Personal Effectiveness [Part 5]


Some property news from the latest FNB Property Barometers:

  1. Foreign buyers have declined. No rocket science here as the cost of buying has increased due to the Rand strength, particularly related to the British Pound. On the other hand, confidence in South Africa is declining.
  2. As regards 1st Time Homebuyers, their proportion of the total is declining. A couple of reasons are proffered, namely, affordability and the economic slowdown. Affordability has no doubt improved as salaries have adjusted whilst the interest rate has been stable and prices have not shown any real growth worth mentioning. However, I would bet confidence again rules the roost – why would any responsible young person take on a 20-30 year debt if the economy is in recession? It would seem irresponsible to swap your rental unit for  a bought unit if your job is in question.

What we will need to understand is that little will change until the Elective Conference of the ANC votes in a new leader who carries the confidence [funny how that word keeps re-appearing] of the majority of the people and all other SA stakeholders, none the least of these being the the forums to whom Pravin was addressing our viability as an investment destination when he was [c]rudely recalled. Remember, they represented some $5tn [that’s $5000000000000, or R64000000000000] of investment funds. Flippit!

Back to our blog on personal effectiveness…..


Life is hard for many and a bed of roses for some. If you’re in either state as you read this, just wait, the opposite will be true in the fairly near future. Very few of us have lived life in one state or the other continuously and thank goodness for the break from “hard” every now and again. On the other hand, “roses” is not sustainable either as you don’t grow and learn as a person if everything is easy all the time.

But some who we know seem to take the rough and the smooth in their stride. Whether it is scheming, good luck, falling with your bum in the butter, the proverbial silver spoon or cleverness that does it, I guess we would need to understand each case. But somehow, they seem to survive and even prosper as the traverse Life and its obstacles; in the end, they seem to live “a good life”. Passivity, in this blog, refers to easy-come-easy-go with not too much effort but just enough to get you by. After all, why study to hard when 50% [well, it used to be anyway] is a pass and nobody remembers the pass-mark anyway? So I do what is necessary and don’t stress too much about distinctions. Passivity lets the dice roll or the card be dealt and then plays with the result. Oh, how often I felt the stress of performance on me and watched others “just chill” under the same circumstances. In the final analysis we all seem to get to the end in one piece. In fact, “if you worry you die and if you don’t worry, you still die; so why worry?” Know someone like this? Envy someone like this? Probably.

Enter the element of Risk.

I have shared before that there are many definitions of Success:

– Success is the successive realization of a goal that is meaningful to the individual.

– Success is the ability to endure pain.

– Success is {you name it for yourself].

But i would put to you, Success is the taking and managing of risk.

I know of no risk-free venture that ended is Success as defined by any of these definitions which are a handful compared with the universe. Just check out Google for tens more. Risk and Reward is often discussed – low risk/low reward; high risk/high reward etc.

Here are some situations:

– My Granny once told me that her marriage was her highest risk and her greatest reward.

– Enter university to study and the risk of failure looms.

– Get behind the wheel of a car and you pose a risk to others or them to you.

– Move town for adventure and things don’t turn out the way they were intended.

– Have children and one is retarded.

– Start a business and risk everything.

And so the list goes. Each of us have a story of risks taken and having to manage the fallout from the decision. Life is risky and even the most elementary of decisions can be a risk – ask my friend who cycled Wine to Whale and swallowed a bee only to prove allergic.

You can solve the problem by staying in bed every day. Don’t venture out “just in case”. Drive slow, save, eat right, don’t tempt fate – all things we’ve probably said to avoid if not evade risk. Unfortunately, you can get so good at it that life becomes Passive. In fact, I put to you that much Passivity is simply, fear of failure. You agree?

So let’s look a little at Risk. From a neuroscientific point of view, the avoidance of risk is the same as the avoidance of pain or danger. It is a self-defense mechanism by which we protect ourselves. Now when you’re crossing a road, it makes absolute sense, but when you’re deciding to leave  your employment to become your own boss, it makes only relative sense. That’s because if you walk in front of a bus, your end is certain but when you give up the perks and comforts of a paying job for a dream, the future is not so easy to define.

Just speaking to this example which many of us know, taking the risk is sometimes the easy part – not that it feels like that at the time that you speak at your farewell party and greet your colleagues. It’s a lonely time, a toggle between self-confidence and self-doubt. The knot in your stomach is real, so real you wake up with it and go to sleep with it; many times a night. Others look in and we feel their stare. Many tell you you can do it and others really give you the feeling that they mean it. Risk, at its most naked. The “taking”, to repeat our last definition above, is tough and many fail at this early stage living with the guilt of the consequences of that failure while others tuck it under their arm very proud that they at least tried – the best way to react to any lack of success.

