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KNOWING vs. BELIEVING

A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Saturday, 24 May 2014

EXPLORING ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS

One of my fellow speakers at the recent #AfricanRenaissance conference was #ChrisMagagula, a #Durban-based entrepreneur in the maritime industry.  Chris gave an inspiring talk on the need for #entrepreneurs to drive the maritime economy.  His message was simple, and is a message for all would-be entrepreneurs and indeed anyone pursuing any dream.

#Government has created the right environment for entrepreneurs. A multitude of opportunities also exist for entrepreneurs.  Three things are required to exploit those opportunities successfully.  The first is to stay aware of developments.  The second is to remain open to possibilities arising out of those developments.  The third and most important piece is that if you don't drive the possibility yourself, no one will do it for you.

My take on this is that, in motivational terms, you will stay in a state of desire and eventually collapse into a state of impossibility if you think that things will simply fall into your lap without you taking action in order to actualize your dreams.  There are few (if any) successful people around who have not got to where they are without a vision, an awareness of possibilities and, most importantly, hard work and self-discipline.  You cannot count on hand-outs.  Whilst your efforts may come at a cost of, for instance, leisure time, the truth is that when we are going for something that matters to us, oftentimes something needs to be sacrificed at the altar of application and commitment.

So, what are you going for and what are you willing to do to succeed?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

PLANNING versus VISIONING

A tradition has evolved of making #resolutions in the new year and then planning your life around those resolutions.  And we all know that resolutions are made to be broken... Or are they?  Suppose they could somehow fit into a #vision you have for your life, rather than simply be part of a plan that seems like a good idea.

What is the difference between planning your life and having a vision for your life?

Planning is about putting steps in place to progress along a particular pre-planned path from point A (where you are right now) to point B (the place you want to reach).  Planning assumes that the path is clear, the route will be unhindered and will remain unchanged.

Having a vision for your life determines the direction in which you wish to travel and a big picture destination, but keeps you open to all possibilities along the path, including choosing a new path.

Planning is useful, but sets you up for some major challenges if the plan is inflexible, that is, if you are committed to your plan rather than being open to Life's plan.  Planning is about insisting on my will rather than being open to Thy will.  Pursuing a  vision is the opposite.

The planning approach to Life often leads to disappointment, because no matter how much you insist that Life should align with your plans, the reality is that Life requires you to align with its plans for you.

When your vision is clear, unambiguous and your integrity is in place behind that vision, Life will align itself to support you to pursue your vision.  The path that Life chooses for you may not be what you originally had in mind, but what Life offers will also be accompanied by the learnings you need to move forward in your life.

However, if you decide to plan your life meticulously, be prepared to have your plans disrupted.  As I wrote in my last blog, quoting, the late K Bradford Brown: "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."

Saturday, 17 May 2014

"IF YOU WANT TO MAKE GOD LAUGH, TELL HIM YOUR PLANS"

A late, great teacher of mine, #KBradfordBrown, used to say: "If you want to make #God laugh, tell him your plans."  I love that.  It contextualizes so well the way in which we demand or expect that Life should be a certain way, and then it delivers something quite different for us to deal with.

Two and a half years ago a good friend of mine was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour.  He had an operation to remove it and was then given intensive radiation and chemo-therapy.  He is one of the most positive people I know, and every time I saw him he would tell me that he  was cured and that God's reason for throwing up this challenge would reveal itself.  Amazingly, he had very few of the nasty symptoms usually associated with chemo-therapy, and I am sure that had a lot to do with his up-beatness.  He said he knew God was for him and would support him through this odyssey.

About a year ago a scan revealed that the tumour had returned, so he had a second major operation.  Again, he emerged as positive as ever, underwent more treatment and all seemed to be under control.

I saw him six weeks ago and all was apparently still well.  Then, out of the blue a couple of weeks later he started forgetting things.  A scan revealed that the tumour is back, but this time the doctors say it is inoperable.

I saw him today and was shocked and saddened by how quickly he had gone downhill: , slurring, loss of motor function and one eye closed.  Yet still he was able to say to me:  "I'm fine, I'm always fine, but this is the way the cookie seems to be crumbling for me."  He is still optimistic, is as devout as ever, reads his Bible each day, totally accepts the hand that Life has dealt him and still believes that any outcome is possible.  I am sure he is correct, no matter how the cards are now stacked.  The irony is that I feel so saddened myself.  I realise that I have discarded all possibilities for him but one, when this wonderful authentic human being is still so engaged with his life.

