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The Nature of Time, Conditions for Success and Removing Obstacles

I used to walk up Lion’s Head all the time, at least once a week.

The iconic short hike up to the mountain top in the middle of the Cape Town city centre offers the best views for the least amount of effort IN THE WORLD. No kidding. I think there’s a poll somewhere.

It is enjoyed in two ways: A really really early start so that you avoid the crowds, or a slightly later departure with better visibility but more stop-and-start walking (it’s a pretty popular route).

After a long absence (I don’t really go up there much anymore, my dog can’t navigate the ladders at the top, so I usually feel it’s too selfish an endeavour) I did it both ways this week.

The first was Wednesday, and it’s a study in access, time, and consistency.

My friend Kerry has been going up there once a week, at 6 a.m. on a Wednesday, for as long as we have known each other. And that’s been 16 years at this point. Rain or shine, if you felt like going up there, you could know Kerry would be there with you on a Wednesday. Because she couldn’t make my birthday party, I resolved to make a comeback to the mountain, and we had a lovely morning trekking up there. It was topped up by muffins and a cappuccino out of her backpack at the top - a true treat!

We were joined by another friend, Laura, who had also been absent for a while. Laura talks as much as I do, so time flew by as we chitter-chattered our way up the mountain. Our return walk (including teatime at the top) was a relatively slow one at over two hours, but nobody minded. There were also a lot of other walkers, so there was waiting, asking to pass, even some pesky tourist who was noise polluting with their regatton music. But it was all part of the experience. Time had become quite immaterial in all the excitement of catching up!

Laura marveled at Kerry’s consistency. I remarked that she herself had also recently become quite consistent in mountain walks. Among other things, because she had moved to a place close to the start of the trail. Just like Kerry. I need to trek all the way across town, but Kerry, and now Laura, live right there. Access and ease of use: It does make a difference.

That evening, I was bushed and asleep by 9 p.m. So when AJ, my four-year-old, woke us up by climbing into bed at 3:30 a.m., I had slept enough. It was a full moon and warm outside.

I jumped out of bed, and on a whim, dressed and headed out to the mountain. Everyone - including the dog - was sleeping, the roads were empty, and I had the mountain to myself.

Now there is an old adage that if you want to get up early for exercise, get ready the night before. If you have to fuss in the morning to look for your shoes, your clothes, your Garmin, your whatever, you are likely to just give up and go to bed.

Because we had been camping on the weekend, I knew exactly where the headlamps were (I usually don’t). So I could grab it on the way out no probs. Obstacles to launch had been removed completely. No dog guilt. Full moon. Charged headlamp.

Here’s the thing. I had a great time, and a wonderful moment of quiet meditation up there. On my way down, I did pass the crowds, and I was back at my car within 1h20min (including meditation time at the top). BUT IT FELT LONGER. I only had myself (and my audible app) as company, and I really enjoyed it. But it felt like I was spending more time.

Who said that wise old thing? If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, do it together.

In the book Atomic Habits, the author talks about finite willpower. You need to set yourself up for success because your willpower will only get you so far. Have the gear ready the night before. Go meet someone. Send back the breadbasket at the restaurant. Don’t buy the snacks at the supermarket.

Doing the thing that needs doing is as much about the planning as the doing. I’m extremely glad I set up that first walk with Kerry weeks ago. She didn’t need the scheduling – but I did.

Oh, and time does fly when you’re having fun.

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