Jack of all trades versus a specialist, my lessons

What I saw or learnt from being a jack of all trades to a specialist

In the past I was a jack of all trades. Now that I look back I wonder how I even got through the day. I tried to do so many things along the way. Now I am big advocate of specialising, find that one thing that you can do so well. Why have I turned my back on being a jack of all trades. Well, I can only share what I have experienced and learnt along the way.

Breadth but little depth
When you are chasing a lot of things whether it is projects or goals, it is not easy to keep your eye on the ball. Sometimes you are reduced to maintenance or administrator mode. This is a mode where you are reduced to maintaining the status-quo. You are now the administrator who ensures that nothing breaks. How do you fulfil your dreams if you are going to look after the status quo, that is a contradiction. Our dreams require us to move beyond our comfort zones. At the end of the day I realised that multi-tasking which is very similar to being a jack-of-all-trades leads to a great deal of breadth but unfortunately very little depth. There is simply no time for depth, for getting into the nitty-gritties of something until you know it inside out.

The cost is excellence
Now if you are not able to get really deep into a topic, field, task or job, what are the chances that you are going to really master it and excel it? Slim I bet. Being an expert in something does not come by chance but lots and lots of practice, thousands of hours. Spending that much time on one things simply means some things will have to be excluded, sacrificed.  That it what it takes to perfect a craft. Please note by other things I am not saying you should not have a life but you should reconsider those things are on the same level as what you are pursuing, not important things like family life. That is on a whole different level.

Caught in a trap
When you are multi-tasking or chasing many things, it is very easy to get stuck. You see you are juggling many balls in the air and there is no time to focus on any one of them. The minute you start to focus more on one particular ball chances are you drop the others. The price you pay for keeping all the balls in the air is that you are stuck with it.

Fail fast versus delayed process
If you are going to fail in something you might as well fail fast so that you can get the lessons and move on. A long delayed process is not only agonizing but can leave you with deep scars. Doing many things at once makes it difficult to assess or see what is really working and what is not. This means that sometimes we only get feedback very late in the process instead of early on. Specialising makes it easier to see if you are on the right path or not, it gives you a chance to fail fast, try again or move on to something else.

That said some people have done incredibly well as generalists. They have mastered the craft. However, in my case I think I will stick to specialising.

Right here, right now, present!

The power of NOW perhaps as Paul experiences it

For a very long time Paul was never been quite content with the present. His mind was always pushing forward into the future, always wondering what it will take to do this and do that, go here and there.When his thoughts moved back to the past he loved to analyse things and consider different scenarios. How would things have turned out if he had gone left instead of right or even stopped right there? For this reason Paul was often in a different world. Only his body was was in the present while his mind floated.

But suddenly there is a profound sense of peace of being right here, right now that takes Paul by surprise. As he takes a deep breath, his mind, his senses, all his faculties are right here. It seems so simple yet it has taken so him long to get here. How can that be?  It is a wonderful feeling of something so deep yet also basic in a puzzling way. Not trying to multi-task a hundred and one things but just doing the one thing even if it just sitting and listening to the world around me. He is not trying to be everywhere anymore doing everything, just one place doing one thing at one time.

Paul wonders is that the power of NOW that he has been hearing about for an eternity?  If it is, he totally loves it. If it’s not he still loves it, maybe even more. He won’t be rushed. He will go about his business with a single-mindedness and focus that almost makes him machine-like. It is the age of machines after all, is it not?

When Paul talks to a child he converses with them like they are the only person in the world. When his listens to someone, he looks at them, he is fully engaged, he puts on hold his own ideas and excitement about how he will respond. When Paul nods his head in agreement, he means it with all sincerity.  At this point he is very content with were he is. He does not wish he were anywhere else. Everything fits. It is as it should be.

He is a Present, right here, right now! Life is good.

The South African Junior Chess Championships (SAJCC), my take so far

My take on the South African African Junior Chess championships being held in Cape Town.

