Debt to Shakespeare

Who really cares about the never ending controversy about who Shakespeare really was? The author of many gripping plays and emotive poems has made a large contribution entertainment and to the English language.

Still, you’ll find questions about him like: Who was the author? Did Shakespeare write his own plays? Could other writers have written the poems and plays? Was Shakespeare a Woman?

Many remember trying to understand Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays at school and wondering why these texts had to be studied. When you write yourself and re-read the poems and plays you realise how incredibly well they were written.

Only a dullard can’t be stirred by these lines (Sonnet 65):

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o’ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

So relevant to the corruption and evil-doers of today are these lines from Julius Caesar:

“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”

Even Shakespeare’s plots have inspired modern-day adaptations and spin-offs. Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa produced : Throne of Blood (1957), a retelling of Macbeth, and Ran (1985), the story of King Lear. In the US, adaptations include Forbidden Planet (1956), West Side Story (1961), The Lion King (1994), and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). [Respectively, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and The Taming of the Shrew.] A classic western starring Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter and Richard Widmark is based on The Tempest: Yellow Sky (1948).

Words and phrases from his plays have been used for novels and films from Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) and The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner) to The Glimpses of the Moon (Edith Wharton) and The Dogs of War (Frederick Forsyth).

Here are some common words (check the Internet for many more than 400 words that Shakespeare came up with) that first appeared in Shakespeare’s plays and their meanings:

admirable – something that deserves respect or admiration
auspicious – favorable; promising success; a good omen
baseless – without a foundation; not based on fact

Some phrases that Shakespeare is said to have invented:

“Break the ice” (The Taming of the Shrew)
“Cold comfort” (King John)
“Come what come may” (“come what may”) (Macbeth)
“Eaten me out of house and home” (2 Henry IV)
“In a pickle” (The Tempest)
“What’s done is done” (Macbeth)

We can learn a lot about writing from Shakespeare. Above all he shows us how to write about human emotions. Stories with human emotion are always popular. Learn like Shakespeare to write about the range of human emotions, from love, envy, procrastination, greed and despair.

Peter James in the Guardian says if Shakespeare was a 21st century novelist he’d be a crime writer. “I believe it is because these writers – like Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Michael Connelly and so many others – tackle the most important issues of our times while making them accessible to everyone… he produced brilliant, classy potboilers, with high body counts and peppered with sex. I rest my case…”

Shakespeare’s writing is hard to read and becoming increasingly so as education deteriorates in many countries. But if we can overcome this we can obtain great value from his works.

How do you improve your business writing?

Business writing is something most business people do every day.

But are their emails and other correspondence effective?

One survey conducted in the computer technology industry involved 1,000 computer professionals. The survey showed that 28 percent of respondents acknowledged poor communication as the main cause of failure to deliver a project within its agreed time frame.

Poor writing skills can harm yourself and your business. One researcher says it can cause confusion and misunderstanding, waste important resources of time and money, erode credibility and trust.

A company reviewed nearly 3,000 emails and found 15 percent lacked a main idea or clear instructions for the reader, with 16 percent having to be re-worked. They calculated the cost of writing these poor emails.

How then to improve your business writing?

One of the common approaches is to examine word usage, grammar, sentence structure and compression of thought. But business writing goes much further and it takes application to improve.

You can read more business correspondence documents, get help from a colleague, take an online course, get someone to assist you with your writing or even get someone to do your writing for you.

Contact Business Writing Academy for more information.

Business continuity and a six-pack of risk strategies

Business continuity and a six-pack of risk strategies

Knowing the different types of risks that can cause business disruption in a company is crucial in these volatile and complex times. 

I was going to cover in detail the six types of strategies to help protect a company’s critical processes but I’m sure you can pick them up in business continuity process planning training or from your implementation partner. 

The important point I want to get across is how to manage different kinds of risks that could lead to business disruption. 

You can handle risk by modifying it, reducing it, transferring it, putting in loss mitigation controls or through business continuity management. 

All these options depend on a company’s risk appetite – how much risk you are prepared to retain in the company. 

Now to the point — think of all the risks you face in your business and how you are going to manage them.

It was interesting to see Acer hit with R7 billion ransomware demand this week. Do you have cybercrime threats that face your business? What would be the financial impact because of disruption? 

