Aug 062015

We humans spend our lives striving for things.

We pour ourselves into the quest for more freedom, more autonomy, more happiness, more connection with friends family and humanity. We strive to bring the world under our influence and control. We immerse ourselves in self-development books and blogs. We take business and soft skills training. And on and on and on it goes.

It all seems to be mostly in pursuit of a better image. A better LinkedIn profile, more connections, more FB-‘friends’, so that we can advance our careers and improve our worldly measures of success – our business titles/status, our facade of ‘living the good life’ and our level of consumer spending.

And we really believe and buy into all this BS!

It’s all an illusionary deck of cards, a house of straw on sand foundations. All these things we strive for are ultimately always out of our reach and never achievable.

We don’t control our world and never will. As Seth Godin says ‘The only things we really control are our thoughts and our actions’ and the rest is all but an attempt to influence life to be the way we wish. A recipe for disappointment.

Freedom is also a nebulous concept. While some are freer than others, there is never true and unrestricted freedom in this world. There are always limits, constraints and boundaries no matter who you are or what you earn and spend. Social limits, physical limits, environmental limits and the big boogeyman we all face – time limits.

We strive for happiness ultimately in everything we do, every action we take. Our downfall though is a terminal short-sightedness, an addictive prioritisation of instant gratification to the detriment of long term reward. And so we dull our pain in alcohol, drugs, power, spending and more spending and wonder why things never get any better.

It certainly seems the more we strive, the more we crave these things, the less likely we are to actually achieving them.

None of these are likely to be ours if we focus on trying to bend the world to our will. Our circle of influence ultimately remains only ‘the tiny kingdom in our heads’. We can grow our influence but ultimately all that is ours are our thoughts and our actions.

All of these desires could be ours if we would but only understand the ‘illusion of control’.

Jun 202015
Countries dtm has visitied

Countries dtm has visitied

Countries sam has visited

Countries sam has visited

Countries dtm and sam visited between them

Countries dtm and sam visited between them

Countries dtm and sam have visited together

Countries dtm and sam have visited together

Something isn’t right with this modern working life!!

Jan 202015

It’s an interesting concept explored on but I’m not entirely convinced of it’s universal application in life? Yes, it’s probably a good indicator as you move through daily life, a yard-stick for honing in on the activities that resonate but is it really something one should act on in all cases? He leads into the article with the story of a TV talk show host taking time out from her job because “she didn’t like who she was when she was doing that”.

So that’s all good and well. I get that and I must admit that I’ve reached a similar stage in my corporate and Johannesburg life. Right now though, it’s not as simple as just walking away. Or is it? We have commitments to both B and Caz for tertiary education. If I walk away now then I don’t think I’ll be able to meet those.

“That thought — Do I like who I am while I’m doing this? — has visited me a few times a year ever since, and I’m finally seeing how crucial a question it is. We ought to ask it about everything we do regularly in our lives. If the answer is “No,” then it makes sense to ask how we ended up making it a regular part of our lifestyle, and whether it’s necessary or worthwhile.”

I agree with David. While it would seem a natural thing to do we do actually “seem to be driven more by expectations, gratification and momentum”. As with most things in life, making sure this doesn’t happen requires specific effort and attention.

So, back to the all-pervasive question at hand. If I don’t like who I am when I’m at work all day but I know I need to stick it out for another couple of years at least, then what to do? What I do know for sure is that my overall sense of well-being takes a dive when I don’t take time out for regular outdoor activities, when I don’t actively engage in manual labour and basic chores to keep our lives moving forward. Just the simple act of repairing the axe and chopping firewood yesterday was something that made me like who I was. Rushing out to buy a bottle of red for supper is debatable. Maybe short term I think I like who I am but afterwards I don’t. I do know I don’t like who I am so much when I sit behind a desk for 8 straight hours, day in and day out. I do know a little bit of variety in the daily routine helps. I do like who I am when on board the yacht. I don’t like who I am in the daily traffic grind. And so it goes……..

At the end of the day, like many things in life, I’ll need to compromise with the work situation. As I have for many years now I’ll need to actively ensure that I (mostly) only engage in those aspects of work that are more satisfying, those aspects of work that help me “like who I am” a little better.

Dec 162014

The early morning Ocean seems cold and gray and some wispy, weeny, dirty clouds scud past a gloomy and formidable Elsies peak, driven on a chilly SE’Iy. It’s all an illusion though as the Summer sun begins it rise in the Eastern sky.

The Owls are gently hooting, putting to bed for the day while the Hadedah’s are up, on passage to whenever it is they go. The distant crashing of the surf on Glencairn beach, the rapidly lightening sky, they all bode well for another perfect day in paradise.

The eastern skyline is an undecipherable jumble of mountain peak & everchanging cloud mass. As the Sun relentlessly climbs into the sky the infinite shades of grey on the horizon are transformed replaced instead by a myriad of pinks, purples and morning orange.

