Remote Year Ohana Week 3: Building connections
After the first 2 weeks of excitement and finding balance with life on the road, week 3 was the start of building professional relationships. I had several sample coaching sessions with people in Cape Town and three professional networking events where I made a few connections. On the fun and recreation side I had two group dinners, one of which was the most unique I've had in my life, a very windy and beautiful mid-week hike up the Table Mountain, my first African safari, and our Cape Town farewell party. At one point I felt it was a bit too much go, go, go and I needed to take a breather, which I did Sunday morning. Overall it was an extremely productive and fruitful week and it made me love this nomadic life even more.
What I learned this week was the power of taking the effort to talk to people, being genuinely interested in them, and making connections between them and people you already know. I had read concepts like this before in books like Never Eat Alone and did try to apply them in real life, but being slightly more on the introverted side and not having a job that necessitates networking all the time (or so I thought), I didn't really put the theory into practice even though I recognized its benefits. But now that I have a job where a large part of the success depends on my ability to build and maintain genuine relationships, I have much more of a motivation to apply the theory. I have also personally experienced the benefits of connecting with people. When I connect with someone, I always learn something or I get impacted in some meaningful way and I imagine the same might happen for them. Networking used to make me feel uncomfortable because it felt unnatural and often forced, but now I have changed my mindset and see it as an opportunity to meet interesting people from whom I can learn something from, who can open me up to new experiences and new people, who I can have a chance to impact in a positive way, and if they turn into a client, even better! When I look at it this way I approach it much more light-hearted and have a lot more fun doing it.
Monday, 19th March: Today started with the Monday morning meditation guided by Danche which is always a great start to the week. I didn't have any coaching calls with regular clients but had three sample sessions face to face with people in Cape Town and the Kravis Ting push-up and pull-up workout in the late afternoon. In the evening there was a lovely Peruvian group dinner organized by Susanna who is a real foodie. I shared the tasting menu with her, which I thought was good although not spectacular but the experience having a meal with the group was fantastic. After dinner Holly and I went to the Taj hotel by our apartment for a drink. Taj is beautiful as always.We had a 15-year and a 10-year Van Ryn brandy, a local brandy made in Stellenbosch, which were both very tasty. Later Holly reported they costed $US12 altogether!
Tuesday, 20th March: Today began early with a coaching session with a recurring client followed by the last track event Bo-Kaap Brush, which is painting on the rooftop of a local artist's home in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood. Even though I had a lot of apprehension about painting as I don't believe I have any artistic abilities, this turned out to be one of my favorite events. We came to a beautiful home of the local artist Ncumisa. I loved the place as soon as I entered, it was filled with artwork painted by her and it had a mix of different styles all so tastefully put together. We painted on top of the roof which was stunning with gorgeous views of Table Mountain and the Bo-Kaap area. We were given a small canvas, some paint brushes and paints to choose from, and off we go without much instructions. I had no idea where to start and thankfully Ncumisa gave me the suggestion to start with the sky and work my way downwards. She said don't think too much, just paint, that's how she started, a self-taught artist. She demoed with the first couple of strokes and I followed. I tried to let go of my fears and just started experimenting. I also had a really good chat with her and connected her with my friend who lives in Kommetjie who is also a self-taught artist.
As I continued to fill up my canvas with paint I kept getting compliments from Ncumisa and other people which I wasn't sure whether to believe or not. At the end I still don't think my painting was all that great but at least I gave it a shot, and Ncumisa was right, I was thinking too much. But once I let go of the believe that I can't paint and relaxed the need to judge the outcome, I let my inner creative and fearless part take over and it knew what to do. In the end it wasn't about creating the perfect painting but about doing something different and thoroughly enjoying the process of it. When I let go of my saboteurs (self-limiting beliefs), somehow the outcome was better than I expected and the experience of a beautiful morning with a talented artist on her beautiful rooftop with some amazing group mates was priceless.
After painting I came to the co-working space followed by a lunch with the Cape Town city manager and some Ohanas at Jason's Bakery in the CBD. The cauliflower salad I had was really tasty, had an unexpected Indian flavor.
In the evening I went to my first of three networking events this week - drinks and socializing with Cape Town digital nomads hosted by Meetup which is a company that enables people to meet up in cities around the world. Thanks to Katelyn who works at Meetup to tell us about the event. We met at Gin Bar where I got to know quite a few people - David, Willi, Charles, and Aiden.
