I adore chocolate, I loathe chocolate.

Like any decent addiction, the craving for chocolate is a tangible and palpable yearning. I love the stuff. I love that first mouth-watering morsel that touches my tongue and melts slowly with a delicious, intense, rich lingering that overwhelms my senses. The sensation has me reaching for the next piece before the remnants of the first leave my palate. Right there is the problem, the reason I loathe the stuff. I cannot stop. If it’s in the cupboard, it has to be devoured. If it’s open, it has to be finished. No matter the size and no matter how ill I feel from self-induced chocolate overload.  I hate myself afterwards and my lingering thoughts of chocolate are definitely not the good lingering ones. And that after all, is exactly why it’s called an addiction.


Oh, and did I mention that it makes me fat!

This cute little picture of the bunnies really should serve as a warning, “Listen to me” from the bunny with no ears, “it goes straight to your butt” from the second bunny. Not that it would make a difference mind you.

So which is it then? Love or hate? I can’t choose, it is both. It is a classic Juxtaposition. That love and hate. And I know it all too well…


“is the term which defines an act of placing a pair or even more things or ideas side by side usually in contrast or comparison.”

My life is made up of a whole collection of juxtapositions. In fact I am an enduring contradiction, a juxtaposition trapped in a paradox. No wonder I don’t know who the hell I am!

I am an introvert who avoids social gatherings with any possible excuse, yet I am a motivational and public speaker who loves to be on a stage.

I am a successful endurance triathlete, it’s a passion, but I have a passion antithesis. Bonsai, and have demonstrated all over South Africa sharing this passion.

I am a nerd trapped in an athletes’s body.

I am emotional, creative, an artist and a landscaper, but am extremely rational and pragmatic.

I am a people-pleaser of the worst kind, but hate being told what to do.

I am successful, but self-destructive.

I am fiercely independent, but I am needy.

I adore classical music, but can only listen to 5FM on the radio.

I am incredibly disciplined,  conversely I have terrible self-discipline.

I hate wearing a tie, but love how I feel in a tie.

I love working with my hands, but hate it when my hands are dirty.


And so it goes on and on. No one box fits. Who am I, a chocolate lover or a chocolate hater?  Each one of the characteristics that together form Richard comes with positives and negatives. Yet I am not willing to let go of anything, it is who I am. I don’t know which box I fit into. What does that make me? Confused?

No. It makes me perfectly, beautifully normal, just like you. It’s our struggle, the daily warfare between the disparate sides making up our identities. It makes us who we are. And it makes us all exquisitely different. Celebrate your contradictions.

We don’t belong in a box. Hand me another chocolate bunny why don’t you.

Are all the thoughts thought?



Is that a new thought right there? “Most definitely not” I hear you say, “nothing new Rich.” What if I told you that if you Googled (is that even a word?) the exact title above, Google will respond in 0,12 seconds with 491 000 000 entries, but not one single one of them have that precise sequence of words, not one!

But does that mean that particular thought process has never been thought? Of course not. The question has been debated since the beginning of time by some pretty smart dudes, and a little while back one of them said in both French and Latin (because he was that smart), “I think, therefore I am”.

Descartes argued that if all else were to be taken away, we would still exist because we think. But have you ever had a thought that not a single other soul on this planet has not already had? The converse of Descartes thinking is that if we cease to think, then we cease to exist. We are thinking all the time, but what are we thinking, and are any of those thoughts new?

What then are new thoughts?
I asked twitter if all the thoughts have been thought, and a friend, Mike, replied to say that, “a new thought gets rewarded with a Nobel prize”. In other words, only REALLY smart people get to think new thoughts. An interesting take I will admit. My retort was that many of the recent Nobel winners have taken an existing thought process and have refined it. That’s not new is it? Perhaps the following quote will substantiate that thought process.

“All intelligent thoughts have already been thought; what is necessary is only to try to think them again.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Was Johann onto something?

A distinction I’d like to interrogate is the difference between ‘new’ and ‘unique’. Try this; wait for a tweet from a very popular personality on twitter, and as soon as the tweet appears, consider your thoughts and reply to the tweet. I pretty much guarantee that within seconds (and some before yours even) another tweet will appear in reply with the same expressed thought as yours, from somebody else somewhere else in the world. It could practically speaking even be your next door neighbour.

