James Peterson – An Amazing Man

I met an amazing man today. Despite the insinuations from some of my facebook acquaintances, I find him amazing not in a romantic way, but rather that he puts into perspective the real world that I sometimes loose touch of in amongst debt crises’ and internet billionaires.

On Monday as I drove out of UCT, I saw him standing on the on ramp to the freeway hitch hiking. He looked a little out of place in a smart suit on a 35 degree day. I stopped to give him a lift and he told me his story.

That morning, it was now midday, he had got up at 2am and left home at 2h20. Home was Retreat in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. He had walked, yes walked along the main road, through town, Sea Point and then Clifton to Camps Bay and the Bay hotel for an interview to be their driver. He arrived on time for his interview at 7am. He was now on his way home and had walked as far as Rondebosch (about half way) before resorting to hitch hiking.

We chatted in the car and he told me that his family hadn’t eaten since Saturday and that he and his wife hadn’t eaten since Friday. He had been looking for a job since March last year (11 months ago). Clearly he was prepared to go to great lengths to stand out and to get a job. It really humbled me in that here was an older gentleman who hadn’t given up in the face of adversity.

He had worked out what he could do, what was possible, and he was out there doing it. He clearly didn’t have a lot of resources available to him, imagine if people with resources had his attitude.

Conscious Incompetence

Elizabeth Kubler Ross describes our learning going through four stages

  • Unconscious Incompetence (i.e. we don’t know what we don’t know)
  • Conscious Incompetence (i.e. we now know that we don’t know)
  • Conscious Competence (i.e. we are competent but only if we are paying attention)
  • Unconscious Competence (i.e. we are competent and don’t even need to think about it)

Whenever I explain this to clients I use the example of driving a car as it is a pretty universal experience and allows us to easily understand the four stages above. My kindergarten daughter is blissfully unaware that there is such a thing as learning to drive a car and she is not aware that she is incompetent when it comes to driving a car.

This will all change when she turns 17, and starts to practice towards her drivers licence. She will quickly realise, or become conscious, that she is incompetent in the area of driving and will need to practice in order to become competent.

At the point where she is driving, perhaps still with some supervision, she will be consciously competent. Competent in driving but having to concentrate and think about what she is doing. ‘Push the clutch in, change the gear, turn the corner’ – all very conscious and deliberate steps hence conscious competence.

Once she has been driving for a few years she will forget all about that and like most people who have driven for a while will reach a stage where if asked a question such as ‘what gear where you in when you turned the corner?’ would probably look blankly at the questioner because the act of driving has become completely unconscious.

If you think about it, you’ll find that whenever you learn something new you go through this process. From working on a computer to public speaking, it starts unconscious, becomes consciously uncomfortable and with practice gets more comfortable and less conscious.

I posted about my experiences in the cockpit (Learning to Fly – October 2007) where I went through this process and this last week I had a similar experience. I asked a swim coach at my gym to look at my stroke and give me some advice.

I think I’m a reasonable swimmer. I swam 1:08 in the Ironman last year which I was happy with. After 10 minutes in the pool this week, I realised how much more I could learn. I wasn’t maximizing my stroke at the end, pushing back with my hand as I’m reaching forward with my other hand. My kicking was a bit erratic and could be harder. I was breathing on every 3rd stroke and was recommended to breath on every 5th. And lastly I wasn’t reaching far enough forward with my arms.

Within 20 minutes of trying out these new techniques, I could see that I could improve – tangible evidence was 16 strokes across the pool instead of 20/22 when I started. However, I did feel a bit like a swimming klutz. I couldn’t get my feet to kick at the same time as breathing and while I was concentrating on getting one thing right, the others would slip. This as a result of becoming conscious about my incompetence.

I found it incredibly humbling and I am very thankful that I can still learn new things. In fact I find it incredibly exciting that I could become a better swimmer in my 40’s than I ever was in my teens. I always thought I was late developer. Yoga is a bit like that. My teacher for many year Ysette Myers used to always say she was only a beginner despite having taught yoga for 27 years.

My other insight was that it’s impossible to get to the unconscious competence stage without first moving through the other stages. Some of them may go quicker but I need to master them all before I can really call myself competent.

Loving Life

So I think I am really privileged. I get to do some really interesting things in my life. I do love diversity and the contrasts that a day brings. I started my day at 5.30ish this morning in the pool at the local Virgin Active where I swam 140 lengths as part of my training for Ironman. I had a fresh carrot juice and cookie while I checked my mail and then headed across the floor to do some gym for about an hour with my iPod blaring The Script. Can’t be much better ways to start the day.

