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Creating Value in Your Business

I write about Value Creation...mostly.

My day job is all about finance. I teach it and I practice it. I have been teaching finance at business schools for nearly two decades. 

As a business consultant and part time CFO, measuring and creating value for shareholders is what I love to do.

Sometimes I write about running. I run everyday. Its my time to think.

My favourite subject to write about is how companies create value for shareholders. However, value shows up in so many places and how we see it depends on our perspective.

Just In Time is about shining light on those different perspectives.

Just In Time is about creating value in your life and your business.

I wrote extensively about value creation in my first book and reaffirmed for myself that value is so much more than how the financial metrics of a business stack up.

My Writing is Inspired by the the concept of an "Atomic Essay", a one-pager of less than 300 words. 

Just In Time delivers concise insights that will give you a shot of inspiration to go with your daily coffee.

If you like what you see then join the Value Creation Community and get a copy on my Just in Time articles sent to your inbox.

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The Latest Articles

Why the “Financial Experts” Have Inflation All Wrong 

Article #184 - 22 June 2022

Most people have no idea about the Eurodollar system. Many have never even heard the term Eurodollar. The Eurodollar is simply US Dollars held in bank accounts outside of America.

Fractional banking allows banks to lend more than what they have in deposits. Banking regulations restrict the multiple of lending to deposits to manage risks. The multiple by which lending is greater than deposits is money creation.

American banks “lend” money to their subsidiary banks outside of America. When doing so, there is no restriction on the lending multiple. American subsidiary banks in Europe can lend as much as they like. This creates more Eurodollars, and the US Federal Reserve Bank (FED) has little control and knowledge of this Eurodollar market.
The green shading on this chart shows the growth of Eurodollars. The dotted line reflects the rate of growth.

The origin of the Eurodollar was effectively when the USD became the reserve currency for global trade at the end of World War 2.

Notice how the Eurodollar growth has flattened since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008/9. The dotted line reflects the lower rate of growth.
Since 2008, the real GDP growth in the USA has been significantly lower than pre-GFC. The pink shading is the creation of bank reserves by the FED, which get swapped onto the balance sheets of US Banks. US Banks are then supposed to lend this “money” to customers. The problem is that everyone has become more risk averse since the GFC. Banks are lending less.

The bank reserves reflect US Fed Debt which everyone calls money printing. Money printing is what everyone is pointing to as the reason for inflation.

While prices of goods have increased dramatically, that is not inflation. Inflation is about money supply, not price increases. Despite increased US Debt and the creation of bank reserves, the supply of money has been restricted, which is why there is less growth in real GDP. The restricted growth is worldwide phenomena.

Price increases are due to a global supply chain shock! Increasing interest rates on debt will not magically increase the supply of oil.

Jeff Snider at Alhambra Investments is the guru on this subject.

The Dilemma of a Successful Entrepreneur 

Article #183 - 17 June 2022

Building a successful business is a grind. There are no shortcuts and every day you must get up and face your fear of failure. The payoffs from building a business that produces sustainable cashflow are fantastic.

Here are some of the obvious payoffs:
1. You are your own boss, and you get to make the rules. The reality is that if you have built a successful business then you are probably quite a hard boss to work for, which means you are hard on yourself too.

2. The lifestyle benefits of a business with substantial and sustainable cashflow are quite enjoyable. If your business is structured such that you can take time away without any negative impact on the business, then the payoffs are even better.

3. There is as significant tax advantage from being able to pay certain expenses through the business account rather than your personal account. You need to tread this line carefully in how you can justify certain personal expenses as business expenses. Obvious expenses that can be passed on as business expense are travel and accommodation.

4. The ultimate payoff for a successful entrepreneur is that you have developed an asset of value that can potentially be sold. Therein arises the dilemma.

Selling a business requires that you can attract a buyer who is willing to pay an agreeable price to acquire the future cashflows. The sale of a business is an exchange where the seller gets a lumpsum, discounted amount of the future cashflows, today. To get a higher lumpsum today you must prove to the buyer that there is more cashflow in the future or less risk.

The dilemma faced by the entrepreneur is that you can either extract the value from the business today or at some time in the future when you sell the business, but not both.

Extracting the value today means you live high off the business by taking out excess cash to fund your lifestyle or other business ventures. This relates to point three above. It is taking advantage of the tax benefits. The problem with extracting value today is that the businesses free cashflow is lower. A due diligence process by the seller will reveal an expense base that is higher than necessary.

Extracting value in the future when the business is sold requires discipline in the short term. That means running a tight ship. In this case the due diligence process will reveal higher free cashflows and therefore the sale of the business will attract a higher price.

Excess cash can be taken out the business through dividends and/or salary. That way a potential buyer can clearly interpret the free cashflow of the business and thus justify a price multiple based on profitability. Extracting cash from the business through ad hoc expenditure that takes advantage of tax benefits, only serves to muddy the water.

Central Planning Always Fails!

Article #182 - 15 June 2022

China has been in lockdown again. The ports in Shanghai are closed, and ships are waiting in the South China Sea. The implications for supply chains are incomprehensible. So is the Chinese lockdown policy, so it seems.

Lockdown policies have proven to be a complete failure at reducing the spread of Covid. The recent adoption of this policy by the Chinese has many people scratching their heads and asking, "Why now?"
China represents the pinnacle in central planning. Xi Jinping is the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the leader for life.

To rise to the position of leader for life, there is no doubt that many promises were made. The patronage system that feeds the CCP is vast.

The only way to thrive and build wealth in China is to be a member of the CCP. A CCP member puts their membership number front and centre on their CV when applying for a job. The CCP membership number signifies that you fully support the party and its leaders.

The Orwellian nature of the CCP is such that members operate out of fear. It is common knowledge that passing bad news up the hierarchical leadership structure can result in severe consequences. The implications for a central planning economy are dire if essential information does not make it back to the center.

A significant benefit of the free-market structure is the feedback loop from the dynamics of supply and demand and the impact on setting prices. For this feedback loop to work efficiently, there needs to be information transparency of the supply capacity and demand requirements. The system doesn't work perfectly all the time. However, most of the time, it functions satisfactorily.

Another characteristic of the free-market system is that businesses that cannot meet the market's requirements are allowed to fail, and capital is directed elsewhere. Capital is often poorly allocated in a central planning structure because businesses are not subject to free-market forces.

This week on the Rebal Capitalist Podcast, hosted by George Gammon, a hypothesis was presented by his guest, Jason Burack. Burack suggested that the lockdown in China has nothing to do with Covid. The reason for the lockdown is that China is suffering from food shortages. Areas of China have suffered from significant crop failures, and their food imports have been largely cut off due to the Russia / Ukraine war.

The lockdowns are a tactic to reduce demand!

This is an example of what happens when governments have too much power and try to control all levers of the economy. The system is way too complicated to be controlled from the center. Small failures are an essential feedback mechanism. The alternative is a colossal failure.

In Anticipation of a Great Journey

Article #181 - 6 June 2022

In a month’s time a small group of runners will traverse the cliffs and beaches of the Wild Coast. Their route will take them from Port Edward to Coffee Bay. 182km in 7 days.

In the days to come, we will travel to another world. A world where time passes slower, and the days feel longer. A world that cares nothing for the time on our watches. A world that is absent of most of what makes our lives comfortable.

To visit this world, we must leave behind much that is part of our lives. A loved one, an important project or a pressing matter that requires your attention. Know that they will be awaiting your return. But for now, your attention will be directed elsewhere.

The joy and anticipation of this great journey will soon overtake the anxiety of what you are leaving behind.

A journey starts with knowing that it will come to an end. The destination gives our journey direction, but it does not define the path we take each day.

The path is determined by the choices we make in the moment. Sometimes the choice will be obvious and the path certain. At times the path will be less clear, and we will have to trust our instinct.

A journey is made great not by reaching the destination but by the discoveries on the route. We may discover a treasure among the hills or on the beaches. An artifact washed up by the sea or a fleeting glimpse of a breaching whale.

This is an invitation to my fellow travelers to connect with that part of themselves that desires to journey. I invite you to travel to that mystical place where you may find a piece of yourself that hides beneath the layers that shield you from your everyday world. Be open to a discovery that may come from within you.

The mystery is not knowing what you may discover. There may be fear for what is unknown and, on the other side, joy for what you find. Being open to discovery may reveal a small truth about yourself. It might be a realisation that you are more capable than you think. Or that you have the strength to overcome the difficulty. Perhaps a discovery of some unknown longing that your younger self abandoned.

The remote beauty of an open beach, with hardly a footprint of another being, may remind you that your path through life is unique, and there are no footprints to follow. Yet, the heavy breath of a nearby runner is a reminder that paths overlap, and there is a connection with fellow travelers.

The steep climbs of the rugged seaside cliffs may remind you of the deep struggles of life. Knowing that on the other side is the reward of a majestic view and the realisation that another struggle is inevitable.

It is in the struggle that one discovers the gifts of the journey. It is not about getting to the end of the day's run; it is about running to the end of the day. That is the difference between destination and journey.

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Do You Think What You Think You Think?

Article #180 - 3 June 2022

If you knew the secret formula to give people what they want, what would that be worth? How would you Several years ago, I came across a book with the same title as this article. When I spotted it on the shelf at the book shop, I did a double-take. I couldn’t resist. I had to take a peek. I got sucked into its fascinating content, and I had to buy it.

The book offers a philosophical health check. The methodology presents a list of intriguing statements to which you must agree or disagree. The statements are structured to test for any “tension” in your thinking.

I discovered that I had several tensions in my thinking. That is a polite way of saying that my thinking was inconsistent. I became irritated at the statements because I thought they were trying to trick me. On reflection, my irritation was misguided. It wasn’t the statements; it was me. It was my inconsistency that was irritating me.

Most people don’t care about the inconsistency in their thinking. Mostly, people are not even aware of their inconsistency. I am very conscious of being consistent in my thinking, but I often discover that I am not.
Being a consistent writer has helped me uncover my inconsistent thinking. Writing my thoughts on paper and presenting them to thousands of readers has been a sure-fire way to get feedback on my inconsistent thinking.

The problem with thinking is that it is primarily an internal process. It is a conversation that goes on in our heads.

Have you ever noticed yourself not completing a thought? Or thoughts arising and interrupting other thoughts. I like to think that I have some control over my thinking, but often that is not the case. Having a thinking process when you are problem-solving can be very helpful.

Here is a list of things to try when you have to think through a problem:

1. Don’t try and think it through late at night when you are tired. First thing in the morning is the best time.

2. Think with a partner. Think out aloud. Speak the words that you are thinking and complete your thoughts.

3. Trusting that your partner won’t belittle your thinking and holding what you say in confidence is essential. Choose the right person!

4. Try writing your thoughts about the problem and the potential solutions. Write as if someone else is going to read it. You will be forced not to take shortcuts in your thinking.

5. Once you have spoken or written the words, leave the problem for a while. Come back to it later, you will be surprised at your clarity when you see the problem the second time around.

The One Page Financial Plan

Article #179 - 31 May 2022

I am amazed at the lack of basic financial understanding that many entrepreneurs have. This is especially evident in entrepreneurs presenting to Shark Tank investors. The Shark Tank is a “high pressure” presentation to potential angel investors offering venture capital.

Entrepreneurs are generally good at showcasing their products. Samples and demonstrations are aplenty. However, financial plans are often lacking. The entrepreneurs often end their presentation by asking for an investment for a percentage of ownership.

Some basic cross multiplication maths can quickly reveal a business valuation. If an entrepreneur offers 20% equity for $250,000, that implies a business valuation of $1.25 million.

Any investor will likely want some basic sales and profitability numbers based on historical trade or a pilot project.

There are three pieces of essential data that are required. They are the monthly fixed expenses, the gross profit margin, and the potential monthly sales volume. The average selling price can be easily derived from this data, but it is always good to know the average selling price off the top of your head.

Here are some break-even “income statement gymnastics” that will give any investor piece of mind that you understand the financial basics of your business.

1. Ave Selling Price (SP) – Ave Cost Price (CP) = Margin

2. COS includes all variable expenses

3. EXP includes all fixed expenses

4. @Break even Gp = Fixed expenses (Exp)

5. Volume (VOL) = Gp / Margin

6. Sales = Vol x SP

7. COS = Vol x CP

8. GP = Vol x Margin

9. Gp – Exp = Pbt

10. Margin / Ave SP x 100 = GP%

11. Sales = Gp / Gp%

Once an entrepreneur understands the breakeven point of their business, different profitability scenarios can be extrapolated. Insert a profit target into Pbt and add the expenses to get Gp. Divide Gp by Margin to get Volume (Formula 5). Use Formula 6 to calculate Sales.

The One Page Financial Plan

Article #179 - 31 May 2022

I am amazed at the lack of basic financial understanding that many entrepreneurs have. This is especially evident in entrepreneurs presenting to Shark Tank investors. The Shark Tank is a “high pressure” presentation to potential angel investors offering venture capital.

Entrepreneurs are generally good at showcasing their products. Samples and demonstrations are aplenty. However, financial plans are often lacking. The entrepreneurs often end their presentation by asking for an investment for a percentage of ownership.

Some basic cross multiplication maths can quickly reveal a business valuation. If an entrepreneur offers 20% equity for $250,000, that implies a business valuation of $1.25 million.

Any investor will likely want some basic sales and profitability numbers based on historical trade or a pilot project.

There are three pieces of essential data that are required. They are the monthly fixed expenses, the gross profit margin, and the potential monthly sales volume. The average selling price can be easily derived from this data, but it is always good to know the average selling price off the top of your head.

Here are some break-even “income statement gymnastics” that will give any investor piece of mind that you understand the financial basics of your business.

1. Ave Selling Price (SP) – Ave Cost Price (CP) = Margin

2. COS includes all variable expenses

3. EXP includes all fixed expenses

4. @Break even Gp = Fixed expenses (Exp)

5. Volume (VOL) = Gp / Margin

6. Sales = Vol x SP

7. COS = Vol x CP

8. GP = Vol x Margin

9. Gp – Exp = Pbt

10. Margin / Ave SP x 100 = GP%

11. Sales = Gp / Gp%

Once an entrepreneur understands the breakeven point of their business, different profitability scenarios can be extrapolated. Insert a profit target into Pbt and add the expenses to get Gp. Divide Gp by Margin to get Volume (Formula 5). Use Formula 6 to calculate Sales.

Insights From 20 Years as a Solopreneur

Article #178 - 25 May 2022

Owning a business that allows you to choose how you spend your time and allocate your resources is a fantastic privilege. Deciding what you want to do and when you want to do it is freedom.

The pressing question is, what learnings from the last 20 years can make the next 20 years exponentially better?

Twenty years ago, a solopreneur was geographically restricted. Unless your previous experience had helped you create a network in other countries, it was nearly impossible to think globally.

Social media have made the world a much smaller place. Building a network across multiple platforms is a must for a new age solopreneur. If you are not thinking about how your business can solve a problem for a global customer, then you are thinking too small.
Here are some insights and reflections:

1. The longer you take to cut the umbilical cord of being an employee, the harder it is. As an employee, you build up debt and overheads that make the perceived risk of breaking away very hard over time.

2. Start a side hustle that you nurture and build in your own time before you cut the cord.

3. Save enough money to level up by educating yourself. The energy shift can propel you into a new way of thinking that reveals new opportunities. Once upon a time, a full-time MBA could do that.

4. Finding your first customer is an incredibly liberating feeling. It also helps you realise that if you can find one customer, you can find a second.

5. Being a solopreneur does not mean you have to work alone. Doing a project with a friend who brings different but complementary skills is very rewarding.

6. While delivering a service that pays the bills, building a proprietary product that you sell independent of your service offering is essential. A software product is a holy grail. At least write a book, create a course, or develop a model that others can implement on your behalf.

7. At first, there is a temptation to "do anything" to not miss out on opportunities. In hindsight, the faster you can specialise, the better. Focus on that one thing where you can become the guru.

8. The freedom of a solopreneur is fantastic but making yourself answerable to someone brings focus and urgency. It helps if that someone is not emotionally attached to you or your business. Think MENTOR!

9. Identify a problem and sell a solution. Exploit the customers' pain in your marketing and an offer to take that pain away with your product or service.

10. Get started and be consistent!

Valuation Checklist

Article #177 - 24 May 2022

Business owners always want to know the value of their business. It is the same as checking in on their share portfolio. The difference is that listed shares have a share price, and the unlisted company doesn’t.

It is worth knowing that a share price might bounce around due to market volatility but that does not mean the value of the underlying business has changed. Once the foundation assumptions to a valuation have been determined it requires a significant shift in assumptions for the valuation to change.

If knowing the value of your unlisted business is important to you, you might carry out a valuation once a year. This shouldn’t be much more than a quick update of a few inputs on an Excel model once you have a base valuation.
Forecasting the future cashflows and discounting them using an appropriate cost of capital is a standard valuation method. The hardest part is balancing the ART (assumptions about risk and the future cashflows) and the SCIENCE (evidence-based inputs and calculations).

Here is a checklist of the inputs and steps required to value your unlisted business:

1. Five years of historical financial statements from which a track record and trends can be established.

2. Using the historical I/S and B/S, calculate descriptive statistics as a percentage of sales.

3. Forecast sales growth and operating margins ten years into the future…art and science are needed here!

4. Using item 3, determine the future income statements and balance sheets.

5. Calculate the future free cashflow flow from the forecasted financial statements.

6. Calculate an appropriate cost of capital (WACC). For an unlisted business in South Africa, 20% is a good number.

7. Determine a terminal growth rate. This is a growth rate for the years beyond the forecast. Typically the sales growth rate used in year 10 of the forecast can be used here. 5% - 7% is not unusual.

8. Calculate the terminal value. This value of the cashflows for years 11 and onwards.

9. Discount the future cashflows and the terminal value to get a time and risk-adjusted present value. This is called the Enterprise value.

10. From the Enterprise value, subtract the outstanding debt and add the cash to get the Equity value.

11. Divide the Equity value by the number of issued shares to get the notional share price.

Here are several formulas required along the way:

• WACC = (Cost of Equity x Equity%) + (Cost of Debt x Debt%) *mostly relevant for listed companies.

• Terminal value formula = (FCF Yr10 x (1+ terminal growth rate)) / (WACC - terminal growth rate)

• Present value formula = FCF / (1 + WACC) ^ Years

• Enterprise value = PV of future cashflows + PV of the terminal value

• Equity Value = Enterprise value – Debt + Cash

• Share price = Equity value / number of issued shares

Here is an important qualification when it comes to valuation. Value is subjective, every valuation is bias, and the forecast will be wrong. The price is subject to negotiation, the value is subject to EGO.

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More Articles

What 1,000 Days Of #runeveryday Has Taught
Me About Navigating Life

Article #149 - 4 March 2022

If you knew the secret formula to give people what they want, what would that be worth? How would you be able to use that secret to get what you want?

The charismatic motivational speaker Zig Ziglar was well known for saying, "you will get all you want in life if you help enough people get what they want".
The Neuro Leadership Journal (Issue 1 of 2008) published an article titled "SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others."

SCARF is an acronym for the five words that describe "what everyone wants in life."
Motivational coach, Tony Robbins, published an article on his website titled, "Discover the 6 Human Needs".

There is a significant overlap in the content of the two articles. The result is a list of actionable items that, if deployed with the right intent, can significantly impact how you can help others get what they want and hopefully get what you want.

SCARF includes:
S = Status
C = Certainty
A = Autonomy
R = Relatedness
F = Fairness

Tony Robbins’ list includes:

Significance and Status amount to the same thing. Variety can be achieved by giving people enough Autonomy to do things their own way and make their own choices.

Connection and Relatedness are the same things. Tony Robbins refers to these as the need for love - a deep form of connection.

Fairness stands on its own; everyone wants to be treated fairly, even though life is unfair. 

Growth is about personal development and getting better at what you do. Contribution is feeling joy because what you do is meaningful to you and others.

Knowing the elements on the list is one thing; putting into action the techniques that help others get what they want is an acquired skill that comes from practice.

In future articles, I will explore how I use these human need elements to teach others about value creation and business performance. Over ten thousand hours of public speaking and educating managers and executives has helped me hone my skills in helping others get what they want.

Now the only thing left to do is figure out what I want 😊

The Stock Market is a Beauty Contest

Article #148 - 2 March 2022

The All-Share Index (ALSI) Returns chart over the last forty-odd years has shown South Africa to be a picture of beauty up until the end of 2014. Since then, the investment world has shunned South Africa. If this were a game of Survivor, South Africa would have been voted out. 
The ALSI consists of approximately 160 companies. It represents 99% of the total value of all the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed companies. The total value of those 160 companies is very close to R18.5 trillion. The 165 odd companies not included in the ALSI make up the remaining 1%. There are 325 companies listed on the JSE, give or take some recent listings and delistings.

The Top 40 companies represent 89% of the total value of the JSE listed companies and account for approximately 25% of the GDP of South Africa.

The ALSI followed a very predictable returns path for a long time, producing a cumulative average growth rate (CAGR) of 18% per annum. The CAGR of 18% includes stock price growth and dividend income. The yellow line on the chart shows this consistency, except for several expansions and crashes along the way.

In August 2014, the market started going sideways and has done so since then. This period is marked as the “Recession Years” on the chart. The Recession Years shows up as a clear break from the long-term trend.

A simple explanation for why share prices go up - there are more buyers than sellers. These are demand and supply dynamics. If there is limited supply because few investors are selling, buyers must bid higher to tempt a seller, thus driving prices up.

While billions of new pension money flow into the market every month, these inflows have been matched by outflows. Foreigners and many local investors have been selling and reallocating their capital elsewhere.

South Africa’s recent economic policies have been the equivalent of putting a hessian sack over a bikini-clad model in a beauty contest. It’s not going to win any votes and, in our case, foreign investment.

Weak Men Create Hard Times

Article #147 - 1 March 2022

“Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men and weak men create hard times” – G Michael Hopf.
Committing a micro aggression or suggesting that men and women are different can have heinous consequences.

J.K Rowling pushed back against an article that referred to “people who menstruate”. She was suggesting that we used to call these “people” women. The cancel mob accused Rowling of being transphobic.
The comic Kevin Hart was cancelled from hosting the 2019 Oscars because of a series of bad jokes published on Twitter in 2009.

Victim status has become a path to attention. Being offended by the words that someone uses has become a source of power over others. The victim never has to take responsibility for themselves. It is always someone else’s fault.

The so-called victims, who revel in being offended, lobby governments for protection. Bill C-16 in Canada mandates the use of pronouns. This was the hill that Jordan Peterson stood on. He refused to be told by the government what language he could use. His outspoken stance catapulted him into the limelight and made him the target for incredible hate speech. Those who are so easily offended certainly don’t appear to hold back on their vitriol when someone disagrees with them.

The West is falling over itself trying not to offend anyone. The result is the creation of an enemy from within.

On The Martyrmade Podcast, the host Darryl Cooper, tells of his experience working as an intelligence agent for the US government. He tells a story about going on a training course to spot foreign agents. After learning about the usual tell-tell signs, he asked about consequences for accusing an American of Chinese descent of being a spy. He was quickly shut down. Cooper concluded that he was more like to be reported to HR than his allegations being taken seriously.
The Chinees and Russians have no foreigners in their intelligence services and are not worrying about who they offend with their accusations.

Putin is not likely fretting over Russian troops dying in Ukraine. He has chosen this moment of weakness by the West to assert his power.

While the West is concerned with micro-aggressions, real aggression is a tank rolling down the street towards Kyiv.

The weak men were tested by the COVID and failed. Now they are being tested by PUTIN. Hard times ahead!

There Is No Inflation!

Article #146 - 24 February 2022

The financial world broke on the 9th August 2007. That was when the French bank BNP Paribas froze three of its US funds. It was the first chain of events that led to the “Financial Crisis”.
I am a regular listener to Jeff Snider from Alhambra Investments. He is the co-host of the Eurodollar University podcast and the financial markets guru. I have found it fascinating to explore the differences between the media story and the real story.

Hardly a day passes, and there isn’t a headline in the US media about inflation.

In South Africa, at the latest meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee, it was agreed to raise the Repo rate to 4% - therefore increasing the Prime lending rate to 7.5%. The reason given was the age-old classic. We are taught that increasing the cost of debt reduces access to money and therefore slows inflation.

The problem is the definition of inflation. Ask ten people the meaning of inflation, and all ten will probably answer as follows: “inflation is the cost of living going up”. In other words, the price of goods and services is increasing. The South African Reserve bank governor might just give the same answer.

Nobel prize-winner Milton Friedman defined inflation as “always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money”.

In other words, inflation is defined as an increase in the monetary supply. Too much money chasing too few goods and services can result in price increases. But price increases can also come about for other reasons unrelated to the money supply.

It is essential to differentiate between price inflation and monetary inflation. Some might suggest that this is splitting hairs and unnecessary. However, the actions required to manage these different types of inflation are not the same. Conflating the two can result in activities that have no impact.

Not having enough money in circulation is a problem that comes from a lack of growth and confidence in the economy. That is something we are very familiar with in South Africa. If you have tried to access debt funding as an SME business, you may have found that banks are very reluctant to lend. The big corporates can access debt easily, but the growth engine of entrepreneurship is driving with the handbrake on.

One of the main reasons for price inflation in South Africa is because we import it via the fuel price. South African price inflation is not a function of too much monetary supply. The same goes for the US. Changing interest rates won’t make a difference. In the same way that quantitative easing has never worked.

Any competent workman will tell you to use the right tools for the job. It appears that we are trying to cut wood with a butter knife. The action of doing something doesn’t mean you are doing the right thing.

