Lockdown Day 361- 23 March 2021 – Seasons

“The dog days of summer are fading into autumn like the memories of a photo.”

That was one of my friends’ Whatsapp status and I told him I like it. He replied that autumn is his favourite season. I like all the seasons.

Every season is unique. Every season has something I enjoy.

Perhaps Vivaldi also felt something like that about the seasons and therefore composed the Four Seasons? I will listen to each season while writing about my experience of the seasons. And that is when I discover that each Season is based on a sonnet!

 

Autumn – Concerto in F Major

Allegro
The peasant celebrates with song and dance the harvest safely gathered in.
The cup of Bacchus flows freely, and many find their relief in deep slumber.Adagio molto
The singing and the dancing die away
as cooling breezes fan the pleasant air,
inviting all to sleep
without a care.Allegro
The hunters emerge at dawn,
ready for the chase,
with horns and dogs and cries.
Their quarry flees while they give chase.
Terrified and wounded, the prey struggles on,
but, harried, dies.

That is the thing of Autumn. It is the harsh hot days of summer that starts mellowing. Days grow shorter and nights longer. Days can still be hot, but the nights are cool, even cold. It is in between weather – between the duvet and no duvet. Between I am freezing without the duvet and I am sweating under the duvet.

With earth cooling down, it becomes more pleasant to be outside during the day. Less so in the evening. Autumn colors paints the trees and plants in shades of red and hues of brown.

Autumn, a season of dying. But dying is part of living. Perhaps we need to die to live? Morrie said: “the truth is, Mitch,” he said. “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” (Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom). If we fear death, we will live small, we will try to play it safe in an effort to escape the inescapable! Autumn reminds us that we need to die to live, in a sense.

Slowly red turns to brown and brown turns into tree skeletons against the sky. And it is winter.

Winter – Concerto in f-minor

Allegro non molto
Shivering, frozen mid the frosty snow in biting, stinging winds;
running to and fro to stamp one’s icy feet, teeth chattering in the bitter chill.Largo
To rest contentedly beside the hearth, while those outside are drenched by pouring rain.

Allegro
We tread the icy path slowly and cautiously, for fear of tripping and falling.
Then turn abruptly, slip, crash on the ground and, rising, hasten on across the ice lest it cracks up.
We feel the chill north winds coarse through the home despite the locked and bolted doors…
this is winter, which nonetheless brings its own delights.

Indeed winter brings its own delights. In winter I wear jerseys. Over sized and with cables and polo necks. And when I pull that jersey over my head, I feel snug. Winter is a time for soup. Bean soup, peasoup, vegetable soup, lentil soup cooking for hours and filling the house with an aroma that changes a house to a home. It is a time for curry and oxtail stew.

 

It is a time to sit at the fire or heater, just doing nothing or reading a book. Days are short, nights are long. Getting into bed under the fluffy winter duvet is a cuddly comfort. Long nights are made to rest and recuperate. To build and recover the energy spent in spring and summer to make a living and prepare for winter.

The cold is refreshing and exhilarating. Since I always end a shower under cold water, I feel energized after my showers. Winter is fresh and clean. Winter is death. The big rest.

Then, slowly, I grow tired of wearing a jersey every day. The nights become too long. And then one morning when you again wake up early, you realise the sun is out of its sleep earlier! Nights get shorter, days get longer. Wonderful, crisp clear days with a hazy blue sky.

And then one day you leave the house and you see the tree has a fresh green shine. New leaves are budding. And you realise – it is spring. Earth is waking up again.

Spring – Concerto in E Major

Allegro
Springtime is upon us.
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.Largo
On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.

Allegro
Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.

Springtime is upon is. There is a new lightness in the air. It is as if everybody is friendlier. Springtime brings new opportunities and a new optimism.

The calves gambol and the foals and springbuck prances. The weavers start building nests draped in bright colors that no self-respecting female weaver can ignore. The frogs play their bassoon concertos and the crickets caress the strings of the double bass.
Evenings grow mellow. Jerseys make way for long sleeve t-shirts, pt-pants and sandals. There is a joy and gaiety wherever you go.

The fields turn green and the crop grows. In the Western Cape, where I live, the green becomes shades of yellow as the canola and wheat start to ripen. It becomes a kaleidoscope of colors bursting forth and announcing a new harvest season.
Spring has become summer!

Summer – Concerto in g-minor

Allegro non molto
Beneath the blazing sun’s relentless heat men and flocks are sweltering,
pines are scorched.
We hear the cuckoo’s voice; then sweet songs of the turtle dove and finch are heard.
Soft breezes stir the air….but threatening north wind sweeps them suddenly aside. The shepherd trembles, fearful of violent storm and what may lie ahead.Adagio e piano – Presto e forte
His limbs are now awakened from their repose by fear of lightning’s flash and thunder’s roar, as gnats and flies buzz furiously around.

Presto
Alas, his worst fears were justified, as the heavens roar and great hailstones beat down upon the proudly standing corn.

A time of hard work and harvesting under the blazing sun – dog days! Days of living in t-shirts and pt-shorts. Long days and short nights allowing us to do everything we need to do. To enjoy the fruit of our work in spring and winter, but also prepare for the coming autumn and winter.

Nights to sit outside until late and watch the stars. That is why I know the summer sky so much better than the winter sky! Nights to enjoy Orion and speculate about his spear and wounded shoulder and wondering whether Betelgeuse still exists (it is 642 lightyears from earth). Looking for Aldebaran, the eye of the Bull and Sirius, the Dog Star and the brightest star. And Castor and Pollok – Gemini, my stars.

Summer a time for the beach and swimming.

And then the heat and long days become tiring, you run out of energy. And one morning you wake up and it is still dark and you become aware that days are getting shorter, nights are getting longer.

Autumn is coming.

An ever repeating cycle of dying and rising. Until the Nazi’s abused and desicrated it, the Swastika symbolized this ever repeating cycle. It still does, it just got a bad connotation due to the Nazis. A new season rising, a new season fading is what the Swastika symbolises.

