My Life is Ordinary...

And that's okay ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ [±3min read]

I saw a Tweet in my timeline the other day.

My kneejerk reaction was to Retweet it. "Hells yeah!" I thought, "I don't want to live an ordinary life..." Ordinary is boring, ordinary is lifeless, ordinary is unhappy. Who would possibly want that?

I didn't Retweet it, but it did make me think. I'm 37 and my life is ordinary as fuck. And I think the same can be said for most of us. No, not the 1%. Us, you know - regular folk. Life is ordinary.

And that is okay.

It doesn't mean our lives are boring, lifeless or unhappy. But, they can tend to seem that way if we're constantly comparing ourselves to others...

"Comparison is the thief of joy" - Theodore Roosevelt

I've felt for a long while that I spend too much time on social media. So I've made a commitment to spend less time on it. Simple. It's not easy, mind you, social media is, whether you will admit it or not, addictive. It's also massively destructive, and I can only laugh at one of Facebook's founding principles, that is of creating an environment of, "openness and transparency, where friends connect with each other about things they care about..." because we plainly live in a time where almost the exact opposite is true. We're certainly more divided than we ever have been, connected, yes, but divided.

And the same is true for all social media platforms. They're all the same in my opinion. Just that some are worse than others, and some diminish the joy derived from life more than others. Because when we're on them, we can't help but compare our lives to the live's of others, often strangers, rolling out in front of our eyes, one Tweet at a time, one Status Update at a time, or one Photo at a time. We compare.

"Oh look at this guy, all bitter an angry, I'm glad I'm not that bitter and angry..."

"Oh look at so-and-so boasting about that job promotion. FML I'm broke and stuck in a rut..."

"Oh look at her, on holiday again in another beautiful location. What the hell am I doing wrong that I can't vacation as good as her...?"

We compare.

Island paradise


Underwater paradise


Cityscape paradise


Food paradise


Technology paradise


Paradise. Paradise. Paradise.

Comparison is the thief of joy, and when we spend inordinate amounts of time looking at and perhaps unknowingly comparing ourselves to others, we start thinking that our lives are boring and that in some way we are worse off.

Except the thing is, social media is a window - a porthole window - into the other people's lives. A snapshot, a thought, an experience, all mostly positive (okay, perhaps not Twitter), and when you endlessly scroll through a blur of only positive, beautiful things you get the impression that somehow everything you're seeing is permanent, that all those beautiful, positive things are happening all the time in those people's lives and not in yours, and that can be incredibly destructive.

Everyone's life at some point is ordinary. Everyone. The celebrities, the influencers, all the beautiful people posting about and seemingly always doing beautiful things, even they eventually have to do the mundane ordinary things we do. We just don't see them. Because that's not what social media encourages.

My life is ordinary and that's okay. And for me, the key is being able to derive joy from the ordinary, from the mundane. It's possible, I promise, but perhaps that is a topic for another time. Until then, maybe pick your phone up a little less, maybe make try make a few more real world connections. I know I'm going to try.


Header Photo by Robin Worrall on Unsplash

Head Down, Don't Look Up

Ok, occasionally look up...

They say that if you actually want to achieve your goals, you should write them down. Something along the lines of the physical act of putting pen to paper, and having evidence and reminders of what you want to achieve is proven to help bring them into reality.

Vividly describing your goals in written form is strongly associated with goal success, and people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals than people who don’t. - Neuroscience Explains Why You Need To Write Down Your Goals If You Actually Want To Achieve Them,

I've never really been very good at this, which probably explains a lot, but I have become pretty good at formulating a vision in my head of what I want to achieve and then constantly reminding myself of what I need to do in order to achieve it. So kind of the same thing, but without the action of actually writing it down.

I know of people who have short, medium and long-term goals for everything. I think I had those too at one point in my life, but more recently I feel more at peace with myself by setting immediate short-term goals and getting those done, rather than fantasising about grand long-term visions and all the could-be's and might-be's that tend to come with them. I tend to get lost in fantasies, and in doing so lose my way, getting demotivated when the grand, long-term vision doesn't materialise quick enough.

