A Dog won’t bite if it’s busy chewing

There are two containers situated on a piece of land in a place called Besters in the sprawling urban and peri-urban surrounds of Kwa Mashu in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. On reflection, there are countless more in these areas which double as workshops, cell phone outlets, storage facilities and roadside tuck shops, but these two seem to stand out from the others. They are painted blue, and they have a recently planted and healthily growing vegetable garden on the slope going down towards the road.

For many years up to sixty women and one man met here on Saturday afternoons. They still gather here, but there are a few more men, and there is a youth group now. The physical space has not changed too much for some time, but the possibilities which have emerged from these containers are so radically different to what they once were. There is still the sanguine singing which reverberates out of the tin tympani and across the Zululand valleys, but there is a bit more baritone and bass to the song and to the prayer.

They are here to save money.

Little by little their single South African Rands turn to boxes of washing powder and multiple birthday blankets. Educations have been paid for and houses have been renovated or even built, and if the name of their savings scheme ‘Lethu kuhle’ is anything to go by, then good things are indeed coming. Not just the men who are more often seen in the taverns, and the youth, but also the ideas, the support and the hope. Perhaps those three things – ideas, support and hope might be enough to build a community. For that is what greets here, meets here and eats here.

As we cram into the already packed containers to learn from their leadership, a young man with the fire of hope in his eyes calls out in an excited voice:

“Inja ayilumi uma isahlafuna”.

Had this been in 1879, and a couple of hundred miles North and inland, I might have thought I was about to receive a disemboweling at the hands of King Cetshwayo’s victorious Zulu army on the battlefields of Isandlwana. There was both power and passion in his voice, and a response from Gogo’s and Grandkids alike that they were in agreement and were ready to follow him into battle.

And they are in a battle. An economic battle for survival where they have learnt that their only weapon is themselves. Themselves and each other. Battles turn to wars, and wars demand war cries, and a call to arms. They are arming themselves no longer with political power, but with money and knowledge.

“A dog won’t bite if it’s busy chewing”

This rallying cry rocked me in its raw rurality.

The Fourteenth Century Father of English literature and writer of Olde English classics, Geoffrey Chaucer, had something to say about this in that “idle hands are the Devil’s tools”, and he probably interpreted this from the Bible’s Book of Proverbs 16:27, and the Turks have a wisdom that everyone is tempted by the Devil, but idle people tempt the Devil.

The Zulu version cut me to the core in the word ‘bite’.

When I am busy in my own life I don’t have time to bite. I have no interest to harm others when I engage in my own meaningful work. I don’t bite into the meaningless universe of remote controlled channels of repeated reruns (unless the Golf is on), and I don’t bite at my children out of boredom. When I am busy chewing, I don’t sit too long tippling at the tavern of travail and temptation or banging on the bar of boredom and blame. I get off the couch of slouch and I go for a stroll in the suburbs or a swim in the golden light off the sea. When I am detached I look for inspiration in a device, but when I am engaged, my inspiration is right across the table in the unasked light of my children’s own chewings.

What was the best thing that happened today? And the worst? And if I stop long enough to listen to the stories of the tennis or cricket, or water polo or dream dress, I stop biting at the blank spaces of an uncertain future, and I fill the present with presence. I enjoy the conversation even more than the meal, and I don’t rush off to the same looped CNN latest update.

I phone a friend in the traffic on the way home instead of biting at the next taxi driver, and I turn off the TV to read something far more meaningful.

When I am bored, I bite. The bite does not always show up as a violent temper tantrum, it could be far more painful and poisonous in dismissive disengagement or snide cynicism. What could be more damaging to a child’s view of the world than the negative reflection of someone they look to for guidance?

When our global level of employee engagement is dismally low and trending downwards, and the unemployment of our youth in South Africa hovers on the wrong side of half, something will bite. And it may bite at the coffee stations and water coolers in the passages of perceived politically correct politeness, or it may bite in the next rock thrown in a protest against poor service delivery. While it may look like life giving water from afar, the acid of anger will eat us from the inside, unless we have something else to get stuck into.

