Life’s journey

January 26, 2016

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I took this photograph while on a walk over the weekend. As I processed the image, I was struck by the powerful message that it was conveying.

For me, it reflects our uniqueness and the evolutionary journey of life. We travel alone and leave foot prints, caused by our actions which defines our history. We move into our future, stepping into unknown, virgin territory.

As we travel, we need to deal with the dualistic nature of life, as we encounter light and darkness (shadow).

The climb is up and in the distance we may have a goal that we are moving towards. But we don’t know what lies ahead, as we summit the hill. While the journey can be planned, the challenges may be many and/or unexpected. While decisions may need to be made, try to travel safely, lightly and with love.


Making a significant life decision

January 9, 2016

There will be a time in your life when you will be confronted with having to make a major life decision.

A friend was discussing his intention to emigrate and stated that ‘hanging around is like death’. He added that ‘hanging around in life’ was a difficulty that he had been encountering over time. His life was going nowhere and he was feeling immobilised, stuck and blocked. He seemed to be experiencing a slow death due to the lack of movement in his life.

The creation of reality starts as a thought and a major life decision may take time to make. Even after making the decision, there may be an oscillation between ‘yes-no’, coupled with doubt and fear. Getting conscious change to occur in your life takes determination and courage since there is a homeostasis that has to be challenged.

Your emotional security is wrapped up in the familiar patterns of interaction which define your life. When making a life decision which requires significant change, you will encounter uncertainty and unpredictability. Moving into a future that has not yet unfolded is an uncomfortable mental process, since there is no familiarity to anchor onto. Moving into the unknown, requires trust and takes courage.

The process of making a decision is only the first stage of the movement of change that you may wish to achieve. After the decision, little action steps need to occur. Thinking needs to transform into action. In the initial stages of action, there may be little or no movement. It may feel as if you are not getting any traction. This may activate feelings of despondency and doubt. Your sense of self-empowerment may dwindle.

The unfolding process may have a paradoxical feel to it. Internally, you are likely to experience turbulence with energy pulling and pushing you in a fragmenting way. In contrast, you may feel stagnant, with no significant movement being evident when you assess your external progress. The process will require patience. Creating rigid expectations of how things will unfold and the pace thereof, may inadvertently build up frustration. Instead, try and relax and be open to the unexpected and the range of possibilities that may be waiting to emerge.

It is important to keep the bigger picture in mind, as well as the vision of the necessity to change, as a guiding light in the change process. These are your mental anchors. Furthermore, work on keeping emotionally light since the taxing emotional process may make you feel heavy and stuck.

Energy can be likened to fire, as well as, to water. Keeping the metaphor of moving water in mind can assist you in the process. Healthy, clear mountain water flows naturally, moving around rocks and obstacles. Water is fluid and gentle as it makes its way flowing down the mountain.

As I walked along the little river meandering in the forest, I couldn’t stop thinking about the conversation of ‘hanging around is like death’.

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Labels and water-tight language

December 3, 2015

In consulting with clients, I have noticed how problems are given an absolute, immovable, dominant status in the way that they are spoken about. Words such as ‘always’ and ‘never’ highlight the water-tight nature of the problem being encountered. Comments such as: ‘my husband is always late’, ‘my daughter never does her homework’, ‘my boss is always in a bad mood’, ‘my wife never listens to what I am telling her’ reflects how one may inadvertently put those we are having difficulty with into a sealed, water-tight box.

Water-tight language about the problem generally entraps a person, and restricts and limits possibilities moving forward into the future.

Due to the co-operative nature of energy and informational flow, there is an ongoing recursive loop between how we think, how we speak and how we experience reality. In essence this means that what we think, is what we will see and experience. Linked to this idea is the notion of how we may unconsciously create a label of another person which then determines how we perceive and interact with this person. In a previous article I covered in detail how labels get created, resulting in self-fulfilling prophecies. In essence, a label gets created when an authoritative observer dogmatically attributes and describes certain behaviours to another person in a water-tight way, and then continues to perpetuate this perspective over time. A label starts as a seed, that eventually grows into a huge tree.

One way to break labels is to question the assumptions that you may be making when you explain or describe an experience. Engaging in a reflective conversation that offers space helps to highlight and reveal the tacit assumptions that you may be making when you try and give meaning to your experiences with others.

