Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The clear sky above the clouds

When someone is considered not to be in their normal state of mind and a decision had to be made, it is said that they may have clouded judgment on a matter and so their view may not be taken as an objective one. This could be because someone has deep emotions and feelings towards the issue or they may be intoxicated or there could be other things that make their mind impartial. Anyone who has traveled by air will know that sometimes clouds that make a day gloomy down below are usually low lying and above these clouds will be a very clear fine day with no one to enjoy but birds if they can fly that high. Clouds can create a dull gloomy day, but above them the sky will be spotlessly blue and clear. In life there are things that are not as bad as they seem, or as challenging as they want to look like. They are just blocking our view and clouding our judgment as the phrase says. Everyday is filled with judgments and decisions to be made. Some of the decisions we make are short term with no impact on tomorrow while some determine our destiny and life. The latter is when we really need to see the clear blue sky above the clouds and make proper decisions. This is when we need to disregard the low lying clouds blocking our vision and which make goals seem unattainable. It could even be raining  cats and dogs, wet and horrible below these clouds but the sun will still be shining above. Just because you can only see clouds now does not mean the sun is not shining, but you need to climb to the level where you can enjoy the sun. Climbing higher can be what you need to get out of your rainy day. Climb higher by improving your personal circumstances (studying, being a better person, better self management, dropping a bad habit etc). What is clouding your judgment today and how will you see above those clouds to determine your destiny? You need to soar above the clouds clouding your day. Mental soaring is key when you want to envision things above the reality that you face. It is much like when a submarine captain lifts the periscope out above the water surface to see clearly what is out there. The submarine will dive deep in the waters but it sends its eyes up above the clouded water so that the captain can see and make decisions. He cannot make decisions without a clear view and neither can you. You need your own periscope that can go above the clouds and see clearly where you are, where you are going and what action you need to take now. Enjoy, as you get your periscope up and see the clear sky above.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Quenching a soulful thirst

Every day, as the sun shines down;
I look up and feel the warmth on my crown;
Feeling the reassurance from above;
That today is again going to be filled with an abundance of love.

However, some days, I experience mixed emotions;
But yet, amidst the turmoil, still a sense of devotion;
Deep in thought, wondering about my life, my love;

Always noticing signs from the universe. ..a symbol...a dove.
Love is so deeply powerful and immensely strong;
It is felt everywhere around us, and features in almost every song;

In order for us to receive love, we need to first learn to love oneself;
To love and be loved is fulfilling an inner happiness, a different kind of wealth.
Feeling the feelings that start from within;
Created by choice, should be shared, and not poisonously held in;
Self love- and respect should always come first;
As this is the beginning of a healthy outlook on love and quenching a soulful thirst.

Written by A Mckinlay

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lessons from RWC 2015

One direction has a song called Drag me down which runs a chorus that goes "nobody can drag me down". In rugby, the key to avoiding a try or scoring is largely dragging and pulling someone down. During the Rugby World Cup, you could see the determination and refusal to be dragged down when players bulldozed and pulled their way through the defence of the opponents. As always there were several lessons that came out of the Rugby World cup from a layman's point of view.

1. An underdog can cause chaos by being determined to be the best. Japan came out and beat the Springboks (South Africa) in their first match against all odds and against any prediction that could have been made. Believing in oneself is the surest way to achieve great things. There is always a first time and there is always a way to win, one just has to find it.

2. You can choose to be defeated with dignity and a fighting spirit. The American team lost to the Springboks by a wide margin but they never gave up fighting and pushing to score. They fought to the end despite what the score said. You can choose to give up before the end or you can fight till the end. It is a choice you have to make.

3. The limelight can be on someone else other than you. Even when it’s your work that you have done that is being rewarded. When Sonny Bill Williams handed over his medal to a young boy, he overcame his own personal wishes and desires and made someone else's come true. Not easy to do but he proved it can be done.

4. You can come back from a bad start to a decent finish. The springboks started off badly by being beaten by Japan in an unexpected result, but they ended up as third place winners. How you start does not determine how you choose to end. You can fight for a better finish than the way you started.

5. You can be dragged down, but you can fight to put through that try and score. Some sensational tries were scored despite serious and violent opposition against the score. How easily do you give up when you face opposition? When there is a mountain of pressure stopping you from achieving that goal. Will you push through for a try or will you give up and walk away? What is dragging you down today? Can you shake it off and still score?

6. The power of believing in yourself wins above all else. The All Blacks (New Zealand) surely believe they are good at this game and that self-belief carries them through any game they play. The way they do the Haka affirms their belief and then they play to win. You can also carry a certain belief about yourself which will make people see you differently and enable you to win the battles you fight.