I've also tried to scale back my fantasies because ultimately I find them to be pretty destructive.

Small steps, always move forward, celebrate the small victories.

This is something I adopted not too long ago when I fell down hard and lost my way. When I had no job, no income, a soon-to-be-destroyed marriage and very little will to live. I thought, if I just take a few small steps forward every day, make sure I don't go backwards and celebrate these two things as victories, then I might be okay.

What small thing can I do immediately which will have an impact? What if I repeat that small thing - being consistent - will it just eventually become my new normal?

The smallest thing like banishing a negative, destructive thought from my head and being mindful of it as a victory and then repeating it daily became a template I could replicate elsewhere.

Small steps, keep moving forward.

A more positive, thankful outlook on my own existence, even completely insularly in my own head, meant I had the thinking space to take a few more steps forward the next day - forming a new normal - so that when an opportunity like an interview for a job presented itself, I saw it as an immediate opportunity, not some far off, distant, unachievable nice-to-have. It sounds weird but when you're depressed, in a downward spiral with seemingly no way out, even the thought of an interview, not even actually getting the job, is just too out of reach, too distant, too hard.

I had to make space for those thoughts. I had to banish others to allow those in. I had to try and move forward slowly and not slip backwards, every day.

It seems like I always refer to my running in this blog. And that's fine. It has had a big impact on my life. So much of what has happened in my life, the processes and thoughts and outcomes are mirrored in my running and vice versa. I've learned so much from my running that I apply in my day-to-day life, and so much from my life, I apply to my running. The two, it seems, are intertwined.

Running, and becoming fairly good at long-distance running was not a natural thing. It has been learned. Slowly. When I started running again, properly, 2 or more years ago, I never had a goal to run 21km. Running 21km sounded ridiculous, silly, scary, unachievable. And not even something I wanted to or allowed myself to consider. Similarly, I had no goal to lose 25 kilograms. I had my shoes on and I just wanted to start. So I ran/walked three or so kilometres for the next month. Each day running a few metres further before having to walk than the day before, until I could run the whole 3 kilometres without walking at all. Then I tried to run the same three kilometres a little faster.

Small steps, keep moving forward.

3km turned into 5km which turned into 10km. And with time and hard work, 10km turned into 21km. It was natural, progressive and even, fun. Being mindful of my progression and celebrating them as achievements - even just a mental slap on the back - allowed it to be fun. I was not driven by an over-arching goal to smash a half marathon. Small, consistent steps moving forward has eventually become the ability to run a half-marathon.

Head down, don't look up.

I'm often overwhelmed by life, but usually only if I start looking beyond my immediate circumstances. Getting a job when you're down and out is overwhelming. Picturing marriage, kids, and old age when you've just started dating can be overwhelming. Thinking about your children's future as young adults when they're still in nappies can be overwhelming. Paying off a million Rand house or a car when you've only just considered buying either is overwhelming. But, smaller affordable monthly payments is far more manageable. Enjoying the time you have with your small children before they grow up, and being mindful of empowering them with knowledge so that they will one day make wise decisions, is way less stressful. Loving your partner fully now, being the best version of yourself for them, and not worrying about what might be in the future, is a far better reality isn't it?

Why do we set out worrying about the big hill at the end of a marathon when we're only on our first kilometre?

Hills are hard. Hills require strong legs, strong lungs and a strong head. But beyond strength, though, for me, hills require keeping my head down and not looking up. Concentrating on the little patch of road two or three metres in front of me is way more manageable than constantly looking up, anxiously hoping to see the top. Manage my breathing. One foot in front of the other. Slow down if needed. Small steps, keep moving forward. No walking. And eventually, you're at the top and the more manageable flat or even downhill section arrives. A moment to breathe easier, regain your composure, settle your tired legs, and conserve some energy for what comes next.