The South African Junior Chess Championships in Cape Town
The South African Junior Chess Championships in Cape Town

We have now had a few Rounds at The 2015 South African Junior Chess Championships (SAJCC). The championships are running from 3 to 10 January 2016 at the Sports Centre, University of Cape Town. Ladies and gentlemen, there are no easy games in this tournament. I have lived through the drama of wins, losses and hard-fought draws as a Team Manager and Part Coach.

I don’t know who it’s tougher for, the players or the team managers or parents. The players have to sit for hours and hours to try and out play each other. Meanwhile the team managers and parents have to live through all the drama. Sometimes you think it’s going to be a draw, then the position looks losing and then there is a win, or someone makes an illegal move and it completely changes everything. You add up the team score so far and work out what it will take to win the match. Then as the evaluation of the position starts to change, you wonder if you are still going to get that win or maybe it’s just best to settle for a draw.

The parents sit very patiently inside or outside the playing hall. Judging from expressions on their son or daughter, they can take a good guess whether everything is going well. A dejected look at the end of the game needs absolutely no explanation. An excited or relieved player could mean a win or draw, it all depends!

How can one forget the arbiters who have to criss-cross the hall endlessly as they attend all kinds of queries. In the last hour of play it seems the number of blunders, illegal moves and the like. I for one do not envy the arbiters. This evening I saw a player who was completely winning, perhaps overcome with excitement, make an illegal move while in check. Unfortunately he had moved his queen and had to use the piece to block the check and the piece went for absolutely nothing. He resigned a move later. I felt for him. All those hours spent raking his brains and now it ends so suddenly and so painfully. How do you console such a player?

Spare a thought for those who capture the games so that we can get them in PGN. Portable Game Notation (PGN) is a plain text  format for recording chess games which makes it easy to replay the game. You can compare it to the words and notes to a song. When the game is played those involved record it using simple pen and paper and then those capturing the game on computer have to try and read the handwriting of players who under pressure can sometimes write like doctors, no offence to doctors.

There are many people running around behind the scenes to make sure that the shuttles arrive and drop off people, the rounds start on time and that things work as they should. It is hard to imagine that a venue can have as many as two thousand one hundred and fifty-eight people, all trying to checkmate each other.

The determination of the players just to get that point is just amazing. The time control means that players can be playing for at least 3 hours per round not even taking the increment into account. This means by the end of the day they can played for at least 6 hours a day. Getting rest before games is EXTREMELY important

All the best to our players and teams, some of whom are doing very well. There is still a great deal to play for in this tournament. The teams have 10 players and every single board makes a difference. May the best team and player win.

Ebrahim Heammaenia, the world’s first ocean biker

Ebrahim Hemmatnia, the world’s first ocean biker

EbrahimMeet the man Ebrahim Heammaenia the incredible, the world’s first ocean biker.  He is the first person in the world to bike an ocean. When I got in touch with Ebrahim I was trying to figure out what it means to bike the Ocean. Biking is riding so he is the first person to ride across an ocean. How on earth do you ride across an ocean? I was trying to get my head around that? Do you use a bike for that? I had all these questions so I couldn’t wait to watch his videos to find out more about this incredible achievement.

Born on  25 June 1976) Ebrahim is a Persian-Dutch gentleman with a great appetite for adventure. It is not every day you come across someone who will bike across a lake let alone a body of water as vast as an ocean. According to wikipedia the Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the world’s oceans, following the Pacific Ocean. With a total area of about 106,400,000 square kilometres it covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth’s surface and about 29 percent of its water surface area.

Why bike across an ocean
The whole idea behind biking was to bring people together and to spend the noble message that education is very important and that all children should be sent to school. Children must follow their dreams, how beautiful is that?  Ebrahim developed the world first amphibious cycle (boatbike) a human-powered vehicle capable of operation on both land and ocean. So this man is not only a super athlete but an inventor. He is the founder of Dutch Dream Academy, committed to empower students & entrepreneurs to maximize their potential through inspirational lectures.

The perils of such an adventure
Some of the dangers that Ebrahim faced along the way included sharks. In his opinion the sharks in Brazil became more aggressive. At least he has survived to tell the tale. At some stage the sharks started to hit the Boatbike causing some damage. Fortunately, this was big enough to derail the project. However, Ebrahim reckons riding on the road was even more dangerous given the speeding cars and trucks on the road.

