What Lies Beneath


Every once in a while, something happens that makes you rethink everything.

And by ‘something happens’ I guess what I mean is that I do something. Or I meet someone. Or I encounter new information.

The first week of February was certainly one of those weeks. I walked through some doors I didn’t actually ever expect to, and I found out that a friend I made late last year had really taken some of what I told him to heart. He’s now having a tremendous amount of fun stirring the pot.

We’re going to have some fun this year. I hope.

Trying to get the mix of patience and urgency is an interesting game.

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valour.

And sometimes, you learn that putting too many eggs in one basket wasn’t particularly a good idea.

Just a small reminder

Just a small reminder

They say that opportunity often only knocks once, and as much as it’s true that if you turn it down because you’re scared or you don’t hear it knock because you’re distracted with something trivial, it’s also true that the opportunity doesn’t stay there forever. You snooze, you lose. Opportunities and people do not wait indefinitely before they choose or are forced to route around you.

Anyway had a most interesting meeting with one of the men I most respect in this industry. As much as I adore Sébastien I respect Wilfried, and, one of the things I like is that he’s a straight-talker. Hearing some of the things he had to say on this occasion was, oh, what’s the right word … vindicating?

So, the truth almost always comes out in the end. Plausible deniability will only get you so far. Putting on a mask will only get you so far. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but the ones that are insightful, not so much.

And you know what else is good, if you have the right mind set for it? Having someone else around not afraid to call you out on your bullshit when necessary. I suppose I wouldn’t want it any other way.

It is, however, interesting to really sit and get to the root of our own thoughts and behaviours. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at analysing other people without really even trying – why do they act as they do? Why do they say what they do? Why do they say one thing and do another?

And why do we choose such wildly different paths? And, are we actually happy?

And why do we choose such wildly different paths? And, are we actually happy?

Sometimes it’s neither here nor there. Sometimes it’s very frustrating (like when people say they will do something and then they do not). Sometimes it’s very confusing and you wind up questioning your own perceptions of what is actually going on.

But then there’s me. I know for me there is nothing stronger than my intrinsic motivation but where does that come from? And why do I fly off the handle, like really off the handle, when certain buttons get pushed?

I’m very introspective. I know the things I don’t want to share with other people no matter how close, and I often do have a good understanding of my own choices. So I like to think I know myself pretty well.

Know your enemies, know your friends, and know yourself

Know your enemies, know your friends, and know yourself

But we all have blind spots. That’s why they are called blind spots. And it can be very interesting when someone stumbles upon one of mine. It’s almost like digging up a hornet’s nest. Feels strange, but also good.

Like a good coach will push you places you didn’t think you’d go, you can sometimes get pushed into emotional places you wouldn’t necessarily push yourself either through external events or even something as simple as a conversation.

I was chatting to Neil, who is the owner & head coach at Ballistix CrossFit earlier in the year and he was asking me how I was doing. I said I was fine, shoulder better, but more to the point – I was really enjoying myself. We go through phases of motivation in most things. I do at least. I have just been having a lot of fun – working with my coach, fixing my Olympic lifting, finally being able to get back to doing things with my shoulders. Improving in [mostly] all areas.

I was so happy, like a kid with a new toy, when I learned I could do strict muscle ups again. I have never in my life attracted a crowd of boys so quickly as I did one afternoon at the gym. And I meant to do only a few but then I kept being asked to demonstrate for the people that didn’t see! Funny. I am still scared of kipping ones though and bar muscle ups; both hurt my rotator cuff but at least the pain is moving away from my bicep tendon.

One of the things I’ve been thinking into a lot is South Africa, and Johannesburg. I’m here and I love it here. But why am I here, and why do I love it? We have everything that I love from the mountains of the Western Cape to jacarandas and a pioneering spirit to carjackings and shack fires and loadshedding and loadshedding-induced traffic snafus and incredibly in-your-face classist society.

This is RSA in a nutshell right now

This is RSA in a nutshell right now

I guess it’s like asking why I like anything. It’s real. Same reason I’ll like someone more that says what they think even if I think it’s weird or disagree, just so long as they have some reason behind it and are open to change their view when presented with new data or experience.

In this week I changed a couple of approaches based on new data. I can’t say I regret it, but as with all things, time will tell.

