What I’ve learned from my Own NaNoWriMo Alternative – NaFFWriMo

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Please NaNoWriMo, don’t sue me for the spin-off. It was just my way of not doing nothing writing wise for a month.

I have no time in November – not this past November or any other as in our yearly routine it might just be the busiest time. For that reason I don’t even think of signing up for NaNoWriMo yearly, because although I might write my daily dose of 1333 words on the first day an maybe the second and even a third, I know that I will be disappointed down the line, because it will end. But, I still wanted to dedicate at least a bit of time to regular writing during the month of November just to feel part of something bigger, so I decided on my own personal alternative – National Flash Fiction Writing Month or NaFFWriMo. I decided to write a short story every day of the month. I wasn’t a 100% successful, as the last few days I got busy and I stopped a few short. Nevertheless, I have 26 stories more than I had on 31 October, so I’m at least a bit satisfied by my effort.

The Rules of the Game

At first my thinking was to write 100-word stories, but the first one was shorter and I felt that if I forced it to be longer it would lose its effect, so although I managed a few precise 100-word stories after that, I decided earlier on that I was not going to put any restrictions on myself other than that all the stories would probably be under 500 words.

Statistics

  • I wrote 26 stories in 30 days. That makes my ‘pass rate’ 86,666%.
  • My longest story is 324 words long.
  • My shortest story is 6 words short.
  • I actually wrote two stories which was precisely 100 words before any editing, (which makes me wonder if you can train your brain to write an exact amount of words on a regular basis?).
  • 11 stories is/eventually will be 100-word stories after editing.
  • A whopping 73% (19/26) of the stories was inspired by everyday events – either something that happened around me or by news events or articles in the media.

A few things I’ve learned during my NaFFWriMo

  • It’s not that easy to come up with something new every day.
  • Lots of ideas for fiction comes from everyday life non-fiction, be it one’s own experiences or things happening in the news. So, we just have to be alert to find ideas. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction and we don’t even need to wish for a muse or to dream up the ideas ourselves. We live in a crazy world full of people doing weird, crazy, wonderful and terrible things. Use it to create your own fiction.
  • Restrictions inhibit creativity. That’s not really an earthmoving or new fact, I know. 100 words can be too much. 100 words can also be too little. Writing a 6-word story is better than writing no story at all.
  • Sometime less is really more. I wrote one particular story which wasn’t bad in 276 words, but it also works extremely effectively as 100-word one. I will keep both for future use. Don’t just discard the longer or shorter versions of your stories.
  • I had to discipline myself to come up with something every day. It was a good feeling to produce on demand, although it wasn’t always easy.
  • One idea is sometimes – most of the times – followed by another. So, if I had decided not to write anything on some days, I would not only have missed out on one story, but on two!
  • Ideas don’t keep ‘working hours’. Some ideas came at night, just before I went to sleep, so I made myself a WhatsApp writing group with both my phone and tablet and typed out the story or at least the idea quickly to store and work on later.
  • I was a little bit disappointed that I didn’t write 30 flash fiction stories in 30 days (or even more, because it sounds so easy, doesn’t it?), but our current lifestyle is hectic and I was still satisfied that I managed to get 26 stories down. At least I didn’t do nothing. 3430 words for the month isn’t close to a 50 000-word novel, but it is still more than I would have written if I just decided to let the month pass without any goals.

PS: And just for the record – I know that NaNoWriMo is an American invention, but I think the name should change to IntNoWriMo to include the rest of us. Just sayin’. J

 

©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Living outside of One’s Comfort Zone

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Just before having to get out of the way

My Weekly Musings #4

Last week, our American friends invited us to visit the camel bazaar outside Cairo (on the Giza/Sakkara road). We’ve been living here now for just short of three years and I have never been outside of my comfort zone so much in my life. It is literally a daily thing. It is good for me – especially for spiritual me. Not only does it teach me plenty about the world around me, the people of this country, their strange culture and their fanatic religion, but it also teaches me a lot about myself. Living in a culture where you do not understand the language and isn’t even able to read their alphabet or have the same traditions and customs or worship the same God, things can get quite uncomfortable.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing being out of your comfort zone. It confronts one’s own beliefs, upbringing, culture, customs, world view and lifestyle when you are thrown into a world where nothing is familiar or make sense to you. Not only do you question the behaviour of the people around you, but you question your own. It is not a once off thing, but an ongoing everyday introspection. And not only do you learn to value what is ‘own’ to you, but you also learn to embrace and appreciate diversity. Very early on in our stay here, I have decided that I don’t understand much (not even a reasonable bit) of this culture, but that I am not even going to try to understand it. It makes life here a little bit easier and less complicated to observe rather than to label.

