THE R-FACTOR

We have many Factors.

Factors that contribute to things both good and bad, mathematical factors, a Factor Market in economics and the X-factor, that “extra” in extraordinary that help make people like Simon Cowell more famous along with his panellists and participants. But now we have the R-factor. To the best of my knowledge, it was coined in the British escapade against corona. It may also be an epidemiological [another word I have learnt to spell during lockdown] term. However, it has been used to represent the rate of growth of infections. Thus, >1, we are adding infections to yesterday’s number. At 1, we are remaining equal in the number of infections. At <1, we are reducing the number of infections daily.

So, if I look at #EskomSePush at 2 June 2020, I can see at 34,357 cases, an increase of 1,674 overnight, our R-factor is >1. By the way, it was amazingly clever to me that this little voluntary App, when it knew Eskom would be able to supply electricity when no big users were requiring it, switched over to the covid statistics in graphical form, so that we would continue to use the site as a GoTo while loadshedding was postponed.

But I want to use the “R” for something else. Last time I wrote about Contentment in lockdown. This time I want to explore Resilience, and its  Resilience-Factor which we’ll term, the R2-factorMy curiosity with this force is that I have observed and experienced many peoples’ ebb and flow with their own resilience in recent times.  I want to encourage us as I write.

Resilience is defined as: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It comes from the Latin word resiliens which translates: “to rebound, recoil.

In turn, Capacity is defined as: The ability or power to do or understand something.

In other words, Resilience could be expressed as: The ability or power to recover quickly from difficulties.

Amit Sood, MD, puts it in a way I really like: “Resilience is the core strength you use to lift the load of life.

The initial definition seems to represent a capacity to and a speed of, recovery. My experience is that the R2-factor is a process and not a jump. It is a learned process which becomes a capacity at different levels for each of us in different situations. My sense as I watch it work out in peoples’ lives is that for some it is so mature and empowering that it has become a natural part of their character and, as a trait, becomes their ability to recover as quickly as possible from adversity of many kinds… in focus right now is Lockdown, and perhaps covid itself for some of us.

I believe it is what Nelson Mandela was talking about when he writes:

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.

Let’s peel an onion as we explore the R2-factor. The layers are:

Physical: All those years ago, watching Bruce Fordyce in the early morning winning the Comrades Marathon many times is imprinted on my memory. I tried my own marathon, the inaugural Nashua Marathon, in 1984. Still, with an occasional ache in my right thigh, my estimation of Bruce took on tangible admiration! Over and over, the commentator spoke about Bruce’s determination, his focus, his guts and his strategic competitiveness to win. If we just stopped here, you’d get the picture of the R2-factor in physical form.

Emotional: I have recently watched a family suffer the grief of losing a son and brother to a heart attack. I have watched them descend into grief and mourning with all the emotion that goes with it occasion by occasion. The emotion is often as visible as Physical resilience as it cuts etches in the faces of the grieving. I know, I was one of them. But I have also watched the R2-factor come into play and the same people come to grips with their pain felt for a loved one. Slowly but surely, they have each “lifted the load of life” to full capacity; pained but not broken.

Mental: If you’ve ever written an exam, accepted criticism from your boss, absorbed correction gracefully when you were wrongfully accused, or borne the pain of depression and rallied only to lapse back again – some normal life occurrences for many of us – then you have experienced the R2-factor. Sometimes this is a very personal and even invisible [to others] journey and other times you “wear your heart on your sleeve” and others notice “you’re down.” Voices pulsate in your mind and we know the prefrontal cortex becomes hectic to the point of headaches as we slash away at one thought after another like Attenborough through a jungle. Then, for reasons we will consider below, the mist begins to lift, the rationalisations take root and we begin to rebound from our crazy thoughts. Resilience may be evident on our face and in our posture, but it occurred invisibly in our mind.

Spiritual: If you read about Resilience, few people enter this space. Religion is out of bounds for political correctness. However, I cannot ignore that many of us have beliefs beyond ourselves. Our R2-factor is inextricably tied to our belief in God. But let’s not fool ourselves, as we have been saturated by corona in overloaded news both true and fake and seasoned by conspiracies, we may have experienced a crisis of faith at times. Nicky Gumble of Alpha fame, has  messages on YouTube entitled: Coronavirus: Where are you God?/Is there any hope?/God can you hear us?/Faith not fear. Surely, he has prepared these messages because he saw the need in the questions people asked him and he resolved to encourage Resilience.

The onion peeled, I come back to the pervading thought in my Contentment blog: Resilience, like character, is often refined in a crucible. Adversity, like we’re experiencing in this unprecedented way, can be the yeast of our R2-factor. In an excellent article by Faisal Hoque, a contributor to HuffPost, he says, “Resilient people develop a mental capacity that allows them to adapt with ease during adversity, bending like bamboo instead of breaking.” He continues, “I had to learn the art of resiliency to survive and then thrive.” Resilience is not like skipping – you’re up and down but always trying to avoid the sting of the rope. Rather, it’s like climbing a mountain one step at a time and at the top, enjoying the view.

I have often posed the question, Are you thriving or surviving? Or, it’s the latest version, Are you isolating or hibernating?

So, how do we develop the R2-factor?

Pages of theory abound but thank goodness, most of us have some resilience embedded in us to cope with what life throws our way. Shania Twain says, “Life unravels the way it does, and it has an effect on you, but you have to take responsibility for dealing with it.” Frankly, if you’ve coped with Subprime and got this far with covid, you’re already strong!

But here are some thoughts to increase our R2-factor:

Embrace Adversity

This always sounds so trite, so cliched. Our first response to adversity, which normally has an element of surprise anyway, is shock and horror. This can’t be happening…to me…this way…OhhMG! If I therefore have a point, and I’m implying that by making this the Number One builder of Resilience muscles, then you have to deal with the adversity with speed or, at least acknowledge it, as “here to stay”. I’d put to you that the speed with which you embrace adversity is a key indicator of your R2-factor. In fact, most of what I relate below is actually premised on the assumption that first and foremost, we have to embrace sudden change.

Control Everything and Nothing

To be more resilient:

Stop.
Think.
Act.

Stop. Doing what you’re doing. Is this matter in or out of your control? Control is that little matter that we all have that makes us feel proudly powerful. Let’s say the Oil price went up from $30 to $80, could you control that? At the moment it is creeping back up, probably a function of reduced supplies and the sense that the pandemic is moving off the list of global threats; did I control that? Of course not!

Think. Get over your shock and patiently think. Face the disruption head-on.

Act. Take one step in the direction of your uncertainty. Let me put this one incredibly simply. Last week I heard the fuel price was going to rise. Before I knew how much and when, I took my car out to fill up; R270 for a ¼ tank but at the cheapest price at which I’ll see Diesel for years. One step… you don’t need to know the future to enter it with circumspection.

Allied to this matter is Julian Rotter’s concept of Locus of Control. Some people, he says, view themselves as essentially in control of the good and bad things they experience — i.e., they have an internal locus of control. This internal locus allows us to create options and scenarios based on experience, the situation, and foresight. It allows us to create alternative plans in anticipation of, or amid adversity. An external Locus of Control simply means we bend with the storm. Circumstances hold our fate and we are incapable of influencing the opposition or its consequences. We sadly may become victims of our fate.

Mary O’Neill reminds us, “Who has not first tried to get out of a tough situation before truly dealing with it?”


Remember Past Successes

Little beats good experience. Did you survive subprime? Then I have confidence in you to survive covid. Success in dealing life builds flexibility and confidence. “If I could do it then, I can do it now”, I hear you say quietly but with a sense of the competence and skills it will take. In you lies GOLD – the resourcefulness, perseverance and willpower that it takes to grit your teeth and be resilient. You lean into the wind spurred by the knowledge that you may not have all the information, but you do have the scars. Success has been defined as: The ability to endure pain. If you’ve watched the recent RMB-sponsored SA Olympic Rowing team, you will understand this is not an exaggeration. A story of courage…on YouTube.

Sensitize Your Expectations

“Perfect” is great. “Enough” often suffices. I think that one of the secrets of thriving is not striving. Per Ardua Ad Astra, my school motto, has a ring to it. After all, By hard work, to the stars is a wonderful expectation. But hard work and obsession with perfection, are two different things. I’m sure in the recent SpaceEx launch, Elon Musk must have had a sense of such achievement as the two astronauts took off, flew for 19 hours and then safely docked with the ISS.

Awesome! But so often unless we set those kind of expectations and then pull them off, we become despondent and incapacitated. Elon Musk has been trying for decades to do what he has just done and wants to inhabit Mars in his lifetime. He may still. But he has tried and failed and disappointed more shareholders repeatedly than many other global CEO’s. 

I’m not suggesting you give up or lower your standards. But I am saying that you need to be sensitive to the unrealistic. Instead of motivating, un-realism can cripple the enterprise that lies within you. Just be sensitive and be kind – to others and to yourself. Remember the saying, Laugh at yourself? Just have one on you; it’s okay.

Look True North

There is a space and a direction to which each of us aspire. Be Yourself and live your dreams is really cute, but it implies that in your journey to the place you decide, with the values you espouse, with the mistakes and successes you manage, you keep looking forward and up. True North is scientific, but it was used by Stephen Covey in his books to be the niche of time, direction and integrity you decide for yourself. It is not self-centred; it is self-generated. It incorporates others from the closest to the furthest of the reach and range of your life. But when you find your True North, no other direction makes long-term sense for you. For some, like Elon, it is space exploration and Tesla to boot. For others it is being a good mother to your children and husband to your wife.

Live with Destiny

What is it that pulses in your veins? What gets you up and going in the morning? What points you at and through a problem? What causes you to celebrate with humility on the other side? What has driven you to put in a hard day’s work this lockdown even though your boss cannot watch you? What makes you better today, even though you may feel you failed dismally yesterday? Then, what makes you confident that SA will survive this pandemic? What makes you be part of that solution? What news do you listen to that encourages you to believe and go on intentionally?

Destiny and it’s bedfellows, Meaning and Purpose, is what does that for you and I. They make the difference between “have to” and “want to”. They lift your eyes, your innate sense of wholeness, wellness, and hope to press on. You see, Resilience comes from within. Whether it is physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual resilience, the R2-factor always has its genesis within you. Others may support but ultimately the power of how you react, what language you use, what you choose to do and for what reason, lies within you. Nothing like a sense of Destiny, creating monuments you may never see, drives you to look at and look through adversity. My level of R2-factor will always and only be in proportion to my sense of meaning in and to the world.

