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What am I exceptional at?

Sometimes we see someone doing something great – maybe performing a masterpiece on piano, or presenting on a topic in a profound way – grabbing everyone’s attention and keeping it. We wish we could be like that – have that “edge” that only that person seem to have. The first thing we want to do is to sign up for piano lessons or to attend a toastmasters course to improve our public speaking skills, hoping that we would also create that magic in front of an audience. In the face of it, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself in a certain area, but is that area where your talent lies?

So you spend months on learning the art of public speaking and somehow find that you still don’t have that edge – that magic that you saw the other person perform. Your audience is not laughing and clapping and gazing at you with expectation when you talk. Could it be that you have spent your time on improving a weakness rather than building on a strength? The problem is, you will never be amazing at your weaknesses, you will only grow them to be mediocre; to become “not so bad”. But they won’t be exceptional. Because they are not your talents. Your strengths are where your talents are.

But what if you spent your time on developing your strengths, those natural talents that you were born with? If you focus on growing your strengths you will become absolutely amazing in that area of your life – you will shine! Rather than spending your time and energy on the things that you aren’t that good at, focus massively on the things you ARE good at. By all means, DO spend time on bettering the areas that you are really crap at. If it’s something that you need but are not interested in, try to develop at least a working knowledge of it.  But don’t waste your precious time and energy on building it – it won’t be great if you don’t have a talent for it.

Your greatness is already there – its waiting for you to find it. Your greatness is found in your unique talents – the things that only you are good at. But you need to find it. Find your talents and build on them to make them better than great – make them exceptional! But remember, an undeveloped talent will never become exceptional – you need to put in the work first! But over time, your talent (if exercised and developed further) will become your trademark. It will be something exceptional that only you can bring to this world and that you will be remembered for.


Would you rather feel good or be right?

This morning my kids are at each other again. They agree to play plastic animals, but one would like to introduce a single Lego man into the game. He sees nothing wrong as the Lego man is also plastic. His sister won’t allow this ‘cause “Lego is Lego and were playing plastic animals now!”. They’re onto each other like two knights of the same castle – in a way that nobody could possibly win. Both relentless. They get more and more angry and self-indulged as each try to convince the other of their point of view. The more they argue the less either is willing to give in. Each state their case with conviction and aggression. Hearts are hardening and anger grows.

The third child (their other brother) who is happy to play either way, sits alone and sad, waiting for the other two to sort out their madness so they can play. At the end of the ordeal, the game is abandoned. Nobody wants to give in and nobody wants to play anymore because of the anger and negativity. It is a sad ending, especially for the unintended victim. It is like a rope bridge over a big river with two people on it, blocking the way for everyone else. The bridge is only wide enough for one, so someone must give way but nobody does. At the end everybody loses as nobody’s able to move across the river.

How does this often turn out in real life? What happens when we are relentless in insisting on being right? We force our thoughts and ways and points of view onto the other person, completely convinced of how right we are and how wrong they are. But where does it leave us? It leaves us feeling isolated and alone, feeling guilty of the hurt we produced. We have violated trust, created sadness and have driven someone away from us. They may have eventually backed off and given in, but it is at a great expense. It may have cost us a relationship.

How does that make us feel? Was it worth it? What did we gain by being right? Did it add value to our or the life of the other person? Are we in a better place now because of insisting to be right?

Is it not sometimes better to feel good than to be right?

Love as a verb

What do men tend to notice first in a woman? The way she communicates; maybe her beautiful personality, right? Off course not! We men tend to focus our attention on the external beauty first, hoping that there would be a nice person in that beautiful body. Some guys don’t even think that far and just hit on the “hottest” girl they have the guts to approach. Maybe it was programmed into our reptilian brain – that part of the brain that is instinctive and automatic. But that’s the problem: This is where so many relationships begin that are doomed for failure. Our reptilian brain operates both unconsciously and irrationally. It does not focus on “bigger picture”or “greater good” nor does it take a long term stance – it simply focuses on the instinctive here and now. When you are a cave man threatened by a Sabre-Toothed Tiger, this may be very useful, but when it comes to relationships it will probably lead to disaster.

