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30 Years of Freedom: Reflecting on My Personal Journey within South Africa's Story

Being South African holds profound significance for me, more than just being born on the soil of the southernmost country in Africa. It carries a weighty responsibility to honor the sacrifices made by the freedom fighters who paved the way for our freedom. While every nation faces its share of challenges, few have navigated them without descending into civil war, dictatorship, or other severe crises. Fortunately, while we still have many challenges ahead, we have emerged from the depths of struggle with resilience and hope.

It’s easy to point fingers at our current corrupt group of politicians plundering our resources and coffers as our biggest challenge, yet that is still a far cry better than what could have happened in a transition 30 years ago. A transition woven into the fabric of my story and flows through my veins as inherently as any other aspect of my identity.

I was 14 years old with a voting station across the road from our house. I remember periodically going across the road to check on how long the lines were. Had I been a little entrepreneur I would have sold water and snacks to people waiting in the queues for hours, but I was too interested in running around the garden barefoot making my feet as dirty as possible — a Freedom I already enjoyed.

I know it was a historic day for black people, Indians, and Coloureds to finally make their mark on an election day, rather than being relegated to the sidelines, hoping for a better outcome.

Imagine seeing Nelson Mandela’s face on the ballot, a man so dedicated to your cause he spent almost three decades in jail for that moment? As I reflect on today's political leaders, I find myself shifting focus from their promises to their values and whether they align with my own. Mandela's unwavering commitment and compassion, forged through years of adversity, resonate deeply with me. His ability to emerge from imprisonment with such grace, ultimately steering our nation away from the brink of civil war, is a testament to his worthiness of every vote.

The Essence of Self Leadership

That begs the question: How far am I prepared to go for what I believe? We all know talk is cheap. Leaders should be judged on one criteria alone: performance. What have you done instead of constant empty promises of what you “say” you’ll do. 

I consider myself fortunate to have been exposed to profound examples of humanity, exemplified by Nelson Mandela, as well as a family that instilled in me the values of humility, hard work, laughter, love, and empathy. These foundational principles guided me as I willingly delved into the depths of my soul, ultimately uncovering the essence of Ubuntu—a deeply ingrained aspect of my South African heritage.

I firmly believe the best way for all of us to develop a soul-based understanding of anything, means we need to do something that will elevate our understanding enough to share the lessons in a succinct way with others. Ubuntu is about community. How does a collection of I’s best serve each individual? When each person is given the space and Freedom to express their individuality for their highest good which ultimately serves the group. 

Possibly my deepest reflection, and what I’m possibly most grateful for from being South African, is the invaluable lesson in perseverance and dedication to turning dreams into reality. In South Africa, I've learned the importance of not being confined by rigid timelines but instead trusting that success will manifest in due time through consistent effort and unwavering commitment. It's about staying focused on the mission at hand and not allowing oneself to be swayed by fleeting distractions or superficial allurements along the journey.

I started writing a blog in 2016. I had a constant battle within me that, I believed at the time, was about self belief. That I wasn’t good enough to write a prolific blog like people were teaching me online to garner thousands of subscribers and potentially reach millions of people. Don’t get me wrong, self-doubt has been part of life forever but I definitely view it far differently now. And then I climbed Table Mountain for a year, something that received a ton of publicity reaching roughly 29 million people - and still - there was a niggling feeling in the back of my brain I still attributed to a lack of self-belief. 

Teaching anything that is not fully aligned with what you believe — means nothing you do will generate success. I’ve come to realize through my eight years of writing, including three as a professional copywriter, that my hesitancy to create a blog every week was deeper than just doubting myself — it wasn’t aligned with what I practice. Do I believe in headlines that suggest there’s 7 Ways to Find Happiness? Nope. Bullshit. Do I believe in sexy smart titles that help you on your path to fulfillment? Again. Nope. Bullshit. Everything is about learning, mastering, and teaching. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for catchy headlines, but the reality should always be at the end of each article or video you read, that this is going to take work, practice, diligence, and a desire to work through all the discomfort that comes with it. 