Perhaps spring is birth to puberty. Summer is teenage to adulthood and autumn is old age and winter dying and death? And as we cycle through the year in and year out, we grow. We live, we experience the good and bad of life. We gain wisdom (hopefully). Above all, as we go through the seasons, we also symbolically go through the seasons of our lives.

And when we finally arrive at “House Autumn Leaves,” we know life in all its colors and hues. We have lived.

And when I arrive there soon, I hope I can sing, like John Denver in Poems and Prayers and Promises:

How sweet it is to love someone, how right it is to care.
How long it’s been since yesterday, what about tomorrow
and what about our dreams and all the memories we share?

I have lived all the seasons to the fullest of my ability.

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Lockdown Day 349 – 11 March 2021 – Trust

TRUST – it fascinates me!

“Trust must be earned.”

Although I agree with this statement, I also think we are often endowed by a huge degree of trust without working for it. And we endow other people with a huge degree of trust. Sometimes it is because of their position in society or their occupation or profession, like doctors. Sometimes because we know somebody whom we trust who refers them. Sometimes it is because we like them. Or perhaps they have a “trustworthy face.”

What is trust?

Can we define trust? Or can we just describe elements of trust?

  • It is a belief in the truth of something or somebody, or the reliability or strength (a rope will hold me and not break) of somebody or something;
  • It is a confident expectation (I expect the rope will not break);
  • It is something given for us to care for (in my work my clients trust me to do my best for them);
  • Because I am trusted, I have the liability of trust – I must return the trust I received, like a trustee.
  • Did I miss something?

In general trust develops over time and with experience. Can we say trust and confidence goes hand in hand. The more something or somebody proves that they are trustworthy, the more we will trust them. The more we trust, the more confidence we will have and the greater our reliance on that person or “something.”

In my work situation, where I start off with a brand new relationship that will hopefully last a very long time, trust has to be nurtured and cultivated. It develops like any good relationship. Every interaction strengthens the relationship and builds the trust.

Trust is invaluable. How do you put a price on trust? You cannot buy trust with money. The fact that we often get it for free, does definitely not mean that trust is cheap!

It is when trust is lost that we really understand how expensive it really is!

Lost Trust

Trust is not tangible. It is one of those things that we know, but it is difficult to define. We know when we have it, we recognize it when we see it. But defining it is not so easy.

How do we lose trust?

Trust can be lost in one fell swoop. That is when somebody just so flagrantly abuses your trust that all trust is lost immediately. Somebody shares what you told in confidence to the world. That is when you find out that what you told a professional person in confidence in Cape Town is is news in Worcester because he told his sister. End of relationship. End of trust. End of story. That should never happen and there is no excuse for this type of exploitation.

Trust can be lost over time. Small, repetitive mistakes can lead to a loss of trust.

In this case, I think, it is more what happens after the mistake than the mistake itself that causes the loss of trust. Let me share a story from my life where I think I did the right thing.

One day a client calls in a claim for a lost piece of jewelry and I discover he never had All Risk cover. Over a couple of reviews of his policy, I just did not notice it. Even though I explained the need for specified all risk for more expensive items!  I made a mistake and the client had no claim.

I make an appointment with the client, explain the situation and offer to pay the claim as if he had All Risk cover, but not on a specified basis, as he always declined that. Fortunately it was an affordable amount.

Fast forward a few years. I add a vehicle for the client and the salesman lies about the immobilizer in the vehicle. Murphy arranges somebody that steals the vehicle, The insurance repudiates the claim due to the fact that there is no immobilizer as stated on the schedule. In this case I can proof that the salesman lied to me, but that is not going to help the client. So we fight to get the claim paid. One day when discussion the process and logic with the client, I say if the insurer refuses to pay, based on our arguments, then we will go to the Ombud who will in all probability rule in the clients favour. And the client says:  “Mr Maritz, are you saying I must take YOU to the Ombud? Because I will never do that.”  The claim was paid two days later without going to the Ombud. He is still my client.

My points are:

  1.  It is how I handled a mistake that deepened the trust. If I tried to find excuses, the trust would be eroded and lost.
  2. There is no way to put a financial value to the trust that I receive from this client.
  3. This kind of trust is something to be cherished.

I use one example, but I am sure you will have many stories how trust was lost or bolstered and I will love to hear them. Share in the comments below, please.

“Once lost, trust can never be restored to where it was.”

Since I do not like absolute statements, I have a problem with this statement. Generally it is true, though, and one would do well to preserve and nurture any trust. It is much easier to get the trust than it is to try and restore it.

There is a certain amount of truth in this, or am I being negative? Perhaps the problem is that when trust is broken, we do not go back and there is no opportunity to rebuild the trust?

Let me share two stories in this regard.

The first story is about my previous Hilux. One morning it refused to start and I had the mechanic in who towed it away. Filters and pumps and battery were replaced. Next day a friend and I sleep in the mountain and when we come back, Hilux will not start, again. Eventually we get it going and on my way back I stop at the garage and accuse them that the battery is a dud. I get a new battery.

That evening we sleep at Beaver Lac. Sunday the Hilux needs the farm bakkie to help it start. Monday the starter is overhauled and the problem is solved.

It took me a very long time to get into that Hilux without some tension about whether it will start or not. My trust was affected.

Over time, confidence was rebuilt. I know where the problem originated and the problem was fixed. And, yet, if I have to be honest, I had doubts to the day I sold it. We were never completely the same again!

The second story comes from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Stephan Covey relates the story of the married couple who came to him and said they attend meetings and seminars out of town regularly for their work. There is always tension when one partner is away for such a meeting and doubts about faithfulness (another aspect of trust!).

Then it transpired that they were married before and divorced their previous spouses because they met at a seminar, fell in love, had an affair and eventually got married.

In this story, they were apparently able to overcome their doubts and restore trust.

Which leads me to this aspect:

Do we Trust ourselves?

