Ten things

Get your priorities straight
There is nothing more important than enjoying your life. Making sure that other people are enjoying their lives comes in at a close second. You are not a useful human being if you are not enjoying your own life.

Don’t sweat the small stuff
Gary Player famously said that the more he practiced the luckier he got. You can reprogram the way your brain reacts to truly stressful situations by practicing positive, stress-free, reactions to the little things that go wrong every day.

Get some perspective
Most of the stuff you worry about is simply not important. Your family and friends are what matter. They are irreplaceable. Your car getting stolen, your house burning down, losing your job, while all sad and frustrating, should not result in emotional trauma.

Emotional trauma is scar tissue
Years ago I broke my big toe by kicking a wall. It was stupid and every now and then my toe hurts for no reason. If you repeatedly kick a wall your toe is going to hurt all the time and you are not going to be able to enjoy your life.

It’s not over until you’re dead
Your health is important, but not more important than enjoying your life. I’m not suggesting you start a small heroin habit, but worrying about your health is futile unless you’re doing it while calling a doctor.

Put on your big girl panties when dealing with family
There are situations in life where you just need to make hay, even if you’re allergic and the sun isn’t shining. The normal rules of engagement do not apply for family. “Not talking” to some branch of your family is an incredibly sad outcome that should be avoided at all costs. No one is asking you to paint each other’s nails while watching Thelma and Louise on VHS, but for everyone’s mental health, including your own, sometimes you just need to get out there in the rain and start throwing around some hay.

Appreciate what you have
Be thankful for the things you have, not because one day they might be gone or because others don’t have them, but simply because you do have them.

Stretch
This is not a computer game. When you die your life is over. Try and be incredible or die trying.

Yourself is the best you you can be
Countless Facebook posts will encourage you to sing like no one is listening. That is rubbish. Being yourself is the only way to be happy. This is not rocket science. If you want to sing, sing. If you want to spend your weekend reading a book to your cat, do that.

Stop
Close the door, put away your phone, sit down and spend some time thinking. Call it whatever you want but just do it, daily if possible.

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Leaving TrustFabric and joining Praekelt

This news is a few weeks old but I kept on meeting people who hadn’t heard so I figured a blog post was in order.

I have officially left TrustFabric and have joined Praekelt. Leaving TrustFabric was a hard decision. If Joe can pull of what he’s got planned, and I think he can, he will change the way we manage and share information online. I want that to be a reality.

My first few weeks at Praekelt have been great. I am now in a pure strategy role. Travelling back and forth between JHB and CPT, meeting amazing, talented people, having my mind expanded and learning constantly. My diverse background (travel, banking, advertising, telecoms, ISPs, online dating etc etc) is proving to be useful in ways that I never thought possible.

I’ll keep you posted.

Why we do what we do.

Weather permitting I’ll be leaving next Wednesday. I’m going to sail about three and a half thousand miles, across the South Atlantic, from Cape Town to a tiny group of islands called the Falklands off the coast of Argentina. I like to think that the reason I am doing this is obvious and for most of my friends the reason seems obvious too.

Though, every now and then I get asked “Why?”. As if it would be simpler to just fly there. Which is true. It takes 44 hours to fly from Cape Town to Stanley on the east Falklands. 44 hours and 5 separate flights. Sailing there takes 25 days and you sail through some of the roughest seas on the planet. The Falklands are about as close as you can get to Antarctica without actually being on Antarctica.

Is it dangerous? Of course. There are more dangerous things one could do, but when you’re 2000 miles away from the nearest hospital and in a very unpredictable environment, anything can happen.

Will I miss home? Of course! I’ll miss my wife, my cats, my comfortable bed, being able to take a warm shower whenever I want, deciding what I want to eat, being able to be alone, going out to get a coffee etc etc. I’ll be stuck on a 75 foot yacht with 7 people I barely know.

So why am I doing it? I don’t really have an answer. I have answers. But the sum of all those answers is not the answer.

I want to stretch my mind. I want to sail away, leave land behind, wake up in the morning and have to check a map to know where I am. I want to be surrounded by nothing but sea.

I want to learn to be a better sailor. We live in a world full of experts who know nothing. Rockstars who learnt everything they know in the previous 3 weeks. We’re all bullshit and truth bending. Teach yourself brain surgery in 24 hours. When your life is in your own hands you’re forced to be honest about your abilities.

I want to push myself and see where the cracks appear. I want to be bored and be forced to write. I want to spend an idyllic evening on deck eating freshly caught fish. I want time to think. I want to be scared. I want to ride out a storm and watch the sun rise on a perfect morning. I want to see land and long to touch it. I want to have a story to tell and to write those stories that are banging around in my head. I want to miss my wife, my friends, my family and my country.

I want to fly home and know why I sailed away in the first place, but I’m sure I won’t, and that is why I am doing it.

You can, satellite gods willing, follow my adventures here http://arbitrarysailor.tumblr.com/.

Why I am going to stop banking with Standard Bank.

I think it is important to preface this by saying: Shit happens. It will happen at every bank, every online retailer, every restaurant, no matter who you are or where you go. What separates the good from the bad is, and always has been, *how you fix the problems when they happen*. Unfortunately when greedy business practices become institutionalised and the institution chooses to tie the hands of anyone trying to remedy the problem, well then you are left with little option but to walk away, with your money.

Strike 1. When all other banks are offering SMS updates for free you choose to charge customers.

Strike 2. You offer that service free to your private banking clients, ignoring the demographic that represents the bulk of your income, and instead decide to charge them even more.

Strike 3. As a customer with a Standard Bank home loan, vehicle loan, cheque account and credit card  I am patently aware of how much money you make out of me every month. When I speak to the most senior person I am deemed fit to speak to (not actually the bank manager) I am told that even the bank manager is unable to waive the R17 fee. That sort of hand-tied’ness makes me want to cry.

