Detours to Your Destination

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The directions to get you anywhere include a few turns:

  • Go straight until you get to that intersection.
  • Then turn left down the dead-end road.
  • Cut through the park, past the fountain.
  • Take the steps down the hill, and your destination is on the right.
  • Arrive at destination

The same is true in life, whether for business success or personal happiness.

You need to switch strategies a few times to get where you want to go.

“Stay the course” is bad advice because if you don’t turn at one of those intersections, you will carry on forever in the wrong direction. And it takes a long time to turn around.

The journey to your destination is never a straight line. Its okay to make turns and detours, as long as you are going towards your destination. It might take you a while, but eventually you will get there.

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road…Unless you fail to make the turn.”― Helen Keller

Now that you you have arrived at your first destination. This is where you stop driving the same direction, and decide where you are going next. Whether somewhere completely different, or just deeper down that path, the way to get there is to switch strategies again.

P.S. When you have arrived at your first destination, I highly recommend the great book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”. — Marshall Goldsmith

Associations: People In Big Cities Walk Fast

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Whether we are aware or not, the environment we associate ourselves with affects how we behave, decide and feel. The environment affects us consciously or subconsciously.

People who live in major cities walk faster than people from rural areas because apparently the rate per hour in major cities is higher than in rural areas therefore walking after makes more sense in major cities so that you can save time walking and spending it making money. This assertion is called Economic Value of Time.

Social cues can also determine not just what types of food and drink we consume, but also how much. In African culture, if we are together I can’t eat alone and you just sit and talk, If I eat you eat. A recent review of the effect of social facilitation on consumption, how we behave with others compared with being alone, found that as the number of people we eat with increases, so does the amount of food we consume.

In one study, for example, eating with one other person was found to increase consumption by 33%, eating with three people by 53% and eating with six people by 76%. Research has found that, in the presence of familiar company, we tend to select more food and drink than if we had been dining alone. We often use the behaviour of others to license ourselves to select more food than we normally would.

When I started mentoring, I met most of my mentees for sessions at quieter restaurants, which meant most of my time I was eating or drinking restaurant food almost everyday. Picking up weight is easy in such a set-up. So to lose it, meant having to meet them at their offices or my office.

The contrary may also be true, if I’m with other people, I don’t want to show that I’m a big eater so just nimble a little and pretend that I’m an okay eater but when I get home, I ambush the kitchen with big pieces of meat.

Either way, the people we associate with, the places, offices, homes, and community (physical and virtual) we spend our at affects how we behave.

Much as we can influence the environment, the environment can influence us back as well.

We have the power to shape our associations, but once chosen, those associations shapes us. 

Consider these factors when you decide where you want to setup your business premises.

Associations: The Oven You Bake The Ingredients Matters

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There is no one ‘key’ to achieving happiness. Like everything else in life, achieving happiness requires a multitude of ingredients. One of the most important ingredients is inner peace, which allows for contentment. Another is love, both having people who love you and, more importantly, having people that you love.

However, what most people overlook entirely is what plays a critical role.

It is fine to have all the ingredients necessary for happiness, but it is the oven you bake those ingredients in that matters just as much. Your surroundings, your environment, impact you more than you may realise.

Usually it is subtle things we don’t consider too serious that affects our personality, such things also affects our children, even before they are born.

In his recent TEDxGaborone talk Timothy Maurice Webster refers to the fact that the type of music you listen to, the movies and stories you watch, the media messages, the books you read influences your narrative and perspective.

What I didn’t know that Timothy talks about is that they type of music you listen to (even a year) before a woman fell pregnant and/or during her pregnancy affects the genes of the child. That’s why women (and couple) are encouraged to listen to symphony music during pregnancy.

The type of relationship you have with you partner during pregnancy affects the genes of the unborn child. If you have a stormy and difficult relationship, the tension and stress may be transferred to the child.

Study of Holocaust survivors finds trauma passed on to children’s genes.

New finding is clear example in humans of the theory of epigenetic inheritance: the idea that environmental factors can affect the genes of your children.

Genetic changes stemming from the trauma suffered by Holocaust survivors are capable of being passed on to their children, the clearest sign yet that one person’s life experience can affect subsequent generations.

Watching depressing news all the time affects your personality. The more you watch The Sopranos or The Godfather for a long time, you tend to believe that the mob boss is this tower of a person, who if he was not running his family he would be the CEO of GE or something. If all you listen to first thing in the morning while stuck in traffic is callers complaining on a talk radio show, this will affect your mood by the time you get to work.

What you spend time on, you assimilate.

