Olympic Inspiration: Get lean and mean


That’s me with two Olympic gold medals. They belong to Steve Williams, OBE – English rower and two-time Olympic champion. At the time I was working in Great Britain and he came to address our team at a mid-year sales conference. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know who he was when I saw him. I love sport and watch all kinds. Especially during the Olympics. But I’d never really watched much rowing. In Great Britain it’s pretty big, though. They’ve achieved many successes in the sport and have a number of multiple gold medal winners.

When Steve was introduced as a two-time Olympic gold medal winner I was on the edge of my seat. When he took them out and let us pass them around the room while he was talking I could barely contain my excitement. I was actually going to hold genuine Olympic medals. I was going to touch them. But I’m letting my memories of the thrill get ahead of what I want to share in this blog post.

Steve came to talk to us about Goal Setting and Achievement using the story of his Olympic preparations as an example. What a privilege! To be able to listen to the wisdom of someone who reached the peak of his sport. To have insight into the world of an Olympian. I was even more on the edge of my seat and risked falling off. There is a YouTube video of a similar talk he gave available here.

He tells the story of how he missed out on a spot on the team which went to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and then he made the decision to dedicate himself to making the team for Athens 2004. And, boy, did he ever dedicate himself. He lived rowing. He lived making the team. He had a specific plan in mind and together with his fellow teammates and their coach, they mapped out how they were going to achieve it. Seven days a week, 365 days a year, including Christmas. This was carried through into the planning and preparation for the next Olympics in Beijing in 2008. Clearly it worked – two golds are all the proof you need.

These are the things which stuck:

  1. Crystallize your thinking around a clear goal. Know what you want to achieve and why. Know what you will gain from the achievement. Understand why it means so much to chase this dream.
  2. Put together a plan for how you’re going to achieve the goal. Break it up into manageable steps. Ensure you know what you need to accomplish by when. The smaller the steps the better. Small steps lead to big gains.
  3. Use every available resource in the execution of your plan. He tells how the team employed a scientist to figure out how to shave a few seconds off their time. The solution this highly paid gentleman came up with was a piece of tape on their oars which would reduce air resistance by a fraction. This would translate into a fraction of a second time-saving in a race. But in an Olympic final, that’s all it takes to win sometimes.
  4. Remain relentless in your daily pursuit of your goal. You eat an elephant one bite at a time. So keep at it. You’ll get there eventually.
  5. There will be setbacks along the way. There will be times when you want to give it all up. That’s why it is so important to understand the why behind your journey. The why is what gives you the motivation to keep going.
  6. Get lean and mean. What I’m getting at here is that you need to shed anything that is superfluous to the achievement of your goal. If it doesn’t help, it goes. Obviously this is not always an easy decision, but, again, if the why is big enough and the gains are great enough it will be worth it.

I’m not doing the talk justice – there were so many points to ponder. I was completely inspired. I had goosebumps. Steve was a great guy. He’d also climbed Everest, gone to the North Pole, run a sub 3hr marathon. But he was very down-to-earth. After the talk he hung around for photos. And I was able to have another dream come true – he let me put a medal around my neck!! How totally awesome is that? I’ve had an Olympic gold medal around my neck. Photographic evidence below.


I am in the process of setting some big, audacious goals. Stay tuned – I’ll chronicle the journey as I go along.


On tv with Anne Geddes – how I did it.

Saying ‘yes’ can lead to exciting opportunities. See what Vanessa Thomas experienced because she chose to say yes.

Fables and Flora

You know those countless times when you turn on the tv and see someone famous that you think is awesome being interviewed and somewhere in the process some arbitrary caller comes into view and gets to speak to them and you think to yourself – How did that person get there? That could have been me!

Well on Tuesday this week I was that arb caller.

Now imagine being given the opportunity of meeting someone famous that you admire and aspire to emulate and you get to ask them just one question. What would you ask?

Then imagine you had two hours to prepare before asking that question on live streaming tv! That’s what happened to me on Tuesday. Would you do it?

HuffPost Live gets in touch

Kat Santiago (@KatHuffPost), an Associate Producer and Melissa Montanez (@MelMontanez_) , a community screener from Huffpost Live (@HuffPost…

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Taking a chance

Battle Circle Cover

Last night I took a chance. I sent an email to one of my favourite authors, Piers Anthony, via his website. Mr Anthony knows a thing or two about shipping. He has published 166 books to date and has 5 more written but not yet published. What a work ethic!

