7 lessons on living a good life as told by me, the Librarian

I studied Library Science and working in a public library was my first job which set me up for my working life (Read my other blog post about this – it’s my highest read post!) I often look back on those days and remember with fondness all the activities which kept me busy.

As a team of librarians, we didn’t just stamp books and ask people to be quiet. There were lessons in every thing we did back then which make complete sense to me now.

1. Seek silence

I can still remember the music streaming throughout the library floor during the day as people strolled around. Sometimes it was classical but my personal favorite was the soundtrack to “On Golden Pond”. People walked in rushed, but their pace and body language changed after a few minutes as they made their way through the maze of shelves. In a world which has gone mad, you need to find your own peace and quiet, a place to zone out. With so much noise and anger, especially on social media, make time to go offline and find silence in the real world.

2. Be organized and neat

Believe it or not, these were still around when I worked in the Library!

Before we opened the doors at 9am each day, the team of librarians made sure the library was clean and organized. We would sit in front of the books in a straight line and make sure that each and every book was in its place, exactly where it should be. You’d always find the odd lost fiction book, where someone had randomly shoved it between other books. Non-fiction was particularly important in making sure the Dewey Decimal system was adhered to. This habit has stuck with me & to this day, has helped me find the order and structure I need at work to be efficient.

3. Make time for tea, always

Working for the Council meant that we followed typical old school working hours. Stopping for tea was the norm back then. We’d even have a tea room where we would sit, relax and sometimes even read for 15 minutes. I miss those days. Switching off and taking a break felt like a mini reward. But now, we’re stuck in this “busyness hype” where we eat at our desk over our laptops and if you do stop to catch your breath, it’s frowned upon. There’s nothing wrong with pausing & catching your breath. In fact, it’s a habit we really should practice more often.

4. Forgive and forget

Returning the library books before the due date was tough for some people. And I get that. Life happens. The same faces would return their books late and have to pay a fine. But once they did, all was forgiven and they’d choose a whole new set of books to leave with. You knew you’d hear the same excuses when they were late again, but it didn’t matter. Forgive and forget. It’s a good attitude to have. Rather allow people to enjoy the books than focus on the punishment. Which one mattered more?

Who remembers this? WOW!

5. Be known for the things you love

The kids from the nearby schools would run into the library to do their homework every afternoon. Helping them find info on topics such as Egypt’s pyramids or the human body was always fun. But so too when you’d assist someone who had started a new hobby to find every book they could to read up on. I knew exactly where to find the info they were looking for, often without having to check on the system. If you’re passionate about what you do, you become the expert and can help people find what they need. No matter what job you’re in, there’s no greater satisfaction than this!

6. Get excited by the small things, because they matter

One of the best days working in the library was month end when the new books would arrive! We had the advantage of unpacking them and booking the ones we wanted to read first. The smell of those boxes, of the fresh, new books and being the first person to turn those pages… pure delight! You need to invest in your own happiness and know what brings you joy. It’s so important to seek out and anticipate these special moments! Find them!

7. Trust

The whole library system is built on trust. People register to join the library and then each week, get the opportunity to leave the building with a handful of books, promising to return them. And they do! (well, majority of people). How crazy that in a world riddled with crime and corruption, the library works on a system based entirely on trust. It’s a system still respected by society.

Do libraries still exist in communities and suburbs? I haven’t been to one in years! When last did you visit your nearest library or bookshop? Next time you do, remember a few of these lessons.

Credit: Images sourced from Google

We reluctantly came. We nervously saw. OMW, we sold!

The choice of touch points or channels has always been quite a strong focus of most of my career. Where to target customers, on which channel, when and how. So when we launched our small business CW-X SA, I seriously thought that I would be able to lure customers to the website via a range of beautiful imagery on Instagram and engaging stories on Facebook.

Sales have been slow. 

We realized that the brand had dipped into very low awareness levels, the competitor environment was fierce and that unless we put money behind our social media posts, no one was really seeing our brand.

We decided to get our faces out there and approached Randburg Harriers Running Club asking if we could promote our goods at their Thursday evening time trial. I won’t lie, a social media collaborator and an engineer, face-to-face sales was not our strong point and we were dreading it.

The nerves ran high!

But here’s what we learnt:

  • Our brand needs to be seen in the real world. Once people saw the banners, it suddenly felt real.
  • Our faces need to be seen and recognized by fellow runners to make the connection between our brand and ourselves. Why? Because trust sells. Relationships sell. Networking sells.
  • And most of all, word-of-mouth is key! Once people realized its was us and they knew our faces and names behind the brand, they were really excited and started to tell other people.

Mini brand ambassadors were born.

I’m all for eCommerce but it doesn’t allow for much human connection. With the face-to-face interaction at time trial along side the track, it was easier to question and probe. We showed an interest in people and their stories.

It created a comfortable space for people to share their running injuries, their eating struggles and their choice of what running tights suited them more. People opened up to us about personal stories they would not necessarily do online.

After one evening, we’re no experts. But what an eye opener.

And here’s one more nugget. We fell out of our comfort zones and rolled straight into realizing that maybe, just maybe, we can do this thing called sales.

Wiehl’s on wheels

I felt trapped. Nursing my sprained ankle meant I had been balancing my body on crutches for three weeks while holding up a heavy moon boot. My knee and calf muscle were crying. My hands ached. I needed to get out of the house and feel like myself again. So I sent an urgent WhatsApp to my sister, “Please take me shopping!”