What 1,000 Days Of #runeveryday Has Taught
Me About Navigating Life

Article #132 - 10 January 2022

Looking forward, the thought of doing anything every day for 1,000 days is overwhelming. Looking backwards, after running 10km a day for 1,000 days, I can say with confidence that it is not a superhuman physical effort. It is, however, a substantial logistical and mental effort. But, as I have learned, a simple reframing of how you think about it can unlock capabilities that you never knew you had.
Here are 5 insights that I have uncovered from #runueverday that help me navigate other parts of my life:

Time: Your sense of time can be distorted depending on your state of mind. If you run at 6min/km, it will take 1 hour to run 10 km. On some days, that hour can feel like 10 minutes. On other days it can feel like a 2-hour slog. Time gets distorted depending on your state of flow. A state of flow can make a process feel effortless. Flow comes from consistent practice where time melts away and is of little consequence.

Health: Fitness is a proxy for health. It is a monumental effort to get it back when you lose it. There are no shortcuts. The time and effort to maintain it is a very small price to pay when you have it. The problem is that you only learn this once you lose it. Consistently doing something every day is a minimal cost with a considerable reward.

Wealth: A great measure of wealth is the amount of control you have over how you spend your time. Being selfish and allocating a piece of your time every day to something that matters only to you is the best gift you can give yourself. The challenge then becomes to increase that time allocation as much as possible. The more time you can allocate to yourself, the more your wealth will increase.

Ego: Mimicry is an evolutionary trait in many species. Humans are especially good at it. We copy others and then signal our success and virtue like trophies on the mantle. Running every day for 1,000 days is a trophy on my mantle. This trophy validates my ego, and I like to shine it. The problem is having too many trophies and spending too much time shining them. There must be a balance between earning trophies and shining trophies. This requires constant personal reflection.

Recovery: Slowing down is where the magic happens, but my ego disagrees. My ego wants to run further and faster. My mind and body often want to go slower. Stepping away, taking a break, slowing down makes space for new thinking and different perspectives. I always get faster after I go slow. My ego tells me that going slow is being lazy. My ego cannot see past the shining trophies. I need to constantly remind myself that navigating life often happens while stopped at a garage to refuel.

As I reflect on these lessons, I realise that there is much more to say on each one. I also realise that they are interconnected, as life is. Like a spider’s web, pulling one strand vibrates in the others.

It’s All About Embracing the Grind

Article #130 - 7 January 2022

Celebrating a milestone, finishing a big project, or taking part in a significant event are all worthy of celebration. Life is set up that way. We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. We recognise and reward people for a project well done. When someone runs their first Comrades marathon or their tenth, we honour them for their achievement. The detail in between is taken for granted. That daily grind is where all the magic is.
I’m reflecting on my experience of counting days. Saying it like that sounds strange. Today is day 1,141 since I started counting. Today is not a milestone, or a special day. There is nothing about it that feels like a big achievement. It is just another day. It’s Friday. I ran 12km with Bruce.

We had a conversation about how I like to cook chicken stir-fry wraps. We decided not to walk at the top of the hills and run non-stop. We ran slower than yesterday. We had coffee afterwards. It was just another day in the grind of wanting to be better.

Being better is about getting stronger, faster, fitter, leaner, healthier, and somehow trying to hold back the ever-rising tide of ageing. What I took for granted in my twenties is now front of my mind every day and is part of my motivation for #runeveryday. Recording a run in my spreadsheet is how I count the days. It is how I see each one for what it is—another day, stacked up on top of yesterday and ready to take the load of tomorrow.

Counting the days is like seeing each one and not allowing it to pass without being noticed. This morning, at the start of our run, I noticed that the days are already getting shorter. There is less light on the horizon at half-past five. The march towards running with a headlamp on a cold winter’s morning flashed through my mind, and I felt a twinge of sadness. That flash was fleeting because today is bright and warm. As we set off, the joy of counting another day returned.

Counting days and “seeing” each one acts as a placeholder. A placeholder that anchors the day in what might normally be a string for forgettable days, buried in a series of weeks that by next month will be inaccessible to my random-access memory. Even finding it in the hard drive might prove difficult, especially when they all look the same. The placeholder of counting a run acts as a memory tag.

Looking back on the days is like visiting an old friend. “Remember on that day we ran in the rain. And that one, we got lost on that new trail route. Oh, wow, that day I ran a mile with a sprained ankle.”

The cliché of “making each day count” seems so trite, yet having the experience of counting days, where each day counts towards something bigger than itself, is oddly rewarding. It feels like a contribution towards something more significant than I can understand.

Today was another day in the grind, and I am embracing it as being as important as any other day. Without today, tomorrow can’t happen, and I want tomorrow to happen.

Brain Fog and Pancakes

Article #129 - 5 January 2022

Maybe it is a January thing. Perhaps my brain is still on holiday. This morning I have brain fog and I feel about as sharp as a marble. After all, I am normally still on the beach at this time of year. I decided that I would indulge in a stack of syrup and butter-covered pancakes to overcome my brain fog. A perfectly normal elixir for brain fog or maybe a work avoidance technique?
As I stood beside the stove, scoffing down my stack of sweetness, my wife asked why I don't sit down and enjoy my pancakes in comfort. I pondered this for a moment as I searched through my fog for a reasonable answer.

A knife is required to skim some Butro from the tub and smear it on the pancake. A dollop of syrup and then fold the pancake in your fingers as if to catch the sweet smoothness inside. Eat quickly by lowering your mouth and raising the warm gooey joy so you can stuff it in before the syrup oozes out.

It occurs to me that the 1,175 calories that I burnt this morning while grinding up Orange Road are quickly being replenished. Fortunately, a regular weekday morning run does not require any mental exertion, so a case of brain fog doesn’t impact a morning run. Today might be a case for more running and less thinking. Mind you, every day would be like that if it weren't for having to pay the bills. The most thinking that I did on my Tyrone Harriers - Greenside running circuit this morning was scheme about when next I would take a trip out to Cradle Moon for a trail run. How messed up is that? While I am running, I am thinking about running somewhere else. It's good that one run doesn't get jealous of another run.

I do ask myself, what am I running from? Despite much enquiry on the subject, I don't have an answer. I am chalking that question up to being a cliché. Any serious runner will tell you that the more you run, the more you want to run. I do it for the drugs! I'm an organic junkie.

The word endorphin is a blend of morphine and endogenous. Effectively it's morphine that is produced by the body. It reduces pain perception and is the source of a "runner high".

Anandamide is a cannabis-like substance known as the "bliss molecule" naturally produced by the body while doing something energetic like running.

Phenylethylamine (PEA) is a molecule produced in the brain after just half an hour of running and is like amphetamines in terms of causing euphoria. PEA triggers the body to release dopamine. That is the warm and fuzzy after run reward. Don’t mistake it for the post run caffeine jolt.

I had a full dose of organic drugs this morning. The pancakes with syrup were my sugar dose. I guess that is a high of another kind. As my brain fog lifted, I replied to my wife, “I want to be fully emersed in my pancake eating experience, and if I sit down, I feel like I will be distracted by some addictive device that I would rather avoid. I prefer natural addictions”.

Thoughts on the Run – Part 2
Letting Go and Starting Again

Article #128 - 4 January 2022

Last year I ran 4,831km. That is a little more than 13km a day and 400km a month. I set myself goals, and I smashed them. I reached new milestones on my #runeveryday journey. One thousand days came and went. I became progressively more emotionally committed to running well and running faster. Then the 1st of January arrived, and all the measures that fuelled my ego got set back to zero. Everything changed, and nothing changed.
The concept of diminishing returns means that improvements appear to reduce despite more effort. Some might say, “you get less bang for your buck”. This is an ever-present fear for me. It is closely linked to getting older and not being good enough. Yes, there is lots of Work behind these stories in my head, but we all have our own story that we tell ourselves.

I am working on letting go of last year and re-imagining what I can achieve this year. There is no need for a grand “New Year Resolution”. There is only what I can do now and today. Then, stack together a whole string of todays.

I learned last year that I am more capable than I believed I was. I had to test my limits and get out of my comfort zone to learn that. In doing so, I created a new and bigger comfort zone. Part of letting go of last year’s achievements means embracing the fear of not being able to live up to the standard that I set myself.

So here are my conclusions to Thoughts on the Run - Part 2: Get an early win to create momentum, celebrate soon and often, build, and participate in community, bring others along and don’t take yourself seriously. In the end, nothing matters and being present is all there is. Yesterday is done; tomorrow may not come. Do it now. There I was talking about running. It appears that running is just a metaphor for life.

South African Banks are Predicting
Low Growth and Low Inflation

Article #126 - 8 December 2021

South African banks have been increasing their exposure to “safe and liquid assets” since December 2015.

December 2015 is significant. Over one weekend, South Africa had three different finance ministers. The Rand took a nosedive against the USD, and government debt suddenly got more expensive. Government debt getting more expensive was a signal from foreign investors that South Africa looked riskier as an investment destination.

The antics of Zuma trying to capture Treasury via Des Van Rooyen as finance minister was the start of considerable capital outflows from South Africa.
Banks investing in safe and liquid assets, namely treasury bills, is a sign of risk aversion. The alternative for the banks is to lend their money out to businesses and homeowners in the form of mortgages. Just In Time article #124 showed that banks are reducing their exposure to mortgages.

Low growth and low inflation result from banks not lending and choosing the safe option.

Those who are properly schooled in economics will know that the original definition of inflation refers to the money supply in circulation. That is the context in which it is used in this article. Recent and everyday use of the word inflation often refers to general price increases. South Africa has a case of price inflation and money supply deflation. This is the definition of stagflation.

Stagflation is often associated with high unemployment. South Africa certainly has that, with unemployment effectively at 50%.

Interesting to see how Capitec have substantially changed their asset allocation. In December 2015, they had a 5% allocation of total assets to “investments and bills”. Their most recent report shows an allocation of more than 35%. The CFO report from 2021 states, “The funds surplus to operational requirements totalled R75.8 billion as at 28 February 2021 (2020: R51.1 billion). These funds are invested in low-risk, liquid, interest-bearing instruments”.

This paints a sad picture. The recession is set to continue, with a dose of stagflation on the side.

South African Banks are Heavily Invested in
Short Term Government Debt

Article #125 - 7 December 2021

There was an error in my analysis in yesterday’s Just in Time article. I discovered it because I wrote about it.

Yesterday's article showed a sharp decline in residential mortgages relative to total assets across all the major commercial banks in South Africa. I concluded that there were fewer property sales and fewer mortgages due to lockdowns. That analysis was incorrect. The denominator in the equation is total assets, which is the variable that is changing, not the mortgages.

The graph below shows how the total assets of all the banks increased sharply in March 2020, when lockdowns were instituted. The question to be answered is, why did this happen?

The first thing to recognise is that the event in March 2020 that caused the spike in bank assets values is not connected to lockdowns or COVID. The source is a US Dollar liquidity shortage which caused the mini equity market crash in March 2020. This coincided precisely with the start of the Covid pandemic.

It turns out that South African commercial banks are holding large amounts of SA Treasuries. That is short term government debt—more on this in tomorrow’s Just in Time article.

At the same time as the mini equity crash in March 2020, the bond market was also suffering the seismic effects of the US Dollar shortage. The knock-on effect of this mini crash showed up as sudden steeping of the bond yield curve. That is, short-term yields declining and long-term yields increasing.

A decline in bond yields increases the value of the bond. Since the banks are invested in Treasuries which are at the short end of the yield curve, all the banks experienced an increase in the value of their bond holdings. Since March 2020, short term yields have remained lower than usual. Hence, bank total assets values have not returned to their previous levels.

Notice how the growth in total assets across the "Big 4" banks appears to be the same. The slope of the curves is very similar. This tells the story that they are all the same. The banks are simply dressed in different colours. The bank doing things differently is the one at the bottom of the chart.

South African Banks are Lending Less 

Article #124 - 6 December 2021

Economic growth requires access to capital. Banks are providing less debt capital and are more risk-averse.

The South African Reserve Bank provides detailed financial balance sheet data on all the commercial banks in South Africa. This data is displayed in an array of tables on their website and is hardly user friendly when it comes to using it for research.

My friend Chris Muller is a genius at accessing data to be interrogated and visually represented.
This graph is an example of the representation of the reserve bank data. The trend in the data is clear. Banks are reducing their exposure to residential mortgages. In other words, banks are providing less debt funding to those who want to buy residential property. There is one exception, that is Investec. However, Investec’s customers are substantially more affluent than the average customer of the other banks.

Why would banks reduce their exposure to the residential property market?

One reason may be that property values have not grown as they did in the early 2000s. Less growth in property values would result in less debt lending. Typically, an expansion in asset value leads to more lending against the increased value of the asset.

Another reason is the “expropriation without compensation” narrative. While this is a more recent occurrence, reducing their risk if EWC becomes more real would make sense.

Notice the “glitch” or decline in early 2020. Lockdowns reduced the number of property transactions and thus resulted in fewer mortgages being registered. Standard Bank and ABSA have recovered. FNB has declined further.

The knock-on effect of this declining trend in mortgage lending is cause for concern. Many entrepreneurs use the mortgage on their assets as funding for their businesses. The implications are less economic growth and employment in the SME business sector.

Stay tuned as we explore the Reserve Banks data for more insights.

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George Orwell’s Profound Insights into Human Behaviour

Article #123 - 3 December 2021

George Orwell is best known as the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. Orwell's insights are being played out in our society now as if they were a prediction.

The reality is that Orwell understood human behaviour. The craziness of today is a product of humans behaving just like Orwell described in his famous books.

Nineteen Eighty-Four was the last book that Orwell wrote in which he describes the consequences of totalitarianism, mass surveillance and repressive brainwashing of societies.

Animal Farm is famous for the quote, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". Orwell was writing an allegorical tale about the events leading up to the Russian Revolution and the eventual dictatorship of the Stalinist era.
While working for the Tribune in 1944 Orwell wrote, “Do remember that dishonesty and cowardice always have to be paid for. Do not imagine that for years on end you can make yourself the boot-licking propogandist of the soviet regime, or any other regime, and then suddenly return to honesty and reason”.
Who is the boot-licking propogandist of today?

There is no doubt that the words propaganda and COVID are synonymous. The response to COVID by authorities has been nothing short of a boot stamping on a human face.

There are examples from around the world of how governments have destroyed lives and caused more harm under the guise of pursuing "public interest". This example from Australia demonstrates the totalitarian human behaviour that Orwell despised so much. All the ingredients of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four book are present here.

The most concerning element is that the corporate media are the biggest propaganda sources. Propaganda is as much about what is not said as what is said. Corporate media are not reporting the example from Australia. These demonstrations of authoritarian face stomping are reported by YouTube podcasters who have limited reach.

Why is there not a worldwide outcry against this type of behaviour? Two reasons come to mind. Firstly, governments worldwide are engaged in somewhat similar behaviour and won't speak out for fear of being called out themselves. Sovereignty is put forward to support this argument. Secondly, the corporate media is the boot-licking propagandist of the government.

The corporate media is looking the other way. As the saying goes, "big business never saw a government that it didn't like".

Unfortunately, even the seemingly independent social media companies are eating at the propaganda table. Conversations about COVID are regularly removed from YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter under the auspices of "fake of misleading information".

Don't be surprised if YouTube removes the video about Hayley Hodgson from Darwin being locked up in a Covid camp for two weeks, even though she never had Covid. The boot doesn't discriminate.

Want to Build a Strong Relationship?
You Must Know This

Article #122 - 2 December 2021

Any relationship worth having requires work. The work is simple but not easy.

I will not claim to be the guru on this subject. I refer to the work of Adam Lane Smith, who I discovered on the Modern Wisdom podcast. Smith talks about Vasopressin bonding and how men and women bond differently.

According to Smith, women bond in the absence of stress while men bond in the presence of stress.
For men, a great bonding experience is to ride Sani to C. For women, it is a weekend at the spa.

The male bonding experience involves completing an event with a riding partner where they physically extend themselves. The experience puts stress on the body and requires a high level of cognitive engagement. Women, on the other hand, want to be pampered in a stress-free environment.

This poses an obvious problem. Solving this problem requires compromise. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you must take your wife mountain biking or force your hubby to have a facial with you.

It appears that the Vasopressin response in men can be triggered with a simple case of problem-solving. It works especially well when a man can solve a problem for a woman and relieve her of stress in the process. That sounds like such a stereotype.

An important qualification may be required right about now. Having a man solve a problem for his wife does not look like a to-do list of chores around the house. Although, any wise man should know that doing those chores before being asked can result in great rewards.

The problem solving, Vasopressin trigger in men comes from a combined effort of overcoming a challenging situation or solving an issue that could result in a rewarding outcome or reduce pain and stress. A great example is planning a trip, especially if there are complex logistics and several moving parts. Deciding which flights, trains, and busses to take to get to a beautiful destination and be rewarded with a cocktail on the beach might be one example.

Adam Lane Smith talks about a counterintuitive and controversial element of male and female bonding. Smith suggests that the female archetype of having everything in life sorted and not needing to rely on a man is the exact opposite of what is required to form a bonding relationship. The strong independent type might be an attractive attribute in the world of Tinder and hook-up culture but does not translate into fertile ground for a strong and binding relationship.

There is a truth here that I suspect we all know. Vulnerability is an attractive characteristic. It implies trust and openness. It also presents an opportunity for bonding and building a stronger relationship.

Too Soon to Panic

Article #121 - 30 November 2021

Gordon Forbes and Abe Segal were considered one of South Africa’s best tennis doubles teams ever.

They represented South Africa in a golden era of the Davis Cup in the early 1960s. Forbes and Segal made it to the final of the French Open in 1963. The same year they made it to the semi-finals at Wimbledon. Forbes won the French Open mixed doubles with his partner Darlene Hard in 1955.
Gordon Forbes is probably more well known as an author. His book, A Handful of Summers, will have you giggling from beginning to end. It is a memoir of Forbes’s adventures on the tennis circuits of the world.

Forbes’s second book, Too Soon to Panic, is equally as hilarious as his first. I think the title is such a classic. Forbes tells the story of the pair playing a tennis match where it was quite clear that they would be on the losing end. At the most apt point in the match, Segal turned to Forbes and, in his acerbic and irreverent manner told him that “it was too soon to panic”.

To understand what it means for it to be “too soon to panic”, one must know that Abe Segal was a happy go lucky character who was never prone to panic. Segal uses the phrase as if panic was a solution to their problem, but not a solution that should be applied yet.

Ever since I first read the story, I have often thought about what criteria must be met for it to be okay to panic. In other words, when is it too soon, and when is it the right time?

The subject of panic seems to be relevant to South Africans at the moment. The world has hit the panic button as far as South Africa is concerned. We had the director of the Centre for Epidemic Response & Innovation (CERI) proclaim to the world that he/his team had discovered a new variant of COVID. I suspect his ego was looking for a dose of notoriety for some well-done research.

Instead, what happened? The world went into full-blown panic mode. South Africa got shut out by the rest of the world as if it was the source of nuclear fallout. Of course, the new variant had already been around the world before it landed on South Africa’s shores. But that is an inconvenient excuse not to panic right away.

Our President was pretty angry the other night at the totalitarian type of response by the rest of the world. It reminds me of how angry most South Africans were a year ago when our President applied the same kind of totalitarian behaviour and closed the beaches for the summer holidays. Funny that. Not so nice to feel powerless and be on the receiving end.

Unfortunately, Gordon Forbes sadly died from Covid in December 2020. I think his friend and tennis partner, Abe Segal, would have had the best advice for the world, and it would have been, IT IS TOO SOON TO PANIC.

There is No Burger Like a Joburger

Article #120 - 29 November 2021

Another Monday morning and another 15km city run. The Tyrone Harriers were in Hillbrow this morning.

After a weekend of rainy overcast conditions, it was a beautiful morning in the city. It helps if you have an upbeat outlook on the world to enjoy a city-run in Johannesburg. That means you need to be able to see past the dirt, litter, potholes, poverty, and squalor. Isn’t that the general attitude of a Joburger?
Having lived in Johannesburg for nearly 5 decades, I qualify as a Joburger. However, I think there are a few more criteria that one must have to qualify as a Joburger.

The Capetonians have the mountain- a beautiful geographic feature that defines so much of their lifestyle. Joburgers have Northcliff hill. Hardly a comparison. But, Joburgers have something else that Capetonians don’t have. Joburgers have an attitude to life that is unique.

Capetonians can rely on the beauty of their surroundings to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to being attractive. What the Capetonians have can easily be portrayed in a travel brochure. What Joburgers have is an intangible quality that can never be conveyed in a glossy photograph.

When I think of the average Joburger, the following list describes the characteristics that come to mind, let’s call them qualifying criteria.

1. Joburgers are warm, friendly, inclusive folk who are always quick to invite an outsider to a braai.

2. Joburgers know that the city is a dump, and if we don’t have a sparkling personality, the world will forget that we exist.

3. Joburgers know that a breakfast outing is normally at a restaurant that looks onto a carpark. Therefore, we might as well drive nice cars so we can enjoy the view while we eat our eggs.

4. Joburgers live behind the high walls and big security gates, after all there is no view to block out. But when you are invited in behind the walls, you will always find a warm heart and a cold beer.

5. Joburgers have a “can do” attitude that can easily be mistaken for a F! you attitude.
6. Joburgers ask for forgiveness but never permission.

7. Joburgers are made up of all types, and they are a highly cosmopolitan group.

It is important to note that there are no barriers to entry to become a Joburger; all are welcome. This is no exclusive group that requires permission for entry. Joburgers simply get on with stuff. They take life on at full speed. Being a Joburger is an attitude to life. It is the type of attitude that says, “even if the city is a dump, we are going to run there anyway, just like we own the place”.

The Human Paradox of Pleasure and Pain

Article #119 - 26 November 2021

Pleasure is more enjoyable if it is preceded by pain. Suffering is the ultimate source of pleasure.

Humans seek meaning in life. Meaning often comes from doing something that requires effort. The effort required to achieve something meaningful can take on the form of suffering to the extent that it may even be painful.
Here is an example. Having children. The effort that goes into raising kids is monumental. Where is the pleasure? It shows up in many ways. We experience the joy of kids in our unique way, and the pleasure is sprinkled amongst the pain. It's also an evolutionary trait that is baked into the human species.

Paul Bloom recently published a book called "The Sweet Spot", in which he explores the contrast between pleasure and pain.

Why would someone run Comrades? I am having this conversation with myself. I see mountains of pain. What is the payoff? Where is the pleasure? It might just be that completing it is a meaningful endeavour. Completing Comrades also sends a signal to others about one's ability as a runner. For many, it is a rite of passage. For those lucky enough to have a genetic gift, the race might be enjoyable.

All good stories follow a well-known formula. The formula is Joseph Campbell's "Heros Journey".

The Heros Journey is about the descent into darkness. The darkness represents the hard and trying times of overcoming something difficult. Early morning training in the dead of winter in preparation for Comrades is an anecdote for the descent into darkness. Add to that some other life struggle that has been holding you back for years, and you have the making of a blockbuster.

While in the depths of darkness, there must be a revelation. The hero/heroine discovers a hidden truth about themselves. This truth might be the self-belief that has been missing their whole life. Self-belief is the catalyst to pushing on and making it to the start line of Comrades. Finishing the race is the reward and the ascent out of the darkness.

Crossing the finish line is like returning home after a long journey of self-discovery. Everyone is waiting and cheering on the hero.

I ran Comrades in 1999 and 2000. It feels like a lifetime ago, and a voice in the back of my head is calling me to do it again. I distinctly remember the pain of the last 30km - both mental anguish and physical pain. But in the last few kilometres, all the pain and anguish disappeared. The close proximity of the finish line is better than any synthetic pain killer.

The goosebumps and adrenaline rush almost seemed worth the pain. Paul Bloom is on to something. There is a sweet spot. It is a balance between pain and pleasure, and like most things in life, we need to find that sweet spot for ourselves.

What is Your Gold and How Does It Show Up?

Article #118 - 25 November 2021

Every Tuesday night, my diary is blocked out for Igroup. That is men sitting in circle talking about their stuff.
Igroup is short for “integration group”. We follow the same process every time. An important rule is we don’t give advice to other men. This is a place to come and process issues and discover how to play the game of life as best you can.

One of the elements of life that we look at in detail is shadow. Shadow is that part of ourselves that we hide, repress, and deny. Men who are practised at this work can find it easy to explore their shadow in fine detail. Each time, they look for how their shadow trips them up and causes havoc in their lives.

A man’s shadow often stems from a psychological wound he received as a child.

When a man thinks he has it sorted, his shadow shows up differently. There is always Work to be done. So much so that men get stuck in shadow work and forget about the gold that shines within them.

At a recent gathering, a man asked the group to take the time to share their gold. That means telling other men about the awesome, great, incredible, valuable stuff you bring to the world. If shadow represents Heads, gold represents Tails.

At this gathering, in an early round of checking in, the men mostly skirted the subject of their gold. There was an air of avoidance. That is not unusual. For many, speaking about their gold is hard. I find it hard.

I find it hard because I don’t do it often. My experience is that the men in my circle don’t do it often either.

When last did you stand before a group and tell them about the gold you bring to the world. Sharing your gold is not a sales pitch. When I share my gold with my Igroup, I am acutely aware that they already know my gold. I am not sharing my gold for their benefit; I am doing for mine. It is a process of awareness. It is an opportunity to recognise that I am not only my shadow. The light and dark exist together, and we should take the time to recognise the light in amongst the darkness.