Harness Support

No man is an island, the saying goes. You don’t need lots of friends and family to feel supported. You may know many people, but you only need a few to really know you so that you have support. After the inner spirit of the Destiny above, why this need for others’ support? Because, if we have lived, we know there are times we need a friend. I’m not going to say more than this…to my dear Family and Friends, how grateful I am that you are there and that in the busyness of your life you make the time to know me. Patiently you listen, kindly you often speak, and always you encourage and motivate me. You are a huge part of my R2-factor.

The R2-factor – in Conclusion

There is so much more to say about our new-found factor, the R2-factor of Resilience. Perhaps Arthur Lynch captures its simplicity in these words:

The future seems a little gloomy! Go to bed early, sleep well, eat moderately at breakfast; the future looks brighter. The world’s outlook may not have changed, but our capacity for dealing with it has. Happiness, or unhappiness, depends to some extent on external conditions, but also, and in most cases chiefly, on our own physical and mental powers. Some people would be discontented in Paradise, others… are cheerful in a graveyard.

In my research for this blog, I came across a questionnaire about Resilience. You may find it interesting to complete for yourself…

A survey conducted by Everyday Health, in partnership with The Ohio State University, found that 83 percent of Americans believe they have high levels of emotional and mental resilience. In reality, only 57 percent scored as resilient. – https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/resilience/get-your-resilience-score 

It feels to me like lockdown is making way for normality. There is a huge amount of opening up and then hard work to recover completely. Many pundits put “years” to that timeline. Subprime did take 2 years [2008-2009] to reach the bottom, then 2 years [2010-2011] to recover but, from 2012 to Q12020, the developed world enjoyed significant prosperity across many countries even though the scars of some were still apparent going into covid.

We must believe that we will find our R2-factor as a nation. We will recover.

I finish with two quotes:

And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
Haruki Murakami


I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat.
Nelson Mandela

Yours in Property

TIME FOR THOUGHT

Every now and again, I use this platform to “talk psychology”. I have many friends who send me stuff on Whatsapp and email, some of which is so appropriate for the time. I read it, try to memorise it but in the end, I just enjoy it by appropriating it into my season of life. Sometimes, like you, I let it just wash over me – humour, psychology, healthy foods, exercise and sleep, positive thinking, and the role of dreams, thoughts and actions. Sometimes it’s what I internalised from years of study and self-analysis but other times, it’s so recent, so up to date, that it’s just fresh and new and vibrant.

If I tell you that there were two great books my Father made me read, they are: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and the other is, The Power of Positive Thinking by Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. Funnily enough, the first was on top of the bookshelf of the house in which we stayed over the weekend with our children and grandson. The second, Vincent put out Peale’s famous words in his daily Thought for Today email. Serendipity, coincidence or, for me, God-incidence? I’m just going to briefly “pen” my thoughts as I have experienced them in these two books and beyond.

Thank you, Norman Vincent Peale!

Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

How strong is that? What has life thrown you that seemed impossible to escape or overcome? Did you feel the knot in your tummy as you ploughed through the storm? But, the big but, did you get through? Are you the living proof that you can face the storms of life and succeed? Did you learn, prosper, develop character, gain the capacity to share with others, from a place of understanding and strength? Was the “nothing” good for you or in the process of enduring did you learn that forgiveness is not passive but a quiet gift of powerful release? Did you experience that Love does “endure in every circumstance”? Is your mind now at peace, reconciled to the facts and yet powerfully inclined to the future?

Talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.

We’ve written so much about health and sleep. Exercise is not an additional extra, movement is fundamental to your body and to your mind. I have struggled with a shoulder operation for the past 5 months and have missed gym entirely. I cannot tell you the aggravation that makes me feel – I’m unfit, and stressed. In the process, I have enjoyed Christmas and eaten seafood [I see food and I eat it ☺]. But now I’m cutting back, disciplining control, and feeling better. I have the go-ahead from the Orthopod to gym in February. I’m happy just thinking about it. But, you see, I could have a body like Marc Buckner, but Peale says, “Talk…to every person you meet.” Why? Because many of them need to hear your falling and standing up, that prosperity matters, and they can be prosperous again and that health may be recuperated and they will not stay like they’re feeling now. Encourage, encourage and encourage again – you may not need it, or one day you will – just keep talking to people about “health, happiness and prosperity.”

Make all your friends feel there is something special in them.

Ever heard of “sparks”? I learned the word when my niece brought home a group of friends. They chattered and giggled away and every now and again the chit-chat mentioned boys. I realised then that there are two kinds of men, those who give them “sparks” and those who don’t ☺. But everyone has “special”, you have special! Some call it charm or a talent, others may think it’s your dimple, maybe it’s a quirky smile, perhaps your random acts of kindness – who knows? But everyone has “special”. Are you or I so self-centred that we cannot find it in everyone? Of course, we like some more than others but that’s not the point. In the same way you like someone pointing out positive about you, so do they. Lift your head, even this morning, and chat to someone at the coffee machine. Find their special and make their day. I bet you, they’ll start looking for yours and others’ to compliment. Happiness goes viral.

Look at the sunny side of everything.

This is hard. Eggs are sunny side up. East is where the sun rises. But everything!? You know you get those people who walk around all day with a perpetual grin, cheery and smiley and attentive. You find them in a few McDonalds and often in a Vidae. They make me uncomfortable after a while but, they’re doing their job. This much I can say, there are people I know who are never negative. The most famous is Gail Kelly of Australian fame – positive, forward-thinking, solutions-orientated and forever learning and developing herself and others. What a privilege to have worked with her, and no wonder she became Australia’s most successful banker even in the midst of sub-Prime. She tells in her book that her father never allowed anything but a positive answer and lived as her role model to that truth. What about you and I? How do we score in others’ minds on a scale of 1-10?

Think only the best,

You see, it’s often the genesis of your thinking that sets the scene. I often say that it’s your attitude at the beginning of a task that determines 50%+ of its outcome. From washing breakfast dishes to having a successful day at work. Nothing is too little to not be thought of as “the best.” That includes you. Cheesy and as timed as you believe, you are the best. Start within and exude without. Your worst competition is inside, and you can’t preach the measles if you’ve got the mumps. You are who you are, but you don’t need to remain who you are. You have all the life in you to make a success and you are the best…for your children, your colleagues, your elderly parents. And if you got this far, you are sufficient for the journey forward. In many cases, you are the only thing that others have to hope in. “Think only the best” is not a well-worn cliché; it can often be the only mindset that can get you out of where you’re at and take you up to heights you’ve never scaled before. Nothing beats an attitude of gratitude and there is a power to positive thinking. I’ve said it many times, we are the sum total of our thoughts to any point in time.

be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

For some of us with a root of jealousy, this is really hard. The success of others drives us to drink. I enjoy the success of others – business partners, friends, family, whoever – I congratulate and honour their success. For those still struggling to reach their objectives, a word of encouragement and, as far as possible, assistance with the obstacles they face. I would love to see them properly on their feet again. By the way, you may say, “I don’t have this problem,” but I see it a lot in the world of estate agency. It’s called “competition” and it’s a fight to the end. “My commission, your commission..”, “my sale, your lead..” and on and on.. Sad to see it wrapped in “competition”, coming through as we slate each other “in a dignified manner.” Stop it, rid your system of it! Enjoy the success of others and you may be amazed how your success improves. Co-opetition is also a sound business practice.

Forget the mistakes of the past and

Did you and I read that? Do you know what “forget” means? Of course, we all battle in this area. “I’ve forgiven him….but I’ll never forget….Huff! Puff!” And the problem is that we apply that to ourselves as well. We denigrate and debilitate ourselves with issues and vows [I swear I will never allow that to happen to me..again!] and self-limiting beliefs to the point that we have nothing but a brittle platform from which to relaunch our lives. Please, step back from your mistakes. They were only intended to construct the reinforcement of learning.

Quoting from yesterday’s email of quotes that I received:

You build on failure. You use it as a steppingstone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
Johnny Cash

You may remember Johnny Cash. He was the rich singer who went wild and then converted his life back to hope and prosperity in every sense of the word.

Press on to the greater achievements of the future.

Attraction is the gist of this thought. “Concentrate on the rewards of success rather than the penalties of failure”, said Dr Dennis Waitley who was then the team psychologist of the NASA space programme. You scared of being fried in a botched rocket lift-off? Let’s focus on being the first man to walk in space; a forerunner of many who will do it for a living. Attraction: what you think about most and execute upon. We’ve often used the analogy of falling in love – she is all you every think about and you do anything for her happiness. Success is like that…I love the Nedbank ad where this guy talks to this beautiful “baby” in his garage and it turns out to be [not a lady, not a bike, not a car], his fledgling business that he started there. You see many will tell you that you get what you think about most. Truth is you won’t if you don’t but so many positive stories start with a tiny thought; Walt Disney’s quote always comes to mind: “Don’t despise little things. After all, this began with a mouse.” So, Press with all the energy you can muster.

Give everyone a smile.

It really is free. If the only thing we do today is give one person a smile, then we have achieved much. I walked into a petrol station café yesterday and the two ladies were so cheerful that I commented later to my wife how great it was to buy cooldrinks there. I would return for those friendly people and their smiles. Two things for those of us in business: Customers return to smiles and, customers avoid rudeness. Let the one into your business, and avoid the other like the plague. That was not the only café in the street, and I may buy there again sometime.

Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others.

I really think this is self-explanatory. I have a friend who personifies this. Faced with many challenges and always trying to build new businesses, he is a constant learner and self-developer. He seldom criticizes others and if it seems he has, it is just a sojourn to have learnt from what they might have done. Try it, it works.

Be too big for worry and

This is huge. I think we all worry, don’t we? If we didn’t have some stress, we would have no stress and that’s also dangerous. Many things are achieved when driven. What’s obvious in the gym is just as obvious in our heads and hearts. But, it’s the focus on worry as a thought pattern that becomes the problem. Think of it this way, if it gets you launched into good action, it’s positive; if it bogs you down into inaction, it’s negative.

Too noble for anger.

Peale finishes his quote here. The Good Book says, “Be angry and sin not” [Eph 4:26]. I love the way Peale puts it, be “too noble”. “Having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles”, is the way Google dictionary puts it. I like that. Anger festers, apology and forgiveness heal especially over time.

