One thing at a time, simple as that

Doing one thing at a time has lead to a great deal of efficiency for me. I think the approach works!

Focusing on the task at hand, the race that needs to be run. Nothing else matters during those few seconds before and during the race.
Focusing on the task at hand, the race that needs to be run. Nothing else matters during those few seconds before and during the race.

I feel much more focussed than before in just about everything I do. I have been reflecting on this and wondering what has really changed. I realised what brought about this wonderful change is a simple thing. Now I just try to do one thing at a time. Yes you heard right, just one thing at a time. I don’t aim to be a hero or rockstar when it comes to multi-tasking, just a simple guy who does only one thing at a time. One thing, the approach is as simple as that. I don’t know if it could be any simpler really.

The days or years of multi-tasking are behind me. I don’t try to do many things at once. I focus on one thing at a time. So this means that if I am writing a short article like this one, that is all I do. I don’t allow distractions to get in the way because they break my thought pattern. If I stop to do something else, even for a minute when I get back to the writing I have lost the flow and I have to try and pick up from where I left off again. Some might argue that it would take just a few seconds or at worst a few minutes to get back in the flow but sometimes things are more complicated than that.

Creativity is not something to be taken for granted. Make the most of it when the inspiration comes your way. Doing one thing at a time is really a kind of specialisation if you think about it. For a certain amount of time you become a specialist in that one thing you are doing. You are no longer the generalist writing emails, checking your social media messages and updates, sending a message to a friend, trying to find something in your wallet. No, you are the specialist who stops everything else for that one moment in time.

So now with my articles I committed to at least one thousand words whenever I post something. Initially one thousand words seemed like a huge target but I realised that if I am really committed it is actually not much at all. On average it will not take me more than forty minutes to write one thousand words.

Whenever I get down to writing this is the minimum target in terms of words. Of course the idea is to not have fluff, just adding words so that I can make my target. That would be a real tragedy. I would like to take the reader of a short journey, to share my ideas and inspiration and hopefully by the time they finish reading, they feel much better than before. I want to write something that actually makes a lot of sense and flows nicely from the start to the end.

In the past it would take me forever to reach one thousand words in an article but now I do it one sitting. In fact I lie, it would be painful to try and reach just three hundred to four hundred words and now it feels easier doing one thousand words. How on earth does that work? I start typing and I keep typing until I feel that I have hit my word target. I use evernote for my articles, not the desktop application but the online one. I first post my articles on the web then transfer them to the blog later on. During the actual process of typing I do not focus on the word target itself but the ideas and thoughts that I am exploring. I believe that my time I am done with the exploration I should also have comfortably met my word target.

So back to my theme of doing one thing at a time, this is what works for me now. With the notifications on the phone removed, it means there is no stopping to check messages or social media. No, I will do that when I am doing with what I am doing. This habit on focussing on thing means I am able to really apply myself on anything that I am working with. When I am working with emails, because there are so many emails to deal with on any given day I need a clear mind, sense of purpose and the ability to work in a speedy and efficient manner.

What amazed me about this idea of doing one thing at a time is that it actually seems counter-intuitive. It is tempting to think that if you only do one thing at a time it will take your forever to get through everything but I think not. I won’t quote the scientific research done in this area because I do take that stuff with a pinch of salt (you see the research conclusions and findings are ever changing) , much as I love reading the research. I believe that if you are doing one thing at a time all your faculties are zoned in one thing. Everything in you is working on that one thing.  Imagine the rays of sunlight being focussed by a magnifying glass on a paper. Sooner or later, they burn a hole into the paper. That’s focus, applying all the energy to one thing even for a brief period.

So the idea is that when I am doing one thing at a time, I don’t actually worry about the amount of time that I will take. The focus is on excellence, doing the very best you can. Because what could be better than excellence. And the more you do something, the better you will get at it. I work from home so this idea of doing one thing at a time for me works reasonably well. I am not sure how it would work in an office-type environment where you have to constantly engage with other people. That might be a challenge.

When I moved this article to the blog I had done just over eight hundred words which was obviously short of the minimum one thousand words. however, within a few minutes I had already filled in the gap which felt really great. It is amazing how a high target if attempted often enough soon starts to feel really achievable.

