Victor Vermeulen tells Loni Prinsloo about his younger days as an up-and-coming sportsman — a career that was cut short by a freak accident that left him paralysed at 19. Today, he enjoys a promising career as a motivational speaker.
What did you want to be when growing up?
From as far back as I can remember I wanted to be a sportsman. I was always breaking records. When I was 10, I was already playing first league cricket. Everyone else in the team was in their 20s. The helmet was so big I couldn’t really see.
What did your childhood teach you about money?
My parents were generous but not to excess. When I was six, they used to give me a packed lunch and 20c “tuck money” every day to spend on a cold drink or sweets. After 36 weeks I went to them with R36 in 20c coins and said: “What can I do with this?” They were astounded. From then on, if I wanted something special, I’d save my pocket money and they’d double it.
What was your first job? How did you manage?
Coaching cricket in the school holidays when I was 16. I loved it.
What life events steered you into the career you have today?
I was 19, my cricketing career was just taking off. I’d already played for a young Transvaal team at Lord’s. Then my father was killed in a hijacking, and I was paralysed seven months later. The doctors told me I had no future. At best I could get a job in computers nodding at a screen.
I’m a people man. There was a motivational speaker called WMitchell on Carte Blanche. My mom and friends looked at his presentation and said: “You’re always encouraging and motivating us, we think you could do the same for others.” I took a speaking course and my career slowly developed from there.
What do you most enjoy about your career today?
The way I can touch and influence people’s lives. Basically, I encourage them to concentrate on what they do have and appreciate the small things in life.
Do you have any role models in business and life?
Mother Teresa and my parents, especially my mom, who’s given up her life so I can have a life.
If you hit the jackpot today, what would you do with the money?
Invest it and use the interest to help people in the same situation as me.
Do you have any money weaknesses?
What has been your best investment in life, if any?
Property. I’ve made mistakes and learnt from them. Patience, because nothing is a quick fix.
What advice would you give younger people when choosing what they want to do in life?
Try to do something they are passionate about, that touches their soul and has meaning for them. Try not to be too influenced by those around them and pushed into something they don’t want to do.
What are some of your future money/business plans?
I have to secure my future, especially being quadriplegic. I have to save and invest. I’ve no idea how long I’ll live, I don’t know how much money will be enough. I realise my mom won’t always be here to look after me, so at some stage I’ll have to hire full-time carers. I enjoy my motivational speaking career and want to continue as long as possible. I’m looking at the possibility of getting involved on a motivational speaking tour with the NSIF [Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation], the international charity that raises funds for stem cell research at University College Hospital London and the University of Krakow in Poland.
• This article was first published in Sunday Times: Business Times