As a teenager, I thoroughly enjoyed his Xanth series. The characters and settings are enthralling and the puns are hilarious. Highly recommended. Also, one of the very first science fiction books I read was a collection of three short stories called Battle Circle (first published in 1968). These stories are set in a dystopian post-nuclear future. There are vast tracts of land uninhabitable due to lingering radiation. ‘Crazies’ operate behind the scenes supplying the nomads with resources. The world of the nomads operates by a strict code of honour and matters are settled in the battle circle. This book is one of the reasons I came to love the science fiction genre.

I emailed Mr Anthony about Battle Circle. I believe that it will make a fantastic movie. Especially book one, Sos the Rope. When I read it, I can see the scenes play out in my imagination as the descriptions take on a life of their own. I have aspirations of writing a screenplay and I would relish the opportunity to adapt the story into a movie. So I took the chance and sent off the email to ask for permission and find out what the copyright restrictions are.

I took a chance in the spirit of making a ruckus. In the spirit of ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ If he said ‘no’ I’d be in the same place as before I asked. But what if he said ‘yes’ and I ended up with the opportunity of a lifetime? Definitely worth putting myself out there. This morning I received a response:

I’d love to have a movie made from Sos the Rope, and there has been occasional interest. But my agent is cautious about free-lance screenplays. If a studio got interested, they would hire their own script writer. So I doubt there is a prospect here for you.
Piers Anthony
Not what I was hoping for. But I was still chuffed to have received a response from the great man himself. It is a credit to him that he took the time to send me a polite response as I’m sure he must receive many similar requests.
So it’s back to the drawing board for me. I’ll have to make up my own story (I have one in the works). It was tough to send the email as I didn’t want to risk rejection or lose face and seem like a stereotypical fanboy to one of my favourite authors. As I typed out the request, the resistance tried to stop with all sorts of reasons why it was a bad idea. Some may say that because he said ‘no’ I should’ve listened. I say I did the right thing. I fought the resistance. I took a chance. Now I know and can move on to the next project. I’ll still dream about writing the screenplay. Maybe I’ll make a name for myself in the screenwriting business and that studio he mentions will hire me to write Sos the Rope.
And I have an email from Piers Anthony!!!! How cool is that???

Fear is the path to the Dark Side

A race to overcome fear

A race to overcome fear

Yesterday I was having a conversation with someone I’d just met. We were talking about the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I have been a massive fan of Star Wars since I first saw ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ with my dad at the iconic Luxurama cinema in Wynberg, Cape Town. Going to ‘bioscope‘ was always a major treat and this one stands out in my memory. It may have been the start of my love of fantasy and sci-fi.

I was a bit frightened at the start of the sequence in the swamps of Dagobah. It looked creepy and scary. But this is also where we first meet Master Yoda, who, despite his size is one of the biggest icons of the Star Wars franchise and possibly had the strongest connection to the Force. Master Yoda is also the main source of wisdom throughout the series. His guidance always in the form of short, memorable pearls of insight. One of the more famous he delivers to Anakin Skywalker: ‘Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.’

I thought about that line this morning as I contemplated my failure in the 7 day #YourTurnChallenge. I didn’t post anything yesterday – day 6. I missed a day and I was trying to figure out my next step. Do I bother with day 7? Is this failure final? Did anyone miss my daily post? Much of my responses to the above questions were initially quite negative. I didn’t want to bother today. I had failed and should give up blogging. Nobody would miss me.

Then I thought about Yoda’s words and I realised that I was giving in to fear. I was fearful that my blog isn’t good enough. That I don’t know what I’m doing. That people don’t care what I have to say so I shouldn’t say anything. I also spent much of yesterday angry. So fear did lead to anger :-). I’m writing today to ensure it doesn’t lead to hate because I want to do this regularly. I want to record my thoughts about things I find remarkable. I hope that people find these thoughts worthy reading but that is not the main motivator behind recording them. I’ve found that recording them in this way actually brings further insight and understanding. It’s helping me learn more about the world. About myself.

So, thanks, Winnie Kao for the challenge. It’s been a journey I’ve enjoyed and a journey I’ll continue.

I swear…

rt maskWhen I was a kid, I was pretty immune to peer pressure. I was a goody-two-shoes of note because I was incredibly fearful of authority. Authority included adults in any shape or form. Parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, sports coaches. So I usually toed the line. I was wild and adventurous. I was often described as naughty. But I didn’t really do the ‘bad’ stuff. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink. I didn’t take the car without asking. I didn’t come home after curfew. I didn’t do drugs. (Clearly a wasted childhood).

