Monday, 18 January 2021

2020 review, major decisions & re-invention

Around this time last year in January 2020, I shared (in this post) how I tracked against my personal & professional aspirations of the previous year 2019, accounted for my time spent and narrowed down the major questions (and hence decisions) that remained open. 

This was all before Covid-19 happened, but despite that disruption, I remained committed to holding myself accountable for realising my aspirations. I track these aspirations through a framework I created roughly five years ago, aimed at lifestyle design, something that is always a work-in-progress and is never complete. This framework is called my RAGE (Reality, Aspirations, Goals, Expectations) model. It has seen multiple iterations and has remained my guiding compass, even as I enter 2021 - the year of massive change for both myself as well as my family.

Looking back to 2020, it started with these open questions:
  1. How do I get my work hours of the previous three years under control? What am I willing to walk away from?
  2. Where next do I take my career? Do I remain with Pay TV moving further up to Group CIO/CTO or should I do something else altogether at the risk of going down a couple steps in the ladder?
  3. How serious am I about working with, or starting my own NGO/NPO non-profit?
  4. What am I going to do with my growing list of product / business start-up ideas?
  5. Should I leave South Africa and return back to the UK; or should I relocate to another country whilst still working in Pay TV?
We all know how 2020 turned out - but - despite that black swan - I nevertheless wanted to be antifragile and took bold action to not play it safe! Instead I dove head first into uncertainty, however, I did lay out a detailed plan. Those questions I needed to answer were Type 1 decisions (according Jeff Bezos' types of decisions), which called for careful deliberation & planning. So, using my RAGE model as my guide again, along with inspiration from a few folks (authors, friends, mentors, coaches & critics), I was able to address those questions by taking the following BIG decisions:
  1. I quit my job, my own sabbatical with no return policy - thus creating space for me to rest, recuperate & reflect. This wasn't an easy decision to make, as I was walking away from some rather good monetary incentives due to cash out in early 2021, and as a result of Covid-19, the prudent thing to do would've been to stick it out until the world recovered. Yet, I left anyway, putting into perspective What am I willing to walk away from?
    • This was only possible because 5 years ago, when I started my RAGE model, one of the aspirations for my persona as an individual was "To be debt-free on the road to financial independence". Since I was debt free, and maybe 30% on the road to financial independence, I had enough saved up to afford a break for at least a year.
    • Life is short, we've lost loved ones unexpectedly in 2020. I have tweaked my life model somewhat to weigh more strongly toward living a life of meaning, purpose & enjoying the present more.
  2. I decided to leave TV behind - switch domains - do something else preferably in cloud services. I will use my sabbatical time to ramp-up and then land a new job. This too wasn't quite that easy:
    • I'd reached a peak in my career with a highly respected company in the industry, although I knew I had gaps to close to move to the next level. It took a long time to mentally let go, but I found my flame again that helped me remember my past as inspiration to change my future.
    • I even considered going to medical school - but that didn't make much sense financially in terms of my family responsibilities and commitments.
    • Being the practical guy, I ended up cutting my sabbatical short because I landed a job much sooner than I anticipated - and as a result - ended up making not only a new job decision, but also a relocation to a new city decision too!
  3. Not serious about starting my own NGO - I spent a good few days unpacking this topic. I even went through a "finding purpose" retrospective and mind-mapped the options. Lo and behold, there appeared a golden thread throughout my life on working with blind and partially-sighted people. So I planned to use my sabbatical to explore that option...but that was short-lived. So decision: NO, not financially feasible for me. Instead I'll join accessibility-related community meetups at work, continue to donate money to causes and look to committing some of my time as a volunteer (which has been difficult, since it doesn't appear anywhere in my Persona priorities).
  4. Not serious about being an entrepreneur because I don't have the time nor the resources to focus on it properly. I will rather focus my energy into innovating at work. I will still build and maintain my ideas repository because I'm an ideas guy - but if the timekeeping from the last five years has shown me anything - it's not that important to me - a wantrepreneur! I will still look at angel investing opportunities though. Thus "Being an Entrepreneur / Run my own product start-up" has been deprecated as a persona. It's actually such a relief to just let that go and leave it all behind! Shedding unrealistic aspirations reduces stress and anxiety, reinforcing a sense of perspective. A cup can only hold that much water before overflowing, the same with life!
  5. Decided to remain in South Africa but instead try a new city, Cape Town. I was lucky to meet a career aspiration and a lifestyle aspiration (to live in a coastal city & enjoy nature) at the same time, but I'm still a little far off from having my own beachfront holiday homes so a 20 minute drive to the seaside is a good start though!!
Now, as I begin my 2021 journey, having addressed those serious questions, some of which were the cause of much stress and anxiety at the workplace, home & personal well-being fronts - 2021 will simply be about appreciating new experiences cross-cutting both work and life, aiming for harmony, acceptance, learning and growth (spiritual, personal & professional).  My personas remain largely the same priorities, their aspirations and specific goals will be adjusted for the next set milestones. I have hit reset so the process of reinvention will take time, I'm not going to rush things by being overly aggressive in setting unrealistic goals!