Interesting phrase that: “Get stuck in.” Perhaps it is the quickest way of becoming unstuck?

While the Youth at Besters are here to save money, as they do so, they also find meaning and purpose. They share stories of fear and excitement, of despair and hope. They have a community to eat with and there’s less time and reason to bite.

They save themselves in this way, and nothing is more dangerous than the venom of our own vindictiveness towards our very own selves.

Maybe I need to chew on that thought for a while myself?

Steve Hall

Good relationships and happiness

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.

The overwhelming conclusion of the study was simply this: “The good life is built with good relationships”!
In all the work we at Learning to Lead (https://ltl.co.za) do we have been guided by the wisdom of Margaret Wheatley, who convinced us that “relationships are all there is”!
When positive energy flows freely in a relationship, we are happy. If it is negative, we aren’t. It’s as simple as that.

Pregnant with Hope

In less than two months we have come a long way
And yes, we have many more dragons to slay
Though Zuma has gone, there’s still many a crony
And brothers called Ajay and Atul and Tony.

In a decade this scum has sucked all our air
Corrupt to the core without compassion or care
Our SOE’s have been brought to their knees
And our State has been captured by the greed of this sleaze.

SARS was derailed and the hawks lost their wings
As our very own President did unspeakable things
We were sliding down hill with each passing hour
While he washed his sins away in a shower.

The rainbow gleam of our shining democracy
Was in danger of becoming a complete ineptocracy
Week after week with a new range of stenches
As Number 1 giggled and shuffled the benches.

The rot of our head was guarded by keepers
And the rest looked sadly like reapers or sleepers
But thankfully though, some brave souls held strong
Those heroes who know their right from their wrong.

While gravy train pigswill was lapped up so loudly
Good men and women stood gallant and proudly
They threw their bodies in front of this bus
For a better South Africa for each one of us.

Some will stay silent, but they’ll get their rewards
And we might wish that others will fall on their swords
Perhaps ‘Butter Mielie’ will finally go
‘Faithless’ and Zwane and those useless and slow.

Wipe Brown away and put Dudu to sleep
Trim the eyebrows of stuttering Shaun sheep
It will take some action, decisive and fast
But those complicit must have “heh – hehed” their last.

Cyril you’ll be hailed as our Nation’s third coming
After Christ and Madiba, we’ve had a rather rough bumming
We look up to you as a sign of salvation
And you have our support to rebuild our Nation.
We’ve been dragged through the depths and the dust and the dirt
Pain in lost trust, betrayal and hurt
The negative downgrades have been hardly surprising
But in this year of Madiba, his new Son is rising.

So, get out there and connect on the beaches
Engage with the students, go and speak with the teachers
Our previous error had lost his connection
Let’s not worry today about next year’s election.

But you’re not alone and we must work together
Though Zuma brought us to the end of our tether
We can greet warmly and cross our divides
And lift up our country from such diverse sides.

Good luck Mr. President, your task won’t be easy
As you unpick our way through the slime and the sleazy
Both corporate and cabinet are in need of a cleaning
As we find our way to new purpose and meaning.

While a decade of decadence has broken our souls
You outlined at SONA some magnificent goals
While we have felt shafted down a slippery slope
Thank You, Sir, for making us pregnant with Hope!

Steve Hall

Human Energy and the crucial role in all human outcomes




We focus on Human Energy and the crucial role it plays in all human outcomes, as individuals, in teams, in organizations and even in communities.

It ultimately defines success or failure in what we as humans seek to achieve and how we want to live.


The challenge for each one of us is to see Energy and feel its powerful impact on everything we do: at work, at home and at play.

We need to understand it; value it; and then master it sustainably!

The pay-off is that we THINK better and behave differently: at work, at home and at play.


• Individual Energy Coaching.
• We share the learning in groups of up to 40, or more. We call these “Energy Days”.
• We train Energy Coaches and Team Managers within organizations to share the learning amongst colleagues.
• We have created a video based e-learning program, our “Personal Energy Journey”, to reach large numbers at lower levels within organizations.
• We have published a book called “Peoples” that tells the Energy Story simply for children – and for adults!
• We follow up each Energy session with a series of our Fully Alive Letters, at intervals of 4 to 5 weeks to sustain the learning.