I enjoy long walks in the country side. I pass by a tree that I have developed a connection (relationship) with. I find myself taking many photographs of this tree. While the tree is fixed in the ground in a permanent way, I have noticed that this tree does not have an absolute, fixed perceptual energy to it. It seems to change depending on the time of day that I walk pass, the emotional mood that I am in and the climatic conditions that are prevailing at a given point in time. These factors tend to combine to co-create a certain reality of the tree for me. I share some of the photographs to reveal the range of realities that are reflected by this lone beautiful tree.

Just after sunrise today

After sunrise

A week ago after snow

After snow

The above two photographs were taken with a 100mm lens but from the exact opposite viewpoint when I took the photographs.

Two months ago just after sunset

After sunset

Beautiful autumn colours in October

Beautiful autumn colours

Thick mist today

Thick mist

The above three photographs were taken more or less from the exact same viewpoint, with the same wide angle lens.

A creative perspective

A creative perspective

The above photograph was a creative expression of how I felt about the tree. I did a zoom burst to capture this image.


Cannot separate sport, politics and national psyche

September 20, 2015
The fragile expanse

The fragile expanse

The early morning sunrise in the Kruger National Park reflects the beautiful, yet fragile natural expanse of our environment. Fragile, since there is always the threat that man may intervene and disrupt the natural inter-connective harmony that underpins all of the relationships that exist in the healthy, balanced ecosystem.

World cup sporting competitions are the center stage where a country can reveal its team on the field of play. It also reveals the national psyche of the country and the degree of political interference that exists in the sporting system. Just recently, there has been the controversy of the drug scandal in Russia where most of the athletes are accused of using performance enhancing drugs in an organised way with the knowledge and support of the Russian authorities.

On a national level, a sporting team will reflect the nature of the society that it is embedded in. The nature and quality of the performance of a national sporting team can be used as a barometer of the overall emotional and energetic state of the country that it is representing.

Over the past year, the performances of the South African cricket and rugby teams are of concern since they are reflecting a disintegration of standards and values that is busy unfolding in South Africa. The soccer team has been functioning below potential in an unorganised way for a number of years now and the cricket and rugby teams are following suit.

Our cricket team’s semi-final loss in the World Cup in March and their poor performance against Bangladesh (a team that has recently gained test match status) in July and now in India as they capitulate in the test series reflects that the quality of performance is on a slippery slope downwards.

The South African rugby team also showed worrying signs that all was not well when they lost every match in the rugby championship (to New Zealand, Australia and Argentina) and then to Japan in the first match in the world cup tournament. This came as a major shock to the rugby world, since the Japanese had previously only won one world cup match against Zimbabwe in 1991 in all of their previous world cup encounters. On an energetic level, the South African rugby team were lethargic during the match. There was little or no urgency and commitment. Despite the wealth of experience in the team, there seemed to be no leadership coming from the players on the field. The team did not appear to have a co-ordinated, integrated game plan. In contrast, the Japanese showed a resilience and confidence that comes from a highly focused team that had a unified vision.

There were obviously macro, as well as micro factors that may have played there part in causing the South African team to perform so poorly against Japan. On a micro level, was everyone on board and committed to the game plan? Given how the team played, serious questions needed to be asked about the leadership, both on and off the field. The team did not seem to have a clear strategy on the field. They did not appear to have a ’cause’ worth dying for. There seemed to be no ‘buy in’ to the game plan, if there was one. If anything, the team seemed depressed. Given the very low energetic state of the team, what may have sucked the energy out of the team?

On a macro level, there was so much controversy about the selection of the rugby team, with a small political party wanting a court order to be issued to bar the team from going to the world cup.

After the loss against Japan, the rugby coach Heyneke Meyer apologised to the nation, much in the same way as the cricket captain did after the team lost to New Zealand in the semi-final. These apologies reflect the huge amount of responsibility that these two leaders felt in wanting to ‘bring back the cup’ to the nation. From a psychological perspective, the cup is seen as something concrete to unify a nation that is in desperate need of a unified vision. Winning the cup could reveal that the team had triumphed against all the opposition and that we as South Africans, were the best in the world (despite the odds being stacked against us), which highlights a sense of entitlement.

Sport should unite, and bring hope to a nation. Sport offers a context where all young athletes can aspire to higher and higher levels of success. Team sports reflect dynamics such as cohesion, commitment, discipline and integrative energy. But these healthy dynamics will not emerge if there is constant political interference in the team processes, where a nation’s distorted psyche is projected onto its team and/or where a country is wrapped up in societal and political dynamics that have no unified vision due to poor and/or corrupt leadership.

