5 things I learnt from Novembers Nablopomo

So, it’s 1 December.  I have just finished the month long Nablopomo Challenge.  Here’s 5 things I learnt from the experience.

  1. Just Start

You cannot achieve anything unless you start. Sometimes it takes a few “starts” but it’s the most important thing to keep doing.  Keep starting.  But don’t forget to also finish something!

  1. If you fail to plan you don’t have to plan to fail, permanently

I had always read about Nanowrimo and the other challenges out there. But I had always talked myself out of it.  No time. Will not keep up the challenge. I need to plan for it. This time around I just signed up. Found the page of prompts. And followed that plan mostly. So don’t let the lack of your own plan stop you from starting. Sometimes you need to take an existing plan and use it. Until such time you build the habit or discipline for yourself.

  1. Don’t do it for others, do it for yourself.

My intention for this challenge was to get into the habit of writing daily. Usually I would start off with grand plans. How many followers can I attract? How will I build traffic? How will I publicise my content on so many platforms etc? What will my content be focused on? All those thoughts had stopped me from starting previously. If I couldn’t get a blog platform with thousands of followers – was it worth doing it? But the thing is, if I couldn’t even bring myself to commit to writing.  Getting followers or blog traffic wouldn’t really matter.  Writing in itself is a personal journey or exercise. If you doing it for followers and site traffic to start with. You are sunk!

Hello out there

Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?

As you can see. There was a flurry of followers in the beginning. And then. There was just me and my writing!

 

  1. Let go and let flow

Sometimes writers block hits you.  Just as in life there are obstacles, setbacks or challenges. Sometimes holding onto the obstacle slows you down or stops you completely.  Sometimes you just have to just redirect with the obstacle, go with its flow or go in the direction it takes you.  Till such time you get your own mojo back and can then get back on your own course.  But the thing is, don’t let it stop you. The first writer’s block I hit was in week 1. I would have never made it to the end if I had stopped then.

  1. Eating the elephant

Sometimes a goal can seem like an overwhelming thing to be achieved. But the only way to achieve it is to get through the incremental steps it takes to get there that is, eating the elephant one bite at a time.  This writing challenge, at the outset, seemed like a huge task. What? Writing every day for a whole month?  I could easily have gotten caught up in my head. Instead of focusing on the while month that was ahead. I just focused on the goal for that day. That one blog post for that day. It seemed less overwhelming and more achievable to meet the day’s goal. And before I knew it, November was done and dusted and a blog post was done every day of the working week!

And the bonus. The achievement of a goal leads to the setting of other goals.  Now, onto my next challenge for December!

The final post for November Nablopomo 2015

The end of November and the Nablopomo Challenge. I have posted for 5 days of the week for the entire 4 weeks of November. A part of me is feeling pretty meh about it right now. Although I know its an accomplishment to have done what I committed to do. But now I am thinking, what’s next? Will I continue this blog thing or will it fade into oblivion? I guess only time will tell. But, let me not get side-tracked and use today’s final prompt to write this post.

What do you like to do to celebrate an accomplishment?

I usually like to go out for a nice celebratory meal with someone or someones who appreciates the achievement. Some nice food. Great company and good wine. But in this instance, as this is a writing related achievement. I shall be celebrating with the purchase of a book.

Many years ago, I got Dr Oliver Sack’s book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat as a gift. I thought it an interesting gift at the time. Mostly because I wondered how the gift giver would even know what to buy me. How do you buy someone a book if you don’t know their tastes?

I was too young to appreciate the opportunity. I say opportunity because when someone buys you something they enjoyed reading, it gives you a chance to learn more about them. And you also get to expand your mind beyond your own comfort zone of reading material. So, at the time I was only marginally interested but never really read it with any amount of gusto.

I guess it goes back to that Buddhist/Zen (not sure who said it best) saying that When the Student is Ready, the Teacher will appear. At the time this student had no sense of appreciation for the profound wisdom to be found in Dr Sacks’ writing. And as if by some message from somewhere. A blog I subscribe to has brought the writings of Dr Sacks’ back into my life. As if sent by special messenger.

So the celebratory gift, instead of a dinner out, will be a Dr Sacks’ book. I am deciding between Gratitude and On The Move.

How do you like celebrating an achievement? Leave me a note in the comments.

The best thing I’ve bought

There are so many things I have purchased which have made a really huge impact on my life.  This year, for example, I bought my first “new” car.  Well, it was a 2014 model but still. It had new car smell and drives like a dream. It was not my first car purchase.  But my first car bought quite close to the time it was manufactured.

If I were to classify something as the best purchase I ever made.  Then, it has to be my first air ticket to go travelling abroad. I know that travel is not everyone’s thing. But it’s my thing.  And it’s one of THE best things I have ever invested in.