Well done to the All Blacks for winning the World Cup and to the Springboks for a third place finish. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Power of tandem

When something is in tandem with another, it follows the other directly ahead of it but from behind. This is where the tandem bicycle concept comes from, where two cyclists are on one bicycle with one behind the other cycling together. Tandem is a form of order which requires synchronization if it is to be maintained, especially when cycling. The important issue about being in tandem is that it requires similar effort, balance and energy to work perfectly. Most importantly, there must be unity and a common purpose as well as destination if tandem cycling is to work. Imagine riding a tandem bike with someone who doesn't want to go where you are going and also doesn't want to go at the speed you are going. It becomes counter productive and almost impossible as you cannot cycle anywhere. I saw tandem cyclists the other day, their feet in sync with a common purpose and the back rider trusting the judgement of the lead cyclist. When the lead cyclist stops the other also stops cycling and they continue in harmony. The image above is quite interesting because Retired Staff Sergeant Seam Johnson in white was blind and became the first blind athlete to compete at the Team Army trials in 2014. This was all possible due to the power of tandem where the front rider pedals and steers while the rear rider only pedals. When one has goals in life and they are pursuing those goals, they cannot do that behind people who do not share those goals and they cannot also lead people who do not share their goals because in both instances, there will not be progress or it will be stunted progress. Working with others in any situation is much like tandem cycling and it is critical to always have harmony and oneness to be able to move the bike together. One needs to find tandem with their leaders and followers to see growth and success. Are you aligning yourself in tandem with those that will help you achieve your dreams?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Exploring possibility

Is it possible that the image on the right reads possibility? If there is a word that brings hope to a desperate situation, it is the word possibility. Imagine a terribly sick person on the deathbed being told "there is a possibility of turning around the situation using a new procedure". Or a wrongfully accused person going to jail being told there is a possibility to challenge the conviction through an appeal. Possibility changes a situation from one direction to another. One powerful word which many long to hear in dire situations. When you have been denied registration at that dream varsity and you are told there is a possibility to register under a certain category of entry, or when the finances for a surgical procedure are not enough, but there is the possibility to be funded under a special qualifying program. When the doctors mention that there is possibility that an operation will succeed. I love the word possibility as it injects much needed relief in a hopeless situation. It is a word of hope, belief, progression and success. When possibility does not exist, a future may not exist. When there is no possibility there may not even be life. What is your possibility today and into the future? Can you see possibility in your situation going forward? Sometimes you have to create possibility for yourself if it does not exist. Possibility can be planted, nurtured and can grow to fruition and become reality. When possibility becomes reality then that is the ultimate preference. Is it possible that there is more to you than your current reality? Is it possible that you cannot read your possibility correctly as it looks like something else that means nothing to you? So go on and create those possibilities for the future which when  they realize will bring a smile to your face.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Describe your future in one word

I came across this image with a request to use one word to describe the image. Words such as courage, brave, dream, hope, belief and  others were listed below the image. A lot of very strong positive words came out. I realised how a negative thing can be a catalyst for positives. One can look at a situation and see nothing while another can see a new world of opportunity. When you look at your current situation or even your future, what single word would describe it? How positive are you about your life right now and are you giving a fair assessment of the "negatives" or are you not? Can you say anything positive out of the "negatives" or does it seem hopeless? Can you look forward to the future with some form of zeal and anticipation of have you resigned to inability that is not real possibly? Can you salvage that situation and get going again?

I will leave you to answer these questions and also list those words that describe the image of your future...

Image credit: Unknown

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Shadows and souls

There are individuals in a team, group, congregation or gathering. There is someone behind a flat empty shadow. Ever thought about the person next to you where ever you could be at any time. In a mall, bus, street, event, supermarket, salon, church or golf course. The person next to you could be dealing with an issue you have no idea about. The lady in your queue could be handling a crisis you are not man enough to handle. The guy in front of you could be working through a mess that you cannot begin to deal with.The shadow around you could be a desperate soul screaming for a break and rescue. Wherever you may be, you could be seeing a totally different picture on the face of someone to that which is inside them. Outside everything could be in order with peace and calm oozing yet inside there is turmoil, confusion and struggle. Good and bad thing I guess, as people will not treat you according to what you dealing with, but also one wants sometimes to be able to deal with their own issues in their own way without people knowing sometimes. The calm on someone's face says nothing about the struggle within them, the toiling and battles in their world as you look at them. Sometimes it shows, but most times we do not pay attention to it and will never know. It is possible to spend a whole day with someone and not know what is eating them inside, unless one has insights enough to dig deeper. It does after all take an effort to care to see through that blank face. To get the story behind that empty gaze or silent posture. It is even possible to work with someone and never know their daily struggles if they do not open up about them. Such is life that we all seem on the same page but we are probably on different books all together. Will you care today to be human enough to see people once again. To see a struggle, a pain a hope, a wish, a dream, an emotion of whatever sort. That is what true humanity and spirituality is about. To bring pure calm and peace to a soul both inside and outside. To leave someone feeling better than they were before an encounter. To be human and not be mechanical and robotic. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

How is your benchmarking?