The summer sun rises far to the right this time of the year, behind the mountain. The winter sun rises behind Elsies. That’s an arc of about 40°! Unbelievable!

We’re in for a nice fresh SE’ly today, maybe 20kts or so, with bright, Sunny Summer Skies. the False Bay waters are still relatively flat but today’s south-easter will pack a punch. It’s already noticeable and after a few hours of this the bay will be wild and bumpy. Not the conditions the locals will choose for a day-sail. A morning like this is cold at sea. The pre-dawn watch, the cold wind-swept ocean, they leave a chill in the sailor’s bones that lingers long after the first cup of coffee and the sun’s first warming rays.

05:38 and the sun is peeking up over the mountain, like a child, standing on tippy-toes just managing to see over an obstacle. In an instant the cold, gray morning colours are magically transformed. With a snap of his fingers Old Man Sun has arrived. Hello day!!

Dec 102014

What makes it (working for The Man) seem worthwhile is that the proceeds allow us to build, in our evenings and on our weekends, a fraction of the life we wanted all along.” – David Cain []

A fraction of the life?

And to spend another 20 years like this? When all around us people are dropping like flies? When people are finally there but illness curtails living the dream?

Is it really worth the risk ?

This mostly occupies my current thoughts!

To be chained to the cubicle and the traffic for 10 hours a day to live (what admittedly is a very good life) on evenings and weekends?

I think not!

Jul 172014

Winter is a difficult time! Watching the sun set below the western Johannesburg skyline as early as 17h30, waking to a cold darkness that only begins to feel the light of dawn by around 06h30 makes it hard to feel that life in the cubicle is not sucking all that is good.

I’m playing secretary and delivery driver much of the time on this current project. Organising ahead to ensure people are there to deliver to often has them saying to me “Anytime, I’m there from 6am” or “Of course yes, I’m working late tonight, here until 9pm“. The scary thing is that these are not isolated long work days for these people. This is the norm in the project/engineering industry. The comments are normally made in such a way as to garner firstly, a little sympathy, but secondly and most importantly, they seem to demand some kind of respect. It’s as if all this ongoing effort and 80hr work-weeks are somehow a badge of honour, an indication of their commitment to their career, their team, their corporate masters.

I don’t bother to reply at all to such nonsense anymore. Inwardly I just give a wry smile and plan to live my life as best I can while still in this cubicle hell. That means 40hr weeks, max, for this slave. Don’t expect me to deliver your documents by 6am on a cold winter’s morning. I have better things to do, a life to be lived, some better kind of balance to be struck.

Even though I pretty much have managed to achieve this particular form of balance in the last ten years it’s just not enough anymore. The pressures of even this 40hr work week and life in “the world class shitty” have worn me down. The last 2 weeks have been grim, filled with a myriad of obstacles and challenges to the good life, darker and colder than the depths of an arctic winter.

As a sailor there is one thing I am sure of. Storms will blow at the most inconvenient of times. They will test you to your limits, threaten the safety of the boat, take you to the edge of sanity. But then they are gone, the wind and waves calm and the feeling of satisfaction one feels having managed the yacht through the roughest of patches is a rare and awesome reward to one’s soul.

So too must this current rough patch, this life-storm come to an end.

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York !”

Lets hope Shakespeare was right.

Jul 142014

It’s hard sometimes to not fall for the “compare yourself to the world” yardstick. It’s hard to ride through the kind of sustained universal wobbly that we’ve had the last 2 weeks.

When I look at a peer, someone who basically started out same time as myself, who has amassed a rental portfolio of 10 properties already, its hard to think that I haven’t but one and even that is on the verge of closure.

I mean, how can he be so “successful” in that arena while I struggle so much?

I’m reminded of the need to not compare oneself to another, especially when there is no real understanding of all the factors that make up the person’s life. The rental portfolio is but one aspect of life, an isolated feature that doesn’t make any sense out of context with the rest of that person’s stuff. In addition, how much freedom has this person given up? How much debt is there lurking in the background?

The expensive life-style, private schools etc. The bigger the burn, the more income is necessary. The corporate politicking, the daily grind, travel away from home etc etc. Do I want that in my life?

Right here, right now – A well lit, cosy home. Food in my belly. Enough financial buffer to know I’m OK even if we should choose not to chase more.

That’s key. How much is enough? Time to branch out and live life differently. Time to live, rather than work. Time to throw caution to the wind and take a calculated step toward a future we both keenly desire.

You can never tell anything from the man’s car, his outward visible-to-the-world lifestyle. The only thing you can tell from these is how much he spends. And even then you cannot tell whether he’s spending his own money or is up to his eyeballs in life-sucking debt.

