Rehydration is known as adequate replenishment of what your body has lost whilst dehydration results from loss without replenishment.   To excel we need to make sure that we replenish ourselves with holistic knowledge and latest best practice techniques.  Rehydration is a two-step process. The first step is a strategy and the hours required to sip or gobble holistic knowledge. Secondly, you need to measure how your input enhances your ability to exceed the expectations of those responsible for judging you.  Mediocrity thrives when we challenge success whilst dehydrated with least knowledge, and end up in a cul-de-sac that no one progresses from.

I learnt about the importance of the rehydration principle when I listened to one of South Africa’s leading female mountaineers Deshun Deysel, who was part of the first expedition that successfully planted the new SA flag on Mount Everest in 1996.   In her career as a high altitude mountaineer, she shared her strategy of eliminating the risk of fatalities when she led a mountaineering expedition. Fatalities most often occurred when a team member moves to the next level of altitude whilst not fully rehydrated for it.  In managing that risk, she did not focus on how many litres of water were drank, but her ultimate test was a clear colour of the urine for each mountain climber, a sign of rehydration for all.  That was as a pre-condition to proceed to the next altitude.  

Immediately the penny dropped, a “clear colour of the urine” in a professional world means “clarity of expertise”.   The world uses output to select excellence and to discard mediocrity.  Yet, most people focus on gaining knowledge without measuring how their “clarity of expertise” reflects to the outside world. 

As a first step towards rehydration you need to take about 8 to 12 glasses of water throughout the day.  Therefore sipping or gobbling of holistic knowledge is a continuous process and not a once off event.  Rehydration is not measured by how much water you drink, but by the skin turgor and the colour of the urine.   Therefore, excellence is also not measured by how much you tried, but by how much the world is convinced about the clarity of your expertise.   So the second step is compulsory. We need to measure the extent to which our input enhances our clarity of expertise to a nodding world.   Some few examples of those who suffer as a result of not self-evaluating their “clarity of their expertise”:  

  • Students who fail as their exam scripts do not reflect them to be fully rehydrated; 
  • Employees who miss out on promotions as the assessment process discovers dehydration which reflects their inability to survive the challenges of the upper grade;  
  • Speakers who fail to impress on podiums because they are not fully rehydrated with inspiring holistic knowledge;  
  • Professionals who fail to impress their clients with their resourcefulness as they are not rehydrated for the business opportunity presented to them;  
  • Participants who fail to contribute in meetings because they are dehydrated for the topics being discussed; and
  • Political leaders who fail because they are dehydrated for the leadership responsibilities and country goals they are expected to accomplish.

The sad part is that they all expect success on the basis of their efforts, without applying the second step of the rehydration process. 

When I passed my BCompt degree with UNISA in record time at age 20, I was very excited.  This was as a result of continuously studying under the perceived threat of being failed if I was a borderline pass, so that left me no scope for mediocrity.  I gave it all and I was firing from all cylinders in order to be fully rehydrated through every possible textbook, study guide, tutorial, simulated exams, etc.   

Unfortunately, as I proceeded to CTA, confidence and self-esteem had taken over. I was browsing through my books and missed the difference between a BCompt and a CTA graduate as the topics looked similar.  I was confident my undergraduate knowledge would carry me through. That brought me the first failure in my life.  I decided to fail forward with great energy and revengeful anger. By March of the repeat year, I had advanced knowledge and I felt like a real honour’s student.  I fully rehydrated myself with extensive hours of study using simulated exams to test my rehydration levels using the lecturer’s lens.  My clarity of expertise was very obvious to the markers and I was ushered to proceed to write the CA exams which I also passed first attempt using the same approach.  Others thought I was lucky, but then I remembered the late tatu’Gwiliza who I learnt from that Luck stands for, “Labouring under the Correct Knowledge”.  

Have you ever wondered why idol contestants compete for the wooden mic? They all have one thing in common, they do not apply a four eyed approach in assessing clarity of their expertise. 

 As a young CA I was trusted to Chair an Audit Committee of a Mutual Building Society, a challenge I welcomed. Sooner than expected, the South African Reserve Bank Supervisory team had to evaluate my success in this role.  Age and experience were against me, but the fear of failing energized me to be overly prepared.  I rehydrated myself not only with knowledge of the issues, regulations and numbers, but more with the ability to communicate seamlessly to reflect clarity of my expertise to SARB.  I simulated the interviews.  After what felt like a grilling session, SARB team left feeling confident about the strength of the Audit Committee they were relying upon.  With a rehydration approach, nothing is impossible to achieve. 

In my book “The Ace Model – Winning Formula for Audit Committees I unpack the meaning of Thorough Preparation that will enable anyone to excel in any meeting:

  1. Initial Reading of the Pack;
  2. Analysis of what you have read;
  3. Reflection on the implications or impact of your newly acquired knowledge;
  4. Linking with other available information, e.g other Board or management Packs, News, etc.;
  5. Validation with your Basic Circle of Knowledge to eliminate contradictions;
  6. Validation with Holistic Trends either in your industry or within the company;
  7. Identifying critical gaps of knowledge or major concerns; and
  8. Pre-meetings with document sponsor or consultation with experts to close the gaps. 

Dehydrate mediocrity in your life and avoid reliance on past knowledge and accomplishments because the world’s only constant is change. 

Rehydrate towards excellence by ensuring that the clarity of your expertise will be obvious to the world in order not to miss the golden opportunities facing you right now.