My terrible little secret.

I had my Mom in the car with me, and I was itching to do it. It’s my habit, my addiction, my terrible affliction. I knew I couldn’t, I shouldn’t, she’d judge me and chastise me, 

Admonish me like a naughty little boy again. 

Just the other day I looked up from the little screen and had to swerve to avoid driving into the chevrons on the side of the road. My heart pounding as I guiltily tossed the phone onto the passenger seat. A minor lapse I thought. Thank goodness there were no other cars on the road. No one to witness, nobody to see me. I’m probably just tired, it’s late, and I’ve just climbed off a plane.

Besides, I’m a great driver. I can handle a phone and a steering wheel simultaneously. The Multitasking King. I’m better than the rest. It won’t happen again.o-TEXTING-DRIVING-facebook

But that’s how all addictions flourish, that little voice in your head that whispers, “You’re still in control. You can stop any time you choose.”

I’ve even assuaged my guilty conscience by convincing myself that catching up on social media posts is OK. After all, I’m not texting, and isn’t that what all the fuss is about?

Driving robot to robot, waiting for the car to roll to a standstill and then reaching for the phone. Watching the road, constantly waiting for a straight stretch of road, less traffic, perfect conditions to get my fix. 

But it is never OK. 

No matter how good a driver you are, no matter how fleeting the glances at the screen. It is just a matter of time. One text and one update closer to the inevitable. 

Of course my mom would be right; I just don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to admit it either. Don’t want you to know…finally-thumbs-down-things-you-dislike-facebook.1280x600

But it is time. I am lucky that thus far my terrible habit hasn’t cost me. Yes lucky. Not skilled, not clever, not smart. Not better than anybody else who has caused an accident, taken a life, lost a life.

Just plain lucky! 

So now you all know. I admit that I have a terrible habit. My secret is out. 

And so it ends, because from today, I promise that I am done. I’m going cold turkey. 

And I’m asking for help. 

If you’re close enough to me to know when I am driving, and you suspect that I am breaking my promise, I’m asking you to challenge me, be hard with me. 

 And I am challenging you to do the same. Give it up. Come clean. Be grateful that you’ve been lucky too. feeling-lucky

Please don’t wait for your luck to run out…

You do it because ‘driving is such dead time…’

There’s something there, don’t you think?

 

 

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Being positive is a choice. Truck versus bicycle – 10 lessons.

Lesson number one; a truck is a formidable opponent.

Human flesh and bone is no match for a truck moving at speed – probably no match regardless of the speed.  For that matter, tar is also a force to be reckoned with. I am an Ironman on paper only, that much is now abundantly clear to me.

My very best ‘tuck and roll’ turned into a ‘tuck and smear’…

Lesson number two; stealth is not to be underestimated.

I didn’t hear it coming. A truck the size of a small building snuck up behind me with the stealth of a hunting leopard, but with 16 times the speed and none of the finesse.

20131208_100049_1Lesson number three; cycling apparel should come with a warning label that reads; “resists wind, but not hard surfaces.”

This lesson is self-explanatory, and my bib-shorts are evidence to the lesson.

Lesson number four; disaster strikes unexpectedly.

21 Years of cycling… Accident free and invincible.

I was happily lost in Sunday cycling dreamland. Putting the hammer down on my imaginary cycling partners. Crashes are for all the other cyclists…

Lesson number five; shock and pain are ugly twin sisters.

I still haven’t figured out which was worse; the shock of the unexpected, lying scribbled on the tarmac squinting into the sun, wondering how I’d gotten there. Or the stabbing pain that seemed to come from everywhere all at once.

Lesson number six; pain doesn’t trump outrage and indignation.

The driver didn’t stop, didn’t even slow down, not even a smidgen. Neither did any motorist mind you… Who cares about the pain… How dare he!?! Here I am laying in an ugly mess on the tar, the result of his negligence, and he disappears into the Joburg smog.

I swore a lot.

I shouted words I didn’t know that I knew.

Lesson number seven; road rules only apply to those who are pedantic enough to follow them.

