The Goldilocks Effect

5f

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
– Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

 

I think that he was trying to say is, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Over the last few months, I’ve become quite close with my landlady. What an interesting person I find her! Schooled in China, living in “darkest Africa” as she calls it, through the war, back and forth from England, married to a peacock who eventually broke her heart. One night she told two separate stories of how he had been walking in front of her and other women had perked up at the sight of this beautiful man.

After the second story I asked her why he was always walking in front of her. Somehow, she had never had this insight. To me, horrible; disrespectful.

But the signs are always there, even if we refuse to let ourselves see them, or accept them for what they are (for good or for bad).

The other half of her story is a worse tragedy. She experienced this mystical thing that I’m not sure most people ever do experience, which is love at first sight with a man she met for one night on an army base in Africa while his regiment was in transit. The next day of course, he went away, and when they did meet up later in life he was [unhappily] married with three kids.

She brought me a gift later in the week. Isn't that thoughtful?

She brought me a gift later in the week. Isn’t that thoughtful?

They say that truth is stranger sometimes than fiction, and I can believe it. I promise you could make a movie out of this woman’s life. And now, towards the end of it, she is living alone in Johannesburg renting out cottages on her property for income. Well, I am glad to say that I have made a new friend from living here, in addition to the lovely garden I get to stay in and the community around me that cared enough to look after my cat when I was travelling.

Different cultures are different and I can obviously only speak from my own experience but one of the critiques of modern American life, and South African life is not entirely dissimilar, is the degree to which we are detached from our neighbours. This is largely true, I have found. Mostly we go about our day-to-day lives in isolation. When we arrive at work, or the gym, or out to dinner with our friends, then we engage. In between, we kind of just acknowledge the existence of others but mostly don’t deeply engage.

In Vredehoek, I became friends with my upstairs neighbour, who would then catsit for me if I needed. Here in Johannesburg, my landlady is definitely a friend and both she and one of my other neighbours offered to let me borrow their cars since mine is in the shop.

I feel so tremendously lucky at times. That is one example.

Autumn is coming to Johannesburg

Autumn is coming to Johannesburg

Timing is everything. I was telling Sam at dinner that I often really have lived a semi-charmed life in a lot of ways. Not just in the obvious ways of having been born into a good family, in good health, with a good head on my shoulders, but more so in the events that have happened to me. How I wound up working for Jeeves. How I wound up starting CrossFit. How certain events that seemed trivial at the time wound up being fundamental pivots in my life now that I look backward.

But that’s all normal; everyone has those. I’m talking about how my car actually literally broke down (bad), but did so right as I arrived at my destination (amazing stroke of luck, considering that 10 minutes prior it would have been in the middle of roadworks on Witkoppen road and I would have had to cancel dinner and have the car towed or guaranteed it would not have been there later!). And who is in the parking lot but a friend who works at Neotel?

How I was once saved in the nick of time by the police. How on a few occasions a couple of years back when I felt in real danger for my life, I looked internally as calmly as one can at such a time and knew it wasn’t yet my time, and I was right. How when I once nodded off while driving, I woke up in time not only not to drive off the road into the tree but enough that I didn’t hit a darn thing. How when all politics in the universe seemed to be working against us, Rudolph and I managed to pull off ICCAT at a time when the alternative would have spelled disaster. Even my damn Patriots are lucky (Eli Manning aside….).

And now? Who they are is not important but if I think about some of the quite senior and powerful people that have become my friends, or have taken me under their wing, or are promoting me in the industry rather than try and tear me down, I realise what Ant was saying a few weeks back is absolutely right. The je ne sais quoi of business success, that luck, if you will, is crucial. Where it comes from, I have no idea, but in my case a good deal of it probably comes from my personality and what Doug once said was my best attribute – my enthusiasm.

When I lose that enthusiasm is when I get into serious trouble. This has been the case with every job, every hobby, even every relationship. That’s why the rut is so damn dangerous and I don’t want to fall into that with any of the things that are important to me now. That fight, that love, that passion, and energy is kind of the essence of how I think of myself.

It’s a rare day I get out of bed and want to do anything other than take on the world, but some days it can indeed be overwhelming! Comes, perhaps, from biting off more than you can chew.