Benchmarking is the process of comparing one's business processes and performance metrics to industry best practices by relating to those of other companies which are excellent and on top of their game in an effort to become like them. Typical areas covered through benchmarking are quality, time and cost. Top firms are identified in a particular industry and a comparison is made in several areas identified. In this way, they learn how well the benchmark company performs relative to them and more importantly, the business processes that explain why these firms are successful. This then allows the organization to develop plans on how to make improvements or adapt specific best practices, usually with the aim of improving some aspect of performance. Benchmarking may be a one-off event, but is often treated as a continuous process in which organizations continually seek to improve their practices by aligning with industry top performers. Benchmarking is not only used by companies but by any person as well, in which case it may not be named as benchmarking, but aspiring to a role model or to a milestone. Everyone aspires to be like their celebrity, superstar, hero or maybe mentor. These are the people you may look up to and view them as having proven ways and norms that produce top results showing that they are doing things in a way you also would subscribe to. I have seen preachers who have adopted a style of preaching inspired by their hero preacher, or people who dress like their celebrities, even following their diet and speaking like the people they look up to. There is nothing wrong with having someone to look up to and having heroes and role models around. It is however important to remain your own person, unique with a personal identity of your own. Finger prints are not the same and so behavior cannot be the same in every way. Now back to benchmarking, when a company does proper benchmarking, they make sure that fundamentals are similar so as to compare apples with apples to ensure that they can aspire to something realistic and achievable. There are many role models out there with whom to benchmark yourself with. It is important to choose the right benchmark that will assist you achieve your goals. Some call it role models, frames of reference or influence leaders. Whatever you may call them, it is good to have someone who has been there and can help you improve your life in the ways you desire. It may not even be one person, but many people depending on which area of life. Every time you face a situation, you just use them as a point of departure to solving the problem or to responding to a crisis in your life. Always ask yourself, "what would this person do?". Here is a parting note on benchmarking. Avoid situations like waking up and looking in the mirror only to be disappointed that you do not look as good as your favourite celebrity on his or her best stage. It is important to be realistic and also compare like with like.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Quite coincidental that it is women's month in South Africa and I find no better person to help celebrate a woman than the one and only Maya Angelou who is one of my favorite poets and also quoted in my previous post. This one goes out to all the women of the world. Celebrate yourself, because you are phenomenal.



Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say, It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman, Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman, That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man, The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say, It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman, Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman, That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much,
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say, It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman, Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman, That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say, It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
Cause I’m a woman, Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman, That’s me.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lessons from Maya

  • 'I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.'
  • I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
  • 'I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.'
  • 'I've learned that making a 'living' is not the same thing as 'making a life.'
  • 'I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.'
  • I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back...'
  • I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.'
  • 'I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.'
  • I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back...'
  • 'I've learned that I still have a lot to learn...'
  • I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'

Monday, July 6, 2015

Getting off the bike without falling

One weekend I was teaching my son how to ride a bike. While he had been previously riding the bike without any problems when it had wheels at the back, after I removed them he struggled to balance the bicycle and found himself falling off the bike every time it came to a stop or when he lost control.
I had assumed that since he could cycle with the support wheels, he could also cycle when I removed them but I was wrong. He did not have the technique required to take off and also to stop without falling off. The major problem was getting the bicycle to stop without falling off and so I ended up giving him a lesson on the proper way to fall, or rather get off the bike, something I had not planned on doing at all. My realization was that if he could fall properly, he could enjoy riding the bike as the way he had been falling was making him feel that the experience was not enjoyable. And so within a few minutes he could bring the bike to a stop and not fall off ,and this changed his whole perspective of learning to cycle and even made him want to continue where he had previously decided that he had had enough of the bike.

So I found myself learning a lesson on getting off the bike or taking a pause while cycling. Every cyclist will stop at a stop sign or traffic light or to ask for directions. When you do not know how to get off the bike you can miss important stops that need to be made or maybe fall and end up not enjoying the ride. When you know how to get off the bike however, you can get up and get going again. Life is after all a series of starting things, stopping and continuing or starting new things again, more like riding a bike getting off and riding again. The key is to stop in a way that prepares you to get going again with a new venture. There are various reasons why when setting out to do something, we do not go straight through to complete it and may need to get off what we are doing and then get back at it. Many times we are not taught about getting off but we are taught about getting going. Many speakers talk about going where we want to go and how to get there, with a few if any talking about those moments when you have to get off your venture or goal for one reason or another, but with a posture of getting up to go again on the same or another venture maybe due to temporary setbacks. When he fell off the bike he left hold of the handles and rolled all over the place bruising himself in the process. I told him to maintain his hands on the handles of the bike when the bike stopped and then get one foot on the ground ready to carry him and avoid falling.

