Moon, rain, sun, and fog

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Weather, hey. It has a way of reminding us of our size and putting us in our place.

So does life, when it comes right down to it.

After getting back from Zim, I had a relaxing public holiday Friday in which I slept quite a lot because I was still feeling pretty ill. In the evening I went to my friend Sam’s house for a lovely dinner and chat about generic idiocy (her boyfriend is not in telecoms so it keeps us from nerding out for too many hours in a row). She’s just started a new job, and I kind of feel like I’ve started about five.

Well that and one week feels like about three. I had booked a long trip to Cape Town for the public holidays and a competition. I landed on Saturday night and went straight into a dinner and long (cold!) evening under the full moon. Hmm, maybe sitting outside in the cold for hours while getting over a cold wasn’t the best idea in the world? Oh well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. The conversation was good, at least.

That moon though

That moon though

Funny how time flies when you’re having fun. Sometimes 6 hours feels like about 2.

So work is so crazy hectic that there is not enough time in the day even to breathe, it feels like, and when I’m not working the time also rushes by. What does this mean?

Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. I was talking to my mother recently and she said that one of the things my grandfather said on his deathbed was along the lines of ‘What a life; just working for money.’ And we all nod wisely then go back to our workaholic ways.

Well, I have the luxury of conceit that I work quite hard because I’m doing things that have not been done before. And, in this market, at this time, all of a sudden, to say my specific skillset is in demand would be an understatement. I may have a bit of a success problem brewing.

Candice :)

Candice 🙂

Beats the hell out of the alternative, though, I’m not going to lie. After literally years of struggle, you start to wonder if it’s you that’s crazy. Even when you know, deep down, you’re not, and the industry experts you respect the most say the same. Of course, self-delusion is the most insidious kind, and we always do see what we want to see, don’t we?

I still wonder many days how I wound up here, and in this industry, and in the position I now find myself. I had the pleasure of two hours of Dominic’s time at our unofficial meeting room (Rhodes Memorial Tea House … we’ll see how long the place keeps its name in the current climate). There are few people that I’ve met whom I respect more than this man – for everything from his work ethic to his ethics to his gravitas.

Well, self-delusion is one thing but I’ll take the endorsement of such a man over the criticisms of lesser men any day. Time will tell how we all succeed but I do flatter myself that some of the battles we fight are important. Sometimes it’s about the journey as much as the destination. Maybe I’m a victim of navel-gazing but I do believe that this industry of which I am now a part is one of the more important ones, and that all the worries about dumb pipes aside, the pipe providers are arguably better positioned than many other industries to make the shift into the future that is needed.

Just another server cabinet

Just another server cabinet

Change is a scary thing, for many people, myself included. Imagine what it means for the core business models of many industries all of a sudden to be facing anything from significant challenges to what literally amounts to burning platforms. Journalism, music, broadcast, banking, telecoms … none of these will look the same in 20 years. Even 5.

It’s an exciting time to be an innovator. At least, if you’re a lucky one able to see not only what to do but how to do it, and have the money, connections, and political cover to enable you to do just that.

Damn, I’m impatient. But I have to be patient, regardless of how I feel.

Impatient to get back to these suckers

Impatient to get back to these suckers

One of the things Dom said really did hit home – like if you have a relationship that dies before it gets started and you later look back and realise you may have dodged a bullet. Or you have a painful end to a relationship or leave a job where you’d been too long and later look back and realise it had been a long time since it was actually healthy, or you were actually happy. He said it like it was my choice and even though it wasn’t, he’s right.

I also, at this point, can’t imagine leaving this industry any more than I can imagine leaving this country. For some random reasons I was re-reading this post of mine from about a year and a half ago. Read in the context of what Dom had said, and how things have flipped around a bit for me in recent months, it is interesting to see how the more things change, the more they change and not just stay the same.

It does happen to be the post where one of the most memorable quotes of all time occurred; one which has taken on a bit of a different meaning for me recently.

“The problem with South Africa is that you have to live in Cape Town, and you have to work in Joburg.”