With some tactful leadership, a man encouraged us to have another go at connecting with our gold and sharing it with the group. The second time around, we were much better. I felt proud to sit amongst a group of men who could openly share the shining light of who they are. Proud because I feel trusted. Trusted to hold what they say in confidence. Trusted to encourage them to look deeper.

In sharing my gold, I felt joy and sadness. Joy to connect with those parts of me that I am proud of. Sadness because of my fear of being seen as proud. Even in sharing my gold, my shadow is present.

There is always Work to be done. Never fear, we will come back next Tuesday.

Lessons from The Hybrid World of
Delivering Executive Education

Article #117 - 24 November 2021

University administrators live in a world of theory. Lecturers operate at the coal face. Each think they know better. The result is a nonsensical mishmash of missed opportunities and poorly constructed product delivery.
We can’t even agree on the basic definition of what it means to deliver a hybrid executive education course.

One definition of a hybrid education course is to have participants sitting in a classroom experiencing the live lecture while others watch online via camera. Here the definition of hybrid is live vs camera.

Another definition of hybrid is a combination of asynchronous and synchronous content delivery. Those words are the jargon of academic snobbery. Think of asynchronous as not requiring an in-person live human to lead the learning process. Asynchronous is about video content, readings, case studies, and exercises which students complete in their own time. Synchronous is live lectures. Synchronous can happen online or in person.

Covid lockdowns resulted in some innovative combinations of asynchronous and synchronous content creation. Unfortunately, the return to in-person live lectures has seen a regression to a talking head.

University administrators cannot get their minds around the concept of build once, sell twice. Administrators are stuck in a one-dimensional world where they pay per word. That means a lecturer must return tomorrow and repeat the same lecture from yesterday, just to a different audience.

In the last month, I delivered executive education programmes at two different business schools where the delivery mechanism was live and on camera. Here are two insights that I have discovered about integrating the learning experience for both audiences:

1. Use two computers to help with delivery. One computer runs the camera and chat/sound interaction with the online audience. A second computer runs the learning content of slides, spreadsheets, and other teaching material. In a perfect world there will be an assistant to manage the chat function with online students. The separation of these two functions means that the lecturer is not distracted by operating technology and can focus on delivery.

2. Create name tents for live and online students. As a lecturer it is easy to forget that the online students are there. Talking to those in the classroom becomes the default. Adding name tents for online students helps bring their presence into the lecture room. The lecturer can then call on those names to involve them in discussions without standing over a laptop screen and finding the names.

All my teaching content is available in YouTube videos. My new standard operating procedure is to direct students to that content. The result is less one-way teaching and more two-way conversations. This is my small way of driving a hybrid teaching model. By all accounts, students much prefer it.

What I’ve Learned from 3 Years of #runeveryday

Article #116 - 23 November 2021

On the 24th November 2018, I started a running streak. I intended to run every day for 30 days.

3 Years or 1,096 days later, and my streak is still intact. 11,700 km, 320 km per month, 75 km per week, 10.5 km per day. An average speed of 5:47 per km. The longest distance is 42.2 km. The shortest distance is 1.62km (1 mile).
I have learned some things about myself and the world along the way. This is what I’ve learnt:

1. Streak running looks much harder than it is. A streak is just a series of 1 day runs. If you change your perspective to only think of tomorrows run, it is a piece of cake. When you start getting too far ahead of yourself and make up stories about how tired you will feel at the end of the week, that is when it gets hard. That is true for anything in life. Stress comes from the stories about the future that we make up in our heads. Most of the time, those stories never come true.

2. It is easier to break an agreement with yourself than with another person. There are few external consequences for breaking such an agreement. If the agreements that you make are important to you then making an agreement to run with a friend makes running every day easier. Conversation makes the distance feel shorter, and the time passes faster. That is especially important when doing big mileage and training for an event.

3. The consistency of running every day creates a stronger connection between mind and body. It also makes the mind and the body more resilient. The regular daily dose of Dopamine helps regulate mood, sleep, and appetite. It makes life easier and more pleasurable.

4. The compound effect of running every day is remarkable. It is hard to explain. It needs to be felt. Like any compound curve, it takes time; it is hard at first. Then, like turning a switch on, energy, strength and speed become regular allies. Running becomes a craving and life is beautiful.

Lost Your Mojo? Here is How to Find it Again

Article #115 - 22 November 2021

To lose your mojo is to lose the magic that comes naturally to you. If you wonder what your mojo is, you have a bigger problem. You haven’t discovered your mojo, so you can’t lose it.

What am I talking about? Of course, I am not talking about magic in the form of the hocus pocus that a magician might perform on stage. This is magic in the form of your human superpower. Here are some examples:

• Getting up early
• Regular meditation
• Daily exercise
• Healthy eating
• Regular reading
• Journal writing
• Regular creative pursuits
My mojo is #runeveryday and writing the Just in Time articles. I lost my mojo two weeks ago. My battery has been flat, and #runeveryday had been a battle.

Despite losing my mojo, I forced myself to keep to my routine. Keeping a routine might be another one of those superpowers to add to the list.

It’s that time of year. The finish line is close, December is around the corner, but there is still a hard push to get there. Burnout is common at this time of year. Here are some tips and tricks to help keep you on track while your mojo goes AWOL:

1. Be kind to yourself. For some, this is not so obvious. Dial things back. Give yourself permission to slow down and take a breath. Take a load off. For me, this looks like running the 10km route on a Monday instead of the 15km route. An extra coffee afterwards and some banter with the crew before charging off to get on with the day.

2. Dose up on the supplements. I take an extra Slowmag. Don’t forget the protein shake and sugar-free vitamin C supplement. Gotta keep the body fuelled.

3. Here is one that will make most guys want to run away. Acknowledge that your mojo had done a disappearing act. My regular Tuesday circle is with a group of men who know me inside out. I get to talk about that stuff that most men want to avoid. Verbalising the emotion that goes with feeling off my game helps me get past the stories that I make up in my head. The stories in my head always make the problem feel worse than it is. Having someone else call me on my bullshit also helps to keep my internal victim under control.

The worst thing for me to do is to STOP. That means completely losing momentum. Momentum is a beautiful thing. It is forward motion, even if it is slower than usual. KEEP GOING!

The feeling of getting my mojo back is fantastic! Once again, I can feel the dopamine rush after a good run. It makes the coffee taste better, and the colour of the Jacaranda trees look brighter.

Johannesburg, Up Close and In Your Face

Article #114 - 19 November 2021

Are you living in a bubble? This is an invitation to come and explore a world that is like an open wound that is in urgent need of medical attention. It is raw and festering with a way of life that is hard to imagine.

Did I sell it well? Are you intrigued? Read on, and I’ll give you some more if you are interested.
I am a regular runner in the city. Every time I run a city route; it reveals how far removed I am from the marginal exitance of so many people in our society.

My fleeting visits to this world are a regular reminder of the privileges I enjoy in my secure bubble in the North. Some part of me wants to pull back the curtain and see the real, unsanitized version of the city.
Another part of me wants to reveal the truth behind the decay allowed to manifest right before our eyes. This is what our politicians hold up as a "world-class African city".

Some dedicated people are trying to make a difference in the lives of those that live on the margins. My running friend Paul Theron hosts The Growler. The Growler is an annual charity club run through the streets of the Johannesburg CBD. Funds are raised for the Bethany Woman and Children's Shelter in Bertrams. This year is the 13th running and takes place on Sunday 5th December 2021. Participants are encouraged to make donations. You get to decide how much of a difference you want to make.

The run starts at 6 am from 55 St Patrick Road in Upper Houghton. Within a kilometre, you will be running on the grimy streets of Yeoville. Early in the route, we pass under the Telkom tower. This is a great spot to get a selfie of your nose hairs with the tower in the background. After half an hour of running, the route turns onto the Noord Street taxi rank. You can get a bite of fried fish from a local trader if you need some sustenance. The sensory overload can be overwhelming, especially when you are dodging taxis.

The next landmark is City Hall - a grand old building that is a reminder of the architecture from another era.

The route makes its way West to the "Anglo American" precinct. Here is where you get a sense of the contrast between the grime and the glory that exists side by side in the city. On the way North, you will run over Nelson Mandella Bridge. The uphill grind to the Constitutional Court starts here.

The second half of the run includes several city landmarks. It is downhill past Ponte Tower and Ellis Park for a water stop at the Bethany Shelter. The last 7 km includes two of the biggest hills in Joburg. Stewart Drive connects Bertrams and Yeoville; it is a steep grind. This is the time to ask about the shortcut; otherwise, it's downhill to Louis Botha before taking a left turn into Houghton Drive and then the final climb up Munroe Drive. Good thing there is a rest point for photos just before the top.

The full route is 21km, and it is Joburg's way of saying "up yours" to the Capetonians who get to run on the mountain. We get to run the grimiest streets in Johannesburg.

Bring a friend and a hefty donation. Come for a social outing and see for yourself the ugly and the beautiful, side by side. I'll see you there.

How Consistency Can Change Your Life

Article #113 - 16 November 2021

Consistency is a superpower that produces compound returns, but most people give up too soon.

Ask yourself what is it that you do over and over that makes you better at something than anyone else? What makes you so good at something that virtually no one else can compete with you?

The England football star David Beckham is the source of a phenomenal story about consistency.
David Beckham is best known for taking free kicks from just outside the penalty area. Beckham crafted the skill of curving the ball around a wall of opposing players and into the top corner of the goal.

In Beckham's words, he practised this kick hundreds of thousands of times at his local park. He would aim at the wire mesh covering a small window of a community hut.

When his dad came home from work, he would get him to stand in the way of the goals to practice curving the ball around him.

Even the sun going down didn't deter him. He used the light from the community hut window as the target, and he practised kicking in the dark. He could do it with his eyes closed.

Beckham was not allowed to play with a football in the house at home. That didn't stop him. He used his sisters "Care Bears" as footballs and kept practising. Some might say that his behaviour was somewhat obsessive. However, there is little doubt that Beckham’s consistency turned him into one of the best.

Most people give up! Consistency requires dedication, and it requires dedication to something that you may not be good at for a long time. The ego doesn't like that. The ego wants to be seen. The ago wants affirmation. Affirmation is a form of praise, and praise can be in short supply when you suck at something, especially when you are toiling away in the dark.

My experience of the compound benefit of consistently doing something every day is through running. I am days away from three years of #runeveryday. I have experienced health and lifestyle benefits that I could not have imagined three years ago. These benefits include 15 kg of weight loss, more energy and strong resistance to the usual seasonal hay fever and sniffles. I've also learnt that I am way stronger and more capable as a runner than I ever thought I could be. There is a certain amount of confidence that comes from that. The problem is that we don't know what we don't know. We don't know what the benefit is likely to be from a commitment to consistency.

It isn't easy to do the trade-off calculation without knowing the benefit. A commitment to consistency at one thing often requires one to say no to something else. It feels easier to say no to something that looks like hard work at the start. Especially if you don’t know or can’t imagine the upside.

To overcome the daily resistance of having to choose to be consistent, it is better to make a choice once. A very successful YouTuber named Ali Abdul said, "if you make a YouTube video every day for two years, it will change your life." You don't want to be wrestling with yourself every day about making a YouTube video. Rather make the choice once then do it, just like David Beckham did.

What Goes into Your “I Can’t be Bothered” Bucket?

Article #112 - 12 November 2021

A Dad joke to kick off. What was the last thing my grandfather said to me before he kicked the bucket?
Part of life is learning about yourself. Your likes and dislikes. What inspires you and what turns you off. It helps to work out those really important things. For example, do you prefer a medium fillet or a rare T-bone? And are you a tea or coffee drinker? Cappuccino or macchiato? Earl Grey or Five Roses?

It can take many years to find the answers to these important life questions. Along the way and perhaps later in life, as we mellow with age, we might learn about what we are somewhat indifferent to. I am learning bucket loads about the things that I can’t be bothered about.

I have connected to a community of online writers in the past year. I have learnt an incredible amount, and I have been inspired to tap into my creative ability and write this regular missive. The creative culture on the internet is experiencing exponential growth. The everyday gig is about being a consistent content creator and building a community or an audience—nothing new here. YouTube creators and bloggers have been doing this for years.
In recent times Twitter has become the place for online writers to grow their audience. The common method is through regular thread posts that are the latest form of blogging. Many successful Twitter writers started out curating other people’s material and provided links and easy access to excellent content. is a great example. @EricJorgenson curated the work of @Naval. If you haven’t read this work, a beautiful gift about how to build wealth awaits you.

The online writing community is fantastic at advising on how to build an audience. Twitter threads with multi-step processes. I read them and think, “yes, I should do that.” Then I sit back and realise that I can’t be bothered. I just write. It clears my head. I learn stuff when I write, and I resolve conundrums that trouble me because writing helps me complete my thoughts. Then when I publish what I write, I get fantastic feedback. My process is simple, write, publish, repeat. Every time I hit the publish button, I get a shot of Dopamine. That’s the reward.

If you have discovered those things, you can’t be bothered with, I’d love to hear from you. Name it and feel how liberating it is to let it go.

By the way, the last thing my grandfather said was, “watch how far I kick this bucket!”

Nelson and Other Cricket Superstitions

Article #111 - 11 November 2021

Lord Nelson is the source of a superstition that has long been part of the game of Cricket. The number 111.
A superstition is a belief or practise that is irrational and is attributed to magic. Superstitions are often based on fear and are attributed to practises surrounding astrology, fortune-telling, spirits, and religion.

In Cricket, batters fear being dismissed on the score of 111.

The source of the superstition as it relates to Lord Nelson is that he lost an arm and an eye in various battles. A rumour started that he had lost a leg too, but this is untrue. The combination of one eye, one arm and one leg made the triple one combination. In Cricket, the three stumps that make up the wickets look like 1 1 1. The link appears tenuous.

The more plausible source of the superstition is a cricket team from Nelson that played first-class Cricket in New Zealand. The cricket side was dismissed for 111 runs in their first and last innings in the league.
Here is an interesting superstitious number combination that relates to South Africa. On the 11th November 2011, in a test match between Australia and South Africa, at 11:11, South Africa required 111 runs to win. The scoreboard read 11:11 11/11/11.

It seems that cricketers have a propensity for superstition.

Steve Waugh, the highly successful Australian captain, kept a red handkerchief in his pocket. It was given to him by his grandmother, and he believed that it brought him luck.

Rahul Dravid, an Indian batter, always put his right thigh pad on first when preparing to bat.

Sachin Tendulkar, on the other hand (or leg), would put his left pad on first.

Lasith Malinga, the Sri Lankan fast bowler, was known for kissing the ball before each delivery. In times of Covid, that would prompt public health officials to ban Cricket as being too dangerous. The risk of infecting other players would be horrendous – trust the science.

Our home-grown cricketing star, Kevin McKenzie, was superstitious about standing on white lines, including the batting crease. That is awkward for a batter. His teammates once taped his bat to the ceiling of the changing room. He scored century the next day. This allegedly prompted a superstitious ritual where he would tape his bat to the ceiling every night before an innings.

Fear is a funny thing. It prompts us, humans, to behave irrationally. Steve Waugh believed that he wouldn’t be successful without his red hankie in his pocket. The behaviour is self-reinforcing. If that is what it takes, then go for it. If we went around pointing out everyone’s irrationality, then we would have time to go to church.

30 Year Look Back

Article #110 - 10 November 2021

Last night I attended a high school old boys function, and then I had a dream about a slow-motion car crash.
I finished high school in 1990. We were supposed to have a 30-year reunion last year, but of course, that didn’t happen. I was in two minds about going, so it didn’t bother me much that it got cancelled. So why did I attend last night? Simple, the event was taking place five minutes away from where I live.

I’ve discovered that my propensity to engage socially is inversely proportional to the logistical effort required to attend.

A few things are going on here. I’m an introvert, and I’d rather not make small talk conversation. I pictured the 30-year reunion being an evening of small talk, hence my resistance. Small talk conversation is part of the logistical effort. Since getting to the function was so easy, I decided that the logistical effort burden was sufficiently reduced, and therefore I would attend. I’m glad I did.

A handful of men from my year attended—all noticeably older, greyer, and several kilos heavier. Of course, I fit into all these categories too. The dominant theme of the conversations was about our children. We had side conversations about work, fishing, sporting injuries, exercise, and how many old boys had emigrated. In general, there was a large dose of humility amongst the men, which resonates with the ethos of the high school we all attended. High humility reduces the logistical effort required to engage.

I met up with a lifelong friend who I hadn’t seen for a while. We attended primary school, high school, and university together, and he was the best man at my wedding. Life is such that despite our long friendship we find ourselves circling the same sun but just slightly out of sync. That is enough in this busy world that we hardly see each other. 

My friend told me about a car accident that he had been in a year ago where the car rolled and one of the occupants died. He wasn’t driving and was lucky to survive but required major surgery to fix several broken bones in his shoulder. I’m sure my friend’s experience triggered my dream about a slow-motion car crash, and the dream is not a representation of my life 30 years after leaving school.

As I look back over the 30 years, I find myself asking about the significant achievements in my life. What constitutes a significant achievement? Is it simply making it here alive? This is a hard question to answer, and I think many people look back at their life and ask the same question? I am tempted to pick out the high points on the graph of experiences, but ultimately, what makes life meaningful?

Is it the grind and suffering in exchange for the brief and elusive highs? Nothing achieved is worth anything if it comes easy. Raising children is a hard grind, yet it was the most common discussion point of the old boys evening. 

My takeaway – keep grinding. The meaning is in the grind.

Barriers To Progress Are All Self-made

Article #109 - 5 November 2021

The only things standing in my way are things that I put there!

This is a list of obstacles that get in the way of a content creator. I feel the burn of facing these barriers every day. The only way through them is to acknowledge them and push past them. If you feel any of these barriers, you are not alone.

Imposter syndrome is feelings of self-doubt and incompetence despite your education, experience, and achievement. Unless you are a narcissist, you probably experience some form of self-doubt. I do, every day, right up until I hit the publish button. After that, it all goes away because there is little that I can do about what people think about my writing.
Self-confidence. The more I write and publish, the better I feel about what I write. It is a self-reinforcing cycle. The key is repetition. Just like a weightlifter, you must do the reps; there is no shortcut.

Procrastination. I'll do it later. Tomorrow is another day; I'll do it then. I can't think of anything to write, maybe if I come back later, I'll think of something. These are the thoughts that prevent action. Action breeds more action. Just do something to get over the inertia. After that, it will flow. I experience this every day. 

Generating ideas. Ideas are all around us if we are open to seeing them. The more I write, the more I see. It is like a storage tank. As I write, I make space for more ideas to fill up the tank. If I stop writing, then there is no space for new ideas. It's counterintuitive. 

Perfectionism. I have never had this problem. 80% is good enough. Getting the last 20% right takes too much time, and the return is not worth the effort. There is always someone who will point out where you went wrong in the last 20%. Use that feedback rather than burning energy trying to see it yourself.

Distractions. Distraction and procrastination are best friends. Turn your email off, leave your phone in the room next door. Block out the time in your diary. No, another cup of coffee will not help the creative flow. Get the fingers moving on the keyboard, and the flow will come. It works this way every time.

Over editing. Was it a "glorious" morning for a run or an "awesome" morning? Which sounds better? Mostly, it doesn't matter. What matters most is the overall theme and message of the work. Is it resonating with the audience? I am trying to find my groove. As much as I write for joy, my ego wants feedback from an article that resonates with the audience. I am often surprised.

Where to publish? Publish everywhere! Substack, Medium, Linked-In, Facebook, Twitter and my email list. Feedback, feedback, and more feedback. What works, what doesn't. What hits the emotional connection? It's a data collection game. More data improves my writing.

Consistency. Every publication is like spinning the wheel of fortune - the more spins, the more chance for wins. The habit of writing every day is like running every day. I do it to get fit. Mentally and physically. I've become obsessive about fitness. I think it is an age thing. I feel like I am running out of time!

Running Games, Gandhi Style

Article #108 - 4 November 2021

Running the streets of Johannesburg City can be intimidating. We would have made Gandhi proud.

It's a glorious Wednesday morning, and at the usual summer starting time of 5:30, we headed up Tyrone Avenue towards the city. The first three kilometres are straight up past the Westcliff Hotel. A ball-breaker of a start.

If you are the more adventurous type, the Wednesday morning Tyrone Harriers 15 km run, often into the city, is the best fun that you can have with your clothes on.
We took a breather at the top of Jan Smuts Drive. While not the highest point in Johannesburg, it isn't far of at 1,728 metres above sea level. It is a short reprieve down the hill past KPMG, and then just like the frog crossing the river, we dodged the passing cars as we crossed Empire Road. Another grind up past Wits University to 1,755 meters. More height, more climbing points.

Left into Ameshoff Street, past Liberty Life and then right into Biccard Street. The last of the leafy, quiet, smooth tar streets before the real games begin.

As we made our way over the train tracks, past the Queen Elizabeth Bridge, the top of the Carlton Centre appears off to the left amongst the other city high risers. We played chicken with a few taxis as we ran down Rissik Street past City Hall. Then a left turn into Main Street where the wide-open space of Gandhi Square feels like a relief. Time for a walk and a photo. This is the halfway point.

If you have made it this far, the route back out of the city is where all the big points are scored. Time to concentrate! North into Polly and then a left Turn into Lillian Ngoyi Street. It is a one-way heading East, and it is a four-lane barrage of taxis heading straight at us as we run West. Wow, this is dodgem cars at its best. Kerbs, people, potholes, running water, dirt, garbage, shouting, whistling, left, right, stop, go. Don't get left behind. Right turn into Klein, past the Noord Street taxi rank, the smell of fresh vetkoek, the oncoming assault of vehicles and people continues. Taxi stops, a door opens, dozens spill out. Hop to the right, find a piece of sidewalk, keep going. It's uphill now, past Joubert Park, which looks like a minefield. Dead ahead is Hillbrow Clinic, anyone wounded?

Running up Hospital Street is a steep climb towards the Old Fort and Constitutional Hill. The adrenaline rush is over, the streets are quiet, and we make our way past the City Council. This is the highest point on the route at 1,775 meters. Now it is a flat-out gallop north. All that is left is to navigate our way down the mineshaft of Westcliff stairs.

We duck through the palisade fence gate into Pallinghurst Road and make our way past the Hurbert Baker architecture of the Hope School on our way to the stairs. At the bottom of the stair, the Drakensburg pony fever is full-on. The smell of coffee entices the young colts to show their speed. It is flat out to the end at Croft & Co.

Heeeha, go baby! The last one home pays for coffee. Don't slip on the Jacaranda flowers.

Johannesburg’s Greatest Lifestyle Asset

Article #107 - 3 November 2021

On Sunday, I ran 24km from Aukland Park to Woodmead.

The Country Club Johannesburg (CCJ) has a regular running race between their Aukland Park and Woodmead clubs. The route is mostly trail running along the banks of the Braamfontein Spruit.
On this occasion, it was all downhill, a far more pleasant experience than the uphill slog when running in the other direction. Irrespective of the direction, the route is fantastic!
On the downhill run from Aukland Park, the route joins the spruit just below Emmarentia Dam after running down the “mine shaft” that is Hill Road.

The route winds its way through the Willows next to the Emmerentia Scout Hall and over Victory Road into Victory Park. It is a speedy descent to Delta Park and the refreshment table at the Conrad Road parking lot, marking the 10km point.

I was chasing a fast crew from Tyrone Harriers. We paused briefly for a slug or water at the refreshment table, and then we were off. The next leg is past the Old Parks Sports Club and on to the William Nicol and Republic Road intersection.

Unfortunately, the route leaves the spruit for the section through to Peter Place to avoid the dodgy charterers that inhabit this stretch of the spruit. The next landmark is River Club golf course. Back on the spruit the route closely follows the river under the Ballyclare bridge and on to the Bryanston Scout Hall.

Time for a dose of sugar! A cold Coke in the shade at the scout hall water table makes for a pleasant pause. My strategy of “go until you blow” was still working. I felt like I had plenty of voooma left in my legs for the next section to the Riverside Shopping Centre.

The route ducks under the bridge at Bryanston Drive and connects with Bryanston parkrun route. This is the last of the downhill—next stop, Cowley Road bridge.

At the last refreshment station before the uphill slog to Rivonia Road, I filled my mouth with a handful of Jelly Tots. Another sugar dose for the last push. 4 km to go. I was chasing a sub-2-hour time at a pace of 4:55 a kilometre. Sadly, this was the end of the trail section along the spruit. Tar and kerb hopping from here on.

Cowley Road becomes 12th Avenue and crosses over Rivonia Road. That’s a long climb! Then it’s down through the dip and up to Bowling Avenue. Wow, steeper than I remember. Through the gate onto the golf course. Uphill all the way to the green lawns in front of the clubhouse. Made it, with no blowout!
What a fantastic morning out. The Braamfontein Spruit represents a snaking green ribbon that is a beautiful gift for those who enjoy the outdoors. Cyclists, runners, and walkers, two and four-legged, all enjoy this beautiful lifestyle asset.

Some areas are well maintained; others are downright dodgy and unsafe. That is the story of Johannesburg.

Some of the Smartest Things Ever Said

Article #106 - 2 November 2021

"It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows." –Epictetus

Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, was a stoic. He believed that all external events were beyond his control, and he should calmly and dispassionately accept whatever happened to him. Epictetus's philosophy influenced the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, commonly known for his stoic ways.

Ask yourself where in your life your ego gets in the way and prevents you from being curious. Being curious is one way of being open to learning, no matter what you think you know.
"Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." – Henry Ford

Henry Ford, the father of the assembly line and mass production, made the motor vehicle available to the average middle-class American.

