Relational Hierarchy

Owe no man nothing but to love him.

Jesus is the perfect role model for many things, including interpreting relationships. He loved everyone, enough to die for even those that hated him. Therefore his treatment of people in the “friends” group stands out more than most as it is highly unusual.


There is a hidden pressure to provide people access into your life simply because you rub shoulders with them on a daily basis. When someone within your vicinity does something for you, and this can sometimes be monumental, it feels almost rude not to include them in your life. We are to love our neighbour as we love ourself. We are NOT, however, required to make our neighbour privy to each and every circumstance we experience on this earth. 

Friendship is a vital asset but it is to be earned. While that may sound arrogant, it isn’t. To form a meaningful friendship an investment of the greatest expense is required; time. In case you haven’t noticed, time isn’t a renewable resource. Therefore as a good steward of the time you’ve been given on this earth, it becomes absolutely essential that you invest yours in meaningful people – your friends.

Jesus loved everybody – but he had no obligation to keep everyone within the same circle. He had the 3, Peter, James and John, that were allowed to see him in more vulnerable states than the 12 and the others. Even the terminology tells you that this relationally intelligent leader had hierarchy regarding access to his private life. I advocate that we should too.

(Based on the first chapter of ‘Relational Intelligence’ by Judah Smith, Dharius Daniels)

Tipping the Scale

If you were to gain a cent you wouldn’t consider yourself rich. If you were to continue increasing in value by a single cent, you probably wouldn’t be as excited as if you were given a briefcases full of $100 notes. However, if you continuously gain a cent, there will come a time, a moment when that single cent moves you from whatever you were to very rich.

-Self-stylised paraphrase from Atomic Habits’ by James Clear

Habit-forming isn’t glamorous. It may feel similar to gaining wealth at the rate of a cent at a time, sometimes even less. The one that reaps the reward is the one who accepts that their ‘wealth’ will come a cent at a time.

Will you be that person? Will you stick to it long enough to tip the scale?

Image from Scale

All Fun & Games

What is success really? Is it only success when you win the gold medal at the Olympics? Is it only success when you graduate with a first-class degree? Both of these and whatever other milestones you can imagine are indeed worthwhile, special personal accolades not to be scoffed at. But what if there was a more sustainable form of achievement?

When I was 13, my cousins introduced me to a PS2 game called Pro Evolution Soccer 2009. At that time, it was one of the best football simulations you could have. I remember being in awe of the graphics and uttering dumbfounded statements like, “That looks exactly like Rooney!”

After resounding losses that included conceding a goal scored by the opposition goalkeeper dribbling past my entire team, I was overjoyed at the opportunity to practise the game, uninterrupted, when they loaned it to me.

For about a month during the long break between primary and high school, I enjoyed massive success in the various game modes at amateur difficulty. It was during one of these one-sided drubbings that I asked myself this game-altering question, “What if I play it at the highest difficulty?”

What ensued was compounded frustration. I wasn’t keen on learning to beat the highest difficulty if the AI was controlling a poorly equipped team. For the true rush that comes with conquest, I needed to beat Top Player while the AI was using the best team in the game, F.C. Barcelona.

I lost once… twice… ten times in a row. The process was almost monotonous. It was incredibly exasperating… until it wasn’t. I started seeing a pattern in the play. “They are going to pass it there and score,” I’d started thinking, and that’s exactly what happened. I failed to prevent the goal but there was a different joy. I’d seen it. I’d gone past the point of thinking things happened by chance. I’d overcome the initial bamboozlement and was now becoming familiar with the system. Most importantly, I was enjoying learning.

The outcome I hoped for and desired was ultimately to play better football than Top Player, the highest difficulty on PES 2009. I didn’t manage to do that in one day or one week. I lost more than I have any desire to recall. But the reason I was able to get past the hurdle of consistent losses, the monotony of picking up the ball in my net, was because I started enjoying the process. Analysing the passing patterns, conceding fewer goals, making a successful tackle, all those innocuous events started to have a broader meaning. I was getting better and knowing that was enough.

What if we embrace monotony in the name of getting better? What if we focus on the process as opposed to just focusing on the outcome. Perhaps then, the journey will feel better than the destination.

The Power Of Monotony: A Prologue

Monotony – lack of variety and interest; tedious repetition and routine.

No wonder the word has a bad rep. Factory workers know exactly what this feeling is like. You’re working with machine parts, no variety or variation to the procedure. Repetitive work. Just thinking about it makes me want to take a break.

“We are what we repeatedly do.”

– Will Durant ‘The Story Of Philosophy’

If you prefer the exact quote from the man with whom this famous saying was drawn from:

“As it is not one swallow or a fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.”

– Aristotle

If we believe the statement (and it is true and very easy to prove) what would be the result of automating traits that we consider advantageous? I know brilliant people. Incredible conversationalists, writers that can blow your socks off, astonishingly, beautifully sculptured gym enthusiasts, guitarists that would make a deaf person fall in love with music… the last is hyperbole but I am certain you get my point. What separates those people from the people they were prior is repeated action. Like a stonemason chipping away at a boulder what started as a vague form found shape through repeated chiselling and over time morphed into a thing of beauty. The process of chipping away at rock is tedious, repetitive. It takes a long time and a lot of effort.

But the apparent hurdle, that elusive activation energy that yields the results that many aspire to have but never grasp – it’s annoyingly simple and incredibly unglamorous. It’s called monotony and it’s more powerful than we give it credit for. We’ll be looking at how to harness repetition to enrich our lives.

Get excited, I certainly am.


PS my previous post was about appreciating people while they’re still here to be appreciated. Just a few minutes ago I was still celebrating my 24th birthday. I was more than overwhelmed. For that, I am truly grateful. You’d think this blog has a far greater reach than it actually does judging by the volume, depth of feeling and variety of messages of appreciation I received. Maybe it does.  But even if it doesn’t, you have my thanks and you know who you are.

While She’s Living

The original plan was to start off a series on habit forming today, and we will, just a few days late. The Power Of Monotony coming to you on Monday. Today however, let’s make an effort to celebrate those we love… While we still can


Give her flowers while she’s living,

Love while she’s breathing,

Hugs and kisses while she’s still feeling.

She won’t be here forever – neither will you.

But you have now.

No point in thinking what you could have done.

Pour yourself out.

Love fully and deeply.

So when they leave they go fully deposited with your love,

And not with a rebounded cheque.


I don’t listen to rap much anymore but Eminem’s ‘When I’m Gone’ has embedded itself in my mind. The lyrics are brilliant and haunting. We should really celebrate people when they’re around. If we do so, when that time comes when you’ll no longer see their smile again, you can:

‘Just carry on don’t mourn
Rejoice every time you hear the sound of my voice, just know that
I’m lookin’ down on you smilin’
And I didn’t feel a thing so baby, don’t feel no pain, just smile back…’

 

Principle of (Personal) Release

Warning the following content is overwhelmingly good news. Proceed with caution.


To give this message some context for a long time I’ve had random moments where an event from the past, recent or otherwise, will just bubble up from some dark corner and come to the forefront. I would find myself reliving an embarrassing moment or dumb, hurtful statement spoken or decision made. The feelings that accompanied that experience would hit anew, fresh as if it were a ten-second old incident. It would be a very random occurrence too, doing some mindless task like washing the dishes or taking out the trash. I believe that’s evidence of undealt with baggage. Maybe it’s not, but below is an advisory antidote.


Dr Edwin Louis Cole, the late pioneer of the men movement in the USA, popularised a biblical truism which will be the basis of this, our conclusion in the Vulnerability series. 

“The sins you forgive are released, and the sins you don’t forgive are retained in your life. If you forgive, you release. By not forgiving, you retain. So simple. So profound. So divine. So true.”

I’ve known that phrase for a while. I know for a fact I haven’t applied it consistently but there has been some concerted effort on my part. One area I totally spaced out on was on the aspect of self-forgiveness. The very concept eluded me for its sheer alienness. “Forgive… myself? What drugs are you on gancho?” From that Christian worldview – where the wonderful, too-good-to-be-true news of Jesus paying the ultimate price and taking the punishment for my own wrongdoing so I can be reconciled with the Father by believing in Him – it was more than a little difficult to ingrain the idea of the wrong party being the one to also dole out forgiveness. 

“I did the wrong but I forgive you.” It sounds absolutely absurd – except it isn’t. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ve probably encountered the powerful speech tool “I am”. If not you’ll want to check it out here: Self-Esteem Building Hacks

We’ve talked about being vulnerable with others and being real. Can we take that step to be real with ourselves too?

Ok, so maybe it’s starting to make sense. Maybe I can buy into forgiving myself for foolish decisions I’ve made in the past, releasing the thing that I’ve actively tried to bury deep in my heart… but, how? How do I do that? I’ll take a leaf from a page a friend of mine shared with me just this Friday. It sounded corny. I almost didn’t do it. Almost – but it worked for me. I trust it will for you too.

The Process:

Look yourself in the mirror.

Hold your stomach.

Take a deep breath.

Then talk.

Say your name aloud, affirm that life is a journey where you make mistakes and learn from them.

Say I forgive you *insert your name here* for the bad decisions you made.

Now it’s time to stand up and walk.

And then address the thought of regret.

Whenever it jumps up again say scripture. (If you don’t know any appropriate one I would suggest looking up “verses about forgiveness and being made new”)


That’s it. You can breathe out now and walk tall and free. Thanks for reading. We’ll be jumping into habit formation on Thursday.

Image Source: Heart Shaped Lock

 

Real Steel

Hey. So I’ve decided to take a leaf out of James Clear’s life and update this blog biweekly, on Mondays and Thursdays. This will give me the opportunity to read more and add invaluable, researched content and not just opinions on this blog. It will also give you the opportunity to reflect and apply anything that impresses you. Till Monday, stay awesome.


‘There could be a freak accident
There could be a fatal disease
I know we hate to think about it
But it’s as real as you and me
It’s as real as you and me’

-Prophetess Rihanna

I’ll give props where they’re due, I heard the prophet Riri joke from Michael Todd first. However, the joke isn’t the focus but the lyrics. Can we sing those without any hypocrisy? When I ask this question I have to zoom in on “as real as you and me.” How real are you? Are you like the machine from Real Steel where actual props were created computer graphics served only as an embellishment?

To cap off the discussion we’ve had about being vulnerable I’d like to urge you to take a look at yourself… and then make a change!

-MJ

No, that’s not it. I mean to take a deep, introspective look at yourself. Go on a self date. Sounds mad odd but with quarantine in place that should be easy right? Find out what you really like, what your pet peeves are. What shows do you enjoy watching? What would you do when no one was there to pressure you or shame you into doing something else. When I was 10 I had the immense privilege of sharing 2 hours a day on a bus ride with someone I looked up to. I guess it was just pure awe at how well they adapted to the environment and at the way popularity appeared to wrap around them like a second skin. This person had an annoying habit though. (Insert petty Ayanda here.) They always seemed to know every lyric of every song that came out that week. That’s perfectly fine. What was irritating was the apparent, irresistible compulsion to ask me if I had heard the songs in question. I wasn’t one to keep up to date with music. I have no idea what spirit would possess them whenever I said this, which was perhaps 97% of the time, but it drove them to do that undoubtedly annoying thing that’s probably happened to you at least once.

“Don’t you know this song?” they would ask.

“Nope,” I’d respond, candid and more than a little uninterested.

“But surely, you know it?” they would ask again.

This is when I would think to myself, How bad am I at communicating? I’m sure I was straightforward in my acknowledgement of not knowing the song.

“Never heard of it. Don’t know a single word.”

“HoW cOUld yOu NOt kNOW thIs SoNG?” they’d conclude and then go on to recite the whole thing splendidly.

In retrospect, I find myself truly hoping that they enjoyed listening to music in their spare time and didn’t spend countless hours watching TRACE with a notebook in hand to impress others by their knowledge of lyrics. I truly hope that this was a manifestation of their authentic self (even though it was more than slightly annoying at the time), and not a try-hard imitation.

Does this story have a point? Uhm… sure. I hope so! Oh yes, it’s come back to me now.

I was so firm in my identity as a non-music lover that for three years on the same bus, Mr Music finally stopped badgering me perhaps after one too many occasions where the stunt didn’t have the desired effect. I assume he relented when it finally dawned on him that I was significantly more passionate about Animorphs, Goosebumps or any other work of fiction I had in hand every single day.

I had the option to change from my real self to fit in with the purveyor of swag (in the form of lyrics) but even then, as a 10-year-old boy, I knew that such a change would be inauthentic and therefore, not worth it.

That was one instance. My goal is to make that ubiquitous throughout my life.

In the words of popular comedian Andrew Schulz, renowned for his ability to tell jokes with hard punchlines while flying in the face of being politically correct:

By being truly authentic you do not need to gravitate to the world, the world will gravitate to you.

Check out the last 5 minutes of his TedX talk here: Andrew Schulz On Authenticity

Image source: WallpaperAccess

Thanks for reading! See you on Monday.

Kryptonite Tolerant

Vulnerability is akin to shedding off armour, sliding off the carapace that shrouds a soft centre or prying apart the ribcage surrounding the fragile heart. It’s potentially, devastatingly torturous and no one likes pain.

This right here encapsulates the majority of the overwhelming response to yesterday’s post ‘Pride Barrier‘. I encourage more of you to comment below as I feel your responses add so much more to the discussion.

In the previous post, we also pointed out that to form real deep and meaningful relationships that a shedding needs to occur. We need to disassemble the impenetrable aura around us to be better able to cleave to others. It’s dangerous. However, the possible results are amazing.

Imagine an environment where your authentic self is loved and accepted, where your gifts and talents are not envied but supported and perhaps even honed by those around you. Imagine crying without the fear of looking foolish, laughing as goofily as you desire knowing that you won’t be turned away. That is the beautiful alternative.

Yes, unfortunately, the people around us are human. That means they will make mistakes and be prejudiced. That means they’ll be hypocritical and exercise their free will even when it is detrimental to you, me or themselves. If we’re honest with ourselves we’ll realise we have the same tendencies, if not on the surface deep down that we may have to fight against; I for one definitely do.

Some people will say no. They will reject your true self because you’re not their cup of tea. Maybe they are a coffee person or a milkshake addict or whatever… but if you are authentic rejection will happen at some point and that’s ok.

What if… what if we embrace the rejection(s) because they will ultimately point us to where we will be accepted? If we looked at rejection and the pain that comes with it in the sphere of relationships as a signpost pointing us in another direction, could we possibly develop stronger hearts? I’m not talking about hearts sheathed in ice or hearts of stone but something akin to a muscle you’ve worked out several times, tearing those fibres and replacing them with multiple, stronger and tougher ones. Like salespeople who have come to understand that they will not make the sale every time, is it not possible for us to be able to overcome this seemingly immense hurdle, this emotional kryptonite and become (you guessed it) kryptonite tolerant? At the very least it’s something I believe is worth trying. Do you?

I’ve heard this too often, “Ayanda, I’m sick of these phoney friendships man. People don’t really care. Everyone out here is fake.”

Maybe it’s time to take a stand and start being the real people in our circles. Authentic not just as an act but as part of our identity.