Back to the camel bazaar. I’m sure that this place wouldn’t even exist in a Western country. It’s a raw experience. Camels, by their hundreds, maybe even more, are brought together on a Friday morning to be sold I was told, mostly for meat. Men and (some very young) boys herd the animals – hopping along on three legs as one of the front legs is tied with rope to keep the animal from running away – towards the various ‘auction stations’ with long bamboo sticks. It isn’t a pretty picture to see. On the surface and in the viewpoint of a foreigner like me, it is a harsh place for a camel to be. And also for the people involved.

Upon arriving there, we were only four females in a sea of males – something that already pushes the discomfortometer into the red. The sticks hitting the camels’ bodies – be it on the humps, legs or head – is another difficulty to deal with. Furthermore, none of the camels looked like they had the potential for dinner I would want to see on my plate.

But I realised that it wasn’t my world. It wasn’t my place to judge. With that I don’t condone the behaviour of the people or the suffering of the animals. Sometimes in life things just are what they are – people making a living, surviving the only way they know how to the way they did for centuries – maybe even millennia. My disliking it, my discomfort and the fact that I might disapprove of their way of doing as a foreigner in their country, is not going to change that. I’m not going to alter a country’s culture, customs and actions which are way older than my own culture. What I should do is learn to appreciate it for what it is.

I realised that I would probably be out of my comfort zone many, many, many more times in the period we have left here in this interesting, phenomenal country. How I handle my discomfort is what is important. If I can’t change people’s behaviour or world view, I can at least work on my own. I can learn to value the diversity of this place and the other countries we are visiting, as well as that of my own country when we go back. Hopefully, when we are back in our own culture – which is just as diverse – I will be able to feel less uncomfortable in the mixture, while still staying true to my own upbringing and beliefs and being more tolerant towards people who are different from me.

In the end, when one sees the bigger picture from a forever-living-worldview, we are reminded that we who confess Him as our Saviour are one body in Messiah (Romans 12:5). One day we will be immersed into His culture and all the discomfort of worldly customs, poverty and illness will be something from the past.

PS: I spelled necessarily correct without using spell check or a dictionary.

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

The Hole-in-the-wallet, Laborious, Frustrating Process of Acquiring a Travel Visa

My Weekly  Musings #3/2017

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We are planning a visit to friends in New Zealand next month and with that, we are trying to obtain travel visas – something that wasn’t necessary for South African citizens only two or three months ago. But thanks to people abusing the system or hypocritical red tape or whatever, the New Zealand government now finds it necessary for us to get that little hated stamp in our passports. (And now the South African government reciprocated by implementing visas for Kiwis to visit SA! It makes no economic sense.) We are currently residing in Egypt and to get a visa, one’s passport has to travel to Dubai for this privilege! As if that is not uncomfortable enough, the costs are enormous! Not only is there the fee for the sought after stamp or little paper glued into your passport, but there are handling fees for the passports to get there and more separate handling fees for them to get back. And apart from the cost, the effort is just silly. After all the documents they’ve required were attached, they requested some more documents after receiving the passports.

There are many reasons governments give for requiring visas. Some might be legitimate, but I sometimes wonder if the visa process doesn’t just keep the good guys out. Because when there is an attack somewhere in the world and everybody is surprised by a person on a terrorist watch list carrying out the attack, l really question the system. Obviously, he loopholed the visa requirements. How can they get into a country so seemingly easy and us good guys have to carry out time consuming efforts and pay the financial penalties? As if travel tickets aren’t expensive enough.

