Goals not own goals!

We are almost at the end of the month of setting goals. We only have 11 months left of this year!


So why is it so damn hard to stick to the goals we set only a few weeks back?
In the movie ‘Ice Age’ Scrat runs around like a headless chicken. Darting this way and that. Seeming to be able to focused on something for a very short time. Only to be distracted by the next shiny object of desire.
He seems to lack a common thread that holds his actions together.

Let’s imagine that we are taking on a big fitness goal. Let’s call that Ironman.
It is totally admirable to do an Ironman. And there is nothing wrong with doing and training for that. However what often happens is that after the event we drop into slump and a deep hole until the next shiny object of desire draws us closer.
Let’s imagine my vision is to get fitter and I then choose to do an Ironman event. This underlying vision will inform how I go about pursuing my goal. The Ironman then becomes a station along the way as opposed to the end of the tracks.

It seems better to me to find that common thread of what we are actually trying to achieve rather being distracted by the shiny distractions along the way.

Let’s imagine two scenarios:
I want to do the fastest Ironman that I am capable of. This might mean that I take a step back and work on my swimming. The new technique will slow me down in the short term and it might take several years to surpass my current speed. I might experiment with nutrition finding what works for me. This might take a few tries. The individual event becomes a milestone along the long term path. I may even spend a large amount of money on a bike that shaves seconds off my overall speed. My overall goal is to get fast remember!

Or I might want to improve my overall health. That would then inform how I tackle the event. My focus would then not be on the finishing time but on how to complete the race healthier than when I started training. Maybe the fast bike would hold less interest but recovery and getting stronger and fitter overall. A completely different approach. Also afterwards I might continue my journey by taking up some strength training as that might be lacking. It is not something completely new. Then strength training and the IM all just become pieces in my puzzle.

My point is it is not about the end goal or summit. That is just a station along the journey. When we forget that we become distracted by other’s objects of desire. I might see a shiny bike and spend money on that rather than look at my overall fitness.

Simply put: don’t get distracted.
Stay your path.

“I hate my job” – and other lies

We have all heard versions of the above quote. Followed by a resigned sigh. And then acknowledgement from whoever is listening. We have probably said it more than once ourselves!

The truth is that there are always things we have to do that might be less enjoyable in themselves. And here is the point. Why do them?

Let’s say I do really hate cleaning toilets and it is the only job I have. In fact it is the worst job in the world. On top of that I get paid the lowest salary imaginable.  I still have choice. I can either leave the job and have no income. Arguably that would be worse than cleaning toilets. Or I can make the best of it knowing that at least I have some positive (the meagre income) coming from my work.

The thing is I do have choice. I can choose to hate my job or I can choose to focus on the positive that comes from it (even if that is tiny).

You could argue that both are equal possibilities. You could even argue that both are equally “made up”.

If so then why choose the one that makes me miserable? More importantly why choose the option that leads me down the road of victimhood as opposed to the option which offers possibilities and options and hope?

Sometimes we feel there is no hope. I would argue that we just can’t see it.

PS: I get that some situations are truly horrific. Many times genocide is listed as amoung the most dire. The works of Dr Edith Eger and Victor Frankl are easy reading (the material certainly is not) and should be on everybody’s list at least once in our lives. It would certainly make our lives better.

Points of Reference

I feel like a first-year at varsity. The year before I was a child, suddenly grown up. All of a sudden there were girls in mini-skirts and I had to fend for myself. I pretended to be adult but had no clue.

Last year we could hug, now we are distant.

How can the world be the same but fundamentally changed? I know I don’t have the normal income I worked hard for 3 years. Also I don’t have a way of rebuilding that. Thankfully.

From the order that we create comes predictability and a sense of certainty. We want it so much that we make it true. By believing we manifest. But we live not in order, we live in chaos. And when our universe reminds us our world often falls apart.

I visited my old home recently. Now others made it theirs. The walls were still there with familiar features. I traced the lines we had climbed. My body went into automatic. Things remembered. Things forgotten. Many things in between. Learning to look with a new eye at my world around me.

Integrity part 1

I might disappoint you, even piss you off.

I might take 2 steps back, for every 1 forward.

I might change direction.

I might make dumb mistakes.

I might say (and post) stuff that I am embarrassed about later.

I might push boundaries, only to step back.

I might say sorry, I might not.

I am trying to work this out.

Know this though: I am doing my best to be in integrity, to be me. What that is, I am not quite sure. But I am looking.

In turning over stones I sometimes find a spider or a snake or nothing at all. Walking through tall grass looking for the path, not the goal. Just an honest way through.


With friends now gone I first looked into the deep blue sea. From the relative safety of the Frontal we traced the lines of the Horror Crack, Zig-zags Into Infinity Base and where Jeremy and Jeremy had played in the sky.

The stained glass windows of a cathedral are meant to be experienced from inside and not viewed from the outskirts of the grounds.