Successful teams are made up of high energy individuals WHO TRUST EACH OTHER. The challenge is to understand and accept that, and then to change the behaviours to build trust.


• We work together, out of the office if possible, and we reinforce why we are together.
• We share our own values to create a common set of team values.
• We explore the Quantum World and expand our thinking exponentially.
• We examine our paradigms – our pictures of the World – and find common ones that drive the way we choose to behave towards one another.
• We test those behaviours against the way a Pride of Lions behaves and achieves.
• We learn to THINK TOGETHER!

We call this our “Energy Journey”, which we tailor make for each client, usually at regular intervals spread over about a year.
We use unique experiences – in the Bush; in the Inner City; at Constitution Hill – and powerful speakers, well debriefed into relevant learning to enrich the Journey.

Gold of the Desert Kings


Successful organisations and communities have a clear VISION of where they are headed. They have the buy-in of high energy members, and they are alert to the risks and opportunities that face them constantly.


• We have a new approach to Strategic Planning in the Quantum world that technology is revealing in a convincing way.
• We facilitate 2-day off-site sessions to review and define Vision.
• We work through a Values process to align and share the team’s values.
• We create the reality of what we call the “Seeing Eye” – the capacity to see new risks and opportunities through the eyes of everyone in the organization.
• We use innovative learning exercises and experiences, such as our tried and tested “Gold of the Desert Kings”. We don’t go bungi jumping, zip lining or go-carting!
• We leave with no doubt that we do infinitely better as a team when we THINK TOGETHER.


We have developed, tried and tested our own eQ Energy Survey which enables reliable diagnosis, comparisons and the measurement of progress on the Energy Journey – at individual, team and organizational levels.

We have developed and share an additional step in the recruitment process for identifying candidates with naturally high energy.


We focus on Human Energy.

We try to stay at the cutting edge of all new insights in the area of Energy – in Nature, from New Science, Neurology, Psychology and Human Physiology.

But we share with the Simplicity on the far side of Complexity.

We have one foot in the Linear World, and the other in the Quantum World – the world of unpredictability, uncertainty and infinite challenge!

We put a great deal of effort into high energy learning, learning spaces and experiences. We do as little teaching as possible, and there is no “death by Power Point”!

And if it isn’t FUN, we have failed!

We live in two worlds – the predictable world and the unpredictable world

cut apple


Cut open an apple.

First question:

How many seeds are there in your apple?

This is a simple linear challenge – anything from 5 to 8 seeds. A child can do it easily.

Second question:

How many apples are there in each seed?

That’s a different, non-linear challenge. The number of apples in each seed depends on a whole lot of unpredictable variables; time, money, water, space, soil fertility, diseases, pests, and …. and ….

We are becoming more and more aware every day that we are living simultaneously in two quite different worlds.

The one is the world we know.

The predictable world; the stable, the repetitive, the safe world.

The other world is almost totally unpredictable, uncertain, full of infinite variables, and potentially very scary.

We always have lived in both worlds of course, but we couldn’t see the second, and it certainly didn’t challenge us until the absolute explosion of technology in the last 20 years.

The Internet, Facebook, Apple, GPS, Google, Amazon, IPads, Smart Phones and literally thousands of free Apps have invited us – or forced us – to admit to this exciting but infinitely uncertain environment in which we can fly; or swim; or sink.

This new world requires a totally new way of thinking, of doing and of behaving.

The key to this challenge is the ability to THINK and to THINK TOGETHER.

High energy individuals in high energy teams do both really well; provided they have developed really high levels of TRUST.

Different behaviours are essential but are not easily learned!

Contact us.

Our focus at Learning to Lead is on ensuring that individuals and/or teams Think, and Think Together in High Energy and High Trust relationships.



