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What do you really want out of life? Now what's stopping you?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pondering Employees.


I spent Christmas on the farm with my dad. Had plenty of time to think about things, a little mental rumination. Looking at the general state of farm workers and indeed the state of the majority of employees in the ‘third world’, although many in the developed world could be included here, and pondered on the thought as to how many employers ever bothered to try coaching their underlings to a state of better things. Maybe it is a matter of not knowing how to elevate some ones self worth but it strikes me as something that is not done very much.

Take the average farm worker in Africa-they live in a hut (brick if they are lucky), may or may not have electricity, share a communal tap for running water and that’s about it. Now you can insert ‘slum’ and ‘factory worker’ instead, and some labourers are in a better situation than I have described but the situation hasn’t changed much in the last 20 or so years. I certainly don’t hear amazing stories of the farm worker who has gone and become a successful farm owner, and I hear of very few of labourers going out and building their own brick house, getting water and lights in it and getting a car. Part of it has to do with low wages, but part also has to do with the environment that they are in. When all you know is a hovel it can be a little difficult to see yourself in anything better-especially when the whole system is telling you that you are only worth a hovel and all you will ever be is a hovel dweller.

Now, at the risk of irritating a lot of people, I would say that part of the problem lies with the employer (and no I’m not the perfect boss and no I haven’t got to grips with this either yet). I am not saying that everything should be handed on a plate to the workers-I am rather opposed to the ‘gimmee’ attitude that characterises much of Africa. Rather help people see themselves in a better future. Maybe painting a vision that includes benefit to the employee, not just the self gratification and pocket lining of the boss. Creating the opportunity to do and be better may be part of the solution. One of the risks in growing people is that they may eventually see themselves out of your organisation and into their own. So what, there will always be replacements and there will always be the loyal that choose to stay and build with you-you may just have to pay them a bit more.

Now I’ve rambled for a bit let me know what you think. As I said, I havn’t got the application of this concept down perfect and it could do with a little refining. We live and learn.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A little touch of green.

Envy has to be one of the most destructive and vindictive emotions. It will eat you from the inside out and turn you into a scarred, pitiful wreck of negative energy and dislike. The simple fact is that if you live your entire life trying to be better than someone else, attempting to outlive them and basing your success on their failures you will never really amount to much. If Mr Bolt was to vanish today would it suddenly make every other sprinter a better athlete? Would every golfer the world over have their performance improve if Tiger Woods was to take up market gardening instead? The only person responsible for your success is you.

I wrote last time about Bill Bryson and how I admire some of the qualities of his writing. Now there is nothing wrong with seeking to emulate and internalise qualities that you see in another person that will aid you in your success. I am already trying to incorporate some of the lessons I’ve learnt from his writing, but for me to start trying to better Mr Bryson, to beat him at his own game, to write better than him, to copy him exactly and base my whole life on that would be foolish and self destructive. The world does not need another Bill Bryson or another Tiger Woods. The world doesn’t need another Mother Teresa or another version of your neighbour. What the world needs is you and the uniqueness that you bring into it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

There's nothing like a Dame.

It was with a great sense of trepidation that I went to see the local pantomime this week. The last one I went to a couple of years back was a total disaster, but I was with friends this time and they had a spare ticket.

I had a blast. It was by far one of the best I had seen in years. There were a significant number of senior cast members that helped carry some of the more inexperienced along-not that they were too shabby either. It had all the elements of panto-a brilliant dame, a very evil villain, and the appropriate love story. The dancers were skilled and I haven’t laughed that long in a while. It was a welcome break from all the turmoil around about. Well done Reps.

We were chatting in the car home and someone passed the comment that he had to admire the bravery of the cast coming out night after night to perform it what are less than ideal economic circumstances. Having been involved with some of the cast before, I can only say that they are passionate about what they do. They have fun doing it and despite all the hard effort involved they find it very rewarding. For some it is the self gratification of the ‘thank-you’s’ after, for others the smile on peoples faces, for others the sense of community and the vision of providing people with entertainment. Finding something worth sacrificing into, something that you enjoy doing and have a passion for it will keep you committed for many years to come.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God...

…and with a mighty thunderclap the rains began. It is bucketing down outside, a veritable flushing of the heavenly cistern. As a result I am going nowhere fast. I cycled in to work today as my car is undergoing some major work. Bad timing that. So I find myself depleting the office caffeine supplies while waiting for the downpour to subside. The alternative is to make a rather wet way home and with no guarantee of a warm bath at the other end (who knows what the Zimbabwean power has done today) I am a little reluctant to give that one a try. Given the water situation in town it may be the quickest way to get a free wash though, we must look on the bright side of things here.

What to do? I never thought that I would say it but I have exhausted my desire to play computer games today. As the year draws to a close I have set myself a whole bunch of annual tasks to do. A slowing in client numbers as we approach the festive season has given me ample time to sit down and get on with the non-treating part of my business. I have actually surprised myself with how efficacious I have been this week (and it’s only Tuesday). The reason for the bout of energy probably has a lot to do with the fact that I wrote a list down. Writing goals settles them in your mind as things to be achieved. That and some heavy utilisation of the visualisation tools from TPI have seriously increased my output. I think also watching my team leader for our trip to Kenya made me realise just how much you can get done.

This year has seen bouts of less than normal client numbers as a result of the economy here. This can induce a false lethargy of what is ‘normal’. I am fully capable of pushing out a full days work treating; I just haven’t in so long that I have to remind myself of what is normal. In some ways it is similar to another hazard of the job-when you continually treat stiff backs you can forget what a normal back feels like. The cure is to find a normal back and go ‘oh that’s what I’m trying to achieve with my clients’. The occasional ‘reality’ check of what is normal when faced with underperformance is necessary.

Well it looks like it has died down and the roads are drying up so let me hit the road (odd phrase that as though I’m going to step out and pound my fist into the tar, how I love English).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kenya again.




As promised here are some photos of the Kenya trip and PX2. The building shot is of the school in Kenya where we held our training. Very castle like and complete with a drawbridge on the left side of the building. My only complaint was that it was made of grey brick and not stone-I mean seriously bricks are not going to stand up to a catapult any time soon.

One of the side effects of our rerouting on the way home was that I got to go shopping in the duty free. I picked up ‘Notes from a Small Island’ by Bill Bryson. I love his humour and general writing style. The warning on the front says ‘not to be read in public places’, and it is absolutely true. His insights are hilariously presented. I love ‘finding’ new authors with a writing style that I can learn from. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to write like Bill Bryson-one of him in the world is more than enough I assure you. Rather I want to take some of his style and flair and adopt it into my own. He is particularly descriptive and anyone who can make a description of a table setting into a humour filled experience is well gifted and worthy of a little study.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

PX2

Wa-hey! What a week! Spent last weekend in Kenya experiencing The Pacific Institute’s PX2-their young peoples program. What a blast. Then after a somewhat rerouted flight (thanks to an Air Kenya cancellation) I co-facilitated the course here in Zimbabwe where we took 30 young people through the material. Facilitating the course has been a goal of mine for the last year and it was almost overwhelming to experience the fulfilment of that dream. Not that the dream stops there, but as TPI teaches, you need progressive goals. Now we move onto the next step with bigger plans and goals.

The TPI programmes are a worthwhile investment for anyone who desires to expand their horizons and to achieve their dreams and goals. Based on cognitive psychology they offer a structured process that really works. The course is not a magic wand that is a fix all, but it gives you the tools to work on your life. For me it is the ‘MacGyver’ knife in my toolbox.

I will give more feedback and thoughts on my trip in another post, but for now I am going to savour the emotion of an achieved dream.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Booking an Appointment

Hmm it's been a little longer than usual between posts (just under a fortnight to be correct). It hasn't been for a shortage of writing material, it's probably due to an increase in my workload and a temporary devaition from my normal routine as a result. Consistent blogging, really consistent anything, takes a regular appointment with yourself to achieve it. Faliure to set that appointment will result in other things swallowing the time.



So what's going on? There is the compounding of the Zimbabwe situation by the water crisis in Harare. The city ran dry yesterday, thankfully my taps were back on last night but I have many friends who are not so fortunate. Money has the same tensions on it as time it seems-unless you budget for and schedule maintenance it will not take place.



Then there are my preparations to attend a PX2 conference in Kenya over the weekend. PX2 is a program from The Pacific Institute aimed at young people. I'm going as part of a team to learn and see how we can launch it here in Zimbabwe. It promises to be an exciting experience and one that is part of me fulfilling my purpose. Will give you feedback when I get back (unless I can connect online while I'm there)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A little blah.

I guess i'm feeling a little blah at the moment. You know the 'blah' where you don't really want to do anything major and not for any major reason either. It is not that there is nothing to do, rather the opposite as I have a pile of marking, writng and projects to work on. This feeling is aided by the weather which is overcast with the threat of rain-just perfect for bed, coffee and a good book. Not a great combination for raging amounts of productivity. The cure for blah usually involves just that though. A little time to step back and renew my perspective. To step back and actually see the wood not just the trees. So I'm off to have a cup of coffee and just relax a little, think a little and clear my mind of clutter before moving on with my list of things to do.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Constancy

This week one of the main cellphone operators in Zimbabwe cancelled all contract lines and converted them to a pay-as-you-go system. The primary reason is that due to the spiralling inflation rate and ongoing black market devaluation of the local currency, by the time the bills have been processed and the clients paid (normally by cheque-and a company may only withdraw the equivalent of less than 2USD a day from the bank) the value of the money is a fraction of the value of the service provided. Inconvenient for people, you bet. The pre-paid system is tedious and you have to keep topped up or you can’t call. Have people complained, you bet.