Life is most definitely not a fairy tale. Or maybe it is because I guess the classic fairy tales were really nightmares, right? But from a loving family where I grew up, to St Paul’s where we were literally taught that we were the crème de la crème, to then being a paper millionaire at age 22 or something like that (definitely not the case any more; far from it….), I’ve always had this innate feeling inside me that I’m very lucky and nothing so bad would happen to me that I couldn’t recover from it.

This fantastic athlete is fighting harder than ever. It's inspiring to see.

This fantastic athlete is fighting harder than ever. It’s inspiring to see.

Take this latest injury … under two weeks later and I’m doing muscle ups. Not many. And not well. But considering that only three weeks ago I couldn’t do them at all, then I got a grade 1 tear in my shoulder ….. could I be luckier?

I’ve been kind of sick all week. Not sick sick, but not well. I did one long metcon and nearly died (then my car did die, ha!). I’ve been calling it a malaise. If you’re not feeling strong, you don’t really want to train, your head is not in the game. For the first time ever, I re-did an Open workout because my head was not in the game the first time around and I was annoyed. The second time was not a good performance either because it had been a bit of a rough day, I was tired, had a sore throat, and I was more angry and determined than anything else.

Unplanned de-load week, I guess. I took Tuesday & Thursday off; Friday was light, and Wednesday was a beautiful day because genius coach sees something in my technique that is subtle but fundamental and by that afternoon the weight I was struggling to hang clean for singles a few days before I was easily doing for doubles. And I wasn’t even feeling that strong. I love that guy.

Yesterday I woke up in the morning and the first thing I thought was how happy I was. The second thing I thought was how lucky I was. The third thing I thought was “oh great, muscle ups.”

The glass is half full

The glass is half full

So I go to the gym and was just warming up, as you do, and one of the guys calls me over and asks me to help teach some of the others how to do muscle ups. I am not a coach and I really wasn’t sure what to say but I told him the same tips I give everyone and critiqued a few things on his progressions then damned if he doesn’t get in the rings and get his first one. Then two consecutive after that. I have no idea what I did; it didn’t work on the girls I tried to teach later, but to see that happiness on his face and how sincere he was in thanking me made me want to cry a little bit.

I know I’m not a coach or a teacher. I don’t have that love and patience in me. I’m a builder. Or maybe a chef or an architect.

But when something like that happens, it makes me really happy. On some level, I really do like helping people.

I have been making some progress. I’ve got my own issues with not invented here, as it turns out, but at a certain point you really must join those you can’t beat. Why must we beat them all anyway? What is it with this competitiveness?

I was thinking a lot about the girls in my gym and the kind of rapport that we have. It is, in a word, supportive. We have one girl, Joanne, who weighs about 55kgs and is a fantastic gymnast. Then we have me; I’m stronger than the other girls and, recently, focusing more on the Olympic lifting. Nicole is fantastic with everything on the pullup bar. Steph, Diana, and Manuella are solid all around.

In an environment where performance is ranked, and something like the Open can cause some friendly or non-friendly rivalries, I have been really happy at how we’ve actually gotten closer as a result of it. Everyone is pushing everyone on. Joanne is the one that made me redo 15.2, which I didn’t really feel like doing but she (correctly) told me I’d regret it if I didn’t and wanted someone to go next to her, which I did. So we help each other. Nicole judged me; and I cheered her on when she went.

Our boys too. One of them gets into his own head a little bit, so just that smile and pat on the back before he goes helps.

I say that I love them. I say that they are my family. In a way it is true.

Even down to the very un-paleo birthday cake for Rick!

Even down to the very un-paleo birthday cake for Rick! Aren’t they flipping beautiful?

But to really love is, of course, different. When I mean it, it’s not a word I use lightly. I love a lot of people, and a lot of things. I was recently reading this lovely compilation which I guess focuses on romantic love but you can read nearly all of these with a broader outlook. I’ve said this a dozen times in this blog but if you’re one of “mine” I will metaphorically throw myself in front of a bus for you. I’m not a martyr, I learned that the hard way, and this is probably part of why I take it very badly when I’m doing my absolute best and I’m then criticised.

I suppose, really, that comes down to a lack of understanding.

On Monday morning I told someone, twice, that I needed to see something through because my interests were getting pulled in a slightly different direction. It was a strange thing for me to say, because I’d only just met the guy.

But it may well be true; in the last few weeks I’ve decided to take a couple of different approaches (hence the focus of the last blog post) and we will see how things pan out. Interesting how time, context, new information, and even new interests can shift what you care about either slowly like a river or rapidly like an avalanche.

