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South Africa and South Africans: World Class

"WHAT SEPARATES PRIVILEGE FROM ENTITLEMENT IS GRATITUDE” - DR BRENE BROWN

A few years ago, I came across Brene Brown’s concept of vulnerability. Where she debunks the idea that vulnerability is a weakness, but that it is rather a superpower. If you can be truly vulnerable, you can unleash great joy and strength not only in yourself but in others.

It was scary stuff. She does say that you should also be prudent and selective about the people you choose to be vulnerable with because the gift can be abused. I started to pay attention. To great public speakers, leaders, and storytellers. How they delivered powerful messages through vulnerable sharing with their audience, and how being truly vulnerable allowed for true connection.

I experienced this many times on my travels. I always feel that part of the joy of journeys is the people that you meet, and that being far away from home, spending time with relative strangers, allows for something unusual to happen: The walls come down. The walls of protection behind which we hide our real authentic selves, our pains, and our joys, are not needed when you do a long walk in Spain. Bit by bit, as you walk day after day on your personal pilgrimage, you open up a bit more. You share a bit more. And truly incredible moments and experiences and friendships result.

Do we get that opportunity, though, staying at home? Well, yeah. Sometimes. If you’re lucky.

I was truly privileged, this last weekend, to be part of the annual Entrepreneurs Organization Ignite Conference in Durban. It was three days of ordinary people overcoming their fears to get up on a stage to a room full of high performers and telling their stories: Raw, personal, vulnerable stories of shame, loss, adversity, and courage. These stories, coming from controversial public figures like Caster Semenya, well-known business icons like the founders of Yuppiechef, or the very own members of our organization, hit home for so many of us in the audience. And there were so many things to take home with us.

I’d like to share three things I brought home with me.

1. BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT THE LESSONS WE MUST UNLEARN

We are all shaped by our environments. Our parents, our upbringing, our education, our friends, our family. The lessons that we learn, though, are not always the right ones. Some of the things your parents told you should be re-examined, some of the ideas you held as sacred truths should be held up for closer scrutiny, and many of the beliefs you hold about yourself need to be interrogated.

However, there are also lessons learned – good lessons – that require discipline, and intentionality, and reinforcement…or they won’t stick. Pandemic lessons like how important time is with your children, how you should take time for yourself, and that your health might be the most important thing. In a time of slowing down, that seems now to be truly over, these were enormous gifts that are quickly fading away in the rear view mirror. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

2. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH +1 PEOPLE

If they don’t add value to your life…well, you know what you need to do. People can be, broadly speaking, split into two categories: Pluses and minuses. Minuses take, pluses add. Bring more pluses into your life.

I had the enormous opportunity to help arrange the networking component of the conference. This entailed facilitating the networking breakouts, testing out some new crowd activation and team-building ideas, and asking some of the smartest people I know to help out. What a blast, hey. And in the process, I was able to spend time with people like Ross Drakes, Helen Nicholson, Caro Wyly, Glenn Gillis, Manuela Dias de Deus, and Cindy Norcott. All amazing people in the community, all people that should actually regularly come to dinner. People that are at the top of their game, and freely and enthusiastically shared their knowledge with the broader community.

I think you really hit the sweet spot when you are afforded the chance to do the thing you’re really good at, with people you really like, supported by a team that you completely trust. That was my truth this last week. This brings me to my third and most important takeaway…

3. SOUTH AFRICANS KNOW HOW TO GET IT DONE

Our organization is a global one. Every year, they elect a global board of volunteers to look after the interests of the 14,000+ membership base, and the associated +-$15billion revenue in business that fall under this umbrella. The current president is a Swiss chap famous for being the most pedantic unpleasable time-obsessed guy you ever met. I’m sure Marc wouldn’t mind me sharing this, but a compliment from him is truly well earned.

I was present, as the three days closed out when he came up to the project team to remark that he was blown away by it all. The AV, the timing, the program, the speakers, the food, the location. World-class in every single way.

We are often hard on ourselves. We often think the grass is greener somewhere else, that South Africa can’t compete on the global stage, that we are somehow lesser. Let me tell you something. I’ve traveled far and wide, and in this country, in many ways that count, we are world-class. This conference was a shining example of that, and I was so glad to be a part of it. The staff at the Umhlanga Beverly Hills, Clint Holcroft, Grant Gavin, Shelley Kreinacke but most of all Saskia Hill...you guys are so good they should make a tv show about you.

We live in a country with great challenges. We also live in a country of enormous opportunity, where there are still an abundance of smart passionate driven people who are obsessed with making things better, helping their fellow human, and having a lot of fun along the way. We should pat ourselves on the back more often...










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