We’ve received our passports back yesterday. There are no visa stamps or stickers in. Instead, they informed us that the visas are electronically issued against our passport numbers. We will get an email to confirm that.  An email! All that effort for an email! Where is my visa stamp?! I hope it works, because when we arrive in New Zealand after two flights of four and sixteen hours respectively, and they don’t allow us into their little country, I will leave a piece of my mind there!

Thankfully, after our patience being tested going through the process, I’m reminded of a place where we won’t need visas to go to one day. All we need is to confess the Truth. It is that simple. Or that Complicated. The choice is ours.

“To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” (From the Bible – Luke 8 verse 10)

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

The Myth of Free Speech

My Weekly  Musings #2/2017

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

― George Orwell, Animal Farm

A lot of things happening in the past months and recent years made me think real hard lately. Life had changed in almost every way in the past decade, thanks to technology and other developments – some for the better and some for the worse. Our world had become used to terrorist attacks in the form of shootings, knife attacks, sexual assaults, cars and trucks ramming into people, people getting beheaded etc. This last year we saw laws, policies and governments change – strange changes that are still very difficult to believe or to get used to. I’m starting to think that maybe it is a totally natural thing that is happening. In history we had build-ups like these which led to the tower of Babel, the Flood, the Crusades, the First World War and WW2. Talk is that we might already be in the middle of a Third World War of sorts.

When a bucket gets too full of water, it overflows – naturally. There is a saying: Give a person enough rope and he hangs himself. Bucket overflowing or too much rope? It’s the same thing. Balance always needs to be restored somehow. The Western world is playing with its very, very long rope and so is the anti-Western world. And as individuals, agreeing or not agreeing with current directions, we are all steered into, hanged along and sacrificed in the process as collateral damage.

We live in a world where our words, our Twitter feeds, our Facebook statuses, our email (only normal people, not presidential candidates apparently) could get us fired – not only for big things like threatening state security or threatening people or libelling or acknowledging theft (except if you find yourself in certain positions in certain governments) or something immoral like that, but also for being moral. For having values and principles. For believing in the God of the Bible and the Word of God. And for having the audacity to have opinions about religious or any other fundamentalism, abortion, marriage, parenthood, crime, gender issues, sins and the likes. Defend unborn babies, marriage between a man and a woman and stand up for your rights if you are not a person of colour and whatever you say is branded as ‘hate speech’ – no matter if and how sympathetic you are towards these issues in general.

There is no room in the world anymore for a person to speak freely without being branded or bearing far reaching consequences. We are being told what opinions to have, what to think and what causes to support. Would anyone in the Golden Globe audience have had the courage to disagree with the actress’ speech the other night? Probably not, because she was speaking on behalf of the ‘trend’ right now and no-one with a reputation to uphold can afford to think differently? There was a time when, even if they were wrong, people could speak their minds in the democratic West.

We are navigated into believing that it is our right and even our privilege to live perversely. Consequences for our actions and responsibility for our choices aren’t relevant anymore. Sin had become a non-mentionable word. And where does God fit in? Well, He just doesn’t, does He? Modern man – oops, sorry! – Modern, genderless, colourless, faithless person is its own god now. All that matters are ‘it’, ‘itself’ and ‘its’ inner-god, and happiness is its ultimate goal and religion. Its behaviour, lusts and needs are to be practiced to ultimate satisfaction. Anything goes in our little ‘self-god’ world. And the little gods are not bothered for one moment that they are ignoring their Maker’s Instruction Manual. It is like a person trying to use a refrigerator as a washing machine. The plug will fit into the wall socket and the power will go on, but the water put in will freeze as the clothes stay dirty. Eventually, the person would have to reassess and use the appliances for the purposes they were manufactured for.

Life is like that too. Nature has to go its way and imbalances have to be addressed. If man doesn’t do it, God does. And His way is never the easiest way for man.

Be blessed and stay strong, because we are living prophesy.