But in all seriousness, this loadshedding thing is no joke. Never in my life have I had to think about such things as having enough water at home to last me if the water or power goes out for weeks. If this happens in Cape Town I’m screwed probably. And you try going to a gym in 30 degree heat with no power and no water. Not fun.

Yeah, we're hardcore at Kyalami training in the near-darkness

Yeah, we’re hardcore at Kyalami training in the near-darkness

Here’s an example – the other day my car was low on petrol as I was driving home from the gym and I had quite a few early meetings so I wanted to refuel it. First petrol station – no power. Second one, power but card machine not working and I had insufficient cash. Third one – no power. And in between all this, massive traffic because the traffic lights were also without power.

One thing I will say – if Johannesburg were Boston we’d have gridlock for days. At least people here, mostly, respect all-way stops. William Nicol during loadshedding is another thing entirely but we won’t get into that; it’s the exception not the rule.

Finally I found one with power to card machines and petrol pumps. Hooray! Then the next day I was driving to Durban for a girls’ weekend with my friend Amy and some of her lovely friends and I stop for lunch, then refuel my car, give the attendant my card … and wait. Then I hear another attendant say something about loadshedding. Eventually mine comes back. No, he says, the power is out we can’t take your card. Happily I had cash.

Makes you think. The fragility of things we take for granted. Also how much we do not appreciate things until they are all of a sudden tenuous.

The weekend in Durban was great fun, once I finally arrived after a too-long car ride. Road trip alone with my thoughts was great but 4 hours is about my limit. 6 is loooong.

Also they mostly don't have large bottles of sparkling water. Weird.

Also they mostly don’t have large bottles of sparkling water. Weird.

The reason for the weekend was a trip to Madame Zingara which is kind of like a show/mini circus and dinner all combined into one. It was definitely a nice release and also a great opportunity to have a catch up into Amy’s life which is always interesting. She’s treading a very interesting personal and professional path and, like me, she is not really sure where it will lead.

One thing I do know – I don’t predict the future. But I do know what I want, and that it’s not unreasonable, and that at the same time as everything is changing, everything is also coming together.

I guess now we see what happens when the other shoe drops.

  • “And you tell me *I* can be obnoxious?” – Neelay
  • “Do you want some tequila?” “Yes, actually.” “Well I don’t have any.” – Ellie & Neelay
  • “He said, and I quote: ‘They need all the help they can get. As I said I think you’re on the right track.” “Well this just confirmed everything. This just confirmed everything.” – Neelay
  • “The hamsters can only handle one thing at a time.” – a telecoms boy
  • “If you’re not creating consumption someone else is going to get the money.” – Greg
  • “So how did he get out of that?” “He didn’t. But he thinks he did.” – Ellie & Richie
  • “I think you’re perfectly positioned.” – Richie
  • “No. That’s the wrong approach. First you empathise. Then you tell them to get their sh*t together.” – Ellie
  • “Probably 6-8 times.” “You’re right. It’s 8 times.” – Richie & Ellie (this was right before I got 2/3 right on the next pop quiz … if I were playing ‘Not My Job’ on ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’ and the subject was scary American companies I’d be doing pretty damn well)
  • “It’s called going into the lion’s mouth. But I like going in there.” – Richie
  • “Telkom’s got some particularly special problems.” (don’t we all)
  • “There are people putting information out there deliberately.” – Sean (welcome to humanity)
  • “I received the message.” – Wilfried
  • “You forgot to mention the game changer?” “Yes!” – Ellie & Wilfried
  • “OK you don’t need to laugh at me all right now.” “Mine was a cough.” “He was choking I was laughing.” – Ellie, Adam, & Neelay
  • “Well, you didn’t lie. You said ‘not today.’” “Yeah. I don’t lie.” – Neelay & Ellie
  • “OMW if I could deliver a punch to Cape Town I would.” “I was waiting for that.” – Ellie & Neelay (predictable much?)
  • “What comes around goes around, Ellie.” – Steve
  • “Uh – this is not an outfit Ellie.” A few minutes later … “It is cute, though!” – Amy
  • “We are indulging in a fantasy right now.” – Amy
  • “You scared the devil away.” – Talisha
  • “It’s actually endless what it can do.” – Kerry-Anne (on the mind)
  • “It should be called ‘the epic customer pilgrimage that never gets you anywhere.’” – Amy (on the term ‘customer journey’ .. it must be a telecoms thing; I always used to say ‘the user experience’)

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