The loudest complaints though have been from those whose companies don’t accept cheques either, but expect everyone to take theirs. That’s plain hypocrisy and one of the reasons the Zim is in the mess it is in. Living your life at one standard while expecting others to live at another for your convenience is wrong anyway you look at it. Integrity is the opposite and highly valued by others.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Overnight Success

Today at church I watched a 15 year old, young man lead a congregation of 3000 people in Praise and Worship for the first time. Among the songs was one of his own compositions. How many 15 year olds get that sort of exposure? He was confident, clear and did a great job-way to go Dan! His success has not been overnight though. He has gone through years of training in music and voice. He has performed at multiple concerts, from the low to the high. He has spent hours in practice. In short, today was a culmination of years of work-most of it at the instigation of his mother.

It is easy to look at success from the overnight perspective. Especially when that’s really what we desire. I mean, who wouldn’t want fame, riches and glory without having to spend ages working for it. Unfortunately, it is a rare thing. For many successful people life has been the result of years of principled living. Applying daily what they know to work and getting results.

Sure there are tools we can apply to make the process a little easier and more fun, but at the end of the day a man will reap what he sows. Idle daydreams stay in your mind, well set goals and vision promote you to action.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Barak who?

It's an incredible, gobsmacking moment when a person who has absolutly no idea what a man's policies are, what his party stands for, let alone how the American political system works, can be glad that Barak Obama has come into power simply because of the colour of his skin. Yet person after person in Zimbabwe is delighted with the result of the American election-even though they are unwilling to comment on or make any positive headway in our own elections. Sorry, that's just flipping ridiculous.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Little Bit Longer

Quitting is always an option when faced with potential (or actually experiencing) failure. Of course its an option-you just stop doing what you were doing and run away from it. Its just an otion that many people prefer not to take. Well that's not true either,plenty of people quit all the time. What stops people quitting (or from getting up again from failure) is when the picture of succcess is no longer stronger than the picture/experience of failure.

The other interesting fact is that most people 'quit' when they succeed as well. Seriously the guy just won a 100m race,he's not going to run another 100m down the track after the finish line without good reason. He will, however, return to run another race to try beat his time. I encourage you to continue to find other solutions after you have found one that works. How many ways can you rearrange your house? What more can be done to improve your product or refine the manufacture process? How many different ways are there to work? Be creative just a little bit longer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Building a Better Workout

There are thousands of gym protocols and equally a thousand urban myths about how, when and why to train. Some are actually based on science and principle.

That’s why the grouping of ideas found in this article leapt out at me. In short the five are:-
1. Train for Strength, not size. Work for functional fitness.
2. Progressively overload your system
3. Balance your movements (up with down, pull with push, movement with stability)
4. Work in unstable positions that challenge your core (e.g. do one armed bicep curls standing on one leg)
5. Do it all explosively- as fast as possible with control.

It rings true with my personal rationales on training with its focus on functional exercise. Look at anyone engaged in physical labour, I mean heavy labour; they don’t go to gym to get a great body, they go to work. Some of the best physiques I have seen are on manual sugar cane cutters. Functional exercise also incorporates your body as a whole and helps build for strength not just for size.

The idea of balancing exercises is also key. As a physio I have seen my fair share of shoulder injuries caused by guys overtraining their chest and biceps at the expense of their back and triceps. The imbalance is bad for you.

The only idea in the article I would modify is the one of doing it all explosively. Sure do explosive work but mix it up sometime with a bit of the slower stuff. That gets your slow twitch muscle fibres working more and an even bigger gain in bulk.

Oh and the coach that is featured in the article has a blog-check it out.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Small Things

Today I cleaned out my car, watered a few plants in the garden, sent a few emails and did a bit of writing. Sounds like it could be a fairly mundane list, not different from anyone else’s. Seriously why even bother with it. The common link between all of the above is that they were maintenance towards a series of bigger goals. Maintenance, which if I didn’t do, or get someone else to do, would have resulted in a series of minor disasters. Such is life. Maintenance can be boring until put in the perspective of the bigger picture. I don’t like watering the garden anymore than anyone else, but the though of succulent raspberries in a few months time ensures that I do it with the right attitude (or at least hire a gardener). The sum of the whole is greater than the parts. I’ve been writing for a while now. That takes maintenance. I thoroughly enjoy writing but there are other things that can get in the way if I don’t take time to maintain this blog. This continuance has opened other writing doors for me that would never had arisen if I didn’t keep it up. Some of the largest structures have been build one brick at a time.

Oh ya, Pastor Tom Deuschle has a new blog, Reformation Report. If you are serious about improving yourself and your community then you should have a look.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Matter of Taste

It’s easy sometimes to succumb to second best. Especially when you haven’t ever had a taste of what the best may be like. It’s like the difference between tasting a standard
‘off-the shelf’ bar of chocolate and then experiencing the sheer confectionary delight of Belgian 70% cocoa solid. We can do the same with our brains, tolerating second-rate articles and conversation until a beautiful written debate comes and gently massages your neurons into a state of prose induced bliss. Suddenly all previous experience pale into dull grey as the light of revelation bursts forth. ‘Can it really be this good? Can coffee be this alive? Can a movie be enriched with so much entertainment? Can cars be this pleasant to drive?’ It’s all about heading to the next level and once you are there not shrinking back. That’s all for now, I’m off to put my feet up with a great magazine and freshly brewed Italian coffee.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

For The Love of English

You have to admire the nuances of the english language. One can convey a multitude of words through a simple phrase. 'I ate something that disagreed with me'. A simple sentence that means 'I spent the night awake gripping the edges of my toilet while suffering from a bout of explosive diahorrea due to a delayed reaction following the ingestion of a piece of undercooked sausage.' Do not panic dear reader, I am not suffering from such a minor inconvenience at this time, it is merely an example of how 'overshare' can be transformed into the bearable. We all know you spent the night on the loo, we just don't want to really know.

We can sugar coat our communication with words that make the otherwise unpleasant a whole bunch more palatable. 'He is at rest now, he's better off, we can all move on with our lives'='the old geezer copped it last week,it was a messy end with much trauma but he he's out the way and we don't have to go throught the blasted agony of homebased care.' Again an example,I am not demeaning anyones personal pain.

I went to a funeral recently where ,as is often the case, everyone spoke about the deceased in glowing terms. Personally,I wondered if I was attending the right funeral as the person concerned could be a cantankerous old bat with some really nasty habits. Still person after person painted a gorgeous picture of love and serenity while I inwardly groaned at the duplicity. It quite simply was not true. After the funeral I went up to the grieving family, looked them in their reddened, tear soaked eyes and after a moments thought, with the sweetest intention said 'It was a lovely service, a beautiful send off.' Somethings, methinks,are better unsaid.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dangerous Discs

This is a warning-Frisbees have potential to cause great harm. There you go; you have been armed with knowledge. Apart from the obvious ability to partially decapitate you if you are looking the wrong way, there is a nasty sport called ‘Ultimate Frisbee’. Think of American Football with a disc and no contact. Think of two hours of non-stop running. Think of pain in muscles that have not done that amount of work in a long time. See, I told you it was dangerous. So, yes, I am in the throes of self-inflicted, muscular pain and yet am looking forward to next week’s game (bit of S and M there methinks).

Trying new things can be a blast, in this case including the meeting of a new group of people that I would normally never come into contact with. The truth is that until about 2 years ago I would never have bothered to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. That was forever altered by a run in with ‘The Pacific Institute’ who taught me the tools to visualise yourself into new environments with ease. The best part is, the more I do it the easier it becomes, opening increasingly larger volumes of opportunities and fun.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The WoW Factor

You have to admire the Blizzard creators of World of Warcraft. Not only have they produced some incredible strategy games, but they have created an incredible MMORPG. As they approach the launch of the next expansion of the WoW universe it is worth reflecting on the aspects that make them successful. I had the pleasure of indulging in a little game playing when last in the UK. I would say that central to their success have been two main points.

The first is that they have always pushed the boundaries of gaming normality, always bringing in new ideas (e.g. the concept of heroes in strategy games in Warcraft3). The second is their creation and nurturing of a brilliant storyline. The world of Azeroth has its own history and has grown over time. The little sub-plots of the game are entertaining, each feeding into the bigger picture. Characters have a history (if you care to look them up on the web) and you fit right in with your own.

These features ensure a loyal following in what would otherwise be a rather repetitive experience (there are only so many ways to kill something) and to be honest the graphics are not spectacular.