I trust you may read these books or blow the dust off if you own them. On many bookshelves, I’m sure they have custard coloured pages but they’re worth a read. In any case, if you’ve got something from this blog, it was well-intended. We don’t need scientists to tell us we use a small proportion of our brains; we can just take what we have and keep pressing forward to become what we desire to be. Success, as you journey and may 2020 allow you all the space and positive energy to achieve everything you set out to do.

Yours in Property.

PS: The full quote from Vincent, in case you missed it:

Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet. Make all your friends feel there is something special in them. Look at the sunny side of everything. Think only the best, be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. Give everyone a smile. Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others. Be too big for worry and too noble for anger.


Norman Vincent Peale

A MIXED BAG

We celebrate Spring Day on 1 September 2019. But really Winter is from Friday, 21 June to 23 September. From the 23rd, our nights begin to shorten and our days lengthen. Nature comes alive and I wish I could send you some of the pictures and videos that I have received. You can Google the Cape flowers and feast your eyes.

Bottom line, sunshine raises our spirits and gets us out of bed earlier in the morning. We know the property market also adjusts upwards seasonally from October to early December, literally like night follows day. Enjoy the Sales!

With this brightness in mind, we cover a few excerpts of articles that are really interesting.

#ImStaying has hit the ground running with 330000 members and growing. In a Businesstech article dated 30 September 2019, #ImStaying is Spreading, 5 reasons were given for people not leaving the country:

Popular for reasons for staying include:

 

  • Diversity – A number of people on the group praised the country’s diversity – including South Africa’s multilingualism and the fact that people of different races are living side-by-side after years of apartheid. Commenters also praised the ‘mish-mash’ of cultures which makes the country unlike anywhere else in the world.
  • Family – A number of commenters indicated that they intend to stay in the country due to strong familial ties. Many posters indicated that they also have an ‘extended’ family including friends, colleagues, and employees who make them want to stay.
  • Quality of life – A large number of posters indicated that South Africa has some of the best weather and landscapes in the world. People also praised the general quality of life including friendly people, food culture, and the activities available to them.
  • Career – A number of people indicated that they remained in the country due to their jobs. Some posters indicated that they were proud to contribute to the economy, while others said that they received great personal satisfaction from their work.
  • Natural beauty – people also love South Africa’s natural beauty, including the beaches, mountains, and the many game reserves full of wildlife. The country is also being praised as having the perfect weather.

The page has garnered significant traction on social media and currently has over 330,000 members as of Monday (30 September).

The first reason is my best. The South African national motto is:

!ke e: / xarra //ke
Written in the Khoisan language of the /Xam people and literally means, Diverse People Unite. It calls upon each individual’s effort to harness the unity between thought and action and ourselves. Our old motto was, Unity is Strength. How the two make much sense for a united South Africa. I often hear that what unites us is greater than what divides us – we long for that to dawn on each of our people.

Last time I wrote I said,

“…next time you’re at the braai, think about tossing in just one morsel of Hope to the conversation…

Above are five good reasons to remain in South Africa and be part of the solution.

Our President has started a weekly newsletter to the nation. That’s going to be interesting. I like the fact that he is positive whilst being a realist. That must be a tough ask after the weekend NEC at which Tito Mboweni, our Finance Minister, tabled his latest economic turnaround plan. However, Businesstech today [30 September] in an article, What you need to know about the state of South Africa: Ramaphosa, quoted him:


“Concerns are real. This year, the economy will record growth that is lower than expected (and much lower than what we need). Government finances are stretched about as far as they can go, and several industries are looking at retrenching workers.”

Ramaphosa added that much of the country’s confidence has dissipated as the reality of the country’s problems become clearer.

“This confidence was born out of the hope that we would quickly undo the damage that was done over a number of years. Implementing change does take time,” he said.

In isolation, that’s an understatement. However, he is telling us that changing things takes time. The pace of change is too slow for the Goodies and too fast for the Baddies. I guess we need to be grateful that so much is happening [Google JP Landman’s articles if you want a list of all that’s taking place since the beginning of 2019], and have the patience that a Constitutional democracy demands. One thing to mention is Justice Minister, Ronald Lamola’s, Special Tribunal which will fast-track the recovery of billions looted from the State which will commence its work on 1 October. Strength to your arms, Minister Lamola!

FNB’s Property Insights by John Loos dated 25 September 2019, gives us the data to support what many of us are feeling in the market. New Mortgage loans have declined by -7.82% qoq from 1st quarter 2018 to 2019. I don’t know the impact of the pipeline on this number but obviously it is affected by developments. I must guess that the construction and sales of these complexes are slowing down though, I must say, driving down Bryanston Avenue, Sandton last week, you could have fooled me. From R3-R12million it is wall-to-wall new complexes. Long may it last if we consider that the New Commercial Property Mortgage loans have declined by -29.6% in Q12019; that’s heavy. John expresses the hope that residential loans will begin “leveling out”. Staying with FNB’s Property Barometer, “emigration-driven sales”, prevalent in the higher end of the market, declined from 14.2% to 13.4% in Q22019. That’s good and in the right direction. Perhaps #ImStaying-type initiatives do have an impact – they sure beat negative news.

Allied to this news is an interesting turn which we trust becomes a lead indicator. Property24, quoting Dr Andrew Golding of Pam Golding, reports that time on the market is showing positive signs. We extract:


“The time to sell varies according to a number of factors which include: realistic pricing in the current market, desirability of location – namely high demand, sought-after centres and key hubs, as well as other macro-economic and socio-political impacts.

“Currently, we are finding that properties in the price bracket up to R4 million are selling at a median period between 34 and 43.5 days, while homes in the price band from R4 million to R6 million sell in 76.5 days, those from R6 million to R12 million at a median of 90 days, while those in the upper price brackets generally take somewhat longer to sell.”


I close with a statistical analysis from Standard Bank Property Research, Evolution of SA House Prices 1991 – 2018, dated 16 September 2019. That is a long period and the full article demands a read by those of us interested in things statistical. For the others [], here’s a summary.

Considering Household Disposable Income [what you have left after benefits and tax], Household Debt-to-Income [your proportion of debt repayments to your HDI], Prime rate, and Building Plans Passed, you have the possibility of affording a home. In fact, according to this research, 84% ofthe fundamental growth of SA house prices is due to the confluence of these indices. I would not argue with Standard Bank but I can’t help but wonder what the correlation would have been if they had used Business Confidence and plotted house prices to this index. Confidence, not money, buys houses – a simplistic statement but the absence of confidence makes buyers terribly skittish and sellers reluctant to face the new reality of the value of their houses. That said, this research was really good and over a very long period. Excellent thank you, Standard Bank!

A mixed bag indeed. But I can’t help think that, like the budding little White Stinkwood trees up the path to church this morning, there are green shoots beginning to appear. Maybe it’s the longer sunny days, maybe it’s Braai Day and the time spent with families, maybe it’s the Whale Festival and the hordes of visitors in town who were not disappointed. Or, maybe, it’s just Hope.

Two quotes to close:


Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.

– Steven Maraboli

And finally, the Arch:

I’m not an optimist, but I am a prisoner of Hope.


Yours in Property.

HALF-YEAR 30 JUNE 2019

Hard to believe half the year has flown by!

It has been loaded with politics including a national election and the finalisation of parliament, economic data for the first quarter that sucks at -3.2% GDP growth, SOEs’ revelations every day that boggle the mind, defamation claims that seem to have become lawfare, and emigration statistics that leave you reeling. Never a dull moment in SA Inc.

That said, we have survived and even Donald and China seem to be reaching some agreement. Hauwei or Meiwei is Donald’s Wei but I Mustsei, he currently has the best stock exchange performance in the world – often in excess of 15% with the Nasdaq flying. And then there is the Brexit “Deal or No Deal” show which, with the weakest Bachelor I have ever seen, has had us glued to the screen more than Netflix. I never knew I would binge on Theresa May – flicking from her to Deputy Chief Justice Zondo more times than a fly escapes its swatter. Never a dull moment in world politics either.

Our property market has moved sideways and getting a positive article out of anyone that I didn’t think was simply “talking it up” has been really hard. But out there, hard-working men and women have made ends meet and sold and sold despite the push-back of the market. That it is a buyers’ market, there is no doubt but even getting a buyer to bite has been tricky. You can’t do deals with people walking through your show-house; you actually need an offer to make a negotiation possible. My friend who has had 25 couples come through his house in two months feels exactly what I’m talking about. But I must say, both from a rate and an approval point of view, the banks have remained really good. No shut down from them and truly, they hold the key to continued sales and borrowing. If we can just hold Eskom solvent, we have a good chance of emerging from the mess we are in. Heaven help us, please!

Getting technical for a moment, I received a good article in Businesstech, 29 June 2019, quoting Tobie Fourie, National Rentals manager, Chas Everitt and entitled, New South African rental laws may be implemented soon – these are the changes you need to know about, that gave some good insight for those of us owning buy-to-lets or in the rental business. Some extracts:

Top of FormBottom of Form

The Rental Housing Amendment Act will be implemented soon. The ‘new’ Act – which was actually passed in 2014 – contains the most recent amendments to the Rental Housing Act of 1999, which is still in force.

 

The act currently governs the overall relationship between tenant and landlord and sets out their statutory rights and obligations and aims to clarify certain aspects of the older Act that have given rise to many differences of interpretation.

 

The main provisions that landlords and tenants need to be aware of include:

  • It will become compulsory for lease agreements between the landlord and the tenant to be in writing and legally enforceable.
  • All sections of the lease and any explanations and definitions it contains will need to be explained to the tenants and understood before the document is signed.
  • It will be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the rental property is in a habitable state, which is in line with the existing Rental Housing Act.
  • The landlord will be responsible for maintaining the rental property and will have to ensure that it has access to basic services such as water and electricity.
  • Only the local authority will be permitted to cut off services to non-paying tenants.
  • No tenant may be prevented from entering the rental property or denied access to the rental property without a court order.
  • A joint inspection by the landlord and tenant has to be done on the commencement of the lease period, and if the landlord does not participate in this inspection, no part of the tenant’s deposit for repairs or damages may be withheld when the tenant leaves.
  • A defect list will have to form part of the lease agreement as an annexure.
  • When the deposit is paid back to the tenants, the interest earned on that deposit must also be paid to the tenant within seven days of the expiration of the lease, subject to any deductions for damages.

 

Landlords who fail comply with these and other requirements within six months of the new legislation coming into force could be liable to pay a fine or even face a jail sentence for non-compliance.

