Acting “as if…”

What would happen if you really acted “as if…”

I’m not talking about doing this for a little while, or doing it as a joke – i mean committing completely to the idea that you can change your behaviour, your world and your outcomes purely by acting out an ideal.

This must be where the “fake it til you make it” saying comes from, and I always dismissed this as inauthentic and deceptive. Now I think differently. Sometimes you don’t fully buy into an idea, but you act it out anyways. People stray in their beliefs and behaviours, not because they have it all planned out but because they act like part of a group. Eventually the acting stops and they really feel like they belong.

What if you acted as if:

  • you were very organised and a fitness fanatic
  • nothing really mattered
  • everything mattered more than we could possibly know
  • God exists
  • you were an entrepreneur
  • your morning smoothie was a super food curing illnesses and lengthening your life

Happy Monday, chimps.

Taking technology for granted

We often take technology around us for granted. I think we do this mainly to spare ourselves some headspace. If we constantly tried to be congniscant of all that happens around us, we would overload. But still – reality can bite you hard when tech fails.

Lights and TV work until there is a power cut. Cars cruise down the road until they conk out. Sanitation is an afterthought until something goes wrong with the toilet or the drains.

A new variant of this (excuse the pun) is the impact of COVID on airlines. We used to think flights were always available and plannable. With lockdowns and border security around COVID, flying anywhere in a plane is becoming a gamble. You might be able to, you might not.

I just said goodbye to my parents after a lovely visit. At the same time, a new mutation of the Covid virus means SA is on most peoples’ red list. No more family trips for a while.

I look forward to flying to my family again. I look forward to taking air travel for granted again some day.

Work

Work nowadays is a strange setup. Running our own company has meant my wife and I have a lot of flexibility to manage the impacts of COVID. We worked from home and office long before the virus hit, and we have continued largely unaffected for the last couple of years. Our business model hasn’t (yet) been affected by lockdowns or virus infections. Thank goodness, we have stayed afloat.

We always remain cautious with the knowledge that businesses are fragile and vulnerable entities in the best of times. We constantly need to pay attention.

I used to be more concerned with finding my “purpose” in work – with doing what I loved. Now I rather love what I do – mainly because I am so lucky to have anything to do at the moment. Work can simply disappear. In a country with astronomical unemployment, and a virus pandemic looming, this is clearer to me than ever.

Love what you do.

Attention split

Yesterday I wrote about family, health, and hobbies as a way to divide up your attention. I recently read an interesting article on priorities. It is slightly expanded compared to yesterdays approach, so here’s a more detailed way to divide up your time:

  • Work
  • Education
  • Religion/Spirit
  • Exercise
  • Recreation
  • Family

It is revealing to apply these categories to my life.

Work is work (very clearly defined). I am either working delivering reports for money, or helping to organise the broader company with my role as operations officer. It is clear what needs to be done and who the clients are (internal and external). This could take up my whole day if I wanted it to.

Education happens for me through reading and listening to podcasts. It is not happening in a formal way (degrees or courses) and i think this is becoming the new norm for many people. I seem to focus in on a few categories – finance, marketing, technology and psychology. These are broad categories and i perhaps spend too much time noodling around on the internet. At its best, my time spent here is educational. At its worst it is a swamp which i need to escape from. Again, it is easy to spend hours on this category.

Religion/Sprituality has become interesting to me only recently. I believe this category ties in with psychology as there is a fundamental religious drive or instinct which humans have. I am also interested in the behavioural impact of ritual, community, setting high goals and understanding hierarchies around you. I have only recently seen the benefits of religion for those around me. Otherwise my life has, to date, been pretty much wilfully ignorant of religion. This category mixes often with education for me. It might one day be good to separate it out as its own category to manage.

Exercise in my life is what you call a complete shamozzle. Non-existent. Pathetic. In need of attention. I tend to blame the other components of my life and claim there is no time. But I definitely have 45 minutes a day to fit some exercise in. This category has historically been tied up with the ‘Recreation’ category as i used to gain good exercise from social and enjoyable hobbies such as team sports or squash. However, co-ordinating recreation and socialising with exercise seems a step too far for me at the moment. It is probably useful to tackle them separately for now.

Recreation for me would include socialising, music and sports i enjoy. I have very little of this in my life at the moment. But there is enough through social media, work and family to get me through for now, while our kids are so young and in need of attention. However one day this bird is going to have to spread its wings again and become social and more self-serving with the hobbies! Drumming, squash, golf, cricket, rugby, bike riding, podcasting and listening to music. Oh the joys that await.

Family has become almost everything for me. So much so that it scared me and forced me to write posts such as this one to figure out what is going on. We have a big family which needs a lot of attention at the moment. I love them very much. I find balance a hard thing to manage when you love something that much.

Words, Plans and Aims

Why write anything, anyways? Write to express yourself – but what does that actually mean? One way of thinking about it might be that we humans need to aim at something, and the best way we have of doing that is to express the aim in words. Use words to express what you are aiming at. Don’t hold the words inside. Express them to the outside world. This makes a huge difference. So, for example:

Important to me is that I have a family to raise, a body to look after, and sport and music to enjoy.

So, three broad aims. Family, Health, and Hobbies.

Right now, life is tilted towards the family. We are in a critical time for our young children. They need attention most of the day. Pay attention to the thing you are aiming at.

I want to incorporate more of the hobbies gradually. But this is a slow process. Far slower than I ever thought it would be.

Health has slowed down too as i have been recovering from an operation. But this recovery is done now so I need to think about getting stronger. I need to start aiming at sports.

Of course, it’s not so simple. Life likes to tie us in knots as we make big plans. Money, for instance. What to do about money? And socialising? Pffffft…I can almost hear the Gods laughing at my aims and at all those plans I like to make.