Their story wins and wins consistently. For any business trying to succeed it will be the best story that wins. The same often holds true for individual lives. If the ‘story’ of the way you see your life in your mind is believable to your brain you are more likely to achieve it, and the more you reflect on it the more your brain will believe. For your life to be a best seller, you have to write the story well.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Going Bumpers

Seriously, do ‘Jesus’ bumper stickers really work? Or, are they just a major marketing gimmick to appeal to well meaning Christians who can use them as an alternative to opening their mouth and speaking the gospel of the Kingdom into the lives of those around them?

Apart from giving me another reason to be rude about your bad driving and increasing the chance of a rear end collision as I try to read the small print, I fail to see how effective they are as a tool to enhance the cause of Christianity. But I’m willing to do a little research. So, if your life has been radically, positively altered by the presence of a ‘Jesus’ bumper sticker (and the satisfaction of punching someone’s lights out after a rear end collision does not count as positive) please let me know. You can mail me or post a comment here.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Countername

Companies and Salespeople have long recognised the impact of using a client’s name during a sale. They will get your name, either by reading secretly from your debit card or from your loyalty card, or just plain ask you, and will use it as a matter of principle. The effect-to make you think that they know you, this increases their chance of a higher sale and that you will come back again. The customer (i.e. you) is not without their own similar weapon- which I have termed the “countername”. Many places have their staff wear a name badge that proudly displays their chosen moniker to all and sundry. While this can be a total embarrassment to the salesperson if their parents had the misfortune to name them after a long extinct species of buzzard, it has its uses. This display of friendliness can be exploited to get better service. It’s really simple-you read said name badge and use their name in conversation. Ah, now you have a relationship developing; good for you in better service, good for company in loyal customer.

Do you know the name of the doorman at your company/favourite hotel/restaurant? How about the guy who always serves you coffee at your usual caffeine stop? Sometimes it’s the ‘small’ people who can get you a bit extra. Need a table at the restaurant quickly-do you know the maitre’d? Need an urgent cab-do you have your local cabbie on speed dial? It starts with a name and just gets better from there.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Action-No Action

Summer has fired its first salvo into Zimbabwe with a sudden spell of dry heat that, unless you are protected by good cooling system, dulls one into a languid state of inactivity. In a nation where many are already lulled into lethargy by the political and economic situation energy sapping heat is paralysing.

Action. Activity. Doing. Implementation. Creativity. Lots of words that can be about as paralysing as the heat. I have lost count of the number of courses, conferences, sermons and inspirational talks that I have attended that leave you with a mind blowing tingle that fades after a few days/hours/minutes with no resulting, lasting change. The simple fact is that without implementation all the knowledge in the world achieves nothing. To be a doer and not a hearer only can be the most challenging experience. Hearing in general is a passive process whereas doing requires action, and action that will bring about a change in our environment. Can you imagine the phenomenal change that might occur if we applied just one practical aspect of what we have learnt each week and then made it a lifetime habit?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Little Culture

Culture groups within a city make a fascinating study, observing the dynamics of their behaviour, spending styles and attitudes. Attitudes are an interesting aspect. I see dozens of clients from a wide variety of classes and incomes and a lot can be observed during conversation. I wish I could say that I got on with everyone but truth be told I am rather opinionated and while I may not voice it to the person there are just some attitudes that irritate the heck out of me. I’m pretty sure I have a few that get under some people’s skin so it probably evens the scales there.

Think of a social grouping below yours. You know, the ones who live in a lower standard neighbourhood with the spending patterns you can’t comprehend. Now think of the conversations you’ve had with ‘those people’. Good. Did you understand them? Probably not, if anything you walked away either frustrated with their attitude or relieved that you ‘are not like them’. What just occurred was a clash of attitude. Next step. Imagine a grouping higher than yours. Now observe your thought towards them. What goes through your mind when you see someone driving a better car than you, spending more money than you and wearing better clothes? One of the easiest ways of making yourself look better is to pull someone else down-so some justify their relative position with comments like ‘well they must have done a dirty deal to get there’ or ‘I would hate to be in their position, imagine the insurance they must have to pay.’ The problem with these thought patterns is that they get in the way of someone moving up into a higher social circle. They prevent a person from visualising themselves living better and consequently they talk themselves out of it. They may wish for better circumstances but they don’t really want them. Others, however, look at the other person’s circumstances and imagine what it would be like to enjoy the benefits of a better lifestyle and with a positive attitude move in that direction.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Looking Forward

How often do you look forward to the day. The phrase has an inherent positive emotion attatched to it. At its root though 'to look forward' is just that-to gaze into the future. While the English language has attatched a positive meaning to the phrase, the actual emotion is entirely up to you, the choice is yours. Most people go through their days on automatic, not looking at what the day may bring or what they could create different in it. Without deliberate intent in designing your day it will continue to be the monotonous boredom of yesterday. Practice looking forward, the positive emotion will naturally follow.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tell a Story

A general agreement as to one of the key aspects of leadership is the ability to cast vision. If you have ever heard a great speech that inspires you to action, that was an example of good leadership. Sounds a little daunting though, I mean ‘me lead, me inspire-you’re kidding right.’ Vision casting ranks with the big stuff right? Vision casting is a fancy term for storytelling. All you have to do is be able to tell a story. Now each of us is responsible for leading at least one person-ourselves. You can lead yourself by telling the story of how you want your life to go. You paint the picture for yourself of how things should be with the words you tell yourself all the time anyway, so you may as well be a little more intentional about it.

There are a few aspects that make a great story though. First it has to be believable. Believable means that you have to be able to imagine it happening. Many writers use great descriptions to paint such a vivid picture in your mind that it appears real to you (for a phenomenal example of such a writer read Anne Rice).

The other aspect of a gripping story is the aspect of tension. There is a discrepancy between what the protagonist has to do and what he is able to do-this creates a tension that keeps you hooked. If you tell a story of your future it needs to create a tension between where you are and where you want to be. It is the tension that will cause you to move.

Practice storytelling on yourself a bit. Describe the way you want your day to go before it starts, imagine it to be the way you want it, see yourself doing it. Once you can tell it to yourself, start telling others around you and watch the magic.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Spiderwick

If you havn’t seen ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ you should. Very fun movie.

Top to Bottom

The traditional concept of a hierarchy of needs follows that if you fill the basic needs of a person you will attain a degree of satisfaction and emotional contentment. It is a bottom up approach-you get food, clothing, shelter, and move on up the ranks to significance and as you attain each level you will be emotionally more ‘happy’. A bit oversimplified but it will do. This makes emotion determined by environment.

What if it was the other way around, that emotion determined environment? That if you can hold a state of positive emotion through the thought patterns you permit you are more likely to create the environment around you that you desire. If you can visualise something with a strong emotion you are more likely to cause it to happen.

The problem with a bottom up pyramid approach is that you put more effort into the bottom levels to get a minimal top result. What if by putting a minimal effort into the top you got the bottom levels anyway. Ascetic belief structures (personally not a favourite of mine) tend to show that it is possible to achieve a positive emotional state without what we call ‘necessity’ by focusing on the thought patterns and emotions first, then the rest of the pyramid.

Yeno Lo Golf

‘Caddie where is the ball?’
‘Madam, it is by your left heel’
These lines from a long forgotten comedy show used to sum up my idea of golf.

Until a couple of years ago I would probably never had looked at a golf club let alone picked one up. Golf was a sport for people with time to waste (especially by other members of the health community) and if I had been asked to play I would have made up a million other disdainful excuses. The real reason, like most real reasons, was that I was a little afraid of the unknown, a little afraid of failure. As a result I would avoid and belittle anything outside my comfort zone. ‘The Pacific Institute’ changed that for me, made me a little more outward looking. Hence, I found myself on a golf course on Saturday hacking around the rough at the edge of the fairway, chipping the occasional shot in, and having a total blast. While it may be a little while before I pick out my own set of clubs, I enjoyed an experience that negative, irrational perceptions may have ruined.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Set in Stone

You have to gargoyles credit for patience. They sit year after year looking out over the same landscape, unmoving, with only the occasional pigeon for a snack (apologies to Terry Pratchet). Now that's patience. Jokes aside, I love the ingeneuity behind the gargoyle concept. The builders could have used any plain waterspout to divert the flow of water from a building, but instead they were creative and came up with a method that looked aesthetic as well. Going beyond what's good enough, that's what gargoyles are.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Who Tells Your Story.


Another weekend, another movie. This time ‘The Seeker-The Dark is Rising’, a movie based on a series of books by Susan Cooper. I loved the acting (especially by Alexander Ludwig as the young Will Staton on whose shoulders falls the task of saving the world). However, I just felt that the storyline was rushed along, especially toward the climax. It lacked the depth of explanation offered by the written novels and could possibly been better off as a number of films. I felt short changed-great sets, great characters, but not enough delivery of all the information.

To be fair, there are very few films recently that have truly translated accurately (let alone better) the books on which they are based. Part of the problem lies with the nature of the time frame a film has to create a believable story whereas a book can fill out pages of detail and imagery to cover all angles. Films that have succeeded include the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and the recent ‘Prince Caspian’. I was a solid Tolkien and Lewis fan prior to the movies, but to be frank found Tolkien wordy at times and Lewis a little short on the detail. Both dramatisations filled in gaps and dealt well with the storyline. This though is a rarity.