Living in Somerset West that week was great; from the Hermanus trip to seeing the crew at the gym to the sushi dinner where we even had a little celebrity sighting (a rugby sevens player). The ocean, the sky, the mountains; it’s all breathtaking. I chose it, to move there, and I chose again to move to Joburg. I love it, for its energy, for its trees; even for its charmlessness in certain ways. Oh city, my city. My heart is in two places.

Perfect day in Hermanus indeed

Perfect day in Hermanus indeed

I have issues sometimes between nostalgia on the one hand and putting the past so completely behind me that I almost forget it. How is one to learn from the past when one blocks it out? I suppose you take the lessons, adapt yourself, and move on without being hamstrung by the past.

Well, that’s the idea at least. I was certainly hit with some nostalgia lately when listening to such things as this. I remember the night of this album launch. Kind of in the way you can look at the past and understand exactly why it happened the way that it did, but wonder what might have been had you not made the decision you made at certain turning points.

So many things I am working on at once – my Olympic lifting, fixing my shoulder, forging partnerships and relationships and trying to move some of this industry development work to the next level. Normally, life is one step forward, two steps back, or you might be moving forward in some areas but having issues or unbalanced in others.

But for once, everything is actually going well – work, health, and personal life. Is it balanced? Probably not. But I don’t do balance well. And I’m an entrepreneur and we are crazy. I’m also a CrossFitter, and we are crazy too. And an American expat.

Gosh there is something about me. In this week when I was trying to take some days off in Cape Town, I had to fly back to Joburg for a meeting. Sounds kind of dramatic but there were reasons for it above and beyond the meeting itself. But I got to have dinner with a friend and colleague I hadn’t seen in a while and we wound up having a pretty deep conversation. Somehow people tend to open up to me.

Maybe because I can keep a secret and maybe because they recognise that I tend to say what I actually think, although normally always politely and constructively. It’s ironic though since I do not tend to open up myself.

All right, there is one area of my life that is not going well. My shoulder has been injured for now nearly two years. I finally have a genius fixing it, but it’s not perfect and prevents me from doing some things (bar muscle ups) and from practicing other things due to pain or instability (handstand walk, ring dips, kipping muscle ups).

Not something I should really have been doing at all...

Not something I should really have been doing at all…

I have gotten significantly better in many areas in the last even 6-9 months. My strength is better both with barbell and bodyweight moves. My Olympic lifting form is slowly being fixed by a great coach and a ton of practice.

But you can’t fix the stuff you can’t work on. And the frustrating thing isn’t so much that I’m not getting better – it’s that others are getting better faster, and I’m getting left behind. I don’t resent them getting better, not at all, it just motivates me to work that much harder.

It is, however, incredibly frustrating. I said last year at Regionals that I would not again compete if I couldn’t compete properly. Well, I lied, but I’m sure this is the last time. Until I can go out there confident in my body I won’t compete, except in a low-pressure team.

So there’s some motivation – hierarchy of needs: fix shoulder, fix gymnastics & skills while of course maintaining in the other areas. Of course my front squat apparently needs some help. Never ever been stuck at the bottom of a squat clean before; but this was anything but a show off weekend. This was a weekend for being part of a community, and just trying to survive. But I still had fun, and even at my worst I can do some things that years ago I could never conceive.

On the plus side, the three weeks or so that I was sick or under the weather seems finally to be behind me. Now all I need to do is clean up my eating which always goes to hell when I’m sick (the opposite of what I should do, but one of my weaknesses).

That full moon I won’t soon forget (photo of the moon in California courtesy of my friend Steven Tan). The quick trip to Jozi was fine except that I had to fly in and out of O.R. Tambo which is an airport that I cannot stand. One of the worst things about the airport is the potential for traffic that can crop up out of nowhere and there is very little in this life that is more stressful than sitting in traffic when trying to catch a plane.

…. And then the rains began. It’s quite late in the year for Johannesburg storms but storm it did, and the road just locked up. Now, getting to Lanseria or even Cape Town 45 minutes before your flight is one thing. Getting to ORT with that little time … no. Somehow, I managed to make my flight which was great – I arrived back almost as though I’d never left. Maybe a day and a half had elapsed between breakfast at Strand beach and sitting around Candice’s kitchen but everything just felt so natural, that it was almost like coming home.

Weird how that can work, that people you didn’t know six months ago can become so important to you, and, moreover, that it can be so easy and comfortable to be with them.

