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.

The power of telling stories

I am intrigued by how powerful stories are. It seems everyone enjoys a good story. Why? Maybe the real question is why not? Stories appeal to our vision and imagination. As the story is being told, as in unfolds before our ears, it is being formed in our minds. Those words are being brought to life and we are reliving whatever we are hearing.We might be listeners but we are very creators when it comes to the spoken word. That is how stories affect us when we hear them.

As a teacher I notice a big difference in the students where I am doing an ordinary lesson and when I am telling a story. The light up when a story is being told, you can see that sparkle in their eye. They are listening intently. You can tell their curiosity is really piqued. Even with my own children, when you tell a story they can stop what they are doing. They want to listen in and find out what happened next. That is the power of stories.  It seems information is so much easier to absorb and digest when it is presented as a story. Maybe that is just how we are wired as people, wired for stories.

Hard facts and information might be useful but not always interesting to glean on. However, when it is presented as a story, everything changes and this has huge implications for how we can share information in society, at work and at home, with the future generations. Stories are timeless. Remember when we were children and listening to folktales. Let’s use the power of stories to better share our insight and learnings and experiences with the rest of the world.

Stories can take so many forms, the visual form perhaps being the most powerful. But there is also the audio form and then there is the written form. One has to choose what is the most appropriate type of story for their audience. Even the timing can make a difference I think. A story shared early in the morning could perhaps be a bit more wordy than one shared after lunch time. People are probably more focussed earlier on in the day and concentration wanes as the day goes on.

The role of stories for me
Over the years I have created a number of websites. These are mostly chess websites given how much I love the game. (Africa Chess Net, PlayCom Chess, Kathu Chess, Maths Coach). Why it was not always clear what I wanted to do with these websites or how, it suddenly hit me today that what I really want to do is to inspire through stories. After all this time it has come down to that simple thing, stories.  How powerful are stories in your own life, I wonder!

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.