The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. (Proverbs 16:4)

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Those Big Small Things in between Facebook Status Updates

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Life is speeding so fast that it can overtake us very easily, leaving us clinging onto whatever we can to survive. And when we are in survival mode, we tend to focus on just that – survival. Sometimes we need to get off the runaway train, stay on the ground and just enjoy the moments of experiences added together that is called ‘life’. So many of us live for our “one day” – that day or days near or farther in the future when all our dreams will be realised into the utopian existences we spend all our free time imagining.

But sometimes we need real life to give us a slap through the face or shower us with the proverbial bucket of ice water to slow us down from our busyness or even to bring us to a halt in order for us to stop and be alive within the actual moment we find ourselves in.

It can happen through the shock of sudden death, the scare of illness, being faced with dangerous situations or just recuperating from something less serious – but as disruptive.

Shock or trauma or failure can sometimes be good for us. It can help us clean our systems, re-organise our priorities and re-evaluate the impossible goals we set for ourselves into obtainable ones and making us pause for a while. Very few things in life can be so good to us than coming to a complete standstill. And I really mean to stop doing what you’re doing and to live in the moment, with no looking forward to the tomorrow that may never be born.e always dreamt of living abroad for a period of time. Due to circumstances that dream got lost for a while, but after some time it found its way back into becoming a possibility and our lives were frozen in their tracks. Everything we did or didn’t do, planned or didn’t plan and decided had to be weighed first against the probability of going away for a few years. It changes one’s whole focus, lookout and pretty much everything you do.

The realisation of a dream can be a horribly, scary affair and takes courage to pursue. (Read my previous blog on this at https://fieliesdekock.com/2015/11/10/the-process-of-realising-a-dream-can-be-a-nightmare/)

We only heard six months later that we were going to live abroad. In Egypt. I cried for a day and then my previous positive-self reappeared and I made a pro’s and con’s list and, surprise-surprise, the pro’s list convinced me – not that it was the longest! (How is it that when your prayers are being answered and you get what you ask for that you get confused?)  But the crying subsided and the excitement and frightfulness kicked in. We had a lot to do – easier stuff and more difficult stuff. All the easier stuff had to do with the ‘whats’ in our lives. The more difficult ones had to do with the ‘whos’. My mother lived with us for 17 years and she had to be relocated. And we had to find houses for our four dogs. It wasn’t easy.

Fast forward…

…to living in Cairo, Egypt, for two years.

It takes time to settle into a new environment. And it took me one year an nine months to get so used to the new place to fall into a little bit of a rut – in spite of (or maybe because of) busyness.

Precisely one year and nine months after arriving here, I fell into a not-so-slightly ‘down’. (Don’t worry – it was caused by stupid pains, and although they remained, the depression flew out of the window after a few doctor’s visits. ((And I realised that my ‘depressions’ are always health related.)) And it is a fact that everything seems worse if you are far away from ‘home.’)

Now that the background history is told, I will get to the point. Since that day, three years and three months ago when we first heard that we may be moving, I have learnt to live in the moment. Because of the uncertainty of our situation, we stopped buying unnecessary things, didn’t make decisions with long-term consequences and just started taking every day as it came.

Due to the fact that we came to live in a country where the security situation can be volatile, our circumstances can change at any time and our stay can end unplanned and abruptly. So, I decided to keep living here the way we lived back home for those uncertain fifteen months before we left – in the moment. And I already decided to keep doing that when we get back home one day. But, as I am writing this – even that isn’t a certainty, because that is a tomorrow that is still to come. I pray though that it will happen for us all.

But back again (!) to the reason for this writing. During all these experiences the last few years, I have learnt to enjoy the ‘little’ things in life. Don’t get me wrong. With our current, temporary lifestyle come lots of privileges, which we enjoy and appreciate enormously! I mean, without this experience, my dream to see at least something of Europe would probably always have stayed only in the dream phase. We have cruised the Nile and we are scheduled to go again soon. We have snorkelled in the Red Sea (and fell in love with it)! On a French mountain I have played in the snow for the first time in my life! I attended my first (second, third and shortly my fourth) ball! I have stood in a chamber in The Valley of the Kings outside Luxor containing the petite mummy of king Tut. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. These are memories I will cherish for as long as my mind allow me.