I have indeed made Type 1 (one-way-door) decisions, making it very difficult to go back now. I have rekindled my flame and now it's up to me (as it has always been) to make my life more interesting and meaningful!

2021 is about re-invention
I believe it can be done!!

As usual, I share my RAGE metrics with you - see below for my 2020 time-keeping performance...
Hint: Click on the images to view them properly.

If you'd like to chat about my RAGE model, tools and other frameworks I use to help manage my personal & professional life, please feel free to reach out! I believe as human beings we are all striving to make sense of our life/work/world, regardless of our culture, belief systems, etc. I believe I have found a method that could be useful...and I'm happy to jump on a video call with you for free life/work coaching! It has helped a few people already, so maybe that says something??


What is the current version of my RAGE Persona table & rankings?

I'm currently on the 7th iteration of the RAGE Persona Matrix, it's the most stable version to date:

How does my Life/Work RAGE scorecard look?

I maintain regular checks for how I'm performing across all the streams in life-and-work by keeping a rough score card ranked by a heat map, RAG (Red, Amber, Green) colour status. It is a somewhat subjective based on sentiment and feeling, but also objective based on the time tracking. Tracking time is a useful indicator of whether I'm focused on the areas as I prioritised. However, it is not a direct, linear relationship, it can't be. It's not really about the quantity of time spent on a persona/stream, but instead quality matters. For instance, I can share a small moment of just five minutes with my kids that has a profound, lasting impact on their lives. Just as spending hours with the family binging Netflix might be time together with the family, but those hours of Netflix and chill would be rather empty and not-profound! This scorecard is also a very handy tool to trigger change in one's life, simply by focusing on changing the colours from not-green to green.

How have I tracked over the past five years?


Where did I spend my time in 2020?



Was 2020 better than 2019, how did I perform in 2020 vs 2019 for each dimension?

Overall 2020 outperformed 2019, though it's not sustainable (i.e. I have to work, that's a reality constraint, just like sleeping is):

Am I getting enough sleep (at most 8 hours / 24-hour day)?


How much exercise did I get in 2020? Did I meet my target?


How am I doing across the Spiritual dimension?


What did my NGO purpose journey mapping look like?

Earlier I mentioned that I'd spent a couple of days diving deep into my interests to serve an NGO or create my own NGO. I believe that we must serve and help uplift society as best as we can. As much as I considered these options: Join, Partner or Create my own, the biggest blocker was financial, as well as time. It is still my intention to reach the point of financial independence to then focus my energies into NGO-work, until then, I will help my funding projects, and volunteering my time insha Allah. Below is the mind-map I ended up with - the thread being I should create a HealthTech Non-Profit focused on improving accessibility & independent living for the Blind/Partially-sighted. 

Actually, the realisation of purpose also pointed to the opportunity of working at a company building such technology, then I could have the best of both worlds. Not much happening in South Africa though, hence the decision to be practical. Since I'd cut my sabbatical short, my original plan was to volunteer for 3 months with an NGO, and then see where it went from there. I weighed all the options and thus decided to put that on hold, as it was more important to focus on my professional stream because of my family responsibilities, rather than explore (which could be perceived as selfish) individual streams, finding my purpose in my forties (and many dependents to support)!!


Why do I take time to write about this stuff anyway? 

I write about this stuff because I feel it is very important. It started somewhat as a response to reflecting about: When someone asks me "Hey Mo, how you're doing? How's your life? Are you in a good space? Are you happy?"  How do I give that a proper response? Life is complicated, many streams, multiple dimensions. How do I assess how I'm doing in each stream. And overall, how do I give a holistic answer? Am I all good in general? What's my focus? What's important to me? How do I track this? How do I measure my performance & progress? And so, RAGE/Personas and the scorecard has help me in making sense of it all!! Of course, this is a personal thing, so I wouldn't respond to everyone with my RAGE progress, just save it for the people who care and are willing to help and see me succeed...Since it's working for me, I share my model/data as a way for others to review...at the end of the day, all humans broadly share common aspirations for human progress (and I'm not talking about Maslow's hierarchy of needs here).

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