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How gaming boosts the brain

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Picture credit: https://www.lyncconf.com/

Great athleticism doesn’t just happen from the neck down and great minds don’t only rely on everything above the shoulders. There is clear and growing proof that the relationship between our minds and bodies are key for reaching our real potential.

This applies to professional gaming as well. The image of the overweight, out of breath gamer is outdated. Today’s competitive gamers have to operate at the best of their abilities, which means they must focus equally on their mental and physical wellbeing.

“I am a firm believer in the Latin phrase ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’, which translates as ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’,” says Dimitri ‘Detrony’ Hadjipaschali, a Counter-Strike pro gamer playing for esports group Bravado. “In short, this suggests that physical exercise is important for your psychological well-being. With that said, I know that getting into an active routine can be challenging, but whether or not one enjoys it – it should certainly be a part of your lifestyle!”

Bravado, sponsored by Alienware and Intel, is South Africa’s leading esports group. It emphasises players being at their physical and mental best. This has led to a collaboration with Professor Peet du Toit, who specializes in Exercise- and Neuroscience research at the University of Pretoria. His work makes it clear that the mind-body relationship is one of the most critical components for success.

“The combination of brain flexibility, brain fitness, health-related fitness and skill-related fitness is what creates top performance. Exercise plays an important role in brain health and neuroplasticity. But a healthy body also follows a balanced brain. If you focus on both, you get incredible results.”

The rise of Neuro-Agility

Prof du Toit promotes Neuro-Agility, a new innovation in neuroscience that can help develop the super learning powers people require. Neuro-Agility focuses on the six drivers that optimize brain health and performance and its impact on seven neurological components of learning, thinking and cognitive processes. These two dimensions will have an impact on performance of individuals and determine their competitive advantage.

One would think gaming doesn’t qualify. Games have a reputation for making our brains lazy and slow. But Prof du Toit disagrees with this, citing academic research that reveals the benefits of gaming:

“Strategy video games have shown promise in improving cognitive control, reasoning, and higher-order cognitive skills, and stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as long as possible. Gaming may also be a viable treatment for depression and mild cognitive impairment. However, cognitive training should come second to physical activity programs when it comes to improving cognition, brain function and structure.”

This last point is very important and why Bravado has asked Prof du Toit to use his insights to improve the performance of its esports athletes. This is accomplished through several ways which can be subdivided into different areas: brain fitness, stress coping skills, sleep, movement, mindset, hydration, body weight, resting heart rate, wellness, pain, performance, energy levels and brain foods.

Using a program designed around these factors, Bravado’s gamers have access to numerous exercises that help engage their minds and improve mental elasticity. This not only includes boosting brain flexibility and promoting positive information channels – a crucial factor for brain health – but also balancing brain waves and promoting the use of both brain hemispheres.

“Most people are homolaterally fit, which means they mostly only use one hemisphere of their brain,” Prof du Toit explained. “We are capable of being bilaterally fit using both hemispheres. There are ways to train for this, as well as to improve focus, concentration and shifting mental gears.”

The big brains of Bravado

In the cutthroat world of professional gaming, split seconds can determine victory or defeat. By using the research and products developed by Prof du Toit and his team, Bravado will gain an edge over the competition.

“Having a balanced lifestyle which includes physical and social activity alongside your gaming certainly does improve your gameplay,” said Dimitri. “Needless to say, it also improves your general health, which is always good! Being physically active aids your overall mindset and state of mind. This is especially the case if you are making a career out of esports or even playing semi-professionally. Exercise improves your personal skill, boosts your confidence as well as your ambition and drive.”

Bravado members are being assessed for their individual Neuro Agility (NAP) and Body Agility (BAP) Profiles. These are the benchmarks from which they then improve their performance, using the Limitless You Neurolink Peak Performance Program (LYNPPP). The program includes brain and body agility activities, many of which can be done in the comfort of one’s bedroom, as well as nutritional products that will, among many benefits, optimize performance, enhance cognitive ability, reduce stress, reduce inflammation, increased energy levels, give resistance to fatigue and impact productivity. Enhanced cognitive ability will result in increased receptiveness, perceptiveness, mental alertness, memory, attention, focussing and energy levels.

“NAP, BAP and LYNPPP were born and are grounded in applied neuroscience,” said Prof du Toit. “These aren’t just more instruments with an added neuroscience flavour. It is a predictive analysis that serves as a framework for professionals and individuals in talent development and performance improvement. It can identify potential, select talent, develop talent, improve engagement, promote brain health, minimize risk for human error, improve happiness and lift gaming performance.”

Any serious esports competitor will agree that you have to look after both your mind and body to be at your best. Top players don’t just game but participate in a range of activities that promote their physical health, stimulate their minds and strengthen their social connections. Such habits, combined with a good diet and focused improvement through something such as LYNPPP, are what create champions.

“If we want to be the best, we have to outlearn, outthink, outtrain and out-create our competition,” said Andreas Hadjipaschali, CEO of Bravado Gaming. “The collaboration with Prof. du Toit and LYNPPP will help create that edge for Bravado.”