In South Africa, sport is wrapped up in the political psyche of a country that has had historical trauma, and which continues to be divisive in its perspective of a vision going forward. The performance of the three sporting codes of soccer, rugby and cricket highlight the political and societal dynamics and issues that we are busy struggling with in the country.


The paradox of ongoing political interference

March 31, 2015

After sending my letter to the management of the 2019 team, I read with interest the controversy surrounding the selection of Philander for the World Cup semi-final match against New Zealand, coupled with the intention of Cricket South Africa to increase the quota of players of colour in both the provincial and franchise teams (which was announced a day after the semi-final loss).

A system consists of a social, economic and political domain. There is an inter-connected fabric of the parts (ideas) that make up the whole and if ideas continually clash, then the cohesiveness of the whole will be threatened.

The political level of a system defines what rules and regulations need to be applied to ‘what, when, where and how’ people associate and interact. Since political processes have to do with controlling energy and information flow, the system will become stuck and restricted over time if there is continual political interference.

Given that the system is sensitive to prescription and manipulation, most political interventions tend to create unbalance, mistrust and subversion. And with this, there will be issues or ‘hotspots’ that can not be spoken about. The system will begin to shut down on an informational level. While everyone in the system will be aware of these ‘unspokens’, no one will dare to verbalise or speak about them. It will be too emotionally dangerous and unsafe to do so. Only an outsider will have the freedom and maneuverability to mention or talk about the ‘unsaid’.

The paradox of ongoing political interference is that other problems on other levels are created for the system. As a case in point, the loss against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final highlights the paradox of how a born and bred South African player (Grant Elliott was developed and nurtured in the system), played a significant part for his adopted nation to beat the very system that had excluded (or rejected) him.

While young black South African cricketers need to be cared for and nurtured, so do all young aspiring South African cricketers need care and encouragement. No distinction along racial lines should ever be made. The loss of young white aspiring South African players to other cricket nations is already happening, and is likely to increase if the quota of players of colour increases. This is as much of a serious problem as is the need to create opportunity for youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds. The challenge is to have a process of inclusion where everyone feels that they belong.

Administration, operation (playing) and observation (public and media) levels are inter-connected. If the administration of Cricket South Africa cannot free themselves of linear, prescriptive thinking then it is unlikely that the team of 2019 will be able to shift their old thinking patterns. More of the ‘same old, same old‘ can then be expected and in the process the observing nation may lose hope and interest in the team. Without public and sponsorship support there will be no emotional and observational context for the team to grow in. Without this support, the team will wither and shrink. The constant reference to ‘making the nation proud and wanting to win for the nation’ by AB de Villiers, highlights his acute awareness of this. The administration needs to seriously consider this. Applying short-sighted, simplistic thinking to the complex issue of inequality may unleash processes that threaten the fabric of the national team that is expected to perform at its highest level. Because systems act in waves, circles and spirals there is a tipping point when the system starts a decaying and fragmenting process. If this unfolds, not even a passionate, committed and loyal captain such as AB de Villiers will have the energy to hold things together.

 


A letter to the management of the 2019 South African cricket team

March 28, 2015

Like all South Africans, I have been witnessing the painful processes that all of the SA cricket teams have gone through at World Cup tournaments. I have previously written about possible solutions to the problem being encountered, but I am not too sure if any of the information has been received by any of the players or teams. I have also considered that there may be a rejection of some of my ideas.

The intention of my letter is not to cause more pain to you, but to offer a new way of looking at the past problems, as well as to move into the future with a clear vision.

Lighting up the sky

Lighting up the sky

As you know, the team choked again at the 2015 cricket World Cup tournament. While this may sound harsh, I believe that the first step to any revival is to truthfully acknowledge the problem. It is not emotionally weak to do so. It takes a lot of courage to look at a painful problem, especially if it has caused much embarrassment.

In the final overs of the semi-final match against New Zealand, the intensity of the situation got too much for the players. Two easy run-out opportunities were missed due to the phenomenon of ‘rushing’ (this reflects a desperate, panicked and impatient mind-set). Further, two collisions occurred on the field between players going for the same catch, which reflects restricted peripheral awareness (this occurs when the mind gets restricted due to the stress in competition).

Over the years, the teams going to the World Cup tournaments have been repeating the same mistakes over and over again. This repeated pattern has created the historical problem of choking, that you now need to address. Each team that had previously gone to the World Cup tournament had the opportunity to resolve this issue, but failed. I believe that their failure was embedded in a way of thinking, speaking and acting that inadvertently created the very problem that they were trying to resolve.

