Monday, 20 December 2010

Creating Energy

Yes I remember the Law of Conservation of Energy - 'energy cannot be created or destroyed' - but we can create personal energy, or decrease our personal energy.

There are four types of energy – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. When we understand how to work with these four we can have more energy.

Each type needs to be exercised just like a muscle. To increase fitness an athlete uses interval training. Pushing themselves beyond the comfortable level and then taking a short break for recovery and then pushing again. Each of our energy types needs to be fully used (pushed) but also given breaks.

However we often under utilise some of our energy areas and over utilise others. Either way we cause ourselves to be unfit - lacking in personal energy.

If you have a low to average physical fitness level think how good you feel when you have made yourself do a small session at the gym or played a light game of squash or taken a brisk walk. You have used that physical energy system and you now feel better for it. However if you over do it you will feel depleted for the rest of the day.

Physical energy is found in any form of exercise and includes healthy eating; mental energy is all about thinking, using our brains; eEmotional energy is about experiencing emotional highs or lows and spiritual energy comes from anything which lifts the soul.

If you need more energy check which of your energy systems you are over stretching and try to give them some breaks. At the same time look to those that are being under utilised and put some focus into using them.

Generally it is easiest to build energy through the physical and spiritual systems. Physically do a bit more regular exercise than you normally do or for spiritual energy do anything that makes your soul sing - have a massage, sit and listen to a fountain or watch a bird building a nest. Or combine them and take a walk across a meadow!

What do you do to build your energy levels?

Living Life to the Full

My friend, Rob Filmer, died in November this year at the age of 46. Reading the many condolences sent to his wife, Julie and talking to people at the beautiful funeral service I was struck by the huge number of people who had been touched by Rob during that relatively short life. Tributes written on the internet by people such as Clem Sunter reminded me of Rob’s many achievements in the fields of conservation and of disability access and integration. I commented to Julie that Rob achieved in his 46 years more than many people do in a lifetime twice as long.

It set me to wondering why. Perhaps it would have been that way no matter what Rob’s health and life expectancy had been? Perhaps it was also heightened by his knowing that he was always on borrowed time?

Rob was diagnosed with diabetes before he turned two. The doctors thought he would be fortunate to reach his twenties. In his late twenties he and Julie married with the doctors saying he only had a year to live. Together they enjoyed seventeen special years living and working together.

We all know that we have a limited life span but we don’t often pay too much attention. There is an old coaching question that asks “What legacy would you like to leave behind?” or “What do you think your eulogy will be?” A friend, a little older than me, told me how she was sat at her brother’s funeral listening to his eulogy when she thought of what hers would sound like - and she didn’t like what she heard! It was such a defining moment for her that she resigned from her job and recreated herself completely.

This is a good time of year for us to focus on living our lives to the full. Without being morbid, focus on living your life in a way that would leave few regrets. Spend time on yourself so you are strong and can give of yourself to others, spend time with loved ones, either choose to enjoy the work you have or the life you live, or take action to bring about the changes you want to see.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Let sheltered workshops help you

I visited Forest Farm around 1999 to take a batch of wooden building blocks for sanding. A few of the parents had got involved in helping our children's nursery school to spruce things up. The paint was peeling from the building blocks so I took them home with the intention of sanding and then restaining in bright colours.

I soon found out how much time sanding takes on small items. So I looked around for another solution. Forest Farm turned out to be the perfect one. It has a well run sheltered workshop where the residents work to contribute to the cost of running the centre.

I dropped the blocks off, explained to the workshop manager what I needed done and a few days later, for a very reasonable fee all was done. When I went to collect the completed job I also took my children along which gave them the opportunity to mingle with the disabled workers - helping them to be comfortable around people with disability.

The nursery school got their blocks back looking like new and the people in the workshop had another piece of work to help them feel useful.

An article on Forest Farm in our local paper recently reminded me of this experience. It said "We get contracts from companies that need services such as assembly and packaging of light components, paper folding and envelope insertions, repair and hire of wheelchairs and other assistive devices. We are looking for more of this type of contract work."

If you sub contracted some of your work out to a local sheltered workshop would it free you up to be more productive?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Know Your Self

I haven’t written a Bumble Bee Insight for a couple of months. As I tell new subscribers, I only write them at irregular intervals and when something inspires me. Why is this? It’s a long standing rebellion against routine and predictability. Probably silly at my age but not something that I’m concerned to change.