So while he still got off the bike, he did in a way that prepared him to take off again. We start many things that we want to achieve in life but sometimes we may need to temporarily, maybe
permanently even, get off something we are doing for various reasons but still be able to get going. Do we know how to get off while maintaining the passion and zeal to pursue again? It is important to know how to  get off, step back, reflect something and still prepare to get going again as we cycle the bicycle of life. You could be cycling perfectly right now but you need to know how to get off when the next stop (obstacle/hindrance) comes up. Unfortunately it is not as easy as riding a bike as there is no set formula on how to do it, but you will need to know how to get off the bike at some point. It is important to avoid falling which can put you off ever finishing what you set out to do in the first place.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Seeing through closed eyes

There are times when I just want to be blank, not think, see, feel wonder or do anything just for a moment. A moment to just forget about all the cares worries and burdens and not have a care for a while. This is a wish that cannot ever be granted as long as I am alive, for my mind sees through closed eyes and never rests. My vision is not only in my eyes but deep in my mind is where my vision lies. Deep within the partly explained grey matter in my skull unseen by anyone, and whose workings are unknown to many. As much as the grey matter is unseen, it sees way beyond where I am, even when I am in the dark and its works manifest in my actions daily. I cannot be blank, neither think, see, feel nor wonder. I create, build, put together, break, pull down, celebrate and moan and all this happening split seconds apart of each other without effort on my part. My mind speaks while I am silent, walks, runs, even flies while I am sitting down. It jumps, dances and spins around while I am in no mood to do anything physically myself. I see when I do not want to see, as my mind shows me my successes and failures right in front of my closed eyes. It shows me my joys and sorrows as clearly as they happened, be it yesterday or 20 years ago. I can see a face that is no more, even a tree that is no more, as if it was still there. A friend that is no more, a foe even, it does not segregate. There is no discrimination in the mind. I lay in my bed and close my eyes but I still can see so many things. My mind is more powerful than the eye that saw and took in the sight that it sees while the eyes are closed. While my whole being is asleep and innate, the mind plans and sees a future that can be, a life that can avail, a destiny that can unfold. I must just put in the seeds of vision for my mind to work with for whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Riding the wind

When I was young, I used to make plastic kites and fly them all day, or for several days. It was great fun especially on those windy days. A kite uses an aerodynamic surface to create a lift and overcome gravity to fly in the wind. The lift that sustains the kite in the air is created when air flows above the kite's surface, producing low pressure above and high pressure below the wings. In December 2014 while in Durban, I saw a kite surfer, something I had not quite seen before, considering that my only kite experience was the home made kite from my early years. I found it intriguing and the surfer was very good at it and was clearly enjoying himself as he knew well how to do it. There is kite boarding which is a surface water sport combining various aspects such as wake-boarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding, and gymnastics into one extreme sport. A kite boarder harnesses and uses the power of the wind on a large power kite and is propelled across the water on a kite board similar to a small surfboard, with or without foot straps. Kite surfing is a form of kite boarding which is related to wave riding and uses standard surfboards. There are different styles of kite boarding and in 2012, the number of kite surfers was estimated at 1.5 million people worldwide. A kite surfer ensures an optimal balance between the wind speed and direction and the power of the kite to ensure that the kite surfing experience is enjoyable. He then rides the waves with air jumps and all sorts of tricks and stunts thanks to the wind and surfing skills with reading of correct angles combined. Power kites are very powerful and can, if control is lost, cause injury an optimal balance between the winds speed and direction and the power of the kite to ensure that the kite surfing experience is enjoyable.
He then rides the waves thanks to the wind and surfing skills. Power kites are very powerful and can, if control is lost, cause injury to the surfer. The surfer needs to maintain control of the kite to be able to manage maneuvers as well as dictate what he wants from the kite. Strong winds or unexpected gusts can lead to bad impact which can cause harm. Like a kite surfer, life is about ensuring that you are always in charge of that kite board and anticipating strong winds that can destabilize you. One needs to always be in control of their present, anticipate the future and be mindful of the past. Losing control of  your environment can mean falling off the board into the water or worse, hitting objects and getting hurt. Not all winds are good for surfing and surfers know that
cross-shore and cross- onshore winds are the best for kite boarding. Offshore winds pose the danger that one can be blown away from the shore in the event of equipment failure or loss of control while direct onshore winds carry the risk of being thrown onto land and possibly falling into buildings or dangerous objects. Always ensure that you can handle the winds you are surfing and choose your winds carefully as some winds are ruthless and not worth taking out to surfing. Do you know the winds you are dealing with? You can ride the wind, or lose your balance to it and fall. Enjoy the ride.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Beauty and value from pain