 

“And these legal complexities will make it all the more important for landlords to appoint reputable, reliable, knowledgeable, qualified and legally registered rental management agents to assist them and ensure they remain compliant”, said Fourie.

 

Let’s face it, if you are letting a premises that is not habitable, without a written lease and for which you do not have an inspection list at the beginning and the willingness to fix problems that arise, you should not be a landlord. On the other hand, good landlords have always paid some interest on deposits as they have earned [read: saved] interest if they took the money and put it in their bond on the property. But, there is the nagging feeling that letting is carrying more and more onus on the landlord to be proven right and the tenant to be proven wrong. Having said this, I can honestly say I have never had a bad tenant. Those of you who have will tell me to be very grateful, I know.

 

We enter the second half. Hopefully our politics settles down and the Zondo Commission provides an interim report on glaring state capture and we have a rate decrease. Then if we can hold onto our investment grade from Moody’s and fund enough of Eskom to keep the lights on, we may be through the first part of the drift. It’s knife edge to be honest but failure is also not an option.

 

Neither is pessimism. I understand how you feel believe me but one thing I know from personal experience is that all the worry in the world does not move you forward. Worry is like sitting on a rocking chair thinking you’re moving. You’re not; you’re just standing still and getting weaker every day, physically and emotionally. Cut it out and remind me to do the same if I lapse back. Homeloan Junction is in the same boat as you, nothing more and nothing less. We are here to support you to the best of our ability and are onside to help you succeed. Success to you in the second half!! – the same success we wish ourselves.

 

Yours in Property.

 

FORGIVE AND FORGET

It would be worth my while to write two blogs on this subject, but I didn’t think that was necessary for my readers. Fact is, we all have experienced that unless these two things hang together, it is very difficult to actually fulfil either.

Before I go, there a few unrelated things:

  • So good that the SARB held the rate last month. They are as desperate as the rest of us for solid growth and are nurturing the prospect like a sole mandate. Great news!
  • Wasn’t Tiger Woods amazing in the “The Masters?” The 12th hole proved telling for his opposition and then to win was off the charts. “The Masters” is a test of golf for the whole person, but when you consider what he’s put his family through and then that he has a replaced knee and a multi-fused back, and that he’s now “come back” it is probably the most historic recovery in the game of golf and possibly in the world of sport. Why I mention him [and again later], is that “coming back” is what we all do every day of our lives to a greater or lesser degree.
  • Did you see Xolani Luvuno on Carte Blanche? You can Google him for a real shot in the arm but shortly, he ran the Two Oceans and then set his sights on the Iron Man. He did the former on crutches with a steel leg and he did the latter despite the fact that he could not swim about 9 months before. They were worried that he would fail the swim cut-off but he made it and then he failed on the 108kms cycle but went on to complete the Iron Man 2019 despite not qualifying. Man, I love it – got goosebumps over me and both of us shed tears on Sunday night [14 April 2019]. His mentor and boss, Hein Venter, rescued him off the streets. He had this to say:

“One day I was feeding a beggar, next day I was standing in the shadow of a Superstar.”


We continue with the last “F” of our LIFE acronym…

The word “fore” is shouted by golfers when a stray ball is heading for a crowd. Just before you get this egg on your head and a blinding headache, a golfer will shout “Fore!” It means “in front of” and it’s best-known use is part of the word “before” which we all know means “in front of”, or simply, “before”. Easy, hey? But then why is it so hard to fore-give and fore-get?

There’s so much to say about these two little words to do them justice, but let’s try:

Fore-give means “to give before”. That’s where the problem lies for us. We want to get and then give. Or, if we’re modern in our ways, we want 50/50. That’s how we live so many of our relationships. You give a little and I’ll give a little, or, maybe I’ll give a little more than you – all according to opinions though. Then there’s the gross hurt that rocks our lives from time to time. Hurt that cut deep and feel irreparable at the time and at best, leave wounds and voids in our heart. Painful and deep; really unforgivable. We carry those pains in us even though we know they form the basis of psychosomatic illnesses that gouge away at us over time – stress, blood pressure, depression and many think, even cancer. The little things are hard to forgive, the big, well-nigh impossible.

Why is this so? Why would we allow so much hurt to rack us even while we know it’s not good for us? In fact, clichés like “suck it up”, “let it go”, and “live and let live”, “it’s not your responsibility” and many other terms of good counsel roll off our lips as common-sense for others. But, let us be the ones to forgive, and we’d rather die inside than tell the other person they’re forgiven. Of course, the hurt is at the root of our problem and it feels indescribably insurmountable. Perhaps pride sets in and “I’ll forgive when they say they’re sorry” becomes our mantra. Mantra, or justification? Justification for not saying sorry unconditionally and being able to move on as best as possible. Please my friend, be the first. It’s good for you. Please!

“Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, and the waste of energy.”
– shares Nicky Gumble, of Alpha renown.

We’re reminded of Nelson Mandela’s quote about resentment [the close cousin of un-forgiveness] being like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. Looking back on Tiger Woods, you wonder at the forgiveness that was required in that relationship; millions of people were exposed to his infidelity and Nike withdrew his Ambassador status along with many other sponsors. And what about the need to fore-give himself at the depths of his despair so as to recover his total emotional loss. Surely, some fore-giveness was also at the heart of his come-back? Let’s hope so because fame cannot replace the hollow that no doubt existed in his heart. Release yourself from the wounds and voids of a broken heart.

Perhaps even more difficult for us is to forget. “I’ll forgive but I won’t forget”, we hear so often. The release of forgetfulness seems so difficult to achieve even if we’ve gone the route of fore-giving. We’ve humbled ourselves, got off our high horse, eaten humble pie and done all the rituals and norms to say sorry but we cannot forget; a syndrome of the human heart and mind. From too much chocolate over Easter to the serious breakdowns of relationships to crippling accidents that were not our fault. We carry the pain and remember the memories of the past. How do we erase those memories and “move on”?

I think that we need to treat nasty memories like we treat any thoughts. Imagine activating every thought that crossed your mind. “Buy that Cadburys marshmallow-filled Easter egg” you head says. But you know you must resist because resistance to chocolate is futile [so the saying goes ☺]. So you bury the thought and move to the fresh meat counter to buy yourself some low-fat rump mince. What did you do with the chocolate thought? You had it, you re-directed yourself, changed the thought to something healthy, and moved on. Surely, the same thing applies to the serious as to the trivial? You have the thought about a serious incident with its pain but before you allow yourself to dwell on the thought, the Good Book says, “You bring every thought into captivity” [2 Corinthians 10:5]. So you arrest the thought, think on something different [more positive, healthy, fruitful] and act towards it.

I doubt we ever forget. We are not built to do so as we store memories so as to create templates for future behaviour whether that is a loss, a hurt or a pain. But we can arrest those thoughts that are not good for us, and we must for our own sake. Stop trying to erase the memory by letting it be, but don’t let it be you any longer. Once again, release yourself from the wounds and voids of a broken heart.

Imagine Xolani thinking that he could not succeed because he is a rehabilitated heroin addict. How many times did he hearken back to the streets, perhaps even to the times he had two legs? How he must have cursed himself for his stupidity at times and possibly think that he could have been a natural champion rather than an amputee superstar. What a waste his head would tell him as he panted unrelentingly and his shoulders hurt but, in his heart, beat the alternate dream to win and conquer despite his disability. No regret too strong to stop his will to win and compete, first with himself and then with others. In fact, the last time I saw such guts was when Oscar donned his blades and ran himself into the history books. Fore-get….never! But become a victim of memories…..never!. Surely the same goes for Tiger – how he could have spent his $100’s of millions in lulled reclusivity knowing he was a spent force. Never! He stood up, failed and came back against all odds. Thoughts captive rather than a captive of his thoughts.

This has been a heavy blog for me. We all know that forgiveness and forgetfulness are bedfellows, but so many people I meet are fixated by one or the other, or both. The outline above is certainly not the be-all of therapy and many books have no doubt been written on the subject. In the final analysis, the end result is ours and ours alone. If you need one or both, “gun dit vir jouself”. If you need to forget, redirect your thinking to the precious and grateful and allow yourself the space to move on to something higher and noble. You’re worth it.

Yours in Property.

SOUTH AFRICA’s EDGE

Below is an article sent to me by a dear friend. He knows me well in this area and lives through many of the battles of faith vs commonsense that I traverse regularly, in fact, more regularly these days.

I make this point right at the beginning so as to avoid any sense of hypocrisy in the area of staying in South Africa. I have been very negative of late in this area of what has become commonsensical to me. I find it very difficult to avoid the evidence as it piles up in favour of those who “pack for Perth.” Tonight I have a friend coming back from overseas who has had more than a good look in the country where he can obtain an ancestral visa. A week ago I had lunch with another friend who spent 6 weeks in Thailand looking and seeing. Let’s not fool ourselves; it was a coloured ex-South African man who had emigrated and who was wounded in the Christchurch massacre.

But one thing I am coming across in the current tragic polarisation that is taking place is broadly four kinds of people: One who goes because they just “can’t live here anymore”; One who stays here and broods because they “can’t go anywhere”; One who stays here and “doesn’t read those things” to remain level-headed; and One who stays and really “does something to help”, however small.

I know there are many permutations of these South African views and I have come to see that the reasons we think the way we do are as personal as the circumstances in which we each find ourselves. To leave is a very personal decision, almost unique to the individual or family. I’ve learned to accept the decision whatever the reason.

However, in copying the article below, an open letter from an incredible man, I trust I could just speak a small word to those of us who are negative and even afraid of the future. I can’t give assurances, but I know that if you fester inside your tortoise shell, you will become even more cynical, negative, bitter and useless than if you acknowledge your concerns, give them a name in your brain, and get on with something, just a little something, good. Again to the rescue, Nelson Mandela who had 27 years of reasons to hate within a self-constructed fortress of bitterness, but said: Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

Find that little something good to do in your daily life. We are not all OUTA CEO’s but we can all do something for someone or something. We have a lady in Hermanus who is a “swallow” from England. She noticed our cemetery was weed-ridden and poorly kept. She compared it to those she knows back home and wrote of her initiative in The Village News. With her own funds, she got a team together of workers and volunteers and cleaned up the cemetery. While the rest of use drove passed and complained about the municipality, she toiled. Eventually, they had cleaned the grounds and begun some very beautiful touches. Before I describe them, at this stage she opened up the opportunity for interested parties to pay a monthly donation of R250 maximum into a trust account for the work to proceed. Then, I think whether she got the donations or not, she put up little white painted crosses on the unmarked graves and began to get Calendulas from anywhere to plant in prepared gardens. For those who don’t know them, they’re waterwise and give a beautiful display of colourful, daisy-like flowers through Spring and Summer. Com’on you say, that’s extreme and she should have just enjoyed her summer holiday and gone back to admire her UK cemeteries. Well, that’s just the point – she decided to do something in one town in the whole of South Africa that everyone else thought was the responsibility of someone else, and for all we know, this may be the only recognition she’s had outside the town.