In my last years at school I always hated going back after the holidays or a weekend. As an adult I tried to analyse why. I did very well at school, had friends, got on with the teachers, so there shouldn’t have been a reason to dislike it. Then it struck me, it only really started after I left Woodmead High and went to Hyde Park High. Woodmead had very different methodologies and a lot of freedom. Hyde Park was a good school but conventional. After having experienced being encouraged to be responsible and apply self leadership I disliked following someone else’s timetable, and rules that didn’t make sense.

In the “Take control of your life” workshop one of the little tricks we share is the value of having rituals or habits. Think how easy brushing your teeth is, because you do it by rote every day. For myself I create little routines, such as doing my back stretches every morning. It works very well for some time – and then it just gets too predictable and I have to change it!

The irony is that I am a very organised person who inherently brings order to chaos wherever I am – but to be happy I need to do this within an environment of variety and change! Having come to these (and other) understandings of myself, allows me to know and use my strengths whilst being joyful. Have you found your strengths? Are you experiencing joy in your home and work life?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Focus and Perseverance

My 15 year old son just called to say he has been awarded a team blazer for athletics. At his school this is a huge honour, especially for grade 10's.

He has the most amazing ability to make up his mind to do something and then to keep working steadily towards it.

Athletics has never been his main sport but before this season began he determined that if he worked hard at his times he had the possibility of earning the cherished team blazer.

He learnt to hurdle for the first time and immediately made the 300m distance his with a silver placing - competing against under 19's as this is only a senior's race. He did his best for the team with the 100m hurdles, inspiring others to improve themselves and so take over from him in this less suited distance. And he put his heart into the 400m flat race, steadily increasing his speed until getting within .06s of the school record.

Throughout the season he struggled with the pain of shin splints from a combination of high training levels and some poor structuring in his own body which required physio and additional rehabilitative exercises. Because he wasn't a senior he sometimes had to give up his place in the 300m hurdles to an older but slower athlete. Throughout the disappointments and the pain and the hard work he never lost sight of the goal - without hurting anyone else he just kept at it.

I am humbled by his focus and perseverance. The recognition is well deserved.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Choosing Subjects - To do or not to do...

Should I take history or biology, accounting or geography? It is that time of the year when Grade 9 learners have to choose their subjects to study for the next three years. Not an easy decision. In some cases a wrong choice could become a big barrier later if applying for tertiary study.

It can be a difficult time both for the learner and for their parent. We want to guide them in the best possible way but we don’t always know what that is and we may unintentionally guide them in a direction that suits us better than the child.

I went through this exercise a few years ago with my daughter and last year again with my son. Different children, different schools, different talents and interests, different final subject choices, but the same process.

So I am going to share my thoughts on how to go about this. Firstly remember that, although it is a bit complicated, learners are allowed to change their minds during Gr. 10 and even Gr. 11 or 12, so there is a very narrow escape route. Secondly the first four subjects are pretty much set. Life Orientation is compulsory as well as two official languages and one of the mathematics. So unless you do more than the minimum seven subjects there are only three true free choices. And thirdly, although I said earlier that an incorrect choice could make tertiary studies difficult this is really only the case where mathematics or science/biology are required - think BSc, engineering, medicine...

Very few children are going to know in Gr.9 what they want to do after school. Even if they think they do there is a strong chance it will change. And if it doesn’t then it may only be their first career, as multiple career lives are becoming much more the norm. Please don’t put your child under any pressure to make career decisions at this stage of their lives.

If your child has already decided what subjects they want to do then you only need to check the list for suitability – jump to ***.

If not, start here, together with your son/daughter (part 1):

• make a list of the subject choices available at the school outside of the compulsory ones mentioned above

• eliminate any subject really disliked or in which pass marks have not previously been achievable

• from the remaining ones your child needs to ask, which do I like the most? (or dislike the least )

• from those chosen as favourites double check that there is understanding of what that subject entails eg does it involve both practical and theory papers (Art & Drama), have they spoken to older learners studying it and/or teachers?

You should now have three or more hot favourites.

***At this point you need to check whether these allow for the possible career paths that your child may choose (part 2).

Take a big piece of paper and write down keywords that encompass your child’s answers to the following questions:

• what is important to you (could be things, values, circumstances…)?

• what makes you feel excited/happy/energetic/warm inside?

• what are you doing when time either seems to fly by or you forget about time completely?

• what have others commented you are good at (could be actions or behaviours)?

• what else have you thought you are good at?

These answers should give some broad ideas of the career areas they may take an interest in. For some this could be quite narrow and for others very varied. Please do not try to limit or narrow it down.

Look at the subjects already selected in the first part and check if they support the general ideas coming out of the second part.

Look at the general areas in part 2 and see if they would obviously require a subject which has not already been selected in part 1. Two of the key subjects in this regard are physical science and life science (the old biology). If so consider adding that subject back in.