Image credit
The story of the pearl is quite an interesting one. Pearls are formed from a defense action (adaptive
immune system like function) to a potentially threatening irritant such as a parasite inside the shell or an attack that injures the tissue of a shelled mollusk. The mollusk then creates a pearl sac to seal off the irritant and the membrane deposits or secretes layers of calcium carbonate over the irritant. This process is repeated many times until a pearl is produced and this happens over a couple of years. Perfectly round pearls are rare to find and so are fine quality natural pearls, which are deemed rare jewels whose values are determined in the same way as precious gems subject to size, colour, shape, quality, surface, orient and luster. What is the point to the story of the pearl? Life is not much different from the story of a pearl. Not every high flying successful person has had it easy sailing to be where they are. Most have grown through life by creating counter measures, defense mechanisms and immune systems to irritating situations, some even painful and
Image credit
threatening. Every difficulty and challenge is an irritant that needs to be covered in a pearl sac with secretions of positive words and encouragement until it is totally covered up and a pearl comes out after a while. There are business empires founded on difficulty and irritant issues on someone's personal life or on society in general. It is how we look at things that determines our destiny. If an irritant is something we cannot get over, it can pull us down, but if we can get over it and cover it with our zeal and passion for life and overcome it, we will rise and create something of more value. How do you overcome irritants, get the right input into your difficult situation, especially the positive kind. Get the right speech on your tongue and you will rise above it. Remain confident that you will overcome and believe in yourself and you will become a highly prized pearl after you have engulfed that irritant. When people see the result of your private fight against odds, adversity, difficulty and battles you face in life, they will only admire the value they see without knowing the struggles you have been through and the time it has taken for that value creation process. Nothing of sustainable value happens overnight, black gold (oil) develops over years, diamonds are a result of rock, carbon extreme heat and pressure and the pearl is a result of years of fighting an irritant. Keep calm and create value for yourself.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Contentment: Case of the dripping tap 2

Oprah Winfrey once said "Be thankful for what you have, you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough”. After an insatiable episode of human nature, there is contentment that also pervades the way we live. I have met people who have never left their village, town, city or country and have come to understand it as normal. They have always stayed where they were born and never really felt the need to see anything outside that. They are content with their life as it is. I have spoken to people who do not have a passport, travel is not their plan. Does it mean this person is not as goal oriented as one who has traveled? I do not think so. Within that space of contentment in the little, one will find goals thriving within such a person. They are pursuing their dreams within contentment. Being insatiable does not necessarily mean one is not content for there are areas of contentment and in-satiation within one person  (#human complexity). Contentment to one is in-satiation to another and vice versa. I further look at a water tap, I think to myself, yes a tap can drip, but it doesn't mean that is all it can give. It can give more. Also, the tap can be tightly shut but it does not mean it is now disconnected from its source, it still is connected and can at any time pour out water. All it takes is a trigger, a hand to open that tap and water starts to flow again. If I was the dripping tap, what would I be thinking. I would probably be thinking that yes I am releasing small drops of water now, but I am connected to the source and so I can release more at any time when needed. We all need triggers to get our taps running, but sometimes we are content with who we are and what we have achieved, and it does not take away from the massive source of whatever we have and can do for ourselves or for others whether around us, or far from us. The tap can be opened and we can start once again pursuing something. Our lives are punctuated by contentment in a start - stop - continue manner, where the tap closes and opens when the right moments and triggers come about. We all have reservoirs that we are connected to, in form of experiences, mental capacity, talents, gifts and our passion centers. While we get content in certain areas and during certain times, our reservoirs are continuously there to supply as needed when the triggers come around and we start pursuits of something else, Be it starting a business, philanthropic endeavors, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or other personal exploits, once the trigger goes off, we move into our destiny. Find part one of this article here

Photo credit

Monday, April 20, 2015

Take the anger out of a stranger

Everyone who drives in Africa will know of the people that stand at traffic lights and make many a driver angry and annoyed as they try to sell you something or give you promotional material of some sort? Of course there are also those who try to clean your car before the light turns green (call it instant car wash), whether you like it or not. Well I had a different experience last week as I opened my window to receive a red rose with a note saying " do something nice today for a total stranger". What an action oriented and pleasant surprise as well as food for thought!! Believe me or not, I tried to look for a website or telephone number because I thought these were marketers who would have put their contacts there for me to maybe peruse their products or something, but I found none. This is is what motivated me to write about this incident. Doing something good for someone with no thought of something back in return. Do we still have this in our world? Well I can testify that we do after my experience of the day, but maybe we do not have enough of such incidents or people willing to be the one doing it. This is a great humane wave to spread around, for people to just do things for strangers without expecting anything in return, but leave the next person feeling warm and fuzzy inside and still believing in humanity and oneness. There is a lot of strangers around you who can receive something from you, and it does not have to be of value and not necessarily money. A smile seems expensive these days so giving one could be a good thing for a start. Allowing someone to go first in a queue? Stopping to ask someone if everything is well with them when they look stressed, confused or disoriented, offering something priceless to someone. Whatever it is let us do it as a challenge to do something nice for a total stranger today and comment about the effect it makes. I recall giving a young boy from the street, "street kid" as they are called, a pair of old shoes more than 10 years ago and to this day, whenever I drive past where he hangs around in town he comes to have a chat with me without expecting money from me. What have you done for a stranger lately? Have a great day.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The power of a dream

