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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, 31 December 2016

THE MENACE OF THE UNKNOWN

When I was a child my grandfather used to tell me frequently that #SouthAfrica was doomed, the #Communists and #Blacks would over-run the place and that there was no hope for us #Whites in particular and the country in general. Contrary to his predictions, we're all still here, 50 years later. The political landscape looks different - actually a whole lot better in some respects - the way things work is different, we still have corruption, the economy is a mess, but we're still here, South Africa remains a beautiful place and the country hasn't imploded. 

My grandfather's fear-mongering was based largely on his own fears of the unknown, rather than founded on objective and tested facts. He had no real idea of what the future held for us, but because he was viewing it through the haze of his own untested beliefs about how dangerous Communists and Blacks could be (the narrative of our government of the day), his future-view was bleak. However, looking at South Africa 50 years on and with the benefit of hindsight, the only truth one can distil is that we can never be 100% sure about what the future holds for us. 

Which brings me to the subject of the Trumpster. In my eyes, and those of all Democrat voters, and those of millions of other right-thinking people around the world, DT is the scariest thing that has happened to America in a long, long time and his election presents a greater threat to world peace, our environment and the economies of many countries than pretty much any other single event we have faced in our lifetimes. But, of course, none of what we fear has happened yet. At all. Everything we fear lies in the future and with Donald Trump's unpredictability none of it may come to pass. 

Having said that, judging by what the man has said and done over the last year, and by the way his Cabinet is shaping up, it is probably fair to brace ourselves for some stuff we don't like. However, I recently heard President Obama say that the government is like an aircraft carrier, not a speedboat i.e. It takes a long time to turn, meaning maybe very little will happen, at least during DT's first term.

There is a reality that we are scared of what might happen, but I think the greater reality is that America is a resilient country and Americans as a whole don't want to see their country implode. Their own pre- and post-election reactive behaviour has been driven by the seeds of fear sown by the Trumpster, but the cynical part of me says that much of what Trump has promised and threatened was largely said to get elected, but when the reality of what he has promised bumps up against the reality of what is actually possible, we won't see a hugely different America in 4 years time. In fact, for a start I predict that we won't see one brick laid of the promised Mexican wall.

And I don't know if that is true either. All I know is that the future is unknown, it often scares us sh*tless and even more often proves not to be as disastrous as we expected.

What the future does present with its unknowns, however, is a world of possibility: when we don't know what lies ahead, all sorts of possibilities open up. It is in that space of possibility that we can create, have hope and inject our optimism and fighting spirit into a new reality which aligns with the good in all of us. 

I'm not a Trump expert - I can't even be sure if such a person truly exists - but I do feel confident that not all is lost. Something has been lost in this last Presidential election - perhaps part of the soul of America - but that is re-creatable and I feel confident that Americans will find a way to do so.

For now, all we need to know is that the menace of the unknown need not have apocalyptic outcomes, but there is of course no harm in battening down the hatches if you're scared. It does, however, limit possibilities.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

#IKIGAI - YOUR SWEET-SPOT

There is a potential sweet-spot in everyone's #life which is the place where we find #meaning, where we do what we #love, love what we do and believe that we are making a valuable contribution to the #world.

"Ikigai" is a Japanese concept meaning a reason for being, a reason to get up in the morning, our raison d'ĂȘtre. It is the activity in your life which makes you smile, which energises and nourishes you. Importantly, it can energise others as well.

A great place to start searching for your ikigai is by acknowledging what it is that you love. If you can combine this with what you are good at, you determine and give life to your passion. We are often good at what we love doing - it sort of stands to reason - but not necessarily good at what we love. For instance, I love music and art, but I don't think I am particularly good at either. It stands within me, however, to get good at them, or at least better than I am right now, if I decide that that is where I will best express my passion. However, if I also happen to love exercise and photography and have spent a lot of time getting good at them, that then is where my true passion lies, at least for the meantime.