By now you should have found your child’s three most popular subjects that have relevance to their possible broad career interests.

To return to the compulsory subjects. As far as languages are concerned these are mostly a personal choice. In South Africa many courses do require English.

The only remaining choice is between mathematics and mathematical literacy. Mathematics is required for entry into many of the courses at tertiary institutions. Therefore choosing mathematical literacy instead should only be done after careful consideration. Think about

• does not having maths exclude the child from any course they are likely to want to study?

• can they cope with maths if they really work at it or have additional help?

I came across a simple little book written by Norma Colley called “Choose the correct school subjects” ( which is a useful resource.

And lastly please share these wise words with your son/daughter.

"Don’t ask yourself what the world needs – ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
                                                                                   Harold Thurman Whitman

Republished for the benefit of parents of this year's Grade 9's

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Story of the Butterfly

I often tell this story when working with people.
Many find it  helps them to accept that others have their own growth paths to walk - that often we can best help our children, family, friends by being supportive and encouraging but NOT interfering.

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly.
One day a small opening appeared.
He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours
as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole.
Then it stopped, as if it couldn't go further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly.
He took a pair of scissors and
snipped off the remaining bits of cocoon.

The butterfly emerged easily but
it had a swollen body and shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch it,
expecting that any minute the wings would enlarge
and expand enough to support the body,
Neither happened!

In fact the butterfly spent the rest of its life
crawling around.
It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness
and haste did not understand:
The restricting cocoon and the struggle
required by the butterfly to get through the opening
was a way of forcing the fluid from the body
into the wings so that it would be ready
for flight once that was achieved.

Sometimes struggles are exactly
what we need in our lives.
Going through life with no obstacles would cripple us.
We will not be as strong as we could have been
and we would never fly.

Thanks to for the written version.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

An accident? Or intentional action?

Yesterday I was at a conference all day so only heard about the train "accident" in Blackheath on the radio whilst driving back.
Today I have read a number of articles about it on News24. If they have their information correct the taxi driver overtook a number of cars, drove on the wrong side of the road and ignored the barrier at the crossing.
This isn't an accident! It is reckless behaviour with a very high possibility of endangering self and others - which tragically is exactly what happened.

My children sometimes do something like place their glass on the floor while watching TV and then knock it over. They would often then say "Sorry, it was an accident." My response would be "No it isn't. An accident is bumping the glass when it is in the middle of a table. When you put the glass on the floor you made it highly likely that it would get knocked over by you or someone else."

We are far too quick to speak about things being accidental these days. If a young child walks into the road in front of a car it is an accident (and a lack of responsibility on the part of their caregiver). If an adult walks into the road, it is reckless and asking to get knocked over.

If we have the knowledge or experience to know the negative consequences of an action then we are responsible for those consequences, if we continue to take the action. It is not an accident.

This may sound like semantics but I think that at a deeper level we are constantly reducing personal responsibility by referring to bad consequences, that could have been avoided, as accidents.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Hosting Your Life

Part way through the World Cup it became evident that we were going to pull it off, despite the prior doubts we had had. We found we could do more than we thought we were capable of. I thought how similar that is to our personal lives. So often we don’t think we can manage something big or new but if we take the plunge, commit ourselves and get on with it, we are surprised at how well we do. (Apparently “waka waka” means “just do it” in Fang.)

There are many other parallels between observing South Africa host the SWC, and our own lives.

For six years detractors argued that a World Cup hosted here would be a disaster but FIFA and the LOC ignored them. When we follow our dreams there are always those that try to stop us – some are envious, some are trying to protect us – we need to believe in ourselves and make our dream happen regardless.

The World Cup took many years of preparation. We need to be patient and tackle our goals one step at a time whilst keeping an eye on where we want to end up. Eventually we will get there.

Many groups of people were involved in pulling off the World Cup. The LOC were only the coordinators. We can get further if we collaborate with others, let their strengths help us whilst we in turn help them.

Most of the things we worried about ahead of the World Cup – crime, lack of public transport, shortage of accommodation – weren’t a problem. In our lives we waste a lot of energy worrying about things but 96% of them never materialise or we can’t do anything about them anyway!

And then just when you think everything is running smoothly a curved ball hits you like the fiasco at King Shaka airport. And if it does just handle it, keep communicating, be prepared to sincerely say sorry and learn from the lesson. Looking back later it will just be a wobble in your path.

