Saturday, 31 December 2011

The last day of the year is like the last waking hour of the day: Some people suffer from mild shock and disappointment that it’s over, that what you couldn’t get done today would have to wait for tomorrow.

In a few hours, 2011 will be over.

This has been a good year – a special year. The relationship between Natasja and I was of such a nature from the start that we didn’t need a document to know we belong together. Nevertheless, last month, after almost seven years together, we officially and legally swore love and allegiance to each other. On the working front, I focused mainly on two commercial projects. And in February, I once again started spending the best hours of my days on my writing projects – something that has since become an almost daily reality. Lastly, I spent some serious time over the last twelve months with a dentist named Harmony, with the happy result that I can once again eat properly.

From the position in which I find myself at this moment, because of what I have done between Saturday, 1 January and today, Saturday, 31 December, 2012 appears as if it might just be another good year.

A note from Tuesday, 4 January 2011 might be fitting at this point: “A year in one’s life is like a child. You can plan, you can prepare, and you can have high expectations. But ultimately, the child must be allowed to go its own way, to develop its own character. You can, and should, provide guidance, but in the end you have to make your peace: Do your absolute best, and trust for the rest.”

May 2012 be a good year for myself, for my beloved, and for all our friends and family. And may it be a good year for all the good people on this planet who hope and strive for a better day, every day of their lives.


There is not enough for everyone (or is there?)


There is not enough for everyone in South Africa – not enough nutritious food, not enough cash for everyone to have some money in the bank, not enough homes for everyone to sleep safely and warmly, not enough clothes for everyone to feel good about how they appear in public, not enough jobs for everyone to earn a decent income, not enough hospital beds for all the sick and injured, and not enough well-equipped classrooms for all the children to get a good education. A hundred years ago, there was not enough for the British and the Afrikaners, or the Boers. Fifty years ago there was not enough for the whites AND all of those who were not white. And today there is not enough for ALL the people who suffered under the previous dispensation.

So, if you made money during the previous era – regardless of race, and you managed to hold on to it, you’re in. So too if you’ve built up the right business and political connections over the last fifteen to twenty years and the cash is flowing uncontrollably into your bank accounts. You have clearly done the right things, and/or knew the right people – you, too, are in.

For the rest, white and poor in a squatter caravan park, black and poor in squatter camps or in hamlets somewhere in the countryside, and all other colours that are not white or black but still poor, there is simply NOT ENOUGH.

There will be talk. Bandages will be applied to broken bones. But at the end of the day, this reality remains: There is simply not enough for everyone. (Or is there?)


I get that there isn’t enough for everyone. But that’s not the only problem. Even if you manage a more just distribution of resources, a portion of the populace will end up squandering resources and opportunities, due to lack of training and education, or will, or talent, or a combination of these.

Then there’ll be some people who will be more industrious, more resourceful. These people will, within a generation or two, be at the pinnacle of society, as both rulers and prime beneficiaries of opportunities.

One or two generations later, the descendants of those who had performed less well will protest injustice, and will ready their protest banners in a call for a more just society, for a more equal distribution of resources.

Counter-argument: Do the lazy, talentless and unimaginative offspring of successful earlier generations deserve better education and opportunities than the hard-working, talented, and industrious offspring of less successful earlier generations?


Note number 517 to myself


Stop fighting with every man and woman on the street.

Stop arguing with every person you encounter.

Stop making use of every opportunity you get to start a quarrel.

Stop being the dog that chases every cat whose smell the wind drives towards him.

Stop being the dog that barks up each and every tree, whether there’s a cat in it or not.

Fight the battle where you have a reasonable chance of success.


If you’re in a meaningful relationship … Or, let me make it more personal. I think my relationship with Natasja makes it easier for me to allow myself to be happy. The reason is that I know the happiness of the woman I love, and whose welfare I care about, depends to a significant extent on whether or not I am happy.

If you don’t allow yourself to be happy, the people closest to you will be affected by it. If you care for the people closest to you, if you sincerely hope that their daily existence will see a degree of happiness, you will permit yourself to be happy.

It is the unselfish thing to do.