Ford and Epictetus were onto the same thing, at different times, from different perspectives. Both these men identified the human problem of the ego. Although not expressly stated, they saw that thinking that you know something was a sure way to close oneself off to the possibility of being wrong.
“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

Mark Twain was the pen name of Samuel Longhorn Clemens, the author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin. Twain's was admired for his wit and satire. Twain was born shortly after an appearance of Halley's Comet. He predicted that his death would be on the next sighting. He died 75 years later, the day after Halley's Comet closest approach to Earth.

Twain observed the same folly of human behaviour that Ford and Epictetus saw. That of being convinced of what we know to be true.
It appears that those who claim to have the answers and are all knowing, are exactly who these men were speaking of. Those who declare that the "science is settled" are the new age priests who display their ignorance. They are the preachers of a new religious dogma. 

It is more important than ever not to accept the words of a so-called expert. Question everything and remain curious.

What Students Do to Ace My Business Finance Course

Article #105 - 29 October 2021

I teach business finance and valuation courses at different business schools.

Twenty years of executive and academic education experience has revealed tried and tested methods that I use to help students learn complex material. The formula is simple, but that doesn’t make the outcome easy. A good outcome is for a cohort of students to come away with new learnings and tools to use in their careers.

Achieving a good outcome is a two-way street between facilitator and student. I have some secret sauce that I apply to bring a group of students around from anxiety and fear to “I can do this” and “I can see the path to learning and passing the course.”
My secret sauce is the SCARF technique. I lower my Status so that students are open to connecting and trusting that I am on their side. I provide Certainty about the framework of the course and what students are required to do. I give students Autonomy to choose how they want to learn and the format they wish to submit assignments. I make sure that I Relate to students by listening and understanding where they are on their life’s learning journey. Often the job of a lecturer is to listen rather than lecture. Most importantly, I treat students Fairly.

I read about the SCARF method several years ago, but it has taken me many years to refine how to use the process well. Students are mostly unaware that I am using my “secret powers” to bring them over to my side. I do it so that they are less anxious and, therefore, more open to learning.

My teaching process is to use empirical financial data, dressed up in pretty graphs, to tell stories about how the world of business finance shows up in everyday life. My primary emphasis is to discuss what it means for companies to create value and that every person in an organisation is responsible for value creation.
Once students connect to how they can contribute to value creation, then learning about the financial reporting and performance of a business becomes exciting. No longer are they learning accounting, now they are learning about value creation.

When students understand that it is not my intention to turn them into accountants but rather give them the skills to understand the dynamics of business performance, then the numbers take on a whole new meaning.

My book depicted above covers the content and the learning journey that I take students on. While I teach several essential theory aspects, I give students plenty of time to complete in-class exercises that help them put the theory into practice. It is in the practice where students learn. Those who embrace this and do as many practise exercises as possible can embed the principles in their brain like well-worn game paths through the bushveld. Those that embrace the process and do the practice end up learning and retaining new skills. That’s the definition of acing business finance.

Being a lecturer is not about being the source of knowledge. It is about connecting with students so that they are open to receiving the knowledge and using it in a framework that makes sense in their lives.

The Different Paths of Entrepreneurs

Article #104 - 28 October 2021

Everyone is an entrepreneur!

Being an entrepreneur means setting up a business and taking risks to make a profit. Being a full-time employee is to be in the business of selling your time to one customer. The trade-off is the perception of less risk for a consistent monthly salary. 

Having only one customer is the riskiest form of business.

Having many customers reduces the reliance on a single source of income but increases the risk of variance in income. Risk, after all, is the potential for both reward and loss. 

A great analogy that represents the difference between full-time employment and building a business is the side-by-side view of a linear and compound growth curve. The linear curve of full-time employment is stable and consistent. The compound curve of building a business can be slow and likely to produce little reward early on. Many give up during this stage. The long-term benefit can turn out exponentially better than the linear approach. This analogy is somewhat simplistic. In real life, the curves are never as straight and smooth as the chart suggests.
If you want to take the path of the entrepreneur who builds a brand and/or a business, here are four crucial points to consider:

1. Consistency is a superpower – show up every day
2. Be ready to fail often and start over as many times as it takes to be successful
3. It can be very lonely, find support in a mentor, a coach, or a business partner
4. Don’t take yourself too seriously

News That Will Make Your Head Spin

Article #103 - 27 October 2021

There are two headlines in the news the confirm that the inmates are in charge of the asylum.

What do Jack Dorsey and Janet Yellen have in common? They are useful mouthpieces for creating a narrative that is complete bullshit. Dorsey is all about creating hyperinflation fear so that he can pump Bitcoin. Yellen is all about the big bad enemy called the rich, and the rich must be taxed more.

The reality is the USA is dealing with years of bad monetary and fiscal policy.

Markets have not been allowed to take their natural course. Any whiff of a correction in the market, the Fed jumps in with several stimulus plans to keep the equity bubble full of hot air.
The funniest and most ironic thing about hyperinflation and capital gains is that the more inflation there is, the more capital gains taxes to collect. If capital gain taxes are targeted at the rich because they have too much money, the best way to make the rich poor is with inflation. Inflation is the hidden tax that makes everyone poor. 

No doubt, the plan is to tax nominal gains in capital assets. What if the nominal gain in assets is less than the level of hyperinflation? By conventional measures, your real return would be negative, and you would be worse off. “But we will tax you anyway because you are a billionaire”, is the message they want the middle-class masses to hear.

There are many Venezuelans and Zimbabweans who became billionaires in their local currency. Hyperinflation has a knack for doing that. But it is all hot air.

There is no need to get our knickers in a knot. Neither of these things will happen. 

I suspect that Dorsey doesn’t know much about money supply, or how Dollars are created. Thirteen years of quantitative easing hasn’t produced a sniff of inflation. It is all just a sophisticated asset swap on the balance sheets of the banks. If the banks can’t lend the money, then there is no excessive money supply to create inflation.

Lastly, the one thing about rich billionaires is that they know how to hold onto their money. There isn’t a tax that the wealthy haven’t worked out how to avoid. 

What Is the Antithesis of Exceptional?

Article #102 - 26 October 2021

The Modern Wisdom Podcast by Chris Williamson is one of the best! It is a must-listen.

This week Chris interviewed Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent who is an expert in body language. They explored what it means to be an exceptional communicator. Joe spoke about non-verbal communication and how he used these skills to catch and turn foreign spies. The podcast is a gold mine of information and learning.

Chris has a unique quality to ask questions from an unusual perspective.
Chris asked Joe, "What is the Antithesis of Exceptional?", Joe's response was to say that he had never thought of it from that perspective. It got him thinking. This is how Joe answered…

The antithesis of exceptional is:

1. Lack of curiosity about the world and other people
2. A know-it-all attitude
3. No aspiration for lifelong learning
4. Inflexible in ideology and thinking
5. Not open to finding better solutions to problems
6. Unwilling to compromise
7. No ability to empathise with others
8. Not willing to work with others

I would add a few more characteristics that are the antithesis of exceptional. These have become evident in "leaders" who have supposedly been responsible for leading the public health response to the pandemic. The following behaviours/statements are the antithesis of exceptional:

Stating that "the science is settled". This statement is designed to shut down the voices of those who disagree, and it displays complete ignorance of the scientific process.

Cancelling the voices of professionals who use facts to undermine the narrative. Major platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Corporate Media, and Facebook have arbitrarily shut down the dissenting voices of those who disagree with politicians' authoritarian command and control dictates.

Using antagonising language to be divisive and cause division between different groups of people. These are the actions of "leaders" who want to create division and emphasise "the other", and act as the saviour of a supposedly victimised group.

As a South African looking around at those elected to lead our country, all I see is the antithesis of exceptional. It is as if political power attracts the opposite of what South Africa needs to grow and thrive.

This is disappointing considering what we achieved in the first decade post-1994. Perhaps it's time to stop being complicit, discard what is not working for us, and vote out the trash.

Why I Failed as a Commodities Trader

Article #101 - 25 October 2021

Looking myself in the mirror and having an honest conversation is one of the hardest things to do. The easiest person for me to lie to is myself. Why would I, or anyone, lie to themselves? My ego is fragile, and it likes to think it is intelligent and successful. The truth can be inconvenient. Facing reality is detrimental to a fragile ego. After all, most people’s egos are fragile. It's easier not to face the truth. Ultimately, there is a cost and a payoff for avoiding the truth. It is essential to identify what they are.

In 2017 I ventured timidly into learning to trade Oil futures. I purchased a course, joined a mentorship programme, and traded a simulation (sim) account for six months. While trading a sim account, I had a 60%-win rate. That is quite good; many forex traders aim for 51%. When I started to trade live money, my win rate went down to 50%. I believed that I just needed to practise, and I would get better, and I would soon get to a live win rate of 60%.

On several occasions, after trading live money for a while and only breaking even, less trading fees, I switched back to sim trading. Every time I switched back to sim trading, I immediately traded better and got my win rate up to 60%. That gave me the confidence to trade live again. Back live, my win rate dropped back to 50%. I didn't want to believe that there was a difference in my trading patterns because I switched between a live account and a sim account. But there was. This was the truth that I didn't want to face. This was the lie I told myself.

The more I traded Oil futures and only won half my trades, the more I looked for excuses about how the market had changed, and the trading strategy that I was using was no longer valid. I kept detailed records of my trades. I even recorded when I made bad trades. What I wasn't recording was why I made bad trades. I realised that I wasn't earning a sufficient payoff for the time spent trading. I desperately wanted to be a successful trader, and my ego prevented me from looking too closely at why I was making bad trades. Eventually, I had to put my ego aside and record what happened when I made bad trades. This is what I learned…

I learned that my natural decision-making process is slow. I like to consider things, turn them over, explore the risk and the opportunities. I like to put ideas in the "pot" and let them stew. To be a successful commodities trader you need to think and react fast. When the trade opportunity shows up and the indicators signal to buy or sell, you need to pull the trigger quickly. I missed many trades, then I felt FOMO and took marginal trades to make up for missing a trade. Trading a sim account, I noticed that I had less emotional attachment to the trades. In a sim account, there is no risk. In a live account, the "fear of loss" created emotion. My slow decision-making process and fear of loss in live trading combined to make me an average 50/50 trader.

The cost to me was mostly time. I spent a considerable amount of time learning to trade and trading only to find out how average I was. In hindsight, it might have been better for me to lose a whole bunch of money quickly. I might have stopped trading sooner. But then, I would not have learned and understood how my decision-making process works. I've learned that I am more suited to managing my investment portfolio, where I seldom sell and hold most investments for a long time—plenty of time to think.

The Unexpected Impact of a 
Pandemic on Cargo Shipping 

Article #100 - 22 October 2021

Something entirely unexpected happened because of the global pandemic and the way that it played out. The pandemic moved from East to West, from China to the USA. Perhaps not by coincidence, the pandemic followed the paths of the major shipping routes. Lockdowns followed in the wake of the pandemic. What followed in the wake of the lockdowns was a bottleneck of gigantic proportion.

Supply chain management is complex even at the best of times and is subject to a phenomenon known as the bullwhip effect. The bullwhip effect comes about due to changes in demand, increased orders, and delayed communication which causes distortions that travel up the supply chain. The impact often results in the excess supply of goods that arrive at the retailer long after the demand increase has passed.

Before the pandemic, Trump’s tariff wars led to increased demand for goods from China. The increase in demand came about because of panic ordering before the tariffs kicked in. The increased demand in the USA led to a rise in shipping from Asia to the USA and more containers than usual making their way to America. Then lockdowns hit. Ports closed, workers stayed at home and the USA ground to a halt, and shipping containers got stuck. What came next compounded the problem. China started to open and resume shipping while the USA was still in lockdown. More containers began arriving in America, adding to the existing backlog of unprocessed containers. The knock-on effect was that empty containers were not returning to Asia; they were piling up all along the transport route in America, both at the ports and inland.

The shortage of containers in Asia has meant that shipping rates have gone through the roof. Since the publication of this graph, rates have more than doubled from the already high levels in December 2020. Shipping a 40-foot container from Shanghai to Los Angeles cost $10,898 as of 21 October 2021. To ship a container in the other direction, from Los Angeles to Shanghai, costs only $1,315. Similarly, from Shanghai to New York costs $13,939 and from New York to Shanghai cost $2,771. The price differentials reflect the apparent demand and supply dynamics of shipping containers.

There is no short-term fix for this problem. It could take more than a year to overcome the imbalance in the system. The reality is that a mountain of empty containers needs to make its way back to Asia, and no one likes shipping empty containers.

The implications for South Africa are increased shipping costs and shortages of key imports from China. In 2020, South Africa imported $3.7 billion of electronic equipment from China and $2.98 billion of machinery and mechanical equipment. These two categories represent only two-thirds of the total imports from China.

The world discarded its pandemic response protocols and took its lead from China. The West followed the approach of the communist command and control model. The result has disrupted markets across the world. In time, evidence will prove the folly of lockdowns; whether we will admit to that folly is another thing.

The Privilege of Friendship

Article #99 - 21 October 2021

I visited a friend yesterday. My friend’s name is Chris. We spent the afternoon in conversation, catching up on each other’s lives after more than a year of lockdown distancing. While lockdown has not prevented us from regularly communicating, the energy from seeing someone in person is so much more rewarding than conversations via electronic devices.

There are several elements to our friendship that are significant to me. Many years ago, when I first met Chris, he appeared as the lecturer in a corporate finance modelling course that I was taking as part of some studies that I was completing at the time. Our relationship started as a student-teacher relationship. I learnt so much about the world of finance that I was inspired to learn more to change careers from a construction project manager to a corporate finance consultant. My learning experience from Chris helped me realise how much more I had to learn. That was twenty years ago. Since then, our relationship evolved into a student-mentor relationship and a friendship.

My visits to see Chris at his home near Hartbeespoort dam have been an opportunity to learn more and more about the craft of financial data modelling while at the same time learning more and more about myself. The significance of making the drive out to the dam means that the occasions are more than just visiting a friend like any other everyday visit. The visits are infrequent and require the investment of effort and time, making them memorable, meaningful, and more rewarding.

The price I pay is to pose for Chris’s pictures of me that are mostly very flattering. However, from time to time, they are not. This time, Chris did his best to make me look like a greedy pig with two ice creams and two cokes waiting in line for my consumption. We spent much of the afternoon cycling around the golf course estate and racing some local Strava segments. We had been riding so hard we needed a short stop for refreshments and sustenance.

David Whyte’s essay on Friendship says, “the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the self nor the other, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone”.

There is so much in my life that I could not have accomplished without a handful of close friends who I think of when I read these beautiful words by David Whyte. Chris is one of those friends. He has seen my essence and I, his. I recognise the privilege of having such a friend.

While I have indulged myself in sharing the joys of my friendship with Chris, my intention is to give you pause for thought about the people in your life whom your accomplishments would be impossible without.

Let’s Put Our Leaders in Rice

Article #98 - 20 October 2021

I have become a regular visitor to the Johannesburg city centre. The world-renowned running crew, known as the Tyrone Harriers, have several 15km routes that traverse all areas of the city. This morning we visited Ponte Tower, Noord Street taxi rank and Park Station before returning past the Constitutional Court. A group of runners making their way through Park Station at 6:15 in the morning attracts looks of disbelief and the occasional shouts of VIVA!

The contrasts in the city are mind-boggling. There are the obvious areas of squalor, and then just one block away, it is like being in a pristine neighbourhood. The streets are full of trash, running water, potholes, and people going in every direction. Then around the next bend, it's quiet, no taxis, clean roads, and paved sidewalks. Even the street art changes. Filthy graffiti in most areas and then over the hill and just past the shiny buildings of the Constitutional Court, the art changes to beautiful murals with cryptic messages. We could not resist stopping for a photo in front of this one.

The post photo conversation was naturally filled with prophetic insights about what it means to put our leaders in rice. It was suggested that perhaps the paint for the artwork was sponsored by Tastic rice. Another suggestion was that we should put our leaders in ICE. That conjures thoughts of cryogenic freezing. We wouldn't miss them, and we would probably be better off if we did freeze them out for a while.
My mind was captured by the logical advice of using the absorbent qualities of rice to dry out a cell phone when it has been accidentally dropped in the toilet. How could we apply the same principle to our leaders? The redistribution and socialist ideologies definitely need to be extracted from the minds of those in leadership positions. We would all be better off for that. Could the rice help with that?

The suggestion of "drying them out" and "turning them into dried fruit" attracted smiles and giggles amongst the runners. The conversation was later re-ignited over coffee as we shared our photos and reflected on the joy of running freely in our city. Oh, what an awesome time NOT to be living in Australia. I bet they wish that they could drown some of their leaders in an oversized pot of rice.

The favourite part of my morning outing in the city was the fast downhill running on the way home. The beautiful, mottled sun through the leaves of the Plain trees on Tyronne Avenue and the sounds of fast footsteps and heavy breathing as we raced home for coffee was fantastic. It makes putting up with crappy leaders and crazy ideology almost bearable.

The Breakdown of Civilisations

Article #97 - 19 October 2021

I dipped into some light reading while taking a break from some rather laborious admin work the other day. On the bookcase in my study, there are many good reads that I dip into from time to time. On this occasion, I chose A Study of History by Arnold Toynbee. The abridged version is 950 pages long. It is the type of book that one can open anywhere and pick up the thread of an argument based on evidence from history. I opened the book at the start of the chapter on the breakdown of civilisations.

Early in the chapter, there is an apt but rather longwinded insight into the behaviour of a failing liberator.

I quote…

“The piper who has lost his cunning can no longer conjure the feet of the multitude into a dance; and if, in rage and panic, he now attempts to convert himself into a drill-sergeant or a slave-driver, and to coerce by physical force a people that can he now no longer lead by his old magnetic charm, then all the more surely and swiftly he defeats his own intention; for the followers who had merely flagged and fallen out of step as the heavenly music died away will be stung by the touch of the whip into active rebellion”.

Toynbee articulates his arguments for the breakdown of civilisations in fine detail. He describes a minority grouping of “creative individuals” responsible for leading a civilisation of uncreative masses. You must excuse the language as this is the writing of a man who published his work in 1934. Toynbee argues that the disintegration of societies does not come from the loss of control over the environment or the people. Neither does it come from attacks from the outside.

Toynbee uses numerous historical examples to show how a creative minority ceases to be creative and deteriorates into a dominant minority. The word minority is used to describe the small leadership cohort rather than a racial group. The importance of creativity is that it inspires the uncreative masses in their “mimesis”. Mimesis is the form of mimicry that inspires art, literature, education, trade, and the general growth of a society.

Toynbee argues that the creative minority deteriorate due to worship of their former self. They become prideful and fail to address the changing needs of society. Does this sound familiar?

It is fascinating that despite the arguments made in 1934 about societies that met their downfall many thousands of years BC, these behavioural patterns play out in societies today.

I can’t help but notice how the ANC relies heavily on the legacy of the liberation movement of Nelson Mandella (the creative minority). Today the ANC worships its former self as being the saviour and yet are so woeful in meeting the current needs of our society. Nothing the ANC does inspires the creativity required for South Africa to navigate its way off its current path to economic failure. The pattern of behaviour of so many failed societies is embedded in the DNA of human behaviour. It is not one group or another that should be blamed but rather humans in general. What is required are robust systems of accountability that highlight these repeating patterns and provide the opportunity for course correction. It remains to be seen if South Africa has the structural systems to force the necessary course correction.

See the Individual Not the Collective

Article #96 - 18 October 2021

We live in a divisive world where politicians create division. Politicians create division between different groups of people based on arbitrary characteristics like skin colour, religion, ethnicity, you name it. The division creates us versus them. Them, those people over there who look like that are demonised as the "other". Policy is passed into law to protect us from them or to advance us over them. The nature of us versus them is to create collective groups. The rights, responsibilities and unique circumstances of the individual are cast aside in the interests of the so called collective.
Here are some examples of these collectives:
1. Asians
2. Hispanics
4. Jews
5. Millennials
6. Boomers
7. Blacks
8. Catholics
9. Hutus
10. Shall I keep going?

Do you see your group on the list? How does it make you feel to be included on the list? Perhaps your group is excluded from the list; do you feel left out? The list is arbitrary; it could have been made up of several other groups. The moment you name a group, there is automatically another group that is excluded.

All atrocities are committed against a group of others. The worst atrocities end up in genocide. When we define a group, we overlook the importance of the individual. Every individual has rights. Every person has their story, their journey through life and their family.

Think about the latest pair of groups thrust upon us by the fearmongering authorities, aided by corporate media. The vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The message is that the vaccinated should fear the unvaccinated because they will infect you and cause your demise. Based on this, the so-called well-being of the collective must be put ahead of the individual's rights, with no regard for the individual's circumstances. Notice how the subject of natural immunity has been completely ignored in the interest of creating this other group that is supposedly a threat.

Are you part of the vaccinated group wanting to deprive the unvaccinated of their rights to freedom? Think about why you should have power over another person or group of people. Is it because of the virtue you assign yourself to be part of one group and not another? When you have power over others by virtue of the group you find yourself in, think about that power being used against you next time you might be in the other group.

When we group people and think of them as a collective, it is easy to dehumanise them. We feel safe when we dehumanise the other group because we have the support of our group. When we look at the individual and realise that they are also a father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter, we are all equal. On an individual level, there is no power over the other. We are all human in the same group.

Why Everything is Backwards

Article #95 - 15 October 2021

There was a time when there was no confusion that humans consisted of two sexes, male and female. In this time of everything being backwards, many have been cancelled off social platforms for making statements that suggest there are only two sexes. There was a time when your medical information was private. No one, not your employer or the government, could ask you to disclose your medical information for the purpose of employment. Now, you can get fired for not disclosing your vaccination status for a disease that has a 99% survival rate. Showing your “papers” for verification by the government was one of the core evils of the Apartheid government. The prospect of a vaccine passport is a form of discrimination and exclusion that is not dissimilar to the “dompas”. The fact that it is considered acceptable to even entertain this is completely backwards.

The Russians developed a concept called ideological subversion, also known as active measures. Ideological subversion is the process of changing a societies perception of reality. The intention is to slowly brainwash a society from the inside. A successful outcome from ideological subversion is to create an environment that, despite an abundance of information, no one can come to sensible conclusions about the obvious.

The first step of ideological subversion is the process of demoralisation. Demoralisation takes 15 – 20 years or one generation of exposure to the ideology of the enemy. The ideology is Marxist/Leninist thinking. The proof of this is in academic institutions and the pervasive support of socialism. These ideologies have been taught to a generation of students by useful academic idiots. They have gone unchallenged, and now, no amount of proof or logical thinking can change their minds from trying to achieve a socialist utopia. The Russian objective was to embed a culture in its enemy where criticism of the socialist utopian dream would result in your “termination”. According to the former KGB agent Yuri Bezmenov, the demoralisation process in the United States “is mostly completed”. He made this statement in 1984! According to Bezmenov, “a person who is demoralised is unable to assess basic information, the facts mean nothing to them”.

The second step is destabilisation, which eliminates free-market economies and promises a diverse and equitable utopia where the government will provide for all. In the process of destabilisation, the system is at war with its people. Never has the United States been more divided than it is now. The talk of universal basic income paid by the government using money taken from others is the ultimate form of theft. The payment of “stimmy checks” is a step towards the mirage of a socialist utopia.

In 1984, Bezmenov said that he was amazed at how successful the Russians had been in their efforts to achieve ideological subversion in the United States. However, the process of destabilisation has taken substantially longer than expected. Bezmenov predicted that there would be five years of destabilisation before the advent of the crisis stage. It has taken another generation, and the moment of crisis has not come about yet. Either the United States is far more resilient than expected, or Bezmenov is just full crap.

Make up your own mind. Look up the Yuri Bezmenov interview on YouTube and hear what he has to say on this subject.

In the context of South Africa, the ANC espouse socialist ideology at every turn. All the facts and the evidence that this ideology is leading South Africa to catastrophic failure will not deter the ANC and its useful idiots from continuing their path. Business South Africa has been completely demoralised; they stand in silence and refuse to criticise the obvious. Destabilisation is well underway; the state cannot deliver a single service that is not in decay or completely broken. We need to be asking, “how do we avoid the crisis?”

Why You Should Embrace Your Insignificance

Article #94 - 14 October 2021

The subject of my insignificance in the grand scheme of things is something that I think about often. Looking up into the vastness of the night's sky always reminds me of how small I am. To think that the light from the stars originated long before I was born makes me realise that my time here is extremely short.

Bill Bryson's book "A Short History of Nearly Everything" describes Earth's 4,500-billion-year history on a timeline of a single day. Bryson writes, "humans emerge one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight". In a different context, Bryson compares the Earth's history to a human's outstretched arms. If fingertip to fingertip is the extent of Earth's timeline, human existence is the equivalent of the thickness of the skin on your fingertip. Both examples illustrate the fleeting nature of humans on Earth.

To go with this fleeting existence, Bryson points out that the odds of your existence are so minute that it is a miracle that you even exist. The following quote describes what your ancestors had to navigate for you to arrive here.

“Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result -- eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly -- in you.”
When I think of my existence in this context, I am confronted by cognitive dissonance. The dissonance is about how valuable my life is since the miracle of my existence is so incredible. Adjacent to the miracle is the insignificance of my time here when measured against 4,500 billion years.

How best does one do justice to the miracle of existence while considering the insignificance of our exceedingly short time on Earth? This is a question for each of us to answer if you have the privilege to consider it. For many, the challenge to survive may not afford them the luxury of time and space to consider these existential questions.

