The last time I wrote on this blog, the world was a little different. I was in Joburg with my partner and family. We were at the Gauteng champs, watching my little brother row and the Springboks win in Japan. There was plenty of social contact, freely available alcohol and space to travel around the country.
Now, around 6 months later, none of that is possible.
We’re living in an entirely different world, where banana bread, home-brewed alcohol and Zoom calls are the new normal. And eventually the virus will pass but the world around us will permanently be changed by it.
This time has given me the chance to think. A lot. And one of the things I’ve thought about is finishing the 365 posts that I set out to do on this blog. I’ve got 8 left after this one, and it’s going to liberate me to write a different kind of blog once these are done.
I’ll also be taking the opportunity to re-do my website, as I’ve begun to change my career path slightly since the outbreak of the virus. The new website will go up on the day of the last 365 blog.
I’ve got so many ideas and so many things I want to pursue, and this is going to be the start of my journey.
Image was taken at the house in Claremont where I’ve been staying and features two members of my #quaranteam
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.
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
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?
Have someone else around to try and confuse it– this would involve speaking to a friend or therapist about it
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
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
Today’s blog post is about a role model of mine that I am very close to, Dale Williams. I’ve interacted with Dale in so many different ways. In 2014 I was a student in his course. In 2015 I tutored on the course and he was my boss. In 2016 I was his assistant on the course. And more recently we have become colleagues.
In addition to being my lecturer, boss and colleague, Dale has been a mentor, a coach, an angel investor, a consultant and, most importantly, a great friend.
I could give 50 reasons as to why he is a role model to me. But I’m going to settle on the 4 most important ones. His lean philosophy, his strategic insights, his humility and the support he shows… for everyone.
Reason 1: Lean Philosophy
Dale operates on a lean philosophy with most of the things he does, which are loosely based on the “Lean Startup” principles. This means that current work and new ideas are built on learning feedback loops (e.g. Kolbe learning styles) that allow them to be continuously improved.
The loops consist of roughly four components. The first is abstract conceptualization, which is having an idea of how things are currently done or could be done. The second is active experimentation, where the idea is tested before going our. The third is concrete experience, which involves implementing the idea. And finally, reflective observation, where the impact is analysed.
This results in being able to quickly and effectively implement new ideas. In the time I’ve known him, we have been able to improve the course in at least 20 different ways, mostly because of the rapidness of his lean philosophy.
Reason 2: Strategic insights
Dale uses a combination of a wide knowledge and a natural instinct to generate some of the most interesting and impactful strategic insights. He uses this when implementing his own ideas or when helping people with theirs. And I’ve been fortunate enough to observe and receive these insights.
For example, we once had a situation where a group of students were unhappy with an aspect of the course. The normal reaction from a lecturer here would be to push back or ignore the students. Instead, while he was gathering information about the issue he took time out to reflect. And in the space of just a few minutes, he decided on a path that was both unconventional and lead to the students being happy with the outcome.
Reason 3: Humility
Despite helping so many people, from students to executives at big banks, Dale always remains humble. He rarely name drops or sings his own praises. Instead, he highlights the work of others that have worked with him, and is quick to acknowledge their contributions.
Reason 4: Mentoring and Cheerleading
Finally (and most importantly), Dale is one of the greatest supporters/fans of people and their ideas that I have ever come across. As mentioned in my blog yesterday, he has inspired and taught me how to do the same.
Over the last four years I have watched him support many students and business leaders in their projects. He sits on the board of a number of student startups. He has given funding and invested in ideas and businesses (including my own). He consults and supports whenever he is able to (for free). And he will never hesitate to put you in touch with someone who could help you further
Dale is an incredible mentor, leader and friend. He is connected to the people around him, thinks critically and creatively, supports people and is humble.
And I can’t wait to continue learning from him.
Image is from Dale speaking at an event organised by a student last year
In the last few weeks I’ve been slacking a little bit when it comes to posting blogs. It’s been a combination of being busy and being really tired. But also, I’ve been focusing on doing things gently and sustainably instead of forcing them.
That said, I am so close to my goal of #365of25. I’ve written 337 blog posts, a number I would never have expected to achieve. And I only have 28 more to go.
There are also only 16 days before my birthday. And I fully intend on wrapping up the 365 blog posts while I’m still 25.
I’ve decided that I’m going to have two themes for the upcoming blog posts.
The first will be on role models. I’m going to write 3 blogs on some of the most important role models in my life. These won’t include friends and family, as I’ve mentioned before in the blog how these are my day to day role models. Instead, I’m going to be talking about people that inspire my career path and help me set goals for who I want to become.
The second will be a set of 25 posts about 25 lessons I’ve learnt over the last year. They’ll follow a similar flow to the current blog posts, but with the objective of reflecting on the past year and passing on some of the knowledge I’ve acquired. I’ll likely post two of these a day.
With just over two weeks left of the journey, I am both excited and proud of myself. And to those that have followed this journey since day 1, thank you for being there and for all the encouragement.
It’s the final countdown… We’ve nearly made it to #365of25