Our sporting greats have hit all the right notes
There are two things that threaten my 41-year marriage to my wife, Linda.
The first is my habit of tuning in to the Bloomberg business channel on TV the minute I open my eyes around 5 each morning. The other is my choice of music.
If you browse through my iPod you'll probably find about 10 versions of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, including two of his own. There's plenty of early Dylan, every song the Rolling Stones recorded and an abundance of 1970s rock, thanks to the generosity of local record producer, David Gresham.
I also have a profusion of hip-hop, contemporary rock and a selection of other modern genres I've downloaded without any interest in discovering the artists' names, knowing their popularity will fade faster than a pair of Zara jeans.
Naturally, I have loads of my all-time favourite musician, Tom Waits. Listening to his raspy Kentucky Avenue has persuaded me to return to earth, in my next life, as a Bohemian artist who plays piano at night in a smoke-filled wine bar on the wrong side of town.
For variation, I have added a number of feel-good light classical compositions like Here's to the Heroes, sung by Jonathan Ansell, that sends shivers down my spine each time I hear it. It stirs me to stand to attention, pump out my chest and pledge to run a "sub-two" marathon for King and Country.
I felt similar emotions hearing the national anthem played as James Thompson, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and Sizwe Ndlovu stood on the podium proudly clutching their gold medals for winning the men's lightweight-four rowing event at the London Olympics. Their dramatic finish in a sport that, like so many other Olympic disciplines, the world only watches every fourth year or so, was no less theatrical, creating the ingredients from which heroes are made.
The same can be said for Cameron van der Burgh, Chad le Clos and our other world-class sporting champions - including Ernie, Oscar, Caster, our cricket and women's hockey teams and the Sharks (that was hard) - whose accomplished and courageous performances have unified our nation for the first time since World Cup 2010.
Their victories are not accidents, but the conclusion of years of sacrifice, devotion and practice on the field, in the pool and gym without guarantees of success and the admiration that comes with it.
According to one TV commentator the youthful, female gymnasts from Japan train four hours a day during the week and six on both Saturday and Sunday. That adds up to more than 30 hours a week, or 1500 hours a year. Starting as teens, by the time they reach 18 they would have surpassed the 10000-hour mark, the level of dedication Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, believes is key for success in any field of endeavour. For example, Gladwell attributes The Beatles' exceptional musical talent and unique sound to being forced to perform live for hours on end, day after day in a Hamburg club.
The rule not only applies to the field of sport, music and art but equally to professions and business. As Warren Buffett humorously explains, no matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time; you can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.
Whether you're a lawyer, accountant, medical doctor, industrialist, miner or government administrator, it's the accumulated hours of practical knowledge and mentorship that contribute to your chances of success rather than the few years studying at university, learning a trade or cultivating personal relationships. Experience is more about creating a winning strategy in the environment in which you operate, understanding your opponents' moves and picking up danger signals early enough than about achieving academic know-how.
It's ironic that a vast percentage of the country's heroes are produced in the area of sport. Admittedly South Africa takes this recreation more seriously than most other nations. Poverty and a lack of facilities exclude large numbers of our population from developing their talents. Still, perhaps it is recognition that the international playing fields in which we compete are level, where the truly gifted rather than the entitled rise to the top, that invites our people's admiration.
I thought of ending with a foot- stomping tribute to our country's sporting champions. Queen's We are the Champions, Vangelis' "Chariots of Fire" and "Gonna Fly Now" (the theme from Rocky) never came close to making it on to my iPod. So, even though the words are nowhere near appropriate, I quite fancy Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons' Let's Hang On. It's one of those 1960s schmaltzy and catchy melodies with a lively beat that you can dance to. Even Linda likes it.