And how about reminding ourselves to stand strong against others who want to direct our lives according to their agenda. It’s a pity the government and the LOC didn’t stand up to FIFA. A pity they changed our laws to allow excessive “protection” for the official sponsors. A pity they let a non African record the official cup anthem. Wouldn’t a recording by Freshly Ground on their own, or maybe Jonny Clegg, have been so much more true to the first African World Cup?

But then even FIFA can’t control everything and Waving Flags became the song which I and many others will always associate with this 2010 World Cup. Some things in our lives “just are” and we help ourselves the most when we accept that and direct our energy into areas where we do have real control or influence.

Here is a lovely collection of slides with music, that bring back the wonderful vibe and emotions of the 2010 World Cup - African style. May they inspire you to go after the life you want, no matter what anyone says - ride out the hitches, stay focussed on the goal, accept what is beyond your control and take control of what is. Be the director of Your Life 2010.

Click here to download - takes a few minutes with acknowledgement to ChadM

Friday, 23 April 2010

Love Language - Acts of Service

Last Sunday morning after breakfast, I heard intermittent noises from outside on the driveway – metal clanging on paving. Having got myself ready to go and fetch my son from a rugby camp I met my husband in the doorway. He had just finished rotating the tyres on my car.

I was surprised as I hadn’t asked him to. He had commented the day before that the front tyres were wearing a little and I’d thought “mental note for to-do list - get tyres sorted”. I thanked him and set off.

As I drove along I thought “Gee, that was so nice of him…. It was thoughtful of him to check them for me (as I rarely remember to look)….. He really cares enough to do all that work, on a hot day, to rotate them……”

When I got back I said thank you again and explained how really touched I was. I can’t recall anyone ever doing that unasked before. And having done it myself, many years ago, I know what a hassle it is.

There are two things that he often volunteers to do specifically because he knows I don’t like doing them - washing the lettuce for salad and putting my car away in the garage.

All these things are acts of service, according to Gary Chapman the author of the Five Love Languages series.

Gary teaches that there are five ways in which we express love:
 Words of affirmation – thank you, you are special, well done, …..
 Physical touch – hug, massage, tickling ….
 Quality time – time doing what they want to do with them ….
 Acts of service - freely helping in anyway…..
 Gifts – large or small…..

One of these is our primary language which is the most important to have fulfilled. Thereafter we can appreciate any of the others.

My primary language is physical touch but I now realise that acts of service comes a close second. My husband's is quality time - the one thing that I find the most difficult to fulfil as I am always on the go.

Years ago when I learnt about the five love languages, identified his, and started making more time to be with him, focussed on him/us I saw him and our relationship blossom before my eyes.

Over the years making time has become easier, more of a natural habit and good for me. It is part of how I began exploring the ability to just ‘be’.

What is your primary love language?
What is your partner’s and each of your children’s language?
What about your parents, siblings and friends?
What can you do to fill their primary love tank?
Have you shared yours with your partner?

A lovely piece of relationship advice from Zig Ziglar ‘s Little Book of Big Quotes
“Your mate doesn’t live by bread alone; he or she needs to be “buttered up” from time to time.”

Here is a link to a quick, fun assessment of your own love language.

Originally written as a BBI in March 2008 - links updated

Monday, 12 April 2010

Music for the soul

I stumbled across this most unusual TED video this morning and played it in the background. What a beautiful interlude.

Natalie Merchant is a free spirit. Listen to the end to see how an artist who is so comfortable with herself handles a techie audience.

Natalie Merchant sings old poems to life

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Team Effort

I am sorting out my photos folder and doing some editing. I just came across these two photos from Xmas Day.

So what is their relevance other than perhaps making you hungry :-)

They just reminded me how great it is that my children are now teenagers.

This last Xmas we hosted lunch. After breakfast and opening of presents I was in the kitchen making the starters and main course accompaniments whilst my husband cooked a fillet on the braai, my 15 yr old son made gingerbread biscuits and my 18 yr old daughter assembled her dessert creation. It was the easiest, most enjoyable xmas meal I have ever prepared. So much more fun than doing it all myself. And for sure with more attention to presentation detail!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Opposite of a Palindrome

PALINDROME (def): A word, line, verse, ... etc., reading the same backward as forward (So ... What is the opposite ?)

Now watch the video

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Fitting it all in

Emma Thompson (writer, actress) shared her view on balancing career, family and hobby in an interview on channel24 today. Her answer is so pragmatic - I just loved it.

She was asked “How to balance your career and being a mother with your activism? You’re involved with a number of campaigns, supporting refugees and the opposition to a third runway at Heathrow Airport.”