I often get lost in the hectic nature of life. The stress of earning a living and providing for today's needs and what might be needed in the future can be overwhelming. The pressure of a deadline and the consequences of missing it seem so stupidly laughable in the face of our ultimate insignificance. We impose these arbitrary constraints on ourselves, which appear so immaterial when seen through the lens of a multi-billion-year timeline. Let this not be an excuse to break the agreements you make with others because no one will care in the billion years. Let this instead be a perspective that you consider when you make your agreements. Let it also be a consideration with whom you make your agreements.

Embracing your insignificance is the realisation that, in the long run, absolutely nothing matters! Therefore, in the short run, choose to do things worthy of giving you joy when you do them

If Politics Was a Game of Football

Article #93 - 13 October 2021

Imagine playing in the premier football league against an opposition whose players best skill is to score own goals. Couple with that, the team is bankrupt and can’t afford to buy new players. The only thing that this team has going for it is that the stadium is filled with loyal fans who still show up and cheer them on despite the continuous poor form. 
Unfortunately, the game of politics is not measured by how well a team plays, i.e., scoring more goals than the opposition. The game is measured by the number of supporters who watch the game and support their side. To list the number of own goals scored by the ANC would take up all the space on this page. Playing against such a poor performing side as the ANC should be like “clubbing baby seals”. The ANC makes it so easy to show up their poor performance.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that just about every ANC municipality is bankrupt. The DA holds up the Western Cape and its municipalities as having clean audits and being well run. No matter how well the DA plays the game of administering municipalities (scoring lots of goals against the ANC opposition) the crowd appears to applaud the incompetent ANC team.

Another unfortunate artefact related to the game is the media that reports on the game are completely bias. No matter how well the DA play, the media only reports the propaganda that Coach Cyril and his management team shout. When the DA doesn’t execute flawlessly on its game plan, the media reports how poorly the DA team played.

The DA is so frightened of offending the fans. The fear of offending means that the DA won’t commit to anything. Coach Steenhuisen appears to be competent at coordinating his team to execute some versions of the game plan. Specifically, the administration component. But when it comes to communicating to the broader fan base, the team owner (let’s call her Twitter Zille) can’t keep her mouth shut, and she keeps putting her foot in it. The bias media contorts and trumpets any Zille tweet into a story of colonial repression by the white economic overlords. The most recent event being the wing clipping given to the Pheonix. This is just another example of the DA cowering in front of criticism by football hooligans who will never support the DA.

Members of the DA team can’t get their story straight on what the overall game plan is. It’s as if all the DA players on the field are shouting at the referee. One DA player is shouting about poor government land use, another is shouting about being insulted by the opposition. While the DA team is distracted by cheap tricks on the field, they are missing the major off-field developments. A whole new football league is being planned (let’s call it Cape secession), and the DA is going on as if it knows nothing about it.

There is a groundswell of support for Cape secession. Fans are tired of being outnumbered by the ANC hooligans; they want to form their own league. Rather than engaging with this as an opportunity, the coaching staff and management of the DA are mostly silent. Twitter Zille has dismissed Cape secession as impossible because the DA are the “owners” of the Western Cape and without their support, a civil war will be needed to achieve secession.

On the administration playing field, the DA appears to be able to play the game competently to beat most opposition. But off the field, where the real game of politics is played, the DA scores as many own goals as the ANC does on the field. How disappointing!

What is the Process for Selling Your NFT Artwork?

Article #92 - 12 October 2021

You have a piece of digital art that you think is unique, scarce, and valuable. How do you know that it is valuable? You can’t be sure because you only know it is valuable if someone is prepared to buy it. To sell the image, you need a market on which to trade. A recognised market for selling digital art is The process primarily uses Ethereum as the “currency” based on blockchain technology using smart contracts. Using OpenSea, you can mint an NFT attached to the artwork and a smart contract that can be traded.

You may have to first get your mind around the principle of digital art having value. Just in Time Article #91 covered this concept.

My wife is an artist. This cute doggie is an example of her artwork. It is a picture of an iced biscuit. Yes, you can eat it. Not the picture, of course, but the biscuit is made to be eaten. My wife’s client sent her a picture of their dog and asked her to make a set of biscuits depicting the dog. The glasses are artistic license. If you go to Gillie’s Biccies you can see the full array of my wife’s beautiful edible artwork.

My hypothesis is that the novelty and creativity of biscuit art have value. It has value as a biscuit, but does it have value as NFT artwork. There is only one way to find out: to create a digital image of the biscuit, mint an NFT that is attached to the image and list it on the market.

There are millions of digital images for sale on OpenSea and although everyone is unique, many don’t sell or even attract a bid. Lack of liquidity is a problem, but this market will grow and develop in time, and the winners and losers will emerge. It appears that NFT artwork is like sand on a beach. At a distance, the grains of sand all look the same. Occasionally, while walking on the beach, one stumbles across something quite special, like a beautiful shell or a smoothed piece of sand glass. That is the piece that you pick up and put in your pocket to show to someone later. The analogy here is that one needs to be adding to the beach. Many will add sand, some will add stones, others will add shells, and occasionally something completely unexpected will appear. Only time and the market will reveal the value.

There are a few pieces to the NFT puzzle. OpenSea is a platform or the market on which NFTs are bought and sold. You need to own some Ethereum and have some Ethereum in a wallet connected to OpenSea. MetaMask is the most popular wallet. Several YouTube videos will show you how to open these accounts and connect your wallet. When listing your first NFT for sale on OpenSea, you will discover “Gas Tax”. Gas Tax is a once-off fee for a first-time seller and buyer. It is not unusual to buy your first NFT for $50 (denominated in Ethereum) and pay a Gas Tax of as much as $100. The fee is variable and based on transaction speed, depending on the time of day or how busy the platform is. If you use OpenSea to do a once-off low-value transaction, the Gas Tax will exceed the transaction costs. The incentive is to create many NFTs so that ultimately the Gas Tax isn’t material when amortised across a collection of NFTs.

Remember that an NFT is subject to variance in the value of the digital artwork itself and the volatility of the USD price of Ethereum. The volatility of cryptocurrencies, in general, will impact the enthusiasm for NFTs. The winners in NFTs will be those that can play the long game and develop a reputation of quality, durability, celebrity, authority, and scarcity. All the attributes that matter in the tangible world of art will matter in the digital art world of NFTs.

What Makes an NFT Valuable?

Article #91 - 11 October 2021

Non-fungible tokens (NFT) are all the craze at the moment. In March this year, Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, sold an NFT of his first tweet for $2.9 million. Here is a picture of the tweet. You can look at it, even screengrab it, save it on your hard drive, and look at it anytime you want. It will cost you nothing. Why would someone pay that sum of money to own it?

The valuable characteristic of an NFT is that it can't be replicated. That might sound strange since there is a replication of @Jack's first tweet next to this text. So, where does the value come from? It might be helpful to ask this question – if you visited the Louvre in France and took a photograph of the Mona Lisa, would that be a replication of the original art. The answer is no. The Mona Lisa represents the very definition of a non-fungible. It is paint on a canvas, and there is only one. You can find many pictures of the Mona Lisa online; why even go to the Louvre? You could print a copy, frame it, and hang it on the wall in your house. Every day you could stare at the picture and enjoy the beauty. Who needs the original?

What happens when your friends come to your house and see the framed Mona Lisa print on the wall above your bed? They are going to think that you're weird. First, they will all know that it is a print copy and not the original. Second, that part about it being over the bed, well, let's leave that for another day. If, however, you said, "it's the original", and you could prove it, then that would send a signal to your friends that would put you in a whole different league. Just for a moment, suspend what you are thinking and pretend to be in another dimension where the Mona Lisa was for sale. Being able to demonstrate and show off that you own valuable artwork is a social signal of wealth and status. The fact that it is one of a kind creates scarcity. More importantly, there is a collective social agreement that the artwork is valuable.

Back to the Jack Dorsey tweet. There is a collective social agreement that the first tweet sent by the company's founder is valuable. Had Twitter gone bankrupt in its first year and disappeared off the face of the earth, perhaps then the tweet would never have accrued any value. In the same way, the Mona Lisa is valuable because Leonardo de Vinci painted it. De Vinci is famous for so much more than just the Mona Lisa. There is a great deal of evidence of de Vinci's brilliance which contributes to the value of the Mona Lisa.

An NFT is a certified unique "something" attached to a token traded on a market. The uniqueness of the "something" creates scarcity. The market creates the collective social "agreement" about the value. Does everyone in the market agree on the value? NO! The market is inefficient, creating the opportunity for mispricing and, therefore, risk and reward. NFT markets are generally illiquid, and there are millions of "artworks" that never trade. But there are pockets of well-known artists and beautiful, unique artworks in digital form that are sought after, just like paint and canvas artwork. A buyer of this digital art wants to show it off to their friends as proof of their status or belonging. Whether the shiny object is tangible or digital, the ego doesn't care, as long as it is seen.

Airbnb unlocked value in unused rooms. Uber unlocked the value of an empty passenger seat. NFTs will unlock value in digital creativity. We haven't begun to see the innovation that will develop on the back of this technology. What an exciting prospect!

What Makes a Valediction Memorable?

Article #90 - 8 October 2021

My daughter is all grown up. It feels like it happened overnight while I wasn't looking. Last week it was her matric dance, and this morning it was her valediction ceremony. These events signal the end of school and school fees; that's a relief. When I heard that the ceremony was going to be two hours long, I was horrified. The most horrifying thought was having to sit in a hall with a mask on for two hours. Then it occurred to me that I would have to listen to a bunch of speeches about embracing the future, the start of a new journey and taking over the world.

I couldn't help but think back to my valediction service some thirty years ago. We didn't call it a valediction back then. It was simply called Speech Day. The headmaster said a speech. There was a guest speaker, and the head boy said a speech. There was also prize giving. Three prizes were awarded, top academic, top sportsman and a social award of some sort. I can't remember who got the prizes and I can't remember anything that was said in the speeches. I do at least remember who the headmaster and the head boy were. That is about all.

A valediction service is meant to be a process or act bidding farewell. Much of what makes its way onto the agenda of a two-hour service is "pomp and ceremony". This includes singing a school song, saying a prayer, speeches, and awarding prizes—all forgettable, except for those who win a prize. The act of winning a prize and crossing the stage to collect it is a process that can anchor the occasion into memory. My daughter won an award, and I hope that helps her remember the day long into the future. I wasn't a prize winner on my Speech Day; If I did, I might have remembered more.

I recognise that I am hung up on the importance of being able to remember the occasion. The end of school is a significant milestone. The part that mostly gets anchored into memory is the anxiety of writing matric exams. The anchoring of lasting memories is a physical process combined with strong emotions. Writing exams and feeling fear combine to make a strong anchor. Sitting on a hard seat for two hours while a few speakers drone on about saving the world hardly feels like an emotional anchoring process. When I asked my wife about her memories of her valediction service, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "I can't remember anything". It makes me wonder if the ceremony is designed to be forgotten. Perhaps, that is being a bit cynical.

The Steve Jobs 2006 Standford commencement speech was iconic. The YouTube video has 38 million views. I am sure that those who were there remember it. Unfortunately, that is not scalable. You will be lucky to experience a great speech at a valedictory ceremony.

Two events were incorporated into the ceremony that I attended this morning that I thought was novel and could make the occasion memorable. One of the events was a final roll call. On the calling of each student's name, they were invited to stand up and put a sentimental object in a "time capsule". The time capsule is buried on the school campus to be opened in ten years. Many students wrote a letter to their future selves. The second event was an opportunity for each student to ring the school bell on their way out of the hall. A final ring of the bell signalled the official end of school. Both events combine the physical process of doing something and attach significance and emotion to the event. Those are the things that stick.

I also need to remind myself that this ceremony was not for me. It was for my daughter. What she gets out of it is more important than what I do.

The ANC Has Taken South Africa Back to 1984

Article #89 - 7 October 2021

George Orwell’s last book, written in 1949, was called Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984). It was about the consequences of totalitarianism and the repressive regime of Stalinist Russia. Orwell was writing about a dystopian future that was 35 years away. Today, we are not much more than 35 years past that date. Looking back in time through the lens of GDP data, it appears that South Africa has regressed to 1984.

The irony is that the ANC government operates from a socialist ideology. The Nation Democratic Revolution (NDR) is the ANC’s playbook to achieving centralised state power and control. The NDR is the ANC’s version of totalitarianism. The economic data reveals the damage that is being done to South Africa because of the ANC’s destructive policies.

In South Africa, the 1980s was at the height of Apartheid and international sanctions. The Nationalist government was under severe economic pressure to abandon its race-based policies. Could it be that South Africa has come a full circle? The ANC replaced one set of race-based policies with another. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) was intended to be the solution to correcting the injustices of the past. The reality is that BEE has only served the elite. BEE has created a smokescreen of cover for extortion and theft. Under the guise of “transformation”, the ANC has set South Africa on a path back to the dark days of the 1980s. There is another irony here. The ANC has repeatedly told its constituency that they mustn’t vote for the Democratic Alliance (DA) because the DA will bring back Apartheid. It appears that the ANC has done an excellent job of returning South Africa to the dire economic circumstances that were brought about because of Apartheid.

To quote another Orwell novel by the title of Animal Farm, Napoleon says to the animals, “you are better off than you were under Mr Jones”. Yes, South Africa is a better place now than it was under Apartheid. Unfortunately, when measured against a standard of economic wellbeing, it is not better off.

CityCoins, The Future of City Funding

Article #88 - 6 October 2021

Cities source their funding through rates and taxes. They can also raise debt funding through issuing bonds. These are all traditional means. A well-run city has sufficient cash flows to cover its operational costs and invest in development projects that improve the lives of its residents. In theory, well-run cities will attract new residents and earn more revenue. Poorly run cities will see the opposite. There are some similarities to how a business operates.
The move to remote work has given people the opportunity to be more mobile. Money and people can leave poorly run cities far more quickly than before. The obvious example in South Africa is the migration from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Residents can voice their dissatisfaction with the management of a city via the ballot box. They can also register their displeasure by leaving. This is also known as the exit vote. What if there was a third mechanism via a virtual thumbs-up or thumbs-down on an ongoing real-time basis.

CityCoins ( is the latest crypto innovation. To quote directly from the website, “CityCoins give communities the power to improve their cities while providing crypto rewards to individual contributors and city governments alike”.

MiamiCoin is the test case. In two months of mining, MiamiCoin has accrued $7 million to the city. The mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, is entirely on board.

Miners of MiamiCoin earn STX that are denominated in Bitcoin. MiamiCoin is a tradeable governance coin and a market mechanism to trade LONG or SHORT depending on one’s outlook for the city and how it is managed. The technicalities are beyond the scope of this article but are well documented on the MiamiCoin website.

To learn more about how CityCoins works listen to the podcast “Not Investment Advice Ep 24”.
The evolution of cryptocurrencies is toward the creation of a market for anything. I can’t help wondering when the FitnessCoin or the RunningCoin will emerge. Maybe it will be the CrossFitCoin. What if people were rewarded in crypto for being fit and healthy in proportion to their effort. It is only a matter of time.

It’s Not About the Education, It’s All About the Certificate

Article #87 - 5 October 2021

It is no secret that the public schooling system in South African produces the most undereducated young adults in the world. This is in stark contrast to the private schooling system, which produces a far better outcome. It appears that the difference in outcomes is not about the amount of money spent but rather how the money is spent. Good matric results are an essential key to unlocking the next step in the education process. The next step is undergraduate studies at university.

To take the next step to undergraduate studies, the school you went to is not important if you got good enough grades in matric. Six 'A's from St. Johns College counts as much as six 'A's from Katlehong High School on a university application.

The university you choose is somewhat important at the undergraduate level, depending on what you choose to study. If you decide to study for a Bachelor of Arts, it doesn't matter what university you go to. If you want to do Chemical Engineering, then The University of Cape Town is recognised as one of the best degrees. However, if you graduate with a Chemical Engineering degree from The University of Witwatersrand, you are unlikely to notice any adverse reaction from employers. The reality is that South Africa has a severe shortage of engineers in general. This means that the university name on the engineering certificate matters less, the education matter more. The differentiator at the undergraduate level is more about what you study rather than where you study. The science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) subjects are more widely accepted as good quality education than the arts subjects.

The next step on the learning ladder is postgraduate studies. Here I am going to focus on business education rather than specialised masters and PhD level studies. My area of expertise is in customised corporate business education. This business education level focuses on individuals who have several years of working experience and are ready for a management advancement programme or a master's in business administration. At this level, there is a significant change in the mindset of the student. While some students genuinely seek out the education, many are more interested in the "quality" of the certificate.

Two decades of experience teaching business finance at all levels of business school courses, I have polled thousands of students with the question "Why are you here?" The majority answer with "I need the certificate to advance my career". Most do not answer with "I need the education to advance my career". While you may be tempted to think that students are conflating education and certificate, I always explore further to check that. Many students say, "I will never use what I am learning here. I'm just here to get the certificate". This suggests that many employers promote and advance people simply because they "get the certificate" rather than because they can demonstrate better management, leadership, or business skills.

I have developed business education programmes for clients prepared to pay a 25% premium to have a business school issue a certificate. No oversight is required from the business school, or any other value adds other than the certificate. The reason given is that the delegates are not interested in attending unless they can get a certificate. The irony is that by paying the premium to add the certificate, the client increases the probability that their employee will use the certificate to facilitate their upward move to a competitor.
The key takeaway is that a customised, uncertified business development programme is more valuable than a certified one. Employees won't be able to use a certificate to market themselves to the competition, and employers are more likely to retain their newly skilled employees.

The Scary Prospect of Eskom’s Off-Balance Sheet Debt 

Article #86 - 4 October 2021

What was the first thing you thought of when you saw Eskom in the title of this article? Probably load-shedding. It was in January 2008 when we first heard that word. We were told of the lack of investment in generation capacity. Rumours also surfaced about how management had chosen to cut back on maintenance of critical equipment to hit profit targets and earn bonuses. Clearly, a system that has distorted incentives.

Thirteen years later and massive capital investment in generation capacity has required significant funding. Recently the media had been paying attention to the amount of debt that Eskom has taken on to fund the Capex investment.
In 2008, Eskom had R120 billion in assets. The capital structure was very close to 50% Debt, 50% Equity. This structure would be considered acceptable for an electrical utility. Nothing exceptional here if it weren’t for the insufficient capacity to supply electricity to meet the growing needs of South Africa.

In 2021, Eskom has R700 billion in assets. The capital structure is 68% Debt, 32% Equity. The long-term debt is more than double the amount of equity. Only a company with the debt guarantees backed by the state treasury could trade in this fragile position. One might argue that all this is necessary to build the electrical infrastructure that our country needs. Any other business would have required significant equity contributions to ensure an acceptable capital structure. Debt guarantees by the state could be seen as quazzi equity if not for the interest expense that comes with the debt. The good news is that 2021 is an improvement from last year’s capital structure of 73% Debt and 27% Equity.

In 2008, Eskom made a profit of a fraction less than R1 billion. In 2021, Eskom lost nearly R19 billion, which followed last year’s loss of R20 billion. The interest expense on the debt is R34 billion per annum. Eskom is a business that is in deep financial trouble. The infrastructure projects are far from completion, and there is a significant backlog in infrastructure upgrades across the system.

Eskom cannot take on more debt, but it has found a way around this problem. Eskom is putting pressure on its suppliers to take on debt on its behalf. Eskom is targeting suppliers that are providing equipment for infrastructure maintenance and upgrades. These projects have long term programmes that require installation and commissioning by the supplies of the equipment. Usually, payment for equipment would be made when it arrives on site and progress milestones would be set for installation and commissioning. That is, capital equipment is paid for upfront, and labour is paid for on completion milestones.

Eskom wants to pay for the capital equipment and the labour based on a single completion milestone. In other words, the supplier must fund the project and build the cost of funding into the price for payment on completion. That means the debt funding sits on the supplier’s balance sheet for the duration of the project. The supplier also takes on the debt and equipment ownership risk until the end of the project. This is the definition of off-balance sheet debt funding. As an outsider, you can’t see these contingent liabilities on Eskom’s balance sheet. This will likely show up as more expensive maintenance projects rather than more debt and increased interest charges. It doesn’t solve the R18 billion loss problem; it makes it worse.

How Business Schools are Falling into the Endowment Trap

Article #85 - 1 October 2021

This week I found myself returning to what I expected to be a lecture hall full of students. Live in front of an audience again. Since 2010 I have taught a Business Finance course at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs) on the Programme in Management Development. The class regularly has at least 50 delegates in attendance. I was looking forward to feeling the energy of a live, in-class audience. The last 18 months of online teaching have left me feeling somewhat unfulfilled and disconnected from my education passion.

Despite my excitement for being in front of a live audience again, I’m fearful that returning to the classroom will bring regression to an old way of being. One of the benefits of our forced migration into the digital world of online learning is that all my teaching content is now available in video form. Students can access the content in their own time and then attend a live webinar where we discuss and advance their learnings. This is the definition of blended learning. Part self-learning and part live in-class learning. The primary benefit of blended learning is that students spend less time away from work and family attending lecturers. The contact time with the lecturer is reduced. However, when students and lecturers do come together, the lecturer should stretch the students further with their learning due to the already acquired knowledge from the online content.

Despite feeling disconnected from students while hosting online webinars, the blended learning approach has worked well. If anything, it is a far more efficient use of my time. I am not spending hours teaching the same content over and over. It is a case of build once, sell many times. Students no longer must deal with the logistics of getting themselves to a live class at a business school. The problem for the business schools is they have lecture halls that are standing empty. This is an “endowment trap” (thank you, Sean Temlett, for your beautiful insight into this concept). An endowment trap is where an investment in infrastructure creates an obligation to use the infrastructure, even if it is not efficient or appropriate for the customer or user.

In early 2020 we were scrambling to understand how COVID would impact executive education. I watched with amusement when business schools told their customers that the forced innovation and transition to online learning was a better, more efficient way of delivering executive education. I am watching with amusement again as business schools have fallen into the endowment trap and are encouraging students to return to the classroom because it is a better way of learning. This is the return to the old way that I feared.

On returning to the classroom, I found just a handful of students in the lecture hall. 90% of the seats were empty. The classroom had been kitted out with a camera so that students could dial in and watch the lecture via Zoom. I immediately felt deflated. My experience of trying to teach to a live and online audience simultaneously is that each audience comes away feeling underwhelmed. Serving two masters means both are disappointed. I made it clear to both audiences that I intended to focus my teaching on the live audience in the room. Soon, I was back in the old groove, connecting with my live audience and reminded of why I love what I do. While I did try to include the online audience, I couldn’t make eye contact with any of them or even see their faces. I was looking at the students who were sitting right in front of me in the lecture hall.

On reflection, I too feel like I have fallen into the endowment trap. I found myself in the comfortable space of being in front of a live audience and returning to the old dance that I knew so well. It takes effort not to fall back into old habits. Engraining a new way of being requires constant attention.

Is DeFi Complicated? Here is a Simple Analogy

Article #84 - 30 September 2021

Decentralised finance (DeFi) uses applications and projects that are run on the back of public blockchain technology using smart contracts. Smart contracts are automated enforceable agreements that are concluded between parties via the internet. DeFi and smart contracts are used to facilitate lending, borrowing, and trading of financial tools and non-fungible tokens (NFT). Most Defi contacts are built on the Ethereum network. However, new networks that deliver speed, security and scalability are starting to emerge.
This new blockchain and smart contract technology can be overwhelming. The technical details of how it all works are well beyond the understanding of most people. The challenge is for it to be made easy to use, just like driving a car. You don’t need to understand how the carburettor works to be able to use a car.

While DeFi and smart contracts appear to be shiny and new, like most innovations, their origin is in some existing system that has been upgraded. I was recently reminded of a DeFi smart contract system in its original form. An explanation of its origins may make the new shiny version easier to understand.

I recently spent a night at a remote hotel while travelling with a group of trail runners. After a long day on the trails, we were parched, and we found ourselves in the bar seeking a cold ale to soothe our thirst. The bar used a smart contract system that they had relied on for decades. I remember first coming across the system back in the 1980s. Each guest was allocated a small booklet that had their chalet number written on the front cover. The booklet resided behind the bar and was used to record the drinks that you ordered over the time of your stay. The bartender was responsible for recording each purchase, and the guest scrawled their signature next to the book-entry as a form of contractual approval. At the end of the stay, the guest settled the balance via credit card or cash and the contract was closed.

Translated into the DeFi world, the bar was the platform that hosted the transaction mechanism (the booklet with the chalet number on it). The platform recorded the transactions of trade between the beer consumer and the bartender. After the event (project, contract), the sum of the trades was settled in ZAR. If agreed as part of the smart contract, any form of settlement (cash or crypto) could have been used. All these transactions took place between people speaking their chosen language. In Defi, transactions are concluded between members of the online platform using the language protocols of the applications that link to the platforms.

If I knew that a popular brand of beer was about to be sold out, I might have, for a small fee, acquired an option on the last six-pack. That transaction would have been recorded in the booklet. When my fellow runners realise their predicament, they might be prepared to buy my rights to the last six-pack. I could trade my six-pack beer option for a small profit. My profits on the option could be used to offset the cost of my beer consumption for the night. The contracts and the platform worked seamlessly in the background to facilitate the transactions.

Defi contracts are concluded without the need for a third party, no bartender is needed. All the security requirements and transacting protocols are pre-written and agreed upon before any transactions are entered. This is a whole new world of opportunities for value creation. If you can think about it, soon you will be able to trade it using a DeFi smart contract.

Are You Playing to Win or Are You Playing Not to Lose?