Is a giraffe really orange, like the fruit?


This morning around five o’clock I woke up for about five seconds, had a thought about a handful of crayons, a child, and a picture, and the meaning that can be extracted from that on the limitation of language when it comes to religion and “absolute truth”, and then I fell asleep again.

The point was this: You give someone a palette with ten or fifteen colours of paint. Then you pull open the curtains on a beautiful, colourful scene – let’s say grassland in Africa after good rains, with more than a dozen species of animals standing, walking, or lying around. After the person has taken in the scene, you tell him to paint what he has seen. And he has to do it with the colours you have made available to him.

Perhaps this person is really talented, and his painting is rich in detail and full of colour.

Question is, is this image a 100% accurate representation of the actual scene – of the grass and the trees and the animals and the sky and the clouds and the birds and all the minute details that fill reality?

How can it be? He only had a dozen or so colours to work with! And then there’s his personality, even his state of mind when he painted the picture. To pick one example, was his omission of the ominous clouds on the horizon deliberate? How much detail did he leave out simply because he lacked the necessary talent?

Let’s now take the analogy further. The person who had painted the landscape is later seen as an authority figure in some religious tradition. Besides the landscape representation, he also produced hundreds of other paintings and sketches and pieces of text, all of which became increasingly precious items after his death. Eventually, these documents and art works were turned into prescriptions for how people should behave, and for how things ought to be described. Within a few generations, the landscape painting, for example, provided guidance to the community about how one ought to talk about animals as found on an African grassland after good rains.

Initially it would have been acceptable if someone had said: “This is clearly a giraffe, although a giraffe isn’t really orange – like the fruit, it’s more of a dark mustard colour.”

A few generations later this painting, like hundreds of other sketches and paintings and pieces of text produced by this authority figure, had been elevated to the status of sacred artefacts. At this time it would have been orthodox to refer to a giraffe as orange like the fruit, even that it had never been anything but orange. Why? The picture indicates it as such – clearly, to all who had eyes to see. “How can anyone deny it?” it would have been asked. “Even a child can see it. Indeed, you have to believe like a child.” To confirm this understanding, hundreds of volumes of material would have been written that explained the correct and only acceptable way the artefact should have been interpreted.

Let’s say in the course of a few centuries this religious community became the dominant group in society. By this time you could get in serious trouble with the authorities of the day if you even thought of a giraffe as anything other than Orange – Like the Fruit. Individuals who dared mumble something that sounded like “mustard” in reference to the giraffe could have been summoned before a court, thrown in a dungeon, tortured, and where it was suspected that such a person might have contaminated other innocent minds with the heretical mustard colour business, be sent to the stake.

“You are wrong,” people would say centuries later in more civilised times. “A giraffe is orange, a lion is brown, grass is bright green, the sky is blue, antelopes are brown, and their eyes are yellow. This is how it is. It must be so. It cannot be otherwise, because the Holy Painting says so.”

And anyone who wants to talk about an ancient palette with only ten or fifteen colours, and the original painting just being a sincere and honest attempt at producing a representation of a reality much too rich in colour, taste, sound and feeling for any human being with limited resources and capabilities to ever reproduce 100% accurately is simply too smart for their own good.


Repeat until you truly understand (The apple is green)


There is a pattern that repeats in the working lives of everyone who regularly makes money, from my wife to my parents and sisters, to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, people who play around on the stock market, even professional sports bettors.

Now, if I write about a pattern that repeats in the activities of successful people, it may seem as if I am a master of these types of insights. Don’t let yourself be fooled. The situation is in fact quite absurd.

It’s like someone who says: “The apple is green.” Then you say: “I know. The apple is green.” Then the other guy slaps you across the face. As you’re gathering your senses, he again says: “The apple is green.” Again, you reply: “I know. The apple is green.” Again he slaps you. This time he adds: “You don’t really know. You think you know, but you don’t. Not really.” Then he repeats the sentence: “The apple is green.” This time you’re a bit more careful, so you say it softer. “Yes, I know: The apple is …” Slap!