Of course, on all hilly sections, I need to occasionally look up to make sure I'm on the right course, that I'm not veering dangerously off into oncoming traffic. In the same way that occasionally I have to take a step back in my life and ask myself if what I'm doing right now is moving me towards my long-term goals.

Life is full of ups and downs as we navigate our way through it. Sometimes we can see the next big obstacle, the road steepening as a big hill starts, and other times they just overwhelmingly appear out nowhere. But if you're prepared, if you've built some mental toughness, if you're up for just putting one foot in front of the other, not going backwards and celebrating the small victories, you will learn that even with adversity you can have fun, you can enjoy this journey.

I hated hills when I started running, and now I relish them. Small steps, always moving forward. Head down, don't look up.

Ok, occasionally look up... 😉


Header photo by Tyrel Johnson on Unsplash

I Was Drowning, Why Didn't You Rescue Me?

Because they couldn't...

This might come as a shock, but no one can rescue you, but you.

Obviously, I'm not talking about if you were in a pool, or in the sea fighting a strong current, that no one could rescue you. Of course someone could and they would. No, I'm talking about you, where you are right now, fighting whatever demons you're fighting - and we all are - no one can rescue you from your thoughts, or save you from the situation you find yourself in, but you.

I've always loved being in the water, from as young as I can remember I would swim in our family home pool. Cold, hot, raining, whatever the weather, I would swim. I was reasonably good too and ended up doing a lot more of it growing up, eventually competitively too. Training multiple times a day and throughout the year, training even when on holiday, camping with my parents (if the caravan park had a pool - which I think my folks always made sure it did), my sister and I swam.

I trained hard and developed the skills needed to succeed in the water.

There was natural talent though I think which made it easier. The training merely helped me become better and more competitive, but the natural talent in the water meant that swimming never felt foreign to me, it felt right like it was always that way and would always be that way. And thirty-seven years later, it still is. But, whether its swimming, rugby, tennis or anything really, if you have a natural affinity for it when you're young, you have an immediate advantage over others. My eldest son, for example, could ride a bike with pedals, unassisted, when he was just two and a half! He didn't even need training wheels. It just came naturally. And now, at ten years old, is earning provincial and even national colours for BMX and Mountain Biking.

And isn't life, in general, that way too?

Some people just seem to have an affinity for life, a natural talent. They're not hamstrung by setbacks or hindered by a war between their ears. They do life, and they do it well.

I've never had that affinity for life. For me life has been a struggle, no, not my upbringing - although I've had personal issues which have arisen from it - we were not desperately poor, we didn't want for much. We were loved and mostly brought up in a loving environment. Life for me has felt like a struggle because mostly I have felt lost. Like being in the middle of freezing cold pool and not knowing that in order to not be there you need to swim to the side.

And for many years, most of my adult life really until recently, I've resented people who just seem to do life well.

"How can it be that life can be so easy for you?" I would ask myself.

The answer is, is that it isn't. I know that now, those emotions was misplaced - wasteful and destructive even - because my life was no harder than theirs, they simply had better skills for navigating it than I did.

They knew in exactly in which direction to swim. Hell, they could do lap, after lap, after lap, in every different pool of life - school, sport, marriage, work, friendship, finance, parenting, everywhere... Where I was just treading water, flailing, not knowing what to do or where to go.

I was drowning, why didn't you rescue me?

Because they couldn't. No one could.

They could stop and tread water with me. Even lift my head out of the water just for a while, so I could regain my breath. Help me towards the shallow end where I could momentarily hold myself up on my tippy toes. But they couldn't rescue me or magically transport me somewhere else. They couldn't drag me behind them, or permanently keep me afloat, else how would they not drown themselves? No, they needed to get back to navigating their own troubles, circumstances... Their lives.

Because each of us is in this on our own.