Article #83 - 29 September 2021

I am a regular listener of the Modern Wisdom Podcasts, and I subscribe to the weekly newsletter penned by the podcast host, Chris Williamson. In his latest newsletter, Chris asked the question that I have shamelessly stolen as the heading for this article, "are you playing to win or are you playing not to lose?"
This question resonated with me because it is closely connected to an insight that I heard last week. The insight came from Rob Hersov while being interviewed by Alec Hogg at the Biznews conference. Hersov observed why South Africans are so successful when they emigrate. He suggested that when South Africans emigrate, they resign themselves to never going back to live in South Africa. The umbilical cord is cut, and they choose to make a new life for themselves in a new country. Hersov noted that this is different to Australians, Brits and New Zealanders and other nationalities because they often have the mindset that they are going home one day. The all or nothing approach of South Africans means that they commit fully to making a new life in a new country.

This double punch from Williamson and Hersov got me thinking about my style of play. But I think there is more to this subject than what lies on the surface. I am tempted to try and answer this question not only for myself but also for the collective. By that, I mean, "is South Africa playing to win?"

This question prompts more questions. What game are we playing, and what does winning look like?

I will take the liberty of describing what I think the game is and what winning looks like. First, I will recognise my bias. I am a free-market capitalist, and I think education is the most important foundation for building a self-sufficient life. Part of a self-sufficient life is being employed or owning a business that is profitable and employs others. The game is one of free-market trade. That is the right to engage in commerce for the benefit of oneself and others.

Winning looks like an economy that can accommodate the needs of its citizens for them to be self-sufficient. That is an economy that grows with its population and provides full employment. Business owners need to be assured of a free-market environment that is competitive and based on meritocracy. Not an environment that is subject to race-based policies and the risk of property expropriation. The overreach of socialist redistribution policies is a red flag to capital investors. It is, after all, the capital investors that create employment, not the government.

Participants in the free market should be sufficiently educated. Being educated means knowing how the game is played. Unfortunately, our schooling system is an abysmal failure in this regard.
Back to the question at hand. Is there a winning environment for the game of commerce and trade in South Africa? Are we preparing the payers to engage in this environment so that they can fend for themselves and thrive? I would argue that South Africa is not playing to win. South Africa is not even playing not to lose. It looks to me like we are intentionally playing to lose.

The only conclusion is that those with political power and influence are playing a completely different game. It appears that the politician’s game is to achieve a shrinking economy with ever-higher unemployment. Thus, making the citizens more reliable on monthly grant handouts and government patronage in exchange for their vote. This is what playing to lose looks like.
If South Africa wants to change from "playing to lose" to "playing to win", the only option is to fire the management team.

I Want to Be Part of The Solution in South Africa

Article #82 - 28 September 2021

I am a pragmatist and a realist. I am a South African, and I am an optimist. I am nearly 50 years old, and South Africa is in my blood. I earn my living in South Africa, and everything I own is invested in South Africa. I am proud to be a South African, and so much about South Africa fills me with joy. I was born and bred in South Africa, and I am emotionally committed to this country.

Unfortunately, there is so much about South Africa about which I feel sad and angry. I am a free market capitalist, an entrepreneur, and a businessperson. Making a profit and creating value for myself and others comes naturally to me. However, the socialist, corrupt, and incompetent ANC government has made it clear that I am not welcome in their world of transformation and economic redistribution. Economic growth and profitable, sustainable business are seen as the enemy. Extortion and theft by connected elites is the stock in trade of the ANC government.

Big business chooses to toe the party line. To cross the line and criticise the ANC government has often resulted in dire consequences. I am reminded of Tony Trahar’s (then CEO of Anglo American, circa 2004) remarks about political risk in South Africa. His comments about declining political risk under Thabo Mbeki’s government was met with a metaphoric backhanded slap from Mbeki. Just the association of the ANC and political risk was enough to raise the ire of the ruling party. Trahar received a very public admonishing from Mbeki. More recently, Johann Rupert got a strong backlash for speaking openly about the monopoly behaviour of State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) and their mostly bankrupt status. Since then, he has almost entirely refrained from saying anything about South Africa in public.

In a recent Biznews conference, Rob Hersov was vocal in his criticism of the ANC and the “morons” in charge. Hersov shared a list of wealthy South Africans who have all left South Africa and taken their riches with them. The prudent thing to do given the economic decline over the last decade. Big business and the wealthy have always had the benefit of global mobility. When things get difficult, they move on. Many large South African companies have moved their operations out of the country and redirected their focus to capture foreign revenues to get out from under the redistributive policies of black economic empowerment.

There are many lessons from history about what happens when governments decline into kleptocracy and incompetence and become “un-investable”, to use the words of Rob Hersov. Those with significant resources and wealth either leave or find ways of circumventing the policies that perpetuate the decline. We cannot rely on them to speak out or stand up against the state. Even Hersov, tongue in cheek, suggested that those around him must look out for the crosshairs because of his open criticism of the ANC.
If big businesses and those with wealth and influence are not going to stand up for South Africa and be part of the solution, then who is?

My mission is as an educator. I am working towards creating a world of learning and understanding so that others can achieve their greatness. I am unlikely to achieve all that is needed in my lifetime. That won’t stop me from working towards my mission every day. My speciality is in the world of business performance, value creation and finance. Whenever I find myself in front of an audience, I help them find their way to learning about and understanding more about themselves and how they engage with the world of business, finance, and money.

I don’t have the power and influence of big business, but I have a voice, and I am taking action. I will stand next to anyone who wants to stand up for a South Africa that embraces meritocracy, free-market capitalism, and the right to choose with whom we do business.

South Africa’s Path to Growth and Prosperity is Through Hidden Champions and Community Banking

Article #81 - 27 September 2021

Every day we hear about the low growth rate in South Africa. We hear about our high unemployment numbers and that no job opportunities are being created for the youth. We hear about how our best exports are taxpayers. The wealthy are leaving, and there is no capital inflow into South Africa. This environment has been created by the ANC government and their central planning socialist ideology.

There is a path out of this socio-economic place of doom and gloom. Unfortunately, the status quo bureaucracy will never find that path. Our government is incapable of looking beyond its borders for proven solutions that have worked elsewhere. As service delivery continues to decline and communities refuse to hand over money to bankrupt municipalities, independent enclaves will take matters into their own hands. These enclaves are communities that choose to isolate themselves from the failing state. These communities will form parallel services that the government is failing to deliver. The irony is that the ultimate failure of the state might be the burning ember that lights the path to recovery.

Countries like Germany, Japan, and China have, at different times, experienced significant and sustainable growth because of "Hidden Champion" type businesses. A Hidden Champion is an SME business that has very little recognition outside of its market. These companies are not multi-national businesses with globally recognised brands. Hidden Champions are well known to their customers and suppliers and often specialises in niche markets where they are top 3 competitors in their markets. These types of businesses produce products and services that are highly valued in their communities. They innovate to stay ahead, and they regularly invest in new technology to remain relevant. Many successful Hidden Champion businesses are family-owned, export their products and are highly specialised. Hidden Champions are often integrated into their customer's supply chain to mitigate the risk of being single-product businesses.

Hidden Champion businesses often pose an excessive risk to the large commercial banks. Risk-averse commercial banks would rather finance the purchase of existing assets which can act as security for loans. Family-owned, specialised SME businesses that create products and services present a level of risk to banks that require specialist skills to understand the risk. Hidden Champions have been most successful in environments where there are small, specialist community banks to support their growth. Germany, Japan, and China come up top of this list. The correlation between Hidden Champions and community banking is high, suggesting that the two go hand in hand.

The barriers to entry in the banking sector in South Africa are extraordinarily high. Hence the market is dominated by a few big players. In the context of community banking, this is not about transactional service but local community lending to SME businesses. This is a form of banking that doesn't require a traditional banking license. This type of community banking requires specialist business acumen and risk mitigation lending skills. Of course, community banks need capital too. They also need capital providers who understand the context of community banking.

The are many government policy barriers to building community-based banks and businesses. A brave few will embrace a decentralised community (or enclave) style of business investment without supporting government policy. Even a Hidden Champion that sells exclusively to foreign markets needs electricity and water that can only come from the government monopoly supply source. If our decline into the socialist malaise continues, we will have to stand up and embrace the enclave mentality. The only other alternative is that the last one out turns the lights off if they are still on.

What If I Chose This Life?

Article #80 - 23 September 2021

My friends and I are sitting around playing a board game. This is not your average board game. This board game exists in another dimension and goes by the name of “You Choose”. It is a game where you get to choose the life you want to live on this earth.

My friend Eric shouts out, “next time, I am going to choose the life of a rock ‘n roll guitarist!” Mark looks up at Eric and says, “why not try the Irish gig? I had a hoot on my last go-round with that one. This time I think I’m up for a go at the Aussie rules football pro. What say you guys?”

Sean looked puzzled. He muttered out loud, “I’ve lived so many different lives in this game, I can’t make up my mind between trying out the life of a president or a pauper. I recon the pauper option might test me. Has anyone else had a go at that one?”

David was thinking about a radical departure from his last few choices. “This time, I’m going to be a successful investor who makes money,” he said with conviction.

“I’m going to go with the random life generator option this time around” I announced to the group. “I’m done with choosing my life challenges. This time, I’m leaving everything to chance. I’ll deal with whatever comes my way”. Sean looked at me knowingly, “you know that isn’t going to be any different. If you don’t choose what you want from life, the algorithm will choose it for you. We can never tell the difference anyway”.

In this other dimension where we play the board game of You Choose, we get to choose more than just the life we want to live. We choose every detail, right down to the date of our death - how it will happen and every event from birth until the end. In this other-dimensional game of You Choose, the incentive is to choose new challenges to face in your life on earth. The newbies all choose the perceived easy life options when they start. They choose the trust fund kid, the Queen of England and other royalty options. Other favourites are the multiple lottery winner or the sports star. But once they have had a few turns, they add in the hard stuff to challenge themselves. The rules of the game are simple:

1. You are born, and you must die. You can choose the dates.
2. You can choose anything you want in between, even your parents.
3. When the game starts at birth, you have no knowledge of the game or what you have chosen.

Life presents itself as life does. It appears completely random. The strongest sperm won the race. You are born to the parents you chose this time around. The bully at school, you chose him. You even picked out his hair colour. Your parents died and your business went bankrupt. You overcame all the hardship to live a happy, rewarding life as a missionary in a faraway land. You die in the arms of the person you love. You chose all of it and arrived back at the board game to choose again. A bit like riding a roller coaster over and over, except you get to design it each time.

What if you changed your perspective on life? What if, no matter the circumstances you are facing, you said to yourself, “I chose this for myself”. Picture yourself sitting around the board game, having played the game of life many times, and choosing the most demanding challenge possible.

Notice how you feel about that. Is your instinctive reaction to say, “no way, I would never choose this”? Or are you feeling a sense of empowerment, “ok, If I chose this for myself, then I am going to play my hand the best I can”? You don’t know the truth, so why not choose the perspective through which you see life?

Second Guessing the Value of Valuation

Article #79 - 22 September 2021

I find the languages, practices, and traditions of communities a fascinating subject. I am not an anthropologist, in the strictest sense of the definition. I don’t earn a living studying human behaviour. However, I am a member of several different communities, and I like to watch the human behaviour in these communities. Tongue in cheek, I call myself a Valueologist. I am part of a community that analyses businesses performance and calculates the value of businesses. I also invest in companies with the intent of earning returns that are more than the market average.

The investment community uses several tools to calculate the value of a business. The calculated value is compared to the market price to determine if a company represents an investment opportunity. Many assumptions about the future of a business form the inputs of the valuation tools. A discounted cashflow valuation (DCF) is a popular tool used by the investment community to value a company.

The DCF has a standard set of principles that guide its use. Let’s call these the language, practises and traditions of the investment community. If everyone is speaking the same language and following the same practices, then the outcomes from a DCF should fit into a normal distribution. The variance in the distribution should be explained by the different assumptions and biases of the community members using the DCF tool. The average of all the valuation calculations from everyone’s DCF should be the consensus value. The obvious problem is that we can’t collect that data from all the DCF spreadsheets on different investors computers. The next best option is to look at the market price. In theory, the market price should reflect the outcomes of all the investors DCF calculations.

There are a few problems. Not everyone is buying shares with the intent to earn long term returns. Traders are looking to make short term profits, and they buy and sell without any concern or need for a DCF valuation. Some entities will buy and sell shares at any price to hedge their derivative products. There are also liquidity issues where a share doesn’t trade for extended periods, so the market value can become distorted. All of these “problems” create opportunities to exploit the differences between the value and the price.

It is somewhat like a poker game. Every player has their hand of cards, which they hold close to their chest. The problem is that you can’t see the player across the table. You can’t read their body language to figure out what they are up to. In the market, you must read the signals based on trading volume and price. You might also know “the game they play” based on who they are. Pension funds, banks and asset managers generally have a style of play. There are so many signals to interpret, it’s not surprising we find ourselves second-guessing our efforts and questioning the tools we use.

What use is the DCF valuation tool? There are so many different assumptions about the future that affect the DCF calculation. There are several different investing styles. We are all biased in some way, and our incentives are not aligned.

It appears to me that the moment you are sure of anything in this game is the moment you have been outplayed, second-guessing is the name of the game.

Here is Why Politicians will Lose and Entropy will Win

Article #78 - 21 September 2021

Entropy is often interpreted as a degree of disorder or randomness in a system. The term is mostly used in the context of thermodynamics. I will use some poetic license and explore entropy as the force that politicians are desperately trying to oppose.

The nature of politicians is to centralise their power in the form of a government that imposes its rule over people. Over time governments’ get bigger and become less efficient and get worse at the task they set out to do. The response by politicians is to create more government. The inevitable spiral of decline follows.

An analogy for entropy is my garage at home. After a thorough cleaning and organising, I promise myself that I will keep it that way. Over time, as items get used and new “I might need this sometime” items get added, my garage descends into chaos. A management consultant would diagnose that the chaos comes about due to the lack of an ongoing management system. I should implement policies and procedures and carry out a training programme for all those who interact with items in the garage. This is all just a fancy way of saying that a certain amount of energy needs to be applied continuously to keep my garage tidy. The alternative is to spend a large amount of energy doing a regular clean out. The trade-off in the short term is I don’t need to spend any energy to plonk an item down in the most convenient place.

A government solution to my garage might look something like this. Appoint a committee to investigate “the challenge of ever-increasing underutilisation of competing shelf space for items of consequence in daily life”. The sophisticated nature of the title will ensure that a sufficient budget is allocated, and experts are incentivised to provide testimony at the committee hearings. After several extensions of the deadline and increases in the budget, the committee will conclude its work to start formulating the report detailing its findings. Once the multi-part report is complete and the accompanying annexures and submitted, the report will be passed on to the relevant authorities to consider further action. The report, like many others, will gather dust in some official’s office. Due to the official being suspended on full pay for allegations of impropriety, no action will be taken.

The incentive for me to tidy my garage from time to time is to have a safe place to park my car with easy access to it and the surrounding shelves. I own the space, and I am ultimately responsible for it.

The problem of entropy is exponentially worse in the public space. There is no “ownership”, and responsibility for upkeep is in the hands of the “acting” official who has been temporarily appointed while the suspended official is being investigated. Just about any public service can be substituted for my garage example when in the hands of a government. Think, health care, schooling, policing, transport. The degree of entropy in these systems is horrifying.

Market response to what we commonly call government failure is a decentralised private alternative. The government’s response to this is to regulate the private market “for the protection” of the people from the profiteering capitalists.

The next step is a level of decentralisation and transparency in distributed ledger systems and “private” currencies that governments will never be able to regulate. Bitcoin and other cryptos are the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath the water of decentralised services will eventually reveal itself to sink any government’s ambitions of centralised control. It will happen slowly and then suddenly.

You Don’t Have to Have Everything Sorted,
Just The Things That Matter

Article #77 - 20 September 2021

In the game of life, there is always a new lesson to learn and an insight to discover. After all, to level up, you need to find the next productivity bonus, which means being open to discovering it. In a world where there is so much to be done, prioritising what matters is important.

When thinking about the things that matter, I am reminded of a finance lecture I developed several years ago. The lecture was for a group of directors of listed companies on the JSE's Alt-X exchange. Many of the attendees were also directors of mainboard companies. The Alt-X exchange required them to attend a series of lectures, mostly on surveillance and JSE trading regulations. My finance lecture was a half-day session strapped on the end. The lecture series ran more than a dozen times over a year. After the first cohort, I realised that the course was a grudge purchase for the execs, and no one was interested in being there. I decided to make a few tweaks to my lecture to see if I could get the uninterested execs to look up from their newspapers. I introduced a theatrical piece on identifying the financial priorities in a business.

My theatre was more about getting attention than about teaching finance principles. In today's marketing language, my theatre was designed to be a "hook" to grab attention. Once I had hooked them, I knew that they would be open to a good story.

I used several props for my stage act. The props included a handful of golf balls from my practice bag, a small bucket of bunker sand, a large clear container, and my driver (1 wood) from my golf bag. Arriving in the classroom to deliver a finance lecture with all these items in hand was enough to spike anyone's curiosity.

The abridged version of my story was to fill the container with golf balls, sand, and water. The golf balls had to go in first and represented the important financial principles. The sand went in second; it filled the gaps between the golf balls and represented the business's operations. The water, from the jug on the podium, went in last and represented the marketing. The water filled the remaining space between the sand and the golf balls.

The moral of the story is the important elements that matter have to go in first. These are BIG THINGS in life, and in the case of my in-class demonstration, the key financial metrics of business performance. If you try and put the sand and the water in first, the golf balls won't fit.

There is a parallel to be drawn from my financial theatrics. There are so many tasks in business and life that make their way onto the to-do list. As soon as an item is complete, there is another to take its place. We all know about the importance of prioritisation. This story takes prioritisation a step further. It is about the framework in which you operate, not the order of operations. Take the time to develop a list of the things that matter in your life. Get those clear and dedicate your efforts to doing those well. In the end, it's all connected. The financial metrics show the effectiveness of the operations and marketing.

What is your list of metrics that represent the performance of your life?

Why It's Important to Know Where the Finish Line is

Article #76 - 17 September 2021

Knowing where the finish line is, was one of the constraints I wrote about in the last Just in Time article (Article #75). The constraints of the Just in Time articles have several downsides. One of the trade-offs is that sometimes an element of an article needs further explanation, which is not possible given the word count limit.

There is probably a whole field of psychology dedicated to this subject about which I know nothing. I won’t pretend to be an expert. However, I have plenty of anecdotal experience about the importance of knowing where the finish line is before you start a project. Here is an obvious example. A project may involve training for a race. Training for a marathon versus training for the Comrades Marathon are two vastly different endeavours. Not only is the physical exertion different, but the psychological preparation is different.

The mind will subconsciously prepare for the event that you have defined. Hence, the importance of defining it, which is a type of constraint. It is common to run a 60 km “long-run” about six weeks before Comrades. I remember feeling so exhausted after such a run; I said to myself, “how am I ever going to run 90 km?” The key difference was that my brain had only prepared me for 60 km and not 90 km. Comparing the two was flawed thinking. Also missing was the hype of the actual event, which adds a whole new dimension to the psychology of running 90 km. I assert that subconscious preparation is as important as physical preparation.
I would argue that preparing for a running event that involves just one person is significantly easier than a project that involves a team of people. Adding people to a project has an exponential impact on complexity. Constraints become even more important. Knowing what a finished project with a successful outcome looks like is probably the most important constraint. Many will know this as defining the scope. If you have worked on projects that suffer from scope creep, you will know about the anxiety that comes from moving the finish line. Imagine getting to Drumond, the halfway point of Comrades, and learning that the finish has moved 10 km further.

I spent several years in the commercial construction sector as a project manager. Managing a professional team to complete a complex construction project is a highly sort after skill. The tangible nature of a construction project makes it fairly easy to define the scope. You can at least see a picture of what is planned. My recent experience in managing projects like the development of online corporate education learning systems has exposed me to the complexities of managing projects that are intangible. This is a world where it is difficult to see the finished product in the form of an architectural drawing.

There comes a time when an extraordinary effort is required to get the project to completion. Running a race is no different. A Comrades runner knows that when they get to Polly Short on the up run, it is time to dig deep, knowing that the finish line is just over the hill and down the other side. If you need to inspire your team to pull together and drive a project to completion, the inspiration of being able to celebrate at the finish line can only serve you if everyone knows how much effort is required to get there. Knowing that you are close to the finish line can also unlock reserves of energy that you didn’t know you or your team had.

How Constraints Can Help Your Creativity

Article #75 - 16 September 2021

Have you ever sat down to do a piece of work and found yourself staring at the blank page, not knowing what to do next? This is a common problem for those on the creative treadmill of developing content regularly. This problem is not only reserved for regular content creators. Perhaps you need to write an important business email and you can't find the right words. It might be a university assignment that you have been procrastinating on. Some might call it writer's block.

I'm reminded of the work of Jocko Willink. One of his many books is called "Discipline Equals Freedom". He explores, amongst many topics, how financial discipline can bring about financial freedom. Another example is to have disciplined time management so that you can create free time. Discipline implies constraints. The constraints are the boundaries or rules that one uses to focus the mind.
Recently, I have spent time observing closely how my thinking mind operates. I have observed how my mind does not always complete a line of thinking. My mind jumps to another subject, picks up a new thread, and is off down a rabbit hole. In conversation with others, I have discovered that I am not unique when it comes to the challenges of trying to focus my mind on a specific subject.

Here are some tips and tricks that I use every day to help me with my creative discipline. There is an element of ritual that acts as a trigger to get my mind tuned into the important task at hand.

Tip #1: Allocate a specific slot in your diary that is reserved for your creative pursuit. This is especially important if you are a regular creator. You may be tempted to say, "but I have to be creative all day". If you look closely, you may be saying that to avoid being constrained to a specific time block. That is the point; constraint creates focus. Do your best to remove all distractions during this time, especially those message and email notifications that will tempt you away from the important task.

Tip #2: Develop a structure or a framework in which your creativity can be held. That is like pouring water into a flask. If there is no container, you end up with an uncontrolled mess. The best example I can give is the construct of this page. There is a border, a heading, an article number and date, and a space holder for a picture. These "easy wins" create a framework, which is the constraint, to hold the creative content. These easy wins apply to most work products, a letter and assignment or a new presentation. Getting them done first helps you feel like the task is well underway and creates momentum for the creative process to follow.

Tip #3: Know where the finish line is when you start. An open-ended task is overwhelming. Being overwhelmed dilutes the creative flow. The borderline at the bottom of this page or the 250-word count is the finish line.

The three constraints of TIME, STRUCTURE and LENGTH (finish line) will act as the container into which your creative content can flow. The ritual of doing this will trigger your creative ability. Over time you will produce better and better content.

A final tip is a LOCATION. That is the place where you do your creative work. The ritual of going to the same place at the same time, every day, acts as a series of triggers to unlock your creative floodgates.

How Momentum Shows Up In Markets

Article #74 - 14 September 2021

In September 2019, the first “Just in Time” article was published in the form of a Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) market momentum report. The principle of market momentum measures how far market price moves in relation to a moving average. A large percentage price movement away from a moving average suggests that there is price momentum. Market momentum signals present opportunities to exploit price changes for profit.
Long term momentum is a valuable indicator to help investors allocate capital to markets. The chart to the left represents the weekly price of the All-Share Index (J203) since 2007. Notice the long upward trend from post-2008 until August 2014, where the price is consistently above the moving average lines. From August 2014 until March 2020, the market largely moves sideways where the moving averages and price track each other closely.
The chart above represents the same price data in the form of a momentum chart. The chart illustrates the data as a percentage measurement away from the 36-month moving average. Notice the upward momentum trend that ends in August 2014. A long-term downward trend ensues. Recently, in November 2020, the market broke the downward momentum trend. The breakout represented the right time to increase exposure to the All-Share index. However, the momentum has stalled. One might say, “too much, too soon”. The momentum stretch is not at all-time highs, but it is somewhat stretched. Reversion to the mean is likely. That will show up as a passing of time with little change in price or a decline in price back to the 0% level. Either way, my crystal ball suggests there are unlikely any significant market gains in the short term until year-end.

What I Discovered by Testing My Body

Article #73 - 13 September 2021

We need energy to live. The human body is not that different to a battery cell in that it is continually charging and discharging as we go about everyday life. Generally, food, water and sleep are the requirements needed to recharge. As a rule, the human body needs 1,200 calories per day. That is the equivalent of about four hamburgers per day. Each of us may have a specific formula suited to our personal needs to get those calories. Some may favour protein, while others prefer a more plant-based option. Of course, let's not forget the carbs. The key is to find out what works best for you.

I recently tested my body on a trail run where I burnt as much as 3,000 calories before lunchtime over four consecutive days. I would say that I ran my batteries flat each day. Perhaps not to zero but at least below the 20% mark where your cell phone gives you a "low battery" warning.
I don't need any liquids or foods on any normal Sunday run of about 20km or 2 hours of exercise. After the run, I don't hold back. Water, coffee, sometimes even coke to get some fast sugar, and all is good. But during my recent 4-day trail excursion, I was very aware of the impact of longer distances and times, combined with the multi-day impact.

What I enjoy the most about testing the physical endurance capability of my body by taking it to places it doesn't often go is what I learn about myself when I get there. There is so much to find out. I am most aware of my mental state of mind and the conversation I have with myself when fatigued and under strain. That conversation is largely driven by the status of my physical strength or battery level. There is a constant mental algorithm running that balances distance with energy levels and muscle fatigue. The output of the algorithm translates into running speed. Fortunately, I didn't find myself in any level of pain or discomfort that required me to make significant adjustments to my regular operating programme. However, past experiences have taught me that slowing down doesn't make the pain go away; it just makes it last longer. Unless, of course, you chose to stop and quit. But that induces a whole other type of mental pain.

