On 21 April, my birthday, my mother told me about a missing teacher from a local high school, Jayde Panayiotou. She’s since been found murdered and her husband is the prime suspect. My mother casually mentioned that Jayde studied teaching with my younger sister at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
This morning I was reviewing the case from various news sources. And there was many unanswered questions going through my mind, such as, “Why is this so similar to Reeva Steenkamp’s murder?” and “If she was a black teacher, would the media give it the same amount of coverage?”
All I know about this story is what my mother told me, and what the news media has reported non-stop. May Jayde rest in peace. And I trust the courts will confirm the guilt of her husband.
After all this, I thought about my sister. She’s engaged to be married later this year to her fiancee. Their relationship had its ups and downs, just like my own. But chills went down my spine, when I considered, this could have happened to my very own sister.
At first there was a sadness, a helplessness that came over me. And afterwards a flash of rage, and anger that I have felt before. As the older brother I always considered it was my blood-bound duty to be my sister’s keeper.
Do I feel responsible for her now that she’s an adult? How can I protect her when I’m living in another city or another country for that matter? What can I do when harm comes to her? It pains me to think about the distance, both physical and emotional, between us since she finished high school.
There are few things in life as precious as family, sisters or brothers.
Annuscha, my sister, I love you with all my heart. When I was 12 years old, you were born. The day you were born I was left home alone, and the adults rushed off to hospital with our pregnant mother. This is a memory so deeply ingrained in my soul I can never forget the day you came into our lives.
Some of the fondest memories I have is how I changed your nappies. And how me and your cousin, Alberton, taped your crying voice, and played it back to you on tapes. Your reaction to this was priceless. Your life is precious and I admire your courage to raise two children.
Wherever I may be in the world, you can always count on me to be there for you.
Years ago I read the book, The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. It was one of the first self help books to shine a light on achieving my goals. It reminds me of this phrase often used by Les Brown: shoot for the moon and you may end up in among the stars.
Years later I believe thinking is not enough. Everyone dreams of a better life and yet not everyone achieves their dreams. Why is that?
Maybe it is the action that’s missing. Action towards the next step to bring you closer to your dreams. But once again, what action do you take? It’s clear now looking back the times I made the biggest progress towards my dreams was when I surrounded myself with people who already achieved similar dreams.
You are who you surround yourself with. My friend and mentor Irfan Pardesi is a strong proponent of: You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So carefully reflect who are your friends, and whether they can help you grow or not.
Life is short and therefore you cannot waste one more day just dreaming, hoping or wishing to be among the stars. Take a good look in the mirror and do the right things to bring you one step closer to the stars.
Lastly, remember the Taoist saying: Don’t confuse the moon with the finger pointing to the moon. Professor Jordan Peteson taught me this in one of his many lectures available online.
There are times in your life when you’ve tried to help people, and it seems it all backfired. This is really the meaning of “no good deed goes unpunished.” And I’m reminded of the failure of friendships every day as I witness how people have withdrawn into themselves either through smartphones or endless downloaded TV shows.
In high school I wrote a angry poem: Nice Guys Finished Last. It was the story of my frustration with being a nice guy, and yet being a lonely guy with no girlfriend. As I reflected upon this poem, it dawned on me that being the nice guy has nothing to do with it. It was clear that I was not being nice to myself. So if I did not respect myself, how could I expect others to do the same.
No good deed goes unpunished – this is a phrase I first heard in some self help audio interviews. The guru was so confident, he almost seemed to be full of himself. I later found out he is a multimillionaire, and I’m sure it didn’t help being rich while making lofty pronouncements.
Since I moved to China in 2013 I tried to spend 80% of my time with Chinese friends. After all I didn’t move half way around the world to meet more foreigners. In my MBA class we are 11 students from all over the world. I was helpful to them as can be being older, more experienced in business. This didn’t work out exactly as planned.