A person who does not trust themselves can never really trust anyone else.
De Retz

When I was a minister many people trusted me with their deepest and often darkest secrets. They trusted me to give them answers – I am not sure that trust was deserved, because I do not trust myself to have the answers! But I also learnt that sometimes all that is needed, is that somebody listens and understands. Mostly it is all that is needed. Coming up with solutions and pat answers is seldom required or helpful, if ever.

More importantly, the trust these people (and many other people still) endow me with is that I will keep their secrets. I will not talk about it or, heaven forbid, post it on social media. Fortunately, I trust myself with that 100%!

This self-trust thing could lead to two problems:

  1. Because you trust yourself to do something, you easily trust other people to do the same – and they may not be trustworthy. Many people fall into that trap. Unfortunately, nobody goes around with a notice on their foreheads: “Do not trust me!”  Perhaps that is why we get caught in all kinds of scams!
  2.  Because we do not trust ourselves to do something, we also do not trust other people in that regard.

The above might not be true in all cases, but it is something to consider!

                  Honesty is key in getting and keeping trust
                           Lies and dishonesty destroys trust

Can we say that self-trust and self-confidence goes hand in hand? If I trust myself to be able to handle a situation, I will approach it with much more confidence! Seems trust and confidence go hand in hand.

Self-trust follows the same process as trusting anybody else. Perhaps we just let ourselves down more often than we do other people? That could be why we are encouraged to have an “accountability partner” if we want achieve new goals. Why is it that so often we are more accountable towards others than ourselves?

Do you trust the process?

This post originated when I said to my wife: “I’ve got two thumbs and I must remember it.” Read the story here.

A year ago I was a bit disappointed when I did not get the business I worked quite hard for. And it was big business. Since one of the managers expected me to advise them on what NOT to insure so that they could save on premium, and I refused to expose myself and the company to that, I did not get the business. That is also why I was not not too disappointed about not getting the business.

Less than a year later, there are problems at the company. A change of leadership. And a claim repudiated.

Best of all: I am not part of the drama! I have two thumbs!

When I lay in bed thinking about this, I started wondering why I battle to trust the process? Time and again I have experienced this “I have two thumbs philosophy” in my life.

Why then do I so often get upset when things do not go according to plan? Why do I fight setbacks? Why am I disappointed when I work on something and do not get the business? Why am I upset when I feel thwarted? Why do I not trust that the process always works? Why do I only trust the “two thumbs” principle when I learn how the trip turned out badly afterwards?

More importantly, will I trust the process even if the trip ended on a positive note and I was not part of it?

To trust the process brings peace and calm. It makes life simpler. It does not mean that you do not have to try and work. It just means that you have to trust that there is a Higher Power, whatever that is for you, who is looking out for you. It is the peace that you can know: I tried my best, and whatever happens now, is in my best interest. Even if it does not feel that way now.

I am left with two questions that I am thinking about:

  1. Is it because of a self-trust issue that I have issues to trust the process?
  2. What do I have to do to increase my process-trust.

I would love to hear your ideas about this. Please leave your comments below.

“I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles
Such are promises
All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest” 

Simon & Garfunkel – The Boxer

 

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Lockdown Day 346 – 8 March 2021 – Looking and Seeing

Looking and seeing – not the same!

There is an expression somewhere in my mind that refers to looking and seeing. “Let’s go for a look-see.” The origin is beyond me. Somebody used this phrase and it stuck.

There is a difference between looking and seeing. Many people look. Few people see.
When I was about 15 years old, I got my first lesson in looking and seeing. It came from a religious tract and the story went something like this.

The Dream

In a dream a man was invited to open a bag of wheat and describe what he sees. He opened the the bag and at the top was a cocklebur. He reported that he saw a cocklebur and was asked what he sees, again. The answer was the same – a cocklebur. He got frustrated when the man asked the same question again and started digging in the bag. He even spilled a lot of the wheat on the ground. All he found was a cocklebur. He duly reported his finding.

Then the man said: “Look, that bag is filled with good, nutritious wheat, but all you saw was the cocklebur. You were so intent on seeing something else or something out of place that you searched for it and even spilled the wheat. The bag is filled with wheat, but you never even noticed it.”

The lesson was that we can be so focused on the negative that we never see the positive. We can be so intend on the bad, that we waste the good.

Two Stories

There are two similar stories, both about farmers in the Piketberg area (just to make it interesting).

An older farmer could never see anything bad in anybody. The young farmers tried to put him to a test and one day at the market they started bad mouthing the devil. They tried to rope in the older farmer and said: “We bet you cannot say a single positive thing about the devil?” To which he replied: “He does not understand the meaning of lazy.”

The last story relates to another elderly farmer who always complained. Nothing was ever good or right. It was too dry, so the harvest would be bad. It is too wet, so the harvest is bad. It is too hot or too cold. The rain is too early or too late. One season everything was perfect, as if delivered by order. Once again the young farmers put the old man to a test. “The wheat is growing perfectly this year,” they said. And the old man replied: “Yes, but it is taking all the nutrients from the soil.”

Looking and seeing. Many people look, few people see. Two people stand side-by-side and look at the same scene and see different things. The one sees the crimson sunset reflected on the mountain. The other sees another mountain, another time, another place.
Two people stand side by side and look at the world, one sees devastation, the other sees potential.

Optismist/Pessimist

Which brings me to the question about optimism and pessimism. The ultimate pessimist, they say, is the man who uses both a belt and suspenders. Or perhaps he is just a very analytical person preparing for every eventuality?

Or the joke: the pessimistic man who sees a very narrow space and doubts the car will get through and his optimistic wife who believes he will not try.

Who is the Realist?

And the realist? Why don’t I know jokes about realists? Is it so simple as to classify the world into pessimists and optimists? Perhaps somebody has some background and experience that causes him to look at a specific situation in a specific way? Perhaps he will look at another situation differently? It is possible, even likely. The danger is that we apply our experience to a new situation and therefore cannot see the differences and the opportunities or even the dangers! We only recognize the familiar and are blind to the differences? Then we make mistakes?