Image: Dominic Skelton
Andile "Given" Sibanyoni , received a police officer's burial at his funeral in March 2015. Andile was only 8 years old when he died, but had held on to the dream of becoming a metro police officer so dearly that it was made "reality" for him for a day in 2014 while he was alive and then finally as he was honored with a police officer's burial by the City of Tshwane. More than 100 metro police officers went out to the small town of Piterskraal, Mpumulanga, on the day of his funeral to pay Given their last respects. The Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) ceremonial unit, (a drill team, choir and band) performed and sang alongside community members at the funeral. Andile left a great lesson for people who carry their dreams lightly and think they can never achieve them. Dreams can come true whether you are dead or alive, as proven by Andile. Andile lost his battle with cancer but had always wanted to be a metro cop and specifically to ride the police motorcycles. In November 2014, his dreams were made reality when he visited the Metro Police Department and spent a day in the life of a metro police officer thanks to Reach for a Dream. Reach for a Dream representative Mpumi Mlambo said the day's parade was an indication of just how big Given's dreams were.Reach for a dream believes in the power
of dreams and has made it its mission to help children fight life threatening diseases while reaching their various dreams and the story of Andile is one among many. If a young man like Andile could carry his dream to such an extent where he got a whole metro police department to honor him as a real cop, how much more can we do to achieve our dreams? This is just my short story today to encourage you to hold on to your dream and pursue it with all you have. Someone relevant will notice your efforts and support you to reach that dream.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dancing up the stairs

Can the words fun, interactive, health, music and climbing stairs ever be used together? Well in Stockholm Sweden it is reality. The stairs leading out of the Odenplan subway in Stockholm were overnight transformed into a giant functioning piano keyboard under the premise that applying pressure on each step would play a musical note. Having filmed the behaviors of commuters previously, it had been noted that people preferred to use the adjacent escalator next to the stairs rather then the stairs. In an attempt to bring fun into getting healthy and exercising, Volkswagen sponsored this initiative and the next morning, the results were unassailable. More people opted for the black and white stairs to make music while climbing up previously strenuous and snubbed stairs. Commuters found the concept intriguing, fun, exciting, different and worth their effort and hence took the challenge of the stairs rather than the escalators. In total 66% more people than normal chose the musical stairs over the escalator.

This initiative caught my attention both from a innovation and mental behavior perspective. What the mind views as pain will be avoided while that which is viewed as fun will be sought out. This is undeniably true if one looks at what people do repetitively. We try to minimize strain in such actions that everything becomes automated in our lives. When there is an element of mystery, fun and intrigue in anything, this becomes enough motivation for someone to do it with some level of enthusiasm. Removing monotony is one way of innovating fun into what we do daily and trying to keep an interest in otherwise actions that would seem like hard work. Good lesson on how easy something that feels heavy, difficult and hard can become easy when your mind sees it differently. Everyday e face potentially difficult situations and people, but if we change how we view them in our mind, we can climb those obstacles with ease and create a melody while we do.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Free body, caged mind?

A story is told of a big grizzly bear that was enclosed in a small cage of  5 square feet for years. A new mayor came to town and visiting the zoo saw this huge bear stuck in the small cage and touched by its plight quickly ordered that a larger enclosure be built for the bear so that it would have more space to walk around, explore and play. Work began on this initiative and after some months, a big ceremony was organised with the Mayor coming to give a speech before the release of the bear from the cage to the enclosure. After all the formalities of the day, the mayor cut the ribbon to the enclosure to large cheers and celebration with the door to the cage being opened to the new habitat. As everyone held their breath with quiet anticipation, excitement and anxiety, the bear took the steps to enter the new home, albeit hesitant and with some motivation from the zoo staff. It walked out into the enclosure and stood for a while, then walked 5 feet to the right, another 5 to the right again and another till it returned to its first spot. I am sure there was an anticlimax of sorts for those who could read the poor bear's mind.

The sad story is that this bear represents a lot of people in out world today. They have been freed from many a situation in various ways but have remained stuck in that cage in their minds and can only take the 5 square foot walk in their lives without seeing the opportunities around them. Whether it be safety in comfort or being oblivious to what is possible, the story of a caged mind is a sad one and before we believe we are free to be anything we can be, we need to free our minds to the possibilities, that is when we can truly take advantage of them and rise to succeed in various spheres of life. As TD Jakes spoke on the CD album Woman Thou Art Loosed, the mind is the battleground. He says you can sleep tired and still wake up tired, not because you were working all night, but because you fought a large battle in the mind while you slept. If it cannot be done in your mind, it cannot be done anywhere else. Any battle you win in your mind is already won when you take action. If the shackles have been taken off your feet, let them come off your mind as well and you will achieve greatness. What ever is happening in your mind will be seen in what you do outside. All the best in freeing your mind.

Here are some great mind quotes.

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!

What we think determines what happens to us, so if we want to change our lives, we need to stretch our minds.

Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.