Nonetheless, that thought was new for you, it was YOURS. What it wasn’t however is unique to you. Should that realization make us despondent? I certainly don’t want to think of myself as number seven billion and one, the ‘inadequate thought failure’ who thinks the same as everybody else.

We are taught from a very early age to think, but 92% of us (taken from Richard’s Irrefutable Journal of Statistics) are taught to think in exactly the same way as everybody else. In fact, we are rewarded for our ability to think the same way, and in a prescribed manner, and what’s worse is that we are told that in doing so we are learning how to think.

That’s like forcing a kid to colour in the lines. While indisputably there is some truth there, it unfortunately puts us into a ‘thinking box’. Most of us automatically find comfort in the confines of the box and realize that we are regularly chastised for peeking out to express a different way of thinking. And therefore we unwittingly proceed through life as a thought thief, reading articles and believing all that is written there, listening to opinion and adopting it as our own because it sounds good.

The thoughts we think are shared. My parents, my teachers and my lecturers all did an extremely good job of this. So much so in fact, that it has taken me 42 years to try to think differently.

Without doubt I know that I am not alone here. You might argue though that if all the thoughts have been thought there isn’t much point in trying to think further. There are many who share this view. Here is a link that should discourage you if that’s the reality you have owned: http://www.businessinsider.com/most-successful-college-dropouts-2013-3?op=1

break through the thought barrier

break through the thought barrier

Those are all extraordinarily successful high school drop-outs (you will notice that it’s a new list). In fact the creator of blogging, Evan Williams, is one of a much older list. Essentially these people failed college thinking, or decided they were comfortable thinking their own way, so they dropped out. Interesting to note that 80% of these people have come up with brand new ideas and concepts. So much for no new intelligent thought… At this point I pat myself on the back for not finishing either of the degrees I started, maybe too soon though, because you might have noticed that my name is missing from the above mentioned list.

And here is another thought to chew on: Imagine if I had given you the following list of words before February the 14th this year, and had asked you to think of a logical sequence. What would you have thought?

Crazy, woman, door, mental state, magistrate Nair, 4 shots, Reeva Steenkamp, prosthetics, cop, Oscar Pistorius, supermodel, ex-wife, R1 million, Hilton Botha, murder, slept together, 120 000 twitter followers, paralympian, gun, bathroom, premeditated, bail, fighting, Barry Bateman, dismissed, Cricket bat, taxi, valentines, chase, orthopedic specialist

Only 44 words, but the possible sequences are literally in the millions. How many people on this planet would have picked the possible sequence, or thought process, that played out in reality? The point being that we are all conditioned by prior knowledge, and the only way we can think new thoughts is either to build on what we already know, and develop those thoughts, or we need to free ourselves of previous thinking.

Exactly what our learned behaviour has taught us not to do. Based on our previous thinking and the acceptance of what we know, the chances that any of us would have developed even the most important thread in the Pistorius sequence correct are remote.

Additionally, It tells us that ‘new’ is happening every day. Hollywood script writers are paid big money for new scripts, have you seen a movie that bears the slightest resemblance to the sad events that played out that week?

My English teacher taught me to stick to the approximately 600 words in the Oxford Dictionary that were available to me at that time. Well, what about the new words that are added each year? Not even the dictionary is exempt from the creativity of new thinkers. Latest additions include ‘vajazzle’ (please don’t ask me) ‘OMG’ (which naturally follows the previous word), ‘tweetable’, touchless’, and ‘dumbphone’. So new are these words in fact that my spell check is screaming at me as I type. New is happening all the time, it’s a continuous process. You don’t have to be super smart to have a new thought like ‘OMG’ do you? Likewise you don’t necessarily have to be super smart to think new thoughts in many fields.

Richard Graham! that is NOT a word!

I am not intelligent enough to know all the ramifications of these questions– see mom and dad, I learned well, I know not to think I might be more intelligent than I am told I am – but what I do know is that the only way to develop thinking is by doing it. And you need to believe that you don’t have to be hyper intelligent to think new thoughts
I refuse to be fenced into somebody else’s thought patterns any longer, because I know that I am capable of cognitively changing my own thought patterns. I believe that the more you challenge your own way of thinking, the more you engage with others, the greater your skill at taking a step back and looking objectively at what you have always thought – the greater the chances that you will think new thoughts.

