How does one prepare to interview a well-known sporting figure much loved by his adopted countrymen? A wise professional may have flash cards, double check the equipment and ensure the temperature is just right to be comfortable.
But one wishes one was wise or a professional.
Instead my preparation included pacing up and down our cramped flat that the WFH husband kindly suggested I leave his workspace (read our home). During my forced workout, I repeated almost verbatim the bits of his book Sevens Heaven we were about to discuss. You would expect nothing less if one has read it thrice and listened to the audio just for good measure. That was my preparation and I worked up such a sweat my legs buckled on the way home (it may be the anxiety though- I am not completely sure).
We had chosen to read Sevens Heaven for our Shared Shelf Book Club and had invited him along to a live Talanoa. We probably reminded him of the Marama’s in Fiji who brought him those cakes with the luminous icing which he was too kind to say no to.
Ben Ryan arrived at 7:59pm, right on time with all equipment in working order and ready to go. The wise professional. My knees buckled once more. I will never laugh at a nervous interviewer ever again. Our panel included Leonora Sinclair, career coach and Marama Alliance Committee member who would moderate and keep the flow. Audrey Hicks, an Integrated Health Coach and rugby enthusiast would provide the needed expertise to relate to Ben’s professional skills. And there was me, area of expertise: Vague. However, my burgeoning title of Content Creator and Executive Director of The Platformm would cover (or add to) the grey areas. Two blue skies and a grey.
Ben Ryan is probably used to working with rag tag of sorts and we were no different. He took the reins and shared himself with us. He is such a seasoned speaker. However, when he gave an advice during the session to, ‘live in the moment,’ it jolted me a bit. Every self-help book I’ve read has advised me to have more than one basket ready and be producing several eggs. I mused on his advice a bit, then my mic turned off due to a technical glitch. Wise interviewers checked their equipment. I was ironing my blue jamba instead.
My muteness was a blessing at this point. My go to human, Zig Ziglar, had specifically advised on saving up for our tomorrows saying that money may not be the most important thing in life but it was quite up there with oxygen in the ‘gotta have it’ scale, so I was ready to charge ahead questioning Ben on this principle. Instead I checked myself.
Where did Ben mention money? He didn’t. That was me, I associated success with money, with materialistic cravings which seemed to have sharpened upon moving to London. However, Ratu Raioni had spoken on family, on being present with our families in our lotu’s and working on ties that truly bind. And we Fijians do this so well. When we ‘soqo’, we really do. Out will come the metres of fabric for Fakawela’s and we are really present there with our families in our moment of joy. No half giving with us. We go all in and leave nothing out.
That is what Ben took away. He now has a deeper understanding of living in the moment, of absorbing it all in and appreciating the now. Ben says he is not a ‘Lotulotu’ person but he could fool me because his values are solid and his principles true. His appreciation of the here and now is not a wanton call for overindulgence but the recognition that life is fleeting and creating legacies or building storehouses in heaven is dependent on living fully today.
How appropriate for Covid infested 2020 when our nows are uncertain, when the family gathering has to be podded into sixes and when live streamed burials is the only means we have to grieve our dead, we realise that the now is a privilege we get to have.
While he left our shores with his takeaway the message of Now, he left behind a present continuous phrase in exchange. Of walking, of standards and becoming the standards you set.‘ The Standard you walk past is the standard you become’. Don’t just walk by, do something about it.
Anyone can do it, but someone needs to do it. You are that someone. Every time we do that something, we raise our standards, which is another way of applying Sir Brailsfords’ philosophy of marginal gains- a collection of little results that add up. But while the British cycling team had aerodynamic machines and specialised gear, our boys had the sand dunes and Percy Cerutty’s Stotan philosophy worked so well in this setting. Strip it all back and get back to the basics of training in beautiful scenery and engaging our natural animalistic traits (ok I exaggerate here but I love the word animalistic).
Ben is at pains to stress to us ladies that the boys saved him as much as he did them. I believe him. You cannot live in London without losing a bit of yourself. He wrote in his book,
“This is what happens to many of us. We get dragged into a life that isn’t fulfilling us or getting the best out of us. You don’t realise that you have become a bad version of yourself because no one tells you”.
And we Fijians are in a position of privilege when it comes to this. We have relatives connected through our Vanua who give out advice for free and throw in their private investigative services which had been in operation since you took your first step. Through our Lotu we have our spiritual connection that pings us when we miss- step. And we have our Matavuvale who remind us of where we are from and whose name we carry.
Yet sometimes we need a Ben Ryan to connect these three.
A thread to unravel the cultural cloaking that the Vanua can prop up, or a thread that sews our spirituality with ethics together- something which should follow naturally from Lotu anyway but can be elusive for the casual believer, and finally a thread that binds itself around the family unit in several strands reminding us of the truly beautiful gift of Veilomani we have.
For us Fijians in the diaspora, let’s hold on to these as they define who we are as a people. And as a people we are lovely. Lets keep that.
We have shown that we are stronger than Winston, we proved that we are conquerors in Rio, and now as our little nation struggles to deal with the ramifications of Covid, I know as Fijians we will be able to deal with that too. Our Boys through the help of Ben Ryan had already shown us how.
Miri (aspiring actress in an upcoming movie)