Image credit

Sunday, March 1, 2015

You cannot measure courage

Force is measured in kilograms. Speed is measured in seconds. Courage? You can't measure courage". Derek Anthony Redmond is a retired British athlete who during his career held the British record for the 400 metre sprint, and won gold medals in the 4x400 metres relay at the World Championships, European Championships and Commonwealth Games. Derek was blighted by a series of injuries and during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona he tore his hamstring in the 400 metres semi-final but continued the race limping and, with assistance from his father, managed to complete a full lap of the track with a standing ovation from the crowd. This has become a well-remembered moment in Olympic history and the subject of one of the International Olympic Committee's 'Celebrate Humanity' videos as well as used in advertisements as an illustration of the Olympic spirit. Redmond had started well, but in the back straight about 250 metres from the finish, his hamstring snapped making him hobble to a halt and he fell to the ground in pain. Redmond decided he wanted to finish the race anyway and hobbled along the track where he was joined by his father, Jim Redmond, who broke past security to get to his son. Jim and Derek completed the last lap together, with Derek leaning on his father's shoulder for support. As they crossed the finish line, the crowd of 65,000 spectators rose to give Derek a standing ovation. Derek was officially disqualified from the race because his father helped him finish and Olympic records state that he "Did Not Finish" the race. When I heard the story of Derek I was not  much focused in him not winning the race as anticipated, but on the fact that for him, finishing the race mattered more than winning and he ended up being the greatest winner from the perspective of being courageous. Considering the way many people start what they do not finish in today's world this is a great lesson on completion from Derek. What I like is the statement made by the Olympic Committee about courage on measurement. Since it cannot be measured, it can be very short or infinite and so where one can give up after one attempt, another will keep pursuit until a desired outcome is achieved. Quite challenging for me as well right now, but need I say more?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lessons from the drum

The drum is one of the world's oldest instruments in the world and yet still found in many places, although sometimes in modernized form, even though the basic design has remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years. Drums may be played individually, with a single drum, or in a group with various drum sizes and sounds coming out in harmony. I had the privilege of attending an event where a drumming group called Drum Cafe led the opening of the session with some versatile drumming skills. I have been in this drumming session twice before but I still enjoyed this event as if it was the first time. The way they facilitate the whole experience and the way they use the drum to show how it can bring together people to achieve one goal and make a unified sound is intriguing. We were all given the Djembe drum and we would take instructions and play in a way that would make us one. With more than a hundred people in the room, a disjointed effort would be chaotic with no result achieved, but with Drum cafe in the lead, this was an experience which would be both unifying, refreshing and memorable. The drum is a very simple instrument which only requires one's two hands to beat in varying styles to make a sound to which people can dance. When there is one drum, it is easy for the drummer to play whichever way and possibly create musical art, however when there are more than a hundred people, there has to be some format to drumming or else it ends up being messy and noisy. And so we were led into making some beautiful rhythmic sounds where we ended up nodding our heads, smiling and even laughing with feet stamping and hips swaying as well. This is much the same as with anything in life. When one sets -out to achieve something on their own, they are almost certain to achieve whatever they want to as long as they are aware of it themselves, but when that same effort is a group effort then there has to be leadership and vision to achieve a desired result. Someone has to call the shots and say what happens now and next and how it happens. This gets things going in a way that achieves results. What part are you playing in the drumming session of life? Lead the greatest harmony of drumbeat or follow as the best team drummer and enjoy the results. Now beat your drum!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Half man half awesome

As I watched and listened to the tribute Top Billing television show last week in honour of now late presenter  Simba Mhere, I realised how people do not value all the things that many pursue in life. This death touches my heart as Simba was my home boy and his name means strength which he clearly had and not just in a physical way, while his surname, ironically now that he is dead, means a loud scream or cry. The many actors, musician DJs and celebrities interviewed and with whom he had contact with spoke about the same things about Simba. He was genuine, real, loving, caring, selfless, energetic, full of life, passionate, a real gentleman and he gave hugs most ladies reminisced of in their remembrance. One thing is clear, that none of these things relate to wealth or fame. It all relates to him as a human being who was reaching out to other human beings in a very real way. I did not follow the show much, but listening to everyone speaking these things about Simba brought to the fore a new perspective on life. Simba lived a full life only to die at 26 and leave a legacy of being consistent in being genuine about other people on and off TV. We live in a world where people act out to lead and succeed in life. Whatever people can do to get on top, they will do at all costs without worry about the other person. In many competitions and contests one cannot help but notice how cutthroat the fighting is for the honors, even in business, only to realise at the end that life matters more than these things. Simba had tributes from fellow contestants whom he beat to get this TV Presenter job he was doing until his death. It is rare for your competitor to speak kindly of you when you have lost to them, however they spoke about him with love and respect, as someone who had kept them close as friends after he was appointed to the job, even supporting them to move forward and still succeed in other areas of life. Let us cultivate these priceless humane things in life that are getting endangered. As we "compete" in this cold uncaring world, may we retain some of these attributes that humanity so craves. A genuine smile, laugh, question of care for someone, hug and being genuine whether with a crowd or with one person. May Simba Mhere rest in eternal peace and may we learn something from the way he lived his life.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