Boatbike expedition across the big cities 
Ebrahim biked the Atlantic Ocean in 68 days by an amphibious cycle (Boatbike). He crossed several big cities as Dakar, Natal, João Pessoa, Recife, Aracaju, Salvador, Vitória, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The boatbike actually looks like a car, a formula racing car from several decades gone by. It has 4 wheels, predictably two in front and two at the back. The Boatbike is equipped with 14 gears and sometimes can reach speeds of 45 kilometres per hour especially when going downhill.

What is Willpower about? Willpower means following your dreams, simply!  Just continue and don’t give up. So what’s next for this intrepid adventurer, well to write a book about this amazing, daunting experience, hopefully make some good sales and go back to square one, start again on another adventure but this time in the Pacific!

World peace in our lifetime? Forget it!

World Peace cannot be achieved in our lifetimes. We have been manipulated to believe that certain wars are necessary when all they are at the end of the day are rackets.

Peace and WarAs a young boy I dreamt of world peace. A world without wars. When I learnt in history and science that human beings were the most intelligent species it seemed that world peace was truly achievable. We could all sit down around some time and reason with one another, put the guns away, let common sense and peace prevail. Were we not above the food chain, with great visions of the future for our children? Surely peace was the only way for us.

As a middle-aged man I take stock of where the world is. We are still fighting one another. From the North to the South Pole wars continue. I have given up on World peace in our lifetime and I see myself as an optimistic. Why? Why is World Peace so hard to achieve?  Well, it boils down to the fact that as one General once pointed out a long time ago, wars are rackets. Wars tend to be very profitable for one or more parties.

Let us look at wars at a simplistic level. There is the supply of weapons, ammunition, soldiers have to be trained, someone has to pay for this. This is not for free. Typically wars feature some of the most sophisticated weapons intended to inflict as much damage as possible and maximise deaths. Deep financing is required for wars. If there is no money involved there will be no war. Basically wars are good business for someone at the end of the year. If you do your research you will realise that a number of economies are benefiting immensely from wars. Sometimes the very same countries calling for peace between the warring nations have played a key role in starting the wars. This is not a coincidence at all.

The definition of a racket a systematised element of organized crime. Another definition said  a  racket was a loud noise or clamor, especially of a disturbing or confusing kind; din; uproar. If we look closely at wars are they not really organised crimes against humanity? We generally do not think of wars as crimes as crimes but sometimes people are dying in their millions. Can this ever be justified? Who will be held accountable for all these wars?  So many people are dying in wars that we have become desensitized to death. We have become used to it because we see so much of it.

At the root of many wars are commercial interests, an outrageous claim right? Take the Iraqi war for instance waged by the US and its allies in 2003. When you look at the Iraqi war, here are a few questions worth posing in no particular order? Who started this war? Why was the war started? Who benefited from this war during and after. The Iraqi war then created so much instability in Iraq giving way to the Iraqi Civil War which was still taking place at the time of writing.

The reason given at the time was to find Nuclear Weapons, weapons of mass destruction as was drummed into our psyche day after day. The world was made to believe that there were weapons in Iraq. The US was so certain of this. We all know that not a single nuclear weapon was found and it really was about oil from the very beginning. But the war would never would never taken place if we did not accepted the pretext, the weapons of mass destruction. What happened was really mass destruction of an entire country with impunity, more than anything else.

The Iraqi war was classic racket. A reason was found to justify a war. More than a decade later, we have maybe a million people dead but no one really cares. No one in a global context who can enforce accountability around the war. In fact no one is really held accountable because those who waged the war are also the most powerful people in the world, the untouchables. Years later we find out that the war on Iraq was decided on by the globe-trotting Tony Blair and his American counterpart George Bush, long before the war actually took place. They had agreed on the war but what they needed was to justify the war. They needed to sell this war not only to the general public but their counterparts.