As relationships with my classmates soured, I pulled back. I tried my best to maintain some real friendships until I helped one personal financially. This reminds me of another kind of life lesson: do not mix business with pleasure. In the end I don’t regret helping this particular guy, he just reminded me that no good deed goes unpunished.
You’re far better off helping yourself become the best you can possibly be. You can lead by example, and others will follow. When you help people out of their misery, be careful. You’ve offered them a finger and they may grab your whole arm. The wise among us know that doing less is more.
“There are only four questions of value in life, Don Octavio. What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for, and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same: only love.” Don Juan Demarco
Good evening Madam Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, Ladies and Gentleman
Who here has ever been in love? Ah yes, I see most of you…
The greatest joy you can possibly experience is falling in love. I’m sure you would all agree unless you were single on Valentine’s Day 😉 This is a story for those of you who may have lost hope in love. So follow me on this journey…
Our story starts with a mysterious young man determined to end his life. Wearing a consume reminiscent of Zorro including the mask, before he kills himself, he first wants to have one last conquest. So he makes his way to a nearby hotel, and proceeds to seduce the first woman sitting alone. He claims no woman has ever left his arms unsatisfied. Later we find him on top of a very large street sign with a model wearing the same mask, where he is supposedly going to jump to his death.
The police calls in a psychiatrist, Dr Mickler, to talk him into coming down. Before the psychiatrist can even begin to talk, the mystery man almost stabs him with his fencing sword demanding to know where his opponent is. Dr Mickler assumes the identity of a aristocratic Spanish nobleman, Don Octavio Del Flores, to gain the confidence of the young Don Juan. He is asks, “Thee Don Juan?” with great surprise as to the identify of his soon-to-be patient. After gaining his confidence, Don Juan agrees to go with Dr Mickler.
Even though the Dr Mickler has been married to his beautiful wife for decades, it’s clearly devoid of passion. As he gets to know Don Juan, he realises he is getting old and does not want to extinguished the flame of love. While Don Juan is having a distracting influence on the female staff at the hospital, he is also rejuvenating the romance and passion in his Doctor’s marriage. It’s like a love transfusion from the young man to the old man.
Dr Mickler’s wife is shocked by the sudden increase in libido of her husband, who a week from retirement. He’s sessions with Don Juan leads him to question how he looks at his wife, how he deeply he really knows her. At one point he takes her on a date, gives her diamond earnings, flowers, and serenades her with guitar music. He’s wife is not exactly intimated but being a realist she tries to calm down her husband, so he may retire gracefully.
Back to Don Juan story…
After his first love affair with a married woman, he is accidentally sold into slavery with an Arabian Sultan. The Sultan’s 4th wife takes him as a lover. To make sure he is not discovered, she hides him among 1,500 concubines. I will leave it to your imagination what happened until he’s forced to escape yet again.
This time his journey ends up stranded and meets the love of his life, Dona Ana. They fall deeply and passionately in love. And after some time they commit to spend the rest of their lives with each other. Dona Ana innocently asks Don Juan if he will be wearing a mask for the rest of their lives. He recounts the story of his first love, Dona Julia and how to swore to wear the mask because he’s father died, defending him and he’s mother’s honour.
When she asks him how many other’s there’s been. He says, “Including you, there’s been exactly 1,502.” A sum substantially bigger than she anticipated. He removed his mark as a sign of his remorse. Dona Ana mocks him by taking the mask, and leaving him on the island.
Dr Mickler believes Don Juan’s story, helps him gain release from the mental hospital. Instead of watching 50 Shades of Grey, remember 50 Shades of Love this year.
In September 2013 I arrived in Beijing, China on route to Ningbo University. It’s been two years since I moved to China, and this is the best decision I’ve ever made. So why did I choose this radical move from South Africa to China. Well it’s not because of BRICS, the group of developing countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa all form part of. Why did I move to the country with the biggest population, and maybe the worst pollution on the planet?