And while those thoughts might not be unique, they are new for you, and that is how the process starts. Who knows where that exploration of your thinking will take you? Maybe that’s what my teachers were trying to tell me? Who knew, I thought it was all about regurgitation…

Start thinking more today, start challenging your thoughts, because not all the thoughts have been thunk. [Am I allowed to do that mom? Write words that aren’t in the dictionary? Is that OK? It is? Cool beans…I have a new word. Can I go and ride my bike now? ]

As always, I’d be very keen to hear your thoughts…

The secret to Real Estate success.

here it is...The Secret

here it is…The Secret

“Richard, what is the secret to success in this business?” I have been asked that question more frequently than anything else any estate agent ever asks me. And I have to say at the outset that the answer is an extremely simple one, one I have given to thousands of agents over the past 10 years. Often the same agents ask it again and again, as if they refuse to believe that that’s all it is. Or they try, don’t see immediate results, and give up. And then most look for the shortcuts. What I know is that the Real Estate Rockstars, those who are at the pinnacle of sustained and repeated success, all spend at least 80% of their time working at this formula for success. All of them.

When the time comes for any potential seller or landlord of a property to investigate the market and call in a couple of agents to discuss the property in relation to the market, that person will always make first contact with the agent that he or she knows. Simple, and it happens without fail. As a property owner, my first choice is always going to be an agent I know (or whom at the very least I have met face to face and have had an exchange), because I will have the greatest chance of trusting that person. Secondly, a potential client will contact an agent who is known to a close friend, colleague or family member, and who has been referred to him or her. And for the very same reason as the first choice. And thirdly, a potential client will contact the agent he or she believes is the most successful in the area. That perception is predominately built on visibility, the agent who has the most visual presence. Normally through; For Sale, Sold, To Let, and On Show boards, signage, vehicle branding, Ads, marketing collateral such as drops, and even the lowly little name-badge.

So therefore, as we know that the agent who ‘owns’ the stock will always have the greatest control of the market, and will always be guaranteed commission, it stands to reason that the only questions that need  be asked of any agent in this regard are the following;

  1. Will you get the first call? How many property owners in your area KNOW you?
  2. If you don’t get the first call, will you get the second?’ How many people who KNOW you will refer you, and do they?
  3. If you missed the first and second call, will you get the third? Are you the most VISIBLE agent in the area?

It sounds so simplistic, and you will probably be thinking that there is so much more to it. And yes there is. Once you get the call what next? What do you say and what do you do? How do you make sure that you leave the house with a signed mandate? But that is a subject for another blog, because none of it is relevant if you are not getting that initial call to potentially list a property. Get that right first.

We use this exact same process when looking for any professional to perform an important service. For instance, If I need to go to a dentist, I will go to one I know, as long as I think they’re good. If I don’t know one, I will always ask if anybody I know can recommend one, if they can’t, I will find one. Which one? The one that looks busy, successful, and reputable. The experience I have with that dentist will determine whether they will become my dentist of choice or not.

GoldfishImage-e1323974710173How do people get to know me? Well I think that right there is the biggest mistake agents make, they ask the question in that manner, instead of asking it the following way, ‘what can I do to get to know people?’ Subtle difference. Agents assume that by shoving copious amounts of collateral in postboxes, putting branding up everywhere, using social networking, and creating visibility people will get to ‘know’ you. Please don’t misunderstand me, those are all fabulous initiatives if all you want is to remain top of mind and create the perception of success, but remember, another agent already got that first call… The agent who assumes that clients will come to them to get to know them, is going to wait a very long time sitting next to a phone that does very little ringing.

How can YOU get to know people? Well, knock on doors, spend time in the community, add value, get involved in various initiatives, join sport clubs and social clubs. Socialize, get involved in schools, community forums, shop where residents shop – when they shop – and engage people. Take an interest. Initiate conversations, but always remember to make everything you do about the other person. Just be genuine, be real, be you. Don’t be that guy who gatecrashes every wedding and funeral wearing a namebadge. People see through a fake faster than you can say ‘bad agent’.  Fake is the quickest route to the shortest career.  What follows is a simple analogy, but a very powerful one; if you go on a first date and the other person spends the entire evening talking about themselves, and then wants something from you –  like another date for instance – is there likely to be another date? No!