The fact of the matter is that, in most cases, others cannot tell your story as well as you. No one else can paint the picture of your life with all its nuances quite as well as you can. Rare are the mentors who can see you beyond where you are into greatness. In the mainstream, it’s you who has to cast the vision for your own life. If you let others do it for you they will always miss out some vital detail of your dream and leave you feeling as though you are missing some vital component of the puzzle. Only you have the picture of what your dream house would look like, or your dream job. I can’t see what legacy you want to leave unless you tell me. It’s up to you. Be careful who you let design your life, they might go wrong. Unlike the movies there are no rewind buttons on life, no chances for a remake. There is only one shot so you better make it count.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Perchance to Dream




Ever had a dream that excited you only to have it die, either from a slow asphyxiation of doubt and frustration, or an explosion of fate that rent your world apart. Either way it’s a dismal, painful process that sucks the very life out of you. Here’s the problem though, unless you are a masochist the idea of pain (physical or emotional) is not really pleasant. Most humans spend their entire lives avoiding it or lessening its effects. The easy way to avoid the agony of a failed dream is to, well, stop dreaming altogether. That way you never have your aspirations dashed because you haven’t got any.

This is really a self defeating exercise. Humans are designed to dream. We are creative, we invent things, and there are things that we would like to achieve. The sheer act of shutting down your creative process results in a void inside you that gnaws away leaving a hollow shell of unfulfilled potential.

The cure? First turn on the tap. Open the door to your aspirations, glance at the long dead shades of promise and see if they can’t be resurrected. Imagine a little; envision a world where what you want takes place. Second, develop some resilience. Life is unfair at times-face that reality. If you get knocked down then get back up again, and again, and again, and again. No one promised it would be easy. You need to be able to hold onto the hope of a better future in the face of adversity-whether that adversity comes from friends ‘good intentions’, circumstances around you, or your own inadequacies. As long as you can maintain a strong grasp on your dream and continue to move towards it, it will come to pass.

Go on find a garden and dream a little.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Little Change

That's just disgusting! I let two weeks slide by without writing a single post. Not that there was nothing to write about mind you, I just spent the last two weeks in an intensive review of my life, my vision and goals, and exploring some new opportunities that had arisen. The one thing I did spend a little while doing was reformatting the colour scheme for the blog.

Its part of an experiment-I can't tell you the hypothesis as it may spoil it for you, but I will let you know the results in time. Let me know if you like it (especially when compared to the previous black background). Have a beautiful week and keep dreaming.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Agreeing on Vision

Be it 'The Secret', Steven Covey, Michael Gerber, or the excellent programmes offered by The Pacific Institute, they all agree on one thing. You have to be intentional about your future. You have to sit down and create a vision for your life and then fight to keep it and obtain it. This intentionality does not come easily to mast of us who probably no longer take the time to dream. It is necessary though if you are going to succeed in life. A vision backed by passion ignites a powerful drive to achieve it. Some people can tell you theirs in a flash. Others only have a vague idea. That's okay. If you have no idea, grab a pencil and think about what you would really want.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Food for Thought on Vision

Working with a concept on vision-if you have any comments/ideas help me out and post them to the site. Vision for your life can take essentially two main forms. The ‘me-centric’ personal benefit vision (what can this do for me?) and the ‘de-centric’ outward looking vision (what can this/I do for others?). An example of the de-centric would be Bill Gates vision to put a computer in every home-benefiting others. But wait didn’t he make a lot of money out of it I hear you say. Sure he did and they possibly helped build his ‘me-centric’ visions of how he would like his house, car etc to be. Many people start businesses with the ‘me-centric’-normally a ‘how can I make money out of this?’ Successful corporations often work on the ‘de-centric’-‘what product can we make that will benefit people (and as a result make us lots of money)’-people aren’t too keen on buying things with no benefit.

Its not that you can’t be successful with a ‘me-centric’ vision. The goal to be the ‘best golfer in the world’ can be pretty lucrative. Success does not equal significance though, a lasting impression and legacy to society as a whole. Significance takes a ‘de-centric’ view. I read that in teaching the great teachers are not concerned about themselves as about their students. It’s not about what their results look like but what their students’ results look like and what the pupils can achieve. Big difference.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

To the Manor Born.


"In the beginning the Lord planted a garden and since then it has remained one of the greatest human pleasures"

There is nothing like a stroll through a well kept estate. I spend the day yesterday at Harewood House, an estate just outside of Leeds. With a rich royal history, sweeping views and a rare-bird garden, it was just the place for some quiet reflection amid beauty. Among the hustle and bustle of daily routine it is refreshing to be able to get away from it all and just spend time unwinding. I must have spent a good 20 minutes sitting on a bench admiring the view, inhaling the sweet fragrance of pink rose bushes. The views from the house are breathtaking, even if they are landscaped, and there are worse things that one could wake up to each mornng. The servants quarters below the main house give an interesting insight into the unseen life of the house, a reminder that good planning and organisation are the foundation of many things that look like a success.

At the end of the day I decided I could definitly live the manor life. Anyone with a spare estate...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bricks and Mortar


Its been a wickedly windy day in Leeds today. Walking along the canal there were times when I ws almost blown backwards as the wind was funneled down the sidepath. My sister lives in the city and I'm here because she decided to finally tie the knot. The wedding was on Friday and was a fabulous party. Very non-conformist but a completely brilliant bash. It was held in a meadow on the longest day of the year. We had all sorts of fun from the excellent food to afternoon croquet to letting off two dozen chinese lanterns into the night when it finally got dark.

I've a couple of days in Leeds on my own to shop and sightsee. Today I visited the Royal Armoury and took a tour through the violence of history. I have a weakness for swords and armour and was well in my element. I then took a stroll through the Leeds Art Gallery where, compared to my rececent Tate experience, a lot of fun and thought was had. One of the exhibits was an interactive canvas where you were free to pick up a piece of chalk, get down on your knees and scrawl your inspiration about the brick man at the gallery(see image above). I think it was the challenge of using words creatively that got to me. So I put down my two pence of worth.

"From Dust
To Dust
The Eternal Contemplation"

Not a lot, but that's what came to me.

The other exhibit that appealed to me was a series of word/concept breakdowns involving dictionary definitions of the words associated with it. If I feel creative I may do one sometime. Tommorrow its time to shop and I'll find something exciting to do for Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

London Calling

Am sitting in an internet cafe in London. Arrived over the weekend in preparatin for my sister's wedding this next week. Have spent the last few days being a total tourist and running around seeing sites that I have not been to yet.

Where to start...

There seems to be a lot more construction around than i remember from my last trip here, probably related to the 2012 Olympics. I try and do something different when I travel-something I would not usualy do to expand my horizons. this time it was the Tate Modern Art Gallery. To be honest I didn't really enjoy it. I could appreciate the concepts put forward and the use of art and texture to portry things but I probably won't be heading back in that direction for a while. Otherwise having a complete blast with much to do.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

50 things you should know

Here's an interesting list on 50 things everyone should know how do do. So it doesn't include blog ettiquite or how to win a Presidential Nomination but it is full of links to places where you can learn what's on the list.

Friday, June 06, 2008

How do you get a child to eat brocolli (or any other foul tasting green). One way is to sit them down and force them to eat it-'you're not leaving the table till its finished'. Many have been scarred by this experience, remember sitting there staring at a pile of steaming green lava with your mother's latest threat ringing in your ears. Bet you still don't eat brocolli.

The other option is to go though the cookbooks and present it in such a tasteful and appealing way that there is no argument-ever. Chop it up, disguise it in a sauce or a different shape (my parent uses to make thinks all sasauge shaped for there was a period where that was all I would eat). Try carrot, butternut or beetroot cake. Problem solved. You improve your cooking ability (your spouse will love you) and there is no stress and argument.

How about other areas of life. In case you havn't noticed when you force someone to do something they almost always push back. Rather make the experience one of benefit and fun. Want to exercise-do it in a manner that apealls to you (if you hate running then try a scenic session of discovery on a bike). It saves the argument

Monday, June 02, 2008

Fighting Faces

Everyone of us wears a multitude of faces. For example, to some I am a teacher, to others a physiotherapist, to others a friend, cook, advisor etc. You get the picture. Through life we fill certain roles as we go along. The irritating part is that often as we move along and grow and develop that people (especially those that have not been around us for a while) tend to treat us as though nothing’s changed. I think everyone who has ever been 20 remembers some idiotic relative who tried to treat you like you were 12 at the annual family Christmas party. That should have set of a bad series of memories for you. Now the nasty reflective part-have you done it to anyone else. It doesn’t have to be as obvious as the example I gave above, but what about the friend who has gotten control of his anger and you are tiptoeing around him like he could erupt at any minute. What a waste of tiptoeing (save it for the midnight sneak to the fridge).