I was caught off guard when she arrived to fetch me with a wheelchair on the backseat of the car. “I’m not disabled,” was my defense but she bundled me up and off we drove.

By the time we arrived at the mall, I had stopped fighting and climbed in the wheelchair. What a relief to have my foot up and my hands free!

I could finally whizz around Woolies and pick out my own veggies and fruit again. I could feel the fabrics of the new fashion displayed in the stores. And it felt so good to just slow down and be outdoors.

The wheelchair humbles you. I was worried people would stare (which they did). But it showed me a different view of the world.

I observed:

– that some shops are easier to maneuver around than others. You need quite a wide path for the wheelchair to drive through. Shops such as Typo & Cardies do not cater all that well for wheelchairs.

– trying on a pair of shoes was difficult. The bench in Poetry is positioned conveniently (for able-bodied people) right smack in front of the shoe rack on a lovely fawn and pink carpet. It was a struggle to get close sitting in the wheelchair.

– when paying for goods, I could not see the POS / credit card machine screen when I was promoted to input my pin. It’s a tad too high.

– people apologize to you all the time. As you pass them or come around the corner, they see you, they jump out the way and say sorry.

– the beautician in Dis-Chem was the most comfortable dealing with me and even gave me mini manicure.

– when we stopped for lunch, the waitress remove the able bodied chair and wheeled my wheelchair in. It’s cumbersome sitting in the wheelchair. The foot rests are in the way under the table. The arm rests stop you from pulling the wheelchair closer to the table. And the legs of the table are in the way of this huge wheelchair seat.

For me personally, I didn’t mind hoping out of the wheelchair into the restaurant chair & asking the staff to move the wheelchair away. I know this isn’t an option for everyone.

It was great to get out! But more than a shopping trip, what I observed and how I felt in that wheelchair gave me a lot of food for thought.

Is wearing a moon boot for x6 weeks really the end of the world? Being impatient not being able to drive and my irritation depending on others almost seemed ridiculous knowing that it’s temporary.

Most of all, spending time in the wheelchair reminded me of just how incredibly blessed I am to have the use of both of my legs, to walk, to jog and to run!

My blog has been silent and yet I have so much to share!

My blog has been pretty quiet lately. It’s not that I have nothing to share. Quite the opposite in fact! I’ve been busy. Very busy!

Here’s what’s been happening:

  • We bought a small business. What an eye opener this has been! It’s taken us ages to sort things out. From bank accounts, merchant accounts, web development, ordering stock, waiting for the stock to arrive. It’s been such a learning experience, full of ups and downs. We wanted to wait until we were ready to start telling everyone and sharing our news, but that seems to be taking forever! So here it is: We’re officially the distributors for CW-X in Southern Africa! *Squeal*
  • Running your own social media content plan for your own business takes time! Most weekends and weekday evenings, I’m sitting down writing posts and creating content. The Instagram account is live (go check it out!) but we’re reluctant to get going on Facebook until our website is ready & people can purchase stock. Want to help me? If you do wear CW-X and have any photos showing the running kit, please can you share those with me. I’d much rather show real athletes (that’s you!) than posed models in the kit.

    This is us both in our CW-X clothes at Parkrun. We might need to work on our posing. LOL

  • Like almost 90% of Jo’burgers, I got bronchitis and was out of action. It took forever to heal, two visits to the Doc, daily nebulizing, lots of sleep (read: Allergex). Then out of the blue, I get shingles. On my face! WTH? 3 weeks of misery has taught me two lessons. One: listen to my body. Read bullet point number one. It’s been a stressful time! Lesson number two: when you can’t run, your body had no way of de-stressing. You get even more niggly. I acknowledge the huge role running does play in my life & will try not complain about my running again.
  • I have been on a mission to help an after care centre in Kliptown called Izanokhanyo Community Based Project get SnapScan so that donations can be easier as well as kickstart their social media so that we can start telling their story. Let me tell you, it’s made me incredibly happy inside to help. It’s early days but here’s holding thumbs I can help make a difference! I’d love your help! I’ll let you know how soon!

    Helen, who runs Izanokhanyo without a salary, handing out sweet to the kids.

  • I’ve been successful in my application to be part of a pilot project kicking off at work. All new. Unknown. Virgin territory. Exciting as hell but I’m also nervous. But after climbing in & assisting with some of the project management for the last couple of weeks, I’ve proven to myself that I am capable of learning & trying something new. Doing this nowadays at work needs to be the norm.
  • My Dad’s partner Rina passed away too. It’s funny how you think you have time and you discuss illness and old age and plans on what to do if this happens and if that happens. But when things do happen, no one is quite prepared. Everyone grieves differently. Each person says goodbye in their own way. I’m glad we’re spending more time with my Dad. I wish my parents stayed closer.

Everything I’ve mentioned above happens for a reason and at the right time. The delays in getting our business up and running gave me more time to spend with my Dad. Getting sick slowed me down and forced me to rest and take stock of what mattered. What mattered was helping Izanokhanyo in my spare time and not using that time for reading work emails. And yet I was rewarded by getting the job at work.

I’m going to make more time to blog too. This one was long. If you made it to here, the key take out is that I’m fine, I’m excited and yes… I’m still running! We’ve got Run-The-Berg (or in my case with limited training Walk-The-Berg) coming up, Kaapsehoop and Otter.

Can’t wait for that purple carpet to line the streets!

By the way, the jacarandas are starting to bloom. It’s the most beautiful time to be outdoors! Go for that run!