We then moved to the Greenmarket Square for a jazz festival . Since it was really crowded and the music was quite loud, we didn't stay for very long and since Jill really wanted the have ramen the locals took us to Downtown Ramen Restaurant for dinner. I debated whether I should go as I really wanted to work on my blog that evening and had already eaten, but some of the people in the group convinced me to come and I'm glad I did. It was nice getting to know many of the people better and interesting to see what a ramen place in Cape Town serves. I was so pleasantly surprised to find Laksa ramen on the menu, it made me reminisce about Singapore. I didn't taste it but based on what was served it doesn't look like Laksa - the broth looked much thicker and lighter, almost like a Japanese curry, but people said it tasted good.
Wedesday, 21st March: Today started at 5:45am with an early morning hike up the Table Mountain. The hike was not easy but manageable in the beginning. But once we got up to a certain point after the sun started coming up, the wind got so strong that I was afraid I was going to get blown off the mountain a few times. When we got to a stopping point and found out that we are only 60% of the way up I was doubting whether I really wanted to continue with such strong winds. Luckily Josh, our city experience manager, found out that the cable car was not open and since we were going to take the cable car down, we shouldn't continue to go up. I felt quite relieved.
The beginning part of the way down was also somewhat tough due to the winds but once we got down to a certain level it eased up and I started really enjoying it.
Especially the stretch where I was by myself, it was so nice to feel the peace and tranquility among such gorgeous natural beauty.
When we got back to the apartment Susanna said she was going to get a coffee at Truth Coffee. Even though I thought I would just stay in and do my blog the idea of a coffee with one other person appealed to me. Such is the dilemma I often have since I've been here, whether to go out with people or be by myself and whether to socialize or to do work. The dilemma is especially real because now there is no externally imposed schedule for me anymore, all my work replies on my own self-discipline. I imagine such dilemmas will arise often throughout the year and I'm still trying to find the perfect system. I'm not sure if I'll ever find it but I think if I just trust myself it will know how to make the best decision, and so far I have never regretted going to a social event especially if I'm fully present and do everything I can to get the most out of it.
At Truth we also bumped into Mario and Joanna who also just came back from the hike. We had a great brunch talking about many interesting topics. Susanna also struck up a conversation with the two people sitting next to her as we sat at a communal table. Turns out they are both from San Francisco and also met at the brunch table. Since our friend Mary is doing a one-woman cabaret show on Saturday and I wanted to spread the word to as many people as possible I asked both of them to come. I'm realizing I'm doing things this year that I normally wouldn't do, chatting up to anyone I can, giving them my business card and making connections whenever possible. I know it's partly because of my new profession as I see everyone as a potential client, but also because of I am genuinely interested in the people I talk to and believe that when you connect people to other people and events based on their interest, great things can happen. So this is my goal this year and maybe for the rest of my life, is to be bold and talk to people whenever I can, be genuinely interested in them, and make connections between them and other people and/or experiences.
In the afternoon I had the third group supervision call where I was the client. I didn't know what topic I was going to bring in but I chose coaching on the road and I wanted to explore this topic because it has been so prominent in my mind. In the 15-minute session I realized how far I have come. In the beginning I said something about the right path, and the coach said let's explore what is the right path and when I heard that I realized that it is not about being on the right path, because I'm no longer hung up on what is the right path as I now believe so many paths are the right paths, but rather I want to explore how I can make the most out of the path I have chosen. Even just a few months ago I would have been very concerned about whether I'm doing the "right" thing, made the "right" decision, but now I have fully embraced the not knowing. I may still not be completely comfortable with all the unknowns but I am seeing the beauty in it, myriad possibilities for growth and amazing things to happen. I also wanted to explore what makes me special as a a coach especially in connection to the year of being on the road. My coach then asked me what are the three words that drew me to this experience, and I said learning, experiences / possibilities, and connection. She gave me inquiry question at the end which was how these three words are connected to who I am as a coach. I'm still not 100% sure, but I definitely got a lot out of the coaching session and it gave me some confirmation of where I am in life and made me ponder over a few things.
The coaching session that followed with a regular client was also really good. I felt that I became more confident in using the Co-Active tools such as visualization of the captain and I was able to adapt it to what the client needed at the moment. My client gave me the feedback that she enjoyed the experience and was really glad that she came up with the image and that it was really helpful for the situation she was in.
In the evening Susanna booked dinner at this amazing restaurant, the Test Kitchen, that is the more upscale version of the Pot Luck Club that we went to last week. Apparently they only open up the reservation every three months and spots get booked up right away, and amazingly Susanna managed to get a spot for four people! It was the most unique and spectacular dining experience I have ever had. Dinner was served in two parts, starting with a dark room where we were taken to flavors around the world paired with two cocktails. India was my favorite (bottom left photo)!
followed by the light room where it was a more traditional dinner with multiple courses and wine pairings. All were delicious, the seasonal mushroom dish was most our favorites (2nd picture from left bottom).