Or maybe you treat yourself like that-after all the effort you’ve put into loosing weight you fail to hold the new internal picture of a thin you and binge out. What about the picture of how much money you have-you get a salary rise but it doesn’t fit the picture of you so you go and blow it on some ridiculous outfit.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lessons from the Game Realms

I won an Xbox360 recently and my friends were quick to point out that this probably heralded the end of my social life as a whole as I already spent an unhealthy amount of time gaming on my PC. They were, however, all eager to give a try when it arrives. True I have over the years managed to log up an extensive period of gaming. I have learnt to limit myself somewhat recently to enable me to at least function at some semblance of normality. It has not all been a total waste though, I have managed to gain a few practical insights into life along the way. While some may be a little contradictory this is because…

1. Strategy is situation dependent. There is a time to rush in and a time to be patient. Strategy can even change mid-game, especially true if playing humans and not the AI.
2. There is no SAVE button in life. Go on, play an entire game without saving once, live with the consequences of your mistakes. Causes you to think things through a little more doesn’t it.
3. Don’t be afraid to restart a level. Certain scenarios lend themselves to restarting-lost a business; restart. Your first book didn’t publish; write another one.
4. Sometimes you need to tear down something in order to build something better. Especially true in city civ/tycoon games. It may look like you are going backwards but check out the result.
5. Age ain’t nothing but a number. A nine year old with a gun is as lethal as a 25 year old. If you have a problem serving under someone younger than you, get over it or move over. It will happen.
6. Everyone has a role to play-know your role. Very true in MMORPG’s.
7. There is more than one way to skin a cat. There is more than one way to solve a scenario, often using different character combinations.
8. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
9 .Know the strengths and weaknesses of others-your opponents and your team. Sending infantry against a tank is usually a bad move.
10. it helps if everyone knows what they are doing. Some strategy games have an auto-attack facility build into their units-your units will automatically target the thing they are most effective against (e.g. pikemen vs. horses). If they don’t you have to control them and issue individual commands-this takes a lot of extra brain power. Empower people around you.
11. There is always chance. Even with the best plans the stray arrow can get through.
12. C.Y.A.-Cover Your A… .You can’t always tell who to trust. Many a time has been spent in a multiplayer scene only to have an ally turn on you while your base is undefended. In business if it’s not in writing it doesn’t exist.
13. Have a break-you can’t play all the time. Holidays are good from work.
14. Stay in the forefront of information. Get the best advice (and best machine) you can afford.
15. Liven up a little-it’s only a game.
16. You can use cheat codes but they’ll leave you with a nasty taste in your mouth. You can short cut in life sometimes (e.g. pay a bribe) but it’ll cost you more of your soul than you’d imagine.
17. Read the manual-there are so many little bits on information.
18. reading the manual is no substitute for game experience.
19. Experience counts. Level 70 vs. Level 20 no real contest.
20. Demo’s are there for a reason. Try something first before you make a major commitment. Live in the country for a fortnight before you move. Visit the area you are relocating to. Spend a few days shadowing someone before you pick a profession.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What can you do?

Apart from a mild batch of nerves as I waited for my papers to be processed my UK visa application was submitted without too much emotional panic on my behalf-I can't speak for my sister who had to send me a last minute document that I was unaware I required but she got it to me with her usual efficiency. The whole process amazed me how much I can actually get done if the situation demands it (making my sister's wedding in June is a situation that definitly demands it). I blasted through my 'to-do' list with alarming speed in order to get it in on time, as well as continue to manage my more usual program of practice and teaching-oriented activity. Now I have a nagging thought at the back of my mind that I've been a little lazy of late and need to do something about it...fit more in to my previously normal day. Increased efficiency feels good though and is largely to do with me writing my to do list in an manner that is very visual (my primary learning style).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Not so Dumb

Dumb Little Man posted this article by Alex Shalman recently. Alex gives a lot of practical steps to aid personal development. Too often people publish books with '5 steps to...', '7 ways to ...', etc.. These often simplify life to one little facet and target people looking for a magic wand to make it all better. The great thing about Alex is that he writes steps to help in a variety of areas resulting in a more holistic approach. The article mentioned above focuses on idea generation and modification, but he has others on a myriad of topics. Not necessarily an instant solution individually but taken as a whole they really help.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders. ~Tom Peters

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Forwards

I generally can’t be bothered with email forwards, many get deleted before they get read, but once in a while you get one that strikes a chord. I got sent this from a couple who don’t usually clutter my inbox, which means that when they do send something it is probably worth reading. I’ve edited it a bit but it makes a great read.

“Too many people put off something that brings them joy just because they haven't thought about it, don't have it on their schedule, didn't know it was coming or are too rigid to depart from their routine.How often have your kids dropped in to talk and sat in silence while you watched 'Who wants to be a millionaire' on television?I cannot count the times I called my sister and said, 'How about going to lunch in a half hour?' She would gas up and stammer, 'I can't.I have clothes on the line. My hair is dirty. I wish I had known yesterday, I had a late breakfast, It looks like rain.' And my personal favorite: 'It's Monday.' She died a few years ago. We never did have lunch together.Because we cram so much into our lives, we tend to even schedule our headaches. We live on a sparse diet of promises we make to ourselves when all the conditions are perfect!We'll go back and visit the grandparents when we get the kid toilet- trained.We'll entertain when we replace the living-room carpet.We'll go on a second honeymoon when we get two more kids out of college.Life has a way of accelerating as we get older. The days get shorter, and the list of promises to ourselves gets longer. One morning, we awaken, and all we have to show for our lives is a litany of 'I'm going to,' 'I plan on,' and 'Someday, when things are settled down a bit.'When anyone calls my 'seize the moment' friend, she is open to adventure and available for trips. She keeps an open mind on new ideas.Her enthusiasm for life is contagious. You talk with her for five minutes, and you're ready to trade your bad feet for a pair of roller blades and skip an elevator for a bungee cord.My lips have not touched ice cream in 10 years. I love ice cream. It's just that I might as well apply it directly to my stomach with a spatula and eliminate the digestive process The other day, I stopped the car and bought a triple-decker. If my car had hit an iceberg on the way home, I would have died happy.Now....go on and have a nice day. Do something you WANT to......not something on your SHOULD DO list. If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?Have you ever watched kids playing on a merry go round or listened to the rain lapping on the ground? Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight or gazed at the sun into the fading night? Do you run through each day on the fly? When you ask 'How are you?' do you hear the reply?When the day is done, do you lie in your bed with the next hundred chores running through your head? Ever told your child, 'We'll do it tomorrow.' And in your haste, not see his sorrow? Ever lost touch? Let a good friendship die? Just call to say 'Hi?When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift.....Thrown away. ... Life is not a race. Take it slower.Hear the music before the song is over.”

So there you go, have a great day!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Travels and Trials

I drove 1000 km yesterday; I don’t recommend it to anyone. I am definitely not cut out to be a long distance truck driver-my sincere sympathy to anyone in that field. The trip was a quick rush to Bulawayo (the second largest city in Zimbabwe) to drop my sister and another visitor back at work. Originally they were to catch a bus down but unfortunately the company that operates the main bus service only allows you to book tickets a week in advance (as they are unsure of fuel supplies). The interpretation of a week in advance is that starting on Monday you can book for any day that week (till Sunday) but on Tuesday you can only book till Sunday, on Wednesday till Sunday etc, until you get to the following Monday where you can book for that week. Stupid I know but a method of the company coping in Zimbabwe. The nation is full of last-minute, nonsensical ideas that are an attempt to cope backwards with the situation. There may be a better way but they haven’t thought of it yet. Hence the price trebled in the week between my sister’s arrival and departure without me being able to book a ticket in advance. Thus I found myself on a rather long round trip yesterday. Managed to stop at my sister’s workplace, Chipangli Wildlife Orphanage, long enough to get a whistle tour before heading back.

While the trip down was filled by my sister’s almost incessant conversation, the solo trip back gave plenty of time for reflection and thought in between dodging the occasional potholes that lie in wait seeking to disrupt the unsuspecting motorist. Have a few things to think about before putting them into action. The main thought yesterday was the idea of ‘The Wilderness’. If you study history there are multiple characters that ‘failed’ or ended up in a wilderness (or prison) for a season before their moment of greatness. Churchill warned of Hitler and was ignored, Lincoln never made it to President on the first shot, Al Gore lost to Bush before taking up the environmental baton, biblical Joseph had a jail cell and Moses spent more time in the wilderness than in Egypt. Dr John Stanko has been having his ‘Celebrate a Failure Week’, the point of which is to help us realise that times of failure should not be stopping points of discouragement but rather points to learn from and grow forward. Current anonymity and setback should not be a time to give up on the dream but to reflect, learn and go on.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Planning memories again

I have a gentle burning sensation in both glutei. The cause was excessive involvement in 4-square this week end. 4-square is a knock out game played on a court of 4 squares (surprise there) where the ball has one mandatory bounce in your square before you return it, any more or less and you are out. Enough on the rules, one of the crew that I usually PC game with was leaving the country and we were having one last LAN session to be spent slaughtering avatars and bots. At the end of the day though we played very little on the computer, preferring to spend time outside playing other more sociable activities in the glorious afternoon sun and then later, as the chill of autumn sneaked in, to play more traditional and interactive board games. I hadn’t played 4-square in a couple of years, hence the pain. Good food and good company and an appropriate celebration of a friendship that now takes on a different form. It was at the end of it all a perfect memory. Creating memories is often an intentional process with many unintentional results. We had planned to get together, but none of us planned the fun, the games we would end up playing and the interaction we would have. All in all it worked out rather well.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

National discordance

Zimbabwe elections have been in and out of the news in the last two and a half weeks. We are currently enjoying a strike called by the MDC in an effort to force the announcement of the presidential election. One of the interesting observations has been the psychological reaction of people to the uncertainty of the result. People are unwilling to make decisions, commit themselves to anything and a general apathy exists in the conversations and actions of people. It’s as though with the lack of clear direction (vision cast by leadership) that the nation has slipped into a large-scale state of chaos. It has been said that where there is no vision the people perish. It’s as though the collective anxiety brought on by the situation has created a morass of confusion in which people struggle to function. Until a clear direction is available it’s likely to persist. Direction will result from announcement of the results, strong leadership or general acceptance of the de facto situation (i.e. we have a leader who is ruling without a parliament, albeit by the rules set in place in our constitution for an electoral period, and there are many words available to describe that).