I guess it is only God who knows how the story goes from here on, but given the plans which my friend shared with God when he was first diagnosed, it looks as if the former may have his own plans for my friend.  

The truth is that, whatever our plans, we are nonetheless called to remain open to all outcomes and possibilities, not just the one we demand or expect, and respond to them as the situation requires..

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

#BringBackOurGirls: THE NIGERIAN OUTRAGE

#BringBackOurGirls! The plea of the desperate parents of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by #BokoHaram last month. As regular readers of this blog will hopefully agree, I am generally not given to venting, judging or campaigning, but today I make an exception.

Whatever their political motivation and however entitled they believe themselves to be, the members of Boko Haram responsible for conceiving and carrying out this act of terror simply fall to be described as evil by any rational standard of ethical or moral behaviour.

I know we can point to events such as 9/11, the Westgate Nairobi shopping mall attack, Syrian gas exterminations and endless other terror attacks and say they all fall within the realm of evil.  I don't disagree.  The moment you take it upon yourself to murder people in order to justify your point of view you cross the boundary of what is morally acceptable by any civilised standards.

The Nigerian schoolgirl outrage is (hopefully) not yet murder, but we hear stories of rape, selling the girls into slavery, using the girls to negotiate the release of convicted terrorists, forcing them to convert to Islam and so on.  It is hard to imagine what the girls and their parents are going through.

My revulsion is centred on the abuse of children in this manner.  I cannot condone the abuse of anyone, but abusing children smacks of cowardice and is about as low as anyone can stoop. There can never be a justification for it.

So where am I going with this?  Well, as I sit here in South Africa, one small action I can take which might help to bring back the girls is to support the worldwide wave of condemnation which is building.  It may be that Boko Haram don't care, but perhaps they do.  Maybe, just maybe, they will realize that this sort of behaviour is hardening international attitudes towards them and is unlikely to draw any sympathy for their anti-Western stance, even from other Islamist groupings.

My invitation to readers therefore is to take a firm stand against this behaviour, whether through social media, Avaaz or any other suitable medium.  Small as the gesture may be, your voice does count, especially when it is part of a bigger wave of voices. Share this, retweet it or simply start your own campaign, but let's do what we can to #BringOurGirlsBack.

"Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites....All that is required for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."  (Quotes attrubuted to Edmund Burke)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

AFTER THE DUST HAS SETTLED

A couple of weeks ago I contrived to crash my mountain bike in the main street of Kloof, the village where I live.  Had there been dust after the crash, it might have been better all round as sand would have presented a softer landing, but instead I crashed down on an unforgiving dust-free tarmac.  I shan't dwell on how exactly I managed to do that, or the mild embarrassment of stopping Saturday morning traffic whilst I dusted myself off and dragged my sorry self and bicycle into the central reservation flower bed for a closer physical inspection.

The latter entailed checking firstly for broken collar- and other bones, of which there appeared to be none, and then inspecting contusions and wounds to determine the rate and extent of blood flow.  A cursory bike damage inspection is also necessary after these incidents.  When all seemed relatively intact and under control, I re-mounted and made my way home, feeling shaken, relieved to be able to keep on riding, thinking all was relatively well but unsure about how I would feel the next morning.

As it happened, when I got out of bed the next day I couldn't walk to the front door by dint of a previously unseen injury which had manifested itself internally, what had originally looked like some manageable road rash had turned into an enormous balloon on my hip and other spare parts like elbow and hand were significantly worse for wear.  Since the crash I have had to reduce my activities significantly and be very thoughtful about what I can do physically, but all the time having in mind a return to fitness.

The point of this whole story is that it is only once the dust settles after a big event (or crash) in our lives that we can truly make an assessment of what might be possible.  Whether we are licking the wounds of a divorce, loss of a job or death of a relative, it is simply not possible to make an immediate assessment and then act on it.  Any actions will be taken in a reactive rather than a reflective space and may lead to regret.

