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Into the Unknown: My Essential Reading List

27 March 2020

Wow, if ever we all needed inspiration and positive vibes, it’s now! I am indeed (hashtag) “blessed”, yet severely impacted like the rest of us. It’s a weird time to be on earth.

My Inspirational Speaking peers and I make a living, for the most part, from events and conferences, both locally and abroad, and I am sure many of them have experienced the same cold sweat I have, when looking at the number of audiences I was set to engage with the next few months, now all postponed or canceled. My calendar is a flat line. Zero. Zip. The bumper months and bookings once firmly in place, all stripped overnight to nil. Yoh!

 As speakers of this genre, we are brought in to inspire, to reassure, to provide perspective and direction in challenging times. I preach resilience; teach grit and a positive mindset. I facilitate teams to navigate change, and a multitude of challenges, when the going is as tough as it can be.

 Yet here we are, some top inspirers, on the cusp of the unknown, feeling all the uncertainty, trepidation and mortality that I feel. With families to feed and dreams, plans and goals of our own, it’s time to practice what we preach, step up, inspire and motivate, because the lessons we have learnt and the messages we share are REAL, derived from ‘impossible’ situations – not dissimilar to where we are today.

 I have been tested before, in excruciating circumstances, and I have passed.

This is no different and there is opportunity in the crisis to look at this amazing mess, and to channel the fear in a new positive direction.

If you are looking for inspiration in the Lockdown, here are some of the books and platforms that have played a significant role in my journey and helped shape my “WHY”:

Lewis Pugh

A pioneer who has taught me tons, most importantly the value and necessity of preparation, preparation, preparation! I remember reading Lewis’s first book “Achieving the Impossible”. He mentions me as a younger swimming just starting my adventures, attempting to keep up with him for a session within a staged swim around the Cape Peninsula. My lack of preparation that day was obvious, and there were some valuable lessons learned.

In this lockdown and indefinite timeline, it is reasonable to feel overwhelmed. Lewis helped me to face the unknown with consideration and strategy. When we create our own stepping stones, the path opens up, and we are less likely to be blind sighted.

Both Lewis’s books: Achieving the Impossible and 21 Yaks and a Speedo can be found on Amazon.com and Takealot.com. You can also follow him on his very active Twitter account: https://twitter.com/LewisPugh

Lee Den Hond

I was so moved by this positive lady when attending her talk and seeing the hardships overcome to achieve the greatness she achieved. Lee’s outlook again reinforced my believe that one’s attitude towards a challenge is a deal breaker or maker. Her book ‘What Happens When You Say YES’ is available at Takealot.com, Exclusive Books and Amazon.com – highly recommended.

It’s hard to see over the massive hurdles we face daily. They beat us down and work tirelessly to steer one into negativity – a quickly accelerating spiral. Physically working to change your attitude when the going is as tough as it can possibly be, will in turn change your life.

Pete Van Kets

Long before I ever thought of going into inspirational speaking, I watched Peter speaking on stage at the incredible SalesGuru events by Mark Keating and Brett Wood. I marveled at the deep emotions I felt as I listened to how this humble adventurer, set and achieved his impossible goals. It especially struck home when he spoke about his family, and the limitless love he felt for them and how he drew from that in the toughest times. The important things in life.

I will take our current watershed times to re-evaluate my dreams and marry them with my family’s. Time in my home and new routines create the space to understand my role in their journey too, and to identify opportunities where my support will be relevant.

His first book: The Eighth Summit is available on Takealot, and as a download off his site: https://petervankets.co.za – Rumour has it there is another one in the making…watch this space.

Zolani Mahola

Although I have known Zolani for many years, it’s only recently I’ve been privileged to share a stage with her. Not in a musical capacity (that would be EPIC), but rather on the inspirational speaking circuit, where she shared her message on the importance of our own stories and how they can be a catalyst for real change in all aspects of our lives and society.

What is happening to all of us right now; Lockdown, is a forced chapter in all our stories. Think how to make it the most exciting, positive chapter in your own ‘book’ of life.

Zolani has a cool Instagram channel, where you will find music, inspiration and Pop-up Live performances during the lockdown, well worth the follow: https://www.instagram.com/zolanimahola/

Chris Bertish

He has an ability to put projects of an impossible nature into place, and forced me to look at challenges and planned expeditions very differently. He set the bar higher than anyone I know in his genre and we can never underestimate the impact that he has had on the people who follow his adventures and hear him speak.

Chris embodies the true South African spirit found in strength, bravery and discovery. Our nation has the ability to overcome vast spaces of unknown.

