There IS Hope!

As we enter this day, March 14th we are all worried about the coronavirus and where it will all end. Schools and universities have closed, major sporting events are cancelled. People are asked to self-isolate and work from home.

There are a few problems with that. For the majority of people, this is not a voluntary move, they were not asked and they can’t say no. What does that do to one? It feels like you are not in control and when you are not in control you start to experience anxiety and worry.

Working moms and dads are worried about elderly parents living far away. They now have to try and do some productive work while the kids are running around at home. It feels like the spring break came early, but without the cheerfulness and excitement.

We are asking ourselves, is it safe to go to the mall? One has to eat. The gym is off-limits. If you are living in the city, you are at least an hour’s drive away from the nearest park and then you have to watch out that you choose the one where there are no crowds. It’s supposed to be a relaxing weekend. If you hear of anyone who has travelled you say sorry, you can’t visit even if they came from a country where the count is zero. One just cannot take any chances.

In South Africa, we currently have 24 confirmed cases. In a country of 60 million people, that is less than a drop in a bucket. However, if we don’t take precautions this number can rise exponentially and out of control within the next few weeks, just like in other countries. Our public healthcare system is fragile as it is, we just won’t be able to cope with the masses who will need treatment.

That, compounded by the fact that we now have regular load shedding (electricity cuts), rising food and fuel prices, we are starting to feel the pinch. Psychologically, more than anything.

This is dangerous because we bottle up emotions. It is also a country rife with unemployment. There is more strain on the income earners where one person is looking after their own family, plus extended family members and those who are not working. A bleak outlook overall.

At the same time, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so connected to all of humanity, to people in other countries fighting a similar struggle to try and curb the virus and bring it under control.

People are opening up. They know they are not alone. There are more acts of goodwill that normally go unnoticed. Even if you can’t visit family and friends, keep in touch with them. Send a quick message or call them. People will appreciate so much that you care.

Above all else, keep a level head. People are looking up to you for guidance and direction, without you knowing. You are their only beacon of hope. Don’t let your light go out. Keep shining.

Thank You, But No Thank You, Sir

Start taking control of your life.

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Because you are reading this article, you would, by inference have the following already going for you.

  • You have a roof over your head (correct me if I’m wrong)
  • You had (or can have) 3 meals today if you wanted to
  • You don’t have to walk 2 miles to work or to school
  • You have warm clothes to protect you from the elements
  • You are probably reading this from your iPhone 11 Pro Max 😊

If you are over 18 and you have all of the above, you can start making your own money. You can have any lifestyle you want. The only prerequisite is that you have to do the work.

Can you do that? By all means, yes. You may not have the ambition and drive you need right now, but you can start by reading books, taking online classes, take up an apprenticeship. Just start.

You don’t have to be like the other men or women in your family who didn’t make it. All they talk about are the missed opportunities, they reminisce about all the chances they had but didn’t take.

The excuses are many. They said they would start one day.

“Opportunity waits for no man. Today it is here; soon it is gone. Therefore, delay not!”

Life is already here, and we are waiting and getting ready for it. I need to pass this course. I need to save up enough money. I need to learn about ad words and affiliate marketing.

If this doesn’t stir you.

The internet, globalization and working remotely have made us so comfortable. One has to consciously guard against becoming too cosy. Exercise at some point during the day is a great enhancer. One has to block out that there is food around to nibble on, otherwise we may go on nibbling the whole day and get nothing done.

The greatest distractor though is our mind.

It wants to do and think of everything except the task at hand. Ryan Holiday says Stillness Is The Key. If you can conquer your mind, you can do anything.

Our hopes and fears, especially our fears paralyze us from the time we wake up. One has to occasionally and regularly quiet the mind. Exercising and meditation can do that. It has to be a conscious decision though.

The same conscious effort is needed to not overeat, to not over-indulge, to not partake in mindless numbing and sensationalism. It’s so easy to zone out because we don’t have to be fully alert to veer off lions or wild animals. We don’t need all our energy to gather food. It’s all available to us, on a silver platter and what we can’t do is say no thank you.