No matter what our status in life, no matter what our financial worth, we all have been allocated a finite amount of time on this planet. Time that once gone we never get back, no matter how much cash we have in the bank. So when he’s at the office every day until 7pm, in Europe on business for 2 weeks at a time, I’ll still prefer being home to watch the sun set, spending my weekends on the yacht, working toward the plan, even if my plan is much more modest than his.

Is he happier than I? Don’t know. Don’t actually care.

What has he achieved? Nothing that grabs my heartstrings. What does he do and experience in the world that doesn’t take wealth and spending? Nothing that I can see.

So besides that, maybe his rental investment strategy bears study. Not because he is the best, but certainly because he seems to be functioning better in this specific arena than I am (and because I feel the need to diversify our income streams for ER)

I’ll be keeping the current cars, even if they require time and money. Until the spreadsheet proves otherwise it’s cheaper to repair and maintain than buy again (and it’s really greener as well)

Jul 092014

This has been one of those weeks sent straight from the depths of hell itself.

There has been the usual unpleasantness trying to get the entire crowd into the car.

Sunday night underneath the phsyco-tenant was painful. Abusive noise until the wee hours, all in an attempt to make our stay unbearable.

Monday night was a direct face-to-face, followed by an angry threatening visit. (Got that recorded for future use)

Tuesday night the Isuzu stood alone in Fishoek, unable to start.

Monday and Tuesday were busy, early ’til late, dealing with unhelpful agents, abusive tenants and signing up lawyers at some cost. The legal issues are only starting and the work needed to drive this thing forward is still going to take some time and effort this week.

But the tide seems to be turrning…….

We were lucky to fix the car ourselves for R95 this morning. That made life feel a little better. Last night was also better. At least there was no upstairs evil noise and we managed a full night’s sleep. And finally, five days after we left Jhb, Sands and I finally got a run together, even if only to go and find and fix the car.

It hasn’t been a holiday week and that’s for sure no maybe!

Sometimes it really seems that the universe is totally hell-bent on testing one’s limits. Everything, altogether, always. Never just one manageable problem at a time.

They say it’s how you respond that defines you. I don’t know about that. All I do know is that there’s nobody who will sort things out except yourself. You can sit back, swear, blame the world for being unfair. Or you can just keep slogging away at what needs doing.

Being accountable for your life and your actions is the ultimate freedom. Empowerment. Choose to take responsibility for life. That’s the only way we know how. That’s the only way we respect.

Not hoping to jinx things, but today has been better, more relaxed. Time for a walk on the beach with the pups. Right now, life is better. Let’s hope the rest of the week follows suit.

And sitting here, overlooking a gentle south-easterly rippled ocean, it’s worth the battle. This place is magic. It’s where we long to be. We can ride through the current challenges. This is going to all be worth it.

Jun 282014

Different strokes, different folks I guess.
I’m not much of a “bucket-list” fan.Sure, there are some things I am working toward, hoping to do, but I don’t have a list of 1001+ things to do before I die. That’s just not me.
I can understand why people do it. Awesome places to visit, exciting things to do. You put it on a list and hope to achieve it all before you die.
In a sense I see “bucket-list” people as the kind that want to experience a little of a lot without really committing to excellence in any one area.Nothing wrong with that but it’s not really me.
I’m more of a keep life simple, focus on few important things and make them count. After all, you can probably have anything you want badly enough, but it’s a given – you cannot have everything you want.
So my approach to life has been to focus and dedicate myself to the few things that are very important to me, that bring the most enjoyment; my family, sailing, running, our homes. To a large extent everything else has been secondary to that for the last 18 years with the kids in the house.
Now that the children are approaching the “leaving home stage” there is a lot more freedom looming. But I don’t think we’ll change the formula. What we currently have is pretty much what makes us happy.

Apr 292014

Yappy, snappy dogs. That’s what we have here. It’s hugely frustrating. Jack barks and snaps at every single dog he meets. Seems he [or I] have brought some Jo’burg tension to the fairest Cape.

‘Please crush the cans and plastic bottles before putting them in the bin to save space’. And what do I get, uncrushed garbage.

‘Can we please use the car to go to the pet shop. It’s close, here near Claremont’. No it isn’t. It’s flipp’n the other side of the world in Durbanville.

For some reason or another I have a little frustration at the moment. I want the dogs and the kids to be as perfect as the location, the beach, the run in the rain, the glass-smooth ocean paddle. And yet they aren’t. They probably will never be.

Sometimes things just are what they are. If you can’t let them go then they have the potential to derail whatever other happiness can be found in the day.

The only thing I can control, improve, is myself. If I’m tense then it’s a guarantee that the dogs will also be. If I’m relaxed, while no certain thing that the dogs will also be relaxed, they sure have a better chance of being so.

So, here’s looking forward to just chillin’ and taking the good out of this holiday.

to the beach