The Ability To Start Strong

There is nothing greater in life than support, to have that extra bit of encouragement when you are tempted to give up. To be placed in a favourable or opportune position that will push you forward. We all want that, we all wish for that. Let’s be real, without someone having opened the door for us, some of us wouldn’t be here.

I had a conversation with a young man this afternoon, and he said something that I disagreed with completely. He designs beautiful socks, he explained how it took him an entire two years to get the right supplier for his socks, and how because of that, he would never share nor give his contacts to the next person. His reasoning was that he worked hard for two years to get that contact, therefore, the next person should also work as hard, or find his own way of getting their own contact. Sure, I understand where he is coming from, I get it, but I do not believe that thinking will get him very far, that’s what I feel he doesn’t understand.

I advised him not to do that, and recommended that he should give his contacts out where possible, because he never knows who he might end up helping with that info.

His attitude towards this situation reminds me of how Johannesburg works. People here want to own things. They want to own; industries, ideas, concepts, cultures, events, you name it, they want to be the only one who is doing it. My question is, how are we going to grow from that? How are we moving forward?

Back to the young man, I tell him just how talented I think he is, that I feel his job is to ensure that he becomes the best that he possibly can be in sock design, and that he must not worry about the next person, because he can’t control the next person, he can only control himself. The best he can do is learn from the next person and get better. I’ve learned that there is nothing that beats competition or a little bit of clean rivalry. I am not gonna stand here and claim that I am a saint and I have helped every soul that has come my way, because I haven’t. I used to think like this young man, I used to want to be the only one to do this, the first one to do that, but I realised very soon that that mindset doesn’t move my peers and I any further forward. This is because we are no longer just ‘competing’ with each other, we are now competing with the rest of the world.

I remember that I used to think like this young man. I have a little brother, so from day one I always felt like I had to have more than him because ‘I was older’. I felt entitled to such, and for the most part we grew up like that, until I noticed something about the relationship between my father and my uncle. I noticed something that I felt no one else had noticed at the time. My father was the youngest between them, so with my uncle as the eldest, he had to have more than my father, I saw myself in my uncle’s ways/mindset. What my uncle didn’t realise was that when he decided to rob my father of money or fortune, he robbed us all of the opportunity/ability to start strong. This meant that we all had to work twice as hard just to get to the level where his kids were. No matter how dedicated, ambitious, or driven one can be, one thing I know is that a jump-start is something everyone, anyone will appreciate. What my uncle didn’t understand was that his decision to get more than my father, affected not just him, but everyone around him both directly and indirectly. When I realised that at an early age, my attitude changed towards my little brother, I remember for years I had to drill this new way of thinking into my little brother’s head so that he too understood it. I explained and made sure he understood that my job is to make things easier for him (connections, education and anything that would help him move forward), and his job is to make things easier for our little sister, because I can’t take care of everyone.

I don’t think he got it because he was too young to wrap his head around the idea, I remember having to choose between buying my dream car or taking him to further his studies, I chose him. He chose to study at AFDA, which is not cheap. I did this with the hopes that he would one day see the sacrifices that one made for him, his future kids and their life in general. My hope is that one day, he will maybe help me out because no one knows the future and what it holds, no one knows when the beggar becomes the baller, so I’ve learnt to treat everyone with care and respect.

What life tries to teach us is that things are constantly changing. Sometimes the poor get rich, and the rich get poor, the nobody may get fame while the celebrity may become a has-been. It’s the circle of life. Gil Scott-Heron once said, “…how you really look is the expression on people’s faces when they see you”. He said something else that changed how I saw the world, he said “If someone comes to you and asks for help, and you can help them, you’re supposed to help them. Why wouldn’t you? You have been put in the position somehow to be able to help this person.” This documentary changed everything for me, I started to process help and someone asking it of me differently, I processed it as something that will not take a lot out of me. Imagine what kind of a world we would live in if this were how we all saw each other…