Entranced by an inspired speaker

2013-05-30 00:00

WHEN motivational speaker Mark Mead talks, he doesn’t just take over the room — he commands it with the authority of a celebrity evangelist.

Indeed, speaking at a recent New Generations Conference, hosted by the Rotary Club of Morningside and held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Mead had the audience of schoolchildren silent as they lapped up his words and rapturous as they applauded him.

Perhaps this isn’t too surprising. Mead is one of the more entrancing speakers I’ve encountered in 24 years of journalism.

As he enters the lecture hall — to the tune of the song Tainted Love — and takes the podium, he arrests the audience from the start. “My name is Mark Mead, and I am 52 years young,” he says.

“Now, boys and girls, I want you to listen carefully, for I am an agent of change.”

Making his Christian faith quite clear by saying: “I now report to a higher order”, Mead exhorts the young audience to remember that “you can be anything you want to be”.

And with an audio-visual display to back him, Mead speaks with a quiet charisma to the audience, numbering perhaps a few hundred senior schoolchildren.

“Boys and girls, the new world is coming, and for years the winds of change have been blowing,” says Mead. “You were born not to fit in, but to stand out.”

But Mead’s message is not just a feel-good one. Rather, it centres on the importance of entrepreneurship and the stellar future awaiting the youth in South Africa.

Mead himself has walked the walk. As a young Englishman, he came to South Africa in 1984 and embarked on a highly successful career as a commodity trader, born of an entrepreneurial spirit that manifested itself at a young age.

Today, Mead heads a multimillion-rand automotive import and export company that trades in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, and it’s hardly surprising that not only does he travel extensively, but he also has a vast network of friends, colleagues and business partners around the globe.

Mead is deeply involved in a host of charities. These include the Elsen Academy (a facility for children with learning disabilities), the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary, which is outside Pietermaritzburg, Hillcrest Aids Orphans, and a range of SPCAs.

He is also the Africa ambassador for the 23 Foundation of Liverpool Football Club’s Jamie Carragher, which raises money worldwide to help children with life-threatening illnesses.

Now the Hillcrest-based Mead is motivating the youth of the country that he adores. “Governments around the world do not give you jobs,” he reminds the young audience at UKZN.

“They do not give you what you want. You do. You are the future.”

He adds: “Most people are fear-based. Remove your fears and watch yourself grow.”

And one of Mead’s maxims is: “There is no such thing in life as failure, just delayed success.”

Mead wasn’t the only speaker at the conference. Walter Pietersen of Sanca spoke about drug abuse.

“The best way to stop is never to start,” attests Pietersen, adding that substance abuse is “like an octopus, with its tentacles everywhere”.

Yet none of the speakers quite entranced the room like Mead, who also speaks frequently to schools. As part of his Cradle2Career outreach, Mead also talks to children from Grades 10 to 12, and actively starts them on the path to entrepreneurship by giving them R500 each to turn into profit. The children have three weeks, and at the end of it they return the capital to Mead, as well as 10% of their profits, while discussing their various highs and lows.

As Mead tells his UKZN audience: “I have learnt through the hardships of life how to survive. And your imagination is just the preview of life’s forthcoming attractions.”

• For more information, visit www.cradle2career.co.za.

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