Please don’t despair about this. You have an opportunity to resolve this issue. But this will require a new philosophy and paradigm of thinking, resulting in a new way of being on and off the cricket field.

As you know, all of the teams leaving the shores have had excellent camaraderie and team spirit. They have also been totally committed on the field and have always given 100% effort. Further, I do not feel that their cricket skills have been an issue. So this is all good. However, the fundamental emotional and mental issues that all of the previous teams have struggled with are on a completely different level.

I know that the teams going to the World Cups have had sports psychologists, mental conditioning coaches, motivational gurus and expert consultants to assist them with the mental aspects of the tournament. But I don’t know what is discussed, said or applied to the teams by these professionals. However, confidential information about strategies and/or techniques that these professionals suggest tend to find themselves in the media. I am not too sure why, especially since this should be a private, confidential process. For example, through a press article I read that in this World Cup the idea of ‘show no weakness’ was very much part of the mental drive in the team. Despite this mantra, however, I was rather surprised to see how the players reacted on the field after the loss against New Zealand. It became apparent to me that in failure and disappointment the ability of the players to show ‘no weakness’ was not possible and instead a child-like emotional reaction and to some extent ‘self-pity’ was revealed to the world. I am sure that you as the 2019 captain will have to deal with these images when the press again confronts you with the harsh reality of failures and choking at the World Cup. In other words, the 2015 failure has added another layer of emotional pain that you will have to deal with.

If you do decide to bring in a mental consultant for your preparation, be sensitive to the confidential nature of the process. Do not go public with any intervention that may be decided on since this reduces the effectiveness of the work that you may be doing on the mental level.

I mentioned that a new paradigm of thinking and acting was necessary if you wanted to win the World Cup. This paradigm is based in quantum physics, co-evolved reality creation, energy and informational flow, process-orientated thinking and zen-like attitudes. While this may sound rather complex and difficult to comprehend, it is not.

You will need to take the team through a process of change and maturation, in which you heal past pain, and learn from past mistakes and approach the challenge of competition in a more co-operative way. While this may sound strange, I would like you to consider this. Every team at the World Cup is playing for their country and wants to bring the trophy home. Every team tries its best to win. Every team feels the pain of losing. Your team is no different. Every opponent your team faces will be challenging you to produce your best, just like you will be challenging them to be at their best. That is the nature of competition.

As part of the transformation in your team, you will need to shift the sense of entitlement and intense desperation in the team to prove its worth to the world. Be mindful of not promising to bring the Cup home, before any match is played. There is no need to tell everyone how important it is for the nation that you win, or that you need to make the nation proud by winning. The nation will always be proud of you if you deal with victory and loss in a humble and honourable way, after you have given 100% commitment on the day of competition. It is not necessary to speak about this, actions are far more powerful. Let the nation see for themselves.

It is important for you to consider how one creates realities by what you say in public. Think of life as being a co-operative energy flow between what you think and say and the way that life responds to you. I also believe that you have half a pen to write your life story, life has the other half. This is very much the same when it comes to competing against another team, batsmen or bowlers. The opposition are also influencing the process. As a case in point, I was impressed with the way the New Zealand batsmen chased down the target of 298 in only 43 overs, batting second. They were remarkably calm and emotionally balanced. They were also part of the story of the match. They had half their pen to make a mark in their history to go through to the finals.

You need to be able to assess your abilities in a realistic way. Most South African teams tend to over-exaggerate their abilities and under-estimate the task at hand. For example, in November last year, the one-day team were beaten 4-1 by Australia. In the round robin pool matches of the world cup tournament, the team lost to India and Pakistan. In the semi-final, they lost to New Zealand by 4 wickets. On reflection, we lost to teams that are considered ‘cricket playing nations’. The team may have built up the expectation of being able to win the World Cup by putting too much emphasis on their emphatic, one-sided, results against teams such as UAE, Ireland, Zimbabwe and a disinterested West Indies.

Every cricketer, coach, support staff and administrators (past and present) is wrapped up in the problem that you are trying to resolve. Given this, very little new information can be generated internally. That’s the nature of the situation that you find yourself in.

