Rowan Spazzoli

Strategist. Lecturer. Consultant

Thesis and Thank Yous

Last week I finally got my thesis results, which included some phenomenal feedback from highly regarded academics. And today I submitted my final thesis, with corrections, to the UCT library, which means that it’s officially a wrap for my MCom in Economic Development. I will be graduating in December 🙂

I wouldn’t have made it to this point if it wasn’t for the incredible people around me who were there to get me over the line. As a thank you to everyone involved, I included an acknowledgements page on the first page of my dissertation.

Thank you once again to everyone for being part of this journey. The full acknowledgement section of my thesis is included below


Acknowledgements

Thank you to the legion of people that encouraged me and cheered me on in the process of writing this dissertation. I experienced multiple setbacks over the period when this was written, including suffering from depression and anxiety, family problems, being the victim of a robbery and various issues in completing the thesis. I made it through thanks to the unrelenting support of my incredible family and friends.

The irony of writing a dissertation on depression while suffering from it is not lost on me. However, having people around me that openly talked about mental health problems made seeking help much easier. In January last year, I started on anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication, which has changed my life. Thank you to my therapist and my psychiatrist for all the work they have done with me, I am eternally grateful. I encourage anyone suffering from mental health issues to speak up and not be afraid to seek help. You don’t have to fight the battle alone.

Thank you to the many friends that helped me through the tough patches and celebrated with me during the successes. A special thank you to the following, who were always there when I needed them: Jared, Holly, Janine, Steve, Hana, Samantha, Jess, Edward, Marcelle, Charlotte, Kuhle, Kay, Michael, Jonathan, Nick, Abigail, Thabo, Ahmed, Renee, Grace, Suzie, Shelly, Dale, Alison, Tiisetso, Alexei, Anna, Tiang, Louis, Rhiannon, Cait, Steph, Ndumi, Katie and Tumi.

Thank you to my supervisor, Malcolm, for all the support with the dissertation and for being so patient with me throughout the process, especially when I was going through a difficult time last year. Your input has been invaluable and I have learnt so much from you.

Thank you to my wonderful family for all they have done for me. My dad, Lihor, for all the support he has provided me throughout my life, particularly in my academic endeavours. My brothers, Lorenzo and Fabio, for being such wonderful siblings. Thank you to my uncle Massimo, for being supportive of my dreams and thank you to Sue, Jacqui, Jules and Matt for inspiring me. Thank you to the Weston family, who have been there whenever I’ve needed them.

Finally, and most importantly, thank you to my incredible mother Debbie for everything she has done for me. You are always there when I need someone to chat to, always ready to help and you have sacrificed so much for me. You’ve experienced every part of the journey with me, from panicking at the registration line with my degree choice, to the teary phone call after the tests in 2015 and, now, to celebrating completing my masters and finding my way in life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, I love you and truly would not have made it without you.

My journey as a student at UCT has come to the end after eight years, three degrees, thousands of hours studying and many late nights. Thank you to UCT for all the phenomenal memories and for shaping me into who I am today. It’s time to close this chapter of my life. As the last line of my old school song says:

“Here our ship once anchor’d and here its course was set.”


Image was  taken at the Bascule bar where I had a sneaky whiskey to celebrate the end of this journey.

Blog: 355/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey

Song of the day: Phoebe Ryan – Mine (Illenium Remix)

The Last Mile

Two years ago I ran a marathon. A full marathon.

And the most difficult part of the whole event was the last mile.

There were hundreds of people cheering on the route. A friend waited at the last corner to shout my name. There were giant banners, cheerleaders, a brass band and race marshals all egging me on.

And yet it was on that last mile that I was closest to giving up.

Knowing that I was near the end was part of what made it so painful. The finish line seemed incredibly close and impossibly far away at the same time.

I made it over the line.

And I stopped.

And I burst into tears.

The last mile has always been a struggle for me. The last day of studying before an exam. The last bit of work to complete a goal. The last few blog posts in my blogging challenge.

It’s the last bit that is the toughest.

So after a lengthy break, and lots of time to reflect, I’ve become determined to learn to finish what I started.

My new resolution is to get better at reaching the finish line.

Welcome to the last 14 posts of my #365of25 journey.