Even with spouses and partners at our side, we are in this on our own. One cannot lift the other up, rescue the other from drowning. We can only swim together, sometimes scrapping and splashing, making hard work of it, and other times in perfect beautiful synchronicity, together slicing quickly through the rough water...

It's only with time, understanding and real learning from the past that those feelings of resentment have turned into admiration. I admire people who do life well. I admire their passion, hard work, their will to just keep going, to make things work. I admire their affinity for life, their natural talent. And now as a father, I admire their parents who guided, nurtured and taught until it became imprinted, second nature, a natural talent.

There was a swimming school down the road from where we lived growing up. I can remember my first day there - a clear and lasting memory. Standing at the edge of the pool in my Speedo, I was maybe three or four years old. Suddenly I was in the water in the deep end, but, I hadn't jumped in, I was pushed.

I remember being shocked as I looked up to see my new swimming teacher laughing and smiling knowingly. "Why would someone push me in? On my first day?" I thought... It didn't matter though. I didn't panic or cry. I just bobbed there, treading water, keeping myself afloat. I knew how to swim, and she knew it too.

The irony of knowing how to swim when I was pushed into the deep end of a pool, and drowning when pushed into the deep end of life, is not lost on me. It is however perhaps been life's greatest lesson; that anything can be learned if you are willing.

That guiding, nurturing and teaching my children will enable them to develop a natural talent to navigate life, so that one day when adversity arrives, when it feels like they're drowning, they'll know how to rescue themselves.


Header photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash

Do You Have a Mind to Change?

I didn't...

Change; the only real constant, right? Well, no, not really.

Let me explain.

The only thing that is constant is change ― Heraclitus

Sure, I think Heraclitus was correct in what I think he was saying, in that, we should always plan for and be ready for change. And generally, we're pretty good at it, adapting to our environment, evolving, solving problems, inventing... We wouldn't have risen to top of the food chain if we weren't.

But, when it comes to personal - the very deep-seated, transformational, core-of-our-being - change, though, well, there's a problem; we don't. At least, not very well.

I've wrestled with the idea lately that by making small, seemingly insignificant changes in your life can eventually bring about that big transformational change you've been seeking. That "The flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas?" But, I'm not so sure.

For me personally, transformational change has never been slow, quiet or gentle. It's never been the seemingly insignificant flap of a butterflies wings. No, when big change has arrived in my life in the past, both mentally and physically, it has been loud, disruptive, confrontational and more often than not, ugly.

A few gentle reminders, thoughts, mantras - a gentle flutter of your wings, might not be enough, and at some point, you might have to grapple with that. Actually, you will have to. You cannot tear down an old rotten building by simply standing next to it tapping it, hoping that if you tap long enough it might eventually implode. You need an earthquake, an explosion, to shake it's very core, to tear apart everything holding it together.

But not if don't know what you're going to build in its place.

Sometimes the beginnings of our transformations need to shake us like an earthquake or explode from beneath like a volcano. It's not ironic that nature's transformations are often as violent as they are beautiful. Nature knows that from its destruction comes new life. A foreman knows that from his explosions, something new, useful, or more beautiful will be built to take its place. They have a plan.

And so we can't tear down the constructs and obstructions in our mind without knowing what we will build in its place.

You want to be fit

You want to be healthy

You want to live comfortably

You want to love and be loved

If you know what you want to build, only then can the small, insignificant changes start the process of bringing about the bigger change that you want.

So I say; the only thing that should be constant is having the mind to change.


Header photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Riding a Motorbike - What I've Learned After a Year And a Half

Oh hey banana... 😍

For as long as I can remember I’ve always been a car guy. Not a fast car kind of guy, or “I only like <insert favourite brand> cars” guy. But rather, "I just enjoy driving" kind of a car guy. I enjoy the experience rather than the outcome. The outcome in most cases – for most people – going fast.

I’ve never been that interested in speed either, so when I practically out of nowhere up and bought a motorbike a year and a half ago I think I surprised everyone, myself included. A mid-life crisis? I’m not sure I would call it that. Perhaps, a mid-life rebirth, but that’s a story for another time.