Enjoy your weekend. #riskmanagement #businesscontinuityplanning

How to perform a business continuity risk assessment

Today’s businesses face various risks including financial, market, reputation, legal and operational threats.

Business continuity involves operational risk to a company – its purpose is to identify the threats, vulnerabilities and failure points from production to supply of products or services.

Management needs to identify operational risks through risk assessment. A starting point could be the company’s risk register (if available) or a risk workshop held by top management.

They’ll need to seek the risks of disruption to the company’s important activities. This includes a thorough review of processes, systems, information, people, assets and outsource partners.

Natural risks can include extreme weather and climate change. Human-made risks include those in supply chains, information security, fire and explosions, systems failure and legal compliance.

Risks need further analysis through a business impact analysis. Each key risk should include strategies to mitigate, reduce, transfer or eliminate risk.

One of the key responsibilities of top management is to review risks or issues not adequately addressed in previous risk assessments and ensure that the company’s key risks are updated.

Business continuity management isn’t compulsory but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important (and vital in risky business environments)

Photo credit: Michael Shannon, Unsplash

When I was growing up, eating healthy food wasn’t compulsory but a good diet was essential to health and vitality.

Lots of exercise wasn’t enforced but it was crucial to a happy mind and healthy body.

It’s not compulsory to go to your doctor for an annual check-up but you could detect trouble in its early stages.

You don’t have to take out household insurance but it can help get your home up and running after an armed robbery.

There’s no mandatory need to save for a rainy day but in these times a cash reserve can ease unnecessary hardship for your business.

It’s not compulsory to prepare a business continuity plan. Not like health and safety management plans and other legal compliance requirements. But having a business continuity plan will help get your business up and running faster after a disruptive incident. Or, it may prevent your business closing down as have so many in this challenging economic environment.

“Keep inventing, and don’t despair when at first the idea looks crazy. Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1.” Jeff Bezos

A rare moment in time

Photograph credit: Chesney Bradshaw

I arrive at the beach, put my swimming things down and sit on a stone bench under a tree. I can’t believe I am here after a difficult year. It is late in the afternoon and shadows from the big trees that surround the beach cast long shadows across the sand. The seawater is flat, sheltered by the large granite boulders that run along the shore between the beach and out towards the entrance of the beach.

Two elderly women and an old man sit on a bench chatting. Another two women, in their forties, sit on their towels on the beach their legs outstretched. A woman in her forties walks past me, puts her personal things on a stone bench and walks down to the water’s edge. I watch her walk into the water, dive in and swim the length of the small bay, and then out into the open sea.

I change into my swimming costume and go down to the beach. The sea water feels chilly against my ankles but as I walk in deeper to waist height my body acclimatises to the cold. I’ve been swimming in inland pools and the seawater temperature takes a little getting used to. I came to this beach two years ago and have missed the sea, the sand and the sun.

I take in a deep breath and dive into the water and swim over-arm for several strokes. Now my body feels the temperature of the water. It’s warmer than I thought. I swim out to the two big boulders that mark the entrance to the small bay, turn around and make my way back to the beach.

Inside the bay I dive under the water, a greenish colour as I open my eyes. I check out the rocks and sand and then see two sea urchins lying on the sand. All that’s left of the sea urchins is green shells after they died a long time back. I leave them lying there on the sandy bottom. I’m not one for taking anything from the sea. I took enough in my younger days.

I swim towards the shallow part of the beach and linger there. I lie on my back in the water, looking up at the sky. Around me the kelp sways around the brown rocks in the surge. Inshore wave ripples run up the white beach sand. I’ll have to get out of the water but I want to stay there with the sea around my body for as long as I can. I have no compelling reason to get out, no arrangements for the evening, no rush to go somewhere, no people to see.

Far out beyond the big boulders the woman who went in earlier swims across the mouth of the bay. She is an experienced swimmer to be so long in the water. The light is fading, the shadows becoming longer, the water in front flat. Further out to sea is a large outcrop of gigantic boulders, and even further out is the lighthouse.

In this moment I feel it. Something moves within me. I sense nature drawing me into relaxation. The troubles of the long year past seem to melt away. All the people who contributed to the year’s turmoil don’t matter anymore. I continue sitting there looking at the scene before me, feeling as though I have become one with nature.

I don’t want to leave, don’t want to get up, don’t want to go anywhere. All I want to do is stay in the moment. A peaceful feeling comes over me making my head and body feel light. No buzzing or vibrations, only a calm making me feel relaxed. I wondered what has overcome me but put it down to being in a beautiful place with the stillness of evening and being where I want to be.

