Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Loss of Accountability (by Samir Bhana)

Guest Post: Samir Bhana

I took two years off between school and university while my brothers finished university. When I got to Smuts at the University of Cape Town, there was a great bunch of guys from various years at Westville Boys' High. I often wonder how awesome it would be if schools didn't divide people up by year group. A lot of learning in my class went on between students helping each other. It would be great if that could be extended across years. At university I once had to repeat a rather tough subject and by helping tutor my younger classmates, my second attempt was a success. Those struggling may learn more by realising how much they have conquered.

One of the great guys I got to connect with again was Samir. Samir now lives in Dublin and works for Twitter. Fortunately we don't have to wait to be plonked in the same building to connect with interesting people anymore. I am glad he seized the day and chose to write a guest post.

9 Westville Boys in Smuts 2001 - Gary must have been 'busy'

The Loss of Accountability
by Samir Bhana

When my old schoolmate Trevor asked me if I was interested in writing a guest post for him, I automatically said yes. The idea of writing a regular blog has always been interesting to me, and yet I've never actually done it.

So, as we do with so many things, I said "Sure!" without committing to a specific deadline or topic. It was in itself a commitment without a tangible penalty. I'll write something at some point, I thought. And then promptly forgot about it.

Trev then messaged me a few weeks later, asking if I was still interested in writing a post and I realised the penalty had just become tangible. I was being held to my fleeting commitment by a friend whose respect of me would diminish if I reneged.

When I think back to how I achieve my goal in life, it is generally driven by accountability to someone else. My boss, my parents, my friends, my girlfriend. I don't like letting people down and so a lot of the time I find this easy (for a separate therapy session).

But what I lose in that way of thinking is accountability and, more importantly, accountability to myself. Don't wanna brush your teeth tonight? Well no one will know except me. Want to wolf down a slab of chocolate? No problems if no one is around. Stay up till 2am watching movies on a weekday? Who will know?!

This loss of accountability to myself has led to an interesting pattern in my life over the last few years. In a year where I start a new role or job, my health goes out of the window because all of my energy and time goes into not letting my boss and colleagues down. But once I've settled in and have my routine down, I try to reclaim what I've given away. A type of sinusoidal existence that surely can't be good for me.

The graphs of sine and cosine are sinusoids of different phases

Which all brings me to the other critical element of personal accountability - balance. Balance is one of those things that you can't truly understand until you haven't got it, but its so critical to making sure you last the marathon, and not just the sprint. Balance only comes when  you truly hold yourself accountable because you know its important for your own physical well being and mental health. When I was in my 20's, balance seemed like an unnecessary distraction - get the most of life! Carpe Diem! But now in my 30's, balance seems like exactly the thing I need to do that.

Seize the day

Understanding what I really need in my day-to-day life - my relationships, my job, my hobbies - has always been the hardest part of figuring out "happiness" for me. Holding myself accountable could be the biggest key to that.

In writing a blog about several topics in which I admit to being a complete beginner, I am going to have to rely heavily on the people I am writing for who cumulatively know most of what I am likely to learn already. I would love it if some of you found the time to write a guest post on the subject of happiness or learning. The framework I use for thinking about these things is what I call the '5 + 2 points' which includes proper (1) exercise, (2) breathing, (3) diet, (4) relaxation, (5) positive thinking & meditation, (+1) relationships, (+2) flow. Naturally if you would like to write about something that you think I have missed, I would love to include that too. If you are up to doing something more practical, it would be awesome if you did a 100 hour project and I am happy to do the writing based on our chats if that is how you roll. Email me at 

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