Stop asking for things, and rather ask what you can do, what you can give, what you can add, how you can benefit others. The fact that people know what you do is enough. Shift the focus onto them.

success (1)Get the other person to talk, and then listen. From then on, stay in touch, regularly. Simple. Its a guarantee of success. We all want to be remembered.

It’s not going to happen behind your desk, it’s not going to happen on your laptop, it’s not going to happen easily. But if you work at  it all the time, if you persevere, if you’re consistent and persistent, then slowly, slowly, the results will be evident. There are no shortcuts. This is without a doubt the hardest part of real estate, but the most necessary. Real estate is a long term game, not a short term one. It’s hard work and you will need to persevere, but you can have a lot of fun along the way.

So there you have it. Two words, ‘become known’. The secret to real estate. Everything else in this business only matters if your phone is the phone that rings first. Real estate does not happen in an office, it happens on the streets.

80% of you reading this will not follow the advice. You will be obliged to scrap for the 20% of the spoils that are left over. 20% of you will listen and will become the Rockstars who will earn 80% of the money. Tale as old as time. True story. It’s your choice.

Good luck to you. I hope this helps you to become a Rockstar if you aren’t already one 🙂

Next time we will look at how to go about building trust with clients. Please feel free to comment and engage with me,  let me know if you found this blog helpful. I’d like to hear from you.

[It must be said that the concepts above are true for ALL sales people no matter the product, merely apply the same principles.]

If you don’t love it, you won’t persevere.

“There were tiIMG_0923mes when I wanted to give up”. Have you ever heard that from any self motivated entrepreneur?  Of course you have, I bet that every single successful entrepreneur has been through at least one patch (some I am sure go through regular patches) during which time they wanted to throw in the towel.  It’s one of the most important things that distinguishes those who ultimately succeed, and those who give up.  Those who persevere generally succeed, but it’s practically impossible to keep working hard, to keep persevering, if you don’t love what you do.

Steve Jobs once said about success, “it is so hard, that any  rational person would just give up, unless they love it, unless they are passionate about what they do. And you have to do it over a sustained period of time. Often times the ones that were successful loved what they did, so they could persevere when it got really tough, and the ones that didn’t love it, quit. Because they’re sane, who would want to put up with this stuff if you didn’t love it”.

Perseverance is having the ability to just keep doing the right things over and over again, and very often there are no immediate results. Nothing to reward you for your continued efforts and hard work.  When it’s that hard, and results are as scarce as intelligent goldfish, negativity is overcome by focusing on the finishline, that ultimate goal, or even smaller stepping stones,  and the feeling you get from doing what fulfills you.

per·se·ver·ance  (as defined by Dictionary.com)

  1. Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
  2. Continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.
persistence – tenacity – pertinacity – assiduity

I have a passion for endurance sport. Somehow, hours spent on an uncomfortable saddle excite me.  The same concepts of loving what you do and success are true in training for an Ironman event. There are days when it is so hard just to get out of bed, so hard to put some running shoes on and head out the door. You know it’s going to hurt, you know you feel tired and flat.  In fact, you feel you are going backwards and not making progress.  It is so easy to skip the session, the results are nowhere to be seen, and you figure, ‘ what is the point?‘.  You feel more despondent than Albert Einstein did the day his teacher told him he’d never amount to much, and when Michael Jordan did the day he was dropped from the high school basketball team.  See where I’m going with that?  A winner looks beyond the present, and overcomes the tough times.  As an athlete, each session builds on the previous one, and cannot be seen as an individual goal.  It’s the culmination of hours and hours of training, planning sessions, training at varied tempos, and being consistent that will enable you to arrive on race day in peak condition.  Also true is that more often than not, it’s only the first 20 minutes of the session that are bad, and the longer you continue, the more you realize why you do it.  You get out of bed because you know that you will love it when you’re done, and you know that it’s the only way to reach your goals.


And so too, it is in our jobs. The rewards only come after hard work, consistency, and the sustained effort of doing the same things over and over, persevering in the tough times.  So what then does it mean to love what you do?

