Friday, November 02, 2018

Swart Donkey


Boxgrove Priory Cricket Team (1999)

My nickname is Donkey because I am stubborn, noisy, and ignorant. It was first given to me by my Village Cricket Team when I was in the gap between school and university. I made a lot of noise when I appealed. I then went on a Contiki tour where people mispronounced the other South African's name. His name was Jacques, and the Kiwis and Aussies tended to call him a variation of Jacks. We told them it was closer to Shark, and he became Die Wit Haai (The White Shark), and I became Die Swart Donkey (Swart means Black which is my surname).

A Donkey, a Guy and a Shark

When I got to university, everyone was introducing themselves to each other and forgetting names. So instead of Trev, I used Donkey. Going round a circle - 'Anita, Colin, Dale, Nick, Ruth, Sarah, Donkey, Rodney.... sorry... Donkey?'. Donkey stuck. Even my Maths professor knew me as Donkey after I initially hid my name to avoid being the class representative, but agreed to make the noise required to get Megan elected.

New Friends - University of Cape Town (2000)

I work hard on my stubbornness, noisiness, and ignorance. 

I am stubborn. Yet, I believe in feedback, and seek it out. I also believe in authenticity and avoiding groupthink. This creates a tightrope to walk. Listening doesn't mean changing your mind to whatever the person you are speaking to says. Being open also doesn't mean veering off your path. I value my ability to stick to long-term goals and just chip away at them. I am also very aware of unintended consequences, and the chance/high probability that I am wrong. That is why I believe in micro-ambition. Making lots of little mistakes, regularly, and learning from them. Rather than everything being smooth until it suddenly isn't.

I am noisy. I have lots of opinions, and value thinking out loud. This means that my ideas can be under regular attack. A little bit of regular healthy stress. I have to work at keeping quiet. At adding pauses. At adding time for ideas to settle. I have to work hard at not adding meaning to everything I see, hear, and feel. We are natural pattern seekers, which means we add meaning to things that aren't meaningful. Separating out the genuine signal from the noise, requires constant editing, testing, and refining of ideas. It requires shifting the focus from lots of regular new answers, to improving the beauty of the same questions.

I am ignorant. It is impossible not to be. There is too much information in the world for us to process, and we are limited by the experiences we have had. We can't unsee things. We can't unfeel things. We carry our stories with us, and they colour our next steps. We can regularly ask good questions about what our values are. We can develop our skills and knowledge to align with those values. We can constantly be learning. We can feed our curiosity.

I am stubborn, noisy, and ignorant. How's that?
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