That small pushback tug

I have always been amazed at airports when I see a large aircraft being pulled back by a small little vehicle which is a fraction of the size of the plane. Many aircraft are capable of moving themselves backwards on the ground using reverse thrust (a procedure referred to as a powerback), but the resulting jet blast or prop wash may cause damage to terminal buildings or equipment. Aircraft engines when operated close to the ground may also blow sand and debris forward and then suck it into the engine and damage the engine. A pushback is therefore the preferred method to move the aircraft away from the gate or terminal building and this is done using a pushback tractor or tug. Pushback tractors have a low profile design that allows them to fit under the aircraft nose and they are heavy for traction weighing up to 54 tonnes (119,000 pounds) for large aircraft tractors. Often, the  driver's cabin can be raised for increased visibility when reversing, and lowered to fit under aircraft. A pushback tractor seems so small and powerless compared to the aircraft it pulls but it does so with ease because it has been carefully crafted to do this job well. It has the right design, weight and torque required to perform this function. Bringing this analogy into life, we all at some point need someone or something that may seem smaller than us or incapable to help us, but they do exactly that. The aircraft never boasts of its massive Rolls Royce engines which can lift it up to fly to distant places at great at great altitudes. At the time when its pulled by the little tug, it has to keep those engines quiet and submit to the small pull on the ground. It is not always that we need to be the "knight in shining amour" and save the world with our own power, strength, talent and ability. Sometimes we just need to let others shine in their own moment while yield, humble ourselves and submit to others and wait for our time to come. Those seemingly small may just be the ones that can do the required work in us at that time to get us going to greater heights and distant places. The tractor will never reach the heights that the aircraft can, but its job is done when it gets the aircraft out and ready to take off. There are those who can make you look good even though they themselves may never get the credit for it. Will you submit yourself to a small tug today and let it put you in the right space to enable you to take off?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

When and where were you last alive

Garmin Southern Africa launched a campaign titled Where were you when you last felt alive  in 2014 and I found it interesting as it triggered questions for my pondering mind. So one can be alive without feeling alive, as in breathe but not be alive? You know when last you were alive and where you were? You can be moving around but you do not feel alive? Being alive is both related to time and place? There are places where you feel more alive than others? Am I really alife? I realized that this is very true for there are 365 days in a year but we only remember a few of them as having truly lived them. The rest we are on auto pilot without even thinking about what we are doing. I previously wrote a post entitled I am alive and it narrated some of the things I do which show I am alive. I think we all know of times when we were more alive than we are now. When we were more zealous and energetic than we are now. The question is, what made us so alive at those moments? Without reference to age, I believe we can be alive in many ways. I have in fact heard people speak of past experiences and say things like "I have never felt so alive". And some of these are very short bursts of liveliness and quickly back to the normal dearth. If I was to ask you this similar question, where were you when you were last alive, would you speak in the now, or in the very distant past? I have also thought about what can make a person feel alive and will break it down below.

  • Engage in activities that are outside your normal way of life. The bold ones go for extreme sports like skydiving, bungee jumping, large music concerts also arouse life.

  • Move away from what you have done for too long and do something new to resuscitate life within you.

  • Create new networks that speak differently to your life and make your mind tick in a different way.

  • Determine to find life in many of the things you do.
May you be alive as you go through 2015 and not merely exist in this world. there is a vast difference.

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Realisations, resolutions, realignment and reflection

Realisation is defined as becoming fully aware of something (gaining a full understanding of an issue). It is also the achievement of something desired or the conversion of an asset into cash (a financial outcome like profit or loss becoming reality). I want to focus on the definition of becoming aware of something where you realise that maybe you are not happy, or something is wrong with your business or you have become disillusioned about something. When you realise something, usually you take action on that realisation in a logical manner to correct the problem. If you realise that the reason the electricity is tripping is a faulty connection, you will get an electrician to come and fix it and get rid of the problem. If you realise that someone you thought was a friend is badmouthing and pulling you down, then you confront and talk to them about it or deal with them on an arms length basis going forward. Realisation is the initial step in a process of change that follows. As the year begins, many people talk of new year's resolutions, which are firm decisions to do or not do something. These resolutions come from realisations picked up in certain areas during the course of a prior year. While I do not agree with the inherent implication that one should pile up resolutions in one year until a new one starts and then make new year's resolutions, it is still a good way of revealing that someone has been taking stock of the year's events and intends to change things. Resolutions can relate to things that have moved from an initial perfect state to an undesired state (the obvious weight gain), though sometimes it is a realisation of something that has always been but, is no longer desired. So after a realisation, one resolves to do something about it and then moves to the realignment stage where the issue is restored back to a desired state, or at least effort is made to. Realignment changes and restores things to a desired state after which reflection follows to ensure that this is indeed the desired state and is still in line with the future long term state desired. Reflection may then lead to another round or realisation, resolution and so the cycle goes. So as you start the year, may you go through these steps and make sure that when you reflect in any area, you can smile and enjoy the results thereof. My only advice is not to pile up your realisations until the year ends and then start to resolve to change but, to make it a continuous process throughout the year. I wish you a year of inspiration, progress, growth and happiness!