But as it is in life – privileges don’t come free or cheap. And in between these very wonderful experiences are those that don’t reach Facebook status. And they take up way more time than those very wonderful ones. They are the ones that can make or break us. The in-between times when the heat, dust, cultural differences, strange religion, terrible traffic, the thin, sick, hungry street dogs, the stray cats, the tummy bugs, the illiteracy (mine!), the overwhelming crowdedness, the ‘ununderstandable’ customs, the poverty, the dirtiness, the interestingness, the bland food, the overripe tomatoes and all the things you miss from home, make you wonder how on earth did you make it so far and how on earth will you make the rest of the time?

I remember back home when we had some challenges, we would go for a walk in the afternoons and with my hand in my husband’s and with our son and our dogs tagging along, I felt like the richest person alive! And this, I personally believe, is where the secret of happiness lies: to find blessings and joy and thankfulness in even the littlest things in mundane life.

I have listed just a few of these things that make me happy. Some of them are not so little at all.

  • Reading Bible and praying whenever I want to, because the Living God of the Bible is always everywhere.
  • Mild weather.
  • Walking to the shops.
  • Walking to the shops on my own legs.
  • Walking to the shops on my own legs in mild weather.
  • Having good Egyptian people in our lives.
  • Eating the last piece of biltong someone thoughtfully brought when visiting.
  • Sitting (in the still mild weather) in our garden, listening to the birds chirping without the competition of the air conditioner sounds (because the weather is still mild and the aircons are still off).
  • Aircons in summer!!!
  • Drinking rooibos tea with my husband and son on a Saturday morning outside in the garden (when the weather is mild) or in the TV room or swimming pool (in summer, when the weather is not so mild).
  • Sleeping through the night without fear of violent house-breaks.
  • Waking up in the morning. (What a privilege!)
  • Having an Afrikaans (my native language) speaking buurvrou (neighbour) in the building across ours!
  • Having even more friends from home nearby and being able to lunch with some of them every week!
  • Feeding at least two of the many hungry cats in this huge city.
  • Watching ‘our’ two cats doing all their cat-things in our garden on top of the parking garage.
  • Taking pictures. Lots and lots and lots of them.
  • Being thankful for every ‘big’ or ‘little’ thing that works out.
  • Being safe after there had been uncertainties.
  • Aircons droning out the muezzin calls.
  • Power coming back on after cuts. (These days they aren’t as frequent and as long as in during the first year. Something to be thankful for – especially in summer!)
  • Experiencing everything with my husband and son!
  • Kissing my husband good night.
  • Kissing my son good night. (That’s probably not something he would like people to read on the Internet ((but he likes it – I can tell)).)
  • Seeing my husband happy because he can watch South African rugby and cricket matches on the satellite TV channels.
  • Paging through the teabags at my Japanese friend’s dinner to find a rooibos tea bag!
  • Having lots of friends from around the world to hang out with, visit new places with and to learn from.
  • Being able to buy the medicine I need and don’t get from home.
  • Being healthy (I hope).
  • Coming home to a haven of safety and tranquility.
  • Having a good landlady.
  • …the list can go on…

These are just a few things and when writing them down, I realise that they are not so little. They are pretty big and important. They are the glue that holds life together. To be in awe when seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time or feeling small against the largest of the Giza pyramids is splendid, but one can survive life without it. Of course travelling enriches our lives and I am a big supporter thereof (even if it is just exploring outside of you immediate comfort zone) and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on these experiences! But it really is the ‘small’ things that we can’t live without, which makes the mundane extraordinary – which is the difference between letting life get away from you and living in the moment. It is the ‘small’ things in life which brings sustainable happiness.

 

© 2016  – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock is trying hard to be an awesomest wife and greatest lover, finest mom and to write something all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s two cats and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.

Useful Useless Information for Scrabble Fans

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Most of the people I know, know about Scrabble and/or play it. I love playing it, except against my husband, because he beats me e-v-e-r-y-t-i-m-e! But I’m a sucker for punishment and keep playing anyway.

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Here are a few interesting facts about the game.