Hollywood teaches us that love is a feeling – a special excitement that creates fireworks in our mind and makes our heart beat faster. Our society teaches us that relationships are disposable, commitment is overrated and that marriage is merely a contract of convenience. Once the fireworks have subsided or the relationship isn’t so much fun anymore, you have the right to move on to find that special feeling again. Nothing can be further from the truth. This path leads to the life-long misery of unfulfilling and shallow relationships.

Love is a verb: By living love and practising it every day, the emotion – the feeling of being “in love” – becomes real in a very practical and lasting way. You start living a life of love for your special person. This is what being “in love” means – on a more permanent and solid basis.

The most beautiful and true description of what love is (as a verb) is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” Love, in its purest form, is unconditional: Acceptance rather than rejection; understanding rather than judgement; participation rather than manipulation. But it takes hard work to practise these traits – and it needs to be intentional. The more you practise, the better you become and the bigger the results in your love life!

Love is not just a feeling. Relationships are not disposable. Marriage is sacred and forms the foundation of family – it becomes an amazing and beautiful nest to grow new souls (your children) into wholesome, balanced human beings who are able to make this world a better place; not broken individuals who attempt relationships based on the flawed recipe they learnt from their divorced parents. Marriage is not a contract of convenience – it is an act of commitment based on integrity and fuelled by clear intention and consistent action.

If love is an act, and if love grows stronger through action, then it is perfectly possible to become “in love” with someone who may not be as attractive as the supermodel you imagined when you were a teen. The most beautiful characteristics of any person – any soul – only start appearing over time when that person is nurtured and feels safe in a loving relationship. Those unique imperfections quite often become very attractive in a special way, the better you get to know them. The long-term consequence of bonding two souls together through love (as a verb) is a beautiful, fruit baring relationship that will stand the test of time – that will still last when the beauty is gone. May this be true in your relationship.


The biggest regret

It is well recorded that the one thing people on their death beds regret most, is that they were not more true to themselves. “I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations, and not the life others expected of me.” Or “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” These two statements or much the same; one alludes to dreams and aspirations not met, while the other remarks on not having the courage to live true to oneself – to not have the guts to let the child within run free. Both point to a big mistake we all tend to make: living a life based on the expectations of others. Or rather: based on what we believe to be the expectations of others.

From a very young age we learn to conform – we are taught to “fit in”:

“Don’t make so much noise – people are looking at you!”

“Don’t wear that – they’ll laugh at you!”

“Don’t say that – you’ll sound stupid!”

“Don’t do that – its not done around here!”

And then the inner voice kicks in: “Don’t try that, they will scorn you if you fail.” And so the fear of failure kicks in: “What if I don’t have what it takes?” It takes control of you – sometimes for life. Based on the fear of not conforming with others’ norms and expectations, we allow others to dominate and control the way we set out in life – to control (and destroy) our dreams and aspirations. For the sake of conforming. For the sake of being bland and boring. Killing our uniqueness.

An old man lay dying in his bed. As he looked back at his life, at the little time he was granted on this Earth-school, he noticed how much time he spent trying to be, trying to live like others expected of him.

The truth is, no one expected anything of him – they couldn’t have cared less. They were far too busy living their lives the way they thought others expected them to!

Es ist egal

My wife described our first three months in Austria the best: She compared the craziness of it all to the first three months after the birth of our triplets. That precious human messiness that changes your heart and soul forever – beautiful and brutal at the same time!

At times we wanted to cry (and did!) and at times we laughed and laughed ‘till our bellies ached (we did that too)! But probably the most beautiful thing I have learned from our new Austrian friends so far, is the concept of “egal”. It is usually used in a sentence like: “Es ist egal” meaning: “It is all the same” or “it really makes no difference.” But for me, there is a deeper meaning to “egal” and the way it is used. It also means “let it go” – almost in the same way that Elsa meant it in “Frozen”. It is like dropping a small twig into a stream. A gentle but intentional act. You are letting go of the twig by opening your hand and letting it slip out. You see it dropping into the water and watch as it is slowly carried away, going further and further, being carried away with the flow of the stream until you see it no more. It is gone.