Before taking delivery of a bright yellow Ducati Scarmbler Icon 800, I had never swung a leg over a motorbike seat in my life. Okay, that’s not technically true. I once rode a friend’s dirtbike for a brief moment before falling off and deciding that was enough for me.

Growing up, motorbikes were outlawed by my parents, and I can still hear my mother forcefully saying, as I innocently asked (as I’m sure all young boys do at some point) about the idea of acquiring one… “As long as you live under this roof, you will never ride a motorbike!” And that was that. I never did.

So, a year and a half later, what have I learned? Well, a whole lot. Personally, the most important realisation is that if you can’t control your emotions, don’t ride a motorbike. A by-product of commuting in South Africa is anger. Anger at incompetent, ignorant road users. Anger at the state of the roads. Anger at the cost of petrol. Generally, South African commuters are angry.

In many cases rightly so, but almost none of these are under your control, and if you ride a motorbike angry, you’ll make irrational, emotional and reckless decisions. And if that doesn’t kill you or injure you enough to get you off bikes for good, it will ensure you make many enemies when you’re out on the road. You can control your emotions, so keep them in check.

Nearly all my time spent on my bike is spent commuting. Not far at all, my daily roundtrip commute is only about 20 kilometres. In that time I've become more confident at lane splitting in traffic. I'm no pro - nowhere near it - but my confidence in maneuvering through cars has grown from near-shitting myself to okay, I’m more comfortable with the width of my bike.

It’s a contentious issue, no doubt, and from my (limited experience) seems to cause a fair amount of animosity from other road users. Obviously I mean, from other people in cars. It’s weird, but I think it stems from other bad experiences with ‘bikers’.

By animosity, I mean, I encounter quite often people who will intentionally narrow the gap between themselves and the car in the lane next to them (1 or more lane roads), or oncoming cars (single lane roads), which apart from just being weird, is pretty dangerous for the person on the bike.

Personally I find it quite baffling, and even before riding a bike I always (whenever I could) made a clear effort to move over, even if just slightly, to accommodate a motorbike filtering through traffic. Why? Because one less vehicle in the traffic queue makes the traffic queue shorter & quicker for me and everyone else, right?

I also just did it because, well, isn’t that just the right thing to do? What harm is there in making space? I also always thought that if it were me on the bike, I’d really like it if there was a little more space to manoeuvre. Perhaps I was also just a little more aware than other people?

Side note: ‘Intentionally blocking or hindering a motorcyclist in a way that could cause harm to the rider’, is actually illegal. Shoutout to those people who seem to enjoy playing the ‘how far can I squeeze this biker towards oncoming traffic’ game.

Of course, there is no law compelling car drivers to move over, nor is there any law prohibiting bikes from lanesplitting – it’s perfectly legal in South Africa. So long as you aren’t contravening any other road law in the process (as far as I know?).

I think much of the animosity stems from the fact that in traffic, by its very nature a car is slow moving or not moving at all, and ‘bikers’ – by the nature of the machine – are able to carry on with their journey mostly unaffected, bypassing the increasing frustration felt by those sitting in traffic.

Side note: Traffic is this very reason that I bought a motorbike. Along with the continued nagging guilt that sitting in a car that could easily carry five, in traffic only ever carrying one – me – was a huge waste of space and resources.

It’s a “Well if I can’t go anywhere, then why should you be able to go anywhere? Heck, I’m just going to block you…” Which eventually becomes, “Urgh! Fuck, I just hate all bikers”. Of course, I’m polarising feelings here, not everyone feels this way. But a surprisingly large amount of people do.

And it goes both ways, some ‘bikers’ are intentionally aggressive, inconsiderate, dangerous, oblivious and generally flagrant of anyone else on the road that they attract this sort of ‘hate’ from other road users. Justifiable hate I might add.