China is not America, and the Chinese dream is not the American dream. Everyone who’s ever watched a Hollywood movie probably dreams of living in America. Not me! My journey to China started more than 10 years ago when I first read a book, Real Power: Business Lessons from the Tao Te Ching. This book is a beautiful synthesis of businessman James Autry’s servant leadership interspersed with quotes from the Tao Te Ching ??? translated by Stephen Mitchell. There was something beautiful and yet profound about the wisdom from ancient China and it’s only now I’m able to better appreciate it.
On a more personal note I wanted to start over. After more than five years of being self employed, I didn’t achieve some of my goals for income, romantic relationships and so on. In 2012 I ended a very difficult relationship with a woman whom I had been living with in Johannesburg. I sold my house and decided to take a year off to figure out what the hell I wanted to do with the rest of my life. This is called getting perspective and not beating yourself up for mistakes.
A few years earlier I was seriously looking at teaching English in Thailand. However, after reading about some of the race issues non-white i.e. non-European male teachers faced, I caned this idea. Now after a trip to Phuket in Jan 2014, I know Thailand is much more fun for holidays than working.
Anyway, after applying for the Chinese Government scholarship in early 2013, I finally received my admission letter from Ningbo University around July. This means I had only two months to wrap up my business and prepare for a move to the Middle Kingdom.
Even though there was so many reasons to stay in South Africa, like family, friends, good food, weather, the whole situation was all too familiar and I wanted to go as far away as possible. Previously I had lived and worked in London, England and Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. So I’ve always considered myself a risk taker because I had no children to hold me back.
So on Sunday, 1 September 2013 I boarded my flight to China via Dubai on Emirates Airlines. I arrived in the Chinese capital, Beijing, on Monday, after 10pm and basically two days of flying.
Here’s the top 5 reasons I choose China over America:
China is the land of opportunities (certainly for the next 100 years).
Chinese people are don’t care about religion and politics.
Chinese Taoist philosophy (Yin / Yang) places harmony and balance above all else.
China has the best high speed rail network in the world, and public transport is cheap & reliable.
Chinese girls are soft and feminine.
As China continues to rise, there’s opportunities abound. Chinese people are hungry to learn more about the outside world and I’ve become the defacto South African business expert in Ningbo. Even though China has a Communist party, religion is not banned as it may have been in Communist Russia. I’ve been to church several times and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was. In fact some Chinese are curious about religion, and ask good questions about Christianity and so on. For the majority of people, they only go to temples on very important days of celebration like Spring Festival.
As a Tai Chi Chuan practitioner since 2002 I’ve come to appreciate the Taoism / Daoism and the Tao Te Ching even more since moving to China. It may not be quoted widely but people certainly act accordingly. I’ve now been to Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou and some smaller cities using the high speed train. Since I’m not able to book and buy my tickets it’s even easier to travel around China. Finally what can I say about Chinese girls that haven’t been said before. They are like a dream compared to the Westernised, materialistic feminists women.
If you want to join me in China, here’s some basic information and Scholarship Conditions before applying on the China Scholarship Council website. The Chinese Government provides the following:
Registration and tuition,
Shared accommodation in the international dormitory on campus,
Undergraduates and Chinese language students: CNY 1,400
Master’s degree students: CNY 1,700
Doctoral degree students: CNY 2,000
Once-off settlement subsidy provided to new students after registration
CNY 1,000 for new students who will study in China for less than one academic year.
CNY 1,500 for new students who will study in China for one academic year or more.