I was right, he was wrong. The yellow line belongs to the cyclist. A cyclist takes up an entire lane. Vehicles are not permitted to drive on the left of the yellow line. Well, that’s what the rulebook says anyway…

Truck driver rule number 1: the road belongs to the biggest.

Lesson number eight; the fable that “chicks dig scars” is false.

I have seen no measurable increase in female attention since the incident. In fact if the ugly truth be known, I have seen no attention whatsoever. Which of course makes Keryn very happy…

Personally I’m gutted, good scars have been wasted.

Lesson number 9: there is no lesson number 9, it purely appeals to my OCD nature to have ten lessons.

suck-it-up-buttercup.american-apparel-unisex-tank.black.w760h760b3Lesson number ten; setbacks need not actually set you back.

Setbacks and hardships, accidents and incidents, negative life happenings, can either affect your future, or can mean absolutely nothing going forward besides being a good story. You can decide, it’s actually a choice.

Granted, some incidents are far harder to get through than others, but there really are only two distinct groups of people.

There are those who assume the victim role at any opportunity. They will tell everyone whom they meet about all the negative things that have ever happened to them. They live in the past, and gradually do less and less for fear of all the bad things that might happen, due to all of the bad things that have already happened. Always looking for the next excuse to throw a pity party, they are avid followers of bad news. In fact, bad news seems to follow them.

And then there are those who pick themselves up, brush themselves off and move forward in life. Pragmatic and stoic to the core. Life hands out lemons and nobody ever guaranteed you a free ride nor a pain-free ride in life. They wear the scars as a reminder of what they have been through to reach their present disposition.

They choose to learn from the tough times and avoid the victims. That’s a pretty good motto I reckon. You will always find the bad if you look for it, but guess what, you’ll always find the good if you choose to look for it too.

Hardship produces great character if only you’ll allow it to.

So I choose to accept that the risk of cycling is ‘Tarmac-time’. I am grateful for every moment that I get to spend on the freedom that is a bike. I will take all necessary precautions, and ride defensively, but recognize that sometimes no matter what…life happens. And when it does, I need to climb back on as soon as possible.

And besides, the odds remain in my favour.

21 years, only one measly accident.

Opportunity is a confusing concept.

169How do you really know what is in the best interests of your kids?  They aren’t you, and each one is so different.

Every parent wants the best for their kids, regardless of who the parents are and regardless of their circumstances.

We want to provide opportunities we might not have had ourselves.  And if we cannot provide our kids with opportunities whilst they’re growing up, we sure as hell want to be able to set them up for their future.

But opportunity is a very relative term.

Many parents in South Africa would like nothing more than to provide for the basic needs of their children. A roof over their kids’ heads, regular meals, or maybe just a flushing toilet and a basic education of sorts. Let alone their own bedroom and the latest Transformer or Barbie doll.

Poles apart, you’ll find wealthy parents who believe that opportunity means expensive private schooling, international tertiary education, and pretty much anything else that their money can buy.

Somewhere in the middle the average parents encourage their kids to play sport, pursue cultural interests, and get good grades. Opportunity for these parents relates to social status, religious life-ever-afters, and perhaps even any passport other than a South African one.

My viewpoint as a dad is that all of the things I’ve mentioned above – whilst I’m not knocking any of them –  mean very little  unless your children feel loved, important, and secure in who they are. And to a very large extent that’s your job as a parent.

What I know for sure is that opportunity is not necessarily a thing, an object to be provided, a certificate, or a piece of paper.

I’ve seen far too many young adults fail because they were spoilt and over protected. They never learned to face their fears and overcome failure because mommy or daddy always jumped in to shield them from the ugly side of life. Standing on your own two feet is pretty hard when you’ve never had to do it before.

I’ve seen far too much wasted potential resulting from a total lack of parenting stability. One or both parents MIA. One or both parents emotionally unstable. Parents who just don’t spend enough time with their children, or who force adult issues on their kids.

And I’ve seen far too many graduates battling to pay the bills because they are academically brilliant but suck at life skills and interpersonal relationships.

From where I stand, the greatest gift is the gift of self-belief, of self-confidence and of independence.

