We sat down for a meal, my future self and me – and I must say that the guy was quite handsome. I thought that this guy had taken the time to take care of himself, but behind his eyes I could see a deeper wisdom and humility than I expected to find in someone who was obviously young in spirit, but old in soul. It startled me. He told me that he lost a couple of kilos over the last while and I was trying to count the abs below the neatly formed shirt – but stop when I reached six in the six-pack. Not to say there was not more, but it would have been impolite to continue looking.
The meal started with a staring contest. Nothing said, as each of us were sizing up the other. Is this guy going to move? Will I get in a word once we engage? And then I broke the ice with a comment that I sure know how to waste time when I have such a unique opportunity to interact with someone who obviously had a colourful past (i.e. we knew each other). The guy started laughing and then we were engaging.
We started the conversation rather awkwardly but the debate soon became heated as I found out that this guy had interesting ideas. After the cursory introduction, which seemed superfluous, we get down to the business of listening.
Our first discussion was around the future of the country. He was optimistic and remembered a time when he felt a bit like me. A bit jaundiced by the corruption and scandal of the day. He then outlined how he handled it when he felt like that. He decided to get up and do something about it in a non trivial way. He told me about some of the literature that intrigued him at the time – a history of South Africa, some of the ideas around large-scale action and understanding the role of governments and systems. He outlined how he used this knowledge that he gained to enter the political system and how it has led him to yet another dimension of creating impact in his life.
He spoke to me keenly about the idea of massive action. The basic concept is that small actions and small thoughts get us nowhere. It is only when we have big ideas and lots of small little actions to take us forward, that we get anywhere. He told me that I should fret about the little things.
We started talking about culture and he started telling me how important it is to get and stay in touch with your heritage. He affirmed something that I always knew, but did not see so vividly until he described it to me. You must know where you come from to know where you are going. You are the sum and result of both your experiences as well as the experiences of those before you. I always thought that you could change yourself by only the sum of the experiences. It is inevitable that your current reality is somehow influenced by where you come from. Genetics is real and your heritage defines what you believe is important. As more people around you die, you realise that parts of yourself disappear. Some you never knew about and because you did not care, you will never be able to reclaim those parts of your history. We do have people in life that are “our people” and this is important to realise and to make the most of. There is place for many people in the world but you are to a large extent influenced by where you come from and to deny it – it is to lose touch with a part of yourself. I took notes to go visit family more often and to finish my family tree research that I had done for some time.
We talked about wisdom. I told him that wisdom is when your memory starts to fail and you substitute the sum of the habits that you learnt during your life to make up for the fact that you forgot the specifics. I told him about the value of good vitamins. He said he will look it up on the internet. He told me that he believed that wisdom is when it takes your brain longer to work through all the experiences that you have been through and that you are interpolating the different experiences into a cohesive whole that is both considered and action oriented. I asked him for a source for this information and he smiled…
I asked about the secret of success. He started explaining an old saying in Afrikaans that is “kom agter die kap van die byl” which translate means to get behind the chop of the axe. The idea is that when you start with a sharp side that you have to keep on applying power and come with another angle and keep driving hard until you achieve your objective – which is chopping down the tree. It is great to meet someone and get a business card, but to get behind the chop of the axe, you need to take control and deliver, and keep going at it, until you meet your goal. One way to do this, is to write your goals daily and put effort into things daily. He thanked me for the books I read when I was younger and told me to continue reading every day because these ideas in time add value and helps to keep the current ideas current. We never forget but we only tend to use the most recent concepts that worked, over and over to solve different problems. Reading reminds us that there are different ways, some which we know of, to solve problems differently.
As time became short and it was clear that we had to get on with our daily tasks I asked him for the one piece of advice that he would give me to guide me. He started thinking deeply, and I could see that it troubled him to try to distil it all into one sentence. He eventually emerged and said “Living for the moment, eventually translates into living for the future.”. I smiled – because I had thought about that for a while and I was glad to see that eventually this idea also proved to be valuable to my future self.
I asked who’s paying for the meal, and he said that the meal has already paid for itself, but that I would have to take care of the bill.