There was a trip with a girl which did not leave base camp.

Later I plucked up the courage to step through the doors. I was ambitious and Ross was strong. I almost fell off the free moves. Our pack of fear dragging us down. I peed on my foot on Bev’s Bivy and watched on, bemused. Feeling warmth, feeling something real.

Then I recall (quite badly apparently) a rainy night in camp with Tristan and Mark. Squeezed into a tent, or was it an overhang? Bailure followed. Not before witnessing lightning on the hills to the east.

I got to stand on those hills to the east last weekend. I got another look into the Ocean of overhangs and dreams. Distance gives perspective. Like time. Like friends.

I am here, now.
A world away.
That was then, this is now.

What are you measuring?

Whereas the tape measure is the most basic there are many other measurables at our disposal. My sports watch measures Heart Rate, Heart Rate Variability, how fast I ran, how far I ran, how many steps I took, how well I slept, how much stress I experienced, how well I am recovered, what I was wearing. The list goes on.

In the weight loss genre the scale seems to be the most basic and then even discarded with a ‘muscle is heavier than fat you know’ comment.
The implication is that we can not measure what is really going on. Maybe even what is important.

My sports watch certainly does not tell me if I had fun yesterday or if a run felt good. It can’t even tell me how tired I am. It tries but I know I feel differently. Currently the curves point down (like I am over my peak) but I think I am building to something better. Anyway I digress. It certainly can not predict how much fun I will have in the future.

Many years ago a photographer friend was showing me around my new camera when he said he wished there was a sensor with a big red warning light that said this was a bad photo. Exposure, focus, composition could all be text book but the print (remember those?) could still be awful.

So what is it about a good photo or even good art? Without going too far down this rabbit hole good art is compelling enough to draw us back repeatedly. Because it has something to offer us on each new visit. Better art offers this across more people. We agree that there is something. Something beyond the describable. Something that inspires, lifts, connects.

Maybe joy is like that too.
Unmeasurable but true. Joy shared (like art) makes it more.

Let us seek and share Joy!

PS: I am reminded of ‘The Book of Joy‘ by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. A real gem about joy for life shared by two of the world’s great leaders.

On Balance

It is only natural to want to grow, learn, gain knowledge, improve. This is truly living. Every improvement, insight, gain in enlightenment even, comes at a cost.

That cost might be time to learn a skill, experience, attention or purely financial. Often however we think that we can cut out the time required to learn. We are told (or sold) that we can fast track, learn the hacks even. 12 week Ironman programs, 10 weeks to your marathon PB, 6 weeks to your beach body…. sadly they come at a cost (often beyond the financial). We short cut and thus ignore the foundation (or base) required. This is not the way to true mastery or excellence. It is a thin veneer of pretense. And we are only kidding our selves.

However as we climb up our slope of choosing we realise there is another balancing factor. Responsibility. The rich, powerful, learned, strong all have a greater responsibility than the poor, uneducated and weak.

I don’t mean to describe it as static but rather it is dynamic, backwards and forwards play, balance. As this dynamic is maintained we all move forward and up.

Let’s return to the individual. Tempting as it may, hiding costs only works for a while, sometimes for a long while. Outsourcing is funny like that. We get the benefit without many of the costs. The costs do not go away though they just move to a different balance sheet. Taking production off shore (because labour is cheaper) for example ultimately costs my community in that I do not employ that community and they might not support me etc. Environmental costs seem to be like that too. Far too easily hidden on some foreign balance sheet. It blows me away the SA bought nuclear waste from Europe under the previous regime. A friend of mine remarked that he would now have to look after the environment because he was no longer an anonymous passer through. NIMBY

There is a funny tipping point what is considered fair/value for money. It seems to have very little to do with the product or service in question. I had somebody ask for a discount this week before we had even discussed a price. I apologised because I did not know how to continue the conversation. Ultimately as consumer we want to get “a deal”. Maybe we want to feel like we are tipping the scales in our favour.

I will close with gradient as a judge of character. I am amused by how ambitions seem not to be in balance with people’s current place or past experience. I have often been wrong and I will admit that. But I am far more interested in what you have done that what you want to do in the future.

Maybe I should stop here and move onto something else. I have written here and here about gradient.

Gradient – some thoughts

Many years ago I was walking towards the North Six Shooter outside Moab with my climbing partner. By far I was the weaker climber – on paper at least. Finally we got to the base of our first tower climb together and I realised something was wrong, my partner had been lagging all morning and I had not paid too much attention. There was doubt in his voice. Doubt about the weather, doubt about the heat, doubt about all different weird stuff. Too much doubt.

I quickly realised that the route was not the problem. And I had to work out why my partner was so freaked out and why he was not acting the way I expected. I also knew that I could not take on the responsibility for us both, in this setting, at that time, when he was in this state. I needed an equal to shoulder responsibility, at least at that point.