She replied “Well I just try and parcel it out and say ‘what can I manage in this month…’ Like if I’ve got a deadline or I know, for instance, this month I’ll be away a lot because I’m promoting Nanny McPhee and I’m also taking the family on holiday, so I say ‘what can I achieve?’ and then cut my cloth accordingly. It’s just a bit of a balancing act really and unfortunately it does mean that I say ‘no’ a lot. But you know, I hit my 50th last year and you think to yourself ‘I have to choose very carefully what I do and make sure that it’s important..’ (read the entire interview here)

That last sentence ‘I have to choose very carefully what I do and make sure that it’s important..’ sums up the key to taking control of your life so succinctly. Now all you have to do is put it into practice :-).

1. Let go of the expectation that you need to do everything
2. Identify your values and your priorities
3. Generate personal energy (increases capacity)
4. Develop ritual habits (increases capacity)
5. Simplify your life
6. Learn to say “no”
7. Work from quadrant two – important, not yet urgent
8. Plan your week and your day (max 3 – 6 priorities per day)
9. Use your time efficiently
10. Be in the moment

Have fun

If you want more help with this come along to one of our workshops “Take control of your life” or “Help, I’m a yes-addict”. There is one this Saturday and the other next week Saturday.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Hier kom kak

“Hier kom kak” – my friend Luewellyn’s words greeted me as I opened my Facebook page. I looked to see what they referred to and was lead to the news 24 stories of Eugene Terreblanche’s murder.

I don’t often write on political matters but I was struck by the immediate fear that I felt for our country. And then how my mind jumped right back to 10 April 1993 - driving to the Vaal River on that Easter Saturday and hearing that Chris Hani had been assassinated.

My fear turned to possibilities for hope.
In April 1993 we thought “here come’s big trouble” but as a country we pulled through that. We can pull through this as well.

Afriforum and Solidarity have both called for calm - a most positive response. On the other side of the spectrum President Zuma has called for restraint. If Malema can keep his mouth shut, the ANC backs off from the court case challenging the banning of “kill the boer” and the leaders of Afriforum and Solidarity are influential enough to hold their members, we can weather this storm.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Sell Like a Doctor

The best sales line in the world is this:

"Please confirm that I understand your business correctly..." [Depending on the type of business you are in, you can change the word "business" to something more pertinent like: requirements, situation, problem, etc.]

These are not my own words. They come from an e-mail written by Scott Cundill ( I thought he was so on the money that I asked his permission to share this with acknowledgement.

I often find myself saying to clients "This is how I understand what you have told me. Please stop me if I am getting it wrong ...".

I am an optometrist by training so I know how to take a case history, diagnose and prescribe. I even believe that sales is about meeting a need. However I am not sure that I have really been following the method so I was greatful for Scott's reminder. I hope it helps some of you.

Scott continues
Never, ever begin a sale by blindly listing all the services you offer and then hoping like hell that the client just happens to want one of them. Does a doctor sit back and tell you all the treatments he can offer before he knows what's wrong with you? Of course not!

Think like a doctor!

Diagnose the situation by consulting with the patient, not selling to them. Get them talking about their business or issue - that's what they are passionate about!

• Don't start with an introduction about who you are and where you come from
• Don't use PowerPoint unless you absolutely have to (and only at the end)
• Don't demo a product until you know what problem it will fix!
• Listen, listen, listen... don't talk, talk, talk! (and coming from me, that's a BIG statement!)

Next time you meet with a prospect, try using this killer line. I guarantee you'll see a wonderful change!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

A bit of opposition never hurt anybody

I have just read the following quotation sent to me by
A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites
rise against, not with, the wind. - John Neal

It got me thinking, as so many quotes do. Few of us talk about how easy things are; if things are moving along easily and smoothly we rarely mention it. But when things are challenging, when its not all going our way, when there is some opposition, we talk a lot. And that talk is usually in the form of complaints.

Talking is not a bad thing but if we can find benefits in the opposition we can “kill a few birds with one stone”. Complaining encourages us to think negatively which encourages a negative, self sustaining, reality. However if we search for the benefits in the struggle we start seeing the doughnut instead of the hole. If we do this often enough it becomes habit and we bring about a change of our own mind set. When our mind set changes to one of seeing the positives, we speak positively and our thoughts become positive thoughts. We then encourage a positive reality.

How many of you say “I work best under pressure” or “I always leave it to the last minute and then I get it done”? Not necessarily the best habit to have, but a reminder that opposition often helps us. An athlete rarely does their best time when they compete on their own or in a weak field. To achieve a personal best they need tough competition to help them find that extra ability and determination in themselves. We are athletes of daily life. A bit of opposition gives us the opportunity to find something special in ourselves.

Originally written in Dec 2007