Choose fear, not envy, as a driving force
Have you heard about this young girl from an impoverished background who built a business empire from scratch? Nontombi Siwisa is her name. She became a billionaire before she turned 30. Her story is the stuff of fairy tales.
Her mother was a domestic worker. When she grew old and sickly, Nontombi stood in for her at work.
The eldest of six children, she became a mother to her siblings and a nurse to her own mother. That did not stop Nontombi from passing matric with flying colours.
She won a scholarship, developed an app while at university and, by the time she finished her first year, was already a dollar millionaire. Sound too good to be true? It is. Sadly, Nontombi does not exist. She is a fictitious character from Facebook utopia, which far surpasses Hollywood glam.
Everything in the world is now geared towards making us feel inadequate. Our achievements count for nothing, because people younger than us are better than us, thanks to their phenomenal accomplishments.
Every day we read about people who have built multibillion-rand empires, and the luxurious lifestyle doing so can buy which involves anything from owning private jets to castles and golf courses – as if these are the things to aspire to.
Those who do not have this lifestyle prefer to fake it. So, in addition to simply trying to keep up with the Gumedes, an unquenchable thirst for outshining them ensues.
It does nothing to improve society, but instead, takes us down a destructive vortex.
We have different talents, and the world needs them all. We need the dry cleaner around the corner, along with the butcher, the carpenter and the plumber, as much as we need the gardener.
Yet, our minds have been twisted to think that business means big – the bigger, the better – and that all success must be white-shirt conspicuous.
When people fail to bottle their aspirations and sell them, they feel like the village idiot.
Times are tough. People are losing jobs and it is common to see generations of youngsters countrywide sitting idly, watching their youth pass them by.
Soon they will be unemployable, condemned them to a jobless life with no chance of financial security come middle age.
Sadly, we do not have enough institutions to absorb all our school leavers since many were closed down over faulty infrastructure, almost nonexistent teaching and other systemic failures.
It is crucial to change young people’s mindsets that the failure to gain a university entrance means they are failures. This is a falsehood that cannot be perpetuated.
To paraphrase the late US essayist and human rights activist Maya Angelou, young minds must not be allowed to go to waste.
They should be encouraged to start their own businesses, no matter how small.
Many businesses were started without much capital, but with guts and money borrowed from friends, uncles or aunts.
Perhaps it is time stokvels changed focus and went into venture capital – with strict guidelines.
Many may fail at first, but that is how everyone learns.
We must give our youth the confidence to start again and instil in them the belief that they can succeed.
Results and profits are seductive. Profits make some people take short cuts, to the detriment of the long-term sustainability of the business.
Victories are sweet, but they do not guarantee that tomorrow will be as good.
The trick, perhaps, lies in fear rather than in wishing to emulate fictitious Facebook characters.
The fear that it can all go wrong quickly motivates many people to keep a keen eye on their business. It drives them to wake up early and work late into the night.
Perhaps US business pioneer Andrew Grove was right when he said: “Only the paranoid survive.” Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive,
an advertising agency