I believe that each of us is defined as a human being by certain things or needs that are not only very important to us, but that if these defining needs are not met, we will not be happy.  For instance, I am defined by the fact that I am a father. If I do not spend enough time with my daughters I am an unhappy camper.  Likewise I need to exercise, it makes me happy and I feel good about myself.  Another of the needs which define me is my need to teach or coach, and lastly I have a need to be creative.  If my job satisfies my teaching and creativity needs, and leaves me with enough time to spend with my daughters and time to exercise, I will be satisfied.  Simplistic I know, but yet so true.  Steve also said that, “if I wake up on 3 or 4 consecutive mornings thinking that this is not what I would want to do if these were the last days of my life, it is time to change what I do.”

Loving a job means feeling fulfilled, being challenged, having fun, and above all it’s knowing that this is exactly what you want to do because the act of performing your job makes you happy.  The spin off is that those you interact with in your job, for instance colleagues and clients, will respond very positively to your obvious enjoyment of what you do.  And lastly, success will follow you, even if it is not immediate.

If you are trapped in a job you don’t like you know what it feels like to have the life sucked out of you, and you know how hard it is to motivate yourself to work at all. Sometimes that is just life, and it’s a stepping stone or a mid term goal.  You might be a victim of circumstance.  Even more reason then to make sure that all of your other boxes are ticked and that you happy in the other things that define you.  Work towards change, life’s greatest truth is that nothing is forever.20130317-233509.jpg

I would rather spend long 15 hour days working hard in a job I love, than only working for 15 minutes a day on something I hated.  First figure out what defines you, then chase that until it becomes your reality.

Are you having fun?

How to race 70.3 SouthAfrica (Buffalo City)

20x30-IBES0039East London has been a happy hunting ground for me in the past, with a couple of age group wins, and a best result of 11th overall in the race. It is because the race is ideally suited to the fourth discipline of an endurance triathlon; mental discipline and strength.

If you can race to your strengths, ignore the rest of the field, and hold back on the first half of the bike, to the point that you feel that you might be making a horrendous mistake, you are likely to race your personal best on race day.

Just like any other major triathlon, Buffalo City 70.3 with its 3000 entrants will always make even the most seasoned triathlete weak at the knees early on race day. What follows is a take on how to approach the race to ensure not only your fastest possible time on the day, but also a race that will hopefully be one of the most enjoyable days you could experience.

Race day dawns, you’ve swallowed down a breakfast two hours before the start, you’re well hydrated, and you make your way down to the beach. Everyone is worried about the weather, and you have been following hourly updates for the past 3 days. What you now realize is that there was absolutely no point in that exercise. All it did was get you uptight, and for what?  Here it is…whatever ‘it’ is…same for all, and not a thing you can do about it!

Don’t forget to apply anti-chafe on the places under your wetsuit where you tend to chafe, have an energy gel 20 mins before the start, and I always like to put my goggles on under my swim cap.  Losing your goggles in the bunfight that signals the start of the race is no fun at all.

A rolling start is a perfectly civilized way to get your day started, but make sure that you start in an appropriate position. There is absolutely no point in adding extra pressure by starting with faster swimmers where you feel like you’re being left behind throughout the swim.

Ideally you want to be with swimmers who you can slipstream. I like to swim on the right of a bunch (as I breathe predominately to the left, and like to look over the swimmers, which helps me to sight and swim straight). Starting in the middle of the pack (even in a rolling start) is always going to be stressful and either athletes will be swimming over you, or you will be swimming over other athletes. Regular sighting to the front will make sure that you swim the straightest line possible.

East London seems to deliver cold water on race day (I have no idea why) but I always find that the less I think about it, and instead concentrate on my stroke, breathing and swimming on the feet of a slightly stronger swimmer who is swimming straight, the less I feel it.  It’s normally only cold for the first 200m anyway.

The swim is a great time to try to relax, the first 300m or so will always be an adrenalin frenzy and might take your breath away, so expect that.  Even the pros feel that on race day, it’s perfectly normal.  So the sooner you can consciously deepen your breathing, stretch out on your stroke and find a rhythm, the better.  Unless you are completing for a podium place, the swim is about pacing yourself to ensure you leave the wet stuff behind with plenty of gas in the tank!

Take in the experience, don’t wish it away too quickly. You’re privileged, you’ve worked hard to get there, and many wish they could be you. Absorb all of it.