– Medical insurance
– Once-off economy train ticket from airport to institution (for first time arrival in China and final
In grade 12 I achieved the top marks for Mathematics HG. This was the culmination of two years of preparation, and mostly completing old exam papers from the previous three years. After seeing this TED Talk by Conrad Wolfram posted on the Facebook page of Claire Marketos, I suggested she contact Roger Layton. He told me a few days ago he submitted his Ph.D. thesis on a similar. You may read his reply below after the video…
Roger Layton: I do not actually agree with what Conrad has to say in this video. He is (not so subtly) punting his Mathematica products and others such as Wolfram Alpha. However, it is difficult to criticise him and Wolfram Research in general since they are A-list in the mathematics world – but that does not make them correct. My kids learned LOGO at school and that did not make them better mathematicians. The usage of the calculator has definitely reduced learners ability to perform mental calculations, and with calculators doing more and more this is becoming worse over time. He has a point that technology allows us to doing things better, but human understanding is compromised if we use technology too much.
My own research explored the question of what computers should be used for in the mathematics classroom and my focus is on diagnostic assessment – discovering of conceptual barriers to understanding rather than as a tool to aid conceptual development. This is different from Conrad Wolfram’s perspective here and his talk is not aligned with modern thinking of what mathematics is and what mathematical proficiency is, and this is multi-dimensional and not limited to calculations alone. I think he is out of touch. Claire Marketos: I like Conrad”s idea of using computers to spend more time problem solving. For bright maths students the primary years are tedious as they are expected to do basic computing over and over again. For them being able to use computers to solve problems would be more satisfying. What is your hands on experience with learners Roger?
Today I received this invitation from CIS Toastmasters club in Houghton, Johannesburg. This was the first Toastmasters club I joined in 2006 and where I completed my Competent Communicator level. I was also the responsible for setting up the club website, which become #1 ranked website for the keyword “Toastmasters” on Google South Africa.
Anyway I’m thrilled to be invited to join the 1,000th meeting next week. Here’s the invitation:
Compliments of the season to you all and best wishes for 2015. I hope you all had a wonderful rest and are eager to start to the new year of with a bang!
Our next meeting is a major milestone for our club as it is the 1000th meeting since the club started in 1973. As a result we have limited our speakers list to 3 prepared speeches and are very fortunate to be receiving an inspiring address by Justin Cohen, a well known, Professional Motivational Speaker.
We will also receive a general evaluation from a previous CIS Toastmasters member, Ramon Thomas. Ramon was a member of our club back in 2006 and is now living in China.
Attached please find the provisional programme for this meeting 13th January 2015. Please note the changes to this programme from our usual Programme setup and feel to contact me if you have any questions in this regard.
Please Note,there will also be a cover charge for Visitors/Guests of R30 per person.
Watching a video by business coach Shannon Waller, I want to express my sincerest gratitude before Christmas 2014. Gratitude is an inoculation against guilt or anxiety in your life. When you are grateful and you appreciate the people and things you have, you don’t feel bad about what you don’t have in you life. These are words to live by if you’re feeling lonely this Christmas season. Here’s my top 5 reasons I am grateful in 2014:
Making New Friends – When I moved to China in September 2013 it was very difficult for me to adjust to the new culture, new environment and the Chinese language. Terry Jiang has become my best friend in Ningbo. I always appreciate how he helps me with simple and complex translation with other Chinese people, especially at the first business dinner I had with the owners of a Clothing Factory. It turned out these Chinese business people were speaking the local dialect in Ningbo, and since Terry was born in the same city, he could easily understand and interpret my conversion. Thank you for being such a great friend.
Finding A Support Group – When you’re a stranger in a strange land, you can either go it alone or you can find a support group. Before I moved from South Africa to Ningbo, China I looked for a Toastmasters club and found only one. Just over one year later we now have 3 clubs and about 100 members. A special thank you to Ningbo #1 Toastmasters club and the immediate past president Vanessa Yang and new president Larry Kowk for your support.
Support From My Mother – My mother has been a pillar of support my whole life. Having raised me by herself without my father, she did an amazing job. She was the one who kept in contact via Skype with me, sometimes on a daily basis, to give me encouragement. Mom I appreciate all those early morning or late night phone calls because of the time zone differences. A special thanks to my sister’s son Caleb and daughter Payton who often talked to me on Skype even though they couldn’t always see my video.