A child drops her melting ice cream into the grass beneath her feet and begins to cry. “Es ist egal”, her mother says softly. Let it go – it is not that important.

A businessman just heard he’s been retrenched. “Es ist egal”. Just let it slowly drift away. For when it is gone, it can do no more harm. Things can only get better.


Go over and talk to her!

I am standing in a room full of people, alone with my glass of wine. I take a sip every now and then whilst glancing at the people around me. My eyes meet those of a beautiful stranger, also standing alone, seemingly entertained by the buzzing noise of the people around her. I quickly look away, knowing that someone so gorgeous wouldn’t be here alone. I wouldn’t want to intrude. Later, I see her leaving. Alone. My assumption was wrong, but now she’s gone.

Sometimes we make a lifelong, life changing choice in a moment. Very often, that choice is based on assumptions, which are based on our frame of reference – our experience. We don’t realise that it is life changing right there at that moment, but we still make that choice – for better or for worse.

Do I make the call to him or not? If I do, he may reject me. Maybe not even answer the phone. The story ends right there.

However, if he shares my infatuation with him, it may be the beginning of a lifetime of shared experiences – a lifetime of magic!

We make these choices all the time, not knowing that the consequences of each of our choices open up, or close countless doors of opportunity. Every opportunity not taken, ever person not met, every experience not experienced ends the magical wave of possibilities which could have grown from that first encounter, right there.

It is better to do, despite the fear of failure. Do it anyway!

Better to try than to shy away. Better to hope than to live in hopelessness. Better to move now than to wait for the right moment.

That moment may never come. Do it right now!

A suit surrenders

Yup.  That was about it – the day I surrendered.  I wasn’t actually wearing a suit, but I was doing the corporate thing – a man on a mission to make his mark in the world of project development and construction.  I was in a training session regarding high voltage safety for a power plant we were managing when my phone rang.  It was the one time that I was not able to attend the sonar with my wife that day. She said it was important, so I stepped outside before phoning back. I could hear the anxiety in her voice and felt nervous. I wasn’t sure whether she was excited or scared when she started speaking, but the next few words I could never have imagined: “There are three.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “Are there two?” Long pause. Too long. “There are three. Three little hearts beating, daddy.” What?! I was totally dumbfounded.  My mind was utterly and completely sealed off for the concept of three.  “Three?!” I asked, hoping for some better explanation.  I mean, we said we were going to try for a brother or a sister for our firstborn boy – that would mean two kids in total. Two makes sense, because the world is designed for parents to have two children – you see it all over the place: In magazine ads where new sedans are shown with mom, dad and two perfect-looking kids in the back. On TV where two kids come jumping excitedly on their parents’ bed on Christmas morning. Or the ad where two brothers grow up being best buds and then have a whiskey together when they’re old – still best buds and still just two of them! I tried again: “Do you mean two?” I was kind of trying to make sense of the possibility of twins. “No, three. We are going to have triplets.” Bang! The concept fluttered into my mind like a head rush leaving me feeling freakishly dizzy. I had no idea what to say. “Triplets…” I murmured in a hypnotized tone.  I can’t remember the rest of our conversation, but I believe there might have been a teary eye. But that’s because cells will die if they are not kept moist, right? Right. No really, I shed a tear. Because I was **** scared! (very scared :))

So, all our plans – out the window. The ones we had up to that point, anyway. The car would be too small (remember the two kids at the back concept?)  The living room would be too small. The house became too small. The bank balance too small! But while figuring all this out, I felt very proud. Although many things suddenly seemed inadequate, I felt very adequate in a very manly way.  My wife was pregnant with triplets. MY wife. With MY triplets!

When your first baby arrives, your life changes forever. I knew that, because we already had our first boy. But I had no idea what I was in for. I could never have imagined how my life would change – in ways that I did not even know was possible at the time! Welcome to the world of multiples – plus one!

Some of the little people I surrendered to :)

Some of the little people I surrendered to 🙂