The companies that supplied the arms in the wars,  the companies that were involved in the rebuilding the war torn country are from the same countries that helped start the war. What does this really tell us? There is a whole massive industry around wars. You start wars, your companies supplying weapons benefit. When the warring nations are destroyed, you provide the companies to rebuild infrastructure. When those same countries need financing you are there in their time of need. Ladies and gentlemen, if this is not a racket, I don’t know what is.

When you think of a racket as a loud noise of a disturbing or confusing kind, wars are doing this to us. Wars are disturbing human progress, cities are flattened and people live as if they are in the stone age without basic amenities. Development is set back generations. Generations are lost. Why do we do this to ourselves? Some wars have been taking place for so long that sometimes the people fighting have forgotten why they are really fighting. All they know is that their fathers and grandfathers were fighting and they are just following suit. These fighters are now just pawns in a game of chess they don’t understand.

One of the sad fact of wars is that the human race will never trully achieve its true potential. I cannot think of any other creature that is so determined to destroy itself. A species that continues so single-mindedly with a mission to maim and destroy itself. We have accumulated massive stockpiles of very sophisticated weaponry that could destroy countries or lay waste continents at the press of a button. Surely no good can come from this.
There is so much money involved in wars and the military that if it were diverted to other uses I am sure poverty across the world could be eliminated. We are not talking millions of dollars but trillions.

The mainstream media is part of the racket so they will not be of much use in researching the real story behind wars. One could think of the mainstream media as the marketing function behind wars. If you look at the Iraqi war they played a massive role in the demonising of Saddam Hussein. He was the devil and had to be eliminated.  When the war actually started, some of the media were embedded in the army and they brought news right from the battlefront. The fall of Saddam Hussein was declared as a massive victory that would usher a new era of peace and democracy. Now that he is gone, are his people any better? Not one bit.  Where is the peace and democracy? Don’t fool yourself for one bit. Those who started the wars are long gone, basking in the glory of retirement, immune from arrests of any kind. After all the people killed were in the middle east.

This is what the most intelligent animal species is capable, bringing its own kind to the brink. Disturbingly when one researches nuclear weapons, we have come very close to catastrophe on various occassions not because of war itself but human error. So we build these weapons that could destroy us all on a whim, just so that we can intimidate the other parties. Well nuclear technology is now so commonly known that it would come as little surprise that many more countries actually have nuclear weapons than is acknowledged. After all stealth and secrecy are very important attributes in the military.

Let me finish with a quote by Albert Einstein:  “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”. That quote may seem funny as hell but there is nothing funny about how the World will be brought to such a fate. If you hope for world peace do yourself a favour, forget it! Not in our lifetime.

Ngano dzakaenda kupi (Where did the stories go)

What happened to the folklore of hare and baboon

Today I just felt like writing something in my mother tongue, Shona. I don’t know many websites in Shona and since I could not find too many things I thought why not just add it to my blog. Hopefully in future I can have a Shona sectio. I will need to figure out how to do this in WordPress as I manage my own websites. I have written just two paragraphs asking what happened to the folklore (ngano) of hare (tsuro) and baboon(gudo). As children we were delighted for hours by the stories of hare always outwitting baboon. It was always like this, hare getting the better of baboon. I cannot remember a time in a story when baboon came out tops.

So for a very long time I always saw the hare which for me was the same as a rabbit, as a very clever animal while the baboon was stupid, slow and going to fall for some trick sooner or letter. Come to think of it the stories were quite short but always entertaining and something we always looked forward to. You could never tell what would happen on a particular occasion.

Tiri vana vadiki taiudzwa ngano dzana tsuro nagudo. Nyaya idzi dzainaikidza zvokuti waitosiya zvose zvawanga uri kuita, kuti uterere. Tsuro mag’ena kanga kakangwara chaizvo. Gudo aigara achitambiswa pfungwa dzake. Waitoshaya kuti zviri kufamba sei. Sei Gudo achigara achingoona moto, zuva nezuva. Hapana kana musi wandinorangarira Sekuru Gudo vachingwadza Tsuro.