Image is of a beautiful midlands escape that I got to experience with one of my favourite people

Blog: 352/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey 
Song of the day:  BORNS - Electric Love

Tie the habit to the addiction

The process of building habits fascinates me, which may be because I struggle to form good habits and break bad ones. I even got a book on the topic, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which I would highly recommend.

I’ve also written about things that help me form habits. These include announcing your goals so that social pressure can influence you and committing to pay an amount if you fail to implement a habit.

Recently though, I’ve found another useful way to maintain a habit. And that is to tie a habit to an addiction.

This came about from my love of a certain smoothie store at the Waterfront food market. The smoothies are quite expensive, so I’ve been trying to ease up on buying them. However, I realized that I could use this addiction to my advantage. I’ve decided that I’m allowed to have one on any day, as long as I have completed 2 hours of thesis work before hand.

The obstacle to getting my smoothie isn’t massive (I considered making it 4 or 6 hours of work). Instead, it’s just the right amount of time for me to setup my work for the day and get some momentum. But not too much for me to completely stop my addiction.

So if you’re looking to start a new habit, look at something you’re hooked on. And tie your goals into that.

Use your addiction to your advantage.


Image was taken at the waterfront in October 🙂

Blog: 348/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day:Tie me down - Gryffin with Elley Duhe

P.s. I know I’ve been a bit slow on the blogs. But I’m still determined to get them done by the end of the year 🙂 

The Follow Through

Over the past few days I’ve hit a bit a slow patch with work. Nothing too serious, but it feels like I’m wading through thick mud. So I took some time off this afternoon to walk to the promenade and reflect.

On my walk I realized that one of my key weaknesses was starting to show again. And that weakness is my inability to follow through. I’ll start projects that really excite me, and pursue them with a great energy. But I get distracted when the project has been going on for too long or if something new comes along. 

I know this is an inherent part of my personality. It’s a trait that I’ve been aware of for quite a long time. And I know that something like this doesn’t change overnight. But I’d like to focus and follow through on my three existing projects.

The three projects are:

  1. My masters dissertation (yes, I know this has been dragging on)
  2. The Matter Innovation report
  3. The #365of25 project

In an ideal world, I’d like to have these done by the 7th of December, before the summer holiday season begins. This would give me two weeks to get through as much as possible. However, I know these things take longer than I expect and that putting myself under pressure isn’t the best way to be effective.

So I’m setting myself a deadline for the projects of the 14th of December. Before the christmas parties and before the holidays are in full swing.

I’ve had a phenomenal year. And it’s time to end it off in style.


Image is from my prom walk this afternoon 🙂

Blog: 347/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Lady Zamar - My baby

Taming the Boggart

Have you ever had a fear or anxiety that can’t be explained? Something that materializes out of nowhere. It’s a dark shadow, and seems to adapt itself in to whatever might scare you the most. And it washes over you with a flood of anxiety at the least ideal moment.

These are the types of anxieties that other people would find weird. For example, I get really anxious when going shopping for clothes. I don’t know where this comes from. But I know that if I have to buy myself clothes I put it off for months, and then go into a mall with a very specific intention… to get one item and one item only

I chatted to my therapist this week about it and we came up with a great analogy for it. We called this fear “The Boggart” (from Harry Potter for those among you who are uncultured).

A boggart is an amortal shape-shifting non-being that takes on the form of the viewer’s worst fear. Because of their shape-shifting ability, no one knows what a boggart looks like when it is alone, as it instantly changes into one’s worst fears when one first sees it

– from http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Boggart

The fear or anxiety that we have in these situations might have no distinguishable source, or is as a result of a long forgotten memory. So it takes the shape of whatever might scare you most. Essentially, your own boggart.

And the best way to deal with a boggart?

  1. Have someone else around to try and confuse it– this would involve speaking to a friend or therapist about it
  2. Use the “ridikulous” charm – this requires firm concentration and turning the fear into an object of fun.

So when you’re next faced with your own personal boggart, don’t let it defeat you. Instead, bring someone in and highlight the ridiculousness of the fear. And pretty soon you’ll be able to water it down and wash it away.


Image was taken on the last day of packing up my old apartment

Blog: 345/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Ehrling - I feel good

The Special Day

“What are you going to be doing on your special day?”