Those of us who have failed understand that taking risk is just the first bead of perspiration on the brow of the risk-taker. Managing of risk raises its head every day from then on out. Bill Gates said, “I remain paranoid”. I would hope he’s more chilled now, but in his biography he tells of the early days of Microsoft and feeling like anyone could do what he had done in their garage. I know a successful chef who left the place where he really made his name and went into his own business. Borrowings were his capital and he has begun to battle with repayments. He is “managing” risk in the purest sense. iI have an electrician working right now in my home who sweated to buy a bakkie and then did not insure. He has just showed me pictures of a smash he had when someone skipped a robot. My first question, Did you have insurance? [one of the simplest risk-mitigators to understand but we know only 30% of the vehicles in our country are insured]. The answer, No – so guess what his cashflow looks like at the moment as he hires a bakkie daily. Frankly, whether capital or working capital, facilities refused or withdrawn, stress in the marriage because you’re working long hours, partners ineffective or even stealing from you, debtors not paying and creditors uplifting terms or, worst of all, a combination of these as you try to make things work in a Zero economy – the managing of risk is the hard part. It feels like an eternity that will never end; for some a tunnel of despair. It happens at any time. I have a brother-in-law whose 9 year old business just couldn’t get building contracts signed off to start. Two years of faithfulness has paid off but the river ran deep for this dear family. Never immune, managing risk is serious work physically and mentally.

To break away from the doldrums, if you’re in it, take heart. Many people have endured and succeeded from the depth of commercial desperation. You are not alone in your struggle and if all else fails you can boldly say, “I tried!” On the positive side, you will be richer in character at least, for having come through the heat. In these days, employees are getting caught in the mix with 48000 jobs lost just in Q12017 – the chips are truly down. The questions are: What drives people to succeed and when would you cut your losses? Just to answer the the latter question, cut your losses when you have done your best. Only you can define that point and once you have thought it through, taken counsel of trusted people and done the calculations, then make the decision and do the next best thing. Commercially you may want to be the last person on the ship but sacrificing everything also has its own risk to take and then manage.

As regards the former, some would say that luck plays a part. A big contract gets approved, a white knight injects capital for a reasonable share of the business; many scenarios are possible. But, as you know, I don’t believe in luck. One of the things I see in my own business partner and in HLJ is a sense of purpose. It may be to pay the bond, or it may have grandiose proportions but beginning with the end in mind seems to drive all creativity to do what it takes to manage risk once you’ve taken risk. Need finds a way and determination and purpose are brothers. Secondly, wise decisioning up front can mitigate risk. if I look at my business associates, they have a core income that they invest in the next area of risk – no longer are they betting the bank but the income from their core business pays the necessities and the balance is invested in ventures of different kinds. I have no advice for that initial risk assessment – theories abound and cost:benefit and DCF calculations abound all trying to create Best and Base cases for the venture. But I can tell you, once you have done your sums and presented your Business Plan, you need to take the risk and jump. I don’t play down the business deliberations, but I do play up the guts and glory that takes and then manages any risk to sustainable success. Perhaps the formula looks something like this:

Vision + Risk + Courage + Ingenuity + Determination + Management x 10 years = Success.

Paraphrasing the founder of Twitter, 10 years of  creation and hard work always looks like an instant success.

Homeloan Junction fits the bill. Track its history as I know it and you will quickly understand the taking of risk and the management of risk. Many a time the auditor was shocked by the numbers but still the business struggled and survived to be what it is today – a successful Winner recognized by award after award. And to those who fought bravely, perhaps after years of being in business, to survive Sub-Prime [for which no one has ever been convicted!] and now have to endure Zero and now less growth, we salute you. Not cheaply, not because it’s the right thing to say but because you have earned your stripes and stand tall as commissioned agents and/or business men and women who have the CIDM mentioned in the formula above. From every employee you employ and your peers in your industry, BRAVO AND WELL DONE!

Finally, personal effectiveness, I trust you have acknowledged by now, has many facets. At the heart of it is a healthy body and mind but from that vantage, Purpose, Perspective, Focus and now, Risk-taking and -management have core roles to play in our Success. I trust these blogs are inspiring you in your pursuit of  personal effectiveness.

Yours in Property.

Jack Trevena
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