The way forward is in saying thank you, but no thank you. No, I’m not going to sleep in. I’m not going to skip class today. I’m not going to call in sick. I’m not going to overeat. Instead of taking the bus to get to the train station, I may just walk. I will give up my seat on the full train and just stand.

When I get to my desk, I won’t check in to social media first. I am going to knuckle down and work through the task at hand. I may just hand in my assignment a few days early.

I’m not going to buy a new pair of sneakers, my old ones are just fine. I may just decline the party I was invited to this weekend to get through just one of the books I’ve bought but never got to the second page.

Maybe I’ll try it, just for today.

Thank you, Sir.

You are your own worst critic (and enemy)

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

After taking a bit of time off from writing and telling myself that I need all the time and energy to focus on my new year’s resolutions — 55 days in. If that isn’t enough time to set you straight, I don’t know what will. I just happened to stumble upon my previous blog posts and saw some comments that you’all wrote, of how a few pieces resonated with you and that you want more and here I am thinking that this writing thing may actually not be for me!

At best, we are our own worst critics. Every, single, time. It’s like a record player that got stuck. In my head at least. They tell me at work that I’m doing great, that we’ve grown the department under my leadership and they don’t know what they would do without me.

And I’m like, yeah right. You’re just saying that to make me feel good and I REFUSE to take any credit. There is so much still to be done. You just know about this one time, that one time, that other time when I utterly and miserably failed.

Yes, I didn’t want to come back the next day. You say you know the feeling, I don’t think so. That misery that makes you want to pull the blankets over your head and maybe wake up in the year 2030.

Michelle, can you just get out of our head for once? It isn’t all about you. Misery, anxiety, depression is your crutch. What would you be without it? Where would you be? Perhaps, just maybe, in a better place.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Start with gratitude. Look around you and see all the things you’ve got going for you. So many people look up to you. You’ve got a job, you earn decent money. You’re debt-free. You’ve got 2 beautiful kids. When you’re looking at the Joneses, you think you’re falling way short.

Just be careful, for anything can happen and you may just end up on the street, with nothing. Then you’ll have something to complain about. Then you can really feel sorry for yourself.

We want to live every other life, except the one we have.

We are living in the past and the future. Never really anywhere.

Be present. Today. Be where you are.

Appreciate all the things you’ve got going for you.

Look around, smell the roses.

Start doing some introspection and self-examination.

Don’t hide the truth from yourself, don’t lie to yourself. It’s easy. Anything than facing the harsh reality. The reality that what you have is enough.

That you can become anything you set your mind to.

Many people before you have succeeded, with less. You need to demand more of yourself. You are highly capable. It’s all in your head. Get out of your head and get going.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

If you don’t know where to start, exercise is a great catalyst. So is meditation. Start with exercise. A walk around the block. If you’re into art, draw something. If you’re great with code, code something, however simple.

Build on that tomorrow. But don’t be with tomorrow yet. Finish today, finish it strong. I can, and so can you.

Good luck with your journey.

How To Turn Anxiety and Vulnerability into Appreciation and Self-Love

Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

There are many of us going through difficult times at the moment. Or is it just me? Things seem to fall apart at the seams. I am facing a major transition period in my working career and it is scary. I’m not sure if I’m making the right decision. I’m not sure if a year from now I will regret it.

All I want is for this period of uncertainty to end.

There seems to be no end in this diabolical situation. It feels like I’ve been stuck here forever, although I’ve only really felt it over the last few months.

When you are going through a difficult situation, what do you do? How does one cope? How do you pretend that everything is normal, even though you are filled with anxiety and all you want to do is stay in bed and watch Netflix all day.

It’s hard. It’s hard to explain to somebody when they are not in it. Nobody understands. They don’t get it. And if they can just stop asking if everything’s ok. It’s not! Not today, not ever!
You know people on anti-depressants and think that maybe it’s time to get that prescription. Numb the pain. Don’t feel anything. Walk around like a zombie.