We must've had 15-20 courses and all of them were amazing.
I also learned that Michelin doesn't rate Africa because there aren't enough good restaurants here, but if he did come, I would guess this restaurant would be rated at least 2, if not 3 stars. I had been to a few 2 star restaurants in Europe, mostly for lunch, but none of them were as unique and inventive as this one.
After dinner we went back to the Taj hotel to meet some of the other Ohana ladies for a night cap. What a spectacular day!
Thursday, 22nd March: I did a quick workout, then dedicated the morning to doing last week's blog. I went to Motherland Coffee which has become my favorite coffee place, it's close to the apartment, has good decaf coffee (I love the taste of coffee but don't do well with too much caffeine), and they even have TWG tea from Singapore which gives me a sense of familiarity and home. The Creme Caramel Tea is awesome and when I introduced it to someone from our group she loved it too. I also love the environment and the staff there. After doing some work I took the call with Millennium leadership team there. Only Richard and I could make it so we talked just the two of us and something great came from it. Since we haven't gotten so much traction from the Millennium leadership 2-day workshop, we talked about what else we could do that is small and quick to get started. I'm really glad that Richard wanted to get in on my idea of women leadership. We touched on a lot of concepts such as MVP (minimum viable product from the Lean Start-up), target customer segment, what we each bring to the table if we were to do a podcast or webinar targeted towards women. We ended the call with the idea of a potential podcast or webinar for women which left me very bumped up. It's one THE topics I've been most interested in the past year and it's the topic I will be doing my Psy.D dissertation on, and to have a male business partner interested in that topic, I feel so grateful.
After the call I got ready for the two networking events in the afternoon and evening. One was the meet and greet at Cartel House, our co-working space. It was a great event, very well facilitated by Travis, one of the Remote Year staff members, and I ended up making a few connections and potential coaching clients.
Right after this event I went to an outside event, the Power of Personal Brand hosted by Future Females, a South African non-for-profit group with the vision to connect, inspire and support current and aspiring female entrepreneurs. I didn't know what to expect but the event certainly exceeded my expectations. It was so well organized with good food and drinks and had many more people than I expected - 180! There were three speakers who were all really good and authentic in their own way. I had been a board member of a Women in Agribusiness group when I was in Singapore and we had some great events, but this event was a bit different from that, probably because the host targets female entrepreneurs, so all the speakers are entrepreneurs themselves,most very young and have an entrepreneurial vibe. I felt this energy that I didn't feel in the events in Singapore. It was really refreshing and fit right into the vibe that I've been around since coming to Remote Year.
After the session I talked to two of the speakers, Candice Bodington and Chwayita Nqiwa, one of the hosts from Future Females, Chwayita's mother, and another attendee. I was really proud of myself for being proactive in networking, which was probably one of the activities I was most uncomfortable with before. But now I've kind of grown to embrace it, partly because of my newfound coaching profession and partly because I genuinely want to give words of appreciation and am interested in getting to know people better. I came back from the evening feeling very energized and accomplished.
Friday, 23rd March: The first meeting today was in the co-working space with the growth tribe. We discussed the trends from the one-slider that Danche sent out to gather skills that people have and what they would like to learn about. We decided that we would have a "connect" event in the first week that we are in Marrakesh and a "grow" event in the second. We also decided to send out a one-question survey to see what grow event people are interested in.
In the afternoon I had a sample coaching session with someone I met yesterday from the meet and greet event at Cartel House. It was a really good session and we made a plan for the client to grow her business over the next few months. I enjoy these session so much because it allows me to use my knowledge from the business world as well as my skills as a coach - asking powerful questions and using my intuition. I don't know if the client will go for my coaching but I enjoyed the session and learned so much from it and I know I will keep in touch with her who is at the forefront in her field, which is very inspiring for me. That is what I have realized on this trip that I am meeting very different people from those that I met in Singapore, here it's been mostly entrepreneurs who are trailblazing their field. Most of them have had experience in the corporate world but felt that they needed to do something different. It's really refreshing to meet so many of them and it is certainly expanding my horizon and mindset.
In the evening I went to the Kravis Ting push-up and pull-up workout which I've been going to ever since I got to Cape Town. It feels great to have kept it up. I certainly feel that I'm getting stronger, mostly on the push-ups. Pull-ups still need to be assisted, and I foresee that to be the case for the next little while. I would be happy if I could do one, just one, unassisted pull up by the end of this year.