The mistake I had made was that I had forgotten to check in earlier as to what was going on with him. I assumed that because of his resume he would be able to pull his weight now. After a rest in the shade we headed down the scree frustrated. Later that evening we talked about things. A few days later with deeper insight (he had survived a near death epic in the desert many years before) into each other we went back out there a few days later and had a grand day out. A fairy tail ending of sorts, but often these issues result in dashed dreams and broken friendships or at very least frustrating days out for all.

What was going on here?

We have all walked up stairs in a hurry (or down for that matter). Each of us has their own pace and ability to climb stairs. Some of this is natural (like long legs or a strong body or actually an ability to turn over the legs quickly), some ability is trained. But don’t be fooled. What seems normal to me is certainly not that to others! One of the fastest walkers that I know is about half my height – who would have thought? She is a long distance swimmer. She is not overly trained she just walks super fast. Not in a million years would I put money on her beating me. Not that it is a race 😉

It is quite natural to assume that our own ability is the norm. We also assume that our own rate of learning (or gradient) is shared by all. Somehow we admire those that are better than us at a task but strangely enough we tend to be completely surprised by others that are not as able. Indeed sometimes this catches us off guard. One of the top climbers in the south of England admitted to me that he was afraid of heights! It took me a while to even grasp that this could be an issue for somebody of his ability.

“Come on, get over yourself! You have nothing to fear! The rope will hold…” These are all true, for me in that moment.

It may not feel so for your partner.

The natural thing for us to do is to come from our position (our gradient) and assume that what we are struggling with is hard for others too. What we find easy should be easy for others too. We make an assumption and thus we ultimately stand in judgement of our peers.

The thing with gradient is that it is our ability (steepness) to learn but also it symbolises our position along that slope. We are all different and can learn at different rates depending on circumstances. Just adjust the stress levels and see how normal functioning people become gibbering wrecks. That 5.7 move on loose rock, in the cold with a deck fall becomes a different animal.

So how do we do things differently?

We have to approach the other person from where they are at. Not from our position. The only way to do that is by asking questions. More specifically through open ended questions we gain insight. “What do you not like about heights?” “Why do you think you are feeling anxious?” “What can I do to help?” “How are you feeling today/about this route?” are all good examples of questions to ask.

It is about coming alongside the other person and not standing in judgement. In this way we empower the other person to come from their truth and their strength and they can contribute in the best way they can.

The thing is that roles do change during a route/trip/day. Strangely not in a predictable manner but rather surprisingly in my experience. When members of a team are empowered they can contribute and take up the slack when the opportunity presents itself.

Tips to asking open ended questions:

  • Open ended questions seek insight rather than a Yes/No answer.
  • Start your question with: What…, How…, Who…
  • Listen. We are taught to be quiet but not to listen. Listening is a skill that requires practice. Try to gain insight and avoid “stacking” your next question. What this means is avoid getting your next question ready before the other has finished answering (or speaking).

The concept of Gradient applies to any relationship (personal, sporting, work) and an awareness of this can greatly improve these.

What did you take away from this article?

Surfing the Line

Maybe a better description would be “balancing the line” or something similar. I want to convey the feeling of dynamic movement, of back and forth, zig-zagging, carving back sharply then more smoothly. Adjusting course. But rather than dropping down one side of the wave as in surfing I want to describe riding the sharp crest of it. That is where the tension is.

The sharp line between shadow and light. Cool and warm. Left and right. Hard and soft. Overwhelm and apathy. My destiny lies along this crest not on either side.  A friend described it like balancing a wobble board. But I think this is more dynamic. Running along the crest of a sand dune. My existence lies along that tension. Probably because of that tension.

As I look behind, the crest is no longer clean and crisp but pocked by my passing. Murky where I have walked. The reality is that the only way I can stay true is to put one foot either side. One spot of light in the dark and one shadow in the light. Transferring weight between the two. Thinking, being static does not keep me on course. Action, forward momentum, does. As I know dunes are not straight lines but rather curves. Intersecting. Interjoining. The obvious path is not a straight line. As I reach one summit I see others ahead. A sea of sand and opportunity or misery. That depends on me.

Add a title of your choosing

My preconceptions were the wall.

I had done this before. I had felt the holds. I remember the awkward move even from years ago. I knew I wanted to do it. To do the tick. I knew the consequences of pushing on and backing off. Backing off meant quite a lot when it was meaning that I was after.

I felt the dirt in the crack. Looked at the moves above I would not be able to reverse. My ideas, my fear tilted the wall against me. The lack of training (and that is a training of sorts) added to the cocktail.

How to be present and feel and see what is really there? Not blinded by what I think aught to be. That seems to be the real training.

The reps will change, as the steepness of the wall.

I admire all who continue to try into age. It seems too easy to just fortify ourselves in our own limits of thought, tradition, statements rather than questions and new possibilities. I admire all who keep an open heart to reality. Reality sometimes looks like opportunity and that is when we should act.