No more yes. It’s either HELL YES! or no.

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Those of you who often over-commit or feel too scattered may appreciate my new philosophy I’m trying out:

If I’m not saying “HELL YES!” about something, then say no.

Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something:

If I feel anything less than, “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yes!” – then my answer is no.

When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YES!”

We are all busy. We have all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.

Examples:

I was adjudicating in the process of hiring someone for a short-term project. There were many candidates. I compared pros-and-cons. Nobody blew me away, but I felt I had to choose one of them. Instead, I said no to all, and began the search again in a different way. That turned up someone absolutely amazing who is ideal and I’m psyched to be working with.

I couple of years back I was supposed to go to three music conferences. They were spread out around the country and would have taken many expensive days in planes and hotels to be there. I had said yes to all of them out of habit or obligation. But I realised I was not feeling “HELL YES!” about them, so I cancelled all three. I was able to clear off 12 days in my calendar! 12 days!! Do you know how much I can do with 12 free days? Maybe I could write and launch a book on innovation! Now that is a “HELL YES!”

9, 10 or 1

The surprisingly great book “Personal Development for Smart People” asks you to think about the different areas of your life (career, relationships, spiritual, health, etc.) – and rate your satisfaction in each area from 1 to 10.

But after doing that, the next suggestion impressed me: it said to go through every area you rated a 5, 6, 7, or 8 – and replace it with a 1! That we should never settle for “it’s not so bad” – and instead face up to what you really want.

In other words: No more “yes”. It’s either “HELL YES!” or “no”.

Is your business a Hell Yes, when customers think of your business or your offerings, do they say Hell Yes. Is your relationship with them a Hell Yes?

Save yourself time, don’t settle for mediocrity.

Brainwashed: The Miseducation

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Do you remember learning to factor equations? 2x -32x +10? Why were you taught this?

Why did they spend hours drilling you on such clearly useless content? Simple: You were being trained to be a compliant cog, someone who could mindlessly follow instructions as opposed to seeking out innovation and surprise.

The evidence is clear:

The function of public education was (and is) to turn out compliant workers.

Not educated voters, not passionate idea-makers. No, we spend all this money on school taxes to be sure that there will be enough people to do all the work that the factories once needed done.

Exceptional teachers, the ones who make a difference, are not only rare, but they’re almost always in trouble for bending the rules and not optimising for the standardised tests.

I love maths. I love the idea of working with numbers, of inventing cool ideas that click. But memorising solving equations of x? It’s clearly an effort to teach you to be taught, to instruct you in compliance, to follow the curriculum.

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Even how factories and schools are structured: The layout is the same as that of a factory. There is a siren at a factory, there is a school bell. There are machine manuals at the factory, there are textbooks at school. When a product fails quality control at the factory, it is reprocessed until it passes quality control, if you fail a grade at school, you repeat that grade until you pass. The factory has a supervisor and manager, the school has a teacher and principal. I can go on and on.

The brainwashing continues to this day. You have been brainwashed to believe that you are stuck with what you have, that you need to punch a clock, follow a manual and do what you are told. I wonder who dreamed that up?

It’s certainly in the interest of the dominant forces of our society to create an oversupply of eager and compliant workers. But now, as the power shifts, so does your opportunity.

Are you serious about transformation? I’m not talking about polishing yourself, improving yourself, making things a bit better. I’m talking about the reset button, a reinvention that changes the game.

That means an overhaul in what you believe and how you do your job. If you’re up for that, then right here, right now, you can start.

School should teach kids how to think, not what to think.

The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed, it needs to be transformed.

The key to this transformation is not to standardise education, but to personalise it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.

We have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education, and it’s impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies.

Sir Ken Robinson put it very well when he said:

“We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.”

Brainwashed: The Opportunity

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The new industrial revolution (the one we are living through, the one that’s changing everything) has opened doors for anyone (or certainly anyone with enough resources and education to be able to read this document).

If you have the time, the intellect and the access to get your hands on an idea that spread, then you have the ability to reinvent yourself, regardless of what you do, who you do it with, or what the people around you expect.

The pillars we grew up with (things like Factories, TV, the postal service, retirement, top down media and commodities) are disappearing and are being replaced with entirely new ways of interacting, making a living and making a difference. Not just for organisations, but for individuals, people like you.