What about Hermanus Siyakha [Meaning: Building Together] which, if it catches flame, could be applied in every town in South Africa? Interest free micro-loans to micro-businesses supported by mentors [twenty aged, highly competent Hermanus men and women who have a progenerative passion], and community-funded on the internet. Have a look on: www.hermanussiyakha.co.za.

And what about the fact that the Hermanus Night Shelter, against multiple odds including “no money”, got its roof on last week. The project is passionately driven by a man in his mid-70’s. Flippen’ amazing, I can tell you!

Point is, South Africa never allows you to sit on the fence unless you’re a die-hard. Opportunities abound and when you’ve done something there’s always a “stretch something” beyond it. I know it gets difficult to look at what’s going on and not be lost in the sea of it, but there is something You can do. Find it and do it. As per François Pienaar’s MAD [Make a Difference] organization, “be the change you want to see”.

Hopefully, you’re challenged to read this article with a different, upward-looking perspective….

OUTA leader Wayne Duvenage: Here’s PROOF that SA is on road to recovery – #Stay&Fix
22nd March 2019 by Jackie Cameron

EDINBURGH —  Not everyone in the South African diaspora is on the run from corruption and crime. Many of us are working outside South Africa because that’s where the opportunities in our, or our partners’, careers and businesses lie. Some just want to travel or build up savings in low-tax havens. While there are inevitably some who have left the country and talk down South Africa at every turn, there are many who believe that the country is not a basket case. For people like this, me included, it is good to be reminded of the recent improvements that President Cyril Ramaphosa and his team have implemented. The respected leader of OUTA, Wayne Duvenage, led the charge against corruption in the Zuma years. In an open letter to South Africa, Duvenage sets out the many reasons South Africans should be optimistic about the future. He is promoting a #Stay&Fix attitude, but he should not forget there are many South Africans who are very willing to do their bit to promote growth and prosperity from afar. – Jackie Cameron

By Wayne Duvenage
[Wayne Duvenage is CEO of OUTA]

The most common questions encountered at the many talks and societal engagements I attend are ‘is there hope for the economic future of South Africa?’ and ‘seriously, shouldn’t we just pack up and go now?’ or ‘are we winning the battle against corruption?’

My short answer to those who are anxious about our future is to dwell less on what is wrong and to open your eyes to what is really happening. The more we are able to determine and see the positive signs of sustainable change, the better we will be at generating positive impetus for growth and prosperity by those who choose to #Stay&Fix South Africa.

Tough times & tough decisions

There is no denying that South Africa is suffering from the corruption upheaval of the Zuma era that pushed us into massive economic hardship and to the brink of collapse. Furthermore, corruption, incompetence and maladministration by many in positions of authority in national and local government still exist and are a significant challenge to our future prosperity. We have our work cut out for us in this department.

Sadly, however, human nature in stressful times tends to allow negativity to take hold. It clouds our ability to see the signs of positive change by new leadership committed to turning things around. We forget that change doesn’t happen overnight and that when turning a massive ship around towards a favourable destination, the extent of the change becomes evident when we look back to see the wake of our revival.

However, the extent of change is not always easy to gauge in the early days as the pace of change is never quick enough to satisfy our natural desire and hungry human nature for a big and fast-paced change, especially after a prolonged period of damaging leadership. And when that doesn’t happen it gives rise to growing frustration.

Throw in a few curve-balls such as Eskom load shedding and you get massive spikes of negativity to catalyse thoughts and group discussions of giving up and emigrating. This is where we are right now.

Looking back to move forward

Consider for a moment where we stand today compared to 15 months ago when Jacob Zuma was still in power. The Zuma cabal was confident of winning at the ANC’s five-year elective conference in December 2017, yet they didn’t.

We need to understand that had Team Zuma won that battle, Tom Moyane would still be in charge at South African Revenue Service (SARS), Shaun Abrahams at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Lynne Brown and the destructive forces would continue to plunder away at Eskom, along with a host of other connected cohorts wreaking havoc in many positions of authority. The last remaining “positive” ratings agency, Moody’s, would most likely have downgraded us to junk status and the international and local investment fallout would have been in full swing.

Well, that didn’t happen and very quickly we became upbeat as Cyril Ramaphosa took the reins of national leadership from Jacob Zuma. Our appetite for change and corrective action ran high and placed us in a state of mind that expected more to have happened by now.

We became blind to the complexity and enormity of the turnaround job that lay ahead and the massive “Zuma-era hangover”, with which CR and his new team have to contend, not to mention the internal ruling party factionalism and external election rallying. Throw into the mix constant rating agencies’ scrutiny and a society baying for more, and it is safe to say that Ramaphosa occupies the toughest job any South Africa president has faced.

Despite all these pressures, encouraging developments within the vital institutions that ensure national stability (which were systemically destabilised by Zuma and his cronies) are now adding to the momentum of change that we seek. Think about the recent revelations at the various commissions of inquiry, the introduction of new capacity within the NPA, at SARS and the Hawks and of the many (often not published) new proclamations resulting from the good work undertaken by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

Let’s not forget the significant Cabinet changes undertaken soon after Ramaphosa became president. Remember too the amendment he introduced to the terms of the State Capture Commission that allowed for evidence presented therein to be used in future charges.
Then there are the banks announcing the closure of business accounts of African Global Operations (formerly Bosasa), just as they did against the Gupta companies, adding another effective mechanism to tackling money laundering and corruption in South Africa. One cannot emphasise enough how important these decisions and developments have been in our journey of recovery.

While the recent arrest of Bosasa and past Correctional Services bosses and others has been music to our ears, people ask:

“But why hasn’t the President had Zuma, Koko, Zwane, Motsoeneng, Seleke, Molefe and others arrested yet?”

Well, for starters, the president may not command arrests. That process resides within the NPA and the Police, aided by the Asset Forfeiture Unit, SIU, Hawks and SARS. Encouragingly, these same institutions are currently being restored, fortified and de-Zumafied to enable the rule of law to start working again.

Let us also be mindful that some cases are just more complex than others. Some need more “ducks in a row” before the trigger is pulled, while others have the external pressures of political chess and factionalism that take longer to break down in order to achieve desired outcomes.

High on the juice of positive thinking?

Some may believe that any positive view of the present dire situation could be a case of getting high on the mantra of head-in-the-clouds thinking, or being blinded by Ramaphoria or even being a government or political party lackey that seeks to sugar-coat and downplay the enormity of our problems. And society has a lot of them.

While driving a positive narrative does help to increase the energy in any system, effective civil intervention requires that we remain pragmatic and apolitical, giving credence to developments that generate momentum, consistency and sustainable positive change, while constructively criticising, challenging and seeking to amend government’s inefficiencies and ill-doing.

Civil society upbeat

The focus is on Shamila Batohi and her beefed-up team to re-energise the rule of law – and in fact, this is already underway. Just as the water flows in a dry riverbed after good rains, it starts at first as a trickle. The challenge, however, is to ensure it doesn’t turn into a raging torrent that is out of control and doing more damage than good.

What we seek is a longer, controlled flow of energy that is contained, less destructive and more effective, as the authorities round up and charge the culprits that set our nation back by a decade or more.

As civil society, we must not relent in applying pressure for the government to fix our broken state entities and to introduce the competence and visionary leadership that is able to take tough decisions.

Neither must we decelerate civil society’s opposition to irrational and failed policies such as e-tolls, the dubious Xolobeni mining and N2 toll road decisions, or the forthcoming flawed Aarto process and other matters that questions Government’s legitimacy.

These issues, along with gross electricity tariff hikes, questionable taxation policies, bloated and inefficient government departments and failing municipalities, will keep civil activism dynamic and prevalent for years to come.

While I maintain that we should all commit to challenging that which is wrong, or at least support those organisations which do so, let’s also acknowledge significant positive developments when these are evident.

Without being blind to the stormy waters and uncomfortable swells that lie ahead, now is the time to promote a #Stay&Fix attitude that will ensure hands on deck to give us a better chance of survival and greater prosperity.

I called this blog, South Africa’s Edge. You may have thought I was thinking of the cliff we look into every day. It’s unassailably daunting whether you’re at the top or the bottom. But actually, I’m talking about you and me. You and I, the people of this beautiful, tortured country are the EDGE! Jack Welsh, the famous CEO of General Electric, defined people with EDGE as having: Enthusiasm; Differentiation; Guts and Energy [as adapted from his book, Control Your Destiny or someone else will].

Even if you’re one week from going, do something “vir oulaas” even if it’s putting R250 into the Hermanus Siyakha project – you have no idea if the next Business Woman of the Year is in that photograph.

Yours in Property.

ILD – FAT

I love fat people. Cuddly, happy, smiling and always ready to help…

Oops! Wrong start to the blog on LIFE and the “F” in the acronym 😊

Let’s start again, but before we do, I must tell you a story. Once I went to Lyons Wholesalers, across the road from the Wits Business School. I had come to know them as providing an excellent product at a fraction of the price – especially Pringle clothing. It’s an old fashioned store full of people my mother worked with when she worked at Ansteys in West Street, Durban – you know the one with the tube into which you inserted the invoice and the money for a purchase and minutes later, the change came down another tube – that kind of store. Anyhow, I was looking for a suit that day and the gentleman – you know the one, pants with braces and no jacket, but he wore those elastic armbands that kept your sleeves from going over your hands – came over and asked me what I required. “A navy blue suit,” I answered. “Oh, sir” he said, “that you’ll find in this section – for the “fuller figure, you know.”

I bit my tongue like my Granny taught me, stared at him with steel-blue eyes trying to get him to drop his gaze, but as he never did [for he knew my type from years of failed confrontation], and I ended buying from him. I do remember, he had to take up my leg length and soon conveniently forgot that that happens only when your waist size is perforce bigger than the length that your legs require.