This came up a few times today. Friends and family asking what exciting things I had planned for my birthday. 

And to be honest, I hadn’t thought about it all that much. I’ve planned a dinner at the end of the week, but for my actual birthday I wasn’t too concerned with doing anything different.

“I hope you’re not going to be working”

Another common message I got today. That I should not subject myself to anything that I didn’t want to do.

But what I wanted to do today was pretty much what I do every Tuesday. It went something like this:

  • A morning coffee and some music
  • A phone call with my mom
  • Weekly therapist session
  • Some general admin (dropping off a box of donations, getting car things done)
  • Some thesis work
  • An interview with someone for my consulting project
  • Lunch at the waterfront (with friends)
  • A little bit more research and work
  • A sneaky visit to my uncle for tea
  • Spending time with close friends and having a few drinks
  • Writing my blog and listening to my favourite music

And as I started writing this blog I realised something. 

That this was a special day. And it was also a normal day.

I realised that I’ve gotten to a point where every day is special. That I’m doing exactly what I want. And that I wouldn’t want to do anything different.

My work is part of the joy. My flexibility allows me space and time with friends. And the things I do every day light me up.

And so for my “special day” today I did exactly what I do every day.

And it was wonderful


Image was taken from my uncles apartment 🙂

Blog: 344/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Leventina ft Syntheticsax - Here workin' (Dinka Remix)

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Birthday Eve

The evening before my birthday has always been special. It’s my dad’s birthday, meaning that it was a two day celebration in the family. It’s guy fawkes day, which meant that, just like new years eve, my birthday is ushered in with fireworks. And it’s a day of reflection about the year that has passed.

It seems to have crept up a bit quicker this year… but I’ve been able to experience all of those things today. I had a video call with family for my dad’s birthday, lit a very big sparkler out the window of our apartment and now I have time for a brief reflection.

This year has been one of phenomenal growth for me. My life is so different since it was 365 days ago. I feel freer, happier and more willing to take on the world.

Part of that was because of the goals I set myself… the biggest one being the blog. I used to be scared about sharing my thoughts and ideas, both out of shyness and fear of criticism. But writing every day has helped quell that fear and has made writing easier for me. I may not have gotten to the 365 posts yet, but I’ll do so in a few days time. 

The blog has also been a great way to connect with people. I have 30 subscribers and an average of 40 views per post. My family and friends are able to share in my learning and growth. And some of the posts go beyond this to a wider audience.

There have been some speed bumps this year too. Moving apartments, being robbed, friendship problems, family problems, car accidents and massive thesis problems.

But at the same time there have been some things that have been so important. Getting proper mental health treatment, taking on (and finishing) two major consulting projects, lecturing, going to Portugal, finding a new workspace and making some incredible new friendships.

Being 25 has been great. I’m proud of what I have achieved and learnt.

And there’s going to be a lot more in the year to come


Image is of a rainbow this afternoon, as seen from our flat

Blog: 343/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Hozier - Someone New

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Building our own barriers

I’ve spoken before on the blog about how we can be our own worst enemies, with two sides (or “wolves”) within ourselves competing with one another. And I’ve followed this up with a blog on how we should support both sides here, the ambitious side and the scared/broken side.

When discussing these, I’ve highlighted how the “bad” side has the potential to impact our goals and dreams. How it causes procrastination, laziness, sadness and frustration.

But it’s not just this side that can have a negative impact on us.

The ambitious side, the hardworking side, can also be very detrimental. It can set goals that are not viable. It can lock us in to a series of to-do lists that don’t allow us space to breathe.

We build obstacles for ourselves and get frustrated when we can’t overcome them. Even if they were unreasonable in the first place.

I think that’s the point that I’ve reached with this blog. I have 24 posts left to go, with only about a week left. And I’m starting to feel like I’ve failed. This results in me trying to push myself way over my normal limit. I keep promising myself 3 or 4 posts a day but get to the end of each day without completing any.

So again, as I have said before, I need to learn to be gentle with myself. There are 341 blog posts that have been written. And even if I don’t finish on the 6th of November, I will make it to 365.

And I’m going to be damn proud of myself.


Image is from the Cape Town City game this weekend

Blog: 341/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day:Seven Lions feat Fiora - Dreamin