Good Health – My father has had 4 heart attacks over 5 years; my mother has high blood pressure but no serious illnesses. So I am confident I have some good genes to keep me healthy, because I don’t exercise enough, hate jogging and never have enough time to go to the gym. Bad habits, like smoking, have returned while living in China, so I have to avoid other smokers to help me stop. Good health always includes eating healthily, drinking water and some exercise. However, I do have a good role model in the form of Uncle Andrew, who died at age 88 in 2015. He walked an average of +10km from the time I become conscious of his routines. So instead of reinventing the wheel and whenever possible, I plan to emulate his habits and daily routines which encouraged good health. Thank you Uncle Andrew!
Relationships with Women – Whenever I was dumped, I used to believe I didn’t deserve it, I was such a great guy, and so on. Well now, I can easily say to all ex-girlfriends, thank you for breaking up with me, thank you for dumping or rejecting me. All the bad relationships with women in the past, makes my new relationships better because I learned how to avoid the same mistakes. As I always encourage other people who are trying to move on from past relationships, “You cannot open the door to new relationships, unless you close the door behind you.” Why? Because the draughty wind from the past will spoil the new opportunity in front of you. And as Tom Leykis taught me, the best revenge is to become successful.
MBA Students are notoriously busy people. Either they are taking many classes or running a business on the side. In China we also have to learn Chinese language (Mandarin), the Putonghua or common language of the people in the world’s second largest economy. To truly have an advantage after graduating from MBA school, you need to have superior communications skills.
Toastmasters International is the leading organisation worldwide offering structured training through regular meetings in communication and leadership. Many complete only the basic level of Competent Communicator (CC), which is 10 prepared speeches with feedback, to ensure they have a foundation in public speaking and delivering presentations in a confident manner.
MBA students enter the business world with high expectations from their colleagues and hiring managers. You are almost certainly on a fast track to management and eventually CEO with some hard work. However, most business schools do not directly offer training in sales, persuasion or public speaking. Enter the Toastmasters Communications track:
After receiving CC recognition, you can work in the Advanced Communication Series. There are 15 manuals, each containing five speech projects. Many of the manuals are career-oriented. You choose the manuals you want to complete and the skills you want to learn. Working in the advanced manuals, you’ll refine and enhance your speaking skills and become eligible for several awards:
As an MBA student at Ningbo University (NBU) in Zhejiang province, China, I’ve been thrilled by the impact the new Toastmasters club has had in bringing together both foreign and Chinese students on a regular basis for a shared learning experience.
The Business College at NBU has sponsored for chartering of the Toastmasters club. Membership is limited to students, teachers and graduates. Of course guests from other clubs and the community are always welcome. We decided on this to ensure a feeling of fraternity among members. Students get to meet graduates, many of whom have started their own businesses. They have opportunities to practise and prepare for class presentations, oral examination through Table Topics and much more.
MBA students may apply some of theoretical ideas in a practical ways by sharing business ideas or case studies from class. Certainly entrepreneurs do pitches to investors when they start new businesses; on the other hand you may enter sales areas where you need to persuade the audience to your point of view. And when you’re the CEO you need to inspire and lead your team. All in-all is available for an investment of only $36 per 6 months.
What are you waiting for to join?
Attention: Jacques Cilliers
CEO, First National Bank
Dear Mr Cilliers
After 11 years I decided to close all my bank accounts with First National Bank. One reason is because I’ve moved to China and have no plans to return to South Africa while Jacob Zuma is president. The more serious reason is the horrendous experience of passing the buck and customer service I’ve experienced.
This was personal on so many levels. And yet I’m haunted by Don Miguel Ruiz’s admonition: Don’t Take Anything Personally. This is extremely difficult for me because I was almost born into this bank. My mother worked for FNB from the time it was Barclays Bank until retiring in 2009 after 33 years. I was also staff member in 2003 working in Randburg Computer Centre with a direct responsibility for keeping the Internet banking systems safe and secure from hackers.