So it continues for a few minutes. Eventually the guy again tells you: “You say it, and you think you know. But you don’t truly realise what you are saying. The apple … is green.”

By now, your cheeks have been slapped a deep pink, and you are absolutely convinced that the guy must surely have a point. Then you think about what he is saying. You really think about it. You are quiet for a few minutes, and you think. Then it hits you: “The fucking apple is green.”

So it was with me. I’ve been speculating for a long time about why I don’t make more money than the few bucks I earn every week by teaching two or three English classes, even though I try so hard, even though I work on so many projects, even though I have learned so much about so many topics, and even though I have learned so many skills.

I have also wondered about other people who make money – the woman in my life, my family, my friends … What are they doing that is so right that I am doing wrong?

Yet, I know what the answer is. I knew the answer this morning too, but I didn’t truly realise until tonight: The Great Secret. The Reason Why I Haven’t Made More Money The Past Five Years. The Key To Success.

My wife goes to a language centre on a Monday afternoon where she teaches for about seven hours. Tuesday she does it again. Wednesday she does it again. Thursday and Friday too.

Warren Buffett did not make his fortune with one good buying-and-selling of stock thirty or forty years ago. He does it all the time. He repeats the same thing over and over and over again.

Professional sports bettor Ian Erskine doesn’t make £50,000 a year because he wins a few lucky bets every now and then. He analyses dozens of soccer matches every week. He places dozens of bets every month. Over and over and over. Month after month, year after year.

My older sister makes money because she applies account management to companies’ financial affairs. She doesn’t perform only one task per year, she does hundreds. Over and over – the same, or similar tasks. Month in and month out. Year after year.


Every month that had passed since January 2006 when I failed to make enough money, or when I would have liked to make more money, have seen the exact same pattern repeat: I either did the wrong thing – wrong market, wrong method, wrong project, unworkable way of making money, or when I did the right thing, I didn’t do enough of it.

At one point, I researched some products, wrote reviews about them, and then published the reviews in a few places, with my affiliate link below the text, so when someone clicked on it and purchased the product, I earned a commission. It worked! I made some money doing it. But I only did it with six or seven products! And I only published the reviews in a few places! I should have written seventy, or a hundred reviews! I should have published the reviews in ten, fifteen places! Three or four links to a review site? It should have been three hundred links! And the next year I should have done another hundred or two hundred reviews, and I should have published those reviews in twenty or thirty places.

I have made money by selling bundles with so-called private label articles – text that other people can edit and publish under their own names. How many bundles did I make available? Ten or twelve. It should have been two hundred … no, five hundred bundles! The one or two sales I did get with a dozen bundles would then have repeated – sale, sale, sale, sale, sale, sale, sale, sale, sale, sale, sale …

I have made money rewriting private label articles so that they were a bit more original. Okay, it was excruciatingly boring, but I made money with it pretty quickly! Can I deny that I would have made more and more money if I had repeated the process, and then again, and again, and again, and again and again and again?

I have also made money by making websites for people. How many websites? Two or three. Two or three? It should have been fifty or sixty! And the following year a hundred! “Jim Buyer just sent you money …”  the e-mail from PayPal would have said. Then another one. Then another one. Then one more. And another. Another one. Another one. Another one. Another one.

A few months ago, after reading in an e-book how to do it, I sold a domain name that I owned. Exactly like the book explained. How many domain names did I sell? One. How many did I try to sell that way? Two or three.

Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat.

I am not working on the wrong projects at the moment. What I do can be done better, and improvements will be made. But what I am doing is quite good enough to make money. I am just not doing enough of it.


* * *

What is outsourcing? It is about getting more done of something that works.

* * *

“I’m not making money with this.”

“Does what you do make sense? Do other people make money with it?”

“It makes sense, and other people make money with it.”

“Then it’s because you’re not doing enough of it. If you’re trying to sell something, you’re not repeating something enough times to bring it to the attention of enough people. Either you are doing something wrong, or if you’re doing the right thing, you’re not doing enough of it.”


Ideas and initiative can’t be outsourced. Just about all the rest can. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t sweat doing work that you can pay other people to do.