Word on the Street…

My father always told that me that I’d understand when I got older. He use to say one day when you’re old enough, it’ll all make sense. You see I never understood why my dad demanded I become the best at everything I did. I was raised to believe that it is not enough to simply participate; you must win and win boldly. He used to say to me that just like crabs in a bucket, most black people have been so conditioned for failure that they cannot fathom one of them succeeding and that our duty – yours and mine collectively as the future of South Africa – was to re-think that thinking.

So when I started schooling and I was called a “coconut” because of my self-designed British accent, it began to make sense. When I started my first business and my closest friends told me I’d fail, it made sense. When I started public speaking and spent afternoons rehearsing my speeches and not chilling ekoneni with my boys, they called me a teachers’ pet. My dads’ words made sense.

My father used to tell me that our challenge as young black men was to restore Africa to her rightful place. That just like he, our duty was to raise a village of winners. But winning requires bravery. Winning requires of us that we discipline our thoughts, we harden our habits and we harness our potential. Winning requires of us that we demanded of ourselves more than that which we know is possible to achieve because nothing extraordinary ever came from succeeding at the ordinary.

But in order to do this we must understand that we are only as good as our lowest common denominator. That as a black youth the worst of us is the best of us. We must question our mental conditioning. Why is it expected and fitting that hunger and famine have their birthplace in Somalia? Why is it expected and fitting that AIDS be rooted firmly in the rural communities of our country? Why is expected and fitting that Leeuwkop be filled with strong black men when so many children roam the townships unloved, unappreciated and unwanted. Why have we not redefined our definition of self?

Perhaps the most tragic thing about what we’ve become as a black youth, is that we have yet to advance our people. We still believe that success is an individual achievement, attained in the absence of communal collaboration and void of assistance. We continue to define our success not by how many successes we create but by how many failures we see around us. We spend our Saturdays visiting our townships so that we can experience for ourselves the wretched past from whence we come and pat ourselves on our cognac backs for accessing just enough credit that we could escape it.

To win. Truly advance our people. To raise a generation strong independent youth we must first relook at out definition of success. We must assert that for our generation, success will be judged not by whether or not you own a V8 or live in a gated estate but rather by whether you empowered others along your journey.

Vusi Thembekwayo is an international Motivational Speaker, Twice World Champion and ranked 3rd in the world. He is available on conferencespeakers.co.za

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