In the #SAElections2014 which have just gone by, the #DA party had their most successful campaign in 20 years, but nonetheless fell short of some of their predictions and expectations and remain an opposition party rather than a governing party in all but one Province.  They immediately started bravely talking up their prospects in the Municipal elections in two years time.  However, the day the results were officially announced, their charismatic and super-competent Parliamentary Leader, #LindiweMazibuko, resigned from the Party leadership, ostensibly to study at Harvard, but methinks there are other forces at play.  The dust hadn't settled on the election, the DA thought they were in great shape, but they missed an injury.  Their planning will now have to change significantly.  

However, the beauty is that life does carry on after a crash, but the crash requires us to explore a whole new set of possibilities within a new context.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

MAKING OUR MARK - CHOOSING OUR DESTINY

Today is the day we #SouthAfricans choose our political and economic destiny in #Elections2014.  We have the freedom of #choice to make a mark (or not) on a #ballot paper and choose the path of our country and how we will be treated by those who govern us.  Then we abdicate all responsibility for the next five years to the elected ones.  We think that, by voting, we thereafter have the liberty to whinge and whine when things are not done by our elected leaders exactly to our liking.  This is the freedom we call democracy.

What if we had the freedom each day to make our mark - vote for our lives if you like - choose our destiny and the path our lives will follow, but instead of abdicating we then take responsibility for the mark we have made and become the governors of our own lives?

The wondrous thing is that we are free to make our mark, every second of every day.  The invitation is to make the mark thoughtfully, in the context in which we are operating and mindful of the needs of both ourselves and others.  We are then free to take ownership of that mark and direct the lives we intended through the making of our marks.

We are also free to choose not to make a mark, or to spoil our vote.  My question: why would you do that when you have this God-given freedom?  

If you don't know how to vote, or make your mark, choose what you want for your life and proceed from there.  You'll know.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

FOR THE GOOD OF THE WHOLE

With #Elections2014 upon us, it might be worth reflecting for a moment on #leadership actions taken for the good of the whole in the context of where to make a mark on your ballot paper next week.

I start with the premise that where one is acting for a collective, or in a position of leadership, the only worthy action taken or decision made is one for the good of the whole. Any leadership action taken for the good only of the leader or a select group within the collective, but which does not further the interests of the whole, is inherently unethical and unworthy.  Whilst the premise of course places every leader in a conflict of interest situation, isn't great leadership really about rising above conflict and making discerning decisions?

Some recent examples: #JacobZuma allows obscene amounts to be spent on #Nkandla and doesn't question them.  He then gets fingered by the #PublicProtector (PP) for personally benefitting from taxpayers' money and neither resigns nor abides by her recommendations.  He would rather run for President again.  #PansyTlakula, head of the #IEC, gets fingered by the PP for corruption. She doesn't resign, but rather opposes impeachment proceedings by the Opposition parties.  The IEC then irregularly decides to pay her legal fees in opposing the impeachment.  #JuliusMalema of the #EFF declares that he cannot inspire the poor if he doesn't drive a flashy car and can't show off his wealth.  #Platinum mine bosses can't or won't reach a labour settlement with AMCU (and vice versa), so everyone loses billions of rands, including the national economy (except for the individual leaders of the mines and AMCU.  They keep on earning).  The EFF campaign only for higher wages for the (black) poor, bigger subsidies and grants as well as nationalization, but pay no heed to the likely effect on the greater economy.  Eskom bosses vote higher bonuses for themselves whilst the country finds itself in an electricity power crisis...

The point should be fairly obvious.   In every example the whole is subordinated to interests of the smaller part of the whole, so overall the whole is left worse off.

The moment the leader promotes his or her interests above those of the collective whole, the latter is at risk of suffering financial, structural, positional or moral ruin.  This is as much so for political parties as it is for businesses, sports teams and every other institution.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if the leaders I mentioned could rather voluntarily suspend themselves, appoint independent investigations, take voluntary pay reductions, and so on?

If leadership decisions could somehow be made from behind a veil which disguised the identity, race, political persuasion, religion and social standing of the beneficiaries, and those decisions could only be made for the good of the beneficiaries, how much more equitable for society might those decisions be?

So, come Wednesday 7th May, cast your vote for the good of the whole.  Just because you think that your chosen party can benefit your particular interest group in the short term, you might want to consider which party is most likely to benefit the whole collective of South Africa Inc. in the longer term.