I was running a little late by the time I got to my local coffee shop / restaurant Nino’s in Dean Street Arcade to meet with my colleague Ryan and our guest Simon Jackson, a director of Sportstec who is in Cape Town for the week.

Ryan is doing a great job finding new customers and fans for the Sportscode video analysis software which we are the distributors of Africa (except Egypt). Simon is here to help us learn more about the software. They have a fantastic business with more than 4,000 clients around the world and more than 60 medals associated with teams and individuals using the software the Beijing Olympics.

Gary Gold discovered the software while he was coaching at London Irish some years back and became a real expert on how to use it to improve rugby performance, in the process becoming a very accomplished coach. When he returned to South Africa he involved Alan Goldberg who runs the Apple Store in Claremont Project 3 and then later myself in what would become the African distributorship. We’re starting to get some real momentum with the business and it’s an exciting time.

I dropped out to pick up my two darling daughters Amy and Nina from Springfield at lunchtime. They were heading to their cousin (well kind of) Jamie’s birthday party in Greenpoint with Dee, so I dropped them at Dee’s office. We marveled at the progress of the new Hospital Bend interchange as we drove into town – every day there is something added. Always great to see the world through young eyes.

I’ve been exchanging calls with a lovely lady since December who has been wanting to chat to me about executive coaching. It has reached such an extreme stage I left her a message saying that I felt like we had a long distance voice mail relationship as a result of the number of messages we have left for each other. We finally spoke to each other today, first with me catching her in a meeting on my way to pick up the girls and then her phoning me back as I was dropping them with Dee. We finally had a chat with me pulled over on the freeway and will meet up next week.

I spent more time with Simon and Ryan this afternoon and then met up with my brother in law Marc and school friends Craig and Rob to chat about a young man who we support at Wynberg Boys High. He is in grade 11 and we’re keen that he gets the best education and opportunities as possible.

Our plane (ZU-EPL) which is hangared out at Stellenbosch Airfield is going through the process of an annual renewal of it’s ‘Authority to Fly’. This is a piece of paper issued by the Civil Aviation Authority stating that the plane is airworthy. It’s been a bit of a process and I spent some time on the phone with my partners sorting through how we move it forward. Will hopefully get it resolved in the next few days. Which reminds me that I need to do my annual pilot medical before the end of the month.

Back home Dee and I caught up about our trip to Australia later in the year. It feels like we have been passing in the night the last few days as things have been really busy. We have a friend Thomas (met Thomas in 1988 when he presented AIESEC at Cape Tech where I was studying) staying with us from Ghana. I’m now relaxing at the end of the day chatting to Thomas and writing this blog.

I’m tired and need to get a ride and run in tomorrow for my training. So time to sleep and let my body integrate my training from today. Good night.

My fascination with the Mont Fleur Scenarios

For this strategy text book that I’m contributing to I’m refreshing the work I did on my thesis a few years ago, reading up on the Mont Fleur Scenarios. All the main manner were there – Tito, Trevor and my hypothesis (when I did the thesis) was that it was at Mont Fleur in 1991/1992 that the ANC seriously changed direction on economic policy from populist to conservative.

Last year when I invited Vincent Maphai (also a Mont Fleur participant) to talk to our Business Science students at UCT, I asked him before the lecture how much of ANC economic policy had been influenced by Mont Fleur. He took a moment to think and then said although he was a humble man and he didn’t want me to think that he was inflating the story, but, and this is the big but, the ANC economic policy was effectively born at Mont Fleur.

It does make sense if you consider that a few days before his release in 1990, Nelson Mandela confirmed that

“The nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC, and the change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable. Black economic empowerment is a goal we fully support and encourage, but in our situation state control of certain sectors of the economy is unavoidable.”*

This was before Mont Fleur and was certainly not the policy that the 4M’s (Mandela, Mbeki, Manuel and Mboweni) implemented. Their policy is best summed up in the cartoon below from Zapiro.

9 weeks to go

Woke up tired this morning. Fridays fast 10km, followed by Saturday’s 30km run and Sundays 150km ride took it out of me. My focus of this week is getting enough sleep. I noticed a big difference when I was away facilitating for three days and slept at 9pm every night compared to the last few where I have been up late with parties.

When I’m sleeping is actually when I am getting fitter. The exercise is just to tell my body how much is needed and then I rest and it prepares me for next time.

I am training for Ironman South Africa on 5th April 2009. This blog posting reflects on my experiences in training. This is for my benefit and also for anyone contemplating the Ironman. I completed the Ironman in 2008 for the first time. My primary goal is to finish, to have fun and learn. I’m by no means a serious competitor.