Still, writing down and talking out loud about my aims helps me find direction.

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Ah, Chumbawumba – what a prophetic and beautiful song you wrote!

I have just come out of my longest ever stay in hospital. What started as a stomach ache when I was seven years old, culminated in bowel surgery and 8 days away from my family at the age of 39. To make it a little worse, I hurried back home too soon after the initial surgery only to be readmitted for a few more nights. I have never felt so sick.

What struck me with this illness was how instantaneous it all was. Two tiny, crucial moments in time changed everything. When the illness struck I was perfectly fine in one moment, and very sick the next. At the end of my stay I was feeling awful and worried for the future. Then suddenly this most wonderful switch flipped in my body. I could feel that I was, for the first time in a week, getting better.

We’re all fine, until we’re just not. Then if we’re lucky, we suddenly start feeling better. Strange how clear those moments were for me.

I am fully aware that my problem pales in significance compared to many others. Spend a week in hospital and you are exposed to scores of emergencies racing in and out, grown men and women screaming out in agony in the night, youngsters reeling off lists of past problems to doctors, bearing scars and taking chronic treatments. So far I have been incredibly lucky with my health. I value it more after my short stay.

To feel normal and at ease with my stomach is a blessing. To not worry about what the next meal will do to me is a blessing. To see my children again is a blessing.

Blessings on blessings.

Happy Friday chimps.

Humanities

After my first degree i was cynical about my job prospects. I was a humanities student.
There is quite a lot of cynicism these days. 

  • art
  • history
  • architecture
  • philosophy
  • theology
  • literature
  • ethics

For a lot of people the very mention of these words are laughable. It’s common to deride and dismiss – to choose rather to go make more money, to workout at the gym, to break down rather than build up. It’s easy to put human endeavor down to economics or the will to power. It’s easy to dismiss the reflections on humanity. To dismiss the humanities themselves.

To me this response is rooted in envy. At its core, I think the humanities show us something to strive for – great art and thought and stories show us how flawed we are. This is the whole point. But to appreciate this requires humility, rational thought and genuine curiosity. To rebel against it shows insecurity and often willful ignorance. It ignores a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.


The humanities let us point to something of value and specify the nature of an ideal. It lets us seek for deeper answers and elevate some behaviour, values, ethics, images over others.

I want to teach my children about the humanities. I am at heart a humanist and a student of the humanities. I believe this area of studies shows us how to better perceive what is good. The humanities teach us essential Truths, like being truthful in what you say, and striving for universal love are principles which work and are good.
Happy Thursday.

What is school for?

My children have to go to school every day. As far as I can understand, the lessons they learn at school are academic and social.

The academic lessons are interesting because we can contribute and add to them at home. We read with them, do their homework with them, and explain how things work around them. 

The social lessons are harder to replicate or to know when you’re contributing as a parent to the learning. Even though we have a big family, I think that it simply cannot replace the socialising lessons learned in a school.

At home the kids sort themselves (more often than not) into order of physical strength. The oldest wallops the next in line and gains access to the toys.

At school we are exposing our children to a class full of similar aged humans. It’s not so clear cut who’s the boss in a classroom as it is at home. So the children have to cooperate and negotiate positions in the hierarchy.

In the class and the playground, similar strength children are differentiated by personality traits such as the below:

  • extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. critical/rational)
  • openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless)
  • neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient and confident)

All the above traits play a factor in how much time someone else wants to spend with you, and in how well you are able to negotiate access to anything of value (a nice toy, for example).

Happy Wednesday, Chimps.

Playlist Page

I have added a playlist page to the chimpwithcans.com website – check the menu at the top of the website. On the playlist page, you will see an embedded Spotify playlist and a link to the Apple Music version of the playlist.

It works like this – Once I have spoken about a piece of music on the podcast (happens weekly on a Thursday) I will included it on both of the chimpwithcans playlists (Apple and Spotify).

Also included in the playlists are assorted other pieces of music I like.

Wild

Wild places are less common now, even here in South Africa which has something of a reputation for wilderness and wildlife. We went for a weekend away in the rugged Cederberg which was lovely and remote. But we drove for four hours through heavily managed farmland and towns to get there. When we arrived we had bunk beds, central heating (Cederberg is cold at night) and running water in a new cottage which felt like it was custom built for us. A Bosch dishwasher made cleaning up easy! There were few wild animals to speak of except a few baboons and many birds. Weavers and sunbirds enjoying the river next to the cottage. Everything worked. Orderly and sophisticated. Beautiful, but not wild.

When I was young, even though I was a “city boy”, I had access to a lot of wild places and experienced wildlife at a scale that is uncommon nowadays. Kenya was relatively sparsely populated and undeveloped compared to today. We saw buffalo, giraffe and hyenas around my house, monkeys and chameleons in the gardens and warthogs at school. When I got a little older I could ride my motorbike through a forest and over the range of hills behind our house. There I found wide open space as far as the eyes could see. The rift valley. I used to love that ride and I miss it.

Our family would camp in places so remote we needed to bring our own drinking water, fuel, toilets, tents and food. We would also bring motorbikes on a trailer and after setting up camp next to a river we’d go for long rides through the bush. This felt like freedom from a young age.

Washing in a river, scorpions in our shoes, and waking up to lion footprints through the campsite in the morning. Certainly no electricity. Not so sophisticated. Amazing memories. Wild.

My children may not have such memories. We plan to stay here in “civilised” SA. But we can still go to game parks and show them wild animals in their natural habitat. We can then buy a cappuccino back at the campsite! Perhaps we will be able to show them Kenyan bush – Still pretty vast and wild. I look forward to that.