If you have got the time, the intellect and the access to get your hands on an idea… then you have the ability to reinvent yourself.

Look around you. Who are the successful people in our world today? It’s not the captain of- industry type, nor is it the pension-earning, go-to-work-every-day-for-fifty-years factory man.

A fundamental shift has happened, right under our feet. The system, the much vaunted system, the system that nurtured our parents and even our grandparents, has turned sour.

It’s like this: we were brainwashed. Brainwashed into believing a set of rules that are not true (any more). And because the brainwashing has been so complete, the shifts in our world and new opportunities they open up are easy to see as ways to shore up yesterday’s faltering system. Please, don’t fall for that. Don’t use the tools of today to support your effort to do yesterday’s job better.

This is an opportunity to completely reinvent your role in the system.

June 16, 1976 The Legacy That Matters

June 16

Today marks the commemoration of June 16, 1976. This is the day where young people from Soweto (township located south of Johannesburg) protested against the use of Afrikaans language as a medium of learning in their schools.

The tragic events of this day marked one of the turning points in South Africa’s struggle and defeat of apartheid.

The State of Youth Entrepreneurship

The 2011 census puts the South African population at 51 770 560 million people. Of these, 19 466 346 million are currently between the age of 15 and 34 (37.6%) and a further 15 100 086 million are between the age of 0 and 14 years old (29%). This means that just under two-thirds (66.6%) of the South African population are under the age of 34 years.

Youth unemployment and under-employment have become key concerns for both the developed and developing world.

It is imperative that effective solutions regarding the youth unemployment crisis, as well as any other issues facing the youth as a grouping, are addressed, as these issues are not only going to affect young people who are currently in the 15 to 34 year old bracket. The issues will be compounded as the 15 million young people under the age of 15 years complete their schooling and wish to join the labour market in search of a sustainable livelihood.

The rate of potential youth entrepreneurs in South Africa is substantially below the average for sub-Saharan Africa (60%).

Some of the key challenges facing new as well as established youth-owned businesses includes high operating costs (including red tape and stringent labour regulations), corruption/bribes, limited access to technology and internet and high competition (50% of youth businesses are in the retail sector, which can offer low barriers to entry with respect to start-up capital and the level of business skills).

Some positives relating to youth entrepreneurs in South Africa are:

While sub-Saharan Africa, as a region, may have a considerably higher youth TEA (Total Entrepreneurial Rate) rate than South Africa, only 17% of these businesses offer employment for more than one employee and they therefore add relatively little to job creation.

By contrast, in South Africa 65% of the youth businesses offer employment to more than one employee and therefore add relatively more to job creation. Of particular interest is the significantly higher rate of youth businesses in South Africa offering jobs to six to 19 employees (7%) and the higher rate of youth businesses offering employment to 20 or more employees (2%).

In contrast to the two-thirds of young people who believe that working for the government is the best way to earn a good living, 61% of young people believe that most young adults that start their own business have to work too hard for little money.

This negative perception of owning a business needs to be changed. The media should be more active in promoting successful young business owners.

The media coverage is important in local, provincial and national newspapers, as well as radio. It is important that young people have a realistic understanding of the amount of work required to start a business, as well as the potential rewards the business could offer.

The only way we can create jobs is to create an environment for business. Small business matters. It should matter that young people set up their own businesses.

Democracy without Freedom

In his theatre play Missing, John Kani says “We fought for freedom but they gave us democracy.” It is clear that freedom and democracy are not necessarily the same. But I believe that through democracy, the challenges the youth face can and should be dealt with.

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The sacrifices that Teboho “Tsietsi” MacDonald Mashinini, Hector Pieterson and other young lions made in 1976, gave rise to opportunities for other young people today to start businesses and create jobs.

Luvuyo Rani, Lucas Moloi, Antonitte Prophy, Lere Mgayiya, Neo Rantele Kuaho, William Seyama, Mosepidi Molokomme are some of the examples of young people (well they may not be that young now) that have taken opportunities presented by democracy to create freedom (through their businesses) not only for themselves but for other young people as well.

The struggle for democracy may have been won, but the struggle for true freedom continues.

