Friends & Friction: Not all of us can run businesses

WHEN I was listed as a reserve for the E team in our local soccer club, I knew I would never walk out to the roar of the crowds at Orlando Stadium.

I hung up my boots, and my dreams, when my team won 10-0, and I was the only one who failed to score. It’s okay, I’m the guy who spotted the spelling mistake printed on our jerseys.

I thought I had a chance in athletics because I used to beat my friends on our street. Pity I never realised we always ran downhill. It gave me the confidence to try the 100m at school, but I quickly realised the coach didn’t like me. His problem was that I always came first.

I never won by a big margin, maybe a toddler’s arm ahead of “Oupa”, whose name I have changed to preserve his dignity.

The athletics finals came. The mood was festive, abomkhozi were there, selling everything from two-sly of achar and polony, to bananas and skopas. Bells were ringing everywhere as the tricycles sold ice cream, which was more ice than cream. Everyone was wearing the school uniform, except a special few, who were wearing sports gear. I was one of those special few.

We walked past the grandstand, straight into the arena, and watched the throngs from below. I saw the crowds applaud in unison. I heard them compete in song as if they were fighting for a place in heaven, and I was in that heaven.

The Under-12 race was called. The coach didn’t pick me. I was disappointed, as I saw Oupa at the starting line.

“On your marks…”

“What injustice!” I thought.

“Get set…”

“How could I be overlooked like that?”


I was so angry I could hear my own lungs breathe.

Suddenly, I felt lucky to be left out, as chubby Oupa waddled like a fearful goose behind everybody.

“Oh my goodness,” I thought, “I was going to come out second last.”

That’s when I gave up on the dream of life as a sportsman. There would have been no point in trying to do Malcolm Gladwell’s 10 000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. I had zero talent, and 10 000 times zero is zero.

You could say that my whole life is basically a consolation prize, but considering that you are my reader, it is not a bad prize at all, and I appreciate it.

Gratitude, I’ve learnt, tends to obliterate stress. Spare a moment or two, and look at where you started and where you are today. You will realise that you haven’t done as badly as you may think.

Understandably, since we live in a world with an oversupply of motivational speakers, most people feel like underachievers, and so are driven to do more. Charlatans have come to the fore, peddling snake oil at exorbitant prices.

As they say, you can’t go to a barber to ask whether you should have a haircut. Likewise, if you go to a business coach, he or she won’t tell you that you are useless and, at best, you are likely to come second last. Instead, they’ll peddle the lies that you can do anything, as long as you put your mind to it. It is criminal what life coaches are doing.

The truth is that some people aren’t meant to run businesses, let alone start them. They don’t have the love for selling, let alone the temperament to chase payment from their customers, both of which are important if you are to pay your staff and suppliers. You have your own gift, and it is different to that of the person in the cubicle next door.

* Kuzwayo is founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency


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