Gifts that come from parents who encourage their children to dream, to believe in something greater for themselves, and to believe that there is absolutely nothing that they cannot achieve if they are prepared to believe and work hard. Parents who encourage as much social interaction as possible, and encourage their kids to be independent from a young age.

Parents who provide stability, predictability, dependability, security, and solid roots. Who promote emotional independence, positive habits, and routine.

Parents who impart mechanisms for the handling of failure and of defeat. Because defeat and failure are inevitable.

And preferably, two equally involved parents, no matter if they live apart.

girlsSkill-sets can be learned, passports can be gained, money can be earned, but self-confidence is hard to develop later in life. Ask me, I know all too well. I have struggled most of my life to develop self-confidence.

Consider for a moment the tycoon, Donald Trump. All the money and power in the world, but still such an insecure, small man inside. Hence the trophy wife, the comb over and the need to splash his power and influence across the globe. His need to defend himself by bullying his haters on Twitter.  All hinting at compensation for a lack of self-confidence and needs that were not met as a child. My opinion only I admit…

Would I wish that for my children? Absolutely not!

Intrinsically we are subjective beings, and it’s almost impossible not to project our own fears and shortcomings onto our children, but our job as parents is to do our damnedest not to.

I intend to keep trying my best. Only time will tell.

 

 

 

Self belief has to ooze from your pores, your very being.

IMG_20140125_114256When I was little my teacher once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I didn’t become a fireman, nor an astronaut, and I am not Batman – well nobody has ever seen Batman and me in the same room…
Instead I am something I never imagined I would be. And I kinda got here by default. Stuff just sort of happened. I don’t regret it, I love what I do! But at some point I stopped believing that anything is possible, and I’ve held myself back from all sorts of things as a result.

For most of us, the last time that we truly believed we could do anything we set our minds to was at the age of 6.

We were moulded by life, by choices our parents made, by choices we made, where we grew up, and by the generally subjective opinions of the influential people around us.
No Richard, you can’t do maths, you’re not smart enough. Really? No Richard, you wear glasses, you can’t become a swimmer. Really? No Richard, she’s too good for you, set your sights lower. Well maybe….

And so it continued.

Some of the constraints were real, some were obstacles that others had experienced in their lives, and the intent was to protect me from experiencing the same disappointments myself. That is a natural, understandable, and although good intent, it is not necessarily in my best interests. The reason is simple, I am not you.

1743689_704539719566636_1543313980_nUltimately though, my biggest constraint has been the person looking back at me in the mirror. My own lack of self-belief and lack of self-confidence has been the greatest inhibitor on the journey my life has taken.

As much as I would like to blame those around me for robbing me of the ability to believe in myself, especially in those hugely influential formative years, the power to change that has been in my hands ever since. It is hard to realize how great that power is when you’re trapped in a mire of self-denigration.

So essentially it is the biggest word in the English dictionary that has tripped me up – fear.

Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of disappointing others and fear of not being good enough are just some of my fears. I have always put huge pressure on myself to do everything ‘right’. Now there’s a play on words… But right in whose eyes, and what is right anyway!

As a deep thinker, and an intense over analyser of life and stuff in general, it is easy to get caught in the trap of trying to figure out what caused my lack of self-belief, and how best to turn it around. I have a doctorate from the University of Over Analytical Thinking.

But the fact of the matter is that no amount of philosophizing will affect one iota of change. In the words of Richard Branson – a man who was handed a raw deal in life and who believed in himself enough to change it  – “Screw it, let’s do it”

Besides, what have you got to lose?

Failure? Rejection? Disappointment?

Ironic that we fear the very things that already prevent us from succeeding.

Waiting for others to believe in you before you dare to believe in yourself is a recipe for failure. But that’s what we do. We wait until we’ve already proven ourselves, not realising that that is failure in itself, and I know all too well the disappointment that accompanies the look in the eyes of the man looking back at me in the mirror.
Most of us live our lives based on what we already know to be true. And so our life becomes a repeat of exactly that – our past – a comfort zone if you will. We keep making beef lasagne because we know we’re already good at it.
Our comfort zone is not the place where magic happens. Magic happens when you step outside of that zone.