While this is a national phenomenon, I would hazard a guess that a similar problem occurs in a business, company or family with an analogous situation. Where there is no clear leadership and vision everyone does their own confused thing with no synchronised outcome. Cut the head off a snake and it will writhe about in an uncoordinated manner until it dies; same with chickens, humans, nations, businesses and families. No leader, no vision, no future.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Ironies of Life

Life’s little ironies! The sky was clear yesterday evening when I decided to water the lawn-a complicated exercise due to the ban on hosepipes. Then it rained last night, a welcome shower but if it had happened a few hours earlier I would have been saved some hard labour.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Surviving Downturn.

‘Economic downturn’ is a much parroted phrase these days on the world news. Never mind the world news try Zimbabwe’s economics! Now that gives a whole new meaning to the word, I mean when your largest denomination can no longer buy you a cup of coffee and the swipe card system is often down….
For the uninitiated, I have a few vices; good coffee, dark chocolate, exceptional food and PC games (strategy and RPG please).

That said, this article in the Feb 18 edition of Fortune Magazine (Europe) highlights a few basic principles of dealing with downturn. I love the practicality of the article, mainly because I’ve had to follow some of the principles myself over the last few years. The one thing I’ve noticed though is that the pressure of economics merely highlights what you should have been doing the whole time. Failure to be on top of your cash flow in a positive economic environment may be easier to ride than when you can’t actually get hard cash out the bank, but it’ll still hit you hard eventually.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Zim elections

Well I guess at this time a comment about the ongoing election saga in Zimbabwe is only appropriate. Rumour and speculation are rife at the moment as the delay in results continues. There is talk of change in government and talk of retribution if things remain the same. If there is change though it will be interesting to see how the future unfolds for Zim and how people will respond to a new government. On paper the MDC promise the world but any dose of realism will see that there is a lot of work to be done whoever wins. Inflation isn't going to stop overnight, nor will roads misaculously repair themselves. More so it is not the sole responsiblity of the government to repair the nation-they exist to provide a condusive environment for good business and productivity; it will be the people who do the work and that will have a cost financially and in terms of manpower. If people expect the government to provide all for them and to do all the work we will end up with a future that looks the same as it does now as we continue to relinquish control of our lives to 'the system'.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pattern and Principle

One of the primary constructs that I run my life by is that the world is ordered by pattern and principle. There is an inherent order governed by laws and principles that if you can discover you can utilise to your benefit. Whether you choose to take it a step further and follow the concept of inherent design (that an ordered world emanates from a creator of the order) doesn’t really change the fact that there are certain laws in place. A prime example would be the physical law of gravity-jump off a building and you find yourself rushing to a point where you will discover once and for all if there is an afterlife. One principle can be superseded by another, if you have a parachute the law of aerodynamics kicks in and you can base-jump with relief.

Principles are not just physical though, some are economic (e.g. if you don’t work you don’t eat), some spiritual (the law of reciprocity-otherwise know as karma-you reap what you sow) and some biological ( if you don’t drink you die). How can you find these, well one way is to watch and learn. The other is to read what others have written, most religious writings for example contain many of these principles.

I found one this week that was hidden in the instructions for laying siege in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy where it speaks about not cutting down fruit trees to use for siege weapons but keeping them for food for the present and future. The principle is ‘do not sell your future for your present.’ Read ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ and you’ll find the same advice. History is unfortunately full of such examples (e.g. Lobengula selling mining rights to the British, poorer nations accepting external loans that they cannot repay the interest on). How different Africa might look if it stopped selling its raw materials and invested instead on processing them into the more expensive finished product. Think about it, I can buy Belgium chocolate made from cocoa beans from North Africa and sugar from Mauritius and pay an arm and a leg for it. How many chocolate factories are there in North Africa? I’d say probably not as many as there could be.

Zimbabwe stands at a crossroads this weekend, and, while the future is not that clear regardless of who wins, stories and rumours abound of those who have been offered food for their votes (mealie meal today for future under a government you vote for). Although not having witnessed this first hand, the stories just serve to highlight the principle.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

200 and counting

This is my 200th post! It also coincides with my 2 year ‘blogaversary’ (give or take a couple of weeks). What started out as an experiment in seeing how the web works has become an outlet for creativity and expression. I wasn’t sure when I started that I could sustain the rate of 2 posts a week, but I’ve come pretty close. It always amazes me that there is always something to write. Some days I have had more than one idea and put one on hold, other days I have had to dredge through experience to find something relevant to say. It’s been a pretty hectic two years at that. I have lost a parent, started 2 other jobs and ended one of them, finished a book, invested a bunch of money in myself, and in general shifted my view point on life rather significantly-plenty of water gone under the bridge. The one thing I can say of this experience is that it is worth trying different things; you never know how well they may turn out.

The future? Well, I have a better sense of direction about life now, but in the short term I already have a couple of ideas for my next post.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Decieved by Chocolate

I noticed that a new wrapper beckoned from the sweet section today. It promised ‘milk chocolate with a caramel centre’, the perfect lift after a long day and in a nation suffering from an Easter egg shortage would be a potential weekend gift. Deftly I peeled off the foil, slid the slender bar between my teeth and bit down. IT WAS FOUL! DISGUSTING! TASTED OF SOAP! I’ll be the first to admit that some of Zimbabwe’s home grown chocs are a bit dodgy, but this was an import. I scanned the ingredient list and found to my horror that the offending bit of plastic did not contain cocoa at all. For the uninitiated, chocolate is made from the cocoa bean or it’s processed by products. A decent chocolate will contain about 50% cocoa solids; the better ones are up to 70%. Some poorer versions are down to about 30% but they still have the all important cocoa in them. This had a ‘cocoa butter substitute’! If there is no cocoa how can it even call itself a chocolate? Blatant misrepresentation if you ask me! Be warned, the world of chocolate is not safe anymore. As for me, I think I’ll stick with Green and Blacks from now on.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Values in Business

Someone, who is yet to reveal himself for fear of violent retribution, borrowed my cell-phone the other week-permanently and without asking! As a result I had to replace my line. While waiting to hand in the appropriate forms at the office of my service provider I noticed that they had their vision and values posted up on the wall. Nice touch and an affectation of many Zimbabwean businesses. I wasn’t sure why we as clients needed to be reminded of their values, but their staff could sure use the prompting. As a consumer I am not interested in you telling me about your values, I want to see them manifested in the service I receive. Being treated like cattle does not qualify as good service. Little things make the difference-dress your doorman/security guard appropriately and then educate him on how to deal with the people he ushers into a queue at the front door. Or, here’s a good one, try your own service. Come on in and be served by people who probably won’t recognise you as the boss. One of the former Ministers of Health used to frequent government hospitals in Zimbabwe as a patient and then gave very harsh and result-changing feedback on his experience.

Smile occasionally, or do something to make your staff smile.

I tried something last week, I went and brought my staff a little gift each-it wasn’t too costly and took a little thought. The occasion-nothing, it was a random day and just an expression of appreciation and gratitude. The look on their faces and the buzz in the office the rest of the day as they realised that they were appreciated was well worth the investment. Regardless of where you are in the ‘office food chain’ anyone can do something special for those around them once in a while, be it superiors, subordinates or clients. Bake a cake, offer to fetch their kids, write (hand written) a note, buy a chocolate, etc. ‘Do good to all men…as is within your power to do so.’ The responsibility lies with each of us to raise the bar. Share any other ideas you may have or have experienced by commenting on this post.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Weight loss in kids.

Now here's a shocker-cutting TV and PC time actually helps kids loose weight, check the link to the Washington Post article. Did it really take science to prove this, its plain common sense-less time sitting equals more time active elsewhere, simple formula there. Now we wait while millions of parents and kids ask 'what do we do instead', kids ask your parents, parents think back to when you were kids and didn't have the luxury of high speed internet, what did you do? Healthy exercise disguised as play would be my guess.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Thoughts on Reading

My diary this year is one of those ones that includes little quotes at the bottom of the page ostensibly in an effort to give you more value (‘You see the tiny quotes, well that’s to inspire you every day and take up the little blank space, and for that little ink, we’ll charge you a whole bunch extra, oh and you don’t mind if we reuse them next year ‘cause you won’t remember them anyway’). Often I screech through the day without registering the helpful little excerpts dutifully pasted into the template, but once in a while one breaks through the mental barriers erected to block out intrusions on my time and gets noticed.

