The art of listening

I need to be heard. We all need to be heard. That’s not a selfish thing. It’s something that is as critically vital to good health as the air that we breathe.

These thoughts came about because I had dinner with a very good friend last night. She’s a very close friend too. Dinner was fine, however on my way home I felt a dull unsettled feeling that I just could not shake. When I got home I managed to fall asleep but when I woke up I still felt unsettled. I desperately felt a need to ground myself but I did not know why. I started to meditate.

Meditation is my favoured form of reflection. I meditate, then reflect then meditate some more. I always feel better. It allows me to understand my own feelings and my own behaviour which stems from those feelings. Most importantly, it reminds me to be compassionate and gentle with myself. I see my situation from a clearer, less judgmental perspective.

I realized that I was feeling unsettled because even though my friend and I conversed over dinner, we weren’t listening to each other. I think we both really tried to listen to each other – after-all we really are very good friends. However, there is a great deal going on in her life and equally, there’s a great deal going on in my life too. At present, the issues that we are both dealing with are very different to each other.

I believe that we both weren’t able to fully take in each other’s perspective without the filter of what is going on in our own lives. This doesn’t make us bad friends – we are both only just human. Human beings have a need to be heard. And unfortunately last night we were both not in a position to be ‘the listener’. Listening is an art.

Honestly, I believe that I know how to be a good listener. When my own needs are filled, it’s easy for me to be empathetic, unjudgmental and present. Last night for the most part we both struggled to be empathetic.

In restrospect, had I meditated before dinner it would have probably been a different experience. As I am writing this I feel that I have been ‘heard’ – and I actually didn’t need anyone else to hear me, but me.

Because my own needs have been taken care of, right now I am feeling more relaxed, less critical, more open and receptive. And those are the vital constituents required for the art of listening.

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Reflections of a PhD student

Fifteen minutes ago I sent my final thesis (pre-examination) to the editor. All eight chapters consolidated into one document with abstract, table of contents, dedication, acknowledgements etc. etc.  After this it goes for examination. It’s another milestone on the journey.

Pause.

I finally finished the corrections to my final draft and finally got the thumbs up from my supervisor.  Every postgrad student will agree, it feels like a really painful experience. I pray that I will always be kinder that needed to my own postgrad students because heaven knows – I understand that sting.

Making corrections is painful because as a student, arguably you always present the best work that you can at that moment in time. Then your supervisor comes along and says “this” or “that” was not good enough. Even if you not precious about you work – when you’ve done the best you can, then you can’t yet see the “better way” yet. So manoeuvring out of the dark spot just ain’t that easy.  It ain’t.

It’s not making the changes per say that is difficult – it’s figuring out how to change it. When you don’t yet know how to do something, then you just don’t yet. Nine times out of ten when you reflect then you realise it wasn’t such a huge task but still. I guess that’s what growth is.

img_0993Enough on that. I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to the 18k mark of this half marathon journey (if I can equate a PhD to a half marathon). I can’t actually see the finish line yet, but I know it’s around the corner. I can hear the sound of noisy crowd and music playing in the distance…

Funny… yesterday a friend suggested we meet for lunch, so that I can tell him about my PhD findings. Instinctively I immediately replied “Hay Naah. Uh Uh …When we meet we can talk about ANYTHING but Quality Culture and Operational Excellence” – and yet I know in my heart that I am completely passionate about anything related to quality! Quality management, quality tools, quality strategies, planning, analytics and especially quality culture. But right now I’m just saturated.

My reaction took me completely  by surprise.

I have a feeling that it’s a phase and it will pass. For now I just need some a little bit of breathing space.

Chocolate indulgence 🍫

It’s that time of the year when as a collective we’re all rather social and typically gather around food. So here is a cool easy recipe for chocolate mousse that I recently discovered, and I’d like to share.

The best news is – this no-fuss delicious chocolate mousse is almost effortlessly quick to make and you only need 4 simple ingredients! It’s so easy that in less than a week I’ve made it twice for two different occasions. Was a hit both times! The ingredients are:

  • 3 eggs,
  • 1 slab of 125g of Bournville sweet dark chocolate (alternatively a slab of 70% dark chocolate – but then you need to add 3 tablespoons of castor sugar …Thank You Andykins)
  • 125ml fresh cream – not yet a full cup of cream,
  • Little bit of butter to melt the chocolate in the microwave – about 10ml or 2 teaspoons.

Easy peasy Lemon squeezy. So let’s start with the eggs.

1) Separate the 3 eggs yolks from the egg white

2) Whip the egg whites until you have stiff peaks. Use an automatic hand mixer to do this. If you can hold the bowl upside down without anything falling out, you know you have nailed it!

3) Break the eggs yolks (already previously separated) in a their own bowl. Use a spoon or fork to mix this. Set aside. We’ll add that to the dark chocolate later.

4) Melt the Bournville dark chocolate with 20ml of butter in your microwave. (Place both ingredients in a microwave bowl and the start microwaving. I put it on for about 30 seconds high heat then stir with a spoon, then microwave for another 1-2 minutes before taking out and stirring again. I then popped it into freezer for it to cool down a bit).