On this occasion, I was able to stay within my comfort zone. But I did discover something that got me thinking. Each day I was very aware of my refuelling, resting and recovery process. I needed to be able to perform the next day. At no stage did I run my battery completely flat, so I had the mental capacity to remain alert to what my body needed.

At the end of last year, I finished the year with what I can only describe as a flat battery. A challenging year that resulted in a level of mental fatigue that I had never experienced before and a feeling of being burnt out. I didn't apply my running algorithm to my work/life race. The conversation that I was having with myself was about quitting the race (nothing dramatic) rather than about how to refuel myself to race better. The irony is that the time taken to test my body on a multi-day trail run has been the fuel that I needed to race better in the work/life race.

How To Get Unstuck

Article #72 - 10 September 2021

If you have ever been stuck, then you will know how frustrating it is. Being stuck means you can't move. The literal version of being stuck is when your Land Rover gets stuck in the mud, and you must use your friends Subaru to pull you out. The figurative version of being stuck is not knowing what to do next. You might be stuck on a micro issue of not knowing what clothes to wear to an important function. On a macro level, being stuck may be about making a significant life decision, like changing careers, getting married, starting a family, or ending a relationship.

The main reason for getting stuck in life is that the different paths present themselves as being fraught with risk or pain. When trying to weigh up the pay-off versus the cost of making an important choice, and the marginal upside is unclear, then the choice becomes harder. We never get stuck when the upside to making a choice is clear.

One of the most significant factors to getting stuck is when your decisions affect other people, especially when the impact on others will result in them getting hurt. Making hard choices that only involve ourselves are generally easier to make. The fallout from making a bad choice or taking a high-risk path will only impact you. My reasoning is that I am resilient, and I will be ok. But when the implications are further reaching, that means others may suffer. Consciousness around the consequences of the intended and unintended outcomes of our choices is a tremendous responsibility. People who understand this responsibility are the ones who are more likely to find themselves feeling stuck.
Time-series studies of business executives who had to make hard choices reveal interesting insights. An interview with an executive of a multi-national business revealed a "major dilemma" that was causing "a great deal of stress". When interviewed six months later, the executive could hardly remember the major dilemma from before, saying, "that was nothing compared to what I am dealing with now". The reality is that our current problems are always our biggest problems. Once we have solved a problem and left it behind us, the issue's significance is greatly reduced.

One way to help get unstuck is to "time travel" several months into the future and visualise what life might look like having made the difficult choice. This should be done with the help of a friend who can assist you with the visualisation process. The purpose here is to look at the problem as if it is in the rear-view mirror and benefit from the passing of time. The outcome is that you may be able to get some perspective of the size of the dilemma and the extent to which your choice might impact yourself and others.

What I Learned While Exploring the
 Edge of My Comfort Zone

Article #71 - 9 September 2021

Training for an event can, for many people, be a slog. Cold, dark winter mornings, wearing gloves and beanies, and dodging potholes can test the systems. Many feel stressed about their recovery from big training days. They question if they have the right diet, and there is always the lingering fear of getting injured. I am fortunate that I don’t suffer from any of this. My routine is dialled in, and it works. Nearly three years of running every day have allowed me to understand how my body operates.

I’ve tested different variables over time. For example, what happens when I run faster? What happens when I ramp the mileage? What happens when I do both at the same time? What about more hills? What if I fast for 24 hours before running? What if I don’t drink coffee before a run? What happens when I drink alcohol the night before running? What if I eat too much red meat before running? What happens if I eat during a run? What refuels me the fastest? How much mileage can I do in a pair of shoes before my muscles start to feel stressed? What happens if I alternate shoes every day? I know all the answers to these questions.
The unanswered questions are those that exist on the edge and outside of my bubble. The problem is that going to the edge of the bubble doesn’t happen that often. That means I spend too much time in my comfort zone. It is too easy. Too much easy gets boring.

Over the last week, I had the opportunity to visit the outer edge of my running bubble. Before going there, I was anxious about what I would find, but I was excited at the prospect of finding some answers to a few nagging questions. I wanted to know how I would feel after running 150 km of rugged trail in a week. More specifically, I wanted to know if I could run the third 50 km as well as I ran the first 50 km. On the fourth day of a trail running adventure, I found myself at the outer reaches after running for four hours and having passed the 30km mark for the day. While my energy levels were dwindling and my legs were fatigued, I found myself feeling a mixture of joy and sadness. I felt joy for having just about completed a fantastic adventure and sadness because it was about to end. I was not ready for it to end.

What I discovered is the edge of my bubble is further than I expected. On reflection, I knew that. We are all capable of so much more than we think we are. I have seen this play out many times before. I find myself asking where else in my life I need to stretch myself to visit the outer reaches of what I am capable of?

Reflections on Completing a Bucket List Item

Article #70 - 8 September 2021

I spent many years going on holiday with my family to the Wild Coast. We went to the same place every year, and it was always a time of fun and excitement. The magic of this remote wild country got into my blood. I always imagined that I would go back and explore more of it. As an adult, I heard tales of long walks over many days from one Transkei hotel to the next. I said to myself that I would do that one day.

As I have embraced my love for running and being fit and healthy, I developed a passion for trail running in recent years. My desire to walk the Wild Coast transformed into a bucket list dream to run it. I had heard stories of the Wild Run and listened to the experiences of others who had spent several days running the hilltops and beaches of this remote wilderness. When the opportunity to do a trail run from Morgan Bay to Hole in The Wall presented itself, I did not hesitate to grab it.

The experience was everything that I expected it to be and more. I now have one big tick next to that item on my bucket list. The problem is that I am now feeling a deep sadness that it is over. The high has passed. I am left with the memories. The anxiety I feel is based on a fear that I might forget all the details. There was so much to take in, already parts of the picture in my mind are starting to fade. It is like a beautiful piece of artwork standing in the sun, and the paint is beginning to melt and run down the canvas. I am resisting getting back to some of my daily routines for fear that it will reinforce that this incredible experience is over.
In an attempt to preserve the memories and burn them into my brain, I have been collating the many photographs that were taken on the journey. I have been trying to connect the pictures to the locations and capture the emotions of the experience. It feels I have woken from a dream. A dream that I didn’t want to end and now I am trying to tie the fragments together. I feel like I want to go back to sleep and pick up the story where it ended. I find myself craving part 2 of the story.

As I drink my morning after coffee and reflect on what has passed, there is a spark of inspiration. A part of me is proud that I was able to tackle this trail run challenge in a way that affirmed my fitness and abilities as a runner. I ran hard, at times, I ran fast, I held nothing back. I tested my abilities, and each time I felt strong, I didn’t want it to end. My sadness comes from the fact that this experience has ended. My inspiration comes from knowing that there will be another.

I am inspired to train harder, get even stronger, run faster, and be better. I am not sure what the new goal will be or what the next great trail run adventure will look like, but they will reveal themselves. Until then, #runeveryday!

The Incredible Beauty of the Wild Coast

Article #69 - 7 September 2021

Value presents itself in many forms. It is unique to each of us, and we perceive value through our lens. Property values are influenced by their proximity to services such as schools and shopping centers. The quality of the view also influences property value. A property with a sea view often fetches a higher price than one without a view. Ultimately, one must make trade-offs against several valuable characteristics.

In selecting a holiday destination, similar trade-offs are required. Travel time and proximity to entertainment facilities are important considerations. The Durban North coast is easily accessible. There are plenty of activities like golf courses and shopping centers for families to enjoy. There is also a high population density which for some is a good thing. But, for those seeking a quieter option, one might have to travel further to find solitude. This is another trade-off.
Last week I travelled a long way to find the most remote, isolated, and pristine coastline in South Africa. I visited parts of the Transkei Wild Coast that can only be accessed on foot. No vehicle can get to some of these hilltop footpaths, where the traffic consists of local fishermen on route to the next headland. The trade-off to get there was to run several hours along rough and wild terrain. The pay-off for getting there is more than words or photographs can do justice to.

I experienced a place of unique beauty. Beaches extend as far as the eye can see. Rockey headlands with crashing waves. Clifftop paths that wind their way from one hidden beach to the next. Hardly a footprint in the sand except for the Jackal prints from the night before. The waves filled with dolphins surfing the white waters. Passing whales that show themselves in flashes as they break the water for air.

On one occasion while making our way across a valley, away from the sounds of the sea, we paused our journey to listen. We stood still; the noise of footsteps suspended for a moment. There was nothing to hear. It was as if the birds and the crickets went quiet. The wind died, and there was silence. Dead still. To steal a phrase…”the sound of silence”. It was mesmerising.

This is a part of South Africa that is suitably named the “Wild Coast”. Its remoteness is what preserves it. The value of the experience of being there is equal to the size of the trade-off to get there. In the case of the Wild Coast, the views and isolation are the characteristics of its value. The result is a part of the country preserved in its pristine way as it was hundreds of years ago, and hopefully, it will remain so for many hundreds more.

Living in a Bubble

Article #68 - 6 September 2021

I live in a world of connectivity, communication, and almost non-stop input from a mobile device. Email, WhatsApp, SMS messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, podcasts, phone calls, television, radio, news, you name it, it is part of my daily data diet. For the last week, I have been far away from the connected world and all these inputs. I spent my days running along the most beautiful and pristine coastline in the world. My days were filled with activities that were much more engaging and rewarding than anything that could come from my mobile device. Now that I have arrived back in the real world, I am thinking about how I want to engage differently with this medium.

After this week's detox diet of no online content, only awesome sea views, and making new friends, I feel remarkably free. My brain feels less cluttered and more at ease. Perhaps this is the feeling of less stress or simply the benefit of a "holiday". However, little rest was going on during my week of remoteness. I ran 150 km this week and pushed my body a lot further than I have in a long time.

My week of living in a bubble away from the "real" world was an eye-opening and learning experience about my body's basic energy needs. Each day I ran my "battery" down from full to empty. I ran for between 3 and 5 hours per day for four days, and I discovered that my body operates very similar to a mobile device. Watching the battery level decline and then drop below that 20% level is stressful. Like the phone, my body can keep going, but I am thinking about preserving as much energy as possible. While running, I nibbled at bits and pieces to keep the energy levels topped so as not to completely run out of juice before the daily finish line. By the time the running expedition for each day came to an end, my battery was at the 5% level. Nearly flat and in need of recharging. The recharging was more like a refueling. I named it "feeding the machine".

Feeding the machine is what it says. It involves getting as many calories into the system as fast as possible. This includes re-hydration mixtures, sugar, and my all-time favourite post-run hamburger and chips. This is closely followed by beer and then sleep. A refueling process is best done while hearing the stories and adventures of fellow runners. Some hearty laughter at their expenses is also required. Rinse and repeat for several days, and you have the making of an epic running adventure.

I am aware of the conscious choice I made to participate in extraordinary activities during this week of adventure that meant I did not need my usual diet of online content. My choice of activities required me to engage with the world as our ancestors might have, long before we started staring at a mobile device. Eat, sleep, hunt (in this case run), socialise, repeat—a very simple way of living and very rewarding.
My real learning here is that I can survive just fine, in fact, way better without the constant intake of social media, news and other related data. Here is to a better data diet back in the real world.

In Anticipation of Trail Running from 
Morgan Bay to Hole in The Wall  

Article #67 - 31 August 2021

While growing up, I went on holiday every year to a small hotel on the Transkei Wild Coast. That hotel is called Trennery’s. When I think of the fantastic memories I have from my holiday experiences as a teenager, I get goosebumps. I haven’t been back for a long time.

Having experienced the beauty of the Wild Coast, I have for a long time wanted to explore more of its wild shores. Several years ago, I had to decline an invitation to run from Port St Johns to Kei Mouth. I was not fit enough. The day I phoned my friend Ben to tell him that I could not be part of his adventure, I promised to get fit. I wanted to get fit enough so when the invitation came again, I wouldn’t have to think twice, I would be ready to go.

In February, I saw a message on my local running group that the Pirate’s running club was organising a wild coast trial run. I was in. I phoned my running mates to gather up a crew of fellow runners. After the usual back and forth, it was just Bruce and me. We were booked to run in the first week of September. It seemed so far away.

We have been grinding away the training miles all through winter. We have been running 80 – 100 km a week. On the dark mornings, we pitch up in gloves and headlamps. We charged and recharged our headlamps an uncountable number of times. We have run dozens of half marathons as part of our Sunday long runs. We have run up and down the Braamfontein Spruit with camel packs of food and water. We are ready, and the time has come.
We start our running adventure from Morgan Bay. The first seven kilometres along the coastal path past the lighthouse will take us to the infamous motorised pontoon at Kei Mouth. From Kei Mouth to Wavecrest Hotel, our first overnight stop is 20 km. We pass Trennery’s at 14 km, a short stop for a coke will no doubt be necessary.

Day 2 takes us from Wavecrest to Kob Inn, another 27 km day of mostly beach running at low tide. The best advice we have so far is to think like a Transkei cow. Keep the sea on your right, follow the path and avoid any steep hills. I think we can manage that.

Day 3, the days start to get longer—36 km from Kob Inn to The Haven. Beach running turns into headlands and river crossings. I wonder how my legs will be feeling at 30 km. No doubt I will be thinking of the beer and burger waiting at the next hotel stopover.

Day 4 is from The Haven to Hole in the Wall, another 36 km. The climbing for the day is expected to increase to 700 m of elevation gain—more of those big headlands.

As I pack my GoPro, I am reminded of the sage advice of my long-time running mate, Sean. “Stay conscious, enjoy every moment, and it is not about getting to the end; it is about the journey”. I look forward to being that guy with the camera out all the time. Ready, steady, RUN!

Some Interesting Facts About Time, Money, and Government Spending 

Article #66 - 30 August 2021

“Time is more valuable than money, you can get more money, 
but you can’t get more time” – Jim Rohn
It is common to use quantitative terms like millions, billions, and trillions to describe money. These descriptions often roll off the tongue with little thought to the significance of the amount of money that they describe. Not long ago, the use of the terms billions and trillions were rarely heard. The compounding effect of inflation and economic growth has meant the descriptors for large sums of money are used more frequently to describe government budgets. We even use the terms billions and trillions to describe budget deficits. The budget deficit is the excess of expenditure over and above income.

In July 2021, the US budget deficit for the month was $301 billion. So far, for the year 2021, the cumulative US budget deficit is $2.5 trillion.

The South African budget deficit for 2021/22 is expected to be R500 billion. That means the government is spending R1.37 billion per day, more than its income.

It is helpful to reframe these large sums of money using the measure of time. The average human life in the developed world is approximately 80 years. That is about 2,5 billion seconds. But that has little meaning if it is not compared to something else to get some perspective.

Here is another way to look at large numbers in the context of time:

A million seconds is about 11.5 days. A billion seconds a little more than 11,500 days or 31.7 years. That is quite a leap from a million to a billion. 11.5 days to 31.7 years. A trillion seconds is 31,709 years.

In 2008, under the guidance of Thabo Mbeki and Trevor Manual, the South African government managed a budget surplus. Since then, budget deficits have exploded, and South Africa has gone from 23% debt to GDP to 83%.

Under the “guidance” of Jacob Zuma, South Africa embraced the essence of Jim Rohn’s words. Getting more money has not been a problem. Expanding the debt burden through borrowing has produced plentiful bulging Gucci bags of cash. As Margret Thatcher said, “the problem with spending other people’s money is that eventually, it runs out”. In the context of the ANC, as the money runs out, so does their time. However, I suspect Jabob Zuma might have bought himself plenty of time.

Why the ANC is on the Precipice of its Fall from Power 

Article # 65  27 August 2021

The ANC has been losing support since their 1994 landslide victory at the polls. Their transformation agenda of cadre deployment and disdain for meritocracy has seen the decline in basic service delivery. The mid-2000s saw an economic commodity boom that produced growth and excess tax revenues that papered over the advent of its destructive socialist policies. Recently, there has been a doubling down on its bad policy choices. The impact of their crazy policies is starting to show, and there is blood in the water. The sharks are circling.

Cyril Ramaphosa is concerned with only one thing. That is, not losing the 2024 general election.
The ANC's alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has been a match made in heaven for the concentration of power. But a match made in hell for free-market capitalism and economic growth.

Jacob Zuma effectively gave free rein to the SACP to write whatever policies they wanted. The Minister of Trade and Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, is a devout socialist favouring centralised planning. He was the one who told us that we could not buy flip-flops or cooked chicken during Level 5 lockdown, and e-commerce was unfair.

The growth objectives of Thabo Mbeki and Trevor Manual have been swapped for the command-and-control ideology of Cyril Ramaphosa. The reformist hopefuls are slowly beginning to realise that the prospect of Ramaphosa being the last ANC president of South Africa is leading to desperate actions by the ANC. Everything has been turned on its head. No logic can be applied to South Africa's current circumstances.

The reaction to the latest unemployment statistics has been as expected. Shock and horror. 44.4% unemployment. While the ANC might feign concern, they are not. This is an opportunity to bring more people into the social grant net of recipients who rely on the state. The more dependents on the state, the more likely they will vote for the ANC. The ANC will position themselves, as usual, as the party for the poor and marginalised. A social grant and empty promises are all the ANC can offer.

The COVID pandemic has seen the ANC take complete control of the country via its National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC). Parliament, for what it is worth, has been side-lined. The National State of Disaster has been extended 15 times, preserving the authority of the NCCC instead of Parliament.

Here is the irony. The ANCs desperate need for more control is limiting the freedoms of South Africans. Throughout history, the primary reason governments and political parties fall is that the populace rejects the loss of their freedoms. The ANC’s designs on changing the constitution and destroying private property rights are the ultimate attack on the freedom to own property securely. This is the tip of the iceberg, and slowly South Africans are starting to look below the water and see the true nature of the incompetence that is supposedly running the country.

How Being Bold Gets You What You Want In Life

Article # 64  26 August 2021

“Never let the fear of striking out get in the way” 
Babe Ruth
There are bold people who are smart. There are smart people who are bold. There are bold people who are wealthy, and there are smart people who are wealthy. But, in my book, the BOLD get what they want far more than the SMART do.

Smart people are too polite. They take what is on offer. They don’t want to be seen to be rude, and they don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. We call these people “high EQ.” For you bold people, EQ is emotional intelligence. Twenty years ago, the craze on MBA courses was to learn about leaders with high EQ. Students were encouraged to aspire to be high EQ leaders.

“Be aware of yourself”, they said.

“Be aware of others and how you impact them”, they said.

Fast forward 20 years, and high EQ has morphed into being WOKE. A side effect of the academic wave of wokeness is self-censorship. We are so scared of triggering the sensitivities of those who might melt if we say something “inappropriate” that we instead say nothing.
Bold people can get in your face. They can be demanding. They ask for what they want. Not getting what they want is not seen as a failure. It is seen as a need for another tactic.

Bold people don’t overthink things. Action counts for more than planning. Taking action means that bold people get feedback and can change direction or tactics.

Bold people don’t nurture their unique idea. They’re not precious about their ideas. They know that an idea is worth nothing if it is not acted on. Bold people have lots of ideas and lots of opportunities. Bold people are ok with failing. A failure of one idea is not a failure of all their ideas. They move on to the next one. The famous baseballer Babe Ruth missed 90% of the pitches that he swung at. Fear of failure does not hold back the bold from taking action. Not taking action is seen as the ultimate failure.

In a survey of 160,000 Americans who believed that they deserved more money, two-thirds didn’t even ask for a raise. Of those who did ask, 70% got what they asked for. Bold people ask for a raise, expect to be promoted, and lead important projects.

I challenge you to do something bold today. Push yourself to that thing that you have been thinking about for way too long. Take action! It’s the smart thing to do 😊

Unmasking Some Crazy

Article # 63  26 August 2021

I’ve dodged the dreaded lurgy, and I got vaxxed. I’ve been living in a bubble at home, sheltered from the world. I only venture out to get groceries and run. When I run, I have coffee afterwards. Caffeine and Dopamine are a great mix and a great incentive to exercise.

At my local Seattle coffee shop, post-run, this is the scene…

On the door is a sign that says, “you must wear a mask to enter.” Next to that is a sign that says, “please sanitise.” Nothing unusual here, you see that outside every establishment.

“Whaaat!” Listen to that nonsense. This is completely unusual. Go back 18 months, and if someone told you that you would have to mask and sanitise before walking in a coffee shop, you would think they are a weirdo.

There is a queue to buy coffee. Everyone in the queue is wearing a mask. All the barristers are wearing masks. There is a perspex barrier above the pay till. Apparently, that protects the person who rings up your order. The Seattle store is no more than 10m x 10m in size. Sitting down at the tables and couches are more than twenty customers. None of the seated customers is wearing masks. Some seated, unmasked customers, mostly bike riders, are sitting less than a metre from the queuing customers. The masked and the unmasked within 6 feet of each other. How can that be?

A seated customer takes the last sip of his cappuccino. His tongue licks the edge of the cup to get the remaining stubborn coffee flavoured foam. He puts on his mask. He is preparing to stand up. The look on his face says he is desperate for another shot of the Guatemala flavour on special. He stands up and joins the queue of masked weirdos—those seeking caffeine.

There must have been a notice that was missing on the entrance door. Either that or there is an unwritten rule. The rule must be that masks are required if your head is in the 5 – 6 foot zone above the floor. But, if your head is anywhere below that zone, say 4 – 5 feet, then masks are not required. What else can it be? Everyone sitting is without masks while those standing have masks on. Someone needs to explain to me. What am I missing? Oh, and the Perspex screen. Somehow the fragrant coffee rich aroma that I smell in the air doesn’t know how to get past the 2-foot-wide screen.

Are we so f@#$king stupid! 

Are we doing this because we need to be seen to be wearing masks because our overloads say we must?

You have been sitting inside a coffee shop, close to dozens of people for 20 minutes, without a mask. They don’t have their masks on either. Then you put on a mask to stand up and order coffee. Then you sit down and take off your mask and drink your coffee for another 20 minutes.

When are we going to wake up and smell the coffee? Perhaps we should just wander around with our heads up our asses. That might be safer.

Why TESLA Will Fail

Article # 62  24 August 2021

Elon Musk has rock star status! What he has done with SpaceX is incredible. As a South African, I really want him to succeed. But his unkept promises and lies will eventually catch up with him. Here is what Musk has promised and not delivered on…

Courtesy of the QTR Podcast and @TeslaCharts

Full Self Driving (FSD)
Five years ago, Musk said, "the person in the driver's seat is only there for legal reasons, he is not doing anything. The car is driving itself."

Yesterday Musk said, "FSD Beta 9.2 is actually not great in my opinion, but the Autopilot / AI team is rallying to improve as fast as possible."

For five years, customers have been paying for FSD, which has not been delivered and has no delivery date. Add to this that deaths from Autopilot failure have allegedly been covered up. In 2016 Joshua Brown's death was whitewashed in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report just in time for Tesla's capital raise in May of 2016. The NHTSA claimed that data showed that Autopilot was 40% safer than a human driver. Musk quoted this data at every opportunity until it was later found that the NHTSA fabricated the data.

Solar Roof Tiles
Musk is being sued in Delaware, USA, by the shareholders in Tesla for his involvement in Tesla's acquisition of Solar City. Other board members, who were also being sued, have settled to avoid the stain of fraud if the case went against them. Many class action lawsuits against Musk are on hold, pending the outcome of this trial. Musk hasn't settled yet. Watch this space.

Musk is trying to motivate why the acquisition of the insolvent Solar City (SC), run by his cousin, was justified. Musk's brother, Kimbal, was facing margin calls on his SC stock, which weren't disclosed at the time of the deal. Elon Musk had pledged much of his SpaceX and Tesla stock as security for SC debt. If SC went down, Tesla and SpaceX would have followed. Musk was way out on the edge. SC had to be bailed out. Sorry, bought out by Tesla.

Most people don't know that SC doesn't make solar panels; they are a leasing business that facilitates the financing of solar installations. Musk went on stage with an ordinary clay roof tile and told the world how he would make these "innovative" solar tiles. We are still waiting. Musk was performing the classic "bait and switch".

Musk has a standard operating procedure. He stumbles into a field where he has no experience. He spews a bunch of nonsense, promises a new "innovative" product, and then makes fun of the experts in that field for not having thought of it before. Fast forward several years later, and he hasn't delivered on his promise. His latest promise is a leotard-clad dancing robot. Boston Dynamics must be shaking or their boots. More likely, they are laughing their heads off. Add the robot to the failed promise list of Cybertruck, Roadster, Semi and the required battery technology that doesn't exist. The saying "all hat and no cattle" comes to mind. The walls are closing in.

1,000 day Lesson

Article # 61  23 August 2021

“Repetition is the mother of skill”
Tony Robbins
Most people give up too soon. People give up because they don't see progress or aren't recognised for their hard work, effort, and sacrifice. People also give up too soon because their motives are wrong. The altruist would suggest that the best motive is to do something in service of others. The narcissist might suggest that the best motive is to do something in service of oneself.

Malcome Gladwell posited that 10,000 hours of intensive practice were required to achieve mastery in an activity. Gladwell expressly referred to mastering a musical instrument.

Set aside the motives for wanting to get good at something for just a moment. You decide that you want to get fit. The first thing that comes to mind may be to go for a run. The common mistake when starting the fitness journey is to do too much, too soon. The best thing you can do is to start by going for a walk. Set the bar very low and celebrate the success of completing the task and wanting to do more. That way, you are more likely to come back for more the next day.