It was not only my first time to go abroad.  It was my first time to step foot on an aeroplane. I was 25 and fully aware and appreciative of what it took to get me there.  I had finally decided to go and visit a friend in Holland.  So I was fortunate to have accommodation. Which meant I had to just save for my ticket and spending money. At the time I had worked a full time day job. And I took on a weekend job as well to make some extra cash to get me there. My high school bestie, also a first timer out of the country, decided to join me on the trip.

It was exciting times shopping for airline tickets. Then applying for the Schengen Visa.  Finding the best way to exchange money. All first time experiences that you really cannot put a price tag on.  Departure day finally arrived. We said our goodbyes to our families and got on the plane. Trying hard to look as if we did this all the time.  But I swear there were flashing neon signs on our foreheads.  Although I think it was more that our excitement could not be contained.

The very friendly flight attendant chatted to us. Asking us where we were off to. Of course it didn’t take long for us to blurt out our status as first time travelers.  He left us and we continued our own chattering.  A few minutes later he returns and says, “Follow me”. We complied of course. We all watched Passenger 57. We didn’t want any trouble with an air marshal. Not that there were any but how were we to know being first time travelers and all. Instead we were in for a treat. We got taken to the flight deck to meet the captain and view the flight deck. Of course this was way before this type of activity was banned on flights. There were still smoking sections on planes at that time!

It was an exciting start to a memorable trip. The captain allowed us to sit in the jump seats as the plane landed in Johannesburg for our stopover before heading to Schiphol airport.  It was something else. I wondered how many other people were fortunate to have this type of experience on their very first time on a plane. Magical. The bar for overseas travel had been set very high from that very first time.

For me, travel is not only about the destination you get to.  I love the whole experience. Boarding a plane. Chatting to the staff. I am THAT chatty passenger that you might HATE sitting next to. Although I have improved with age. I have learnt to read my fellow passengers. So, I can sit quietly and read a book or watch mindless TV. But I prefer chatting. I am of the opinion that we should at least be courteous to the person who might have to put our oxygen mask on our faces, heaven forbid.  So my chatting is purely risk management!

There are many articles written about the benefit of travelling. New experiences. Exploring different cultures. Making new friends. Learning about yourself outside of your comfort zones. Expanding your mind and your definition of “The World”.  It is indeed one of the best things you can buy in life. If it’s your thing. But I would challenge you to only decide that it’s not your thing, after you’ve traveled abroad.

Who is the master chef in my family?

Hands down, my Mom is the best cook in our family. And, unfortunately, there is no heir apparent.

Ours is a foodie family. Every occasion or non-occasion is an occasion to enjoy some good grub. Occasions are even created just so that we can gather and decide on a menu of some sorts. My parents were a great combination. Mom was a great cook. And Dad was a gastronome/gourmand of note. This left us kids to fall somewhere between the two. Unfortunately, none of us followed in the footsteps of Mom. Perfecting the making part of the food. Instead, we followed Dad. Perfecting the eating part of food.

Growing up our house was not short of recipe books. With Dad being the biggest shopper for recipe books. Everything from local South African cuisine to a collection of what looked like encyclopaedias from the Cordon Bleu Cooking School. (http://www.cordonbleu.edu/). Mom seldom followed a recipe though. Assessing the basics of the recipe, she always tweaked it here and there. Which made it difficult for anyone else to replicate what she made.

We had many family gatherings and there was never a shortage of food. Every kind of starter, main course, side dish and dessert you could possibly timagine. The result is that us kids grew up with adventurous palates. Some of us more than the others. Me to be precise. Dad would eat and try any cuisine at least once. And I inherited this from him. For all her culinary expertise, Mom is a simple eater. Her favourite meal of the day is breakfast. And her best and quickest meal is toast with marmalade. The brain just boggles.

I have picked up a thing or two. Mom ran a catering company for a while and everyone got roped in to help. I have learnt a few improvisational things in the kitchen. Although cooking is not my thing. I prefer baking. I can make custard from scratch as in from egg yolks and not custard powder. But I especially paid attention to learning to make some of my favourites which includes lasagne with spinach pasta and pastry wrapped lamb chops. These unfortunately have no recipe but instead the technique has been passed on from one generation to the next. Cooking taught through intuition, touch, sight and taste.

Who is the best cook I  your family?

Generalist vs specialist

Day 25 of the November Nablopomo 2015 chalkenge and still going strong. Today’s prompt asks, “Do you think it’s better to be a recognized expert for one thing, or known to be really good at lots of things?”