My own experience working for your bank and my mother’s experience was never great. But that’s another story.
When companies think their brand is the best, they become arrogant. When companies rely on social media characters not real people to deal with customer complaints they begin a slippery slope towards self destruction. Your RB Jacobs has been a spectacular success on social media but dare I say not in the real world.
People connect with people. We all want to believe they connect with brands after doing completing our MBA degrees. But no, the plain and simply fact is that what made banks valuable, and bank managers important and esteemed decades before was the personal care and maybe even compassion shown by the bank managers and staff. When I was very young and my mother took me to the branch office in Main Street, Port Elizabeth, I felt this personal touch from her manager.
She was devastated when he resigned after a long service. So why do I keep harping on about my mother. Maybe it’s because FNB felt like family to me. I still have scraps of yellow paper she brought home for me to practise my drawing on. I had got the “BOB T” accounts when they were launched and become well versed in banking vernacular over the years.
SOCIAL MEDIA SMARTASS
Your RB Jacobs team have helped me resolve issues speedily and efficiently in the past. However, I was sure that this function was outsourced because some time ago I became aware that the eBucks social media account was given to Cerebra. So I assumed that RB Jacobs was not an internal function but being outsourced. And even though they have claimed being full-time staff, I still have my doubts knowing how bad big corporates are managing social media in general.
Trying to reset my cheque card pin was the turning point for me. It’s not the first time I was shoved from Twitter to email to call centre, back to social media and email. On several occasions I’ve tried to educate your call centre staff about the complexity of your password protocols used in online banking. FNB made over R7 billion in pre-tax profits in 2013 and you punish customers with a R50 fee to reset their password via a human being in a call centre.
When RB Jacobs tries to be helpful on Twitter, I never know whether I’m dealing with the same person on email. Clearly from the replies I’ve receive they are not the same person. And since I am social media trainer, I’ve conducted a workshop in 2012 where your bank’s social media manager was among the delegates. So I have inside information.
Suffice it to say the link between social media and customer service is so delicates because of all the variables at play. I implore you to reconsider your strategy and find a way to restore the humanity to customer service and banking. While I felt my request was simple, so many of your staff seemed incapable of treating me with humanity and civility, to the point I broke down and started screaming at a call centre agent who told me to go to into a branch to reset my pin, AFTER I told him very nicely I was in China.
The kicker is this, only after I told RB Jacobs on Twitter, Facebook and email I’m closing my account, for good; did someone miraculously emerge. Even though I told this person, Mandisa Viteka, they saved a long term relationship, I decided to go ahead and close my eyes.
CAPITEC IS YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE
When I approached them to help me regain access to my online banking account, they didn’t hesitate to respond. A real person, not a social media smartass contacted me via email and set-up a Skype call. They authenticated me and are now dispatching the dongle needed to access Capitec Bank’s online banking securely, at their cost not mine!
The biggest lesson for you from Capitec Bank is: LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS and STOP BELIEVING YOUR OWN HYPE. When you realise how easily you can address customer service issues, by simply listening, you will be surprised how much easier it is to maintain long term relationships.
Over the years I’ve had several intense arguments with your call centre staff because I’m not the average joe. As you know I’ve a +30 year history with FNB, and also worked for the company. So I dare say, I know the Hogan system and the internal workings. Your company has never appreciated people like me nor my mother, and from this day, I make it my life’s mission to help people move to Capitec Bank.
Paying interest to me of 4.4% while many of your accounts pay ZERO interest
Mobile baking + Online banking is easy and cheap like yours
Younger employees in the branch, who do not have the attitude of many older FNB branch staff
Simplicity in products you can only dream about
So it’s with no regret I bid you a farewell Mr Jacques Cilliers, new CEO, by writing this open letter to you. You have a hard act to follow in Michael Jordaan. In many ways his personal interactions with me via Twitter and at the FNB App launch, delayed the insatiable.