When Dark Clouds gather, it’s time to Count Your Blessings

Dark cloudsIt’s a sunny day and everyone is happy. We are all gathered by the pool having a lovely braai as we celebrate the summer. The sweet smoke rises as the delicious meat slowly cooks over the fire: we all eagerly wait. Drinks flow as our favourite music plays; the kids jump in and out of the pool while the adults make conversation, form alliances and reinforce deals and ideals. Yes it’s a perfect picture; except that shortly after this scene I could have an episode of melancholy – a deep, dark sadness that comes without explanation.

As a person prone to melancholy, I often wonder where the root of this sadness is lodged. Sometimes it even comes after a successful meeting or event and I begin to berate myself for not being good enough or for being a failure. In those moments, I am not brave and I completely ignore all the good things in my life and just focus on the negative. What is going on? Am I impatient? Am I ungrateful? Have I lost faith?

In my case, these spells last only a few days at most and recently, they’ve become shorter but I still worry about it. What would happen if there was no one around to tell me the truth when these attacks happen? Right before my first live show, I started getting nervous and began feeling like I had made a big mistake and was questioning everything I have worked hard for, but the voices of reason around me allowed a ray of light to pierce through the dark clouds with words like: “No! I will not accept that you are a failure.” “No! I will not let you question what you have built because you are feeling sad and cannot tell your left foot from your right”. “No! Let’s get on with work because we have done some amazing things together”. “No! I will not let you drag me into your pity party”. I couldn’t help but laugh. What happened? Was this harsh brush with love bringing me back to my senses? How do I bottle these words of wisdom for the next time?

In all honesty, I know that it will happen again but this time I feel a little confident that God has used the honesty of people around me to reinforce a song I knew as a child. “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done. Count your blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done”.

Till the next time,


MC Hammer vs. Dubai

Hammer vs DubaiIn 2005, I was in a mathematics lecture when a thought crossed my mind. Dubai, one of the seven Arab Emirates, now synonymous with wealth and opulence was but a desert 50 years ago. I began to think about how the discovery of oil and its prudent exploitation by the people of the UAE have turned them from poor nomads to one of the wealthiest people on the planet and wondered if there were any parallels I could draw for my own life. Could oil for a nation be equated to musical talent for my life?

As I sat there learning the advanced mathematics that could be applied to finance and statistics, I started to rethink my musical ability. Suddenly I saw it as an oil well that could enrich my life for years to come in much the same way that the oil wells of the UAE had done for that country. I noticed further that the UAE has taken a move to diversify their economy to reduce the dependence on oil and this got me thinking about many artists such as MC Hammer who made and lost fortunes in the music industry almost overnight. I realised that before I made a single dime in the music industry, I needed to know what I would do with it. I needed to plan for the next phase before I had even begun.

You see, in talent management, the planning phase is the most difficult and the most crucial. You need to know that if you have a hit song or get some attention for your work, it will be at the expense of someone else who was famous before you. Stars come and go and so will you. What matters therefore is what you do during the time the spotlight is shining on you and how well you are able to channel that attention in meaningful and profitable ways. The sad reality is that if you are on stage and the spotlight is shining in your face, you can’t see ahead of you –  and this is why you should have done your planning before your vision was compromised.

This reality isn’t just limited to artists or film stars. Professionals too have a similar fate albeit more sinister. It is a fact that most people who retire in South Africa do not have enough savings to maintain their lifestyles after retirement and most live in poverty after they retire. Whereas artists need to take advantage of the spotlight when it shines, professionals need to make the most of their youth and store up for the time when their strength will cease to be what it was.

Back to our oil analogy, I also realised that to exploit oil wells requires a great many skills to take the oil from crude in the ground to the high value refined oil products that bring in the real wealth. I therefore needed to learn all the skills in the music value chain and learn to do them myself because the only progress that matters, is the progress that you can control. Dependence on others to reach your goals always results in frustration. I am not saying that there is no room for working together or creating synergy. No; what I’m saying is that unless you can get into the habit of making small steps and achieving small victories, you will not build the confidence in your own voice which marks the cornerstone of your competitive advantage.

A true artist understands that the creation of art is a luxury – a privilege – and luxuries cost money. This is why besides learning your craft, you need to learn the work of everyone who contributes to your value chain and understand how they make money and then enforce agreements that make sure that if you don’t make money from your talent, no one else should.

Till the next time,

What’s your score? Setting goals that work for you

Goal setting

Life by its very nature is a series of goal-achieving processes that have a cumulative effect on our entire existence. From the moment we are conceived, nature initiates a series of life stages required to help us build the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual maturity needed to live up to the demands of adult responsibility. In an ideal world, these life stages should occur smoothly in a way that rightly equips us for life. Sadly, most people even in adulthood do not have a solid foundation for life and are left to live lives based on correcting one mistake after another.

I developed the following thoughts on goal setting after having tried for many years to find an authentic goal setting method that starts by aiding the building of a solid foundation rather than a correctional method that builds on a shaky structure of bad decisions.

I like to think of goals as a series outcomes that I look forward to and the actions I need to take to realise those outcomes. Actions are the manifestations of the decisions I make everyday. If I look forward to passing my exams, I will take appropriate action by studying. The idea of looking forward to an outcome brings in the aspect of visualising your future because visualisation helps with motivation. If I can see myself passing the exams, I can mentally experience the feeling of passing.

This brings us to a few characteristics of goals. For an outcome to be visualized; a) it has to be specific, which is what distinguishes goals from wishes b) It has to be time bound and C) it has to be easy to refer to and therefore has to be written down.

The three elements -habit, voice and craft – help with goal setting because they help you create a rhythm for your life. I will invert the order of the habits in order to deal with the characteristics of goals.

Find your voice
Voice is personal and in goal setting it dictates that your goals must mean something to you or else you will give up on them very easily. When a goals is meaningful, it becomes easier to reinforce it with visualization. This is why building your life on talent makes sense because your talent is personal and means a lot more to you. Voice will help us create a set of goals that are consistent to one another.

Develop a good habit
Habit in goal setting helps you build momentum. The starting and stopping of one thing after another robs us of progress because we keep losing the gains we make each time we start afresh. Habits are what define what we do with our time and spending our time on the goals we set for building our lives will keep the momentum of progress going in our lives.

Practice your craft
Craft in goal setting deals with the specific way you choose to write and think about your goals. I write my goals starting with What I look forward to today, this week, month, year etc at the top of the page. This helps me keep the goals continually accessible. It is similar to a to-do list except that by saying this is what I look forward to today, I add a visual and emotional aspect to the list and thus create a high interest in wanting to see the goals through. This gives me a degree of confidence which grows with each goal I achieve on the list.

How do you set goals? Has it worked for you? I look forward to hearing from you.

Till the next time,