The generation of Mashinini et al was that of fighting and defeating apartheid. The generation of 2015 should be one that fights unemployment, poverty and inequality. We are in the new revolution, the StartUp Revolution where those who will make change will be those who pick themselves up. Those who start their own initiatives and make change that matters.

We are where we are today because of the ‪youth‬ of 1976 that fought for political emancipation. Democracy in South Africa today is the aftermath of blood,sweat and tears of the young lions of 1976.The next challenge is economic emancipation which remains just a dream to many.

Frantz Fanon said in his book The Wretched of the Earth that “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.”

The struggle of today is not that of the petrol bomb and teargas, the struggle of today is that of quality education, unemployment and poverty, laziness and culture of entitlement.

The Legacy of June 16

Others can better write about the youth of 76’s impact in South Africa, on how they stood up for the dignity of all young people and on how they changed our world.

For those that seek to make a change in the world, whether global or local, one lesson to learn from the Youth of 76 is this:

You can.

You can make a difference.

You can stand up to insurmountable forces.

You can put up with far more than you think you can.

Your lever is far longer than you imagine it is, if you choose to use it.

If you don’t require the journey to be easy or comfortable or safe, you can change the world.

Aluta continua, it’s not yet uhuru.

Book Review: Sapiens: A Brief History Of Mankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens

This has to be one of the weirdest books I have ever read. Once in a while it is advisable to read something outside your area of specialisation. This book really stretched my worldview. A few pages in and my head was already spinning. I say its weird but in a very good and profound manner. It gave me a different view of human beings.

Humans beings developed language, anthropologists tell us, tens of thousands of years ago. Presumably the first spoken utterance was something practical, like “Lions are attacking!” or “Your hair is on fire!” But not long after came, “Who are we and how did we get here?” Homo sapiens, that congeries of narcissists, has been contemplating its journey ever since.

Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens,” has already been translated into more than 20 languages and been presented, via online courses, to thousands of mind-blown students. (It was originally written in Hebrew; Mr. Harari, who teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, did the very idiomatic translation.)

Children often still learn history as a tedious parade of names and dates. “Sapiens” is the antimatter version of this kind of history, all sparkling conceptual schemas and ironic apothegms, with hardly a Henry or Louis or Philip in view.

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical and sometimes devastating breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions.

Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities.

Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come? Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.

Because we moderns expect more, we are not satisfied by material conditions and objects that would have overjoyed our grandparents.

“Our intolerance of inconvenience and discomfort” is now so ingrained, he thinks, that “we may well suffer from pain more than our ancestors ever did.”

Worse still, modernity has brought about the collapse of the family, “the most momentous social revolution that ever befell humankind” and terminated the consolations of religion.

Rating

I rate this book 9/10, you can tell it is written by an academic who does a good job of researching and presenting this topic in a compelling fashion.

Harari is the consummate showman. A salesman too. He peppers the book with questions then answers, “We just don’t know.” Ah but if we join the 65,000 people already taking the prof’s online course, as flagged on the jacket, will we get answers?

Harari is historian as entertainer, entrepreneur, prophet and provocateur. Sapiens is a starburst of a book, as enjoyable as it is stimulating.

Just one more thing, as Colombo used to say on TV. Perhaps a brain fashioned for survival in the African bush has no idea of the right questions to ask. There may be reason to the universe. We are just not wise enough to see it.

Sapiens? As if.

Some of my favorite quotes:

– “Consistency is the playground of dull minds.”

– “One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations.”

– “Culture tends to argue that it forbids only that which is unnatural. But from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural. A truly unnatural behaviour, one that goes against the laws of nature, simply cannot exist, so it would need no prohibition.”

– “This is the essence of the Agricultural Revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions.”

– “in order to change an existing imagined order, we must first believe in an alternative imagined order.”

– “Evolution has made Homo sapiens, like other social mammals, a xenophobic creature. Sapiens instinctively divide humanity into two parts, ‘we’ and ‘they’.”

– “Romanticism, which encourages variety, meshes perfectly with consumerism.”

Brainwashed: Change This

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Years ago, when you were about four years old, the system set out to persuade you of something that is not true.

Not just persuade, but drill, practice, reinforce and, yes, brainwash.

The mission: to teach you that you are average, that compliant work is the best way to a reliable living, that creating average stuff for average people, again and again, is a safe and easy way to get what you want.