Before you judge others

I collect pieces of writing that fascinate me.  Sometimes I don’t even know or remember how they reached me.  Even more frustrating is not knowing the source.

Here is one such mystery, but if it “gets” you as it has inspired me, then I’m happy.

Before you judge others or claim an absolute truth, consider that…

…you can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear less than 1% of the acoustic spectrum. As you read this you are travelling at 220 kilometres per second across the galaxy. 90% of the cells in your body carry their own microbial DNA and are not “you”. The atoms in your body are 99.9999999999999999% empty space and none of them are the ones you were born with, but they all originated in the belly of a star. Human being have 46 chromosomes, two less than the common potato. The existence of the rainbow depends on the conical photoreceptors in your eyes; to animals without cones, the rainbow does not exist. So you don’t just look at a rainbow, you create it. This is pretty amazing, especially considering that all the beautiful colours you see represent         

We live in an exciting world of infinite possibilities; and infinite risks too.

At Learning to Lead we share all we know about how to stay fully alive amid all the complexities.

Challenging the “culture cult”

I was fascinated to read a recent Harvard Business School Review …“We’re thinking about Organisational Culture all wrong” – Written by John Traphagan.

The first two paragraphs gripped me.

“A common thread in the study of organizational culture is the idea of culture as a unifying force that brings people together to work productively toward the attainment of organizational goals. In this approach, organizational culture is understood as a variable to be used in projects of social engineering aimed at creating unity and cohesion.

But that’s not really what culture is about, nor is it a useful way to think about organizations. Why?

Because culture isn’t just about unity; it’s also about division. Rather than a deterministic “thing” that shapes behavior and unifies people, culture is something people use, often strategically, to achieve goals. It can also provide a basis upon which people contest and counter certain ideas and values while accepting other values associated with a particular cultural context.”

I believe the author is right on the button. The real issue is how we behave towards one
another…and to our precious planet. There’s hardly a corporate of any size that doesn’t have a framed statement of either “Our Culture” or “Our Values”, or both…on the letterhead, the website, or framed and hung on the wall at reception.

Yet the behaviours both inside and outside don’t unify the players.

When push comes to shove, we play POWER against and upon one another.
We play like leopards….trained to play independently, for themselves. Not like lions who play in and for the pride.

The challenge we enjoy sharing is helping people learn that they have a choice. They can behave in a way that is divisive and costly, or in a way that creates unity and cohesion and high levels of sustainable energy, that enable them to THINK and THINK TOGETHER much better….the critical capacity for survival in our complex, fast changing and unpredictable world.

The Jar of Life

Get inspired with this short film of a professor explaining to his class the importance of using one’s time wisely and setting priorities in order to have a fulfilling life.

Director/ Producer:
Meir Kalmanson


Would you like to see the “BIG FIVE” so close up that you can almost touch them?

Well, we can go to the nearest Zoo to see them.  The signposts show the way to the Lions, the Elephants, the Buffalo, the Rhinos and the Leopards.  And they are all safely behind bars so it should be an easy non-threatening visit.  And we can even have tea and cake at the tea-garden afterwards.

Or would you like to see the “BIG FIVE” in the deep Bush?  Now that’s a very different proposition, with more variables than you can count on your two hands.

What if the vehicle breaks down?  We have some choices:

We can walk to the nearest road and hope for a lift.

We can sit in the vehicle and complain and blame until someone notices our absence and sends help.

We can try for a cell phone signal and make a call for help.

While we ponder our choices we might see a lion kill …. and we might be the kill!

We might reflect upon a termite mound and remember that we were taught how extremely complex they are in their architecture, and that inside the mound is an extensive system of tunnels and conduits that serves as a ventilation system for the underground nest.

Or we might come upon the web of a Golden Orb spider and be told that its silk is stronger than man-made steel.

So your strategy for the visit to the Zoo is completely different to your strategy for the visit to the Bush.  The Zoo is easy, fairly predictable and fairly safe.  The Bush is risky, unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

In the uncertain times we now live in you don’t have a choice but to have a robust strategy to cope with the risk, the unpredictability and the potential danger.