One day, not too long ago I went to visit my grandfather. He is born in 1921. He is 98 years old. My grandfather grew up on a farm in Namibia and he’s never left it. Perhaps to go to primary school in the town but that’s it. He is less agile now as he has aged, has some trouble with his joints and had to have surgery to his eyes to take out cataracts, but other than that he is still a spring chicken.

I am always humbled to be in his presence. He doesn’t have a care in the world. He gets up at sunrise, works the land and the livestock, comes back in the afternoon and rest. He lacks nothing because he does not know what much feels like. He never had much.

To be so content and so free of worry at such an advanced age is something that we folks can learn from. 
We worry about everything. There is so much anxiety. The pent-up emotions that we walk around with are enough to drive anyone into a straight jacket.

Photo by matthew Feeney on Unsplash

Let us stop and think for a minute. If we think we have it bad with the lights on and watching an iPhone 11 screen, you better think again. Put things into perspective. Take time to re-evaluate where you are in life and appreciate everything you’ve got.

That job you hate going to go to every day, well someone would give their left pinky to have that. Because if you have to decide between a shitty job and to eat, what are you going to choose? Look around you, take stock. Sit down, make a note of everything you are grateful for. Stick it on your wall. Rewrite it every day.

While you are going through this tough time, draw nearer to yourself. Spend time alone. Reflect. Read. Stop all frivolous activities. It will just make you feel more empty.

Become deeply aware of your situation and with the knowledge that no situation is permanent. This, too, shall pass. Become intensely aware of who you are and how far you’ve come.

Don’t rush the healing. It will come. When the time is right. And when it’s all over, you will realise just how much you have grown and matured.

With pressure, diamonds are formed. 

You are one of them. 

A diamond in the making.

Sub two-hour marathon — Eliud Kipchoge Did It!

What is your excuse? Not to run a 2-hour marathon, but to slowly, consistently and intentionally change the course of your life.

Picture courtesy of @INEOS159

We didn’t think we’d see it in our lifetime, but it was done, on Saturday. Eliud Kipchoge did it. I don’t even know how it feels to win a marathon in double that amount of time. I watched the full race on television and all I can say is that we humans, we underestimate ourselves.

We start something and if it just looks like we are about to break a sweat, we give up. It is unbelievable what one man could do. He tried it 2 years ago and failed. But that didn’t stop him. He got back on to the track and trained and geared himself up for the next time.

What do we do when we fail? We throw in the towel. Any inkling of self-worth goes right down as well. You think to yourself, I will never amount to anything.

Let me stop you right there. Others, with less talent, is outworking you right this minute. Stop with the excuses, just stop! You’re not the only one going through a tough time. In fact, you have not seen any kind of tough. It’s in your mind. Snap out of it. Now!

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” — J. K. Rowling

Eliud didn’t stop 2 years ago. We are not going to stop today. No matter how tough it feels. You are tougher than that. Eliud proved it. You are not your failures, you are not your excuses.

Picture courtesy of @INEOS159

When you’ve had a good cry, dry off your tears and let’s go. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to the people cheering for you. Eliud had 41 pacemakers. 41 hearts were beating along with his. They are world-class athletes, they could have done anything else with their time. But they decided to be by his side, to be a part of history in the making.

Sometimes, you must look at the bigger picture. If you don’t bring your part today, will someone notice? Will they ask you if something’s wrong. You don’t seem yourself today.

If you have just one such person, you owe it to yourself and them to not give up. So many others are silently watching, wanting you to succeed.

It’s not too late. Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself that whatever curveball you’ve hit, is just a slight side-step, but it’s not going to stop you.

You are not going to give up. It’s all part of the journey. One day you will look back and smile because you’ve tried.

“Those who complete the course will do so only because they do not, as fatigue sets in, convince themselves that the road ahead is still too long, the inclines too steep, the loneliness impossible to bear and the prize itself of doubtful value.”
 ― Thabo Mbeki

Picture courtesy of @INEOS159

Great Expectations

Whose path are you on?

Photo by whoislimos on Unsplash

I was at a family friend’s baby shower today. Little baby Joel is expected to arrive in no less than 9 weeks. As all mothers know the last few weeks become the source of great excitement, anxious awaiting, boundless expectation until the final day arrives. It’s a beautiful experience.

