Category Archives: Lifelong Learning

Getting out of the box

For a long time I’ve had the terrible habit of putting myself, and others, into boxes.  Not physical boxes, but mental boxes, boxes that carry labels.  Oh I’m just a techie.  Or, he’s just a teller at the checkout counter.  Perhaps you have done the same at some point or another in life and can relate.  Recently I became acutely aware of this rather disappointing habit.

What happens when we put ourselves, or others, into boxes?  I have come to understand that by labelling, by putting into boxes, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to get to know and understand each person, including ourselves, as individuals.  Each of us has hopes and dreams.  I believe we all have hidden and uncovered talents.  I believe that labelling ourselves, and others, puts us at a distinct disadvantage in our interpersonal relationships.  It doesn’t matter if we are applying this to the relationship we have with ourselves, or the casual encounter we have with the person at the checkout counter.

We can take this one step further.  Have you ever had somebody introduce themselves using this as the opening part of their introduction:  “I’m just a…..”  Now how’s that for a label?  “I’m just a….” do we even hear what comes next or do we subconsciously place that person into the insignificant or unimportant box?  Can we honestly say that we take the rest of the conversation with that person seriously, or do they remain in our mental box?

Perhaps it’s time we start dismantling the boxes, removing the labels along with their negative connotations, and get to know each other as people, as individuals, and see the incredible wealth of talent in each other.  We all bring something unique to the table.  I firmly believe that the only way to do this is by removing our own labels first.  To label is to hold onto pre-conceived ideas.

I recently victimised myself and sabotaged my own performance by placing myself in a box and assuming a label – I am a technical support engineer.  I fix technical issues, that’s what I do.  The challenge facing me was a training workshop for sales people.  I wore my label and lived in my box, subconsciously telling myself that I would not pass the final grading let alone excel at it.  I wore my label so stubbornly that other delegates put me into the same box with the same label.   To my surprise I got more than just a passing grade.  It surprised the course facilitators too as I had let them subconsciously accept the box I’d placed myself so firmly in.  What if I had kept a more open mind going into the workshop?  What if I had more readily embraced the opportunity to learn and grow in uncharted territory?  Instead I trapped myself and hampered my own growth.  All my own doing.

So this brings me full-circle in this article.  I start with myself.  I need to consciously step outside of any box I may want place myself in.  I need to break down those mental labels I apply to myself.  If I don’t do this I will forever hold myself back and hamper my own growth.  If I don’t stop labelling myself how can I expect others to stop?

Getting out of the box

Yours in lifelong learning,


A Few Weeks Later…

After several weeks in Rotterdam I realise I may as well be on a different planet.  Coming from Africa and arriving in Europe is a radical change.

So to highlight just a few adjustments and observations so far… well security would be a big one for me.  There are no private security company vehicles patrolling the streets.  There are no armed response adverts/signs stuck up on every home you walk past.  In fact the concept is quite foreign here.  There are no burglar bars on the windows.  There are no beams in the garden to alert to possible intruders.  There is no razor wire, no electric fences, etc.  There is, in the South African sense, very little security.  At first I would battle to sleep feeling so exposed and vulnerable. Now quite the opposite as I no longer wake up in a cold sweat imagining intruders inside my home.  Don’t get me wrong, you take regular precautions such as locking ones door and checking it’s locked! The apartment buildings have access control so no one can wander around inside the buildings uninvited.  But it’s nothing like stressing about having a gun put to your head just driving out your driveway!

Walking… besides cycling, everybody walks here.  There are pedestrian walkways and cycle paths everywhere.  Walking is safe.  Motorists stop at pedestrian crossings!  I haven’t seen a single vehicle go through a red traffic light [yet].  We found ourselves walking the short distance from the train station to home just after 9:00pm one evening and felt, relatively, safe.  I am jumpy at the slightest sound or rustle of leaves and that will probably never wear off.  But walk you can, without taking your life in your hands with the traffic and/or isigebengus (isiZulu for criminals).

Public transport is a whole new concept!  Firstly it exists. Secondly it works.  That’s all we have at our disposal outside of walking and have been amazed at how efficient it is.

Dealing with government departments.  Oh gosh, how efficient.  You make an appointment, arrive at your allotted time and are promptly attended to.  No queueing for hours in the meager hope that you will get to talk to an official.  No waiting two years just to get a print out of one’s birth certificate!  If they say they are going to do something, well, they just get on and do it.

Postal services actually work.  Back in SA it takes weeks to receive anything, if it’s ever received.  Here it takes one or two days and the item is in your post box!  Companies, government, etc. rely on the postal service here.  This made me nervous.  The bank said they would send my bank card by post!  Eeek.  I nearly had heart failure.  But true to form within three days I had received all three packages from the bank.  A government department informed me that some important documents were sent by mail to me.  Gosh, a day later I received them – fancy that!

All in all this is a period of tremendous adjustment and great adventure.  I will be  sure to write more in the coming weeks.



Yours in lifelong learning,


The End of an Era

Today I write about something not so philosophical or perhaps profound as I have done in the past.  I write about the end of an era, the closing of a chapter in my life and, indeed, the beginning of a new one.  After twelve years I have resigned from my current place of employment.   The past twelve years have been a tremendous journey of opportunity and growth.

So why would I make this change now after such a long period of time, time that has been happy and joyful?  Sometimes in life opportunity comes knocking at your door totally unexpectedly.  Out the blue a potential new chapter in life presents itself.

Let’s take a step back here for a moment and look at some of the history behind this.  I’ve been working with email and email systems since 1994.  Essentially from the birth of email as a communication and collaboration tool in businesses.  I’m passionate about email systems, fascinated by how they work.  This passion of mine led to extensive participation in community forums – answering questions, assisting with resolving issues experienced by folk all over the globe.  I’ve written technical articles, published [amateur] training videos all in my quest to share knowledge.  Some call this my hobby, I call it my passion.

My contributions in this area appear to have been noticed.  Suddenly I get a phone call from a global company asking me to come work for them doing just this, supporting and assisting email administrators globally.  My hobby, my passion, has now turned into a new job!  I will be in a position to continue sharing knowledge whilst remaining a lifelong learner.

I’ve spent some time reading my own previous posts and realise, yet again, just how much they apply to my life – how I have prepared for this day, how I’ve prepared for new opportunities, how I can approach this massive change by starting with that first single step.

So where to from here?  We are relocating to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in a few short weeks.  A new country, a new job, new opportunities to learn and grow.  I am excited and nervous simultaneously.  This is a huge step, a massive change.  But I remind myself of taking that first step and how I plan my journey in small stages.  So here I am walking along an untrodden path and climbing a new mountain one step at a time.


The end of an era

Yours in lifelong learning,