Step out of line and the system would nudge (or push) you back to the center. Show signs of real creativity, originality or even genius, and well-meaning parents, teachers and authority figures would eagerly line up to get you back in line.

Our culture needed compliant workers, people who would contribute without complaint, and we set out to create as many of them as we could.

And so generations of students turned into generations of cogs, factory workers in search of a sinecure. We were brainwashed into fitting in, and then discovered that the economy wanted people who stood out instead.

When exactly were we brainwashed into believing that the best way to earn a living is to have a job?

I think each one of us needs to start with that.

Over time, the benefit of working for the man and following a manual as a compliant cog is going to go down, while, paradoxically, the difficulty in getting a decent job will go up.

We just lived through a few generations of huge companies that got bigger, giant bureaucracies that got bigger and white-collar jobs that got farther and farther away from actually making something that a customer might buy.

And then, pretty suddenly, that faded. Unemployment goes up, retrenchments happen, layers of fat disappear and the idea that you could get a good job, indoors, paid well, doing not much except stamp documents… well, those jobs are gone.

Is that it? Are you done? Is this the end of the road, the best it’s going to get, the beginning of the end?

Same job, but more work, less pay.

Same industry, but less growth, no challenges.

Same path, fewer options.

It’s entirely possible that you have walked as far as you can go on this road, and that the slog is just going to be more of the same. Possible.

Change your mind, change the road, seek a road where you pick yourself.

Seeking Inspiration?

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The word “inspiration” usually means something that mentally stimulates you.

But “inspiration” also means to breathe in.

The meanings poetically combine when you think of yourself breathing in thoughts, filling your body with ideas.

But don’t forget to breathe out.

Some people watch hundreds of TED talks, looking for inspiration.

Some read speeches of inspiring leaders.

Tech entrepreneurs visit tech websites every few hours, looking for new inspiration.

Musicians, writers, artists, and everyone else, all scouring the world for inspiration.

Breathing in, and in, and in, and in.

Yet most of them are not feeling inspired enough. They are looking for more, thinking something else out there will truly inspire them.

Want to know why?

Because nothing is truly inspiring unless you apply it to your work. (“work” meaning your life’s output, whether creative, business, or personal.)

In other words, your work, itself, is the inspiration. Breath in inspiration, breath out inspired work.

You may hear something or see something that gives you a new idea. But it’s only when you stop and think of your work through this new perspective, that you actually jump up and go turn the idea into reality.

That’s the real inspiration that everyone is looking for!

The inspiration is not the receiving of information. The inspiration is applying what you have received.

People think that if they keep reading articles, browsing books, listening to talks, or meeting people, that they are going to suddenly get inspired. Reading an inspiring blog article without applying the learning is uninspiring.

But constantly seeking inspiration is anti-inspiring.

You have to pause the input, and focus on your output. Hard work is not only attractive, it is inspiring.

For every bit of inspiration, use it and amplify it by applying it to your work.

Then you will finally feel the inspiration you have been looking for.

Inspiration is not about: Breath in. Breath in. Breathe in (seeking inspiration all the time)

Inspiration is about: Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

No breathing out without first breathing in. No breathing in without first breathing out.

Some will always say you are wrong

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Some people are inspired by helping the needy. Some are not.

Some are into fame, power, and prestige. Others are into anonymity and freedom from public responsibility.

It gets more interesting when you realise people have different preferences in the different parts of their life. Famous online, but anonymous in their local community. Generous with time, stingy with money. Introvert when working, extrovert when not.

You have to know your preferences well, because no matter what you do, someone will tell you you are wrong.

If you are not into money, many people will say you are foolish.

If you are not into charity, many people will say you are greedy.

If you are not into fame and popularity, many people will say you are boring.

If you are not into crowds, many people will say you are aloof.

Some careers come with excuses:

The classic novelist thrives in solitude. Alone in her room in a private place, writing books that reach millions.

The classic journalist thrives in a crowd and events. Talking with everyone, building the story from a thousand accounts.

The shy librarian. The aggressive lawyer. The flaky artist. No explanation needed.

But some careers need explanations when you go against the mold:

The entrepreneur who is not into money.

The writer who is not into best-seller list.