A woman comes down to the rocks before the beach and sits there taking in the scene. I hardly notice her. The two women and the old man still sit near me chatting. The woman who went in for a long swim comes out of the water, walks up the beach and strikes up a conversation with the woman who has arrived at the beach.

The calmness that comes over me remains. I’m in a place where I had long to be. A place I had almost forgotten about like someone you once knew long ago. Then you remember them and wonder what it would be like to see them again. You may have lost contact or they are long gone. Here in front of me the place I once knew as a teenager is still here and will remain in me.

To feel such deep relaxation when your mind and body seem to take in your whole surroundings doesn’t often happen with this intensity. I only experience this feeling again about a month later one morning in the solitude of the Kalahari in Namibia. There where the grass shimmers in the wind makes me feel like I am watching the ocean before me. It’s not possible to live in a state and moment of heightened feeling in ordinary day-to-day living. But the experiences stay with you to recall and relive when you need to feel alive and connected to something bigger than yourself. When you let go and find yourself in a state of utter calm.

Snares of relying on spell checkers

I recently read an interesting biography printed in the UK in 1987 which used the place name Johannesburg in one part of the text and “Johannesberg” in another. These days a spell checker would flag the incorrect spelling. (By the way, the Dictionary of Southern African Place Names refers to a burg as being a castle, (hence) town in German while a berg is a mountain.)

Spell-check apps are useful in catching spelling errors but not so with homonyms. A homonym is one of two or more words that are spelled and pronounced the same but differ in meaning. Yourdictionary.com gives the example of the word “pen.” This can mean both “a holding area for animals” and “a writing instrument.” Another example is “book,” which can mean “something to read” or “the act of making a reservation.”

Homophones can trip up spell checkers too. A homophone is one of two or more words that are pronounced the same, but differ in meaning, derivation, or spelling. Examples include to, too, two; great, grate; and bore, boar; write, right, rite; their/there; and no/know.

Mistakes like this can occur: “My dentist gave me medicine to lesson the pain of my aching tooth.”

Here the confusion is between lessen and lesson – Lessen (verb) is to reduce in number, size, or degree, while lesson (noun) is a reading or exercise to be studied by a student.

A homograph is one of two or more words that are spelled alike, but differ in meaning, and derivation. They may or may not have the same pronunciation. Examples include the bow of a ship, bow and arrow and the verb to object and the noun object.

I’ve read through up to ten drafts of manuscripts and still have found mistakes — despite using several spell checkers. Reading a hard copy of the document can help you catch mistakes you miss on the screen.

Proofreading can be hard work but it helps prevent your message being lost or misunderstood.

Small business start-ups flock to the suburbs

Photograph by Chesney Bradshaw

When I was 16 years old I would buy music records at a shop in Cavendish Square, Claremont, Cape Town. I would purchase one or two record and pay for them with money I earned from fishing.

I can still remember the shop where I would go through the latest bands, carefully flipping the record covers to discover what was new. At that time I was interested in bands like Emerson Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Focus and Yes. I’d take the records home and listen to them on my father’s Yamaha record player.

Today none of those small music outlets are left in shopping centres. The rent is too high and technology has changed so much that even the Musica outlets, catering for wider tastes with CDs, will soon disappear.

Vinyl records, new and second hand, are still available but are only now found in tiny shops in small residential shopping centres or in old shops on the periphery of city centres. Shops located below residential flats have become sought after as specialist retailers flee major shopping centres because of the astronomically high rents and hard-to-get-out-of leases. Even a long-standing art and craft shop recently moved from a major centre after more than three decades there to a local suburb.

With the dramatic fall in the country’s prosperity business conditions are so bad that small business owners have had to think smarter to survive. Employees who have lost their jobs have been forced to start entrepreneurial ventures (like an entrepreneur I recently met who was a retail designer and is now selling coffee from a Tuk-Tuk).

Despite what the entrepreneurial experts say, small business start-ups are shying away from shopping centres and industrial parks. Many businesses are springing up in backyards and even front-of-the-house driveways (such as a brick builder I saw over the weekend). A hairdresser who worked for a salon in a shopping centre got the chop in December and is refurbishing and repurposing his garage into his own salon.

