2014: The year of going sideways (again)

They say when you are happy you can hear the music. When you’re sad you hear the lyrics.

It feels like I’ve been hearing the music and the lyrics in the past few weeks.

I could especially hear the words to every song on the day Madiba died.

2013 was a confusing year for many people, including me. Watching a booming stock market, only to know the economy is in the doldrums. Quitting a job to start a business, only to go back to working 9 to 5. Moving house to cut costs, only to spend more money on the new house. Recovering from injury and able to exercise again, only to deal with kids that decide to wake up at 1am every single night. Getting a bank loan, only to immediately stress about paying it back. Organising a party for a hundred people, only to have fifteen arrive. Passing exams and graduating, only to find there are no jobs.

I wrote an email in 2008 that predicted the economy would correct itself by 2009 and the good times would be back. Turns out I was wrong. We (South Africa) have had a much less painful ride compared to most places in the world, but seven years of recession is no joke.

Years of hanging on for dear life and convincingly saying, “Next year is the Year of the Comeback” is starting to take its toll.

I’ve learnt some lessons. First, never predict a recession will last one year. Second, never make predictions. Third, it’s all about the people with you on the journey.

Last, but not least, life is too short to drink bad coffee.

No more lessons. I’ve spent enough time extracting pearls of wisdom from shitty oysters.

Time to move forward.

But which way is forward?

In some ways, tough economic times make decisions easier. The available paths are limited. It’s easy to bemoan the lack of options and yearn back to the boom times of the Noughties. But that gets you nowhere. Its like thinking back to that girl you wanted to marry but you didn’t pluck up the courage to ask, and now she’s even more beautiful and engaged to the younger brother of the Prince of Monaco.

Depressing and fruitless.

I’m sure Madiba sat in prison tormenting himself with regret and bitterness for many years. But then one day he woke up and said, “Enough. Time to get busy living or get busy dying.” (or was that Morgan Freeman?)

The gist is this: There is no end. There is only journey. That’s why paying attention to the path rather than the destination is the key to happiness.

Your shoes, clothes and geography make a difference to the journey, but the single most important factor is company. Who are you walking with? When it comes to family, friends, and work, who is in your company?

I don’t think 2014 is going to be the Year of the Comeback. Next year is going to have crises and setbacks and frustration.  My ship won’t come in next year.

There, I’ve said it. I can now get on with life without the burden of expecting the world to give me something. Twain was right, the world owes me nothing, it was here first.

I think 2014 is going to be just another year in which I’m lucky enough to have a great family, great friends and great colleagues. Hopefully we’ll roll out some free Wi-Fi networks and pay the bills. Everything else is a bonus. (Although there is no way I’m lowering my expectations when it comes to coffee…)