Now stop giggling and let’s get on with this…

I’ve been cheeky responding to an acronym with another acronym. You see FAT stands for Faithful, Available, Teachable and this is one of those insights you’ll never read in a Harvard textbook as it just comes from experience. I was introduced to the idea by a minister on a Sunday morning. He was talking about the qualification for elders and deacons in the church to which I belonged. FAT people make good church leaders was his premise. I was a little sceptical in the beginning as a result of being “of fuller figure” myself, but I managed to remember that sermon to this day. The reason is that you often remember something that is practical and proves unbelievably meaningful to you.

“Faithful” speaks volumes and anyone who has experienced “unfaithful” knows exactly what it means. Faithful people stand by you. They encourage success and they avoid “kommentaar” in the presence of mistakes and even, failure. You see, we all know the glow of success – that warm fuzzy “I did it!” feeling that flows through you. Little successes or big ones, a monthly award or the trip overseas, the feeling is the same; just the depth and the duration differs. Loads of dopamine pumped through your brain into your cells. Faithful people are there to congratulate you, avoiding any gnawing jealousy and just giving you genuine praise, but even more important for me is the fact – and I know this in my own life – those faithful people put you on the stand in the first place. That’s incredibly humbling and my immediate response is to say THANK YOU again to the hundreds of people who have teamed up with me to make a success of what we were doing.

God knows, I appreciate each of you and, hopefully, so do you. For example, when I was asked to run Card Acquiring [the machine or internet through which you “swipe” your card at a point of sale], I was given a target of taking the division from under 20% to over 40% market share in 2 years. When I left 2 years later, we had a market share of 38%. Do you really think that I did that alone? Yes, I worked my guts out as usual, but who do you think created the break-through opportunities that made it possible? My teams across the country, of course! We did some simple things such as improved motivation of the sale teams and stepped-up the efficiencies of our acquiring by rolling out the latest technologies, we turned on, at great courage in those early days, the internet payment system but then we also improved relationships with our Corporate banking colleagues.

In doing this, we hunted big corporate relationships and had success with a few who were big hitters. Recognise the strategy? Frankly, just like you with your customers and your calling pattern and your building of solid relationships. In the process, faithful people came alongside our effort. Sceptics and negatives left behind – we were off to get us a big fish – and we did. Even the corporates that allowed us in and let us access their point of sale tills were faithful to Nedbank Card, and our ability to process their credit card business. How would you feel as a CFO if you motivated a change to the Exco, implemented it and then on the 3rd day of business, the tills went down for two hours? Of course, they believed in us to deliver on our promise; they were faithful! And, so were we. If ever “whatever it takes” was a motto, it was on those implementations and those first few months. Morning meetings, reporting, outage real-time feedback by till, by store anything it took to retain their trust.

You got the picture? Faithful people, by any other name [loyal, committed, related, involved, etc] give you allegiance and receive it in return. If and when you succeed, you can give bonuses and increases and even shares, but at the end of the day they appreciate your appreciation. I can honestly tell you, I could never repay the faithful people in my life. Never! Faithfulness mirrors your behaviours as a leader. Like we all know, you earn trust, and so you earn faithfulness. People do not give away their precious independence and dignity and respect to untrustworthy people. That does not imply you do not fail but what it does imply is the emotional reserves and contriteness to apologize and behave like you mean it. You can probably see by now that this attribute of leaders and followers is deep, earned, and psychologically contracted. It is friendship on steroids and foundational to lasting relationships. Leader, you get what you give, make no mistake about it.

“Available” is a little more practical but it also stretches boundaries. I’ve worked with people and have also expected that a report requested on Friday afternoon is available on Monday morning. If that request is asked too often, expect push-back, but if asked with courtesy and respect for reasons of urgency or importance an available person understands, they will deliver it on time. In turn, available people take your calls. They may tell you they’re in a meeting, but they surely get back to you as soon as it’s over. They are reliable and consistently so, but there is an element of available that is deeper than just practical availability. This is presence – not just “there”, but hearing, listening, accepting and understanding. How many times have I had an issue that needed ventilation [the new 702 buzzword!]. Just some time to be able to off-load, be listened to without judgement and then receive back some advice, an opinion or two or some rich experience from a mentor or confidante.

How we need more of this availability! As stresses mount in South Africa and the voices of leaders and wanna-be leaders become an overloaded cacophony, how we often need someone who is just available. Just ….available. The old saying, “A problem shared is a problem halved” is true and it’s only with available people that that can ever occur. You may need one as you read me, but are you one? To whom do people turn when they need one? You? Or, are you too busy, too important, too out-of-reach to be available for them? How many relationships could have deepened if you just took another 5 minutes before you looked at your watch? Think about it – and do it next time. Have a Nike moment: “Just Do it!” And remember the quote I’m sure I’ve shared before: “Some people give you their free time. Others free their time for you.” Be one of those!

“Teachable” It’s not the ability to learn that is important here. Heaven knows we’ve listened to teachers and parents and teenagers for long enough to learn and some of us have learned much and have the walls of degrees to prove it. The issue with teachability is the willingness to learn; that is an attitude of the heart not of the left-side brain of the head. Have you ever had to hand over a job to someone so that you could take up your new promotion? In comes your replacement. It’s quite obvious from the outset that they wonder why you and not they got the leg-up. They can answer you before you open the first screen.

They are clever, really clever and help you on the keyboard. Then, you open up having done that every morning for three years and start the lesson only to find know-it-all knows it all. They really do, but the problem is, they don’t. They interject, roll their eyes, ponder their navel and generally show a quiet level of disdain for you, their teacher. Whenever I have trained, I have endured these awesome people; who needs this, I’m so clever? However, so many times the rubber hits the road with a thud when they have to do what has just been theory. You know, like estate agents and consultants, just fill in the form, hand it in and wait for the loan to be approved/the mandate to be signed. Oh really?! It takes years we know, of hard slog and mistakes and successes to create the relationship-based environment to be able to be successful. No one-day wonders here; rather the hard slog.

Teachable people know the privilege of their place “at the feet of giants”. They listen and question, they experiment and revert with mistakes to unpack the learning, and then they go out and succeed and revert with “war stories” and a fist full of mandates and applications. They know their place in humility, know their place in the power of skills, and even often have the gratitude to acknowledge those who taught and mentored them to success in the first place. Teachable people acknowledge the people, the past masters, who put them where they are today and, as usual, teachable people love to teach. You see, once you’ve experienced learning and internalised it, you can teach others. It’s called Progeneration and it’s the process of “passing on” to the next generation. It happens in homes, schools, factories, offices and in cultures and nations. It is critical to continued sustainability and success and I can assure you, the art and skill of growing others even to be better than you, is a blessing into old age. There is nothing so sweet as hearing that someone whose life you touched has advanced from teachable to teacher in their own right and by the way, you’re never done. Always hang out with someone better than you. You can always learn from them just by asking the deep questions that beg an answer in your mind.

Oh, and by the way, FAT people are not schloeps [spelling?]. FAT people are confident and committed. They may be learning, but that for a purpose perhaps even bigger than themselves. They may be faithful, but they’re also faithful to the truth, pointing out a wrong or a lack of ethics and values. They may be available, but they are courageous enough to set boundaries knowing that everything in life has an equal and opposite opportunity cost; especially their time that they use wisely.

FAT will hopefully always be something different for you. Something different to consider and something for which you strive. FAT people exist at every level of society, in every culture and for every season of your life. Be one.

HLJ’s other name is FAT. There for you, faithful, available and teachable. Willing to listen and willing to share.

Yours in Property.

FREEDOM

Good to be writing again after a hectic March so far. Life’s busy, hey?….even in Hermanus. Following on from Investment, Inspiration and Imagination in our LIFE series, we start with “F” in our acronym. Like Rights have Responsibilities, Freedom has boundaries. Sorry to burst your bubble, especially those of you Baby Boomers who still think the Hippie Age of Drugs, Sex and Rock ‘n Roll has not come to an end. It has! Good, wholesome boundaries accompany Freedom; Granny was always right. So what is this thing every American says they have, every Millennial believes they’re born with and the EFF talk about economically “in their lifetime?”

We turn to the immutable Google and find the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited. Of course, it can also be the state of not being in prison. Thus, with my newly-defined sense of Freedom, I wish that certain politicians, executives of Eskom and those of VBS Bank et al, were not free, but prison is not what we have in mind for this blog; the first definition is our focus. Let’s face it, per definition, we’re not free. Your parents ensured that. Your teachers ensured that. Then, and maybe now still, your boss ensured that. As a free Homeloan Junction consultant, your bank manager ensured that. As a partner of anyone, your partner ensured that. So where does this utter idealism come from? Think about it. We have the notion of unrestrained Freedom in our minds and it is certainly something to be striven for – we have often been grateful in this blog for our Freedom of the Press – Freedom always comes with boundaries. Even the Press have their own Ombudsperson to regulate their Freedom to just let off steam and say it like it is, “without fear or favour.” So true Freedom must be something else other than wanton Freedom. What are these boundaries?

1. Laws

You can’t drink and drive. You can’t steal and not be charged. You can’t compete illegally and not expect a reaction. You can’t beat someone and not expect a retaliation then or later. You can’t buy or rent and not pay and when any of these and many other laws, whether we think they’re well-intended or not are not sacrosanct, you have not Freedom, but anarchy. In other words, your Freedom comes into jeopardy. Laws limit Freedom no doubt, but they exist to protect and defend and finally, are there for those who seek justice. How sad it is that State Capture can occur and yet those who committed it, could get away with it for so long? We need an Enquiry as long as the TRC to uncover the evil done by the rich to the poor others, but it will be laws that in the end result in the Freedom to convict and get a conviction or not. Let us hope that justice, another variously defined term, prevails. My imploration to you, the reader, is this: do not lose your hope, even as your Freedom has been attacked by evil, greedy forces, that the laws will prevail and justice will be done to the few for the many.

2. A sense of values

There comes a point in context and time when our values rise above our want for Freedom. Whether that is being pulled aside with 9 glasses of wine in you as you have been exercising your Freedom or, being in a board meeting and biting your tongue to not blurt out the truth [read: “your truth”] about a person or event. We speak then of obedience, sensitivity and confidentiality towards the person or about the matter. We can remember times when we were rightfully constrained to not “tell it like it is” even in the face of provocation. Similarly, values keep our Free hands out of the cookie jar and out of the till, as the saying goes. I put to you that values are boundaries; much-needed and often exercised for our own good.