ENTER WYSIWYG

In the early 80’s there was a huge breakthrough in computer technology and graphics. Up till then you had to print a document to see what it really looks like. And then WYSIWYG technology changes everything. What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get. I love that acronym. WYSIWYG.

More and more I believe WYSIWYG applies to life.

If we see bad days, we get bad days. If we see good days, we get good days. If we see opportunities, we get opportunities. If we see trouble, that is what we get. WYSIWYG.
What we see, determines our thoughts, our words, our actions, our attitude.

And our attitude determines our altitude. WYSIWYG.

Is Life WYSIWYG?

Which boils down to this: we must look at how we look, because how we look will determine what we see. And WYSIWYG!

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Lockdown Day 341 – 3 March 2021 – Remembering Abrie

Thinking of Abrie de Swardt

Why do I think of Abrie this morning? Abrie was my nephew, a few years younger than myself. The closest I came to have a brother. He died way too young in a motorcycle accident at age 19.

This morning he fills my thoughts.

The “good ol’ days” of the 70’s when we could safely ride a bicycle, because there were so few cars on the streets. A time when we still did not have a word like “shopping mall.” When we went to school barefooted and played rugby, soccer, cricket, marbles or fought during breaks. When the boxing match between Pierre Fourie and Foster in Albuquerque was refought during break. Early morning broadcast by the late Gerhard Viviers and he saw a different match than the referees, because, according to his commentary, Pierre was beating the hell out of Foster!

A time when we all wanted to be Frik du Preez and when Dawie de Villiers was a hero. And the Bats sang a song “Vat hom Dawie.” Fanus Rautenbach loved to play that song early mornings. And, since we had no TV, that was sort of the theme song for Saturday rugby matches over the radio. It was a time when rugby was played in winter and it was a war between Noord Transvaal and WP (and I was never a keen rugby fan!)

It was the time of the Proctor, Pollock and Barlow – which one was it that perfected the cover drive? Was it Barlow who play the lovely pull shot? I can’t remember.

It was a time of bug-house movies with SA Mirror giving news and sports highlights and serials (very much like today’s series on Netflix) luring you back next Saturday. You had to go back to see how the hero escaped.

Days of cowboys and crooks. Sometimes at our house and sometimes at Abrie. His father was my mother’s brother, my father’s best friend and like a second dad to me. It was a rare Friday afternoon that my dad did not go there for coffee after work. And I along to play with Abrie.

There was a lukwart tree at Abrie’s house. A very big tree. We used to climb up that tree as part of our various fantasy games. And never do I see a lukwart tree today, or I miss those days and Abrie. Thinking back with fond memories to the time we were children, young and carefree.

Somewhere in high school we decided to climb George Peak, subject to weather. Preparations made. The sun surely wasn’t very high when I was rudely shaken awake with: “Come on, hurry, it is a lovely day.” My sister, always the willing taxi driver, dropped us at Witfontein. It was the only time I was on George peak and one of the reasons I want to go back. We were at the top. When we got down again, we did not have cell phones! We walked back home and then the same sister took us to Victoria Bay.

When I got into my teenage stage, the friendship dwindled a bit. Abrie’s brother, Frekie also now passed, predicted that David and Jonathan will reconnect when the younger one discovers girls. Prophetic words.

One thing about Abrie was that his head NEVER went under the water. Since I was older, I had an advantage when we wrestled, and we wrestled a lot. But never, ever, could I get his head under the water! Then he wanted to dive with me. Victoria Bay again. We are in the pool because we will enter from the pool. I am watching the waves, because you enter and exit with the waves. I notice Abrie’s attention is far away and ask: “Do you see that?” referring to the waves and he replies, swinging his head 360 degrees, “Where is she?” We did reconnect.

Varsity starts and we only see each other during holidays. Then one holiday I bring my wife-to-be along. Abrie visits. She puts him to work drying the dishes (she is good with that) and he goes home, laughing, telling his mom that “Jeanne managed to do what nobody could yet do – I dried the dishes.”

A year later my mom had died and my dad, sister and I was visiting my youngest sister in Orkney during June holidays. Early on the Sunday morning the phone rang and my sister came in to say Abrie died in a motorcycle accident at Leentjiesklip.

My dad got back in the car and we drove straight to Abrie’s house and dad. The only thing I remember of that meeting is my uncle saying: “You should not have come back.” And my father replying: “How could I NOT come?”

There are so many anecdotes about Abrie.

His grandmother lived with them and she was very old. And Abrie was scared (at that time) of motorcycles. One day he goes to his gran and tells her he is going to sell her to Hill & Levitt, “because they buy old stuff.” (He said Wiel & Vevit”). Gran wants to know how he will get her to Hill & Levitt and he replies he will borrow another cousin’s motorbike and she reminds him that he is scared of motorbikes. A bit later he comes back and announces that he decided he will rather use the wheelbarrow.

Why am I thinking of Abrie this morning? I really do not know. But the memories are more fond than sad.

You do not have to grow old to leave a legacy.

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Forex Trading – Is it for you?

As the economy becomes tougher and Lockdown measures have a bigger effect on people’s finances, more and more people ask about Forex Trading as a way to generate money.

It scares me. In a way, it is like somebody asking about betting on horses or sport as a way to generate an income. It is as if I can hear people say: “But Forex is different!” My sobering (I hope) answer would be a question:  “Who, other than the Bookies, make a consistent, good income from the races or sports? How many people make a profit trading Forex?”  I think brokers have to disclose risks, so you will mostly see that “more than 70% of people lose money.”

So you should not trade Forex?

No, that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that gamblers don’t gamble! That may sound strange. But it is true.

If I play the horses or put a bet on the outcome of a rugby match, I gamble. I do not have the slightest idea of what I am doing. Real, professional gamblers do not do that.