As that famous line in the Dropkick Murphys goes, I don’t predict the future I don’t care about the past. Gosh I love the Dropkick Murphys.

Something I don’t love? Disingenuity. I think one of the highlights of my work week was listening to an over-scripted mouthpiece get the smack laid down on him, HARD, by a very well-respected guy in the industry, in public. There was an event by a new trade group, the Wi-Fi Forum. This, as with all such events, was great fun for me as a reunion as for the content of the event. The Wi-Fi Forum was originally launched by one family of companies, so many of the attendees were from this family, if you were.

I accidentally wandered into a restricted area at Montecasino. Funny what you can do when you're not paying attention ..

I accidentally wandered into a restricted area at Montecasino. Funny what you can do when you’re not paying attention ..

It is always interesting to see who hangs out with who, who is watching you, and who is watching you watching them. Ahhh telecoms.

Something else I found very interesting is that the most controversial thing to come out of the day was the degree of consensus that seems to be emerging around the concept of infrastructure sharing, and open access, although this Is not as not by any means a straightforward concept or definition. Great article on this here by the ever-thoughtful Steve Song.

Trust. Doesn’t pretty much everything in our daily human existence come down to trust at the end of the day? We trust that the other drivers won’t run the red lights. We trust that our friend will show up to dinner when she says she will. We trust that when we fall someone will be there to catch us; that when someone makes us a promise they will follow through and not lie or cheat or steal.

Every morning a chance for a new beginning

Every morning a chance for a new beginning

And yet, so often we are betrayed. I mean check the above; in the industry all you need to do right now is mention DFA or SEACOM as examples of the challenges of wholesale models. But what choice do we have but to keep trusting? And this is capitalism, which, like Nature, is red in tooth and claw.

There have been quite a few examples lately where I’ve seen trust betrayed. Facepalms on a nearly daily basis. But again, you really do not have a choice but to pick up and keep going. What else is there?

Anyway – even the Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele, spoke about the importance of infrastructure sharing to lower the cost of communication and promote digital inclusion. These buzzwords boil down to we need to get the internet spread more widely, and available more cheaply. Otherwise it remains a privilege of the rich and the amount of taxpayer funds it would take to put free Wi-Fi everywhere boggles the mind, so clearly that’s out.

Terry Pratchett died this week. As one does I was reading through some memorials and quotes, and this is the one that stuck with me: “There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.”

Best gift

Best gift

Your instinct, if you can identify with it and trust it, is the best asset you can have. It will tell you every time when it makes sense to let go; and it will tell you when holding on is a choice in name only because letting go is about as much an option as trying to decide not to breathe.

I’ve talked before a lot about patience. Sometimes you can be patient on purpose, sometimes you can be impatient but need to pretend to be patient. One other thing I’ve found this year is that it often is indeed true that a watched pot never boils. It’s a strange truism that if you don’t try at all, you won’t ever get, but if you try too hard, you also won’t.

Maybe it should be called The Goldilocks Effect.

Photo by Ryan Sandes, captioned "What hope looks like."

Photo by Ryan Sandes, captioned “What hope looks like.”

  • “That smile of yours!!” – Lynne
  • “I would like to meet up sometime soon for other reasons but will communicate with you in good time.” (cryptic much?)
  • “Oh great. So you’re not only my weightlifting coach but now you’re my drug dealer, too?” – Ellie
  • “Only you.” – Sam
  • “I think you and I have very similar views on this market.” “I think anyone that does not is, quite frankly, not paying attention.” – Nathier & Ellie
  • “They don’t know what they don’t know. But they think they do.” – Ellie
  • “You can do a muscle up?” “Strict.” “You can do a muscle up?” “Strict.”  – Hayden & Ellie
  • “Why are you always surrounded by three men?” – Hanif (I chose to work in telecoms)
  • “I wish I’d practiced this earlier.” – Manuella (life in a nutshell!)
  • “Even if you say ‘for the avoidance of doubt,’ maybe you’re creating some other doubts.” – Thomas
  • “It’s hectic playing with fire like this, but the upside is too good to ignore.” – Ellie
  • “You must be doing something right!” – commentary on my karma
  • “You realise that sounds too good to be true, right?” – Ellie (but it is….)
  • “I use the term ‘coffee’ loosely when referring to Neotel’s coffee.” – Ellie
  • “He’s so slimy he could slide uphill!” (not gonna say who said this about whom but it was classic)
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