As part of the new way of thinking and the new transformational process you could consider some of the following ideas:

  • Bring in poets, philosophers, artists and ordinary every-day people with inspirational stories to address your team on an ongoing basis as part of a development programme. Group discussions and individual reflective writing needs to follow. This will help to expand your creativity, heighten your sensitivity and take you out of the restrictive world of cricket.
  • Each member of your team needs to do a soft, internal exercise which will help balance the energy system. Doing a martial art, tai chi, yoga, meditation or pilates will assist in developing an inner balance for your players.
  • The team needs to go through an ongoing group therapy process to heal past pain, and to develop an internal dynamic that resolves issues effectively. Linked to this, is the idea that each player develops more self-awareness, and becomes a leader of self.
  • Each player needs to commit to a hobby and/or field of study and this needs to be monitored by you. This process will help broaden the interests of a player outside of the world of cricket.
  • Every player needs to do some charity work. This should be ongoing and not be done as a once-off promotional stunt, with media attention. This will help ground your players emotionally since they will see a bigger picture of life.

The beautiful butterfly emerges after a remarkable transformational process.

So I am sure you have one significant question in your mind at the moment? So after developing the team as described above, will the team be guaranteed to win? Unfortunately, no. I hope that this does not scare you. The process of human transformation goes beyond winning. A new narrative is required for your team and it should not be judged on a result in a tournament. Instead, the purpose of the transformation is to develop a more grounded, emotionally balanced energetic system in each of your players.

I am reminded of the story of the 2 samurai warriors who were pitted against each by their respective emperors to fight to the death to see which empire would be victorious so as to annex the other. There was a lot at stake. Before the fight each warrior went into solitary meditation for about a week. To meditate on what? The story goes that they meditated on their death. They made peace with dying. They did this since the worry of death during the fight would have distracted their focus which would paradoxically, result in their death. They both knew that only one would remain, yet there was a serenity in both warriors as they faced each other.

As in previous teams, you will have a great group of players who will be proud to represent their country. The South African spirit is resilient. The challenge is to combine this with a culture of learning that facilitates a quantum leap in your team.

All the best for your upcoming challenge in 2019.


Same old, same old

February 7, 2015

Every cricket team leaves our shores with much hope, promise and high expectancy to win an ICC tournament, only to return with regret, failure, disappointment and shock.

The 2015 World Cup team left with a send off that usually only champions receive on their return, after winning a major tournament. So much pomp and ceremony and embarrassing speeches from dignitaries about losers, winning, uniting our nation and slogans were the order of the day. There was lots of winning talk, lots of excitement, lots of hype. Our team was paraded on a stage wearing designer sunglasses and jewelry, supporting the latest fashion hair styles, and smiling and waving to the adoring crowd. Interviews were conducted and television cameras rolled to record all the positive, obvious and meaningless talk from the players.

I remember the acknowledged embarrassment of the successful Brazilian soccer coach Carlos Parreira, when our national soccer team paraded through the streets of Sandton before the start of the 2010 World Cup. When asked what he thought of the parade, he stated that he had never been involved in a pre-tournament parade, without any results to warrant it.

At a press conference the South African cricket coach stated that the Proteas were mentally strong. He made a similar comment in November last year on his team’s return after losing 4-1 in a series against Australia. The captain, AB de Villiers stated that his team should have beaten the Australians since they were always in winning positions but the critical moments in the matches went against them. If what they were saying is to be believed, then without realising it the coach and captain were in fact inadvertently acknowledging that the team had actually choked in their matches against Australia.

It seems that the leadership in the team do not have any idea about how the self-fulfilling prophecy of choking gets perpetuated. Adamant denial, exaggerated expectancy and intense desperation to prove one’s worth are the nutrients for sustaining the choking issue at tournaments.

There have been comments made that this cricket team is different from those in the past. I am not too sure what criteria has been used to draw such a conclusion. While we do have our match-winning super stars in AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, the choking issue by-passes the individual level and instead exists in the unconscious, group psyche of the team.

There are going to be many unexpected, critical moments during the tournament that will test the psyche of whoever is in the middle of that particular unfolding event. The choking process can be likened to a haunted house. While there may be bravado while the sun is still up, at the stroke of 12 at midnight the nerve of whoever is in the haunted house will be severely tested.

I wish our cricket team the best of luck in the tournament. However, I feel that there is so much of the ‘same old, same old’ again in how the team and its leadership and administration have gone about speaking about the need to bring the trophy home. Such words are the building blocks of creating the very reality for us to fold under pressure again. Having said this, I hope that I am proved wrong.

During a recent visit to the Kruger National Park, I watched in amazement at how a little pied kingfisher hunted for its trophy. It was rewarded with a trophy that I couldn’t believe that it was capable of getting. It was a real treat just watching it enjoy its meal.

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