Anyway, marketing aside, the only one I paid attention to this week was ‘Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.’ Well that just flipped my switch, I tell you. Television may result in hours devoid of original thought, but reading, never! Reading fiction should stimulate your imagination to fill in the blanks left by the description (a process more visual media completely obliterates). Reading non-fiction should be an active process of critique and assimilation, the ‘I see, I agree, I don’t get it yet, that’s daft, well maybe it could work,’ that gets dormant grey cells firing rapidly in an excitatatory display of neuronal frenzy. Reading stimulates thought, not causes you to avoid it. You can tell I love reading can’t you.
That’s my take on the issue, but I am interested in hearing yours, so post it here or email me. I faithfully promise not to bring the full might of my wrath upon you

Friday, February 29, 2008

What's he gots in his pocketses?

How much money do you usually carry in your pocket? If you shop in the increasingly plastic word of debit cards, how much money do you usually keep in your account? No don't post the answer as a comment here! In Zimbabwe carrying cash is often an inconvenience (you carry the 10 million required for a cup of coffee in 100 000 dollar notes). There are little habits we fall into without realising it-how did you get to work today? Is it really the most convenient route? Now what stops you carrying more cash? Honestly. Or do you get an irrational compulsion to spend money when you have more than a certain amount.

Someone suggested that I increase the amount of cash I carry this week (non-normal denominations)-rather like consiously developing a new habit. Here's the freaky part-it worked. Not only did I manage, but by the end of the week I had people giving me the stuff. I didn't announce it to anyone in particular, it just took place. Cooincidence-maybe, but then again probably not once you understand how the mind works to create opportunities for you to get what you think about. Have a brilliant weekend.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Seriously what's stopping you?

The current buyline for this blog (what do you really want out o life, now what's stopping you?) was never intended to be a flipant catch phrase that implies that you can laugh of any hinderances to your dreams. Rather, it is there to encourage thought about what you want to achieve and reflection on your goals that helps you to identify the issues at hand and then to move around them. Some hinderances are simply in our mind, the result of previous failures or suppositions. Only by identifying these and dealing with the issue will you ever move past the block. At all times though, the focus needs to be on what you really want, the goal-if you keep staring at the goal long enough soon you'll see the path around the problem.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Magazine reads

Came across the buy line for a magazine today- 'for the thinking woman'. Does that imply that not all woman think and only those capable of thought should read it, or does it mean that as all woman think all should buy it?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Zimbabwe Trillions

Had a moment of realisation last night, if you put the three zeros that we removed from our currency back on again, I am a trillionaire (bit of a bummer that it buys you less than USD100). And to think that a coke used to cost me 35c 20 years ago. It now takes 10 000 000 to buy one coke which is also our largest denomination-you do the math.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A word to the wise.

Don't ever write anything on a blog that you arn't willing to shout across a crowded room.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Comfortable Christianity

Finished two books in two days this week-made some time to read and relax (helped by a couple of cancellations by patients at work). Both were non-fiction and can be classed as Christian in their content. The first called ‘Saint’ is by Ted Dekker. I’ve read a lot of his work before, he tends to write a combination of fantasy and thriller set in the modern setting. While Christian undertones exist throughout his later work, he phrases it in such a way that his work can be enjoyed by a secular audience without the in-your-face type Christian gospel that is characteristic of some writers (as a result, for an aspiring writer he, along with Steven Lawhead, is one of my heroes). Honestly, I didn’t enjoy this book, great idea and concept but bits of it just didn’t gel for me in the way some of his others have (‘Blink’ by the same author rates as one of my favourite books of all time).

The second is the work of two authors, Hank Hanegraff and Sigmund Brouwer. Called ‘The Last Disciple’ it traces the events of the persecution of the Christians under Nero and the fall of Jerusalem. There is a fair chunk of poetic licence, and from the afterword it is an alternative interpretation of the Biblical references to the end times as proposed by the popular ‘Left Behind Series’. It is fairly graphic in its descriptions and well set out with great character development. A little confusing in places where they jump ahead in time, but I enjoyed the read, only to find that it ends by setting up a sequel that I now need to get my hands on.

As for the graphic descriptions try this (skip the paragraph if you squeamish)… “Alongside charred stumps of posts were new wooden lampposts spaced every ten paces. Men and women dangled from each post. Their bond wrists hanging from spikes in the post above their heads, their entire body weight wrenching at their shoulder sockets…This heat was a form of torture, adding to the excruciating pain of arm sockets slowly pulling loose. But the prisoners could not cry out for water from the passing fountain. Their lips had been sown shut to prevent them from disturbing Roman citizens…Each wore a tunica molesta –a tunic black and gleaming in the sunlight and saturated in tar…At sundown, by the orders of Nero, the guards would ignite their tunics so that these men and women-the Christians-would become human torches to light the streets for the half –drunk Roman revellers returning home.”(The Last Disciple pg 20)

I read something like that and I realise that despite the situation I find myself in (i.e. living in the worst economy in the world), I have a relatively ‘Comfortable Christianity’-few will beat me up for what I believe- less will kill; I can walk down the street and not fear arrest or assault. I can worship where and when I please. For that matter, it is pretty comfortable for any followers of any major religion here-relatively speaking. Open religious persecution is not practiced in Zimbabwe. Compare the complaint of the American church about prayer being banned in schools with the plight of a few Burmese Bhuddist monks, or a Christian in parts of East Asia and you get the picture of relativity. For the most part, while you may be ridiculed for your beliefs, or, in an extreme, be passed over for promotion a couple of times, your religious stance in the West is unlikely to cost you your life. It would be a good thing if any believer (regardless of religion) weighed in their hearts whether or not they would be willing to die for what they believe, not in the suicidal ‘get the message across retaliation’ that created the horror of the twin towers but the acceptance of death under a severe time of persecution when the gun is to your head and you face the choice-lie and live or believe and die. Interesting thinking…

Friday, February 15, 2008

On music, writing and creativity.

It’s not so much about making sense as about making emotion.

A few Thoughts

Singles Appreciation Day (otherwise known as Valentines Day) has passed. A few gems from various reading/conversations this last week:-

-add value (what can you add to an existing product)
-quality service takes effort
-add value (what else can you do for your existing clients)
-discard previous lessons that are no longer relevant
-Vinyl, tapes and CD’s have all been and gone in the last 20 years
-information is only half the job: understanding is key
-spend time reflecting on your progress toward your goals-what else can you do to achieve them.

Am planning on having a ‘chilled’ weekend (and no that does not refer to the temperature of beer), just down time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Get the Message Across

There is too much information for people to take in. Compress, edit and cut. Utilise the power of the sound byte.

Put your name on your next complaint please!

Dear Neighbour

Thank-you for the notice that you tacked to my gate last night, I was unaware of the discomfort that the barking of my dog was causing you. Judging from the tone of the writing in the note you were most upset at the time, I do apologise for any aggravation this caused you. Unfortunately you failed to tell me who your are, so I am left with no option but to post this reply here and pray that you may Google me (for future reference, my maid has my phone numbers if you wish to speak to me in person).

As to the reason for the animal’s distress, I won’t place that here in detail in case it bores my other readers, but suffice to say that relocating a home can be painful for any creature. I have, however, taken steps to ensure that you have a more peaceful day-I have secured to property better so that said canine now has the run of the entire property with out the fear of her rushing out the gate. This increase freedom will hopefully mean that she barks and whines less. There is the small possibility that she may dig under your fence, but I’m sure you’ll let me know if she makes her way into your garden. Should this not work (and again please tell me) I may have to take more drastic measures that may offend you (euthanasia and muzzling for example will probably upset your feeling for animals, so I’ll have to relocate her elsewhere).

I was intrigued by your reference to ‘my so called religion’, for as I know I have never attempted to forcibly share my religious views with any of my neighbours, nor am I a national T.V. personality-so how do you know what I believe? For the record though I follow a belief structure that originated out of a religion that supported the wholesale, regular, slaughter of animals to atone for sin. Fortunately, for reasons core to our faith, we no longer have to engage in such practices.

Thank-you once again for highlighting the problem,

Yours Sincerely
Me

P.S. If you are the early morning saxophone player I am pleased to report that your skill has reached a standard where it is no longer bothers me while I am trying to sleep in on the weekend, but is rather conducive to relaxation.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Facing Reality

While optimism is a great trait, you need to simultaneously face the reality of your current situation. It was refreshing to see that the December issue of Entrepreneur Magazine was devoted to recovery from failure. This was especially relevant to me as December was a horrendous month for me business wise. The practice nearly went under as a result of the cash shortages and banking problems that bedevilled our nation at that point in time (Dec and Jan are our peak expense months with variable income). Rather scary really. With hindsight, while most of the circumstances were not my fault, there were a number of things I was not doing that were highlighted during this period (you need to keep careful tabs on who owes you money). Thankfully, we made it through the crisis, although some hard decisions had to be made at the time and are on our way out of the woods. I could have buried my head in the sand and ignored it all, then I wouldn’t be sitting in my office today. Likewise it would be foolish for the publishing world to ignore the advent of digital publishing, for the music industry to think that MP3’s will vanish like a bad dream, we have to face the reality of things and make the appropriate decisions or face oblivion (or at the least an unpleasant future).