A new attitude or mindset is evident among start-up owners. They’d rather find the most cost-effective way to establish premises for their businesses than become lease prisoners in shopping centres. Gone are the days where shopping centres were key to business visibility. Today social media and the internet can inform customers about their location (including Google Guides).

A rich variety of retail shopping experiences now await customers who are themselves tired of travelling to shopping centres for the same old staid line-up of chain stores. Small business start-ups are bringing their individuality, values and merchandise closer to where you live.

Chesney Bradshaw has worked with entrepreneurs and has had the privilege of advising and mentoring start-ups. He has been delighted to witness start-ups grow from backyards, garages and street selling into going concerns. He remains open and humble towards business venture formation in a dynamic and ever-changing business environment.

Business continuity planning for innovation

A retail business in Cape Town was recently forced to close when a fire damaged part of the building in which their outlet is situated. The staff were only able to access the building for about two hours a day to fulfill orders. The shop reopened after about six weeks.

If this company had a business continuity plan in place, it could have got the business up and running faster — with less revenue loss.

Business continuity planning includes a risk assessment and a business impact analysis. Often when analysing risks, brainstorming is involved in coming up with solutions to potential disruptive incidents. These solutions can have a positive impact for companies large and small.

During the lockdown many businesses were pressurised to come up with innovative solutions to get their businesses running again. Coffee shops, for instance, took to the streets with mobile coffee take-away vans. Some retail outlets went 100% online. Many training businesses rolled out online courses.

The best time to begin your business continuity plan is now. Get your key staff together, identify risks, prioritize them and do a business impact analysis for your highest risk areas.

You could be delightfully surprised how the business continuity planning process can lead to unexpected business innovation.

Tragic state of Kalk Bay lighthouse flashes distress signals

Kalk Bay lighthouse in state of disrepair. Photo credit: Chesney Bradshaw

The red and white lighthouse at Kalk Bay Harbour has served commercial fishing boats for over a century. In the dark the lighthouse, a 5 m round tapered stone tower, signals one long (2.5 seconds) red flash every 15 seconds with a focal plane of 7 m. A comforting light, guiding the boats and their crews from the fishing banks and reefs in False Bay.

On a recent walk along the pier to take photographs of the lighthouse, I was saddened to find it in a state of disrepair. The red is faded to an oxblood brown and the white parts are discolored with rust marks from the metal structure.

I spoke to one of the long-standing fishermen at the harbour about the state of the lighthouse. He was also concerned about its state of disrepair and more so about the light not working anymore.

A professional photographer told me that because the lighthouse is in such a deteriorating state he was forced to use a 2010 photograph of the lighthouse for his 2021 lovely Kalk Bay calendar.

Why does the Kalk Bay lighthouse matter?

The lighthouse’s primary function is to guide commercial fishing boats into the harbour after dark. It has been guiding fishing vessels into the harbour since 1919.

On a broader level, the lighthouse is part of the local heritage of all the small fishing harbours built generations ago to support coastal communities and livelihoods.

It is a tourist attraction along the southern Peninsula for both local and overseas tourists.

The lighthouse is a functional art form with aesthetic and symbolic meaning.

It has commercial value beyond what it cost to build, maintain and repair over the decades.

I have a personal interest in the lighthouse because I grew up in Kalk Bay in the 1970s. It is a beautiful nautical artefact that one can appreciate, take photographs of, paint and show your children and grandchildren.

It is surprising that the public officials entrusted by the public to maintain and repair this working historical artifact don’t seem to understand the functional and commercial value of the lighthouse.

It makes me wonder why the commercial eateries at the harbour, fishing and pleasure boat owners, anglers and residents have not petitioned the authorities for repair and regular maintenance.

Some may disagree that the lighthouse needs maintenance or saving. They see all the decay around them as public officials stuff their pockets with public funds. Let it go, the detractors may say.

Unfortunately, unless connections are seen between the parts (the lighthouse) and life (the community), nothing will be done to restore the lighthouse and implement a regular maintenance plan. It’s perhaps only through recognising the value of something and seeing and its connection with community that people can be nudged into action.

POSTSCRIPT

The Kalk Bay Harbour Master was contacted, noted the concerns, and undertook to investigate whether lighthouse is in working order, would inform Transnet to make necessary technical repairs and will request Public Works to include the maintenance and painting of the lighthouse as part of their upgrade Project.