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When you come into contact with someone who oozes self-belief from every pore (not arrogance and not attitude, but a genuine self-acceptance and self-confidence) it’s hard not to believe in them. In fact, dare I say it, it’s nigh impossible. Self-belief is contagious. I believe in you, because you believe in yourself!

It is not too late to become all you ever wanted. Because ultimately what you wanted was to feel that anything is possible. To feel capable. To feel the confidence associated with a deep seated belief in whom you are.

The secret is simple. Stop wasting time whining and trying to figure it out!
Screw it, just do it! Make a conscious decision. Today!

You truly do have nothing to lose.

Why motivating others doesn’t work…does it?

If motivating people was truly successful I would be jobless. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t really work, does it?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and thrive on the feeling I get when I leave a room full of people with smiles on their faces and a sparkle in their eyes knowing that I have touched them in some way. Sometimes I struggle to see it as a job, and marvel that I get paid to do what I love.

clark-kent-superman-costume-plus-size

But the average motivational talk – no matter how good the motivator is – has a lifespan of anything between one hour and one week. That’s it.

The best motivators leave their audience feeling empowered to take on the world, change their lives for the better, and wage war on their fears and insecurities. From disempowered cubicle worker to superman in the blink of a keynote.

But ultimately nothing significant changes. Superman reverts to Dilbert in the blink of a report deadline and a phone call from the wife reminding him to get nappies and formula on the way home. Leaving little but the distant memory of a ‘feel good’ moment at the hands of a skilled motivator.

Sometimes we remember a thought or a line; sometimes we even make a conscious decision. But mostly we just enjoy the moment and the escape and smile inside – and isn’t that just fabulous!

The motivator is invited back, they loved him. “He’s Brilliant!” they say.

How brilliant is he if he has to go back!?

But the intention was never to transform an entire roomful of people into super-charged motivated-for-life energy bunnies. It was to plant seeds, challenge a way of thinking, inspire, provide smiles, and produce an odd ‘aha-moment’ or two.
A top up of the batteries as it were.

Self-sustained motivation comes from within. The truly motivated have an outlook, a demeanour, and an attitude that is different. They possess an energy that defies even the toughest personal hardships.

It is something that exists beyond the inevitable ups and downs of a life, like an undercurrent that flows regardless of circumstance. It seems to be an infinitely renewable resource. A sense of purpose even.

Mostly it starts with a decision. A choice to be positive. Happiness is a choice too. Understanding what makes you happy and making sure that those things are celebrated every day will go a long way to making you feel motivated.

Once in a while, one person sitting in the audience somewhere feels a little seed grab hold in fertile conditions that just happened to be right on the day. The message was congruent with their personal journey, and a life-altering moment is experienced.

The average fully grown tree produces approximately 750 000 seeds every year. Out of all of those seeds, 20 to 30 find conditions to begin life. Only one of those little seedlings might make it to maturity.
The entire process, the full season, was worth it if only one new tree can grow and become everything its DNA intended it to be.

Yup, let’s get him back.

Being a people pleaser always results in you being a people displeaser

I have learned the hard way that avoiding pissing people off invariably leads to pissing them off even more. And the problem is that when they are upset beyond upset you can’t remind them that you tried to upset them less by pleasing them in the beginning, and that all of the unpleasantness was caused because you had their best interests at heart.

Somehow your words fall on deeply pissed off ears that can’t hear your logic. In fact, even your logic seems to offend them.

The funny thing is that you become the baddest of bad guys. Which isn’t what you intended in the beginning was it?

1119450.largeBut did you really have their ‘best interests’ at heart? Or were you just avoiding being the bad guy because you were scared that you would be liked less, disliked even? Is it maybe even a deep seated insecurity within you that has an associated need to be liked? A fear?

All of the above? You are not alone.
Only one in ten people have the self confidence to forge through life with a ‘I could care less what you think attitude’.
OK so I made up that stat, but I’m sure it’s pretty accurate. I am also sure that those ‘one in ten’ are the happiest folk on the planet.

