Day 3: Songs made famous by Tiffany

This could be One Eyed Peas or maybe 38 cents. Okay, it’s not really that. Well, I got to Witbank two days ago for this Generation Skills Development Programme. It’s been pretty awesome for the past two days with 24 hours of lectures behind me already. It does get a bit much though but, well, at least I’m learning quite a bit.

I just watched this movie with Samaire Armstrong (whoever she is.) I think the reason why I mentioned that was to actually make an effort to find out what movie it is. It’s a teen romance comedy with a few less jokes than normal and a girl, being the smart yet indie hot type, and a guy, who is the typical jock, who get soul-swapped. It wasn’t bad and much lighter than “Britz” which was on last night. One thing I figured out though is that when boy confronts girl in the movies, it always comes out poetic though the writers do get paid a couple million to come up with it.

Anyway, back to the point – Keeping a journal of this little ten week excursion should prove to be entertaining and informative. I actually meant to start it two days ago but my procrastination got the better of me. Then the epiphany came – no retro-writing. The journal is for writing as I can and it should not be for filling in the blanks. I will forget stuff because that is what I do but hey, this is better than nothing!

We left to Witbank at 6am two days ago. I lacked sleep. Sleeping for a maximum of four hours the night before does not work and I intended sleeping in the car. Obviously, that wasn’t the case and the N12 in semi-mist provided my backdrop for two hours. They say that the first impression is supposed to be important and well, Witbank greeted me with a stench that would make Merebank seem like a country meadow. Witbank does have the world’s largest coal seam and, as a result, has been inundated with a lot of the Eskom’s coal intensive power stations as well as other industry. The weird thing is that the smell was only noticeable on Monday. This either means the smell has dissipated or I’ve become used to it. The latter is a scary thought – the sign of H2S poisoning is when you can’t seem to smell it anymore.

Monday’s lecture was on Operating Philosophy encompassing basic theory about how a power utility is run – from how Eskom came about to the incidents and, well, philosophies that govern the production of energy. The one thing I loved was the technical background of it all. Engineers, with experience and people skills, give presentations that are on another level to others. The lecturer dude was a retired engineer who had worked as an operator and manager of Kendal – the current largest coal power plant in the world. I went for a course on Innovation a few weeks ago and also encountered a trained, experienced engineer who was working as a consultant in a different field now. It was such a pleasure listening an interacting. Learned engineers have this ability to empathise and think on the spot with either real-life experiences or some hypothetical example. I find this lacking in lecturers, or should we say presenters, from other educational backgrounds. It’s something you view on their face when you enquire about something that is not part of the presentation or something which extends the present topic – the engineer will start going into his own mind trying to rationalise and analyse what has been said. It’s something quite marvellous and an observation I have made this year after several seminars and presentations that I have attended. Oh, a good thing that I learnt about Johannesburg was that Gold was first found at Langelacht (or something like that – somewhere in East.)

It’s quite interesting to note that the world’s biggest coal and gold seam is in South Africa. The world’s biggest diamonds have also been found here. That’s quite amazing for little country on the Southern tip of the continent. It’s like what Kulula say about going out and visiting our country’s treasures even seeing that a couple million tourists from everywhere are visiting our shores every year.

The last two days have been occupied by a course on Self Management. It’s such a simple concept yet it’s something that gets to the actual core of your very being and makes you question yourself. Imagine telling people that to get better results, they must modify and understand the way they manage themselves. It’s an easy concept which everyone is open to. After all, it would be amazing to actually use your mind in a better way to achieve results that were thought to be unheard of. The reality is very different and today, it was very evident.

The mind has several characteristics. An important point is that all information received by the brain is neutral. Personally, the point, which I did discuss in relative depth, was quite important to my understanding of the mind. Every stimulus that your neurons encounter is sent to your brain as an electrical signal. Think of a digital circuit with a 0V and +5V state. The signals that are received by the stimulus, such as a sensor, are sent down the wires as either a HIGH or LOW state. That’s what your neurons do – send information down the neurons to your cerebral matter in a set state. A stimulus to the nerves will send a HIGH signal to your brain. Sticking with the electronics analogy – once the signals are sent into the microcontroller, the microcontroller decides what to do with the signal. For example, if when the temperature reaches 25 degrees, a signal is sent to the microcontroller and the code on the chip will decide what to do with it. It can be programmed to send another signal which would release water to cool the device down or it could stop water flow to make the temperature increase. The brain works similarly – the responses it receives are purely neutral. The sensory organs don’t send the information to your brain with an embedded message saying that the particular stimulus must be recognised as something bad. It is the brain’s job to process what it has received and make a decision on whether on not the particular stimulus is a positive, neutral or negative thing.