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Meet the accountant of the future

The accountant of the future will need a new set of skills, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, as he meets both the local users and the global creators of Xero accounting software

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Buchule and Sivenathi Sibaca get a highrise view of London. Pic by Arthur Goldstuck

Meet Buchule and Sivenathi Sibaca. They are not only partners in marriage, but also in a thriving accounting business. Buchule and Sivenathi are, respectively, chief executive officer and chief financial officer of SMTAX, which focuses on tax and accounting services for small businesses in the Western Cape, but includes the likes of Absa and Old Mutual among its clients. It employs 18 people and has 4,500 individual and business customers.

That’s not what makes the outfit remarkable. The startling feature of this business is that it has been structured to be a model accounting firm of the next decade. Even more remarkable is the fact that the couple both hail from rural areas where thoughts of the future tend to be about survival rather than blazing new trails.

Last week, they made their first trip out of the country, to attend Xerocon London 2019. This 2-day conference, hosted by the world’s fastest growing accounting software maker, Xero, attracted more than 3,000 delegates from the United Kingdom, Europe Middle East and Africa. A total of 57 Xero partners and users, mostly from accounting practices or suppliers to accountants, made the trek from South Africa.

“It was really about seeing how other accountants on other continents operate in terms of how they think and where their headspace is at,” Buchule told us during Xerocon. “Also, being our first time out of the country, it was to see the culture of other small businesses outside of South Africa. 

“London’s quite different in that regard, but it’s been a really a great learning curve, and we were pleasantly surprised to find elements that look like South Africa, where we can say, at least you’re doing something right. The banking environment is quite unique, as it’s been a really good learning curve in terms of where banking might go to in the future of South Africa if they follow the same trend.”

Buchule comes from the “dusty streets” of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, while Sivenathi grew up on a farm in a deep rural area near Mthatha.

“I had no idea about technology or the rest of the world or how it could impact the economy in general,” she said. The two met at the University of Cape Town, where she was studying to be an actuary, and he completed a Masters degree in tax. She decided to put actuarial science behind her, however, when the opportunity arose to join Buchule’s business. But her skills helped transform the business.

Said Buchule: “When Sivenathi came on board we did the modeling of the business, and we said that in order to in order to automate the whole bookkeeping journey, we would need to turn closer and closer towards ‘x’, meaning fully automated bookkeeping. We looked at the journey of how long it will it take for us to get to time ‘x’. And then we said, OK, once we get there, what then?

“It was a big realization that when we do get to time ‘x’, the most important thing will be the human touch. That will be the differentiator. So we then spent our time developing that.”

Visit the next page to read more about the Xerocon 2019 event.

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Takealot reveals startling numbers for Black Friday

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Takealot has revealed startling numbers for expected bumper sales this holiday season, beginning next week, and peaking with Black Friday.

South Africa’s leading ecommerce group expects to ship at least one order every second, with roughly 10,000 boxes leaving their warehouses every hour, this shopping season. 

Black Friday was first introduced to South Africa by Takealot in 2012, and has since become an important day in South Africa’s annual retail calendar. It has been a record-breaker for both retailers in the Takealot Group: Takealot and Superbalist. Takealot’s Black Friday gross merchandise value (GMV) grew 125% from 2017 to 2018, with orders up 127%. Superbalist’s Black Friday GMV has grown on average around 50%. This year, CEO Kim Reid is anticipating the biggest Black Friday yet, a culmination of months of tech and operational business-wide focus to prepare for increased predicted traffic and shopper volumes.

ABSA bank estimates that two out of three South Africans participated in Black Friday sales in 2018. And FNB reports in 2018, Black Friday transaction volumes grew by 16% compared with 2017 and anticipates a 15% increase in transactions over the sales period in 2019. 

Successfully meeting this massive growth in orders has been a key focus for the Takealot Group. CEO Kim Reid says throughout the year they have been working to scale operations across multiple areas within the business. “After expanding our Johannesburg distribution centre (DC), our warehouse storage space now stands at 75 000m2. We house over 3.7 million items at any given time, and have opened 47 Takealot Pickup Points in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo, Free State and Mpumalanga for order collections and returns, with more to open in the coming months.” 

Takealot Delivery Team delivers to more South African homes than any other courier company in the country. On a monthly basis, they carry out over 1.6-million deliveries,  with this number expected to increase to over 2-million during the shopping season. More than 4,500 drivers currently deliver for the Takealot Delivery Team; a number that is growing every month. The Takealot group anticipates they’ll travel over 4,000 000km from Black Friday until 24 December. “To put that in context, it is the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe over 100 times” says Reid.

Takealot.com’s Blue Dot Sale is a five day sale period which starts on Black Friday (29 November) and sees a range of new deals throughout the weekend as well as on Cyber Monday (2 December) and Takealot Tuesday (3 December), with up to 60% off thousands of items. For the first time, takealot.com will also be giving their shoppers early access to some of its Black Friday deals, starting on 24 November. Fresh new app-only deals will be added daily. 

The Superbalist Showdown will run from 29 November to 3 December, with up to 70% off more than 15 000+ items. Superbalist shoppers will also have early access to Black Friday deals on selected days throughout November, with Superbalist’s Black Friday Spoilers – 24 hours to shop deals that they say won’t be beaten on Black Friday. 

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