When I was young and stupid, in 1999 and 2000, I ran back-to-back Comrades Marathons. I was undertrained, and shortly after the second Comrades, I got injured, probably due to not allowing enough time to recover from such a gruelling ten-hour event. Due to the injury, I stopped running for several years. Today, some 21 years later, I just describe myself as stupid. No longer do I have the youth of a twenty-something-year-old.

Last week, I reached a milestone of running every day for 1,000 days—#runeveryday. I completed more than 10,000 km, and for the last eight months, I have run an average of 13 km per day. I started this journey from zero. In 2015 I felt very sorry for myself while sitting on the couch in a moon boot recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon. Then, I couldn't dream of ever reaching such a milestone. All I knew was that I wanted to get fit and play hockey again.

At the start of my fitness journey, I had no idea where the finish line was. I still don't. Many have asked me what the next milestone is. For now, it is simply to go for a run tomorrow. A new goal will emerge when I am ready. Every day of the first 100 days of #runeveryday felt like a significant achievement. My body ached, and my mind resisted, but I became emotionally committed to doing something that I had seen others do. I found a balance between the altruist and the narcissist. That is running with others, motivating them to be better, and celebrating regular milestones where I felt like the hero in my lunchbox.

The words of Tony Robbins are ringing loudly in my ears. I feel like I have developed some skills through thousands of days of repetition. I'm not winning marathons, but in my lunch box, achieving mastery is all relative. I know for sure that there is another level up, and I will find out what that is.

Are You A Builder or a Breaker?

Article # 60  19 August 2021

Building requires effort, planning and the diligent pursuit of creating something that is of value. You may be building a house, a relationship, a reputation, an online following or perhaps a business. All these examples are subject to the wisdom of Winston Churchill’s quote.

The attributes of a builder are part of their character. That means they are not simply skills that can be learned. Attributes are deeper than skills. Here are some examples of the attributes of a builder:

1. Resilient
2. Consistent
3. Motivated
4. Big picture thinker
5. Eye for detail
6. Encourages and inspires others
7. Attracts smart people to form a team
8. Self-aware

These attributes are not courses that can be taken at university. They are not lessons that can be taught in a classroom. These attributes are learned and engrained through everyday experience. Luck plays a significant role. Luck could be the family you are born into, childhood circumstances, the guidance of a mentor, the opportunity to get an education, and working for a great boss. There are certainly more. The irony is that these attributes are discovered and uncovered over time. As Churchill says, “the slow and laborious task of years”.

A breaker is someone who has no vested interest in the creation of value for others. A breaker is someone who seeks to break down that which is being or has been built. Breakers have the attributes of resentment and victimhood. They choose to blame others for their circumstances. They create distractions and chaos to deflect from their insecurities. Value cannot be created by taking away from others or destroying what has been built over time.

The act of destruction requires little effort. It could be deliberate or, as Churchill said, “a thoughtless act”. Both can achieve the same result, the destruction of value.

Ask yourself if you are building or breaking. A builder thinks about how they inspire themselves and others. A breaker thinks about what is in it for me and how they can feel better by seeing the fall of others. Look out for how these attributes show up in the world. Once you know about them, you can’t unsee them.

No Logic, Only Magic

Article # 59  17 August 2021

Competition is a beautiful thing when power and authority are evenly distributed. Where systems are based on meritocracy, generally, the best performers are rewarded. The reward can come in many forms. Promotion and increased payment are two obvious forms of reward. In the context of contract work, typical in the gig economy, the reward is more gigs. Unfortunately, it is the way of the world that imbalance is a feature of most systems.

I have been working for a client for nearly 15 years. I’ve done hundreds of gigs for them and always received rave reviews. I have engaged with dozens of employees inside the organisation and have developed a network of excellent relations. As is the case with most organisations, management changes, people come and go, and new relationships must be built.

In recent times, meritocracy has been side-lined in favour of transformation. Transformation is a code for changing how things work so that previously disadvantaged individuals are given an opportunity. Experience, excellence, and efficient working relationships count for nothing.

The result of relegating the system of meritocracy to the scrap heap is individuals are tasked with allocating work/gigs to those who meet some arbitrary criteria. Individuals who control the workflow accumulate power and authority. Imbalance appears, and the hit list emerges. Those who don’t meet the requirements are eliminated. One would think that standing out as being excellent would help. This is like a red rag to a bull. “Your excellence is not welcome here. That is a demonstration of your privilege”.

I am reminded of the profound words of my running friend, Vishal. He says, “no logic, only magic”.

When magical thinking is applied, then there is no accountability. Quality becomes irrelevant, reputation and brand value declines. When the market is competitive, customers recognise the decline in these attributes and take their business elsewhere. The downward spiral accelerates. Those ignorant of the impact of their transformation agenda interpret the decline as not enough transformation and then double down on their magical thinking.

There appears to be no immediate antidote to the spell of magical thinking since burning witches is frowned upon in this day and age. Perhaps the natural cycle of life must take its course. Organisations that chose not to embrace excellence and fall short of competing at the standard expected by the market will eventually die off. The result will be new entrants who are rewarded by trading in the currency of value creation rather than identity politics.

Intelligence Confused with Stupidity

Article # 58  16 August 2021

It appears these days that one must have an opinion on everything. You must be able to sprout forth on which political party is best for the country. You should be able to opine on the benefits of mRNA vaccines. On critical race theory, you should have an opinion on how this will affect corporate hiring policies. You should be able to posit why China dominated so many different events at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Social media applications like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have for years positioned themselves as the platforms for each of us to have our say. To express our opinion. Some have described the utility of these platforms as the “town square.” A public space where we are entitled to exercise our right to free speech. Those who chose to listen gathered around. If you liked what the person had to say, you might listen for a while and even come back on another day to hear some more. Perhaps the equivalent of “following” someone. If you disagreed with the speaker or didn’t like what they said, you could exercise your right to walk on by.

Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have argued that they are not responsible for what people say on their platforms. Just like the town square, there is no one responsible for policing what the local crackpot says. For many, the sheer spectacle of listening to a crazy fool is a form of entertainment.

The town square represented a defined area. It could be avoided. Many would never encounter the crazies who had “bad opinions”. Some argue that the ubiquity of social media applications is nearly impossible to protect people from bad ideas or “fake news”. This is despite having to actively choose to download and open an application to access its content. Just like the town square, it could be easily avoided.

The intelligentsia has decided that these new-age town squares must be censored. You can only say what is acceptable. Acceptable according to the anonymous committee of fact-checkers and opinion graders.
One of the essential aspects of free speech is to be able to identify that group of people who have bad ideas. Bad ideas can only be repelled with well-articulated good ideas. The problem with removing people with bad ideas from the town square is that those people don’t disappear from society. Nor do their ideas. Our world is bigger than the town square. Generally, it is better to know who the bad actors are and take steps to avoid them. Part of life is learning how to do that.
Censorship may seem like the intelligent folk trying to weed out bad ideas and protect our sensitivities. Instead, we are exposed only to the sanitised version of life and form no immunity to bad ideas. That sounds like stupidity.

Letter to a Friend

Article # 57  14 August 2021

Dear Marco,

The news of you your death was like a blow to my gut. I didn’t want to believe it. I read and re-read the Facebook feed as if I didn’t trust what my eyes were reading. I sat in silence as my mind tied to process what this meant. I said to myself, “this can’t be, we are talking about Marco here. Marco is bulletproof; there is no way this Covid thing would get the better of Marco”.

We met for the first time in a syndicate room at Wits Business School. You were this cool journalist dude from the Pretoria News who had so many “war” stories. I remember listening in awe to your encounters with Pik. Later you told me of your experiences with Pravin and budget speeches. You had the gift of a storyteller.

In that syndicate room at Wits, I discovered a man who had a capacity for hard work. I discovered a man with integrity and pride. We pulled a couple of all-nighters to save a few syndicate assignments from doom. You cared and you inspired me to be better.

We fished on the rocks at Kenton. We slept on the side of the Kariega River. We fished off the side of your rinky-dink fishing boat. We drank countless Zamaleks at Mike’s Kitchen. We partied hard in your lapa. We watched rugby at Loftus. We caught crayfish at Kommetjie. We ran to Slangkop and back. We went around and around the Swartkop golf course. We got an MBA together!

With you, I caught the biggest fish of my life that evening on the rocks at Kenton. With you, I shot the lowest round of golf of my life at Swartkop. You inspired me, and those memories fill me with joy. The sadness that I feel now is from a deep sense of loss. A sense that a great man has departed, and he has departed too soon.

There was something so special about your ability to see through the complexity of life. You could make sense of things in a way that amazed me every time. You always had a funny story, a clever anecdote and an insight that was so practical. You had the wisdom of a man who had lived many lives.

I am reminded of the words, ‘hy het diep spore getrap”. These words are certainly true for you, my friend. The impact of your life on me and the people around you will be felt for a long time to come.

I wish you all the best on your next journey. Whatever that looks like, I know you will tackle it with enthusiasm and the spirit of the wild animal that you are. There is a small part of me that wants to believe that our paths will cross again. I will be on the lookout, and I am pretty sure that I will see you coming from a mile away.

Until then, cheers from your friend Justin.

This Is Off The Charts Insanity

Article # 56  12 August 2021

We are living in crazy times. It is as if a virus has infected us. No! Not that virus. This is a completely different virus that infects the brain and causes people to behave like self-righteous, virtue signalling assholes. 

A person infected by this virus will need to dispense unsolicited advice to people who pass them in the parking lot.
Usually, this advice starts with the words, “you should…” or “you must…”. An infected idiot might try and disguise their virtue by pretending to ask a question. Such a question starts like this, “why don’t you…” or “why aren’t you…”.

What goes on in someone’s brain that makes them think this advice offering behaviour is acceptable?
Here are a few thoughts on the answer to this question:

1. An infected person, through some form of self-delusion, probably feels superior to others.

2. The idiots giving free parking lot advice think they know something that others don’t.

3. The numpties offering their unwanted drivel think they are saving humanity from themselves.

4. A public pontificating buffoon, a side effect of infection, needs to be seen to have authority or power over others. 

There may be several other unknown reasons for their behaviour. This viral infection is spreading and appears to have infected people who were previously thought to be immune.

At the risk of offering unsolicited free advice, consider this a warning for what comes in the next paragraph. You may want to skip it.

When an infected individual dispenses their bile in your direction, you may be tempted to punch them in the nose, leaving a bloody stain on their mask. Do this in thought only. Rather than engaging with the fool, it is better to ignore them completely. Beware, ignoring them does not help with their condition. It in fact makes it worse, so a speedy escape plan is necessary.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for this infection, but you can take preventative measures. There is a “thought pill” that is available. While many people are immune to the infection, some may have to take a regular dose to remain safe. Thought Pills are manufactured and distributed by an organisation named “Mind Your Own F@#king Business”. Take as many as necessary to prevent infection.

What Is Your Choice? 
Adaptable or Status Quo

Article #55  11 August 2021

Changes that have been forced on us over the last 18 months. Forced to stay at home, forced to close your business. Unable to see your family in person. These are a few examples of freedoms ripped away from us in the interests of “protecting others”. Who would have thought we would live in a world where governments and public health officials would force healthy people to isolate themselves? When the insanity subsides, we will look back and realise that collectively we absconded and left the zombies in charge.

While much has changed, one thing that has not changed is how we react to what happens to us. Despite a recent Just in Time article that questions the illusion of free will, it appears that how we respond to the events that impact our lives is still within our control.

The human mindset appears to have two extremes when it comes to facing up to tough times. The one extreme is a negative mindset which insists that the Status Quo will return. The other extreme is a positive mindset which is Adaptable to a new way of being.
A status quo mindset thinks like a victim and needs certainty about what the future holds. An adaptable mindset embraces learning new skills and is open to exploring new possibilities. A status quo mindset is reactive and waits to see what might happen. An adaptable mindset is creative and looks to find new solutions through experimentation.

The fixed mindset of a status quoist is to think of life as a pass or fail based on their current skill set. An adaptable mindset is a growth mindset. Growth is about overcoming anything while making mistakes and learning along the way.

Curiosity is the way of an adaptable mindset. Asking questions, exploring, and discovering. The adaptable mindset says, “I can learn from trying something new”.

An adaptable mindset embraces abundance. A status quo mindset clings to scarcity. Scarcity is about the belief that everything in life is a fight for what I can get. Believing in abundance is to seek out a winning way of working with others who also embrace abundance. Together there is more for everyone.

What if the way out is as simple as choosing to be adaptable? What if everything that you think you think is not so? What if only by changing your mindset you could discover a different way of being in the world?

If You Knew That Success Was Certain What Would You Do?

Article #54  6 August 2021

Great ideas often end up being forgotten because the fear of failure prevents action. Fear of failure is a story that we make up about what might or might not happen in the future. The problem is that in life, failure is inevitable. When we start to walk for the first time, we fall over. Is this not a failure? We don’t give up trying to walk, and our parents cheer us on and encourage us to keep going.

Something changes at a point in life where failure is not simply seen as part of the learning curve. Failure is seen as the end, and for many, the fear of failure is a reason not to start.

There is a great quote about success; it goes like this, “it takes 20 years to become an overnight success”. Most people only see the outcome of someone’s success; they don’t see the 20 years of toil, struggle, and failure. The key to achieving success is to be able to deal with the struggle along the way.

Success often turns out to be something entirely different and unexpected from what was intended at the outset. This suggests that a certain amount of resilience is required to traverse the path to success. In addition to resilience, one needs to keep going. Consistency is important. The evidence is strong that mostly we give up too soon.

Here is a Jack Butcher representation of the point at which people tend to give up. It turns out to be just before they are about to start to reap the rewards of their hard work.

We can be sure of the following when it comes to being successful:

It will be hard; we will have failures along the way; it may take longer than expected; we will have to “show up every day”; and the destination might be quite different from what we set out to achieve.

Knowing this, it makes sense to me to choose to do something significant. Just saying that is scary. I can feel my heart rate accelerating. That is fear. I am fearful that I might quit.

The certainty of achieving success is about knowing what is within my control and what is not. The part that is within my control is how I respond to what happens to me. I choose resilience, consistency, patience, and perseverance. I choose to continue even when it feels pointless.

10 Navigation Tools for Life

Article# 53  5 August 2021

Navigating the journey of life is filled with emotion—fear, joy, sadness, and anger. To be successful, whatever that looks like for you, it helps to have a few indicators on the dashboard that can guide you.

Life can get overwhelming with so many things to look out for. Here are ten themes. Perhaps a more straightforward way to think of the themes is as buckets. These are buckets that contain goodies that belong together. Maybe even some tools to make life easier.

Filling these ten buckets with the right tools will help you navigate your journey along the path of life. Here are some tidbits that go in each bucket.

Bucket #1: Time – When you are young, you have more than you think. When you are old, you have less than you need. Start building now what you will need later.

Bucket #2: Health – Until you don't have it, you hardly think about it. But if you work on preserving it, you are less likely to have to think about it.

Bucket #3: Wealth – This needs time; discover the power of compounding or get lucky.

Bucket #4: Ego – It will protect you, but if you don't make friends with it will hold you back forever. Observe how your ego behaves when it is under threat; you might surprise yourself.

Bucket #5: Recovery – Knowing when and how to be kind to yourself is a superpower.

Bucket #6: Technology – It's addictive, and it's liberating, find balance and know when to disconnect.

Bucket #7: Change – Things change all the time; get used to it and embrace it. Become resilient.

Bucket #8: Network – A powerful tool to getting what you want requires nurture and giving to others. It would be best if you gave more than you get.

Bucket #9: Mission – A guiding light when life gets hard. Sometimes you need a reason to get out of bed. The best reason is often to be in service of others.

Bucket #10: Action – Try, test, publish, speak, draw, write, film, run, walk, swim, fly (if you can). All of these are better than thinking and wondering what could be.

My new book by the same title as this article is well underway. I'm excited about the content and all the exciting tools and goodies going into the buckets. The part that is powering me along is the exploration of combining tools from different buckets. What happens when you put Network, Technology and Wealth together?

How to Visulise Value

Article# 52  4 August 2021

Value can be hard to quantify. It is a complex subject. Teaching it to others takes time and patience. Many do not get it the first time around. There are many moving parts.

In the last Just in Time article, I spoke about value in the context of the broad spectrum between art and science. Today’s article is all about art.

I recently discovered the work of Jack Butcher. You can find him on Twitter @jackbutcher. His work is called Visualize Value (@visualizevalue).

This image represents an artistic impression of the difference between trying to time the market and time in the market—just a few lines in an image and such a profound representation.

Seasoned investors have spent many hours trying to convince their clients of this phenomenon. Here it is, so clearly visualised by Jack Butcher.
Price and value often get confused. Warren Buffett said, “price is what your pay; value is what you get”. That is interesting but difficult to understand. Jack Butcher’s interpretation of the difference between turning a screw and knowing which screw to turn gives a whole new insight into the difference between price and value.

These two Jack Butcher visualisations are just the tip of the iceberg. Your time will be well spent exploring his insightful work.

Many years ago, I learnt from a great teacher that using an analogy is a smart way to describe a difficult concept. An analogy can use a theme that many are familiar with and connect to a more complex subject. The art is in connecting the two issues so that it makes sense to the audience. The genius is leaving just enough space between the two subjects so that the audience can make a small leap for themselves. In making the leap, the audience is rewarded with a dopamine hit that helps the subject matter stick, just like catching the punchline of a good joke.

Jack Butcher's Visualize Value requires that you apply your mind and make the leap to connect the dots. When you get it it sticks.

Just In Time Value

Article# 51  3 August 2021

Value means so many different things to different people. What is valuable to one person may have no value to another. Value is in the eyes of the beholder, and it is subject to the perspective of the valuer. For many, value is measured in relation to the struggle required to obtain that thing. That struggle is often measured as labour. However, where an item is scarce, its value may have no connection to the cost of labour.

Some things are near impossible to value, especially when they are intangible. For example, a beautiful sunset or the love of your life. How could you place a value on those other than to say they are valuable to you?

I am following the example of James Clear. His book is called Atomic Habits. His area of expertise is helping others start and maintain good habits. He also helps with ending those bad habits. The branded niche that he occupies is “Atomic Habits”. In the valuable words of Jack Butcher, “niche down, but brand up”.

“Just In Time Value” is the branded niche that I occupy.

Most of my work is financial valuation and involves a combination of art and science. The spectrum from art to science is broad. Art represents opinion and assumptions. Science represents evidence and computation. Just in Time Value is a unique blend of art and science. It is Justin’s special blend. It is a blend that is sometimes bias, occasionally flawed, and always unique. Some suggest it is insightful, and at least one other person thinks it is valuable.

Just In Time Value occupies the art end of the spectrum. It is largely intangible. It is intended to be timeless insights and lessons learned on the journey of life. Just In Time Value is the value you get from learning a life lesson or discovering a valuable insight. It is only valuable if you are ready to receive the message or learn the lesson. If you are ready for it, it may arrive just in time.

There have been many times in my life when I have not been ready to learn the lesson or discover the insight that is on offer. Invariably those circumstances come around again, and when I am ready, then the insight reveals itself. When I am ready, the value arrives, just in time. My intention in the Just in Time articles is to share this value.

I don’t claim to be the guru behind these lessons. I am merely a conduit. The sources are many. Podcasts, books, Twitter threads, other gurus, you name it. My skill is to describe, translate or reframe the lessons and insights so others may benefit from them.

You can find all the Just in Time articles at Sign up to get it delivered to your email inbox. Join the community of over 1,000 daily readers and get some Just in Time Value in your life. Please share it with a friend and help them get their daily shot of value with their coffee?

10,000km in 1,000 Days

Article# 50  2 August 2021

On some insignificant day back in November 2018, a running friend challenged me to run “every day ‘til Christmas”. Pam that was you, thanks for the push. I was running four times a week. Stepping up to 7 times seemed like a good challenge. I had done a month-long running streak a year before, so I figured it was worth another attempt. A month later, Christmas rolled around, and I felt strong. Strong enough to keep going.

Not long after that, I started running with a group called the Tyrone Harriers. I met Paul. Everyone who runs with Tyrone Harries meets Paul. While slogging up to Pablo’s Eggs-Go-Bar, I told him proudly of my 60-day running streak, because of course, I told everyone. I soon found out that Paul had been running every day for nearly five years. My 60 days suddenly felt insignificant, yet I was inspired by the resilience needed to keep going every day. Paul told me about and that a running streak only became a real thing when you had done it for a year. “A year!” At that moment, I realised that I wasn’t going to stop, and I had committed to myself that I would get to 365 days of #runeveryday.

The thought of running every day for a year was hugely overwhelming. I had to reframe my perspective. I changed my thinking to “I just have to run tomorrow”. I could manage that. There were many solo Monday runs where I questioned my sanity. Getting to 100 days felt like a slog. Then something changed. I found a routine. I nearly always ran with friends and diligently started measuring and recording all my running data. Running every day became easy. As Paul says, “it is easier to run every day than some days”.

After passing 500 days, I had run 4,352 km. I set myself a goal. 1,000 days and 10,000km. It had a certain ring to it. I set out to increase my mileage and get my daily average up. My regular running mates, Dave and Bruce, squealed about the extra mileage. I found myself doing a few solo laps around the block before our regular Wednesday and Friday outings. Dave always had plenty of coffee on tap as a reward afterwards. A good incentive as always.

Last week I passed 10,000km, and 19 August is day 1,000. I got there early. That’s my obsessive nature when I commit to something. I’m nothing if not consistent. I have learnt that consistency is a superpower that can get you most things in life that you want.

I feel a certain level of accomplishment, and I want to give a nod to passing a milestone. But underneath that, today is yesterday’s tomorrow, and I want to go for a run.

Do You Need To STOP Before You Can GO?

Article# 49  30 July 2021

The world is stuck! We have not returned to the economic growth levels seen before the great financial crisis of 2008. Interest rates are lower than ever, which means money is tight. Employment participation rates are at their lowest ever. In many cases, unemployment is at its highest.

The corporate media headlines talk of money printing and easy money. They are either lying or demonstrating their ignorance. The best interpretation is not to assume malice when ignorance is possible. Let’s assume that the media is ignorant. Despite the tremendous growth in Wall Street, Main Street is stagnant. Companies would instead borrow money to buy back their shares than invest in bricks and mortar. This demonstrates that liquidity concerns are serious, and there is little tolerance for taking risks.

The media will tell you about the impending inflation tsunami that is coming. At play are far more complex structural deflationary pressures that lurk in the shadow monetary system of the Eurodollar. The back streets of the Eurodollar system are hard to navigate even for its streetwise inhabitants. Yet, the implications of collateral shortage and inter-bank machinations are far-reaching into the world’s economies.

Add on top of these factors a global pandemic that has seen lockdowns in economies, and we have a toxic recipe.

If you feel stuck, you are not alone. Don’t let the complexity of the world’s financial systems prevent you from taking straightforward steps to re-orientate your life.

Apply STOP logic. It works in a moment of crisis and the re-evaluation of your life.

S – STOP. Stop and stand still for a moment. Don’t be tempted to blunder on thinking that more of the same will produce a different result. Stopping allows everything that is going on around you to settle.
T – Take a breath. Your brain might be short of oxygen. You might not be interpreting your world as best you can. It is also about reframing and looking at things from a different perspective.
O – Open your eyes and orientate yourself. You might not be seeing the most prominent details that are right in front of you. Examine your assumptions and give yourself permission to look for what is hidden in the detail.
P – Proceed. Gentle, small steps. Apply caution. Speed up gradually.

STOP logic may appear trite, but it has saved many a disaster. There are so many things that are out of our control. What is in your control is how you respond. STOP logic gives you the power to take back some control.

Do You Believe in the Illusion of Free Will?

Article# 48  29 July 2021

You are reading this article because you chose to. You were free to choose. You could have passed it by and not thought twice about it. Yet here you are, perhaps questioning why you are reading today's Just in Time article when yesterday you didn't. Maybe it was the title that hooked you.

Did you choose? Were you in complete control of your mind when you made a choice? Is there a chance that some pre-conditioning from your past "pushed" you to read this article? At the very least, you might be wondering, "hmm, why did I choose this one"?

Let's try a thought experiment. Clear your mind and don't think of anything. Go ahead, try it now.
Ok, what was the first thing that popped into your mind? Were you in control of that thought? Did you think of that thing on purpose, or did it just snap out of nowhere?

I know the answer. That thought came from out of the blue. You were not in control. Control of your mind may be an illusion. Perhaps our mind controls us without us even being aware. Hence, the illusion of choice and the illusion of free will.

I am not the original author of this line of thinking. The guru here is Sam Harris. He has written extensively on this subject and has spoken about it on his podcast called Waking Up.

Thinking about free will can mess with your mind. You might have tried to prove this all wrong. I did. I reached out and picked up the pencil on my desk. There, you see, I chose to do that of my own free will. Consider it a micro choice made with intent, like phoning your accountant or booking a dentist appointment. We make them all the time. Never under coercion or influence.

Let me guess. You also chose who to marry? Assuming you are married.

How many potential partners were filtered out because of where you grew up and the religion that your parents adopted for you? What influence did your parents have on you about what characteristics are attractive in a partner?

These and many other forces in life steered you to say, "yes, I do". If you haven't got there yet, you might examine what forces that are influencing you. Choosing who you marry might be considered a macro choice. It’s a big decision with lots of influencing factors.

The differences between micro and macro choices could be likened to Newtonian physics and Quantum physics. The act of observing affects the outcome.

Despite what you believe about the illusion of free will, this is about consciousness and awareness. What forces have and continue to impact your life that you are unaware of? They are impacting your choices more than you think. Good choice to read this article.


Your Daily Shot Of Value

Justin Spencer-Young


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