Now what I love to do is if an approach works for me in one area of my life, I try and see how best it can be applied to other areas of my life. So as a chess player I find myself thinking of this one thing at a time, almost as one move at a time. When it is my turn to play, I focus on one move at a particular time. I can have many ideas in mind but I can only work on the merits of one move at a time. In any case that is all I can play at any given time. I cannot play more than one move. That would be clearly illegal.

How about focussing on one thing so much that other things start to become a blur. This could be driving, talking to someone, listening to someone, playing with your children. How much joy would we get from that? Just a thought I simple thought I leave you with, one thing at a time!

Put the guru or expert to the test, with their own advice

If someone claims to be an expert in a particular area, how much of their own advice have they actually followed or tried out.

the-guruWe live in a time when where are many experts and many gurus in many fields. Sometimes gurus or experts in an area can literally spring up overnight or a matter of weeks or days.  It can be difficult and times confusing on deciding when to take advice especially when those giving it are so certain and sure of it What gives people this kind of confidence?  Even coaches who have won World Championships in sports are sceptical that their approach might work but some gurus will almost swear that if you do A and B, you will definitely get C. And some of the gurus will do so with no verifiable track record!

They say the only things certain in life are death and taxes.  I would like to propose a simple test for the guru or expert. The test is quite simple really and hopefully it will not take too long to run it and get results. If someone claims to be an expert in something, determine to what extent their own advice has worked for them. Do they drink their own medicine?  In other words is the guru their own best client, the best proof that what they say actually works.  Let me give a few examples.

Let’s say that someone has brilliant strategies on how to create wealth. How has that strategy worked out for them? If it hasn’t worked out for them, why not? Why is someone who has tried and failed using a certain approach trying to recommend that very same approach to you? Why would it work for you when it has failed for them, who know the strategy and approach better and more intimately than anyone else? Why are they not wealthy if they have such great ideas or methods on how to become wealth? Surely if it was as easy as they say, would you not at least expect them to be able to show how it can be done.

If it turns out that the person who is giving expert advice on how to become wealth is actually struggling with bankruptcy or struggling immensely with their finances, how seriously will you take their advice? Chances are you will be very concerned if that were the case. How can someone be certain of success when they have no idea of attaining in their own life? How does that work?

If the guru is not taking their own medicine or advice, you have to ask yourself why. Some might argue that it is a case of do as I say and not as I do. I do not find this very convincing. Surely it is much easier to convince others with actual results from your own life.  The reason why I suggest this kind of test for the guru or test is that results speak for themselves.  They can say, look here is what I did and this time or period in my life and those are the results. What I am recommending to you is something that I have actually experienced in my own life. It is not just something I dreamnt of. It is actually something I did, I experimented with, I thought about deeply and it actually really worked. Now someone who does not have the results to show for it, how do they manage to convince others to trust them.

The phrase Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence was popularised by Carl Sagan. If you come across someone making great claims, they have to be ready to back it up. If they are extraordinary claims it is only fair that they should be accompanied by extraordinary evidence. We do not live in a theoretical world. Things should be practical. If the guru does not have any evidence of their claims perhaps the way they present or market the claim should be revisited so that those who are listening to it know that it has not actually been proven. This might be necessary because sometimes ideas, products, services are marketed as fail-safe. People are told to do something with a guarantee of results. However, there is absolutely no accountability whatsoever if things go wrong. This might be one of the reasons why some industries are highly regulated. For example in financial services not just anyone can give financial advice to a customer because there are huge risks to this.

A person has to be qualified to give that advice. They need to have gone through the necessary tests and certification before they are worthy enough to talk to customers about the weighty matters of money. Now the guru, what tests or certification has he or she done before he gives you advice. The more we put gurus to the test, the more we stop wasting time on quick fixes and untested things that can ruin lives. We should be discerning in who we listen to and even more when it comes to implementing advice from dubious or untested sources.

It is certainly worth the investing auditing or checking out the source before you take risks in your life. It is easier to stop something before you actually commit than to embark on a wild goose chase and only realise later on that you have been taken for a ride. Often when things go wrong those who were generous in giving the advice are nowhere to be seen. You cannot complain about their advice then because it is too late and the damage has already been done. The hard work and research should have been done before you ran with something you were not completely sure of.

