Archive for February, 2014

Ian Thorpe – how a mentor could show him the way out of depression’s darkest waters

Posted on: February 20th, 2014 by Rob Opie No Comments

blog on BizNews about Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe going into rehab for depression recently,  raised the question: can depression ever be beaten? Human brand specialist, brand wellness consultant, educator and author Robert Opie argues that just like Everest, depression can never be truly “beaten”. The mentally healthy trick, he says, is to conquer – to work with the mountain, not against it. A good mentor could help to lead the way with a good game plan. MS

By Robert Opie

The very nature of a world champion’s job increases the risk of imbalance, or an unbalanced perspective on life that leads to a state of “dis-ease”. Depression is just one symptom.

Thorpe made one glaring mistake common to great sporting champions:  he surrounded himself with coaches, but few or no mentors. Mentors are those who have gone before, who have their charge’s best interests at heart. They can guide champions and ensure that their “game plans” are “made of the right stuff ”, as they move from good to great to greater.

Most important of all, mentors are often best placed to restore balance and paint the bigger picture of life – that life is indeed bigger than sport.

But just what is the medically labelled condition called depression?  The World Health Organization defines depression as “a common mental disorder, characterised by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt, low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration” – quite a mouthful for anyone to swallow.

In reality, depression is just a medical label for “a state of long-term imbalance”, most often unwittingly created through lack of awareness, and a game plan crammed with  “the wrong stuff”.

It happens at various times, most commonly mid-way through life; for sporting geniuses, it can come earlier, especially when they have to retire from active participation in their beloved sport. They feel loss, pain, a sense of futility, depression.

Learn to ‘play it right’

The antidote is a reality check on life and refining one’s game plan.That may be easier said than done, when your job has been to be a world champion. But in the words of US country music songwriter Don Schlitz in The Gambler: “If you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right.”

So, what’s the solution for Thorpe? Firstly, to find a mentor who can guide him through the highs and lows of being a world champion once and now an ex; and help him recognise that true clinical depression, like Everest, can’t be beaten. True champions know that while you may feel like you’ve conquered the mountain, you have to work with, not against, it. That requires a high-level game plan made of the right stuff, and understanding that depression is a universal message, a wake-up call  for more balance, purpose and authenticity in life.

In Thorpe’s case, the imbalance is likely to have been driven primarily by relentless and unrealistic goal setting and expectations, creating a state of “dis-ease”, that is imbalance.

A mentor could point out to Thorpe the advantages that at the age of 32, the long hours of obsessive dedication in the pool that were the first half of his game plan are over; that the second half now begins, and it is calling for more balance.

That requires three things:

Thorpe only needs to tweak a few strategies and perceptions about life. He has a great story to tell and live.  The great champions are all great entertainers, educators and inspirers. He can learn to work with his depression to gain a more balanced perspective that will help him to bounce back to an inspired life of ease.  He needs to become mindful and realistic, and understand that like the rest of us, he lives in a two-sided, well-balanced universe. Every time we create imbalance, the universe eventually guides us back to a state of balance.

Sport teaches us this very point about balance: winning and losing ,  success and failure are but two sides of the same coin.

Ian Thorpe can  pat himself on the back for an extraordinary first half,  and realize that a carefully planned second half made of the right stuff  , will bring further success, and just importantly further significance.



Not just Oscar Pistorius on trial. Brand South Africa is also in foreign media’s crosshairs

Posted on: February 20th, 2014 by Rob Opie No Comments

South Africa’s horse-racing community is a tight knit bunch. Former trainer Barry Steenkamp is one of their stalwarts, a man who never quite got the breaks in an industry where luck plays a bigger role than most. He migrated to the lesser racing centre of  Port Elizabeth, made a living from his training and raised his beautiful daughter Reeva. World famous “blade runner” Oscar Pistorius came into the industry from a different route, spending big and flashily at a Yearling Sale. It’s now the stuff of legend that Steenkamp’s Reeva and the controversial athlete became lovers – and that a year ago, he shot her through a closed toilet door. As the media circus busies itself with the court process, Rob Opie reckons there’s a sense of inevitability about it all. More’s the pity that a decent family from the Eastern Cape had to become victims of the Oscar Pistorius self-destruction.  – AH    

By Robert Opie* 

The downside to Oscar’s trial is the tragic loss of life of a beautiful young woman. The courts cannot change that. The upside to the trial is that it is more about ‘the burden of truth’ for Brand South Africa, than for Brand Oscar .This makes his trial iconic in nature.

Oscar will face a prosecution team that will not stop till the truth is revealed, why? Because they will be driven by a higher purpose to restore the ‘moral compass ‘ for Brand South Africa. In a way, Oscar’s trial is a substitute for ‘The Dewani’ non – trial. For too long cases of ‘murder and assassination’ were disguised as cases of ‘car high-jacking.’ Foreigners even began to jump on the band wagon and expose loopholes that existed within South African law .You could simply get away with it for far too long! Until, it all had to end abruptly.

In addition, there will be no technical loop holes  for Oscar’s  legal team , like those that have been exercised  by so many of  South Africa’s  “leaders” – for far  too long . Too long have words like accountability , mindfulness,  consequence , probability , reasonable action ,respect for fellow citizens –  all  been  thrown out the window in a culture that breeds instant gratification , imbalance , entitlement and grandiosity.  Now Oscar’s prosecution team has an “inspired opportunity” to adjust the moral compass, and they will stop at nothing less than the truth.