3. Consideration for others

How easy it is to “let rip and let her have it.” Freedom lets you, but you too may end up in wards 4, 5 and 6 of the nearest hospital 😊 Consideration takes your foot off the pedal even when the road seems quiet, and slows down reaction times to the nanoseconds required to reconsider your behaviour. I often refer to taxi drivers in this context; they can drive me “mad” as well, but I know a company where the taxi driver is treated as a businessman driving his asset for gain. In achieving that, many payments are in advance, well-used vehicles are traded-in in good condition, various benefits are not abused and insurance is drawn on as a last resort, not the thing to be used.

It is an amazingly different approach to business and profitable by design. So, often when I see “those guys” going down the left shoulder of the road, racing along the right “Buses only” lane, I remember that perspective. How would you feel when a significant portion of the 40%+ tax on a litre of fuel goes to pay for corruption? How would you feel when the payment is too big and the month too short to afford it, as you often hear a complaint about Uber? How would you feel when your passengers are concerned about their jobs for being late when Eskom switches off the robots? Consideration for others gives our Freedom boundaries.

4. Common sense

Let’s be logical, “I did it my way” belongs in a song. Your way may be the highway if the people in our seventh paragraph decide your Freedom does not suit them. Common sense tells us that over-stepping boundaries in the pursuit of individual Freedom can have negative consequences.

5. Other boundaries

In his brilliant book, Sapiens, A brief History of Humankind, Professor Yuval Harari posits that there are other kinds of boundaries that enabled global domination by a few colonial countries. Included are: Money, Communism, Capitalism, Imperial Visions, Religion, Nationalism and Culture. These are huge swathes of invisible, but powerful beliefs that have influenced nations to conform within their borders and internationally to super-powers’ whims and fancies. Very interesting reading if you have the inclination, but to the topic, these mega-beliefs are boundaries to our Freedom.

So what is all this talk about non-existent Freedom about? How do we achieve it in our lifetimes? Does it do any good? Freedom exists for us to wish it upon ourselves and others. Nelson Mandela expressed it this way: For to be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. You and I have a right to Freedom but it is also our duty to enhance the Freedom of others. You see, I would go so far as to say that unless we enhance others’ Freedom, we will not ultimately be or become Free. Selfishness is its own inhibitor.

6. Some thoughts about Freedom for our consideration:

  • Freedom is a privilege of the few who are content. On Netflix there is a movie called Minimalist. In it, a range of people who have decided that minimal is more, share their journeys and their new location. For those of us who have been privileged to amass [relatively speaking] many things, minimalism may be anathema. Ouma se kombers, Mom’s broaches, fotos in custard-coloured albums, linen, tapestry, doilies, silverware, books, Singer sewing machines…even clothes. My friend, who has just lost 5 kilograms, was in his Lake Tahoe sweater the other day [like my big yellow jersey with a horse’s head on it that my sister knitted for me in Standard 8] and told us, “I love wearing old things.” Oh really? Lots of those in Hermanus, but he was in Lake Tahoe in the 80’s. You see contentment is Freedom. The Good book says, “Contentment with godliness, is great gain.” It is indeed. Ever seen less well-off people who are really happy? – they have it. Give some thought to the Freedom of contentment in your own life.
  • Freedom is not dependent on circumstances. They help, make no mistake, but they are not your sole determinant of your Freedom. You see, a little earlier I proposed that “Freedom exists for us to wish it upon ourselves” but let’s look a little deeper at this. Anxiety, fear, worry, depression, unhappiness, loneliness, and many other emotions are prisons of the mind. You can be walking along a beach with the sun on your face and the breeze on your back and be racked with worry. Life throws things our way and steals our Freedom, our physical, emotional and spiritual Freedom. As it does and if we let it, the prison door locks behind us and we relinquish our Freedom to that “other thing.” Please, don’t think I’m preaching to you – I know that sound in my own mind and the hopelessness it brings every time. You are not alone but please find someone with whom you can speak your heart out and share the burden. This too will pass; don’t allow these negative emotions to steal your Freedom.
  • Freedom demands that you hold your assets lightly. The simple act of dedicating your children when they are young, is an act of lightening your hold. Your favourite house, your car, your family, your bank account – everything, just hold them lightly. Of course those of you who know me know that I couple this kind of language with my Faith, but I have learned by personal experience and experiences of others, that “assets” are lent not owned. Life does happen while we’re making other plans and those of you who have suffered loss of money, loved ones, health, material possessions and even, peace of mind, know that what we own does not define us for any length of time. Rather, who we are and who we become is the benchmark of a legacy. I officiated at my dear Aunt’s memorial service three weeks ago and informed her son and grandchildren that while she was a matriarch of note and had left them Millions, her legacy would be immortalised in them. Even after her very successful life, her “legacy asset” could only be realised in her children and so it is for many of us. You are truly Free if you hold your assets “lightly.”

I’m going to close this heavy blog for some with lightness. Free people are grateful people. I often say, “Even on a bad day, I’m blessed.” The corny, “When life gives me lemons, I make lemonade” may sound pathetic, but it holds some truth. I may be at my lowest ebb, my health may be waning, relationships may be in the drink, business may be getting harder, assets may be dwindling, the “old days” may be grand in comparison, but here and now there is a silver lining. Not everything is as bad as it seems and some whisper of gratitude is becoming of us. Thankfulness for what I have and have done. Thankfulness for money in the bank, health that remains, people who love me and who I love, a son, daughter or wife who cares and will go out of their way to do so. Be grateful for the many blessings. Put your troubles in perspective and know you’ve [probably] come through worse before. Freedom is Grateful and Gratitude is Freedom.

At HLJ we enjoy our Freedom. Every day is Free. We are free to serve, make choices, help you with choices in your business, free to have associates and friends and business principles. We have earned our Freedom in many respects and stuck it out when the chill winds of adversity stifled us into almost-paralysing doubt, but we survived and Freedom resulted in our business, our attitudes and our sense of Thanks. Thank you for enjoying your own Freedom, but having the good grace to join us in this business as associates and even friends. We appreciate you.

Yours in Property.

BUDGET 2019

A real quickie this blog joining the chorus of feedback and comment on the budget.

NFB Private Wealth Management was succinct in its bulletin of 20 February 2019, commenting:

In less than 60 minutes Minister Mboweni presented his maiden budget in Parliament today. In a national election year, off the back of poor economic growth and dwindling confidence, it had to be a budget targeting renewed optimism for us at home and the broader investment community. As he started talking, the rand weakened but by the end of the day, had strengthened against all major currencies; perhaps a glimmer of hope? – Minister Mboweni

Little changed as regards personal taxes but inflation will mean that the man-in-the-street pays more. From the little bit I’ve experienced recently, Mark Kingon, acting SARS Commissioner, has SARS on its toes looking for unpaid tax. Beware! Fortunately, there were “no changes to retirement funds, trust tax rates, donations tax and estate duty” and CGT. That’s good news. At the corporate level, company tax remains at 28%, says the NFB report. Sin taxes have increased. E-cigarettes have not escaped the attention of the new Finance Minister and one of our colleagues is really irked about that ☹

My most annoying one is fuel levy [29 and 31c on petrol and diesel respectively]. If we understood what it means to use a taxi every day we would realise the 41% we pay in taxes in the price of every litre of fuel, is simply a tax on the poor subsidized, in the total, by the rich. We’re not exceptional but when added to the impending Eskom tariff increase, prepare yourself for a shock to your pocket. We’re staring down the barrel of higher inflation, controlled by increasing interest rates, in a tiny-growth economy, while fighting for job creation.

The introduction of a Chief Reconfiguration Officer [CRO] to oversee SOEs who rely on the government for funding should curb ever-increasing debt. Love it, Minister Mboweni! Government’s wage bill being cut “by R27-billion over the next three years” and a “freeze on performance bonuses and salary increases for certain state employees” is welcomed. The Minister concluded, “There are no quick fixes, but our nation is ready for renewal.”

Sin Tax 2019

Very short and sweet.

The Businesstech report was more detailed but I just draw out of it certain relevant points:

  • The minister painted a bleak picture as the country struggles with rising expenditure, failing SOE’s and declining revenues, but outlined several processes underway to try and rein things in.
  • Economically, real GDP growth for South Africa in 2019 is forecast at 1.5% and is expected to reach 2.1% by 2021.
  • In the medium term, spending reductions are expected at R50.3 billion, while provisional allocations of R75.3 billion have been budgeted, mainly to deal with the Eskom crisis.
  • The country’s budget deficit has widened because of Eskom and because of a revenue shortfall and is now seen at 4.5% of GDP in 2019-20 – up from the 4.2% forecast in the October mid-term statement. [Ed: We have reached the critical 60% Debt-to-GDP level, often referred to a fiscal cliff.]
  • State wages and compensation remains the largest category of spending, accounting for 34.4% of consolidated expenditure – a level which the Finance Minister described as “unsustainable”. Measures are in place to realise a R27 billion reduction in spending here, he said.

Eskom:

  • The big topic on everyone’s mind in the lead up to the budget was bailouts for SOE’s – and especially what was going to be done with Eskom.
  • According to Mboweni government will not take on the power utility’s debt, as has been suggested by Eskom in the past.
  • “I want to make it clear: the national government is not taking on Eskom’s debt. Eskom took on the debt. It must ultimately repay it,” he said.
  • However, he said that the restructuring plan – to split Eskom into three entities – is on track, and Treasury is setting aside R23 billion a year for the next three years to financially support Eskom during its reconfiguration.
  • The total of R69 billion is a “shareholder” move to assist the utility to pay its debt, however, it comes on the condition that Eskom cuts cost to cover debt-service costs and meet redemptions.

Land Reform:

  • While the government pushes ahead with its plans to make land expropriation without compensation more clear in the Constitution, Treasury is also allocating funds to accelerate land reform and acquire state land.
  • R18.4 billion has been allocated to accelerate land reform over the medium term, which will help finalise more than 1,700 restitution claims and acquire more than 325,000 hectares of land for landless South Africans.
  • This budget was presented by the ex-Governor of the SARB. He is highly competent and politically connected, but what I like about him most of all is untainted and honest. Can we do with a bit of those virtues right now!
  • Honestly, our country is in a shocking state after 10 years of Zuma [trust my maths, please, with at least 4 more years to come as “aftermath’]. However, whether Tito stays or goes, another strong Finance Minister will replace him and we will get through this. Again, honestly, the demise of Eskom is too horrific to contemplate so let’s get on the bright side. “Too big to fail”, was the way the World Bank or IMF described Eskom.

