Rowan Spazzoli

Strategist. Lecturer. Consultant

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).

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)

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

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

Role Models: Dale Williams

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

Blog: 340/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day:ID vs Mako - Smoke Filled Room

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Final Stretch of #365of25

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


Image is from the prom today, obviously 🙂

Blog: 337/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: The Lagoons - California

A whale of a time

Work always seems to go better when you’re having fun. It’s both easier to do and flies by quicker. And this is all backed up by psychological research.

However, achieving this is not as easy as it seems. It’s not just about injecting positivity into your day or putting on a smile.

It’s about constantly improving your environment. Working on your mental health. Upgrading your skills. Getting organised. Finding meaningful work. And then, maintaining momentum.

All of this can be difficult, especially when facing mental health problems.

In spite of this, it is possible. 

It took a lot of effort

But now I’m back in flow


Image is of the whale we saw yesterday morning in Gansbaai

Blog: 333/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Watershed - Letters

We really do deserve this

“I don’t deserve this”

I remember my friend saying this as we came over the ridge and saw the Kommetjie sea below us. It was almost sunset and we had beautiful music playing in the car.

As we got into the beach house she said again 

“I really don’t deserve this”

Fast forward a year to today and I’m at her birthday party at a house by the sea. We’re deep in conversation about being able to do things for ourselves.

“Rowan, we really do deserve this”

I was talking to her about not letting myself enjoy experiences because there was either work or a worry about money. It’s why I often save as intensely as I can

“Rowan, we really do deserve this”

And the more she said it the more it began to stick. That I’m allowed to spend time and money on myself. That I don’t need to feel guilt.

It’s okay to splash out. It’s okay to use your resources to your advantage.

In fact, it’s more than okay…

We deserve it 


Image is of our sundowners spot yesterday 🙂

Blog: 332/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Akon - I'm so paid

Chasing dreams. Sparks flying.

Today I got to spend the whole day with sparks. 

The morning was spent with Rejane and David from the Bulungula Incubator. They spoke to the Strategic Thinking class and told us their journey from being in the same class in 1996 to leading one of the most phenomenal development organisations I’ve ever seen. I’m not joking when I say that I was so excited and inspired that I nearly passed out.

Lunch was spent with my colleagues/mentors Dale and Ali. We spoke about education and entrepreneurship and how we’re going to develop new ways to catalyze students into high impact careers. 

The afternoon was spent with my team from the course, and went through the top startup ideas in the class. Their theme was to focus on waste management businesses and in the end we settled on 6 phenomenal projects.

The evening was spent at the year end presentations of the Phaphama entrepreneurs with the students that had helped them throughout the year. I left the event beaming with pride, and overwhelmed with the incredible work that has been done.

Today was magic. 

And I cannot believe how fortunate I am to spend time with all these incredible sparks


Image is of students waiting to chat to Rejane and Dave after their guest lecture

Blog: 331/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Goodluck - Chasing Dreams