As I exit, always like to wash my face off under the showers, and get the sand off my feet. Take your time to do so, it’s worth it. The pros will sprint up the steep little hill from the swim exit to the transition.  Resist that urge!  Walk up and catch your breath.  This particular half ironman is all about how fresh you can feel once you’ve completed the bike course.  The race is all about second lap of the run.  The more you have held back, and the more disciplined you can be about pacing yourself, the better your run will be, and ultimately, the more athletes you will pass on that last lap of the run.  Trust me on that one!

Because there are so many athletes, and its a rolling start, it is impossible to gauge how you are doing overall. As an age grouper completing for the first 3 positions I found this hard, but have always successfully raced this triathlon by focusing on my own race, my own pace, and my own strategy.  It has worked for me, and the results prove that. Race yourself, nobody else.

Find your bike transition bag, and take enough time in the transition to make sure you have everything you need.  I normally use socks for a half IM, favoring comfort over the 20secs I lose by putting them on.  Hopefully you will have practiced your transitions well before race day.  It is very important to use the first 10km on the bike to get your heart rate down.  Settle into a rhythm.  I like to take a bottle of water from the first water point to spray over my trisuit to wash off the salt, and will always carry whatever I need on the bike with me.  However, if your goal is a finish and not a win, make use of the aid stations. Take the time to say thanks, say hi to the athletes that pass you or that you pass.    Little things, but they tend to lift me, and help me to focus on positives.20x30-IBEC0191

Now, here’s the key to Buffalo City…. Set your cycle computer onto the time setting. NO average speed, NO current speed.

If you can set it on Heart rate, even better. It’s no secret that the bike course is hilly. I have seen so many really strong bikers think that they can hammer the bike, and that they will do well as a result. All of those athletes (bar none) have found out the hard way that that strategy doesn’t work! As a strong cyclist the aim is to use that strength to complete the course with lots of gas still in the tank. I will say it again…this race is about how good you can feel once you’ve climbed off your bike.  Therefore, I will always set my computer on the heart rate setting and will keep my HR between 150 and 155, my max on the bike is 171. I do this regardless of who passes me, how slow I am going, how much I need to slow down to keep the HR low.  And it always works.  I love to make a mental note of all the athletes that pass me, and there are always many. I cannot tell you how good it feels to pass them all again on the run, or towards the end of the bike.

So sit up on the longer climbs, breathe deeply, spend time in your small blade. Especially on the way out to the turnaround. It will all pay dividends. Spend a moment to savor how cool it is to be cycling on a National Freeway!

You start the race with a full box of matches, and each time you over exert or push your heart rate too high, you burn a match… keep your box as full as possible.

If you must, put the hammer down a little on the way back, you have been disciplined so enjoy the downs, but… The last climb back into town is the perfect time to sit up again, back off slightly and let your legs spin a little.  Try to recover a little so that when your legs touch the ground again they don’t want to buckle under you.

Transition 2 is the same as the first one.  Take the time you need without dilly dallying.  Take your time over the first 3-4 km of the run, ease into your running style, walk early if you need to.  Set small goals for yourself like 2min walk, 2 min jog. Your running legs will come back. Give them some time, and don’t stress.

Finishline 70.3

Finishline 70.3

There is only one big climb each lap, mentally prepare yourself to run slowly or walk up the hill.  I find that I always have a better overall run split if I take those hills slowly, and work the flats and downs hard, than if I attack the hills hard.

There is no shame in planning to walk Bunkers before you even start the race. The time you will lose you will make up by not depleting your reserves.

When you pass the athletes you recognize because they powered passed you on the hills on the bike course, resist the urge to say something like “hey bro, you smashed the bike…well done..hang tough, you’ll get to the finish before cutoff for sure!”  Nobody likes a smartarse!

Glowing inside…is enough.

From the 15km mark, the run becomes a mind over matter exercise. no matter how much you have held back. Keep yourself cool. Stay hydrated. Keep smiling, it helps.

Before my first endurance race I was given some really awesome advice that I’ve never forgotten, ‘hold back until you see the finish line at the end of the red carpet’.  It’s all about your ability to pace yourself, not get swept up in the emotion of the day, and the competition with the other athletes on the course.  Aim to finish the race with something left.  What I can promise is that there won’t be…but you will look back at a really fantastic race, and you have the best opportunity to finish strong. Good luck, and most importantly, have fun!