As we journey through life, other events happen that bring about the same experience. Working on a project for a long time and finally seeing the fruits and reward. Starting a business from scratch and eagerly awaiting the time when the first check is in the mail.

We have 2 peach trees in our garden and last year the harvest was rotten. A fungus got into the trees very early which we were unable to detect until the peaches were ready to be harvested. In fact, they looked ripe and ready to eat from the outside, but the inside was rotten.

The blossoms are just coming out and this year we prepared the trees and sprayed them with pesticide and pruned them early. We are anticipating a better harvest this year.

Ready for peaches?

Whatever we are busy with, we don’t always know the outcome. We have an expectation of one thing, to be successful. To do well in college and get a good job. To be in a relationship with a wonderful guy or girl and hoping that it will eventually end in marriage. Taking on extra tasks at work in the hope of being the next one to be promoted.

However, the outcome is never guaranteed. Life happens. Things change. How do you cope when suddenly you realise that this path is not for you? How do you tell other people, that the relationship is not working for you any more? That the project you’ve been working on for 6 months does not serve your higher purpose anymore.

This is perhaps most painful in the breakdown of a marriage. One person says I’m sorry it’s not for me anymore. This is not how I want to live my life.

The growth in a person occurs at different stages and it could be exponential in some and minute, barely visible in others at a specific point in time. This brings about a shift in dynamics in the workplace, in relationships, with your family.

Not everyone is ready for the growth and this new person.

Some people would prefer that you stay the way you are, the way they’ve known you. Why are you trying to complicate things? Do you think you are smarter than us now?

The shift is difficult, more so for the person at the centre of it, you. It is the metamorphosis that is so necessary for you to reach your full potential and become who you truly are meant to be. This may mean losing friends, partners and work colleagues along the way. Don’t fear, you are making space for other people to come into your life who will bring value at a different level. At the level you are now.

We are all creatures of habits and would prefer that things stay the same. Don’t rock the boat. A lot of people walk around with great pain inside them because it’s easier to pretend that things are ok, that you are still the same.

Only you know the hurt and the longing and sadness that come in the small of the night. In the morning you wrap that all up and put it aside because the world is expecting the version of you that they are used to.

If you are lucky, the day will come when the risk to remain tight in a bud is more painful than the risk it takes to blossom.

Upon this journey people will come and go, some will walk a part of the way with you, some will divert early, but the ones that stay with you till the end are the ones to be cherished.

Good luck with your journey.

Take off the Layers of Non-Essential BS

Take back control of your life.

Photo by JD Chow on Unsplash

I asked a friend if she was free to go hiking on Sunday. She said, let me check my calendar, one of 3. One for work, one for family and one for the church group she belongs to. My throat tightens just thinking about having to navigate all of that.

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”― John Maxwell

We are bombarded with information all day, right there on your phone. We don’t know how to switch off any more. Many of us are suffering from chronic fatigue. We rush from meeting to meeting, rush home to try and beat the traffic, to have a microwave dinner and pass out on the couch. To do it all over again tomorrow.

It’s time to have a heart to heart with yours truly. Sit down and make a list of everything that absolutely needs to be done every day. They are not many.

Take a deep breath and start stripping away. If you belong to 3 social clubs, that’s too many. Decide how many invitations for coffees or lunch you are willing to accept in a month. What is the purpose of these?

Maybe you don’t want to let your friend down? Well, when it comes to friends, keep your circle small. Spend your time with those who are on the same path as you, a path towards self-improvement and success.

Don’t be the one buying the rounds at the bar. If you are, you are missing the point.

What a nice feeling it is to wake up on a Saturday with an empty schedule. Unless you set aside to time for self-improvement and growth, keep your schedule empty.

You will need the time to get clarity on where you are in your life, where you are heading and how you plan to get there.

They say if you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there. Now is the time to become focused for we think we have time.

Start living life on purpose.

Cut out the things and people holding you back. Let them know that you are on a different path, let them know where you are headed. They will either laugh or they’ll ask to join. Make time for the important things, like exercising or cooking a healthy meal from scratch.