Real Gamblers:

  • Do not focus on the jackpot – hitting the jackpot is a bonus. They are satisfied with smaller, consistent profits.
  • Know the rules of the games (the sport they are betting on AND the rules of the betting game) inside out. And they use that knowledge to increase their chances of winning.
  • Know and understand the odds. They understand what their chances of winning is an adjust their plays to the odds.
  • They have enough confidence in their system that they do not lose faith when they hit a losing streak.
  • They do not become emotional over winning or losing. It is not one lucky or five unlucky bets that make the gambler, it is the profit or loss over time. Some you win, some you lose. If the strategy works and you stay in the game, you will win.
  • They know as long as the winnings are more than the losses, they make a profit.

So I am not saying you should not trade.

Become Professional

Is what I am saying.

The difference between a golfer, an amateur golfer and a professional is the number of balls they hit per week.

The golfer may play a round every now and again. The good amateur will spend at least an afternoon a week on the driving range, perfecting his swing, hitting one ball after the other. The weekend golfer may hit 100 shots in a game, the good amateur hits a few 100 shots in an afternoon so that he only hits 80 in a round. And the professional? He does what the amateur does once a week every day, and he hits 68 strokes in a round – under par!

The professional is not influenced by his last bad shot. He puts it out of his mind and hits the next shot perfectly. The professional does not try to “make up distance (a loss) by hitting harder on the next shot. He plays each shot on merit.

That is what it means to be professional!

If you want to succeed as a Forex trader, you have to be a professional.

How do you become a professional forex trader?

You learn. You put in the time that it takes to study Babybips until you know it by heart. When the quizzes get difficult, you do not skip over it, you redo the lecture until you score 100%. You do not go to the next lecture until you have completed the current lecture successfully.

You learn the rules of the game.

Here is another free course you can download (it does NOT replace Babypips!) and focuses on other aspects of trading Simple & Easy Forex Course 

Both these courses are free and adds good value. It will at least give you a foundation to get started and later evaluate a paid course.

And then you do what all pro’s do – you practice. You hit a few 100 balls for every one you hit in the game.

In Forex language, you put in a few 100 demo trades for each real trade that you open. And you do not open a real trade until you know you can “hit the ball successfully most of the time.”

That is the secret of success!

Demo Trades

Unless you have a very good record on your demo account, you cannot have confidence in your strategy and what will happen? The moment there is a loss, you doubt the strategy.

The moment you doubt the strategy, one of two things will happen:

Either you start messing and tweaking and adjusting your strategy to the point where it is unrecognizable,

or

you pay somebody (more money) for a new strategy.

And you repeat the process until you run out of money!

Until you become professional you will repeat this process and probably lose a lot of money.

Conclusion:

Nobody really knows how many people really make money consistently with Forex trading. But if you want to be part of that elite group, you have to invest time and put in a lot of effort to study, learn and practice, practice, practice makes perfect.

 

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Lockdown Day 337 – 27 Feb 2021 – Leadership Lessons Learned from a 28km Hike

Long time ago I did this hike. It was a strange experience, because I ran out of energy. I was not tired. The energy was lacking. It was a “stop-go” hike. Then, to prove to myself that I am ready to hike with the club again, I decided to do it again on 27 Feb 2021. The final test for my knee replacement on 11 Feb 2020.

The planned route was Rycroft Gate (Kirstenbosch), Skeleton Gorge, Maclear’s Beacon (Smuts Track), a CBC Lager at the Restaurant and then down to Echo Valley, Valley of the Red Gods, Waterworks Museum, explore the new trail I saw 3 weeks ago to top of Skeleton Gorge and then down to Rycroft Gate. The last time about 20km hike.

Lesson 1:  Be Prepared

Somebody told me Kirstenbosch opens at 09h00. I phoned and was told it is 08h00. Still too late. Then I got reliable information that Kirstenbosch opens at 06h00. That means I can start at 07h00, as planned.

My alternative starting points are Cecilia’s Forest – not viable as it makes the trail too long – and even if we come down the Jeep Track, that last downhill stretch is too much after such a long trek.

Other alternative is Newlands Forest, which will add 6 km’s to the distance. I thought I can do it (now I know I could). So this becomes Plan B.

If we need an escape: If I get to the CBC Lager, in other words at the cable car, and I feel I cannot complete the route, I will go down with the cable car and Uber to the Hilux. Quite affordable – I checked that.

I was prepared to the point where I could sleep on the mountain, if I had to. But that is always the case.

Lesson 2:  Luck plays a role.

The first lucky break is that I started wondering about heights in the mountain. Accurate Altimeter is on my phone, but I never used it.  Today was the day. We started at 83m on the M3. At the highest point on the Contour Path we were at about 500m. At the start of Skeleton we were at 330m. Time to here was spot on 1.5 hours and  5.5km’s. Important info, as you will see later.

The second lucky break is that Carl brought his son with. He is a very keen hiker and very fit.  That is added insurance. If the worst comes to the worst, we can end at Kirstenbosch main gate and the youngster can bring the Hilux to us – save us 3km’s.

The last lucky break was that two more youngsters joined us at the restaurant. The group grew to 5, instead of the initial 2. And we had 3 fit, young and experienced hikers if the two oldsters (myself and Carl) run into trouble.

Lesson 3:  Sometimes what frustrates you is for the best.

We arrive at Rycroft at 07h00. It is open. We can enter – except they only allow hikers with cards – like MCSA and SANBI cards. Since there is no cashier, you cannot pay and no pay no enter.

By now it is 07:15. We can wait for 08h00, but I do not have the confidence that the cashier will be operational at 08h00 and my personality is that I want to move. We will start at Newlands Forest. We start just after 07h30.

All day this decision nagged at me. Should I have waited and shortened the route by 6 km’s? The common point is bottom of Skeleton Gorge. We arrived at the bottom of Skeleton Gorge at 09h00. If we assume the cashier opened at 08h00, punctually, and we spend time paying and packing up to leave at 08h10 (optimistic calculation), we would not be at Skeleton before 09h00.