Zvino zvatave vana samusha tobvunza kuti ko nhai ngano dzanatsuro nagudo dzakaendepi? Kana muchiziva dai mukandiziva.Chokwadi ndinoda kuziva. Nokuti mazuva ana tsuro nagudo aiva mazuva okafara. Paisava nezvinhu zvakawanda zvokutamba nazvo asi zvanga zvakakwana.

Hama neshamwari ndiko kupindana kwemazuva, achizogumisira ava makore. Vanhu havachazivi kutandara nevana. Shedzai mbuya kana sekura muvabvunzei kuti ngano dzakaendepi.

Ramblings about finding your passion or is it your passion finding you

What is your passion?
What is your passion?

Not to long ago I read an article that completely changed the way I thought about finding your passion. It was an article by Mark Manson.  The article challenged many things I had in mind about the topic but it also made perfect sense.

When does a person know when they have found their passion? When their passion finds them! So many times people are searching for their passion in life, that one thing that will truly resonate with them, their being when they can declare with confidence, ” This is what I was born to do.”  What is it that’s so special about a passion that gives you this special feeling. Is there such a thing, an activity that can give us so many fulfillment every single day of our lives? Yes!  We might also be surprised to learn that a passion may just be something very ordinary, something you have done before, something you may be even doing right now.

Remember the time when you are a child. You had lots of fun doing all kinds of things, playing games, watching cartoons, tv series, and pretty much anything that tickled your fancy. When something bored you just stopped doing it. You didn’t sit down and analyse why you had to stop or continue doing something. The decision took a matter of seconds. It just happened like that. You just simply stopped and moved on with life. You were in the flow. When did things get so complicated as an adult? Why is it that as an adult choosing what you enjoy or don’t enjoy has become such an involved process? You don’t need an expert to tell you what you really enjoy.
Why not learn from our experiences as children? Allow you to guide you. Find the inspiration and knowledge within.  You clearly know when you are not enjoying something. This should not be rocket science.
I spent so many years going from one job to another or moving from one project to another. I knew within a matter of days if I was going to enjoy something or not. I did not settle. I was on the quest for the holy grail in my career, doing something I really loved, my passion. Some say work does not have to be enjoyed. I beg to differ. I find work far more fulfilling when I enjoy what I am doing. Yes sometimes the days are hectic but for the most part when I am done at the end of the day I feel a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that I have done the most I could with the time I had.

Interestingly I got back to things I have been interested in for a very long time. Maths, Chess and Writing. I already knew before I was a teen just how much I enjoyed Chess, Maths and Writing. No one had to sell these things to me. I just bought into them naturally. One thing which I realised that cuts through all these is analysis and expression. I love to analyse and to express myself.

When we play chess we work out the moves in our head and play them on the board. In maths we are solving in our head and on paper as well. Writing brings form to our otherwise invisible thoughts and ideas. So I find that as an adult I have gone back to the passion of youth. I did not find my passion as such. My passion found me and I have merely heeded the call.

Of course the question about always comes up. Will I make enough money doing this. I believe that if you really find something you love, money won’t be a problem. However, I must qualify my statement. The decision about pursuing your passion is not one made in a vacuum. You probably have an idea of the kind of life you would like to live. What will it take to get to that point. If you love something enough, how much does money play an equation in it. If thought of money is preventing you from pursuing something then you are probably looking at the wrong thing. If you manage your life in such a way that you can do what you really love, then why worry about money.
For example if you decided to make a living writing novels or short story then you will know income flows might be very erratic. That is something you have to factor in. How are you going to prepare for that? Are you going to start writing novels fulltime now knowing that distinct possibility of erratic income or you are going to work hard on something else while writing novels on the side until the side thing is big enough to become the main act?
Sometimes we lack patience in life because we want things to happen immediately. Rome was not built in a day. If your dreams take you 3 years that is nothing really. What is 3 years really in a life of 60 years? Five percent! That is a very small price to pay for seeing your dreams come true. Do not allow time to get in the way of working on your dreams and goals. Nurture that passion, one day at a time and it will grow into the thing you dreamnt of.