Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bladegunner: Making sense of a senseless killing: 4 Actions

The Bladegunner-saga:  Making sense of it:  Deal with your deficiencies &  master your emotions.

We do not have to wait for the outcome of the bail hearing or the trial of the murder accused Oscar Pistorius, to start to get closure in our minds of what to make of it.  Call it thin slicing (Malcolm Gladwell-style with a long Blink!) but we have enough to work with to try to come to terms with this unsettling situation.  The harsh reality is – two lives are ruined – a beautiful model and law graduate murdered, an international and inspirational sports icon disgraced. Two families will never be the same again. Further, because Oscar was a national hero and an international inspirational figure, South Africans are traumatized and a world is in shock.   This is now the reality, and all touched by it, will have to deal with it.
There is more to know, but what difference will it make eventually if it was premeditated murder/ murder of another kind/culpable homicide; if he gets life imprisonment or get off the hook on technical legal grounds like OJ Simpson of old? The latter will be difficult in South Africa because we have a Judge ruling and not a jury that can be influenced as in the USA.

It will be sad if the only outcome is that we all turn once again into hungry voyeurs looking into the dirty linen of other people, devouring every new fact emerging in the run-up to, and playing out of the court case.  Everything in my being shouts out: There must be more to it. There must be some way to turn this tragedy into an opportunity, to create some sort of meaning out of this sad situation.
But how do we make sense out of a senseless killing?  With ‘we’ I mean people like myself, who admired Oscar for his great courage as an athlete who overcame disability,  but didn’t know him or Reeva or their families personally – only as media-personalities.

I live by the belief the many things are utterly meaningless. Come on: Show me the meaning in a life being lost and a career being compromised in this way?  But I also live by the belief that a human being has the ability to create meaning out of any horrendous situation. If Victor Frankl could create meaning out of the Holocaust and his experiences in the Auschwitz death camp – then we have a chance too. (cf his book: “Man’s search for meaning” and his resulting Logotherapy).  There was for instance, no meaning in the fact that, long ago, my two talented best friends and team mates died in a horrific accident. The fact that my psychologist pastor (dominee) dad helped me to see that I don’t have to sit depressed next to the field but that I can choose to pick up the baton that they have dropped, helped me to create meaning out of a senseless situation.  I could honour them through living 100% while I have the gift of life – activated through new motivation and not pacified by shock and pain. To this very day, I still live with the gratitude that I am alive. But I have the responsibility to make the most of life while I have it.

My friend and leadership consultant Mark Manley once stated that real change only results from disasters, new discoveries, miracles, and intense experiences. This current ‘Bladegunner’ tragedy of Shakespearian proportions has all the elements of laying the table for change – so let’s embrace it.

Instead of only trying to understand what happened, or crack the legal case, let’s rather decide to do things differently. In my consulting room I learnt that meaning is created not by understanding better, but by doing things differently. You do that by focussing on what is within your control: Your own life, and then do things differently.  Only then, the world can change for the better. It is insanity to expect different results from the same behaviour. But if you act differently your life, your relationships and even the world can become a better place, and tragedies due to your own doing can be prevented.

Therefore I give you not only four pointers, but four calls to action, that can , if acted upon, result in something positive flowing from the pain and devastation:

Call to action:

1.       1. You may polish your public side, but please deal with your dark side (internal deficiencies).  Why?  Because it will catch up with you and can eventually even ruin your life, and the lives of others. The higher you go, the more powerful you become, the more important it is to iron out internal deficiencies.  If you self-destruct, you do not only effect your inner circle but the lives of a nation.  So please resolve your unresolved issues:  It can be deep seated anger, an addiction, an obsession, your paranoia, greed, some kind of immorality, or jealousy, a neurotic drive, or a re-active life due to brokenness or pain from the past.  It is for our purposes irrelevant what Oscar’s deep deficiency was, leading to the shooting of his girlfriend.  It is more important what the deficiency of the person reading (and writing!) this article is– because it is within our control to handle. Identify it and deal with it. Heal it. Through therapy, or whatever it takes. Do yourself and the people around you a favour and sort out your issues.  Let the pain of the Pistorius and Steenkamp families, not pacify us, but activate us to deal with our own deep down deficiencies. Then their pain will not be in vain. 