This was really a lucky, unplanned, break. If we did enter through Rycroft, we would be “locked” in the garden. To get out we would have had 3 options: Get somebody to open the gate, exit via Cecilia’s Forest or Newlands Forest – very far from the Hilux.

It was a huge frustration when we had to go to plan B, but it was a very good thing in hind sight.

I HAVE TWO THUMBS!

LESSON 4: Adapt to circumstances.

Carl is a good hiker and, I believe, much fitter than I am. On this day, he runs out of energy. Just like I did many years ago. So we hike slower than we should.

First adaptation we cut out Valley of the Red Gods. Shortens the route and reduces time, as the route is less uphill and exits very close to the Museum.

A very important thing is that you cannot push people beyond their limits. Years ago when I was battling on this route, you could offer me R1 million in cash, but I could not go faster. Sometimes pushing people just does not work. We need to know people well enough to know when to push and when to pull. If you push when you should pull, things will implode.

Pulling in these circumstances means that I walk ahead and just keep the group in sight and wait for everybody to catch up whenever we change direction – losing somebody under these circumstances is going to be detrimental.

In terms of hiking this is important. If you walk behind a slower walker (and every group has one – think about it), they tend to walk slower. If you walk ahead of them, you “pull” them. Almost like a pacemaker for long distance athletes.

LESSON 5:  Set goals

Break down the task into segments and set goals for achieving it. The goals must be realistic.

When we get to the Museum, I know we will be on the mountain in the dark. But I do not want to be on Skeleton Gorge in the dark. So I set a realistic goal to be at the Contour Path by 18h00. It gives and hour to descend. And I pull relentlessly!

Once we are on the Contour Path, the risk is reduced exponentially – less chance for falling or injury. If we do need rescue, it is much easier for all parties concerned (WSAR’s number is top of my contacts list. WSAR – Wilderness Search and Rescue. The hiker’s best friend in the same way that NSRI is ocean goers best friend.)

LESSON 6:  When you are in trouble, don’t experiment

Once we are at the Contour Path, we have 5.5km to the Hilux. At the best estimate it is 1.5 hours. On the way up, I saw a trail that could offer a way around the highest part of the trail. It could offer an easier way out.

Still pulling, we get to the point where the trail forks. Checking Accurate Altimeter (the lucky break) I see we are at 380m. We gained a gradual 50m from the bottom of Skeleton Gorge. If we follow the trail, we have to gain another 120m.

On the other hand, the alternative route goes downhill – I do not know how far down. That means I  also do not know what height gain we would need to get back from the bottom onto the contour path. Or how steep it is.

In other words, one trail I know and I know what to expect. The other trail is an unknown. Under the circumstances where it is getting darker quickly and we are tired and going slower and slower, the wise choice is the trail we know. We definitely do not have energy to turn around or search for trails.

Sunday morning, checking the maps, it turns out to be a very good decision. From the bottom to the contour path we would have a very steep 220m climb.

Another aspect is that we are tired and getting lost may be the last straw that might take us to the exact place that we are trying to avoid – needing rescue. Who wants to mess up somebody else’s Saturday evening?

My brother in law has a mantra that sums this up very well:  “Never put something that works at risk to experiment with something that might not work.”

LESSON 7: Keep thinking

As we were going up to Maclear’s Beacon, I was starting to evaluate the situation. We were going slow, it was uphill, so progress is slower. Coming down was not as steep, as the steepest part you come down with ladders so you lose height fairly quickly. Uphills are not too steep, and downhills gradual. So it will go quicker.

Think, evaluate and do not be scared to adapt and change your plans. And ask other experienced people.

SUMMARY:

Unless you want to hike in the dark, nobody plans to come down the mountain in the dark.  It never was my plan to be off the mountain after 18h00, at the latest. Even though I have a torch with me. But now it did get late. Ever since my national service days, I always have a “washup” after an event. Especially if it did not go as planned,

And Sunday morning I ran through all this again to evaluate the whole process. What should or could I have done differently. The pivot point was right at the top when we were at the restaurant. We discussed the option of going down. The two people who joined us could take us back to the Hilux. And everybody was fine. There was no reason not to carry on as planned. Looking at that situation again, I still cannot see a reason to abort the trip.

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I love (and often quote) Forrest Gump’s take on this:  “Shit happens.”

We need to prepare for this as best we can. But more importantly, when it happens, we need to keep calm, rational and make rational decisions based on our experience and knowledge. We stand or fall by these decisions! We will be judged on those decisions by people who never had to make a decision like that. And there is always a context. That is why I like to stop and express my thoughts aloud. As one person on a hike once said when I did this:  “Oh, you are not asking us, you are thinking aloud.” Yes, but I welcome and will listen to your thoughts.” I even do it when hiking alone.

A leader’s responsibility is to take his people to where he wants them to go and get them there safely with him or her. That is my philosophy.

I am grateful that I could do that on Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lockdown Day 334 – 24 February 2021 – Motives and Agendas

Have you ever wondered how it works that you think of something and then suddenly it is as if many other people also think that same thing? It happened to my this morning.

I scan through Facebook and on one of the philosophical discussion groups, somebody posted:  “We have been mindfucked, and now the great unfuck must begin.”

How does that tie in with my thoughts?

Yesterday evening the wife and I watched New Amsterdam. The social worker is part of the episode. And when I see her, I know how it will end. Suddenly I realize that social workers and the welfare system are typecast in films and series. My words to my wife were, we have a serious problem and it is costing us much and we pay too much for it.

I do not watch a lot of movies or series, yet, I suddenly realized that there is a trend. My question is “WHY?”

If you look carefully, you will see the same thing with the church and ministers of religion.

Now, understand me here, I am not saying that the welfare system or the church is above criticism, not at all. They should be held at very high standards. I am not denying that bad things happen in the welfare system, foster care and orphanages and the church. You do not want to get me going about the church! That is something for another day, perhaps.

