Why don’t we celebrate success?

2010-06-12 12:39

In his own whiny way, my friend Big Rick was complaining about

South Africans not celebrating success enough.

As he whined ad

nauseum about how we always look at the negative side of our ­country it got

me thinking about what our successes are?

When I started looking there were lots. I became quite patriotic

and even went and bought a genuine Bafana Bafana shirt (the one with the iron-on

Protea emblem) and thought about how great we are as a nation.

The last time I thought about this was several years ago on the

deck of one of South Africa’s new frigates in Shanghai, where I was working at

the time.

All of us South African ex-pats were invited. The food was great, the

beer SAB’s finest and there was an ­excess of biltong. We all puffed our chests

out and felt really proud to be South Africans.

But on returning to South Africa I felt that we are unable or

unwilling to celebrate the great things that South African people and businesses


Take Steven Pienaar for instance. He’s one of the stars of the

English Premier League. After a fantastic season for Everton he is in demand

across the league and is set to a star in the upcoming World Cup.

Or even our rugby teams. The Blue Bulls ­conquered all before them

– and in Soweto nogal!

When we’re outside our Beloved Country, we take enormous pride in


We take on Australians about the superiority of Karoo lamb, we won’t buy

­anything other than Mrs Balls, if we’re not Afrikaans-speaking we speak more of

it than we do at home, we insist on Castle Lager, we take our friends to Nando’s

and if we had the money we’d buy IWC watches ­just ­because the luxury

watch-maker is owned by South ­African ­company Richemont.

But we need to be more American in the way we build ourselves up

­because they’re the ­masters in doing so. They even call their ­baseball

­championship the World Series!

My colleague Damon Stapleton was in New York a few weeks ago for

the One Show Advertising Awards. Representing ­TBWAHuntLascaris, he collected

seven Pencils (including four gold ones).

Other than a minor run-in at Times Square with a police officer

after he described his hoard as “creative dynamite”, the one thing that Damon

tweeted about was how Americans celebrate ­success.

From busboys and buskers to taxi-drivers and doormen, he was

high-fived across the city.

Everyone was like, “yeah, you go man!”. The beer

flowed, champagne was poured and no doubt massive steaks were eaten.

For one night, local boy Damon was the king of New York City. For

any advertising agency this is the equivalent of Bafana Bafana winning the World


Yet when we’re back home we don’t reflect enough on this great

country of ours.

There’s the story of ­Siyabulela Xuza, a St John’s College

pupil in ­Johannesburg, who developed a new type of rocket fuel. He went on to

win top awards in the US and was offered a Harvard scholarship.

The lesson here is if we don’t celebrate the success of our

businesses and people they will as individuals just become another Kevin

Pietersen, a South African cricketer beating us playing for another team.

While I’m not a fan of Fifa, look what the World Cup helped us


Look at our new stadiums; they’re totally awesome in design,

organisation and engineering prowess.

The cynics were saying: “It will be a

miracle if South Africa makes this happen.” Like JR, we showed ‘em!

And we’ve got lots more to celebrate.

We don’t ­only need the World

Cup to celebrate our global ­winners: SABMiller being the foremost brewer in

China, Charlize Theron looking more beautiful than any star I’ve seen, Sasol

successfully leveraging its synthetic technology and building coal/fuel plants

across the world, my agency TBWAHuntLascaris ­being the top agency in the

world after winning an elusive Black Pencil at the D & AD in London last

week, our three living Nobel Peace Laureates, two Nobel Literature Laureates and

Afrikaans rappers Die Antwoord being signed by the global label


Not forgetting Bafana Bafana who will make us kings of the world in


» Gavin Heron is group MD of TBWAHuntLascaris

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