When building your business, what type of environment are creating and contributing to your staff, your customers and your community. Are creating a good and inspiring mood around your business.

Are the customers who interact with you, your business, your website, your social media messages leave inspired or do you leave depressed?

Customers are attracted to uplifting, comfortable and inspiring environments, and vice-versa, if you are constantly whining and negative, you will attract similar customers.

Negativity if channeled and used appropriately can be a catalyst for significant change. But prolonged negativity not supported by efforts to direct it create change is merely intellectual debate.

To build a positive environment, we need to be sensitive to music we listen to, the programs we watch on TV, the radio show we listen to, media messages we expose ourselves to, the newspapers and magazines we read, the colours we chose.

Change your environment, change your personality.

The small things we associate with have a significant impact in our lives.

Associations: Broken Window Theory

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Are we in control of our own decisions? Or is there a link between your environment and the decisions you make.

Are the clothes you buy and wear linked to what people around you wear? Is the business you start and how you start it linked to the regulations around you, the customer tastes and their behaviours?

How does changing my environment impact my life decisions?

Our decisions are influenced by many factors. We may or may not be aware of them. Whether a decision was rational or irrational is measured on the basis of success. If you meet success your decision was correct and if it meet failure your decision was irrational.

We tend to think that we are responsible for our decisions, but to a large extend our environment shapes and is responsible for the decisions we make.

The broken windows theory is the idea that serious and violent crime can be reduced in an urban area through the strict enforcement of lesser crimes such as graffiti, and vandalism.

The theory says if a broken window to a building is not fixed within a few days, it means there is no one staying in that building and that no one really cares about that building. This then results in more windows being broken, vandalism, graffiti and illegal occupation.

What started as a single broken window over time results in that building attracting crime. Something as small as fixing a broken window would prevent the escalation of damage to the building and may prevent crime.

At the core of this is that conformity is the idea that people tend to do what others around them are doing. Someone walking down the street eating a hamburger, for example, is less likely to throw the litter in a rubbish bin if the pavement is already trashed with hamburger wrappers from other people who have chosen to litter.

An area clean from litter indicates to a person that there are rules against littering and that they are followed, monitored and enforced. 

Driving in the township is different from driving in the suburbs. Even though the rules of the road are the same, if you strictly stick to the rules of the road in one specific area, you might cause an accident. The environment dictates how we drive in certain areas and affects the decisions of how to drive.

One of the big debate is how bribery is treated in certain countries. Bribery is acceptable in certain countries and unacceptable in others. The environment affects the decisions  of how to do business.

Dan Ariely says “We tend to compare ourselves with our surroundings, and our happiness stems directly from those comparisons. If the people around us drive Hondas, we feel good in a Honda; if those around us drive Audis, our old Honda will make us cringe.” The environment affects the things we buy.

We do certain things due to our surroundings. Change your surroundings, change your decisions, change your life.

A country with a high entrepreneurial culture tends to breed more entrepreneurs. A country with a high culture of dependency tends to breed more dependency.

Choose your environment very carefully because it has the potential to either hold you back or push you to success.

If you are a startup, something as small as spending time with other entrepreneurs in an incubator type environment exposes you to thought leader entrepreneurs and may increase your chances of success.

To a large extent, you are a product of your environment. Does your place of work bring the best out of you, is the environment taking you to where you want to go.

Consider a business with a few under-performing people. If the people are not supported and not understanding of the strategy and vision, the tendency is for others to start to under-perform as well. Eventually, this will impact your service and business performance, and if it is neglected, perhaps clients become uncommitted to you. The environment affects how people perform. As a leader create an environment that fixes the broken window immediately.

My mentor Mike Ngila Muendane when he talks about habits uses the analogy that: it all starts as a drop, then another drop, and over time those drops accumulate to become an ocean.

A small thing that happens in your business may have a big impact. Don’t let a “broken window” lead to a broken business, and broken people.

Fix the broken window. Heredity nothing, environment everything.

Ps: Malcolm Gladwell wrote exensively on Broken Windows Theory in his book Tipping Point.

 

Associations: People You Allow In Your Life

Dereck and Beverly Joubert at work in Botswana

I recently went to an amazing game lodge owned by couple, Derek and Beverly Joubert. It is amazing how they work together. They packed their bags as couple and left Johannesburg 30 years ago and went up north bushes. They lived in a tent for while. They are always together, they work together following and documenting wildlife, Derek video records wildlife and ultimately produces National Geographic documentaries and Bervely takes amazing still pictures in the process.