Both the church and the welfare system are the two institutions that work to make the world a better place. Bear with me for a moment and forget the negatives.  It is the church how preaches peace and forgiving. It is the church who preaches love your neighbour, it is the church who preaches do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. Well, not really the church, the Bible, but the church is the messenger. Those are all positive values. If we were to live by those values, the world will be a much better place and a lot of our problems will disappear.

IF we lived according to the above mentioned Biblical values, we would probably need a smaller welfare system, if at all. I know a few people who came through the welfare system and are much better off than the alternative. It is never the ideal to grow up in an orphanage, but it is surely better than alcoholic, unemployed and dysfunctional parents? Since we do not live by the Golden Rule of DOING unto others, welfare has much less funds than defense (I might be wrong here). Still, the point is, the welllfare system has a positive goal and in most cases do good.

Which brings me to the why?  Why do films and series like to focus on the negative side of the two positive institutes in society? Yes, I know it is sort of the Good Samaritan story.

A pastor in a sermon once changed the story to make it understandable to children and said: “The deacon walked by. Then the elder walked by. Then the pastor walked by.” To which one of the kids exclaimed: “The bastard.” Social workers and pastors who act against what we expect, raise the emotions. It serves the plot – but at what cost?

At 61 years, I am more and more questioning people’s motives and agendas. From the politician to the social media influencer, more and more I wonder:  “What is the motive? What is the agenda? Why is it important to him or her?” “Why should I subscribe to this?”

What is my agenda? My agenda is to be more critical of the things I read and hear. To challenge it. To evaluate it against facts and my own value system. To measure it against reality (whatever that is).

Long ago I was at a seminar presented by an investment company. An ex-colleague (financial planner) was sitting behind me and shared her opinions loudly – all such unfounded  generalizations. When I could not take it anymore, I turned around and asked: “On what good scientific research do you base those statements?” She replied:  “I worked as receptionist for a law firm for 18 months. I KNOW” Indeed.

But that is my agenda. I hope, now that you have read this, you will ask yourself:  “Is there merit in this?” I hope that you will be more vigilant about people messing with your mind. That you will be aware there are people deliberately trying to mess with your mind.

The sad part is this:  the biggest influencer is not the media – it is my own prejudices, my own, unchallenged preconceptions, the unchallenged wisdom that gets conveyed from generation to generation. Those one-liners that have that easy rhythm and sounds so logical.

 

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Shortterm Insurance – Principle of Average Explained

AVERAGE OLD CONCEPT

Average is an insurance concept as old as the industry. And insurance dates back to the time when people travelled through the desert on camels. Average is possibly one of the most important insurance concepts you have to understand. When average bites, it is very bad.

DISCLAIMER
  • This is not advice – this is to help you understand your own insurance better.
  • PLEASE read your own policy wording, as policy wordings do differ – your policy could be totally different from the generic wording that I am using.
  • This is only a summary of the wording.
  • Only your own policy wording will have any value when you claim.
  • Consult with a broker or the insurer before amending your policy

A Google definition of average explains it very clearly:
“In terms of the “average” clause, you are required to insure your assets at their full value. If the sum insured at the time of the loss is less than the insurable value of the property, the amount claimed will be reduced in proportion to how much you are under-insured.”

Here is another Google definition:
“The ‘average clause’ is defined as a clause in an insurance policy requiring that you bear a proportion of any loss if your assets were underinsured or insured for less than their full replacement value. Underinsurance is expressed as a percentage of the full value and that percentage is applied to the claim.”

In normal language: This is just another way of saying that, if your property is insured for less than it would actually cost to replace it, your insurer will pay out only a percentage of your claim. That percentage is the % ratio between the insured value (IV) and the replacement value (RV).  IV/RV x 100.

BUT, is it FAIR?

The question is, is average fair?
Let’s play a game. The game is that you and I jointly own a flock of 100 sheep. We mark the sheep “US” so that we can identify our sheep and they do not get mixed up with other flocks.

One bad night a troop of baboons kills 20 of the sheep. Next day I call you and inform you that the baboons killed 20 of YOUR sheep.

Your first question would be: “How do you know it is my sheep? Surely 20 of OUR sheep were killed?”

That is why average is fair. We share equally in the flock of sheep, so we both lost 10 sheep.

And that is the principle of average.

UNDERINSURANCE LEADS TO AVERAGE

Underinsurance and average goes hand-in-hand.

When you underinsure your house or content, you accept part of the risk. In effect you become co-insurer of your own assets. That means, just as with the sheep, if there is a loss, you have to carry your part of the loss.

If you insure something that is worth R2 million for R1 million and then that item is a total loss, the insurance will pay the R1 million. But to get back in the same position you were, you would have to find another R1 million from your own sources. It is a 50% underinsurance and you carry your part.

If he house burns down partially and the damage is R500 000, then the payout will R250 000 (minus excesses as applicable!). You have to come up with your part of the loss, which is R250 000. A 50% underinsurance.

Whether it is a total loss or a partial loss, the principle is the same.

WHY do people Underinsure?

Sometimes people just underestimate the value of their property. Remember you have to insure at replacement value VAT included. Sometimes people thumb suck and come up with a value from thin air.

Sometimes people try to save on insurance premiums.

Consider this:  if the premium rate is .3% (0.3% of the insured value per year) it means the monthly premium on a R1 million property is R250. At R1 500 000 the premium will be R125 more at R375. Now you calculate how long you would have to save at R125/mont to get to R500 000. That is why it does not make sense to underinsure in an effort to save on premium.

You must be very sure the saving is worth the risk!

The easiest way to get a fairly accurate value of the building, is to ask a reputable building contractor in your area what the per square meter building costs would be for a house like yours and then calculate the replacement value.

For content you can download the inventory form (it is an Excel spreadsheet) and complete it. As to values, use the adverts inserted into newspapers or visit a store that sells your type of furniture. Do not forget your clothes! We only buy all our content at once when we move out in our own – and that is why we do not have an accurate idea of what it would cost to replace.

RISKING AVERAGE?

It is not financially worthwhile to underinsure.
My experience is that most people understand the principle of average, but when they experience it in their own lives, it goes from the head to the heart and it is very painful.