  • In 1938, American architect Alfred Mosher Butts developed the game as a variation on an earlier word game he invented called The two games had the same set of letter tiles, whose distributions and point values Butts worked out by performing a frequency analysis of letters from various sources, including The New York Times. The new game, which he called ‘Criss-Crosswords,’ added the 15×15 game board and the crossword-style game play. He manufactured a few sets himself, but was not successful in selling the game to any major game manufacturers of the day. Scrabble – The World’s Leading Word Game – celebrated its 60th birthday in 2008.
  • Many editions of Scrabble vary in the letter distribution of the tiles, because the frequency of each letter of the alphabet is different for every language. As a general rule, the rarer the letter the more points it is worth.
  • Many languages use sets of 102 tiles, since the original distribution of one hundred tiles was later augmented with two blank tiles. In tournament play, while it is acceptable to pause the game to count the tiles remaining in the game, it is not acceptable to mention how many tiles are remaining at any time.Several online tools exist for counting tiles during friendly play.
  • Over 150 million games have been sold in 121 countries around the world.
  • 53 per cent of all homes in Great Britain have a Scrabble set.
  • Each hour, at least 30,000 Scrabble games are started.
  • The Afrikaans edition doesn’t have the letters C, Q, X or Z.
  • Italian blocks exclude J,K, W, X, and
  • In French Scrabble, there are five tiles worth 10 points – K, W, X, Y, and Z.
  • Before 1998 the Dutch set, IJ had printed on a single block, because of a lot of words ending on –ij. Since then it was separated to be identical to the Flemish version.
  • The highest number of points that can be scored on the first go is 128 – with ‘muzjiks’ (Russian peasants).
  • Dr Karl Khoshnaw from Manchester holds the record for the highest word score achieved in a competition, scoring 392 points with ‘caziques’ – the plural for a West Indian Chief. There are over 260,000 legal words allowed under British Scrabble rules.
  • Scrabble is used all over the world as a method of teaching English.
  • A ballet called Scrabble had its premiere in South Africa in the 1980s.
  • If all the Scrabble tiles ever produced were placed end to end they would reach the equivalent of eight times around the earth.
  • Gerry Adams once castigated the British for quibbling over the wording of peace treaties with the phrase: “This is not a game of Scrabble”.
  • There is a town called Scrabble in Berkeley County, West Virginia, USA. They don’t have a Scrabble club.

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Scrabble is also available as an app for smartphones and tablets. There are various other similar games available. My son and I like playing Words with Friends. You can either choose to play with a friend, with a person with the same skill level or you can play off line against the ‘computer’ (Solo Play). Just search your provider’s app store for the word game to suit you. And teach your young children to play. It’s good to expand their vocabulary. Just don’t come crying to me if they beat you at your favourite game!

Happy Scrabbling!

PS: I hate those weird little words the ‘computer’ plays against me that doesn’t sound like words at all. But I get my revenge, by trying to remember them and play them ‘back’.

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Resources (from which the facts in this blog is quoted) and Links to more fun facts about Scrabble:

http://www.scrabble.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrabble

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrabble_letter_distributions

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/3776732/Scrabble-60-facts-for-its-60th-birthday.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Scrabble_Championship

https://apps.facebook.com/livescrabble/

On Success – So you Failed with your First (and Second and Third) Business Effort…

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We always tend to read ‘success’ stories when we want to be inspired or learn about being successful. Success stories inspire us, they sound good and we can definitely learn from them. But these stories can also leave us overwhelmed and hopeless when we try our hand at a new business just to fail after a few weeks or months or even years. Many people only try once and when something doesn’t work, they think of themselves as unsuccessful or as failures. When we fail at something we very easily tend tell ourselves that we would never be another Richard Branson or a Bill Gates. We are right. We never will be.

There is another way of looking at our failures. We are all different from another and therefore we do things differently, we have different interests and passions and talents. Being different from anyone else also means something wonderful – every one of us is a unique person. Being a unique person means that each person has a different purpose than the next and that we sometimes fail at things because we aren’t in a business that fits our interests, talents, personalities, passions, characteristics and purposes. Or we may be in the right business, but we don’t have the right ‘tools’ to manage a successful business. In these instances we must forget the failure, dream from anew, plan from afresh, learn from mistakes, learn new skills and try again.