 I thoroughly enjoyed his book “Stoked”, available on Kindle and Paperback on Amazon.com. Aim high!

Joey Evans

Inspired me with his die-hard attitude and positive outlook into something which absolutely terrifies me; losing the use of all, or part of our bodies through injury or illness. Hearing his story LIVE, and then reading his book, completely reinforced so many of my own beliefs and attitudes, and helped me take them to the next level. Absolutely wonderful messages for everybody, especially at this very difficult time, Joey has proper Grit.

Our bodies are the vessels that will sail us through this quagmire of disease. This is the time to get in touch with our physical selves. Take steps to feel our hearts beat and our lungs working. Whatever your physical challenge, take time everyday to look inside and give your inner self the mental attention to make it strong.

His Book: From Para to Dakar is impossible to put down, you can buy his book on his website: https://www.joeyevans.co.za/product/fromparatodakar-book/ or on digital download at your favourite online portal.

Arafat Gatabazi

Lastly, Arafat Gatabazi has not written a book, but his keynote is developing into a powerful message that should be heard by everyone around the world.

There is a great difference between choosing to take on an epic challenge, and being forced into one. At an extremely young age, Arafat was forced to flee his home in the DRC and make his way on foot to South Africa, with a thin chance of finding refuge with his Aunt in Cape Town. His Journey has seen him rise above impossible odds, grabbing every opportunity to find his way out of homelessness, and not only survive, but to thrive.

Watch the incredible rise of an extraordinary man through his instagram account: @arafatswim – and if you can get to hear him on stage, jump at the opportunity!

To everyone doing their bit to protect the most vulnerable in our societies by staying home and socially distant, you are all playing your part to limit the impact of this disaster. What we do now will have a stamp on history, and be the blueprint on how to behave for generations to come. To steal a meme from my FaceBook feed which gave me some perspective:

Your grandparents were sent to fight in World War 2. We’ve been asked to wash our hands and sit on the couch!

I will personally be using this time to start work on my own book. A project I have spent many months procrastinating, but have come to the end of the line of excuses.

Stay safe, stay home, and read a book!