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Don’t be the one who is always connected. When your phone rings, someone wants to talk to you. It’s convenient for them at that moment, but is it convenient for you? Unless you are expecting the call, turn down the ringer and notifications and give your undivided attention to the work you’re busy with.

The quality will be so much better. Even better, leave your phone in the next room when you are busy with an important task.

Start building a quality life.

The earlier you start, the more you will be able to enjoy it later. Don’t be like many who only wake up in their late 30s and 40s and realise that nothing of importance has been achieved until now.

This is especially true when trying to build wealth. The benefit of compound interest will only show after a few years. 
In your finances, list your monthly income and expenses and see where you can cut down. The biggest expenses are normally a home and a car.

Take stock and determine if you need the extra half a bathroom? With the car, are you trying to impress someone? Do you need the cable?

Eliminate the things holding you back in wealth and growth and continue to invest in self-improvement and betterment.

Start today.

A year from now you will wish you had started today.

Let’s celebrate a road towards Essentialism, together.

One Day There Won’t Be Any More Roses To Smell

Start planting your rose garden today.

As we are getting ready for Spring of 2019 here in the southern hemisphere, the days are getting longer and it’s getting warmer. What better cue to sit back, reflect and take stock of just how far you’ve come during the last 8 months since the beginning of 2019.

Are you better or worse off then you were this time last year? Maybe it’s time to ask yourself some hard questions and expect hard answers. Those promises that you made to yourself, that no-one knows about, that no-one will ever know whether they were kept or broken. Only you know. Which makes it so much more painful. Because let’s face it, the easier way out always seems like the better option.

We live in the now, we want to absorb, and experience the instant gratification of everything around us. Yes, you plan to get to the hard work, but just not now. You plan to have that talk with yourself, just not today. You will stop eating sugar, just not today. You will start exercising, just not today.

Unfortunately, time doesn’t stand still and it won’t wait for you. Before you know it another year has passed. You promised yourself when the kids are older, when the car is paid off, when you get that promotion. The timing will never be right.

When you get to the supermarket and you see the 60-year old cashier smiling and tallying up your goods. You say a quick prayer, to never end up like her. Well, she also had dreams. She also waited for the right moment. She also said when the kids are older. Before you know it, it will be too late.

They say wake up and smell the roses. One day there may not be any more roses to smell. And all you have is yourself to blame. Don’t let anyone hold you back. We are influenced so heavily by those close to us. They want to talk you out of it. They say it will never work. What about your safety net?

After enough naysaying and a few drinks, you think to yourself that you don’t have it that bad after all and it would be easier to stick with what you know. Until another year has passed. Your dreams are not theirs. You are the only one uncomfortable with your situation because you know that you can achieve so much more if you can just stop listening to those voices in your head and outside. It’s your dream. It’s your path. No-one else can walk it for you.

You can continue to curl up and remain complacent. The time for sowing will come and go and shit, since you didn’t plant those roses when it was planting season, there will be no roses to smell. Your garden will remain the sand and stone that you have refused to work and till.

It’s not too late. Start today. Start where you are, with what you have. Just start.

Michelle, Who Are You?

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I don’t know.

The people who follow me on social media for a while now will see that my bio has changed from fashion designer to writer, to Administrative Consultant (whatever that means), and now recently back to fashion designer. All this while holding down a full-time job and raising 2 boys in a rather, chaotic but happy household (until the goldfish dies). I’ve lost count on how many we’ve bought and buried.

As some of you may also know, the first time I started out as a fashion designer nearly 6 years ago, there was the honeymoon phase and then the divorce. It went well, while it lasted and then the break-up (aarrgghh sobs). If anyone cares to enlighten themselves on the details, here goes — What a failed business venture taught me.

Back to today. I just don’t think it’s time to settle yet. The thing I’m most afraid of is settling and worse, settling without realising that you’ve settled. 
I visited a local farmers market for fresh produce recently and I was amazed that the chocolatier standing there, nonchalantly whipping up decadent pieces of sunshine that will take me a full month to work off at the gym.