They have been working together for the past 30 years. (Have you ever thought of working with your partner full time?). They share almost everything, they have many cars that are used as game drive bakkies, but when they go to work, they go together in one vehicle. They share the same facebook and twitter account, they gave a TED Talk together, Derek wrote a foreword for Beverly’s photobook. They influence and inspire each other.

According to Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I believe who you spend time with influences the person you eventually become. 

If you want to be great, hang around great people. If you want to be an innovative person, you must hang around innovative people. People around you inspire or drain you, pick your circle wisely. Over time you tend to adopt a part of the people around you. Your couch, mentor, your close friend, workmates influences you.

In life, you will encounter all different types of people: the good, the bad and the detrimental. Character is so largely affected by association, that we cannot afford to be indifferent as to who or what our friends are.

If you hang out with people who cheat and take shortcuts in life, they will influence you to think like them and most probably you will cheat as well.

If you hang out with people with strong morals and principles, people who value loyalty in the midst of temptations, they will influence you to believe what they believe.

If you hang out with people who are doing work that empowers others, or hang out with people who are counseling and praying for others, or hang out with people who are getting deep into what it means be human doing work that matters, the odds are that the business you build is going to be more human.

If you hang out with people who are going really slow because they don’t want to make a mistake, you are not going to make mistakes but you going to go really slow.

I prefer to hang out with people who go really fast and who have concluded that mistakes are not going to kill them. 

So this means if I’m going to see someone I haven’t seen in a while and I haven’t make mistakes lately, I’m going to be embarrassed, so I have to go make some new mistakes quickly so that I have something to talk about when I meet that person.

This is a very profound cultural insight about this idea. It used to be that the only associations you had were your work tribe, social tribe, your religious tribe and that was it. Now you can join and belong to any tribe you want, from online to people down the street.

Someone sent an email pointing out that it is not like in her neighborhood and I said but your neighborhood doesn’t matter as much as it used to. Local used to be the only way we used to organize. What your postal code or home address would tell me is which community you belong to and what type of life you live.

It used to be that I can tell a lot about your home address, now I want to know your browser history not your home address because it is where you are “hanging out” virtually where you have real collisions. The types of collisions matter more than who you are swearing at cutting you off the traffic at your community, because those sorts of collisions are not the kind of collisions I’m talking about.

The people you hang out with physically and virtually are the types of collisions that matter. Show me your friends, I will show you your future.

Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with.

And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes.

And the changes are what you become.

Change the outcome by changing your circle.

By choosing who you spend time with, you are literally shaping your own future. Start by examining the people you spend the most time around. Consider if these people are enabling you toward your envisioned self. If they are not, limit your contacts with them, if possible cut it off.

Identify and increase contact with the people who will enable you to become the best person you can be. Guard your circle very selfishly.

How about you register for that degree with someone close to you. Influencing each during your study years will be amazing and graduating together will even be more amazing. The legacy you start will rub off to your kids and future generations.

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Birds of a feather flock together.

Associations: Environment Everything

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Recently went to a lodge in the middle of the bushes for a few days. The food was purely healthy food to an extent that I got sick. Not sick because of bad food, but because my body was not used to such healthy food over a longer period of time.

This got me thinking. The easier way to keep healthy is to stay at an environment that leaves you no choice but to eat healthy. I don’t need much motivation, just the right environment.

There is limited need for motivation if the environment leaves you no choice to lead a positive life.

If you want to quit drugs, you will need a lot of motivation to help quit if you live in house full of users.

Motivation is important, but it is hard to stay motived in a negative environment, that’s why the impact of motivational talks is short-lived because people you motivate go back to the same old disempowering environment.

Bessie Head in her novel Maru, says heredity nothing, environment everything. The environment you live in plays a more crucial role in your environment than your heredity.

A good environment needs very little motivation, but a negative environment makes motivation hard to sustain.

Before you seek motivation, ensure that your environment you go back to will enable you to keep going. Associate yourself with an enabling environment.

If you want change, change your environment, change the places you hang out. Change your environment, change your destiny.

Successful countries are able to capitalize the talents of its people due to environments that enables its people no choice but maximize their potential.

 

A tree planted in the right soil can grow much better than when planted in the wrong soil. Certain animals can survive in certain natural habitats than others.

Environment is everything.

An environment can be a motivation on its own.

ps: But don’t just be in the right environment for the sake of being in it. My philosophy is that it does not pay to go to a conference unless you are prepared to be vulnerable and meet people, and it does not pay to go to a Q&A session unless you are willing to sit in the front row. Reading blogs is great, writing one is even better.

There are more chances than ever to attend, but all of them require participation if you expect them to work.

