Notes of gratitude
First published on my Mirror profile here.
Did I ever think that I would end up where I am today when I left school? The very short answer is no. A slightly longer answer requires me to turn back the clock a few years and paint a picture. When I left school I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. There was plenty of indecision and many questions that I couldn’t find the answers to. So, I was encouraged to start a broad undergraduate degree at the University of Cape Town. When I say broad, I truly mean it as my bachelor of arts degree saw me dabble in a number of areas including — Economics, History, Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, Anthropology, Economic History, Statistics, and Environmental Science.
I muddled my way through my university experience and it was only a few years after completing my 3 year undergraduate degree that I was able to appreciate that this time of forced study had taught me to think. Giving me the ability to engage with a variety of types of information, digest it and synthesise it into a narrative to convey a point of view. Many people thought I was crazy not to pursue an honours or masters following my undergrad, but I didn’t see the value in studying further if there was nothing that grabbed my attention. Thus I ventured out into the wilderness and challenged myself to see if I could find spaces that captured my interest, where I would be given an opportunity to learn on the go. I guess you could refer to the framing of applied learning rather than theoretical knowledge accumulation to describe the approach that I took.
There are a few people in particular who took a bet on me. Giving me the opportunity, space, guidance, and environment to explore who I might become. Allowing me to express my views, to follow my curiosity and to engage a different style of thinking. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to join the founding team of a start-up which accelerated my curiosity and threw me into the deep end giving me no other option but to learn to swim. I have always had a personal drive and a level or agency from a young age, but the few years that I spent in the start up ecosystem and running my own consultancy have further refined the way that I nurture my autonomy.
What might have happened if I had decided to study further or taken a gap year right out of school? Who knows?! Life would have turned out differently, but it probably would have been special in its own way. We can spend our lives pondering the “what ifs”, we will only know for sure if we drop into the energy of the wave of change and see where the ride takes us.
During phases of transition and as I consider how to take on the next step on my journey through life, I find myself reflecting on the people that have given me a chance and hope to some day be in a position where I too can give an opportunity to someone who needs the space to explore. The space to help them figure out where to next and to allow them to have access to an environment where they can build a path to get there.
Some of my best friends and immediate family think I am slightly crazy as they can’t describe the work I do with a “title”. The funny thing is that they are probably right, I am indeed a little crazy but that’s what makes the world interesting after all. The path I am crafting is not for everyone. Describing what I do, the way that I think, and the projects that I have worked on in a few sentences is a challenge as there are industries that you would conventionally put together. It’s an exercise that I am working on currently and I hope to share some iterations soon for feedback and critiques.
As I reflect with gratitude on where I am today, not being able to easily define my life of work is as an endorsement that I must be doing something right — seeking to think differently and challenge the traditional/conventional way of doing things. The world is full of ideas, one just needs to open their mind to find and connect with them through diverse channels. True magic lies in the ability to execute the ideas that you have and to unlock this magic we need people to take a bet on our potential.
The point of inspiration for this piece was this note to the Airbnb team from Brain Chesky on Joe’s decision to step down from his operational role in the company to explore some of the other ideas that he wishes to bring into the world.
This has been slightly more of a personal piece than when I start out writing it this morning, perhaps it’s part of the next chapter and letting more people into my emerging story.
In closing, I encourage us all to think about how we got to where we are today and how we can pay it forward to others. Much gratitude to those who have believed in me when I didn’t yet believe in myself.