All of that said, in the property industry we will enjoy:

  1.  A 1.5% GDP growth this year – hopefully!!
  2. No increase in property-based taxes.
  3. A slight narrowing in affordability though we need to wait for Eskom’s tariff announcement.
  4. Probably, stable to improved job statistics.
  5. Better house sales year-on-year [I believe].

Compared to what we have lived with while we get out of the mess and approach the General Elections, I would take this if I was you.

HLJ does take it and remains positive.

Yours in Property.

INSPIRATION

Continuing with our series using the acronym LIFE and on the “I”, let’s explore Inspiration.

I have had the privilege of meeting many inspirational people in my life. Victor Vermeulen, the Transvaal cricketer who dived into an empty pool, is memorable. Constrained to his wheelchair and cared for by his amazing mom, he had us in tears and stitches as he spoke of his life and times. He paints by mouth and even coaches cricket in his spare time. Think about it… coaches cricket… from his wheelchair.

Similarly, Nick Vujicic, the Australian evangelist, who was born with tetra-amelia syndrome and therefore with no arms or legs, is also one of my most inspirational human beings. He struts up and down the stage and then falls over. Flat on his tummy in the video clip, he then tells the kids who are fixated on him, that you may fall and things look impossible, but you can always find a way to get back up. Slowly, he turns himself around and with his head on a firm cushion, he finds his balance and “stands” again. Love it!

When I watch and listen to these kinds of guys, the question: “So what’s your problem, Jack?”, pulses through my mind. Huh?! Fat flab – then do something about it! Relationships – sort them out! Petty issues like taxi drivers – get over yourself! Nothing that worries me day by day as things currently stand, even matter. Really!

Have a look at YouTube if you don’t believe me…

So why do I focus on disabled people to now? Perhaps mistakenly, in your opinion, they personify the courage of the human spirit. Victor: no legs, where once there was a batsman, no arms where once there was a scholar, no independence where once there was transport and venues, no privacy where once I showered and changed myself and then, in the hidden corners of my soul, all the doubt and hurt and “if only’s” and anger and self-un-forgiveness and all of that put aside in favour of life and love and others’ inspiration. What about Nick? He’s never had anything of Victor’s life before the accident; not one iota, but over the years, he has developed his mind, found a lasting Christian faith and journeyed with probably millions of people in audiences around the world lifting their spirits and sense of wellbeing. Wow! So what’s your problem, [your name]?

The other day, the Stormers came to train in our gym. Eben Etsebeth is larger than huge, larger than life and his bicep is bigger than my thigh. Flippen’ huge! If he’s not your hero, tough; when you see him you will be in awe and if you don’t know who I’m talking about, shame on you!! Jy watch seker nie rugby nie – Skandaal… He’s an inspiration and like Kolisi and others, we scream them over the goal line every Saturday in season. Just by playing the game, he’s an inspiration; in my gym, well, he changes the ambience of that sweaty place, but everything is in the right place and he had everything, and then honed it, to make him the great rugby player he is.

What about Nelson Mandela and so many other great leaders? You want to know them. You long to be known by them. You hang onto their words – you YouTube, TED and Wikipedia them. They inspire you and lift you up when you’re down and raise your sights when you’re up. That’s what inspiration does, but then, the other day I get this clip of an ant pulling a spider up a wall. I have no idea of the weight variance and, in case you wondered, the spider was dead, but, my goodness, was that little ant strong and determined. No wonder the Good Book says: “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.” – [Proverbs 6:6].

Big and small, human or otherwise, they inspire us. You could say, we are surrounded by inspiration. So what’s wrong when you and I cannot lift ourselves out of sadness, worry and agitation so many times? When finding things to be grateful for seems to be a trick of the motivationalists to detract us from our own weariness and problems. Ellende!

So what about you and I? Can we be an inspiration? We have all our arms and legs so there’s nothing to overcome. We have all of our faculties so we cannot be modern-day Helen Kellers who said: “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing, and, blind, she lived it; way before Facebook and YouTube and TED and TV – just newspapers, radio and a world stage with enthralled audiences whose hearts were quickened. So what about us? Educated and able to be, relatively wealthy, well-travelled with more holidays planned. Married with children and able to make them. Employed, some self-employed and connected to do our work better. So what about us? What about me?

One of my favourite quotes is that by Martin Luther King,

Not everyone can be famous, but everyone can be great. And then there is another that I have come to love sharing repeatedly [Longfellow: Psalms of Life]:
The lives of great men all remind us
That we can make our lives sublime
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time.

 

Rather than set the bar high focussing on what everybody else does and says, “Let’s get a little practical with our own lives…”

1. You have Influence

Whether you’re up or down, we know it. So, be up. My misery, problems and hassles worn on my sleeve may be real to me and based on Agrizzi’s evidence; my posture may be because I have synthesized the facts and I’m going to do something about it, but darn it, making my problems your problems always, in-depth and continually, affects you. I can have whatever, I can confide my deepest thoughts which hurt with a confidante but when I step out of the room, my influence makes or breaks your day. Make my day, please. I want motivated, I want enthusiastic, I want whatever hope is left in you and I want my kids to believe the world can be a better place because they’re in it. Leaders, your people don’t need sweat on your brow. Be scared, be real scared, but then get out and display confidence.

I must tell you this notion feels fake for me. For many years I never let on I was in pain – that my ear hurt after successive tumour operations. Nobody knew it and I’m fine was my pat answer. Then one day I shared that stance, in a spirit of what we like to call authenticity, with my Coach Supervisor who is also a psychologist, and she said to me, “You need to let go a little, give yourself some slack and share your true feelings.” I started to do that and felt really authentic. You ask me, “How are you feeling?” and unlike my usual, “I’m fine!”, I said, “My ear is hurting me and I’m taking quite a few pills a day for the pain.”

What then followed was hock and horror firstly but then a kind of distancing that was tangible in my relationships. You see, on the one hand, people could not think of Jack appearing miserable [he’s always so positive], and, on the other hand, they just couldn’t face my pain on top of their own issues. So I hear the word authentic and I understand it well, trying always to be as open and honest as possible., but I have learned to limit, once again, my complete honesty around any negative things or physical pain, preferring only to share my deepest opinions with confidantes. Honesty or hypocrisy, you decide! I want to be inspirational certainly without being perceived as fake and those who know me, know that.

2. Mix with Positive People

Allied to what I’ve opened up on above, mixing with positive people rubs off. Don’t be fooled, you are not bullet-proof and inoculated against bad news and often when you’re down, I’m up. It works like that in our relationships and we find ourselves able to comfort each other at different times. Enthusiasm is contagious and being enthusiastic is what people want you to be. They will pick up flakiness by their 6th sense, but they will also rise to genuine happiness and hope spoken out. I have lived with positive people in the business. They exude confidence, they always have a plan or consult to get the plan, they empower you by trusting you with information so that you can feel and be part of the solution, they form bonds with others and “get real” if and when it’s appropriate. Gail Kelly always goes through my mind when I write like this [if you don’t know her, you can Google what an inspiration she is].

3. Get involved

Not sure of that, I hear many of you say. I’ve got enough troubles of my own. Really, if that’s your opinion, go back and read my opening paragraphs. Involvement asks questions and listens to answers, it takes time to reply and not rush out your experience and your solutions, it respects the other person and does not pry. Let me get real about someone I know… He has bone cancer and a friend of his told my wife in confidence knowing that I would get the message. I do not want to breach confidence as I respect the privacy of people, but I’ve just received a call and been asked to go for coffee on Friday and was told that on Thursday he’s going to the doctor. Will he finally tell me about his illness? I don’t know, but I can tell you, I’m involved and waiting to become more so as matters transpire.

People need you at times in their lives; you don’t need to barge in larger-than-life with all the answers. Just stand by, be available and be prepared. To this latter comment, I was intrigued to hear during George Bush senior’s funeral a meeting in which his Deputy President, Dan Quayle, asked him what he expected of him. His answer was: “Be faithful and be prepared.” That’s involvement. In leadership positions, you will often hear me refer to FAT people – Faithful, Available, and Teachable and goodness me, have I been blessed to work with tens of such people in my career. They’re not puppy dogs that roll over when you speak, they’re competent, opinionated, hard-working and committed, but when the chips have been down and a single outcome required, they have been FAT. How grateful I am that I have been able to be involved in many lives of family, friends and associates and then felt their involvement in mine at crucial times – I am indeed, a man most blessed – thank you all who may be reading for being my inspiration so often.

4. Believe in Something Bigger than You

Crimped in the space of your mind, imprisoned but your little woes, even engrossed in your big ones, you can never inspire. In my humble opinion, it is the belief that there is a higher cause for our lives that takes us through and makes our “overcoming ability” an inspiration to others. Myopic behaviour is selfish and self-centred – me, me, me. Expansive, abundant behaviour enthuses others, brings out the best in them and makes them above average and even brilliant. You see, the Pygmalion Effect, having a genuine sense that others are better than where they’re at [of My Fair Lady movie fame], lift them to greater heights. Many classroom experiments have been done when I teacher was told the opposite of the true IQ of pupils. So the teacher gets to the class believing the bright kids are not-so-bright and the not-so-bright kids are really clever. Lo and behold, the grades of the bright kids’ decline and the not-so-bright kids’ grades improve, even dramatically. What causes that? – well, I posit that the way the teacher talks to the kids founded in what she thinks about them raises the capacity of the children to believe in themselves. They rise to her expectation of them.

So, taking that to our own situation, if you believe that there is something big, bigger than you, towards which to strive, upon which to trust, for which you serve and get involved, then just the way you get out of bed in the morning changes and changes dramatically. The Purpose is Power. A Sense of Belonging is Presence and Positivity about someone or something beats misery hands down. Some say that the two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you discover Why. Sitting in limbo wondering and wandering meaninglessly? Find that higher cause and let It, or them, ignite you. You’re better than lounging around mentally and spiritually going to seed. Wake up! Stand up! And Get out! – be the difference you want to see.

As I close, I want to leave you with this quote by George Bernard Shaw that I know you have seen before, but bears repeating:

This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature, instead of a feverish little clod of ailments and grievances that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

We are all on a journey. You and I coupled only by our humanity, but for those who are rich and famous, well done and for those of us who are not, we can at least be great. Be influential, mix with the positive and rub off on the negative, be involved, and live for a cause higher than you and for which you leave a legacy albeit just in the memories of your children. You have what it takes…

Yours in Property.