The day I burnt my scalp

ImageI’ve done some very dumb things in my life, truly I have…but this is a mistake I now view as the crowning achievement in stupidity.

I was shopping in Clicks and noticed a product packaged as the’ best thing ever’ for a black man who normally shaves his head with a razor:  Hair removal cream, which eliminates that pesky razor, and leaves the skin smooth and hairless in minutes.  Now understand that I am in no way prejudiced, and I figured the product wouldn’t be either.  I’ve never shaved my head, choosing clippers instead for the past 20 years.  I therefore jumped at the chance to present a smooth and shiny dome to the world with one easy application of this miracle worker.  No mess, no fuss.

Timing my hair removal to coincide with a pre-flight shower moments before I was due to leave for the airport, I followed every instruction to the T, grinning like a kid on Xmas eve – despite the stench that caused my eyes to water profusely.

The package said 5 minutes..I timed exactly 5mins..and…nothing really happened.  Enough unfortunately to necessitate another try, as the odd tuft of hair had been partially removed.  I felt a mild panic creeping up from my gut.  The tube said absolutely no more than 10mins…I figured I’d give it another go for my remaining 5mins, but with double the previous amount I’d smeared on, taking no chances this time.  I had obviously been too frugal and cautious the first time I reckoned.

The moment the cream touched my skin I knew I was in trouble,  the kind of trouble your mother always warned you about, the kind with extreme repercussions.  Excruciating pain emanated from my already singed pores the moment I wiped it across my head.  Considering the many hours I have spent training as an ironman in the past, I figured I could suck it up.  You know, swallow a cup of cement and all that!

5 Minutes though, is a very long time when the smell of burning epidermis hangs thick in the air, and it feels as if flames are licking at your head causing waves of pain and the feeling of heat approximating the coals of a braai ready to flame grill an elephant engulfs your tender cranium.   Imagine how gutted I was after removing; the cream, numerous layers of my skin and  more tufts of hair, only to discover I now looked like a patchwork quilt.  A burnt patchwork quilt.  I will look back on that moment as a particularly low point in my life.  Not even flying over the handlebars of a bike comes close.

flaming headTwo choices presented themselves…catch the flight as is, or shave with a razor.  No other way to fix the mess of my head.  I was already 10mins past my designated departure time from home.   I decided I simply could not leave home looking like I had barely survived a very drunk and demented barber who was convinced I had looked demurely at his biker boyfriend.   So, into the shower, and even lukewarm water burnt my head, soap became the she-devil.   My head lathered in thick shaving cream, I tenderly scraped the razor over the smoldering wreck that was my healthy noggin only 30 minutes previously.

Some time later, and only half the patches had been removed.  Lacking another mirror to view the stubborn stubble that remained, I had to rely on touch, thankful that by this stage most sensation had disappeared from the nerve endings on my raw scalp.  In a rush I exited the shower and rubbed my head with a towel to dry it…another glaringly obvious mistake…it felt as if I’d attacked myself with the roughest grade of heavy duty sandpaper, the only ‘good’ news however, was that my nerve endings were obviously still attempting to perform their duty.

I reached for the second product packaged together with the hair remover that promised to soothe my newly glistening pate, and squeezed a liberal amount to apply this ‘godsend’ that was going to ease the pain on the deep and fiery red of my head.  Yet another schoolboy mistake…I now know that product to be an alcohol based offering sent up straight from the depths of hell.  I have a new understanding for the words; burn, singe, scorch, and searing.  Excruciating enough to produce tears in my eyes and loud expletives, I reeled around, blindly feeling for the woman holding the offending flame thrower.

The endurance athlete in me somehow stepped up to the plate.  Focus on the goal, an airplane has your name on it Rich.  Sweating profusely,  I raced to the airport and onto the plane.  And there I sat…the stench of the hydroxide and acetate hanging thickly above my head (an interesting camouflage of bright red, puce, angry scarlet, and deep pink) and the air conditioning of the plane causing goose bumps on my still simmering dome.  My dignity lay in tatters.  In conclusion, I have learned the following:

Firstly, that black men have either tougher skin or softer hair than this fair whitie.

And secondly, schtooopid is as schtooopid does… Dumbass 😦