5) While chocolate and butter mix is cooling down, then whip up the fresh cream – also into stiff peaks. Use your automatic hand mixer to do this.

6) Once melted chocolate has cooled down (but still is liquid form) then add this to the egg yolks and mix well. I used a spatula and successfully did this manually.

7) Then take the egg yolk-chocolate mix (refer to point 6) and fold it in with the whipped fresh cream. You can use a spatula and manually do this – or use your automatic hand mixer – whichever- but do it as slowly as possible.

8) After the mixture in point 7 has been thoroughly mixed, first take just a little bit of the egg white (perhaps 1/3?) and mix this thoroughly with your spatula.

9) Once that (refer to point 8) is properly mixed then dump it in the container with the rest of the eggs whites and mix well – but mix rather slowly. You can use an automatic hand mixer but I personally prefer to do it manually with a spatula.

10) Once it’s thoroughly mixed, you can pour the mixture into containers to set. Use whatever container you prefer. I used ice-cream Sundae glasses.

11) Allow the mousse to set in the refrigerator for approximately 2 hours

Optional: I decorated those that I prepared with whipped cream (the kind you get in a pressured can) and Oreo cookies and a few mint leaves – because that is what appeals to me. You can use whatever you what for decoration. You can use chocolate flakes, astros – heck even jelly tots. Your only limit is your imagination.

Voila…. Dessert is served 🙌🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

Enjoy!!!! And conscientiously have fun while playing in the kitchen.

nom nom nom…

To see the original recipe that I used with an instructional video: https://www.recipetineats.com/chocolate-mousse/

The calibration curve

I’m stepping back and looking at the calibration curve. It’s an analogy from my days working in the chemistry lab. See before you test any chemistry samples you need to make up a standard solution – actually…. not one but five. Five different but known concentrations of a particular standard solution. For example if it’s iron or magnesium that you testing for, you make up a 10ppm, 25ppm, 50ppm, 100ppm and 150ppm of iron or magnesium.

If your testing apparatus (the machine you’re using) gives you accurate results for these “known concentration” solutions then can be relatively sure that you can trust all the iron or magnesium results of the rest of the samples you’re about to test.

Now, it’s seldom that 10ppm or 25ppm or 50ppm etc will read exactly 10ppm or 25ppm or 50ppm because variations are a natural part of life. And, importantly if you look too closely at just one point in your curve, it’s more than likely upsetting, because you’ll only see how far that particular point is away from what it’s supposed to be! However, if you look at all five of them together, you will more than likely see a beautiful curve form right in front of you.

Looking back at my 2018 “curve”, I am not unsure of how I feel. I feel strong. I am very tired at the moment though, as a productive year draws to an end. So I took today off. Mostly spent it in bed and reflected. Although I’m tired I’m more sure of myself than what I’ve ever been in my whole life. I’m certain of the direction I am going in.

Admittedly I am scared because so much is unknown. But fear is not gonna stop me from moving forward. My heart beats strong and urges me on. Something up ahead beckons. I’m cloaked with a strong sense of purpose and an immense sense of gratitude floods over me when I compare the person I am today to the person who I was two years ago.

2017 was kind to me because it pulverized me, crushed me before it shred me to bits. Even my hair hurt. The golden gift it bestowed on me through this was, it forced me strip off every narrative I previously taken on and used – all the walls that I built over the years and identities I thought defined me. After crushing me however, it introduced me to the nicest person that I know. Me.

So as 2018 started, I felt naked. I was also aware that it wasn’t a brand new beginning. It was simply a ‘rebooted me’. It was who I am, before I became anything else. I was naked because for the first time in my life I was simply being who I am without a single shard of anything else to cover me or conceal my soul. I’ve always been pretty authentic but never so naked and vulnerable. Evolved and taking ownership of everything. My essence, my past, my potential and for the first time in my life I made a concerted effort to fully live in the present.

The first few months I was like a toddler, still not ready to play outside and a bit clumsy, stumbling a bit.

Then I hit April and I had the first opportunity to test the evolved version of me. Life was busy albeit relatively quiet and happy. It was not comfortable or easy though – keeping things real and keeping them simple. My biggest enemy is, and always was, my own ego. #EgosMustFall. The situation in April took me by surprise. It felt good to be true to myself.

Life continued as it does. Uncomfortable yes, but productive. I was getting stuff done. I wasn’t realizing it but I was growing. I was getting stronger. I was flexing muscles.

Another test in July – this time a huge one. Again it felt good to be true to myself. With each test I fell more and more madly deeply in love… with me.

Then from July until now the time just flew by. Many things happened. Both in my career and in my personal life. This has been a good year for me in terms of both. Tremendous growth. I know that I’m not where I want to be yet. I also know that I don’t actually know exactly what it is that I want, or where or what that exactly entails yet, but I certainly know what I do not want. Most importantly, I know Bronwyn. And I know that she’s got this.

It’s been a beautiful year.