By also putting gurus and experts to the test we force them to raise their game and to take the people they deal with more seriously. Even the term guru should not be used willy nilly. It has to be earned. One needs to have the mileage, the results to show for it before such a term can be associated with them. Maybe some of these terms have become like cliches were anyone can claim to be an expert or guru. Imagine someone working up in the morning and claiming to be a doctor who can treat serious diseases and even more shocking if when someone takes them seriously. Well sadly this kind of thing is happening a great deal. It doesn’t have to be this way if we put our gurus and experts to the test.

Funny that I should be giving advice myself. Please note that I am not a guru or expert but you are free to put me to the test🙂

Talk talk talk..No wait let me listen, I mean really listen.

Talking non stop and then having that moment when I finally stopped to listen, look, think, reflect then answer.

I love to talk. Ever since I learnt to talk I haven’t stopped talking. Even when I was a little child my uncle once complained to me that I was talking too much. If only I could keep quiet. I was asking questions and when he answered them it lead to more questions. There was no end in sight. my curiosity and wonder in the world had been awakened. As an adult I still talk a lot, much more than most people.

In primary school I would talk for hours walking home from school with my friends. Then when we got home and left our bags it would be even more talking and walking in the neighbourhood. We must have covered serious mileage, I’m talking lots of kilometres in the hood, if only we kept up that incredible fitness regime. It was intense and very consistent. I have no doubt some people wondered what we were up to or talking about it. We would talk until late or we simply had to get on with other things.

Now where am I going with this? Wait for me. Hear me out. This business of talking non stop came to an abrupt halt. How? Let me tell you. I learnt to keep my lips together. I learnt to shut up. I have learnt realised over the years that there is something called silence, yes just shutting up.  I have discovered the amazing power of silence in my life, of being still. What happens when the lips stop moving? What takes place when the mind slows down? Instead of thinking a great many things , how about thinking of a small thing like the dot on the wall. If you can do it how about thinking of nothing. If your mind were an artist’s canvass it would be blank with nothing on it.

I’m not sure when exactly or how  I realised the power of silence. It has come in starts and stops over the years. Maybe it was the struggles I’ve had with a short temper over the years. I have realised that my short temper was linked to impatience. I wanted things done my own way and quickly.

Perhaps it was the time when I was speaking to a friend who after hearing what I had to say who be quiet for a little bit. At first it bothered me a great deal that no one was saying anything in the conversation. Why was nothing happening? Where were the words? Why wasn’t someone talking? When would this nonsense stop? Suddenly I realised something. When I allowed those moments of silence I let the message simmer. I was able to think a bit more about what had been said. The usual ping pong of conversation had stopped. This was a wow moment, an aha for me. There’s so much to learn.

Or could it be the long conversations I used to have with my mentor back in Zimbabwe. Sometimes I would say something and it would seem like he was ignoring me but he wasn’t. He would take time to respond. It was not a rushed reply but a careful considered one. Powerful words that would change the way I looked at things.

As much I loved talking I realised that it should be a two way street. This I was reminded by observant friends as well. A friend had pointed that hey Bruce, you are in such a hurry to express your ideas that you simply do not listen to anything I am actually saying. I really needed that. It was a wake up call. If you love to talk why not love to listen. If you love to talk and don’t bother listening, you might as well talk to yourself. Is this not being self absorbed?

Sometimes I wanted to talk and share my ideas so much that even before someone finished what they were saying I was already sharing my own epic story. Why wait? Just get on with it. It doesn’t help that I can speak or write fast. At the end of the day it just led to consistently poor communication. They say one of the great problems with communication is the fallacy that it has actually taken place.

It didn’t matter whether I was talking to a really good friend or my toddlers. Then I was reminded that everything does not need to be said today, right now. Things can wait. Other people love to be listened to, they love to be appreciated. Who doesn’t? So why try to say everything and miss out on the amazing ideas and thoughts that others have to share as well?

Because of these two late developments in my life, listening and silence, my conversations have changed a great deal. I still talk a great deal, much more than most people I know. But now I go over what the world is saying to me as well. It has affected and influenced the way I use social media in a profound way. In the past it was critical for me to be seen and heard, to try and be the centre of attention, to get lots of likes and comments on what I’ve shared. In a WhatsApp group I had to express my thoughts as well. Now I can be present without saying much but taking a great deal of what’s being shared. It helps me to understand others much more. I find that speaking and talking less also gives others a chance to be heard. I think that I’m much more aware of what’s going on in the world around me, much more than ever before.