2.       2. Get real and be real.  Public figures have public personas polished by publicists. But if you need a spin doctor to do damage control because your actions destroyed your public image – then you have a problem. Let’s not live a “Fakebook”-life. Be real and project your real life in the social and other media. Be consistent in your private and public life.  

3.       3. Master your emotions. Why? Because without emotional intelligence you can ruin you life in a split second. Oscar could handle adversity, but had problems handling his emotions and controlling his temper. Now that people look back there were many news reports of such incidents, including his reaction after losing one item at the previous Paralympics.  You can have all the talents and intelligences in the world, but you haven’t mastered life if you cannot take control of your emotions.  Ask Zinedine Zidane, who head-butted Materazzi in a moment or anger in the 2006 Soccer World Cup final. One moment off madness, then a lifetime of sadness, losing sponsorships and compromising a successful career.
 In Oscar’s case: A cool head doesn’t shoot easily.  Who will ever know what the truth is in their case? Reeva, the person who could tell, was killed.  What I do know is that there are many people who discovered their girlfriends had other loyalties, and didn’t shoot them. Or had heated arguments, but didn’t resort to domestic violence, or suspected that there were burglars in the house, but didn’t shoot erratically. Why? Because they could hold their horses when they had to.  They are not loose cannons.  Any motorcar driver knows: Power is nothing without control. If you have strong emotions like a sports car -  it is your responsibility to go for advanced driving lessons or anger management classes.

The question to all of us is: Do you have your emotions, or do they have you? There are no excuses: Anybody can control their emotions. Have you seen a person aggressively arguing with another and his phone rings with an urgent call from his most important sponsor? In a split second the tone changes when he answers the phone in a professional and controlled manner. So do not claim temporary insanity when you are pressurised. Why can other people in similar situations handle their emotions and you can’t?  The call to action is: Master your emotions because sustainable success is based on emotional intelligence. Without that, you can scuttle your other intelligences/talents.

4.       4. Take hart: You can recover. Oscar and all of us must know: Your last action is never the last word. Even if you have messed up badly, you can always redeem yourself  while you are still alive. But that depends on how you handle the situation. If you are guilty – confess, face the consequences, and South Africans will once again admire you and open their hearts to you. We are a forgiving bunch, as my brother-in-law tweeted from London ( @wildebees ).  But if you play a protective ‘spindoctor’  game and the legal process catches you out, you will have lost our respect, and the real game – the Game of Life.   But let’s leave you to your game and rather focus on our own game and ask a ourselves constantly: Am I a winner in the Game of Life? Yes or No?

The 4 calls to action can be our take-aways from the ‘Bladegunner’- saga, but we could have learned this earlier: From other sportspeople, politicians, artists, actors or business people who turned their lives upside down through their own doing:  Hansie Cronje,  Ryan Giggs, OJ Simpson, Zinedine Zidane, Lance Armstrong, Saddam Hussein,  the Enron scandal leaders:  Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Andrew Fastow  (which brought auditing firm Arthur Anderson down), and every greedy banker who caused the global credit crunch (and got away with it).  I wonder: When will we ever learn?

For those who want to learn: Remember:  Meaning is created out of meaningless situations not by understanding better, but by doing things differently.
Then we can add more calls to action including that (5) South Africans must change the way they treat women,  (6) do motive cleansing and become abundance drive instead of deficiency driven,  (7) deal with guilt in the appropriate way, and most important (8) that we must become  whole people  who do not break others through our own brokenness.  (Let’s save that for future blogs).

Dr Gustav Gous is an International Motivational Speaker and Executive Life Coach with experience on 5 continents. In the past he was the in-house councillor for the petro-chemical company Sasol for 9 years.  He is known for his Transformational leadership programmes on Robben Island, titled the “Short Walk to Freedom”. He is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and past President of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa and a member of the APSS (Asia Professional Speakers Singapore).  Currently he is heading up the Diversity Intelligence Institute, specializing in rolling out Diversity Intelligence interventions for international companies. , ,    Follow him on Twitter: @GustavGous  or on Facebook and LinkedIn . 


  1. Thank you for your sound, inspirational words...Let's hope many many people take your advice to heart.

  2. They should just do a Harlem Shake video in the courtroom.