Addressing the party's provincial lekgotla in Worcester, Western Cape, Rasool told provincial executive committee (PEC) members that being the opposition could be fun.
The party had lost a lot of support in the province, he said, and needed to redefine the values it stood for.
The party went from leading in the Western Cape to having only one mayor, he said, because comrades had been focused on being councillors, mayors, premiers and filling other positions.
"We need to become people with aspirations rather than timeframes, and earn the right to get considered for the position, because the position belongs to the ANC and not to us," he said.
Rasool referred to some of the problems facing the party, including the deep factionalism that had fractured the PEC.
Investing in 'building a cake'
The best way to cater for each person's ambition in the ANC was to increase the size of the cake.
"Whenever comrades are fighting so hard for a position, you know the cake is shrinking. You don't need political analysis to tell you the cake is getting smaller, you can judge by how hard you are fighting," he said.
At the time when he was the ANC chairperson in the province, he said, members understood that if the party invested in "building the cake" there would be positions for everyone.
"And that is why we were able to double the number of representatives in the city council, in the provincial legislature and provincial cabinet and in the districts," he said.
He questioned how the party went from having 23 mayors to barely any presence.
"The fight for the small cake has made it even smaller," he said.
Rasool also schooled the PEC on how to approach various characteristics in leaders.
He made examples about managing a difficult leader who has the support of the masses, or a leader who knows how to keep "the enemy out" while straddling the law.
"We are comrades precisely because comrades build comrades. We harness the strength of a particular comrade, and manage the weakness of that same comrade," he said.
Victory, he said, was about managing every comrade.
The ANC in the Western Cape needed to work its way back to its moral goodness to win back supporters, Rasool told the PEC.
The PEC will continue on Saturday and Sunday, and will be addressed by the South African Communist Party's Solly Mapaila and Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe.