Old dogs and new tricks

I don’t believe the saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It is a lame excuse for anyone thinking about starting something new. Learning new skills is about curiosity and persistence.

Curious people are always seeking out new ways to improve and tend to tinker, poke and prod ideas. It’s got nothing to do with age. Persistence is remarkable because most new ideas don’t lead anywhere, and require a second look at more research and thinking or need to be improved over time. It doesn’t come quickly.

The dogs that don’t learn new tricks either give up too quickly or are quite happy lying in the sun waiting for dinner.

“Boredom comes from a boring mind.” ― Metallica

Kind hearts

Don’t underestimate the power of kindness and compassion.

Thanksgiving to New Years is my favorite time of year. It can also be a very lonely time of year. I remember my first Thanksgiving in the United States. I spent it alone in my apartment. I thought it would be like any other public holiday – I didn’t realize that that the country shuts down for a day and people gather with family and friends. Walking down city streets felt like the deserted New York City scene in Vanilla Sky.

Inviting friends to share a meal and spend time with people over the holidays can make a big difference in someone’s life. Be kind, be compassionate and join the community.


The soft claw

People tend to slump over when they meditate. The head drops and shoulders slump. This posture closes the chest and throat in a moment where you want maximum airflow.

Here’s a quick tip:

Halfway through the session take a moment to check in with your posture and body position. After the check-in, if you are feeling constricted then imagine a soft claw coming down from the ceiling. It’s the same kind of claw that you see in the arcade machine that grabs toys, but the grip is so delicate that the toys end up falling.

Imagine the claw slowly grabs your head and starts lifting you up. Your neck extends, your chest opens up, and your spine straightens. Just like in the arcade the claw slips off your head and retracts away. Your posture is now open, upright and relaxed.

Seven habits of highly productive giving

Here’s a useful HBR piece co-authored by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele on how to beat generosity burnout. The theme throughout the article is that you need to be a warrior advocate for yourself if you are going to sustainably share your time, energy and experience.

I grabbed these 7 points from the article on how to be a productive giver.

7 Habits of Highly Productive Giving
  1. Prioritize the help requests that come your way — say yes when it matters most and no when you need to.
  2. Give in ways that play to your interests and strengths to preserve your energy and provide greater value.
  3. Distribute the giving load more evenly — refer requests to others when you don’t have the time or skills, and be careful not to reinforce gender biases about who helps and how.
  4. Secure your oxygen mask first — you’ll help others more effectively if you don’t neglect your own needs.
  5. Amplify your impact by looking for ways to help multiple people with a single act of generosity.
  6. Chunk your giving into dedicated days or blocks of time rather than sprinkling it throughout the week. You’ll be more effective — and more focused.
  7. Learn to spot takers, and steer clear of them. They’re a drain on your energy, not to mention a performance hazard.

Enjoy the article.

Starry eyes

“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson,

I wonder what Emerson would think today if he could look into our homes at night. He would see televisions on and people sitting on couches with a phone in their hands. They’d be half watching TV and half watching their phone. They’d look kind of comatose. Do we appreciate what we have?

Galactic knowledge is the palm of our hands, and the beauty of nature is all around us. What a radical time to be alive. The challenge is to appreciate and harness the power of technology and channel it into a force for good, while also being grounded and humbled by the awesomeness of the night sky and our remarkable planet.  I think being grounded and humble will help us harness the power of all this innovation that’s happening at light speed right in front of us.

It’s what I signed for

The South African Cape Town winters are rainy, cold and wet. It’ll rain for six days straight with the whole mountain socked in with low cloud. After the sixth day, the clouds will break and a crystal blue day will emerge. Table Mountain will have waterfalls all over it, and from a distance, the water flowing down the mountain looks like diamond veins when the sun is at the right angle. Capetonians take full advantage of the break in the rain and will get out to hike, surf, and play golf.

One unusually wet winter, my elder brother Andrew had agreed to a game of golf. The gamble was that it would fall on a blue sky day. The tee time was early so it would be dark when he left the house. That morning we woke up to heavy rain. The cloud had wrapped around the mountain, it was cold, dark and the bed looked inviting. Traffic would probably be a nightmare, and the course would be waterlogged. Back in those days, texting wasn’t the way people communicated, so if no phone call came through then, it was on. I think it’s a lot easier to cancel something over text. A phone call is another bar.

My other brother, Steve, popped his head into Andrew’s room. Andrew was sitting on the edge of the bed sliding on his socks and pulling on a thermal vest.

“Are you going to play?” asked Steve.

“It’s what I signed up for” replied Andrew.

About 10 minutes later we heard Andrew leave the house. After few hours he came back. We asked him what happened. It turned out the course was closed, thoroughly waterlogged. There was nobody on the course, except three other cars, his friends that had also committed to play had all made it. He found them in the clubhouse. After warm handshakes, all round they sat down and enjoyed a breakfast together. After breakfast, they got into their cars and drove home.

It’s a simple, trivial little story, but we’ve never forgotten it. It’s become a family saying we revisit when we feel like flaking on something. “It’s what I signed up for.”

If you say you are going to do something, then commit and follow through. Knowing that you will follow through will make you carefully think before you say yes to anything. You’ll end up saying no to more requests, but for the ones that you say yes to, you’ll be there.





Authenticity scarcity

With the age of automation in full swing, we will be interacting more and more with software and hardware over humans. It’s an exciting time. Michael Fassbender’s role in Prometheus is a perfect example how androids will help older people on a daily basis. I also like the idea of TARS in the movie Interstellar. We’ll see the same trend in mobility, healthcare, finance, childcare, teaching, and sex. It’ll happen really slowly and then super fast. Humans will come to depend on AI the same way that we depend on family and friends.

With the tsunami of AI and Android assistance, people are going to lose touch with other humans. It’ll be possible to spend years alone with Androids and not see or touch another human. It will be like the space travel we see in sci-fi flicks where explorers live in space capsules protected from the harsh outside environment. These capsules will start to pop up on earth…first in hospices, then schools and then homes.

Over time people are going to crave real-life interactions again. There will probably be vacations zones and place that are Android free and zero technology zones. People will pay a premium for the imperfection of humans, whether it’s screwing up a food order, a casual conversation, while waiting in line, or brushing past someone on the bus. Things we take for granted or shy away from today, will be paid for and cherished.

Real life, authentic interactions will be something our grandkids only read about, but never experience. This thought makes me thankful for what I have today.