These lead to emotions as emotions are “psychological interpretation of thought” meaning that your brain decides ultimately how you feel. This leads onto several principles. Emotional feelings are caused by the way that one utilises the mind. If you know how the mind works, then you can feel, emotionally, how you want to feel irrespective of the outside factors. People ALWAYS have choice. I’ll repeat that – there is ALWAYS a choice. This all adds up to the simple notion that any emotional activity always is a choice of the person. How you react is a result of your choice to act in that particular way. There is no such thing as having no choice after all. Whatever does happen to an individual is a direct result of the choices they made that led up to the situation at hand. An example is getting a scratch on your car when you are parked at a mall. The natural reaction is that it was not your own fault and you had no choice in determining whether or not your car got scratched. Yes, the scratch was a result of something beyond your control – and these things happen and you do have to blame someone else for causing the problem. However, it is untrue that you didn’t have a choice. The choice that you made was to buy and utilise a car. You choose to own a car even though you know that even though you could be an attentive, cautious driver, there are hazards everywhere that you cannot always predict. There is a chance that you can get hit by a car when turning. There is a chance that a taxi will clip your bumper. There is a chance that someone will knock into you in a parking lot as well. All these are risks that are associated with owning and using a car. However, there are the positive factors that by using a car, you have the independence to go wherever you want much faster than by foot. When you decided to use the car, your mind analysed these risks and made the decision on whether or not to use the vehicle. It probably was done in a way that you wouldn’t associate with analysing – after all, analysing on whether or not to use your car does not feel like analysing a partial differential equation. However, a CHOICE was made and by using the car, you stood the risk that it could get scratched at the mall. I am not saying that it being scratched was your fault – if found, the perpetrator does deserve to be punished for his action. But in a round about way, because your mind chose to use the car, you accepted the risk as a risk that you were willing to take.

Back to the positive, negative and neutral thoughts that are formulated – your mind can choose to view a situation in a positive, neutral or negative light. Any situation can be viewed in these three states – even the example of the car getting scratched. Obviously in certain situation, using one though over the other is not right – reacting in a positive way to your car getting scratched by going and hugging the person that scratched your car is not the right decision to make. But in other situations, using one thought over the other could be a much better option. However, changing from one to the other is extremely difficult with the mind.

The inability to modify one’s natural reaction is based on what we perceive as natural – our system of beliefs. These beliefs are ingrained and form part of one’s self image. Think about it – if you were to describe who you are to somebody, your beliefs would form the backbone of the description. People are not going to change a belief. Oh, just for clarity, superstitions are a prime example of belief. Things like wearing your lucky underwear when asking someone out. Every time that you asked someone out, you probably had this pair on and you got a “yes” answer but when you asked someone out wearing something else, the answer was “no.” The real reason you would have been turned down may be something else entirely but you probably would say the blame lies in the fact that you didn’t wear the luck underpants. It is a simple example, but if you were in that situation, no matter what anyone said, you would still believe in it. This was something I also experienced today – knowledge being passed onto people concerning the emotional management, but as soon as a though comes into conflict with one’s beliefs, the process shuts down and you are back to utilising primitive thought that is not constructive. Your choices appear now to boil down to you wanting to protect what you believe in even at the cost of all this knowledge that you just assimilated.

The direct consequence is that you just wasted a few thousand bucks on a course that didn’t teach you a thing. The other consequence is that this shows that your mind is not ready to think and utilise itself in the manner which is correct and allows for effective management of the self. If you can’t manage your own self, there really is no reason for you to have a judgement of another person. Then again, the person in this situation would now argue that you are questioning their life and argue back that you don’t have authority to make such decisions. And this goes on but I think you get the picture.

I shall leave it there for now. This should turn out to be an awesome 60 or so days and I really hope that this journal will chronicle as much as possible.