It’s high noon time, and Oscar will be on centre stage.


For Oscar this means he is left with little choice, but to tell the truth .Twelve months have come and gone, and little has changed, except that Oscar has had time to digest the reality of the situation .He will never again be a  “free man”  in human spirit , unless he tells the truth .The truth will give  him the opportunity to rebuild Brand Oscar, as he has played himself into a position where his case will become iconic for the country .

Oscar transcended sport .A jarring contrast however existed from the Oscar led away by police on February 14, 2013, with his face covered in a hooded sweatshirt – to the August 2012 morning when he entered the Olympic stadium, waving to the applause of over 80000 spectators. Oscar’s life had imploded. The word grandiosity had come into play .It means believing one is untouchable and above the law. Multiple real life incidents had served as early warning bells that his psyche had shifted. His perspective on life had become unbalanced, and it had gone on too long, unchecked by any mentorship programme. It had put him firmly on the road of self sabotage. With Oscar’s life spiraling out of control, his imbalance turned to infatuation for the love in his life: Reeva Steenkamp. Infatuation is a danger word , with a capital “D”, and  substantially increases the risk of further ‘ imbalanced , inappropriate , unreasonable ‘ action –   human tragedy was  on the cards .

Oscar’s version of events is questioned by most. His version does not ring true as that of the action of a reasonable man .Most believe it was ‘a moment of madness’. Only he knows the truth , and only the truth will set him free . He needs to however be aware , that far more potent, than the laws of the country, are the universal laws of life and health. Ultimately no- one is above these laws, and ultimately ’ secrets make you sick’. Imbalance dives illness. Balance drives wellness. The emotional drain of the courts and the ongoing ‘burden of truth’ will test his resilience  and health to the ultimate. Time will tell, but in this case, there will be no letting up by an inspired and purpose driven prosecution team. That’s because, this case is far bigger than Oscar. South Africa’s “moral compass” is on trial for all to witness.  But Oscar ,like every one of us, is only human, he made a terrible mistake, and he will still be given the opportunity to make things right!  He needs to restore balance in his mind, body & spirit – by telling the truth. It’s his choice to make, and only he can make it.


Motivation and inspiration – knowing why they’re different makes all the difference

Posted on: February 20th, 2014 by Rob Opie No Comments

Sport is the arena of the modern day gladiator. And just as Roman intellectuals, businessmen and political leaders delighted in observing and cheering the athletes of their era, so do their equivalents today. Not just as an escape. There are many life lessons to be drawn from the playing fields. Which is one of the reasons why Biznews pays more than just passing attention to Sport. In this insightful blog, Rob Opie, an author and personal brand specialist who spends much of his time working with athletes, takes a look at South Africa’s match-winning strike bowler Dale Steyn.  And shares how we can learn from his example of being inspired rather than motivated; and reflects on this public example of how effective a human being can be when they are on purpose. – AH

By Robert Opie*

As an author and speaker, I am sometimes introduced as a motivational speaker. Nothing could be further from the truth. Motivation is a word little understood by nearly all. It implies that a person is trying to get another person, or team of people, to do something that they do not really want to do.  That is just a waste of human time and human energy. It can only have short term benefits and usually comes at a cost called additional monetary incentivisation. Then what next, as more money is thrown at the problem. Inspiration, on the other hand transforms performance to sustained higher levels of human greatness.

It comes when you marry the power of an individual brand like BRAND STEYN, with that of a team brand like BRAND SOUTH AFRICA. No individual can rise to the level he showed in Port Elizabeth, unless both brands are ‘in sync’ and on fire. This means, he is acting out to his highest possible values, and when one does this, no motivation is required .Nothing can be more important to him ‘in the moment ’. In his head there is an orchestra. And it’s not just some of the orchestra’s players are virtuosos; a lot of them are. How they interact is what makes Steyn what his is. There is a confluence in his brain, his person, his world, his purpose and goals, his culture and his country most of all. He is inspired to do, requiring no motivation, maybe just a little guidance  here and there, from his ‘inner circle ‘of mentors.

Bafana Bafana however, is a totally different ball game .Each individual within the team cannot see and garner the value of representing one’s country at its highest level. There is no unity of purpose. And this has resulted in an ‘everyone for themselves’ culture, demanding more motivation, more money to make the effort to play for one’s country.  It’s called a culture of entitlement and instant gratification created by no unity or purpose. Demands are relentlessly made by all. It’s a sad day when this type of situation gains momentum, and is not addressed by its leaders, coaches and mentors. Mentors are those who have gone before, who have their charge’s best interests at heart. They can guide champions and ensure that their Game Plans are “made of the right stuff”, as they move from good to great to greater. Most important of all, mentors are often best placed to restore balance and paint the bigger picture of life – that life is indeed bigger than sport –  money should never climb to the top of one’s hierarchy of values list .In any case human greatness never goes unrewarded .

Steyn, I am sure has some potent mentors in his ‘inner circle’, that he falls back on. He’s inspired by purpose, not motivated by money. No money would have made Steyn bowl as he did in Port Elizabeth. He had a point to prove about self pride, team pride and of course national pride. In life it’s called in sync. In sport it’s called in form ‘. Everything falls in place, even when the ball reverses, like it did in PE.

Businesses can learn from sport stars like Dale Steyn – as inspired individual brands, in tandem with inspired team brands, can make all the difference – that ultimately counts at the bottom line. And that is where the money lies.