When I was younger I thought that it would be better to be really good at lots of things. Or know lots of different things. I favoured a generalist approach to learning lots of things. I also needed lots of things to keep my mind stimulated. Perhaps it was superficial thinking ability. Or Goldfish Syndrome. But I guess when you are younger there are so many things that interest you. And your sense of time at that point is that it’s infinite in terms of what you can learn and do and be. And because when you’re young, everything is new and exciting.

As you get older I guess you develop an appreciation of time. You would like to still be interested in everything but of course, there is too little time. You realise that you haven’t learnt all that there possibly is to learn about everything and you have an increasing awareness that there is a finite supply of time.

So, as much as I do have an interest in most things. I have chosen to focus on something which kind of allows me to have a wide interest. The field of branding is fascinating from this perspective. It encompasses everything from behavioural psychology through to having an understanding of the impact of colour. The added spin-off is that brand strategy allows you to then have multiple interests because you need to understand as much about the human condition as possible. So I give expression to my generalist inclination through my chosen area of specialisation! Pretty nifty.

At this point in life I appreciate the level of practice it takes to achieve mastery in any given field. And while I still do like knowing a lot of different things my preference now is to achieve mastery and be an expert in one particular thing.

The year that was…

So today we had our work year end function. Firstly it’s bittersweet in that I cannot believe that this year is almost at an end and at the same time it has felt like the longest year. So of course it did what year end functions do. No, not get drunk and conduct random acts of the career limiting kind. But reflect on the year that was in relation to work.

A number of things has contributed to both the lengthening and shortening of this year. One thing that stole time from me was my studies. It’s been a long and torturous process. And not because of the course work but group work killed it for me. Having people tag along while a few carried the load was not fun. But that’s now past. Of course the study thing, other than being an eternal student, is meant to help support long term career prospects. So group work was a necessary evil.

Then there has been the shortfall in some of my career goals which won’t happen by the end of this year. I blame my tendency to optimistically project. But there has been a few hard lessons learnt in the process. Like sometimes it might look like a duck. It might even sound like a duck. But until you have stripped the feathers and thrown that sucker in a hot pain of oil and actually tasted it with some very nice orange sauce to verify its duckness. It could still be a chicken in an elaborate feather boa! But I have made peace with those chickens and unmet career goals and I have set some new ones already.

How’s your work year been?

 

Its day 23 of the November Nablopomo 2015 Challenge. I feel like I have writers block once more. It seems that the melancholy of Monday’s lead me straight to word bankruptcy. But I shall soldier on and finish this challenge. I need more things to put on my list of accomplishments for this year. It’s looking pretty scant at the moment. So this challenge will be finished.

So the prompt is “What do you do better than anyone else?” Maybe I have a problem with the prompt. It’s not that I lack confidence, I am sure I can list a a few things. But here’s the thing.  I have always been my own competition. Not that I consider my standard any higher (or lower) than anyone else’s. But I don’t seek to measure myself by someone else’s yardstick.

Now this could be analysed in two ways. Either I do not have the competitive gene. That thing that pushes you to beat the crap out of any competitors. Not literally of course.  But that thing that forces you to want to chase whomever is in front of you. Or want to get ahead of them.

Or maybe I am of the persuasion that there is always room to improve. Regardless of the level of mastery achieved in anything. Perhaps it’s why I remain a constant student of life. Always more to know and more to learn. Albert Einstein shared my philosophy.  He said something along the lines of “The more I learn the more I realise the less I know.” Which is why, I couldn’t possibly claim to be better at something than anyone else. It’s just me. I need to be better than me in my last attempt at doing something.  This also leads to other things like being perfectionistic and highly self-critical. But it’s all in my best interest.  I have also learnt, with age, to give myself a lot more breaks. Maybe erring on the other side of that now.  But I digress.  The point is that I don’t compare myself to others. Each person’s story is theirs. And while they may appear to be good at one thing. Beating them or being better at something than them, does not mean I will be happy!  Again, with age comes wisdom. Being better at something does not equate to the happiness you may think it will bring you. So choose your competitive arena wisely.

I am a pretty good baker. But I am not at patisserie chef level. And if I wanted to claim that I can bake better than anyone (most) people. I would have to do it at that level at least. I am also good at taking difficult concepts or complex information. Breaking it down into more easily digestible nuggets of information. Then on-sharing that info. But can I do it better than anyone else? No. Because there is always someone who has a better methodology or tactic for doing this. In most cases. I will find them and learn their ways! Not to beat them. But to make me better at doing that thing.

Of course anyone who has played a game of 30 seconds with me might provide a counter argument to my Zen-like self-perception around my (lack of a) competitive streak. But as everyone knows, when it comes to 30 Seconds. There is only winning!