It looks like he’s been doing it for years. He looked so at home behind the stand and with what he does for a living. Why can’t it be so easy for all of us!

I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere.

I know there are designers better than me. I know there are writers better than me. What stops someone from buying from a big retailer at unbeatable prices, then buying one of my pieces or reading my work.

Well, they’ll get a piece of me. The most exhilarating feeling is creating something and someone picks it up and owns it. Like it’s been their missing half all along. I love the interaction with my customers. I love their feedback. I love being the face of my brand. A yet unknown, minute operation that may one day climb into the hearts of hopefully a few people. Just a few.

When starting a business, we want everything to be perfect. The business plan, the offices, the receptionist, the wooden flooring, but we forget the most important thing. The customer. Without the customer, none of these things matter. Is someone willing to exchange their hard-earned cash for your goods? You only need to convince a few people, just like 0.00001% of 7 billion. One thousand true fans they say.

Make sure you can count on at least one. Not your mom, or your grandma who will gladly exchange their birthrights to see you succeed.

It’s an uncomfortable place to be in. This uncertainty, the fear of the unknown. The fear of another failure that may knock you down and out for months.

Yet, it’s a beautiful process.

When you are present throughout you learn so many things, you grow as a person, you have new experiences. You absorb and grow into your new skin. You can never go back to your old self again. He/she doesn’t exist anymore, except as a distant memory.

It’s easier to want to do it the textbook way. They way they taught you. That’s ok, just don’t forget you in the process. Whether success or failure, you will be a better person in the end, guaranteed.

Theodore Roosevelt said: 
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Beauty Is In The Moment

Practice mindfulness and stay present

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

When it feels like your life is spinning out of control and someone else (not you) is in the driving seat.

It happens to all of us. All too often. You think to yourself, how did I get here? Again? I said this won’t happen again. I’ve made up my mind that I’m done with this loser lifestyle of drinking, partying, spending money (I don’t have), racking up debt on my credit card.
 
The weekend is gone and although I entered for the 10 km race, I didn’t make it to the starting line on Saturday morning. It was Heather’s birthday party on Friday night, how could I miss it? She asked me 3 times if I’ll be there. Or maybe it was the free drinks.

It’s funny how life happens and spins out of control without us knowing or having a say. Well, it’s usually too late to say anything.

Enough of the sob stories. Whose life is this? Mine, of course. Well, start acting like someone who’s serious about change.

Let’s do this together.

Here are just a few things that you can do right, the next time.

• Since today is gone, it’s 21h30 where I am, I’ve set my alarm for 05h30. I plan to wake up when my alarm goes off (without hitting the snooze button) and get my ass to the gym.

• Next, I’m planning my schedule for tomorrow. I’ve made notes of everything I would like to get done, with the 2 most important tasks set for the morning.

• My phone will be on flight mode and all notifications will be de-activated as I spend uninterrupted time on my most important project.

• I’ve taken out some of the ingredients that I will need to prepare my lunch that I’ll take to work.

By writing down what needs to be done and actively planning your day, you are more inclined to get at least part or hopefully about 80% done. There will always be interruptions, impromptu meetings, and phone calls that can take up a lot of your time and tend to throw you off course.

If you just try and stick to your goal of doing the next thing right, you will hopefully already be half-way through in case any hell breaks loose.

Try this at home with your partner and kids as well. Things tend to unravel quickly when you have little people running around yelling and screaming as if they own you. They need to be fed, clothed, but most importantly loved.

Keep a level head. If you can, in the midst of the commotion, remember what you told yourself, how you will handle that particular situation with your boss, your co-worker, your 3-year-old, or 30 year old all vying for your attention and wanting to throw you off course. 
 
Life is beautiful. You are right where you need to be. The universe is on your side even though it doesn’t always feel like it. Stay present. Stay calm.

Your situation is unique. You are on the right path. Just breathe.
Don’t wish this time away. Time passes so quickly. In another 6 months or 1 year, this won’t matter anymore.

If you can stay present and learn from everything and everyone on your path, you will be the winner. You will live a rich and fulfilling life.

Just choose to stay present. You can.