It is encouraging to know that the Bransons & Co. of this world didn’t all succeed at their first try. Some of the most successful business people today and in the past had to try quite a few times before they had any success. Here are few failures to inspire you to be more determined to succeed in whatever your passion is.

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  • Henry Ford went broke five times before the Ford Motor Company became a success.
  • After being turned down for a job at Toyota, Soichiro Honda, started making scooters and eventually started his own company.
  • He invented a rice cooker that burnt the rice and he lost everything, but that didn’t put Akio Morita off and today he is the founder of the multi-billion strong company, Sony.
  • Traf-O-Data was the first flop of Harvard university drop-outs, Bill Gates and Paul Allen. We all know what happened when they started Microsoft. Maybe the name was to blame…
  • Colonel Harland David Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) fame’s chicken recipe was rejected by 1009 restaurants before someone had the vision to buy it.
  • Walt Disney was fired from his newspaper job because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He ended up bankrupt but believed in his ‘no good ideas’. Today Disney’s company is billions worth and still going (and growing) strong.

Not only people in business failed before succeeding in life. Not all scientists, inventors, politicians, great leaders, actors, artist, musicians and writers and sportsmen had it easy either.

  • It was thought that Albert Einstein was mentally handicapped, seeing that he only started speaking at four and learning to read at seven. (What is so bad about that? In our country children learn to read at age six/seven. Maybe there is still a chance for us to become geniuses!) He got expelled from one school and was refused entry by another. Not bad for a genius Nobel Prize winner in physics, is it? Remember that one of his greatest quotes was “Imagination is more important than knowledge…”
  • Another scientist-dude first ‘failed’ at school and then ran the family farm into the ground before becoming a math-genius. His name was Isaac Newton. Maybe this was one of those cases of doing something while having other talents.
  • Thomas Edison was told by teachers that he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was also fired from several jobs. We all know by now that we can be thankful to Thomas for not believing his teachers and bosses and that he just pushed forward and tried and tried and tried more than a thousand times to invent the light bulb. In the end he just said that he had found more than a thousand ways not to do it before he found out how to do it! Now, that’s what I call ATTITUDE! Thanks, Mr. Edison for adding a little light to our lives. J
  • And then there were bicycle makers Orville and Wilbur Wright who didn’t give up in spite of depression, family illnesses and lots of broken prototypes, before they fulfil every man’s dream to fly.
  • Although he failed Grade 6 and was defeated in many, many political elections, Winston Churchill just kept going and became the British prime minister at the age of 62 and lead Britain through WWII. He just had to wait for the Creator of History’s perfect timing for him to make his difference in the world.
  • A young man called Abraham Lincoln went to the war as a captain, was demoted and returned home as a private! He went on to start quite a few failed businesses, but Abe hung in and eventually became one of the U.S.A.’s greatest presidents (and an enormous statue). It just shows you again that you must find your niche to succeed in life.
  • Oprah Winfrey was allegedly abused as a child and fired from her job at a television station because she was “unfit for TV”. I’m sure you know who she is now and what she did for the past 20 odd years. Yes, she became a successful television (!) host and one of the most powerful people in the world – even influencing law making in die U.S.A. today.
  • Jerry Seinfeld, actor and stand-up comedian (and the voice of Adam in Bee Movie) was booed off the stage on his first job because he froze, but he went back on stage, tried again and audiences haven’t stopped laughing since.
  • He was told that he didn’t have what it takes to become a star, but Harrison Ford went on and did just that. Who else could have played Han Solo of Indiana Jones but him?
  • Vincent Van Goch died in poverty, selling only one painting in his life. Today his more than 800 paintings bring in hundreds of millions of dollars. I personally don’t understand the fuss over some of the paintings, but nevertheless…
  • Theodor Seuss Giesel or Dr. Seuss, as we know him wasn’t an overnight success either. His first book, To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected by 27 publishers.
  • The University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television rejected Steven Spielberg three times before he joined another film school from where he dropped out before finishing his studies to become a director. He eventually went back after 35 years and completed his BA-degree in 2002! How’s that for perseverance? And he didn’t even have to do that because he was already successful in what he did!
  • Although Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the best music composers ever, he died with very little to his name due to depression, restlessness and ‘unfavour’ from
  • Ludwig Von Beethoven was told that he couldn’t compose music, but he went on to compose some of the most beautiful music ever written. If you don’t know Ode to Joy, get a copy and listen to it. On top of all, he did all it being deaf! How cool is that?
  • Elvis Presley was told by an agent “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.” We know now that he didn’t listen to that no-good agent.
  • “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” A quote from Michael Jordan, probably the most famous basketball player ever, who was cut from his high school team…