The musician who avoids crowds.

The ambitious conservationist.

The artist into discipline.

The rich poet.

But if you expect this criticism in advance, and take pride in your stance, you can bash on with a smile, being who you want to be.

Then every time they say you are wrong, that is a sign you are doing it right.

Don’t Give Up: Permanence, perseverance and persistence

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Someone recently told me it takes 21 days to form a habit. If you want to take up running, or fitness, or a diet, there seems to be a psychological tipping point after 21 days where something becomes a habit. Interupt this new rhythm too early and the habit won’t take.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, argues that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert on anything:

“Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.”

Seasoned investors and entrepreneurs know that it takes years to become an overnight success. When entrepreneurs are thinking about starting companies they tend to think in months rather than years. That makes sense because the future is hard to predict and so looking ahead too far just makes it more likely that you will be wrong.

One thing about the future however is certain; it will take longer than you think.

You will need to be persistent in what you do and have the patience to keep doing what you do. Persistence, endurance and the ability to do the same thing for years on end is a very important, and often underestimated, part of being an entrepreneur.

Woody Allen famously said “Eighty percent of success is showing up”. That is where it all starts at and where most people fail. But we could add a word to that quote to make it even more true:

“Eighty percent of success is consistently showing up”

Show up and stick it out, don’t give up even when you don’t feel like it.

Indelendlela!

Don’t Give Up: Most Failure is Not Fatal

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If failure is not fatal, keep failing, keep playing the game, what do you have to lose? If your life’s not on the line, wouldn’t you think that it’s worth the risk?

By taking appropriate risks, even if you fail, you are still considered to be in the game. In a way, it can be seen as a win-win situation.

Discover, explore, fail, refine. If you put yourself through this cycle enough times, eventually it will become discover, explore, succeed, enhance.

Failure plays an instrumental role in one’s true growth potential. Make it count!

The big the failure, the bigger the lesson, don’t miss the lesson.

Why do people look like their dogs?

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It’s more than just a few silly pictures. It’s a big insight that helps you understand why people (and businesses) buy what they buy.

They do it because it validates them.

Companies prefer to buy from other organisations that make them feel safe and secure and important. That means a big bank has an advantage writing a loan to a company that thinks of itself as big. It means that a fashionable laptop is easier to sell to someone who sees herself as fashionable.

“Duh,” you say.

Sure, it’s obvious, but it’s not easy. It’s not easy because more often than not, entrepreneurs are busy marketing things that they would want to buy, not that their customers would prefer.

Simple dog example: animal shelters are run by volunteers who hate the idea of dog shelters and having to kill strays dogs. So that’s the way they market. “Adopt this dog or it might get killed! It might happen Monday! Please hurry!”

But dog buyers are not always motivated that way. They like the idea of cute puppies and warm, comforting, fashionable environments. When the SPCA tells someone that this pupply is a “golden retreiver mix”, they are breaking the typical shelter marketing mantra and instead telling that dog buyer exactly what they want to hear. And if it’s true, it works.

Don’t Give Up: A cul-de-sac vs a difficult phase?

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It’s easy to record and print a CD and hard to make a hit.

Easy to write a book and hard to make it a bestseller.

Easy to build a website and hard to create a viral success.

Here is what we also know, and I hope Dick Cheney now knows, that it’s easy to invade a country and hard to be a successful invader and to dominate and change a culture.

So, the questions are simple: Are you in a dip? Are you going through a rough phase and thinking of giving up?

Everyone knows when they are going through a dip, they are in pain, but is it the pain that comes from being in a dead end—a cul-de-sac—situation that might very well get worse but probably won’t get better?

Or is it a difficult phase, where sufficient effort can push you through and get you out the other side…You better know the answer.

With regard to the USA, giant mistakes were made early. Cheney didn’t tell Americans what the difficult phase, the dip would look like, nor did he outline what they would do when they hit it. That’s a big difference between the current team and Churchill or Roosevelt. If you’re not ready for the difficult phase, the dip, it’s a lot harder to stick through it.

Are you at a cul-de-sac or are you in phase where more hard work and effort will (in time) get you through the dip. Knowing the answer to these questions, is the difference between giving up or keep pushing.

Better still, know how your difficult phase will look like before you start your business.