Saturday, 24th March: Today is the safari! We started at 6:15am from the apartment, drove for about two hours to Aquila Private Game Reserve. We were welcomed with sparkling rose and breakfast after which we got in the open air shuttle to tour around the reserve. There are "big five" game animals in Africa that all visitors want to see - lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and cape buffalo. The term of big five was first coined by big-game hunters and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Out of the five we saw three, elephant, rhino, and lion, as well as other animals such as zebra, springbok, and giraffe. My favorite was the elephant. I see them a fair bit in Asia but the African elephants look bigger and when they walk in the open field they felt so majestic, as if I could also feel their spirit and soul. Perhaps it's because they are in their natural habitat whereas in Asia often elephants are used as tourist attraction and I even rode one in Thailand, which makes me feel sad now because I don't believe that's what they are made to do.
Rhinos. The baby ones are the cutest (not shown here).
A female lion eating a piece of meat. They are such powerful animals.
All of us at the end of the tour.
When we came back in the evening we went to Mary's one-woman-cabaret show, Mary Swipes Left (but not really). It was in a small and intimate theater, Alexander Bar, Cafe and Theater,that can host about 40 people. The show was so good! Mary is such a talented singer and performer. She looked like a total natural on stage, was really funny and authentic with her dating stories, and weaved in singing and talking seamlessly. I also loved the intimate venue and the fact that you can bring drinks into the theater from the bar, gave it a more casual feel, and it reminded me of a small comedy show I went to in Chicago over ten years ago when I was living there, but this one was even better.
After the show the group hung out more in the bar area before continuing on to the Village Idiots. I mostly talked to Azi, the person I met at Truth Coffee on Wednesday. He is a product manager for a start up in San Francisco that brings data to governments and NGOs to help them make better decisions. Using data to make better decision is something I truly believe in and that I really tried to do in my previous job at Syngenta. What their company is doing by using data to make decisions for government policies is such meaningful and important work. It reminded me of my friend Grant who works for NGOs and who is extremely passionate about his work and is even writing a book about it. I was wondering whether his organization uses a data driven approach and whether he might find it valuable to be connected to a company like Azi's. Conversations with him also made me become more aware of the mindset of millennials and people who work for start-ups, a demographic I didn't frequently come in touch with before this trip. It is very interesting to learn about what drives them and what they are interested in. I am in fact starting to coach a few clients who are entrepreneurs and I'm really looking forward to learning more from them.
Sunday, 25th March: I slept in this morning which felt great. This whole week has been so full on that I didn't have any time to relax, so having this time this morning to myself was so nice! I finished and posted my Week 2 blog and went to the Ohana Cape Town farewell party in the Garden Bowling Club. Remote Year organizes a farewell party before we leave each city. It was an afternoon of lawn bowling, food, drinks, and socializing with the Ohanas. I didn't get there until a couple of hours after it started so didn't get to try lawn bowling, but people who played it said it was fun. The place has a nice big lawn area and has beautiful views of surrounding mountains. It was lovely to spend some time with Ohanas.
It started raining at some point and we all moved into the bar. There were some locals who were also hanging out at the bar and one of them came up to talk to us. I ended up talking with him for quite some time about his work and family. He said he has been in print advertising for most of his career and talked about how much he loves his family, but now they are in a different city and he is still here for a few months so he can get his bonus. At one point he started getting emotional and pulled away because he said he had never gotten that way in front of anyone and didn't know how he did that with me after only talking for 20 minutes. Later he came back to me and we talked some more where he gave me a perspective from a white South African feeling that it is no longer an advantage to be white in South Africa. It struck me again what interesting conversations I'm having and what interesting people I'm meeting since being on this trip.
This week was all about making professional and personal connections. It felt really good to make the effort to get to know people, to be genuinely interested in them, and to make connections between them and others. In my personal experience, usually unexpected good even great things happen when you connect with someone new, because they open up your mind about things you never would have known or then in turn connect you with other people that you never would have met. This new experience is reminding me of the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi that I read many years ago and liked very much but never religiously put into practice. It is also a central concept in the book the Prosperous Coach, by Steve Chandler and Rich Litvin, which has been my guiding principle in my coaching career and which has pushed me to get out of my comfort zone many times over. Being a full-time coach and being on Remote Year is giving me an opportunity to practice the skill of always making genuine connections with people. For next week I'm looking forward to the follow up meetings and/or sample coaching sessions I will be having with many of the people I met this week. It will also be our last week in Cape Town so will do my best to make the most of it.