Friday, February 01, 2008

How far is too far?

When does prudence become paranoia? When do the boundaries of wisdom become foolishness? For example, it is prudent to take out insurance on your property and to maintain it to avoid loosing it. It is foolish not to write a will because you are afraid that someone will take advantage of you and make you loose everything. It is wise to examine business opportunities carefully, it is foolish never to take an acceptable risk because you are afraid of loosing.

In Zimbabwe, foreign currency is often seen as a wise investment option because at least you will not loose real value in our economy. The converse is that you won’t necessarily increase in value either (unless you now invest your forex-something a lot of people don’t do).

Something worth examining. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How to Write the Perfect Blog Post

Surprisingly few of my friends have an ongoing blog. Sure there are the social tools like Facebook, but there are remarkably few who bother to write anything at all. Sad really, as blogging has little input costs apart from time and its not for a lack of connectivity in Zimbabwe. Maybe they feel that they have nothing to share (generally not true of people) or they don’t know how. Getting started is simple, sustaining your writing and getting noticed on the web are two different things.

There are multiple views on how to write the perfect post-are you aiming for grammatical prowess, recognition, number of hits or giving the right information? The first thing to realise is that you can’t reach or please everyone at once. My advice would be to target a niche, a specific audience and write too them.

Decide on a title. Search engines like simple headings that include the key words that people will search for, e.g.’write’, ‘blog’ ‘post’ will target a population hoping to improve their blogging skills. Fun titles work as well, and can be attractive to people who pick up the keywords from your text. E.g ‘The Price tag of Death’ is morbid but possibly enticing. Take your pick.

Then write. I mean it that simply-write. Put what you want to say on the screen. Don’t worry about punctuation (yet), just have fun. Enjoy it. Don’t try force it out, just flow. That’s why I recommend you write about something you enjoy, that ignites you. Punctuation can be checked later. Web punctuation is not essential, but just makes things better to read.

Writing is a process and can be developed. If you are planning on doing it for any length of time invest in it a bit. Use new words once in a while. I often type up in word before copying the text to Blogger, and use the thesaurus function to change a few expressions here and there. Study other blogs, Blogs of Note is a good place to start. See what they do that makes them stand out or be significant, then plagiarise. Then take it a step futher and improvise, maybe you’ll start the next trend on the web.

A couple of guidelines about the text.
1. Include links. Blogs are network tools, use them.
2. Do not name drop unless you are specifically blogging about that person, it makes it irritating for those of us looking for specific information. So do not refer to blonde bimbo/icons or recently dead Australian actors unless you are blogging about them. That said accidents do happen, I once included, unintentionally, two names at separate places in a post which when combined added up to the name of an adult film actor who happened to be in the news. My ‘referring links’ tool on my Statcounter picked up the anomaly, and after a little judicious investigation I got a bit of a shock, ah well, we learn. No I’m not telling you which one, you can work it out for yourself one day. That aside if you are writing about the bookkeeping practices of Hampstead Heath you will be forgiven by people looking for articles on Mr. Ledg...r.
3. Photos, videos, anything. Break up the blankness once in a while with something different, preferable relevant, but hey it all helps.

At the end of the day have fun. Search for and find that internal satisfaction that comes from posting something you are proud of. Length is irrelevant, just say what you want to say and enjoy it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gran

My gran passed away yesterday at the ripe age of 81 (odd euphemism that, ‘ripe age’). Many could argue that gran was dealt a bit of a bad hand in life; she lost her husband after being married for 8 short years and had to raise 3 children on her own in a nation under sanctions for most of that period. One thing I can say, though, is that gran exhibited a high degree of tenacity to her vision. When she was widowed she was left to pay off the mortgage on her house, and pay it off she did despite the odds. She lived in that house for over 50 years. She could have left for ‘greener’ pastures, given up and rented accommodation but she stuck to her guns, not without sacrifice to achieve it, and persevered.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Another Zimbabwean Week.

What a week! I taught three new subjects to two junior high classes this week. Despite having worked with teenagers for a number of years, teaching a class of them is a little more daunting, but a lot of fun. I am amazed at their capacity to learn and to absorb information. There is so much information available to them these days that it is little wonder that they have the capacity to absorb and filter through so much.

Talking of the preponderance of information on the web, I finally came across Seth Godin’s blog while sifting through the vast, seething tide of cyberspace. The ease with which humour, relevance and wisdom from his keyboard is inspiring, I guess I just like his style. Have a look if you haven’t already.

Oh and we had a 20 hour nationwide powercut saturday-sunday, there was a power flow reversal that tripped a whole bunch of power stations in the region, don't know all the technical details but not fun I assure you. Power's back now, well intermittently so at least a hot bath, oh the decadance of luxury.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Watch what you say

I received a gentle correction the other day. I had fallen into the habit of replying to the common greeting ‘How are you?’ with ‘Not too bad, thanks.’ The point of contention was on my use of the double negative. The focus on the negative ‘bad’ rather than saying ‘I’m good thanks,’ leaves a poor resonance on your soul. ‘Out of a man’s heart, so he speaks’, the double negative infers that my thoughts were probably not where they could be. Thoughts determine actions, and if I am continually reinforcing a negative emotion every time someone greets me then it’s going to build up eventually.

Armed with this knowledge I observed the rest of my speech for the next few days. Oh horrors, the double negative was everywhere! How was business?-‘not too bad thanks’, How is your head?-‘not as sore as it was’, How did the presentation go?-‘not a total disaster. There was a virtual minefield of them scattered liberally throughout my vocabulary. It was as though someone had slowly replaced my tongue with another. Some serious de-mining was called for. The next time someone greeted my I almost bit my tongue off to stop the reaction. ‘Not too…ah, actually I’m good thanks.’ The next time I forgot, hit myself over the head, and succeeded in the next dozen or so consecutive responses.

Since then my speech has been a little sweeter, a lot more positive and better constructed. Rather than being just out the starting blocks, I am now well on my way to a better vocabulary.

Friday, January 04, 2008

A Learning Curve


Every made a mistake, done something wrong, not done something to the best of your capacity, failed at anything? If so then join the rest of the universe in 5 seconds of communal pity and anxiety before moving on to better things. Mistakes is a sensitive issue, dwell on them too much and you get stuck wallowing in the self pity of the past, ignore them completely and you fail to learn from them valuable wisdom.

Me, I’ve had my fair share. I could probably write a fair sized book on ‘how not to run your business’. I think I’ve made every business error under the sun, and a few that weren’t there before. They never taught you how to run a business at physio school, after all you were supposed to become a neat little manikin treating unimaginable volumes of patients for the government hospital system, never querying anything or having wicked, non-conformist thoughts of independent health care. So I learnt business the hard way. First mistake! Learn from others’ hard ways-ask the right people for the best advice.

That said, the practice has survived thus far, although it has been touch and go at times. I am still recovering from some errors and have learnt and adapted things as the result of others. The best advice I was given was ‘charge what you are worth.’ It’s taken me 2 long and foolish years to get there-never let a third party (eg medical aid/insurance) determine your value for you. So embrace your mistakes, learn from them and then relegate them and their negative emotions to the back of your mind and with fresh perspicacity embrace a brighter future.

To finish off, a quote by James Allen-“You will become as great as your dominant aspiration. If you cherish a lofty ideal in your heart, you will realize it.”

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Purpose, passion and the New Year



The New Year is but a few hours old and my mind is already abuzz with ideas to write. It’s amazing how sometimes you can be stuck for a topic and at other times have to decide between 3 or 4 different ideas.

I guess I’ll start with purpose this year. People strive for significance, to be greater than they are and to leave an impact in some manner that extends beyond the scope of their lifespan. I mean, think about it, the idea that in the grand scheme of time you are but a breath and will be forgotten by the majority within a few short years after your death is a rather unpleasant concept. Somehow in the whole quest for significance comes the idea of purpose-that there is something that you are set to do, by fate, society, a higher conscience, the universe, God-take your pick. Now it’s a large leap for some people and there are those who believe that you create your own purpose. For me though, I take the first option, that there is a purpose to my life in which I will find fulfilment (not necessarily without a struggle though). “Oh my gosh, I have a purpose, I have to find it out or I will fail!”-panic, major psychological trauma! Relax it’s not that bad, I think.

While the fine tuning may take a while the chances are you are already in some manner living out a part of your purpose, whether it be; to make people laugh, to collect ideas, to challenge others to higher levels of life, to create new inventions. It’s that part of you that you get an inner ‘yes!’ from, the part of you that feels passionately about a task, situation, group of people and when you are involved in it you feel energised and in your ‘zone’. Someone asked me how close passion and purpose were linked-I’d say he hit it right on the head. Purpose aside, passion is a great help. Let’s take the scenario where purpose doesn’t exist and you still want to achieve sustained success and significance. You are more likely to succeed and stick with something that energises and invigorates you, and success promotes future success. Taking on things that you are passionate about is the key to this, as well as keeping to a minimum those things that are passion killers. Imagine a day where all you do, every minute of the day, is achieve a level of fulfilment and satisfaction from doing things you love. Imagine the buzz, the thrill, the joy. It’s not as far fetched as you may think.




PS Here are the Kariba pics