The Quiet Spot…

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I went to a high school which was in the bushes. I used to have a spot where somewhere in the bushes that will be a quiet spot where I will spend a few minutes just sitting there and thinking, (fortunately there were no snakes). This was before I even knew about meditation or mindfulness but I knew if I spent some time in the quiet spot for a few minutes almost everyday, usually during lunch or in the afternoon, I will be able to cope with school and lonely boarding school days.

Whenever the pressure is high or when I missed home, I will go to that spot and just sit there for about 5 minutes or so. There was not amazing view from that spot, it was in the bushes, and had a small rock where I would sit, it was comfortable and isolated. When I passed matric and big farewell to the school, I went to spot to say a prayer of gratitude and farewell. I think about that spot all the time.

When I got to University, the habit of finding a quiet spot was deeply rooted in me. So I found myself a quiet corner at Res (student accommodation).

When I started working, I always found a quiet corner or spot outside the office as a refuge to clear my head when the pressure is on.

A few minutes of quiet time gives me the energy to persevere throughout the day.

No matter where I am, I always try find a quiet spot to listen and clear my thoughts. Driving long distance listening to music is another form.

Finding a quiet spot that’s free of interruptions has helped me to manage pressure, it might help you.

No need to go on a retreat to the mountains, a quiet spot and five minutes of peace is all it takes.

 

 

 

Can Your Art Pay the Bills? [Passion vs. Bills]

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The biggest question I have always been grappling with is:

Do I follow my passion or do I follow a profession that pays the bill?

Do I become a full time writer or do I continue doing what pays the bills and do writing part time?

Often artists are frustrated and they end up saying: “passion does not put food on the table.”

What is a better strategy in life: pursuing passion or pursuing financial stability?

For the lucky few, these paths are one and the same, those are people who are successful artists.

But for the majority, pursuing passion does not pay the bills.

To quote Mad Men: “Not every little girl gets to do what they want; the world can’t support that many ballerinas.”

I believe that the correct answer is always yes you can do both.

Pay the bills and dance ballet.

I firmly believe that everyone should pursue their passion, or “art.”

I’m not a fan of the “industrial mindset,” which by definition rewards mediocrity, and for the singular pursuit of artistic expression, particularly in the face of opposition and dissent [in my view, that’s the only way to know you’re doing it right.]

Art is our best option as humans and people who want to make an impact.

The message is more complex than the standard saccharine wall poster quotes bandied about by inspirational speakers and bloggers.

‘Do what you love and the money will follow,’ is a nice idea, but in many cases it is simply not true.

Artists are able to separate financial ambition from artistic ambition.

This does not mean it is not possible to make money from art.

Some of the best artists have been rewarded with money and fame. The difference is in the motivation.

You see people who do this with right intent and make money, and then you see people who will say, ‘how do I make money?’

Painters have made money for time immemorial. It is a fine way to make a living but painters are not artists.

The thing is art cannot be contingent on making a living.

By definition, art hinges on the possibility of going too far, of tension and of failure.

Once you add a financial incentive to the art equation, it is impossible not to dial it back, to aim to please and to construct a safety net.

Suddenly, you are putting the needs of your audience/employer/client first. And that is when an artist becomes a painter.

I recently had a chat with a woman artist who told me that when she faced the blank canvas, she felt fear.

I congratulated her. Because there is a village in China called Dafen where they paint one third of all the oil paintings in the world. Over and over again, the same paintings.

Those people have no fear.

They know exactly how to paint water lilies; they know exactly how to paint Mona Lisa replicas.

They are not artists, they are painters.

I was terrified before launching my first book. I’m always terrified every time I post a blog article [including this one.]

Artists have fear when they face the canvas because they are holding nothing back.

Unfortunately, this means that the majority of artistic pursuits will not immediately [if ever] be rewarded with monetary gain and so it is necessary to make money through other means.

Paying the bills is really important. If you don’t pay the bills, you don’t get to play the game.

The first rule is make the bills smaller, eliminate your debts.

Don’t live in Sandton, live in Kempton Park and don’t tell anyone.

Next, be a painter in your day job. It is entirely honorable to make a living.

But keep doing art in your free time. And eventually, money may follow. Or it may not.

You first have to do what needs to be done so that you can do what you love later.

That is the name of the game. You cannot create art without tension. You cannot create change without the fear that it might not work.

So when that fear shows up, the answer is not how do I drown out the fear… the answer is to welcome the fear and as Seth Godin would put it: Dance with fear.

The sad thing is when we completely forego our art and settle for paying for the bills.

Doing your art is a platform of expressing yourself, if you are not doing your art, sooner or later, you might self-destruct.

The ultimate goal is for your art to pay your bills.