I hate these types of ‘bikers’ as much now, being a biker, as I did before I was one. What I have now, though, is more perspective. Having the perspective of a biker means that I understand that not all perceived slights or aggressions are intentionally aggressive towards other car drivers.

Obviously bikes are very fast in comparison to most cars. Not just outright, but in acceleration. They’re also much more manoeuvrable. That combination means we carry more speed and arrive much quicker in your rear view mirror, and are able to slot into a gap quickly and move past.

Side note: A gap in traffic might not seem like a gap for a bike for someone in car. Having never ridden a bike, you might not even give thought to a certain space on the road actually being a manoeuvrable gap for a motorbike. Fact is, it usually is.

What became immediately clear as a very new ‘biker’ is just how aggressive even the slightest of actions is from someone in a car. Just a wobble of the steering wheel or a slight swerve in my direction is hugely exaggerated for the person on the bike. Trust me, on a bike you are vulnerable as hell. You’re naked!

Another thing I’ve noticed is just how aggressive you need to be on the road in order to maintain your presence and your sanity on your bike. Naturally these aggressions are what can cause some of the animosity between bike and car, but many are not intentional.

The most dangerous time for me on my bike is when I’m alongside another car, so naturally I would want to complete this manoeuvre as quickly as possible in order to return to a safer part of the road. Why is it dangerous? Because I would say 50% of road users don’t check their blind spots. And a motorbike, by virtue of its small road footprint, practically lives in your blind spot.

Of course it’s our choice to split lanes, and that means the onus is on us to make sure we stay visible and to not absolutely fly through traffic at twice the average speed. That’s just stupid and bikers who do this are asking for middle finger responses and general animosity from fellow road users.

A bike arriving loudly, very quickly and without warning can be very startling. And being startled when you’re driving is unsettling. I don’t enjoy it. It’s unnecessary. But a rider who respectfully moves through traffic, quickly when needed and generally goes unnoticed shouldn’t be seen as trying to intentionally enrage other road users.

Something else I think which is misunderstood by some folks who have never ridden a motorbike is that ‘bikers’ are intentional rude because they never say thank you, for a gap given, or perhaps when moving over to be overtaken. For sure, as I’ve mentioned above, I think that some bike riders are intentionally rude. I’m sure that many simply give zero fucks. But I also know for certain that in some cases it’s just not possible to say thank you.

As far as I know the universal ‘thank you’ sign on the road is a general lifting of an open hand. A quick flash of your high-beams or hazard lights is also acceptable. But the wave of a hand is universal, and in many instances on a bike, is just not possible. Consider for a second, on a bike, my left hand could be readying the clutch lever in traffic, my left foot is ready to change gear, my right hand is feathering the throttle and my right foot is at the ready to apply the rear brake. How do I say thank you? I can’t.

I often dip my helmet or nod in an exaggerated fashion in the direction of the car that has moved over or given a gap, but if you’re not a ‘biker’ this will most likely be lost on car drivers. Tipping of the helmet or extending a leg out are universal greetings to other riders, but as I said, if you don’t know that then, well, it will go unnoticed. Perhaps now you know?

Riding a motorbike is exhilarating, often pant-wettingly scary. It’s undoubtedly one of the purest forms of transport – from the involved nature of all the working parts – it forces you to be absolutely alert and part of every process. There are no sit back and relax moments on a bike. It’s a wonderful attack on the senses, from all the smells as you navigate life on the road, to numb winter hands on the Highveld and pop and bang of the exhaust on the overrun. I don’t ever not smile when I thumb the starter button and close my visor.

Is it for everyone? No, of course not. But if you get the chance, even to ride a scooter, I highly recommend it. If even just to experience life on the road from a new perspective. You might come to understand that not all motorbike riders are arseholes – at least not that guy on that loud yellow Ducati Scrambler.

PS BMW GS and Harley riders; you know what a head tip means right?


Header photo by Calvin Fisher

Loading more posts…