I’ve already seen that my boys, my children love to talk. Sometimes we can talk for hours about all sorts and they never seem to get tired. This is very familiar. I suspect they talk much more than I did when I was their age. The next big lessons I would like to share with them are silence and listening. Who knows what it will do for them?  It’s done wonders for me. So I would summarise the approach as: Speak less, listen more, think, reflect and empathise more. Then see what happens!  Hope you have an awesome day and week. All the best in everything.

I don’t have the heart, one moment in time!

Two amazing songs I just listened to

What a way to start my day. The first song I listened to was “I don’t have the heart”by James Ingram. As if that was not enough it was then “One moment in time” by Whitney Houston. Whitney took me away. For a little while I was lost.  That beat, those words, those two songs were quite magical for me. I love music but for the most part work in silence. So when I get to listen to poetry like this it can be a profound experience. “I don’t have the heart” by James Ingram is possibly one of his best songs. It’s one of those songs I enjoyed as a kid even when I had absolutely no idea what he was singing about. So today I looked up the lyrics to get an idea of what it was about. Obviously love was involved. The man was fully invested in that song. You could tell by the way James Ingram sang it. He put his heart and soul into that song. The variation in pitch throughout the song is amazing especially towards the end.I do wonder if he can still sing like that after all these years.

Whitney’s song One moment in time is quite an emotional journey. Her message is incredibly powerful, deeply inspiring. Please read it and see what I mean. You will know what I am talking about. She shares a message that can be a mantra in our lives.  It is a declaration of victory in our doubts dreams over our doubts and fears. I think we should all have this one moment in time.  I realise that the legend is no longer with us but we will always have her with us. I associate that song with the Olympics. I think it was released around the time of the Olympics, which ones I am not too sure, perhaps the 1984. Actually it was 1988.

It is tempting to say they don’t make music like they used to but I know great music is still  being made. Music like many things continues to evolve. However, I believe that the 80s and 90s will always have a special place in my heart when it comes to music. For me it seems extra effort when into coming up with that final product. I suspect that I am very biased because that is the time when I Iistened to music a great deal in my life.

Here are the lyrics:

Whitney Houston (1988)

“One Moment In Time”

Each day I live
I want to be
A day to give
The best of me
I’m only one
But not alone
My finest day
Is yet unknown I broke my heart
Fought every gain
To taste the sweet
I face the pain
I rise and fall
Yet through it all
This much remains

I want one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me
Give me one moment in time
When I’m racing with destiny
Then in that one moment of time
I will feel
I will feel eternity

I’ve lived to be
The very best
I want it all
No time for less
I’ve laid the plans
Now lay the chance
Here in my hands

Give me one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me
Give me one moment in time
When I’m racing with destiny
Then in that one moment of time
I will feel
I will feel eternity

You’re a winner for a lifetime
If you seize that one moment in time
Make it shine

Give me one moment in time
When I’m more than I thought I could be
When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
And the answers are all up to me
Give me one moment in time
When I’m racing with destiny
Then in that one moment of time
I will be
I will be
I will be free
I will be
I will be free

James Ingram (1989)

“I Don’t Have The Heart”

Your face is beaming
You say it’s ’cause you’re dreaming
Of how good it’s going to be
You say you’ve been around
And now you’ve finally found
Everything you wanted and needed in meI don’t have the heart to hurt you
It’s the last thing I want to do
But I don’t have the heart to love you
Not the way you want me to

Inside I’m dying
To see you crying
How can I make you understand
I care about you
So much about you, baby
I’m trying to say this as gently as I can

‘Cause I don’t have the heart to hurt you
It’s the last thing I want to do
But I don’t have the heart to love you
Not the way you want me to

You’re so trusting and open
Hoping that love will start
But I don’t have the heart, oh, no
I don’t have the heart

I don’t have the heart to hurt you
It’s the last thing I want to do
But I don’t have the heart to love you
Not the way that you want me to

I don’t have the heart (Ooh…)
(Baby, I don’t have the heart, I don’t have the heart)
I don’t have the heart (Ooh…)
(Baby, I don’t have)

I don’t have the heart
I don’t have the heart
I don’t have the heart…

The US Men’s Olympic Team wins Gold at the Baku Chess Olympiad

After 40 years the Men’s US Team finally wins the Olympiad

They went, they played, said check and it was mate!

