Rowan Spazzoli

Strategist. Lecturer. Consultant

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

World Mental Health Day

Just a short post today for World Mental Health Day. I’ve been seeing so many posts about it on social media and have absolutely loved how people are talking, sharing their experiences and supporting one another.

I’d just like to put down a few short points about my experiences and interactions with issues with mental health:

  • Mental health issues run in my family. There is a history of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder with close and distant relatives
  • I’ve had a number of bouts of depression, most recently at the end of last year
  • This year I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder by a psychiatrist. Going to that psychiatrist was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
  • I’ve been taking SSRI medication for both issues since the start of the year and they have worked phenomenally well (with the exception of a few side effects)
  • I’ve also been seeing a therapist (psychologist) once a week for the past year. Therapy has changed my life in ways I will never be able to describe
  • I’ve been fortunate to have the family support and money to be able to afford these treatments. Looking after your mental health does not come cheap
  • My masters dissertation is on depression, and from my research it is disproportionately women and people in low income brackets that are suffer from mental health issues, particularly in South Africa. It’s something that needs to be placed as a critical component of our development plan

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, listened to me or helped me with issues of mental health. If you’re reading this and feel like you’ve experienced mental health issues, but haven’t spoken to anyone before, please ether send me a message or confide in a friend or professional

Image was taken at the UCT GSB this afternoon 🙂

Blog: 329/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: U137 - Midsummer field

P.S. My webinar is tomorrow, don’t miss it! All the info you need is here

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Remember: your environment shapes you

Today I had a conversation with one of my former students (let’s call her Cath) about careers, which included a discussion on yesterday’s blogpost. We ended up specifically speaking about the convergent nature of how we decide our careers, and how your environment shapes what is (perceived to be) available to you.

This point came up in two dramatically different ways.

The first was that Cath works for a literacy NGO where she has been teaching children to read. One of her students told her that he wanted to work as a shop assistant at a discount retailer when he was older. When pressed with why he wanted to do that, he explained that his mom liked this particular retailer and it was the best place he’d ever seen.

In other words, all the information available to him was that this was the ultimate career to strive towards. And the reason that this was frustrating for Cath was that as soon as she explained how many other options were available to the child, he lit up at the ideas that existed

The second, in a great twist of irony, was that Cath has been wanting to change her career path. She dislikes the current trajectory (accounting) and would love to be involved in education. Whenever she talks about education, she lights up like a Christmas tree. And she shows her spark.

However, everyone around Cath is following the accounting path. All her friends and classmates. And her family expect her to go down that path too.

So in the same way that her student’s environment points them to working at a discount retailer, her environment points her to becoming an accountant.

And the best way to get out of this?

Incorporate influences into your environment. Have people show you there is a world outside your bubble. Find teachers, friends, mentors or role models.

And this applies to Cath’s student too. One of the best ways for them to dream bigger is to have influences like her in their life. And exposure to people from their community that have gone on to do incredible things.

We must never forget that our environment shapes our decisions. And that we can influence this environment to help us find and reach our goals and dreams.

Image was taken at Khayelitsha Mall last week friday

Blog: 328/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Younger - Opposite the Other
(this song fits the theme of this blog post quite nicely)
(And it's by former UCT students)

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This question is outdated, and we shouldn’t be asking it anymore:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

There are a number of reasons I say this.

Reason 1: You’ll change jobs. Lots

Firstly, it assumes that a person will do one thing for their entire adult life. That they will pick a career or job and stick to it until their retire. And this was the case with people currently at the end of their career

However, sticking to one job or career for young adults is highly unlikely. There are many factors that can cause you to want to change jobs, from boredom to being able to train yourself with new skills. And there are many factors that can cause you to have to change job, such as automation, artificial intelligence or shifts in the job market

Reason 2: New jobs will come in to existence

Secondly, the question assumes that people have all the information now about careers that exist in the future. But the job market is evolving constantly due to things like technological advancement.

My flatmate currently works as the leader of a technical team at a computer network management company. This job would have barely existed in 1992 when we were born. His girlfriend is a multimedia journalist in charge of digital strategy and social media.

Being a social media manager as part of your job? This wouldn’t have existed even 10 years ago

Reason 3: Access to the world

Thirty years ago, your main access to the world outside your immediate community was limited. But nowadays, we can have a conversation with virtually anyone in the world. And we can connect to almost any job conceivable.

I’m currently doing a project for a UK based consulting company. My friend who does digital design has done work for Nigerian companies.

Your choice of job is no longer limited to what is immediately around you.

What should we ask people instead?

The problem with the standard question of “what do you want to be” is that it is convergent. It asks us to take the information we have at hand now and make a decision based on it.

That’s why 5 and 6 year olds might say “policeman” or “singer” when prompted, because that’s the only career information they have available to them.

Instead, we should ask divergent questions about what a person wants to be. Where the answers could result in a variety of different careers. Some examples that come to mind are:

  • What problems do you want to solve?
  • What do you love doing?
  • What type of people do you want to work with?
  • What type of lifestyle would you like to live?

Any of the answers to these questions could lead to vastly different careers. For example, if the person wants to help people who are sick, they could potentially be a doctor, a health economist, a hospital manager, a pharmacist, a nurse, an executive at a pharmaceutical company, an ambulance driver, a politician or even a lawyer.

So when thinking about our careers and those of young people in general, don’t start with asking about a specific career. Ask about goals, passions, interests, core values.

And help them find a path that gets them there. There will certainly be more than one. 

Image was taken in my first week of university, in 2011, when we accidentally walked to the block house.

Blog: 327/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Summer Escape - DFLV

Unique interests and passions

The ease of access to all forms of media since internet has become widely available has had a really interesting impact on people’s interests and passions. 

For example, I do listen to quite a bit of mainstream music. But through exploring on 8tracks, Spotify and YouTube I’ve developed a music taste that is highly unique in my friend circles. I love a very specific sub-genre of prog house at the moment, and have also gone through phases of swingstep and chillhop.

One of my most interesting music phases was in 2014 when I became obsessed with Tuvan Throat Singing (see video below).

Nowadays, our influences aren’t limited to friends, family and mass media outlets. We can watch YouTube tutorials and pick up and entirely new hobby, or become a fan of a niche band from New Zealand.

We still all have a certain number of common interests and habits in our circles.

But the internet means that you can now develop interests and passions in pretty much any thing you want. And that’s pretty cool 🙂

Image was taken at Oudekraal this afternoon

Blog: 326/365. Click here to read about my #365of25 journey
Song of the day: Kongar-ol Ondar - Back Tuva Future