I’m not a fan of chasing money as a goal, but rather chasing and perfecting your art and your art pays you.

It’s a Jungle Out There: Keep Your Intentions Silent

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Lions don’t make noise when attacking their prey, they execute their attacks quietly.

They make decisions silently, and they attack so much spend and determination. They are focused, calculating, and determined. There are no bells and whistles about them, no grand entrance or announcement when they pounce, no noise, just quiet, focused and calculating.

They hide, lay low before executing their plans, their prey can’t see them coming until its late. When animals make noise before attacking, their prey can react quickly and run away.

Maybe keeping quiet about your plans and laying low so that your competitors don’t see you coming is a way to ambush them.

When you are busy executing your plan, do it silently, focused, and disciplined. Let your success, your catch, do the talking.

Shouldn’t you announce your goals, so friends can support you?

Is it not good networking to tell people about your upcoming projects?

Doesn’t the “law of attraction” mean you should state your intention, and visualise the goal as already yours?

Not really.

Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.

Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you are less motivated to do the hard work needed.

In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a “social reality”, even if the solution had not actually been achieved.

A psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer has been studying this since his 1982 book “Symbolic Self-Completion” – and published results of new tests in a research article, “When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?

Four different tests of 63 people found that:

Those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.

Once you have told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness.”

You have “identity symbols” in your brain that make your self-image. Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it “neglects the pursuit of further symbols.”

A related test found that success on one sub-goal (eating healthy meals) reduced efforts on other important sub-goals (going to the gym) for the same reason.

It may seem unnatural to keep your intentions and plans private, but try it. If you do tell a friend, make sure not to say it as a satisfaction mode (“I have joined a gym and bought running shoes. I’m going to do it!”), but as dissatisfaction mode (“I want to lose 20 pounds, so kick my ass if I don’t, OK?”)

Lions don’t announce their intentions to attack, they just attack. Less talk, more action.

 

It’s a Jungle Out There: Know What You Want

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Fact: A lion’s roar can be heard from kilometres away
Make yourself heard.

Fact: lions are very social animals; they form groups called prides with sometimes as many as forty individuals in a pride
Learn to work well with others.

Fact: male cubs are kicked out of their pride at three months and must start their own pride-only the strong survive.
One must choose their own destiny, we have the power to decide our own futures

Fact: prides focus on realistic goals.
Know what you want and go get it

It’s a Jungle Out There: Offensive Teams

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Pride of lion going one after the other in the plain at the Masa-Mara-Reservation, Kenia

In company of 100 people, one person who underperforms is unlikely to have a huge impact on the team. In a startup team of 4 people, one who underperforms will have a huge impact on the team. Team dynamics in startups is a matter of success or failure.

High performance teams are rare. There are a number of reasons why this is so. Firstly many people do not have a good in-depth knowledge of the basic principles that separate super amazing teams and dysfunctional teams. As a result entrepreneurs grasp at ‘quick fixes’ when often the team is only ‘fixable’ over a period of time.

Building a strong team entail bringing people who bring strong skills sets and then manage the dynamics over time.

Having watched The Last Lions and been on a several game drives I have noticed how powerful each individual lion within the pride is. This power is only partly due to the fact that they belong to a strong pride, most of it is because they are superb hunters in their own right. A big lioness can weigh in at 145 kg and will run the hundred metres in five or six seconds. These are strong individuals who can stand up for themselves. They know what they are superb at and their abilities match their goals.

If our goal is to catch buffaloes we must be certain that the individuals in the pride are buffalo hunters with the abilities to match.

Some lionesses that consistently hunt buffalo even undergo physical changes; they develop stronger chest muscles in order to wrestle the buffalo to the ground. Not to mention the mental changes that must take place in order to go after extremely dangerous prey.

Many startup teams are under prepared, both technically and mentally.

When they attack big buffaloes or elephants, lions go as a pack, they recognise that they will not succeed in a big task alone. When one lion attacks the top body, the other goes for the leg, the other on the bottom part of the body, the idea is to wear down the animal.

Every member of the pride know that is expected of them, there is no time to be shouting instructions during the hunt.

When confronting issues and challenges, teams are either defensive or offensive.

An offensive team wants to get ahead. Grow market share. Get promoted. Its a team that wants to bring in new ideas, help more customers, teach the people around them. Change is an opportunity to further the agenda, change is a chance to reshuffle the deck.

The team that is playing defense, though, wants to be sure not to disappoint the boss. Not to drop a ball, break what’s working or be on the spot for something that did n0t happen.

I am usually on Team Offense but have great respect for those on Defense.