For more failure stories, visit http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/02/16/50-famously-successful-people-who-failed-at-first/ and http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/05/17/50-iconic-writers-who-were-repeatedly-rejected/

Just think about it for a moment; If these people just gave up after the first try we could have been without KFC today! Or some of the greatest animation movies, planes, trains, some of the best music, electricity, the telephone, some very good cars and we would never have been able to enjoy some great books or the talents of some very good athletes. OK, that’s only partially true, because someone else would probably have invented the light bulb, the aeroplane and animated movies, but it could have taken a lot more time. And we wouldn’t have known who Thomas Edison, Mozart or Spielberg was.

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So what do we learn from these people’s failures?

  • If you don’t keep trying, someone else will and ‘steal’ your idea. It really isn’t nice to see someone else do something that you wanted to do, but didn’t do just because you didn’t have the guts to try or because you gave up.
  • Don’t listen to people telling you that “it can’t be done” or that “you’re not good enough” or “you will never make it” or “you are too stupid” or anything like that, just because they can’t imagine what you can. Winston Churchill and Steven Spielberg didn’t believe people like that. Why should you?
  • Learn to know yourself. Think about life. Know what you like and what you are good at. If you fail at something you’re not good at, try something that you are good at and which matches your personality and passions in life.
  • Don’t try to be someone else or do something that others are doing or follow other people blindly. You were made a unique person, with something unique to give to this world. Don’t aspire to other people’s dreams.
  • And last but not least – in spite of what the great and mighty Oprah says: Not every person “can do what they put their minds to”. Of course a person with serious intellectual and learning disabilities won’t be able to become a rocket scientist or a 250 kg girl won’t be able to become an underwear model. So, parents stop telling your children that! Stop setting impossible goals for yourself and/or your children, or trying to fulfil your own unfulfilled dreams through them, because that is the surest way to failure.

Maybe you are ‘just’ someone who started a small business to support you and your family for the rest of your life. That is a very good and noble thing. But just maybe you have something else to give.

By persevering, Bill Gates gave the world something that almost everyone has to use every day. He change the way of how much work could be done by one person in a day! He also changed the way how work is done.

Oh, and back to Mr. Branson. He dropped out of school to start a magazine. Through the years he built up eight billion-dollar businesses in eight different sectors (read an interview with him at http://www.touchahead.com/blog/entrepreneur-leader-richard-branson/). He introduced fun into business. Today he inspires, explores and writes books about business. Did I mention that he is dyslexic? (As some of the smartest people in the world were/are.)

Just maybe you have something like that in you too. If you think you have, never stop dreaming and never stop trying. And never listen to people trying to stop you from trying.

And that’s pretty much what I have to say about learning from another people’s failures. I’ll end from a quote from Winston Churchill himself:

Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in – except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. (This is the original version of the popular ‘Never, never, never give up’ quote, by the way.)

 

Fielies De Kock is also a wife and mom and hope to become a more successful writer of novels in the very near future. She currently resides in Cairo, Egypt, with her family, where they are trying to survive a new language and culture, while missing their family, friends and four dogs and where they are slowly and unwillingly warming up towards the building’s official ginger cat, known as The Cat.

Fielies is also known as Riëtte De Kock. Her first children’s book, Yeovangya, is available as an ebook at http://www.amazon.com/Yeovangya-ebook/dp/B008CP2RQ0