If I can combine what I love with what the world needs, I then have a mission which I can pursue. This is a bit trickier: does the world need music and art? Perhaps, in which case I would have to get good at one or both in order to pursue that particular mission. However, one needs to look at the world holistically, and then perhaps art and music don't show up, but rather a sustainable environment or lasting peace become the focal points. If I don't love or yearn for those in some sense, then the chances are I'm not going to get good at them. Finally, if I can identify what I love, what I am good at, know that it will help create an inheritable world AND I can get paid for it, then I hit the sweet-spot which ticks the boxes of passion, mission, profession and vocation and, ultimately, ikigai.

Having said that, there is also a moral overlay which tends to sort itself out in at least two of the areas. For instance, you may love sex and be good at it (at least in your own perception!), but if you think you can make money out of it, that would need to be by some way other than selling yourself, others or porn i.e. you would need to find some legal way to make money out of it, such as selling sex toys. But then you have to ask whether the world would be a better place if everyone had a sex toy. The answer needs to be objective and, objectively speaking, I would suggest that that is probably not the most pressing issue or holistic need of the world right now. So maybe that wouldn't be your ikigai. Just saying.

Ikigai is out there, waiting to be found and nurtured. If you haven't found yours, try playing with the variables to see what you can change in order to hit your sweet-spot.

So, as you approach 2017 and start thinking about what the dreaded new year's resolutions will look like, try aligning them and what you love and are good at in a way which helps you uncover your ikigai.

My warm wishes for this holiday season!



Saturday, 17 December 2016

FIXATION vs PASSION

In case you have gone into cold turkey because of the temporary absence of “The Talking Stick”, I am pleased to report that I have emerged from a couple of months of disruption brought about by extensive and worldwide travel, sadly none of which represented leisure time. Be that as it may, the blog is now back on stream and the hiatus in its broadcast brings me to today’s topic.    

One of my great passions (other than family, health, photography, people empowerment and, and…) is writing. I love it because it is one of my forms of expression and it serves, amongst other things, to clear my mind and keep me sharp. I do it for its own sake because it feeds me at some level, despite the fact that (sadly) I haven’t yet found a way to monetize it. However, I have done almost none in the past two months. How can that be?

The truth is that I have allowed Life to get in the way of doing what I love, mainly because there is also the small matter of putting food on the table, which has then got me wondering whether I have become fixated with work at the expense of the things which nourish me. If I am brutally honest with myself, I have to acknowledge that I have lost a measure of balance in my life by trying to serve my work commitments at the expense of all else.

The one thing that is clear, however, is that I am not alone in this. I know any number of people whose sole topic of conversation is where the next deal is coming from, how busy they are, how many emails land on their desk every day, how they will make budget and how much their next bonus cheque will be. They appear incapable of talking other than at a completely superficial level of anything about which they could be passionate such as life, love, relationships or finding meaning in their lives. The problem with the fixation is that it destroys passion, unless the passion is somehow linked to the fixation.

However, unless what you are fixated about makes you wake up each day with a smile and a spring in your step, the chances are that the fixation is not equal to your passion. So when I hear people speaking to me (or at me) about their fixation, I find that eventually there is a part of me that tunes out, because whilst it may interest and even excite the other person, more often than not, it is not within my personal realm of interest and so much of my time is spent trying to avoid the thousand yard stare.

Part of the problem I have described (i.e. tuning out from fixations) is of course my own. However, I want to suggest that when there is fixation without passion, it is the beginning of the slide down a slope to self-destruction. It may give you a buzz at the time and feed you intellectually or in some other way, but it won’t necessarily nourish you and keep you alive in the long term. It is a bit like trying to hydrate yourself with beer rather than water. You know that the one tastes better than the other and has a particular physiological effect on you, but ultimately the beer will kill you: the water won’t.

Beer is the fixation whilst water actually provides some nourishment to your cells, but ultimately you will need to help the cells with the passion brought by say fruit juice or green juice. Water is the safe option and won’t kill you, but it won’t necessarily nourish you. Beer is the exciting option, but will eventually kill you. Some juice with particular nutrition in it is your passion, and that will keep you going indefinitely.

So the question for you is: Which will it be? Beer, juice or water, or a sensible combination of all three?


I want to suggest that, unless you can meld passion into your life, your fixation will eventually get you.