Anything Worth Doing Takes Time

My hesitancy was, thankfully, rooted in my disbelief that anybody (including me) finds true lasting fulfillment in achieving anything quickly and artificially. Social Media has created a rampant culture of instant gratification. We put success into numbers that are quantitative and not qualitative. The dopamine hit from reaching millions of people means more than actually changing 1 person's life. I remember learning that when I imagined a reporter asking me, “Are you satisfied with the little money you raised from a year's worth of effort?” My hypothetical response was and would always be: don’t ask me, ask the children that now know how to read if they think it was worth it.

We’re overwhelmed with information and striving to distill millennia of it into wisdom nuggets. I fell into that trap specifically with my book. I had to make it a book filled with practical tools and exercises to help the reader turn my lessons into wisdom for themselves. I realize that was my ego and utter nonsense. The moment I let go of my ego and relaxed into a simpler understanding of my book's purpose, it came together. My story is simply an example of what can happen when we decide to step outside of our comfort zone and test what we’re capable of with Planning, Patience, Perseverance, Resilience, Support, Heart, Intention, Gratitude, and Purpose. 

The self-help industry has, in many ways, distorted the essence of personal development. To me, self-help often entails someone else dictating that "you're not enough," and then offering a solution that promises to fill that void—if you simply follow their prescribed path, you'll magically achieve the life they have. In contrast, personal development is rooted in the intrinsic belief that you are already whole and complete, coupled with the humility to recognize the untapped potential within yourself. It's about embarking on a journey of self-discovery to uncover what you're truly capable of achieving, using the 9 attributes I highlighted in bold.

It’s incredible that even a year ago I didn't have this appreciation or understanding. But with Freedom Day here and the beautiful synchronicity of being eligible to apply for my US citizenship only from the 27th April — Freedom now carries with it a far deeper meaning to me both in South Africa and in America.

The attributes I shared may not be flashy or hold any "secret" formula, but they hold immense significance. Patience, for instance, often gets overlooked in today's fast-paced world. Beyond simply remaining calm in traffic or finding the right life partner, patience grants us the opportunity to delve deeper into the lessons hidden within challenging situations. Take, for instance, our interactions in relationships. Through patience, we not only nurture enduring connections but also create a safe space for others to thrive and grow alongside us.

I’ve  stopped listening to a podcast a day because while I was learning a tremendous amount, I was simply becoming addicted to informative content versus listening to something of substance that I was integrating into my life. I was an information junkie. This past week I was told by two colleagues to listen to the Rich Roll podcast with Scott Galloway talking about the Male Identity Crisis. Not only is that a subject close to my heart, but it’s something that I care deeply about and try to role model positive behaviour. I highly recommend listening to it here. Not only does it inform me, but it actually provides important talking points to discuss with others when patriarchy or men's issues specifically are waved off, dismissed, or even vilified and mocked. 

My intention is not only to impart practical skills like making fire from scratch but also to convey why such skills are invaluable in life. In our fire-making workshops, we don't just focus on the end result; rather, we provide a safe space for participants to practice while offering professional feedback. Through this process, participants not only learn the technical aspects but also cultivate essential life skills such as patience, resilience, and perseverance—skills that are vital for overcoming challenges in any aspect of life. While I can offer guidance and instructions, the true transformation occurs when individuals are inspired to put these teachings into practice. It's not merely about mastering the art of fire-making; it's about understanding the underlying process and mindset that empowers individuals to tackle any future challenge they may encounter. Ultimately, it's about achieving more by actively engaging in meaningful action, rather than simply passively consuming information.

Instead of consuming 22+ hours a week of learning material (books, podcasts, videos, whatever) it should be how do I spend 2 hours learning and 20 hours practicing what I just learned?

That’s why I’m fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally feeling aligned with the frequency of when to write. I’m realigning with quality instead of quantity. I’m sharing in a way that sits ethically with what I actually practice. Just like when I had to ask myself the hard question about charity work, “Do I want handouts? No.” Then why did I believe handouts are better for others? I now believe it’s about providing people opportunities to discover what they’re capable of. It will be interesting to see how it goes but as I create the stable foundation in my own life I can write with the intention of putting less out into the world but make those fewer posts more impactful by giving you the space and time to practice rather than simply consuming content like a starved person at the buffet table. 

South Africa is in its infancy as a country compared with others. But already we can teach others a thing or two. One thing in particular — is our resilience and our humanity day to day. 

It's time to get up off the couches and seats behind our computers and get out together and explore our creativity, humanity, and love for discovering who we are — and most importantly — who we can become.


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