Friends & Friction: 20 years, 20 lessons

2014-01-26 10:00

Dear Friends,

As this is our 20th year of democracy, I wrote down 20 lessons I’ve learnt along the way.

I would like you to send me your lessons about life. They don’t have to be 20, but they do have to be original because I want us to collect them and hopefully publish them in a book titled Lessons of the People, by the People. This will be our contribution to the country as a column community. This, we are doing for posterity.

Here are my lessons:

1 You are not a brand. The human spirit is too sublime to fit in a box. Follow your heart. A brand does not have that freedom. Cadbury makes great chocolate, but not great instant mashed potatoes. When Cadbury launched a brand of instant mashed potatoes, it named it Smash, not Cadbury Instant Potatoes. But a person can make an amazing chocolate mousse as well as a delectable cottage pie.

2 Your reputation is only a shadow. Your character is the foundation. The shadow moves around all day, but a moving foundation is dangerous. The shadow disappears when the sun is gone. Too many people live for their image and the applause of the crowds, and when they’re gone, their self-image disappears. Cultivate your character and your reputation will take care of itself.

3 There is an Arabic idiom that goes: “A clenched hand can’t receive.” Give freely and be generous with advice. Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela gave their lives, and the world thanked them with immortality.

4 Be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat. If Thabo Mbeki had refused to be recalled, he would not have been cheered at Nelson Mandela’s memorial.

5 Doubt is a law of nature. Do not dismiss it. Your instinct has been honed by experience, but dare to take a small step forward. That’s what progress is.

6 The devil’s advocate is not the devil. Do not be angry with the people who ask uncomfortable questions. Open your mind and listen to them. They too have a point and could help you avert disaster.

7 Self-preservation will always trump loyalty. Remember that, and you will never be disappointed when people make decisions that put themselves first.

8 Life is unfair, but you should make the most of it.

9 The road is life. Travel at least once a year and meet new people who have different experiences. That is how adults grow. South Africa is vast and beautiful.

10 Never lie at work and, worse of all, never force others to lie on your behalf. People don’t like people who make them lie.

11 Make sure your car is locked and your valuables are out of view before you enter a house of worship. Don’t test God and don’t tempt criminals.

12 Don’t be afraid to visit the ruins of your past as there may be a ruby in there.

13 Put your health before business because without it you can’t manage any business.

14 It is better to be overprepared than otherwise. Don’t allow external pressures to hinder your preparations.

15 Show up and make sure you are on time for your appointments. Any appointment may be one with an opportunity of a lifetime.

16 Opportunities are like taxis – if you miss the first one, the second one is on its way – but only if you know where you are going.

17 No matter how good your life has been and no matter how old you are, the best is still to come.

18 Wear your best clothes when you visit your loved ones.

19 It’s not the amount of time you spend with people that matters, but the size of your impact on their lives.

20 Nightmares aren’t permanent. No matter how bad the dream, it will end and the sun will rise again.

»?Send your 20 lessons to

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