There are of course those who genuinely think that they are putting the needs of others above their own, and are acting like some sort of sacrificial lamb on the altar of worldly goodwill and ‘self depreciating magnanimousness.’

They shall inherit the earth – or what is left of it once those of us who can’t say no to a Jehovah’s Witness have destroyed it because we’re sitting on the fence too worried to take sides.

I guess maybe we feel selfish when we put our own needs first and decide that we are going to please ourselves and not others. It is generally frowned upon after all. It’s even called Self gratification. Masochism. We have negative names for those traits.

But it sure does come cheap at the price when you consider the cost of the alternative.

rejectionIf you are pleasing others at the cost of your own happiness purely because you are avoiding the discomfort of being seen to be the bad guy…chances are you’re about to become the worst guy.

Good luck with that.

As for me, I intend to inherit an earth I have fought hard for by standing up for myself, facing my fears, and putting my needs first.
It’s the only way to please others…
– I might have stolen that line from the ‘Learning to say NO’ course I recently enrolled for.

Please note that I had to think long and hard about including the word ‘pissed’ in my blog for fear of upsetting you… See, I really do care about your feelings…

The reason why I can’t coach my own kids, but why I can coach yours.

It was a mere split second, an instant. I looked at my angry-red, colostrum-covered, squashed and wrinkled new-born little girl and thought…’that’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen’.
And then I held her, my heart melted, and my eyes were opened to the absolute magnificence of her, the most beautiful baby ever to set foot on the world.

Why? Because she was mine.

That’s the one and only time I have ever had a negative thought about either of my two beautiful princesses. How can I possibly see them as anything other than perfect, my own flesh and blood.
I am in love with my daughters. Unconditionally.

crying-newborn-babyBut your kids… Not so much. There are conditions in place.

“What a beautiful baby” I hear your friends and family say. Quite frankly I think they’re lying and just saying the right thing. A beautiful moment maybe, a beautiful number of fingers and toes even, but not a beautiful looking baby, I just think that all new-born babies are terribly ugly – besides mine of course.

My kids can break my favourite mug, paint my white linen with nail polish, I crack up laughing when they fart in the bath and they can even pick my prize petunias to play with their Barbie dolls.

In fact, my first born was a projectile-vomiter of note and suffered from reflux. Instead of feeling disgust at being covered in sour breast milk puke, I marvelled instead at the distance she covered and the obvious talent she possessed at this skill.

Try as I might your kids won’t get the same reaction when they do something offensive to me. I wish I could get angry and then melt after a short while with that overwhelming feeling of complete love welling up inside me.
But that feeling is reserved for you with your own brood.

images (2)I cannot ever expect that you will see my kids in the same light as I do. Treat them the same way, love them the same, protect them in the same way that I do.

Nor can you expect that of me with your kids.

But I can love them objectively and care about them, nurture them even.
And that’s why we rely so heavily on teachers, coaches, and third party influencers. They are exactly that, a removed third party, and that distance allows them to be objective and see our kids in a light that we never will.

I coached swimming for many years and produced some fine swimmers. But there is absolutely no way that I will ever be able to do the same for my own kids. The relationship is just too close. I can’t be tough enough on them, and they don’t respect the authority I need to turn them into a swimming superstar.

On the other hand I was blamed more often than not for Jordan and Byron’s lack of swimming talent and lack of work ethics in the pool. Their parents just couldn’t accept that their kids were responsible. There had to be another reason.

images (3)We battle to see our own children’s faults and short comings. We accept their moods, their teenage imperfections and their idiosyncrasies. When others don’t we defend them vociferously. Right up into adulthood.

That’s the way it should be. Our kids need more than anything else to feel loved unconditionally by us. It’s a safe and secure feeling that can only be derived from flesh and blood.

However, I have always valued immensely the outside influences that have had a profound and treasured impact on my life. The special teachers, hard but fair coaches, mentors, and people who have shaped me into the person I am today.

So respect the other people in your children’s lives, because they bring a balance and temperament that you never will, no matter how hard it is to accept sometimes. And the love they feel for your children is no less valuable than your own.

It just isn’t the same…and that is a good thing!