miller Lite.” “No, Boet. This is SAB.” “SAB makes Miller Lite.” “…. Yeah. That’s very true actually!” – Paddy & Ollie
  • “Rack mountable means being able to rack mount it. Not having to ask later for the rack mount kit. ” – Neelay
  • “What do you mean they didn’t know they had to connect the cross-connect? What did they think it was for? Decoration?” – Ellie
  • “If I didn’t drink coffee or alcohol I’d be a lot healthier.” “You’d also be a lot less connected.” – Ellie & Enrico
  • “It’s a burning platform that’s burning very slowly. But the whole damn thing is burning!” – Ellie
  • “Monday is my two year anniversary in telecoms.” “My. How far you’ve come.” – Ellie & Dominic
  • “I ordered fish. And I got a bowl of fish guts and sauce.” – Riaan
  • “I would propose you.” “You can propose that all you want.” – Jens & Ellie
  • “Just because this is Africa doesn’t mean people are stupid!!” – Ellie
  • “It’s not about how fast you do the work. It’s about how little you rest.” – Rick
  • “I don’t normally warm up with 100 kilos. Today was an exception.” – Ellie
  • “I love Neotel.” “Are you drinking wine?” – Ellie & Neelay
  • “Yeah why did you hire me, anyway? Oh yeah. Jens told you to.” “Yeah. That’s pretty much true.” – Neelay & Ellie
  • “This is gonna be a thing, isn’t it?” “Yes.” – Ellie & Marnus
  • “We can give you a cross-connect.” (MWEB to IS) “This is getting weird.” – me
  • “You just go to those meetings to see Ian, don’t you?” “Yes.” – Ellie & Enrico (Days of our City indeed ….)
  • “When you’re up, everyone wants a piece of you. And when you’re down, no one wants anything to do with you.” – Maredi
  • “If you want to win, you have to be competitive.” – Coach Andrew
  • “I was hoping my initial impression was biased and incorrect.” “Unfortunately, you were correct.” – Enrico & Ellie
  • “If you’re not competing with them, your aspirations aren’t high enough.” – Riaan
  • “But we’re the good guys, right?” – Ellie
  • “Common sense should prevail but it’s not a commodity in our industry at the moment.” – Niel
  • “You’re a chemical engineer?” “Yes.” “And now you’re in telecoms?” “It’s still chemical engineering.” – Ellie & Thami
  • “It’s the brain that fires the fibres.” – Coach Andrew
  • “No biscuits for MWEB.” – Robbie
  • “But where do you live?” “I don’t know!” “I’m confused.” “I’m confused too.” – Sébastien & Ellie
  • “Never follow two British guys into a bar.” “… so where did you meet Cedric?” “In a bar.” – Marc & Ellie
  • “I have a major disability.” “You’re American? [*wink*] Nobody’s perfect.” – Ellie & Sébastien
  • “Gossip is just gossip, until it’s told to you in confidence.” – Ellie
  • “Just because you’re afraid of failure doesn’t mean you’re a f*cking coward.” – Jaco
  • “You know we could be very dangerous together.” “Uh-huh.” – Richie & Ellie
  • “So. Are you interested?” – John
  • “I never actually answered your question.” “You don’t have to right now.” – Ellie & Raj
  • “Don’t kid yourself, Ellie. You are doing this for the money.” – Marnus
  • “That’s going to generate a lot of attention.” “Yes it will.” “So: it better work.” – Ellie & Duncan
  • “Oh no. I didn’t realise peanut butter came with chocolate chips.” “It does.” “You just ruined my life.” – Ellie & Candice
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