I could handle greed.
I could handle badly thought out products.
I could handle incompetence.

But I can not handle all three simultaneously from an organisation making hundreds of rands off me every month.

Time to do some bank shopping when I get back.

Don't rust.

Speak to any sailor long enough and eventually they’ll moan about the number of yachts that sit in marinas year round without ever being used. It’s depressing and a huge waste. Don’t live your life sitting in the harbour.

Lonely robot in a wasteland
rusting in a lonely harbor
Lonely robot in a wasteland
rusting in the harbor’s water
I Blame Coco – Selfmachine, The Constant.

A ship in a harbor is safe- but thats not what ships are built for.

Content and delivery.

Recently a friend who’s in the magazine industry was complaining about how their company (who is a very large media company) continually cut the magazine budgets while  spending gob-loads of money on their “Online” and “Mobile” people. The techies have access to iPads, iPhones and brand new Macbook Pros, while just down the passage there are magazine teams, retrenched to a fraction of their previous size, running on 10 year old macs.

The print-media industry is no doubt floundering. Seeing demand for their products dropping by significant numbers every year (We’re talking overall sales figures of around 20% what they were 10 years ago) while ad-sales is becoming more and more brutal due to the “global economy”, but probably more realistically because they’re losing ad sales to online channels. Fewer people want to buy newspapers and magazines and they media industry is making less and less (from ad sales) off the reduced distribution numbers.

So you can imagine the kind of pressure the industry is in and how incredibly easy it would be to come to the very foolish conclusion that the correct remedy is to spend those gob-loads on “Online” or “Mobile” to the detriment of the content producers.

My father was a printer, technically an offset lithography “machine minder”. He was badly paid, worked long shifts, went to work in blue overalls and came home covered in ink. The work was tough. You needed to have an expert eye, understand some of the chemistry, have delicate hands and be able to perform running repairs on dangerous machines. We’re talking about giant room sized printers and the “minder” having the ability to hear that the third roller bearing on the transfer shaft dingle dangle needed oil in the next 30 minutes or the machine would fail. (I’m paraphrasing)

The reason my dad was badly paid even though his job required so much skill was because lithography was an old technology. The mystique had been removed from the process hundreds of years earlier and the machines looked after themselves just enough to allow an unskilled worker become fully skilled in 3 years of on the job training.

The technology was mature and there was solid competition in the market. This drove the printing prices down, which pushed the salaries down, which meant that eventually the job of “machine minder” was only slightly more attractive a career than something like panel beating.

Compounding this, in the last 30 years printing has evolved to the point where the machines are easier to use, faster and even more reliable. Instead of hiring one or two “minders” per machine you can now have a few roaming engineers for an entire factory of printers. Putting ink on paper has never been cheaper.

My father moved to the publishing world about 30 years ago and has been wearing chinos to work ever since… Though I’m pretty sure he would still prefer to deal with machines than colleagues.

The costs and skill required to deliver content will always drop. Technology takes care of that, whether it’s a slightly more reliable room sized printer, or software that makes building an iPad app easier, the world is pre-programmed to make processes more efficient.

However, We will never have Artificial Intelligence that can drive to Darling and write about an Evita Bezuidenhout show, take photographs of the flowers in the Karoo or write about swimming with dolphins on a cool Sunday morning.

100 years ago quality content made money… Nothing has changed and it is unlikely to ever change. How content is delivered should never become more important than the content itself.

You might be able to wow people with your swanky iPad application with annoying faux-turning-pages animations, but eventually, just like the printing press, the technology will mature and everyone will be building swanky iPad apps. The cost involved in building those apps will drop and the big boys will be consistently competing against small, leaner, startup content producers. It took hundreds of years to get the cost of printing so low that we could print a daily newspaper and sell it to the masses. The cost of producing an Ipad app drops constantly and, as the technology evolves, it becomes trivially easy for anyone with some good ideas and camera to create something that other people want… and god forbid, would actually pay money for.

So, if you happen to be the CEO of some big ass media giant, spare a thought for Gutenberg and then Google “ios and android development frameworks” before deciding not to buy your content producers some decent computers. You could even do it on your iPad.

Letter to my 15 year old self.

Hi, it’s me, the 30 year old Jonathan. Here’s a list of things I wish I’d known when I was 15.

  1. Stop trying to be cool.  Being “cool” requires you to act “cool” so you end up acting like other people who are also acting “cool”… Eventually everyone is acting like someone else. Just be you.
  2. You have an extraordinary amount of free time, most of which you waste watching TV.  This might be your single biggest regret. STOP IT. Do something else, write software, hitch-hike to joburg, whatever, just stop watching TV.
  3. Take risks, be unpredictable, do things spontaneously. You might get in trouble but it’ll be worth it.
  4. Don’t let yourself become a nerd, but also don’t worry about being a nerd. Nerds are cool.
  5. History is actually very cool. Don’t drop it. Accounting is lame.
  6. God, in any form, does not exist. Humans have always created gods to explain the things they could not understand. Creation, Solar Eclipses, “miracles” etc. Native Americans dancing around a fire asking god for rain is no different to Christians praying for healing etc. Read up on the Placebo Effect and then think about religion.
  7. Be a good person. You don’t need a book to tell you what is wrong and right. Don’t tease anyone for any reason.
  8. Don’t waste your time trying to get a girlfriend. Girls are awesome but you don’t need a girlfriend now.
  9. You’ll make some great friends over the years. Make an effort to be a good friend back.
  10. You can be anyone, achieve anything. Who you are is as much a journey of discovery as any other great adventure.

The end. Don’t stress kid. You’ll be fine.

ps. Invest all your money in Google and Apple, but only after they fire Steve Jobs the first time