Please make sure that you have insured all your assets for the correct values.

 

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Lockdown Economy – Is Forex Trading The Answer?

Lockdown has a terrible effect on the economy – worldwide. We are paying a huge price for the stupid notion that some jobs and businesses are “essential and others not.” The economy simply does not work like that. The economy is like a very complicated machine. Just imagine somebody randomly decides that a 1st gear in a car is essential, but not the 3rd or 4t gear! Preposterous.

Many people today are having financial problems. Every failed business not only affects the owners and employees of that business, but also the suppliers to that business and people. It is the domino effect.

That leads to me reading that more and more people are looking at Forex Trading as a way to make money. Here I will share a few thoughts.

  1.  Forex Trading is speculation – you buy something in the HOPE that you can sell at a higher price, or sell in the hope that you can buy at a lower price. Another word for speculation is gambling. I am not offended by this, because it keeps me realistic about Forex Trading.
  2. Statistics show that more than 75% of retail traders lose money. That means that before you jump in, you should be very sure why you will be part of the profitmaking minority.
  3. Beware of the 3 trades wonders. Forex Trading is a marathon. It is not the 3 lucky trades that count. It is not the one day of profits that count, it is the profits of months and years that count. On a Forum somebody was very excited that he had three profitable trades in a day, which, according to him, proves his strategy works.
  4. In trading mindset will be your biggest enemy – the enemy is within. Discipline (SELF discipline) is the thing that will determine your success. If sudden wealth exposes character, trading is the best activity to expose all sorts of character flaws. You will have to conquer yourself before you conquer the markets!
  5. As always, invest in yourself BEFORE you invest your money. Learn and study and practice. The guys at Babypips.com has an excellent free course. Do not pay for any trading course before you have successfully completed the Babypips course. Once you have completed Babypips, you can also do this free course:
    Free SIMPLE & EASY FOREX COURSE

This course is also free and will help you understand a few entry and exit strategies.

Before you invest any real money, please trade on a demo account until you are consistently profitable, Any strategy will have losing streaks. You should trade on a demo account so that you know the losing streaks and have the confidence that the strategy WILL be profitable again. Unless you have this confidence, you will start messing with the strategy the moment it starts losing. And then you have lost.

 

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Lockdown day 214 – 27 October 2020 – Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Several of my friends and clients complain about feeling tired. Friday, 23 October 2020, I was tired beyond measure. I went to bed Friday night and slept to 14h30 on Saturday. And almost repeated the process on Sunday! “Slow Down, You Move Too Fast!”

This is my story.

Lockdown is a bugger – I do not go out to see clients or for business as I would normally do. The illusion is that I am not doing ANYTHING, and I drive myself to keep busy and chase the goals or I feel guilty. I think there is an underlying COVID-19 stress with most of us.

Effects of Lockdown

I can see the effects of the Lockdown, which adds to the stress. I see it in my activity to try and save cancelled policies, I see it in the number of shop windows covered with newspaper, I see it in the new people at the robots. I think COVID-19 is like a low volume, irritating buzz in the background that just will not stop. It causes stress, even if we are not aware of it.

The result of all this is that I am busier than normal, take less time out and there is the low level “hum” in the background.

Rest is Important!

On the 14th my wife went for an operation (everything fine, grateful to report). Late to bed and early to rise, I started the day with a lack of sleep. When I say goodbye at the theatre doors, I feel an immense sadness. Instead of going home and having a restful coffee, or even taking time to get back in bed, I rush around to get everything done, so I can be back at the hospital when she comes out of the theatre. The keyword is rush – and rushing is not in my nature! I always build in too much lead time.

Anybody who has had somebody in hospital will know that it is detrimental to a routine. Which simply means Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (when she leaves the hospital) does not go anywhere close to what even a normal lockdown day goes.

Monday, Monday – not all I had hoped it to be!

relaxWhen Monday comes it is not all I had hoped it to be (with apologies to The Mamas and Papas). I am tired, but I must work, work, work. It is lockdown, the economy is down, the ANC has “lost” 2/3 of the international assistance funds. As Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs sang: “We owe, we owe, it is off to work we go.” (Good luck, Tito. I trust you to stand up for what is right and don’t envy you your task.)

Starting a week like this is not a good thing. I am irritated and frustrated, because things go too slowly, people ask stupid questions and obviously do not read my emails, if they even respond to an email!

Hello Caffeine, my Bridge over Troubled Times

To make things worse, I do exactly what Elizabeth Dostal years ago told us not to do. She said when you have an energy slump, take some time out. Take a power nap. Don’t try to power through it. But me?  I drink coffee and more coffee to keep going. What a combination. Feeling tired, all the caffeine not conducive to good sleep, more coffee – a vicious downward spiral. I am not sure what is ringing louder, my ears or nerves! (Caffeine is only good in moderation, like everything else.)

Finally, Friday evening I listen to Simon & Garfunkel:

“Slow down, you move to fast, you got to make the morning last, just kicking down the cobblestones, looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.”  (59th Street Bridge Song).

I subscribe to Netflix again (I will not pay for SABC that I do not use without a TV) and watch a few episodes of Heartland and when I go to sleep, I sleep!

The Lesson

relax

Relax, Take Time out to Feel Groovy!

And I share this as a reminder that we must be aware of ourselves and look after ourselves in these crazy times.  We need to take time out and “make the morning last, looking for fun and just feeling groovy.” I am currently on Rooibos tea, which does not have the same effect as coffee. Sitting on the stoep, my feet on a chair with a slow cup of Rooibos, well, let’s just say I must still acquire that skill.

I am glad to say I started this week much more like my normal self with lots of energy and, strangely enough, so far this week, I have seen a lot less assess! (I read somewhere: If you wake up and the first person you meet is an ass, you can say: “I met and ass today.” But if you wake up and every person you deal with is an ass, well, then you know you are it!)

I would love to hear your experiences and feelings in these times. Please comment below.

And listen to Simon and Garfunkel!

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