Part of the winning team. Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So
Part of the winning team. Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So.            CREDIT Chris Bauer

They have done it. History was made on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 as the US Men’s Olympic team defeated Canada in the last round to seal a memorable first place and take the Gold medal at the forty-second chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan. As Grandmaster Maurice Ashley suggested in a social media post before before the final round, by winning the Olympiad Open, the US Men’s team now has the bragging rights of best chess country in the world! The question that was on many people’s lips was, can the team pull off what has not happened in 4 decades? 40 years had gone by ever since the US Men’s Team won told at the Olympiad. Now the team is stronger than it’s ever been.

MAKE UP OF THE TEAM
So who was in the men’s team? The team was made up of Current US Champion Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Ray Robson, Sam Shankland. These players showed their mettle throughout the event especially Wesley So who scored a very impressive 8,5 points out of a possible 10 points on board 3.

FROM BELIEF TO REALITY
The belief was already there before the Baku Olympiad that the US had a very good chance of getting gold but would the team deliver? Would the team be able to withstand the pressure finally bring home the gold? Expectation is one thing but performance when it really counts is another thing altogether. The self belief and confidence of not just the players but the fans must have become even stronger towards the end as the US was one of the top teams over the last few rounds. It went through the entire event undefeated. That was a remarkable feat.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
US Chess is certainly on a high right now. It remains to be seen what’s going to be next. There is a great deal of momentum in chess. Will this see the US starting to dominate the chess scene. These are certainly exciting times for US Chess. Only time will tell!

Lessons from sport

Sport in some ways is like life in general. The theme of overcoming challenges and struggles is common both sport and life. There are many lessons from sport that can be applied to life.

There is a great deal we can learn from sport that can be applied to life in general. Here are a few of those lessons. I tried to put them in order. Hope you enjoy them!

Silhouette of Men Playing Basketball
Silhouette of Men Playing Basketball

1. Study the greats before you but aim to go faster, better, further and higher.
2. Go easy on talk, results are what really count.
3. Don’t give away your game plan, catch everyone by surprise with your execution.
4. Be calm and composed before and after your race.
5. After winning the race, if you relax next time someone else will win.
6. Don’t give away the secrets to your preparation. That’s a big advantage.
7. You can’t win future races based on past performances.
8. There are talkers then there are doers.
9. Champions are made in the gym, every single day whether it’s cold, hot or raining.
10. Once the race is over, celebrate then start the real hard work! The next games are around the corner.
11. When you win start new preparations with the hunger of someone who has never won before.
12. A few seconds of indecision could cost you the big prize.
13.Remember when you win that you didn’t do it alone.
14.Even when you win, remain a student of excellence always striving to improve and do even better.
15. Your time in the game is limited, make the most of it!
16. Look after your body, mind and soul. None of these can work really well without the others.

Who’s back have you got?

Who’s back have you got? Can your friends count on you? Can your family trust in you?

Hug

We face huge challenges in today’s world. The prejudice, bigotry violence, corruption, there seems to be no end. It feels like we are in a constant state of war, under bombardment, 24 7 right through the year. What happened? This is not lot the kind of world we dreamt of as children. How did our beautiful dreams become nightmares? Every day one has to carefully manoeuvre the news to find something positive and inspiring. How did we get here? Is this how mankind best applies its intelligence? What does the future look like for our children? Is there hope?

Ladies and gentlemen, things are not going to get better in the short term. I do not mean to be a prophet of doom. Just sharing my honest thoughts. There has never been a more important time to look out for country, community, friends, family, one another. We need to make time for one another. Pull up one another when some are sinking overwhelmed by the troubles. People do not really need your money but your friendship, compassion and empathy.

We cannot change the world overnight but in tight ways we can sow seeds of hope today and reap and bountiful harvest tomorrow. We owe to ourselves, to our children. The world has given us so much. Is it not only fair that we give back a little in return.

It is not time to focus on who’s go what, who owns what, who’s staying where,who’s driving what,who this, who that but it’s time to focus on who’s got who’s back. Who’s back have you got? Can your friends count on you? Can your family trust in you? I challenge you to rise up to the challenge. You can do it. I know you got this. Don’t worry about what anyone says. You will find the strength.