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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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Wednesday, 29 April 2015


You may have noticed a singular absence of my blog for the past few weeks. I took some time off with Kazalette to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. What a blessing!

Having said that, this year I have travelled somewhere away from home almost every single week. As I write I am on my way to Maputo. 90% of my travel has been for business and none of it could have been delegated. In the midst of all this travel I have been trying to stay fit and healthy and look after myself, a commitment on its own. Inevitably, my time with Kazalette has been curtailed, as has what little time has been on offer with Jeśka and Stefan. Weekend time has often been spent in recovery mode and, leaving aside my recent time away with Kazalette, as a family we haven't done much in the way of holiday this year (yet!). The travel impacts all the other purposes in my life. 

Here are a few generic purposes to which we might all subscribe:
  • Health purpose: to be optimally fit and healthy
  • Career purpose: to reach the top of my field measured by reputation and excellence
  • Relationship purpose: to engage fully with my spouse/partner/ family members in a way which feeds and nurtures us fully from every relationship perspective
  • Leisure purpose: to engage in meaningful leisurely activities and have fun as I do so 
I shan't bother right now with purposes for wealth, spirituality, sexuality, leisure and so on, but the truth is that we have many purposes in our lives, sometimes held together by a larger purpose for our lives as a whole.

The challenge with all these purposes is that, as we busy ourselves with one, the others can easily become cross-purposes, knocking us off the original purpose. Fundamental in managing them together, and balancing and giving effect to all of them, is to align them as far as possible with each other and to accept that there will be limits to what is possible. Where we set or place the limits is the choice we have.

For as long as I am working full days and am required to travel once a week or every fortnight, I might be realising my career purpose, but it is not realistic for me to think I can do enough training on a bicycle to ride, for instance, the Cape Epic. I can do enough, however, to ride my mountain bike a couple of time a week in beautiful scenery. I can also exercise and eat healthily to realise my purpose of optimal health. What qualifies as optimal fitness is for me to judge, but it certainly won't equate to peak fitness. If 'peak fitness' had been part of my health purpose, it would simply be a cross-purpose which would hinder me in all my other purposes. Stuffing myself with large and unhealthy meals whilst I travel would simply serve some sort of cross-purpose of self-indulgence or self-sabotage.

There is a reality that most of us need to work in order to feed and clothe ourselves. I am no exception. In doing that, it will inevitably mean time away each day from the people I love. But do I have to be the best lawyer/coach/writer in the world? I do the work I do because I enjoy it and to help meet some basic needs. I could work longer hours if I chose to do so, but quite frankly I don't want to because I want to honour my other purposes. In my relationships, although I won't spend every waking moment with my family, I am not sure that that would be healthy for any of us anyway: we can make all the time we spend with each other matter, but common sense and necessity dictate that our engagement with each other is more about the quality than the amount of time spent with each other. But reduce the time spent to a silly amount and suddenly the quality of the engagement will slip anyway.

Managing multiple purposes is all about determining priorities, creating balance and aligning purposes with each other as best we can so that, even in giving effect to one we are honouring the others.

One of the best ways to manage them all is to find a larger life purpose for yourself, which holds together and informs the way we go about giving effect to the other purposes.

Do you know what your purposes are for each area of your life, and what your life purpose might be? If so, how are you doing with them?


Wednesday, 8 April 2015


I embarked a couple of months ago on a project to lose about 7 Kg of Christmas and other holiday excesses.  After a fair amount of exercise and some more disciplined eating, the scale showed a weight loss to date of 2 Kg, a change of less than 30%.  A relatively disappointing failure, some might think.  (Actually, what I was thinking!)  Which got me to thinking some more about whether I was using the correct measurement for the change I wanted.

On reflection, it occurred to me that I didn't want to lose the weight for losing weight's sake.  What I rather wanted was a change in body shape, to feel vital and to be healthy.

So I looked at a few self-created measures and indices other than the scale.  Admittedly, some are more qualitative than quantitative, but what I noticed was:
  • Body shape change self-perception index: 70% change for the better
  • Vitality and feeling good about self index: 70 - 80% change for the better
  • Overall health: Excellent
  • Purposefulness and commitment index: 60% improvement
Judging by those measurements, I have successfully brought about a lot of change.

We can set any particular goal, but rather than focussing on the measurement of the goal itself, perhaps the more meaningful measurement of success is that of the purpose underlying the goal. That's when you start to understand whether you have made any significant movement or not.

Saturday, 4 April 2015


#AlShabaab separists from Somalia on Thursday slaughtered 147 Christian university students in the #Kenyan border town of #Garissa. They separated out #Muslims from #Christians and then systematically set about killing the latter, some reportedly by beheading. Al Shabaab say that the university has been "colonized by non-Muslims" who should not be "on Muslim territory". They also seem to have a thing about people who are educated.

#WilliamZuma, son of our esteemed and thoughtful #President, says that "foreigners need to leave the country...We urge all foreigners to pack their bags and leave."

The other great son of South African soil, #JuliusMalema, has urged his EFF followers to destroy all statues and relics which could remind us of our apartheid and colonial past. Obliging, EFF supporters on Thursday torched a statue in Uitenhage commemorating the Anglo-Boer war, and then of course ran away, no doubt feeling a lot better about themselves.

Noting, condemning and then for a moment putting to one side the inherent, appalling and inexcusable evil of the Al Shabaab attack and the boorish behaviour of the others, let's dwell on the common theme, which of course is separation.

It seems that all too often we see people fostering separation - whether in an international, national, racial, relationship or even road rage context - and somehow trying to excuse or justify it by suggesting that the separation is what will ensure or enhance their own identities. If Al Shabaab think that killing Christians will make Muslims more Islamic, or that Mr Zuma Jr. thinks that driving foreigners out will make the rest of us feel more South African, or if Mr Malema thinks that destroying statues will make Blacks feel more Black, or more peaceful about where the country has come from because they can no longer see the statues, they are all missing the point gravely.

Our identities, self-esteem and self-recognition come from the acknowledgement of who we are fundamentally as human beings and not from separating ourselves from what (or from whom) we think we are not. When we can claim our identities relative to our sense of self-worth and existence as feeling, loving and authentic human beings, we will stop trying to separate ourselves in an attempt prove we are worthy of a place on the planet.

It is no mistake that some of the people acknowledged more or less universally as truly great leaders and influencers - Nelson Mandela, Mohatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. amongst others, leaving aside the great spiritual and religious leaders - spoke only of connection and conciliation. That was their context: it was never separation.  In fact it was about ridding the planet of separation, because they saw their fellow man as one. These were real people who made an astonishing difference, not just in their societies, but all around the world. The United Nations, whatever its shortcomings, aspires to do the same.

So when we see people trying to esteem themselves and claim their identities by behaving appallingly towards others by separating themselves in outlandish ways, challenging as it may be, I think we are all called to engage in a different context: the context of connection and reconciliation. 

Having extremists see things in anything but their own way is never going to be easy, but perhaps having them live in a world which works in a context of connection might have them eventually see themselves as worthwhile human beings just as they are, rather than desperate people who cannot claim their place on earth without trying to make all those whom they believe to be different from them disappear.