Back roads trying to scout the braai spot for the next day

Back roads trying to scout the braai spot for the next day

You know how they say it’s always darkest before the dawn? Pretty true, I’ve found. That time before Regionals 2012 when I wasn’t sure I could snatch that dumbbell with my left arm. A few times in business, when I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to pull a rabbit out of a hat. But somehow everything always worked out.

Well, we had some fog in Camps Bay the mornings before the Fittest in Cape Town competition. It eventually burned away and was replaced by sun, a late autumn sun yes, but a force to be respected. Not unlike a 50kg barbell I tried to power snatch with a bum shoulder. Sometimes I can be really pretty stupid and this was one of those times. Luckily I didn’t severely hurt myself through stubbornness and inattention.

A big crew of us from Ballistix were staying at apartments in Sea Point, which was great fun. Especially the first night when we stayed up for a bit talking; the second night I had a work dinner which was great both for the food and the company. Getting to know a colleague for whom I have a lot of respect a bit more in a personal sense, and talk about one of one of my favourite humans is always going to make for a good time. At least I got some sleep that night. Gosh I’ve been having problems with being consistent with my sleep these last few months. Not that I’m complaining though.

I really do love my Ballistix family and how much they have adopted me as one of their own. When you find special people or family, it doesn’t have to be logical or rational (like having trained at a gym for four years), what’s right is just what feels natural.

I LOVE this. Happiness at Hes' deadlift PB

I LOVE this. Happiness at Hes’ deadlift PB

And about that weekend the best part was seeing people do things they didn’t think they could, set PBs, or push through things that were very challenging for them. I mean Isa just learning kipping pullups a few days prior and then doing 12 in a row in competition! One of the best parts of competition is seeing that you are really capable of. Unfortunately I was never at a point that weekend where I could test myself like that. Too technical in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. But it’s all right; I’m on the right path now and as far back as I can claw, great. Happily, there’s a bit more to my life than CrossFit though. A heck of a lot more!

Driving back to the airport to catch a 6am flight to Joburg, the fog was so thick I literally couldn’t see where I was going. I just had to hope that I didn’t forget how the N2 worked and that there was no massive traffic accident ahead.

If that’s not a metaphor I don’t know what is.

Heard on the radio recently – “It’s not speed that kills. It’s the sudden stops.”

And, in the context of entrepreneurship, when the going gets tough, keep going. Not if you’re going off the cliff of course, but the whole subject of how to make startups work better is the subject of a whole other blog post, if not a book.

I’ve been through those rough patches a few times. Now when everything is great and exciting it’s easy to forget. But the tough patches do come, just as I am in one with CrossFit, and I must remember also that this too shall pass.

Nothing lasts forever; the only constant is change. But better purposeful, directed change than entropy.

One of the best sunsets scenes ever

One of the best sunsets scenes ever

The weather is also changing. It feels like we jumped from summer right into autumn, my favourite season. But it’s always a tad bittersweet as the world heads for a winter period.

It’s nearly five years now. I can hardly believe that. I can also hardly believe how my life is so different from five months ago, even.

Life, like nature, is pretty powerful, and unpredictable. But for lack of a better plan, I’m going with the flow, and I have no complaints whatsoever. I just need that shoulder tendon to knit and capsule to heal and then everything will be even more perfect than it is right now.

  • “1Gig … That is not a typo …. Coming out of my mouth.” – Ellie
  • “Regifting can be cool but who the hell is going to want Fifty Shades of Grey?” – Ellie
  • “I love you.” “Is that why you hurt me so much?” – Wayne & Ellie (for context – this is my physio)
  • “The chasm is littered with wreckage at the bottom.” – Kian
  • “He’s a poker player of note. You can play poker too.” “You’ve noticed.” – Dominic & Ellie
  • “You’ve been in a good position for a while. And it’s getting better every day.” – Dominic
  • “No one is going to be able to do it as well as you. I’m sorry. I know that’s not what you want to hear.” – Dominic
  • “There are many forms of persuasion.” “And he uses them all.” – Ellie & Wilfried
  • “One lifetime is not enough.” – Wilfried
  • “I guess I really need to fix my weaknesses.” – Lara (word… and my shoulder!)
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