I don’t want to be disingenuous any longer. I hate the fruits of it. There’s this graphic proverb that states: As a dog returns to its vomit so a fool repeats his folly. If I hate the fruit of invulnerability it only makes sense that I stop doing so. A way of looking at insanity is repeating the same thing over and over while expecting different results. (The irony is that I have an amazing topic titled ‘The Power Of Monotony’ in the pipeline.) Even though it feels insane choosing vulnerability in this instance perhaps it’s time to change.

To quote Batman in the dreadful Justice League movie as he tried to motivate a mortified Barry Allen, “Save one. Save one person.”

Similarly, when you’ve made the decision to be vulnerable, start with one person and see where it goes.

Just do it.

-Nike

Image source Batman-News

Pride Barrier

Aaaaaand we’re back. I had a tonne of topics I wanted to talk about today courtesy of absorbing a tonne of information from a bunch of different sources. There was a major conflict in my mind whether to go with a series about habits primarily drawing from the wonderful book I am reading right now, ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear or to focus on something else I’ve been exploring for quite some time now – vulnerability. Both are incredible topics. The amazing thing is if you choose to look at it the way I did, both are intrinsically linked. I’ll explore that with you later, so expect more posts about vulnerability and forming habits you would consider positive as well as breaking habits you do not desire to have manifest in your life.

As always keep in mind these are things I have explored or am currently exploring personally so the revelation is not exhaustive but progressive and I recommend a DIY approach to find out if it works for you too.


‘Let’s talk about pride baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things and that may be.’

It certainly is corny using a slightly remixed version of the song ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ by Salt-N-Pepa but I won’t apologise for it. Could this very statement be a representation of the aforementioned pride I’m addressing in this post? No, but I’m glad you’re paying attention.

Why don’t we go all-in in our relationships? Why do we sometimes put on masks to hide our genuine selves? Have you ever felt this way yourself? I have, and I think I came up with an answer that accurately depicts what goes on in my mind.

I hate failure, as most of us do. It brings this cloud of negativity with it which if you haven’t intentionally learned to deal with failure can be a real (to simplify it) bummer and affect you and your productivity for an extended period of time. What I would do to mitigate that was to then have a persona of sorts. This was practically a disaster contingency and it afforded me the opportunity to blame the mask for failure or rejection.

If someone was to say, “I don’t like you,” or “You aren’t the right fit for me,” I would walk away sad in that moment but then deflect the feeling and psych myself up by saying something like, “Well they didn’t reject the real me. If I was real from the get-go they would have undoubtedly fallen head over heels for me.”

The maddening thing is that it worked! In the short-term at least. In the long term, however, this only led to surface deep relationships where everyone would encounter a buffer to the true authentic self that resided deep within. I considered the persona as a suit of armour. If it was riddled with arrows I could walk away unscathed and say, “Phew, having the armour protected me from any real danger.” Unfortunately when it comes to relationships the benefit and the vulnerability to opportunities for hurt is proportional. Using the same suit of armour analogy, sure you get protected from arrows but when you lie in bed with the one you love, that same barrier that was originally there for protection eliminates intimacy.

Maybe the secret is in learning when to put on the suit of armour. Perhaps the secret is shedding the armour and steeling the mind to potential disappointment, acknowledging that allowing yourself to hurt is simultaneously allowing yourself to love fully, deeply and to receive love to the same extent. Perhaps being vulnerable heightens the sensations and deepens the experience. I really like the suit of armour analogy. I definitely wouldn’t want to get a massage while wearing one, it would be pointless because I wouldn’t, couldn’t feel anything.

So… the main question. What would cause one to put on the armour? Fear of failure? Self-preservation? Maybe it’s the idea that “I cannot allow myself to be hurt. Anything is better than that.”

I hope I’m not shooting shots, remember this is from personal experience as well – but I call that pride… and the first step to dealing with it is being aware it exists.

See you soon.

image from 18 suits of power armor from science fiction you don’t want to …

Definition

Pride: a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired

Source: Google

So I’ve had a some interesting responses regarding this post in my phone inbox. Perhaps I need to work on the accessibility of my comment section. I will post some of the more eye-catching ones in the comment section below.