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  • Joined the Little Optimist Global Challenge on a gloriously beautiful Cape Town evening. ‘Sailed’ an ‘Optimist’ in a ‘Speedo’ in a ‘Pool’ with a ‘Cocktail’  Another world first? 🤷🏼‍♂️. Amazing initiative by @gregbertish and team and wonderful hospitality by Radisson Blu. Thank you Maryke Musson for the ride @littleoptimist @cityofcapetown @southafrica @maryke.musson @radissonblucapetown @liezelonline @deonbinglive @sos_childrens_villages @tanyanefdt @newsladyamy @gillstrawberrylive @vos_jamesJoined the Little Optimist Global Challenge on a gloriously beautiful Cape Town evening. ‘Sailed’ an ‘Optimist’ in a ‘Speedo’ in a ‘Pool’ with a ‘Cocktail’ Another world first? 🤷🏼‍♂️. Amazing initiative by @gregbertish and team and wonderful hospitality by Radisson Blu. Thank you Maryke Musson for the ride @littleoptimist @cityofcapetown @southafrica @maryke.musson @radissonblucapetown @liezelonline @deonbinglive @sos_childrens_villages @tanyanefdt @newsladyamy @gillstrawberrylive @vos_james
  • “When we first saw the little red boat anchored off the coast of Puerto Williams, the Southern-most town in the world, I distinctly remember us all bursting into spontaneous laughter. Not because there was anything remotely funny about it.”Read about the challenge that earned me in of these! Link in bio  #guinnessworldrecords #guinnessworldrecord #pushpastimpossible“When we first saw the little red boat anchored off the coast of Puerto Williams, the Southern-most town in the world, I distinctly remember us all bursting into spontaneous laughter. Not because there was anything remotely funny about it.”Read about the challenge that earned me in of these! Link in bio #guinnessworldrecords #guinnessworldrecord #pushpastimpossible
  • Sometimes you just gotta do the laps. No shortcuts. No way to cheat. No one to do it for you. 280 exhaustive times up and down, staring at that line. Only the mental game works. How you visualise the task . How you break it up in your head. Smaller, bite size goals within. Then suddenly it’s easy. And you can do it again tomorrow.Sometimes you just gotta do the laps. No shortcuts. No way to cheat. No one to do it for you. 280 exhaustive times up and down, staring at that line. Only the mental game works. How you visualise the task . How you break it up in your head. Smaller, bite size goals within. Then suddenly it’s easy. And you can do it again tomorrow.
  • The pure joy and excitement on this little chap’s face when we gave him and his friends a short ride down the canal was palatable. A little goes a long way when you have even less.The pure joy and excitement on this little chap’s face when we gave him and his friends a short ride down the canal was palatable. A little goes a long way when you have even less.
  • @khayelitshacanoeclub leading the crew today on the #PeninsulaPaddle. Beautiful morning on the water, sadly plenty of plastic pollution along the way. This event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens. #strawssuck #singleuseplastic ️@khayelitshacanoeclub leading the crew today on the #PeninsulaPaddle. Beautiful morning on the water, sadly plenty of plastic pollution along the way. This event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens. #strawssuck #singleuseplastic ️
  • A valuable reminder to consistently evaluate your choices when it comes to single-use plastic waste. #StrawsSuck #SingleUsePlasticUCT’s Future Water Institute will lead the 11th annual Peninsula Paddle on World Rivers Day, 27 September 2020, in partnership with Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), Friends of the Liesbeek, Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town (represented by the Zandvlei Nature Reserve).The event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens.A valuable reminder to consistently evaluate your choices when it comes to single-use plastic waste. #StrawsSuck #SingleUsePlasticUCT’s Future Water Institute will lead the 11th annual Peninsula Paddle on World Rivers Day, 27 September 2020, in partnership with Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), Friends of the Liesbeek, Khayelitsha Canoe Club, Zandvlei Trust and the City of Cape Town (represented by the Zandvlei Nature Reserve).The event will continue to raise awareness of the plight of our waterways and to challenge the actions of Cape citizens.
  • @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject" > @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject" />Can you watch The Octopus Teacher and still not want to do all you can to help protect our ocean and it's incredible, mysterious, peaceful tenants?This Documentary really touched me…I can't compare to Craig Foster, but I’ve been so blessed to swim with so many beautiful Ocean creatures – from mammoth whales and smaller ones too, countless playful dolphins, plenty cheeky seals, weird anti-social sunfish, penguins and yes, sharks too.I have even had yellowtail fish follow me for kilometres when I was swimming between continents, Europe to Africa’s Gibraltar Straits. They would inquisitively look directly into my goggles with their big round, penetrating eyes. When you share each other’s space in this way, something creeps into your core, into your soul and you’ll intuitively know you’ve been tasked by the creatures of the sea to help them. Follow -> @seachangeproject #MyOctopusTeacher #Netflix #Conservation #oceanconservation #singleuseplastic #WWF #SASSI #sustainability #sustainablefishing #SeaChangeProject
  • Laying down audio books today at @blackhole_studios with @chris_tait_saLaying down audio books today at @blackhole_studios with @chris_tait_sa
  • Another epic swim camp run by @bigbayevents in Langebaan 🤟🏻Another epic swim camp run by @bigbayevents in Langebaan 🤟🏻
  • When it comes to the prism of possibilities, I’ve learnt that the real limit or “IMPOSSIBLE” is definitely not where your mind tells you it is. There is always significant margin on the other side of this ‘safe’ limit which is where the magic starts to happen. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.The space or MARGIN between those two lines is where you start to get a concept of how much more you are capable of. It’s not a comfortable space, it’s the definition of being outside your comfort zone – but that’s where you’re going to learn something.I think people know what their impossibles are, deep down… The first step is to identify those moments where there’s a choice to make: you can follow this path because you know you can deliver a nice steady performance, learn nothing and achieve a reasonable goal. But at the same time there’s another potential path: a way to do something differently, or better. Why didn’t you choose that? Because it was a risk, and you thought you could fail. Once you start challenging things on a small level, you can keep growing.When it comes to the prism of possibilities, I’ve learnt that the real limit or “IMPOSSIBLE” is definitely not where your mind tells you it is. There is always significant margin on the other side of this ‘safe’ limit which is where the magic starts to happen. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help audiences to Push Past Impossible – not anyone else’s impossible, but rather their own.The space or MARGIN between those two lines is where you start to get a concept of how much more you are capable of. It’s not a comfortable space, it’s the definition of being outside your comfort zone – but that’s where you’re going to learn something.I think people know what their impossibles are, deep down… The first step is to identify those moments where there’s a choice to make: you can follow this path because you know you can deliver a nice steady performance, learn nothing and achieve a reasonable goal. But at the same time there’s another potential path: a way to do something differently, or better. Why didn’t you choose that? Because it was a risk, and you thought you could fail. Once you start challenging things on a small level, you can keep growing.