My biggest transgression, my major rebellion, was swearing. From the age of about 12, I started swearing like a sailor. In fact, I probably went through phases in my early teens where I would have made sailors blush. I was pretty inventive too. Stringing together expletives like a championship fighter putting together a combination of jabs and punches and then delivering a knock-out punch. My second language, Afrikaans, is a great language to ‘vloek’ in and throwing some rude Afrikaans descriptions into the mix only enhanced the edge. On one particularly memorable occasion, another kid who was only slightly older and bigger  tried to steal my bicycle at knife point. I loved my bike. It was my freedom. I wasn’t going to just let it go. I started hurling curses at the would-be thief and made him so uncomfortable, he just walked away. A victory? Maybe.

I don’t really know why I started swearing. I don’t know if that was just my way of stepping out of line with minimal risk of being caught. This was before the time of cellphones with video-taking capability and YouTube. I think that I believed it made me fit in with the cool crowd a bit more. I was usually on the outskirts of the cool crowd. Not entirely spurned but not entirely accepted either. My habit certainly didn’t help me win any admirers of the female persuasion. My barbed tongue stayed with me for a long time. I’m not too sure when I realised it was unseemly and uncool. Thank goodness I did.

Ah, youth. What a time. What a time. Looking back, I wonder if a different form of rebellion might’ve been more fun and less embarrassing. Nostalgia, as they say, is a thing of the past.

Expectation vs Reality

P1030735My expectation of my post yesterday was that it was going to be read by wife and nobody else. The reality was that it was my most popular post so far. Granted that’s off a low base but I found this to be something of an eye-opener. It validated the idea of shipping in a real way for me as a newbie blogger. It confirmed that if you put yourself out there you may well connect with people who get you or with people who find that your message resonates with them.

My post was about writer’s block. A common enough affliction, I guess. So it resonated with more of the audience than I expected. I’ve learned quite a bit from my lack of inspiration last night. Tough it out even when you’re struggling. Shipping is important. Don’t overload your mind with expectations. The reality is rarely what you expect and you may be surprised by the response.

The world is a big place. The internet is full of people reading tons of stuff. I’m amazed and gratified that there were people out there who took the time to read and like my post. Even more gratified that some of them decided to follow the blog. Having a lot to say ( which I think I do) and having someone to listen is another expectation vs reality scenario that can have multiple outcomes. I’m excited to be on this journey with you. I’m learning as I go and I’m looking forward to connecting with more and more people. There are countless untold and fascinating stories out there that I want to hear. If what I share resonates I’d love to hear why. If it doesn’t I’d be just as interested in hearing why.

My interests are many and varied and it’s always cool when you connect with someone who gets your references or laughs at your jokes. But living in the Bay Area for just over a year now has opened my eyes to a world filled with people who don’t get my references or jokes and I want to learn more about them. Connect with them. What makes them tick? What are the things in their world which are shared history and references? In a meeting the other day all of us got a joke about having the electricity find the flux capacitor. I wondered though just how broad an audience that would have made sense to. As Seth Godin says, “We are all weird.” I want to find more weirdos and find out what their expectations of the world are and how that translates into their reality.

Let’s connect. I’m excited.

Nothing to write about…

BookshelfIt’s day 3 of the #YourTurnChallenge 7 day blogging event. I started my blog on Friday – 3 before the start of the challenge. I’ve found inspiration each day since then. Until tonight. Tonight I’m sitting in front of the computer screen staring at it. Waiting for the muse to visit. Waiting for a bolt from the blue. Waiting…

I started about 4 or 5 times. Different titles. Different angles to the same title. But I couldn’t get further than a few lines. It was a busy day with many things that could’ve/should’ve provided the required fuel to fire my creative juices. One difference, though, was that I didn’t run today. I cycled to and from work. But it’s a short ride and my main concern was traffic and, this morning, the freezing cold. My mind didn’t wander as it normally does when I’m exercising. I’m sure some of the false starts from tonight will end up being full posts in the future but I’m just not feeling them tonight.

Could it be that my muse only visits at when my body is so engaged in the physical activity that it gives my mind a chance to wander? Could it be that in order to become a better writer, a writer able to grind out page after page, day after day, I’m also going to have become a really fit writer? It seems so. This is may not be a bad thing. In fact, this is a good thing. I actually enjoy running and cycling. I enjoy exercise. I enjoy sports. This realization could be the start of wonderful relationship.

Let the games begin…

PS. Does that count as a blog post? :-).