About

About

I once did some internal work after attending some seminars, reading some books, looking for meaning and purpose in what I was doing. The following is an article that I wrote afterwards, and it expresses a journey and insight into who I am, and why I am.

How badly do you really want to be successful in life?

We all say we want to be a success at something or other, whether it be in our career, financial freedom, maybe you want to own a boat, a big home, a new car etc. What is your dream? How long have you had it? How badly do you want to achieve it? “Very badly”? Have you had this dream for a while? How close are you towards achieving it? Do you really want to be successful as badly as you think you do?

I have been searching for my “why” for a while. The more I analyze it the more I realize that I probably don’t want success as badly as I say, think, or believe I do. My conclusion is that I’m not yet at the point where I’m willing to do “whatever” it takes to become successful. The process of objectively judging how badly I want success results in admitting to myself that I don’t really want it as badly as I think I do. This makes me mad at myself, I feel so disappointed and ashamed at believing my little speech to myself at how badly I want to be successful without any meaningful action, that I genuinely begin wanting success more.

What is your reason for wanting to be successful?

I once believed that my “why” was that I survived cancer at the age of 5 while other kids were not so lucky. I felt like I needed to justify my existence on earth by becoming a success. I’ve run this theory through the “How badly do I really want it” filter and this so called “why” is not strong enough to get me up in the morning. They are just words and ideas that I’ve told myself and believed for a long time without any real facts.

I remember praying as a 5-year old that I don’t want to die and in return I would make my life mean something, that I would do something great in this world if I just got a second chance. I remember having a comic book written for children with cancer. It explained the very frank reality of my situation and quite frankly scared the hell out of me. I can’t imagine the trauma my parents must have gone through knowing that their first-born son is staring the possibility of death in the face and not even old enough to truly understand what is happening. One thing this situation did teach me was that I needed to grow up very quickly. I prayed that I wanted to be guided to do something great in this world in exchange for surviving cancer. To this day part of me believes that this is why I survived. I want to justify my survival and existence in this world to be a source of hope to others.

My point is that while this event was traumatic for my family, it is a story with a happy ending. The reality is that the cancer was treated and removed and I no longer have checkups for it. It is a part of my past and has shaped my personality, but does not define who I am, nor does it still directly affect any decision I make. The point is that this is not the root of my need for success, it is not my “why”, but it is a part of it. On its own it is simply not enough to get me out of bed when I wake up low on energy and there are no immediate perceived consequences of going back to sleep. At that point 5 year old Russel is very distant memory.

Searching deeper for my “why”

Every family has a “head of the household”. The breadwinner, a person to look up to, who makes the important decisions. In some families when the siblings branch off and form their own families, that old hierarchy still applies to the extended family. The initial “head of the household” is now the “head of the family” and is seen as the person to go to when you have a problem. I’ve had many of these “role-model” kinds of figures in my life when I went through my cancer scare. Many of my family members were involved in prayer meetings just being very supportive and caring during that time. I always felt that at some point when I was older I would have to repay that kindness.

I never anticipated that many of those relatives would pass away long before I was successful and ready to thank them in a material way. I began to feel that I need to start being there for the remaining relatives as well as the new generation. More importantly I realized that I would have to become one of the “head of the family” or “role-model” type figures in the family. This is another factor or element of my “why”. I want to become a role model for my family to be a source of guidance and inspiration.

Climbing the ladder despite the fear

When I was 25 I overcame my fear of heights. Normally I would have felt numb and dizzy even just going up or down an escalator which was higher than what I felt comfortable with. One day I found myself out of contract in my job with loads of debt and not many opportunities apparent to me at the time. One opportunity was to work on communication towers where a basic task was to climb up 32 and 72 meter high towers. Before accepting this contract I went along with a colleague to a site on Tygerberg Hill which was built much sturdier than the towers we would be climbing. I went with him to assist in the building below and we were there to re-align an antenna. When we got there, instead of staying in
the building below I decided to be the one climbing. After all if I couldn’t even climb 10 meters up this glorified jungle gym I wouldn’t be able to climb up to 32 meters let alone 72.

After the first meter my legs started shivering and by halfway I already had thoughts of quitting. I decided then and there that I would not be done until the job was done. As one of my legs changed direction to go back down I flipped a switch and carried on climbing up. The job itself was simple: loosen the nuts, move the antenna find the best angle for the best signal and tighten the nuts again. I went on to complete one month training on 32m towers and volunteered to be the first to climb the 72m tower out of the Cape Town team. This is something I perceive to be one of my biggest achievements in life so far as I was able to switch off emotion on a very deep level to conquer one of my biggest fears. This achievement has helped shape who I am becoming and is another element of my “why”. I want to be able to help people achieve their dreams and goals in spite of their fears.

What I am to be I am now becoming

Most people look back at how they grew up and feel like they want to give their family a better standard of living. It is a recurring theme household to household especially in South Africa with our history of Apartheid and will continue to be a recurring theme for people who believe that the past is to blame for current circumstances. When we continue to follow the ways of previous traditions, we allow the pattern of success (or lack of success) to continue. We need to rise up above our circumstances and break the pattern, not just for ourselves, but as a ray of hope for generations to come.

I feel I need to break the pattern in a financial sense. Generation after generation I can already foresee that if I don’t change something within myself in the way I do things and in the way I think, generations that follow will continue to get the same results barely scraping the bottom of the middle-class category working for a boss, living payday to payday, hand to mouth, never able to break the cycle.

I don’t want to continue to blame the system. I can’t continue to lie to myself and blame my circumstances as if it is something living with its own will. I am getting rid of excuses and replacing them with opportunities. I am replacing dreams with goals. It is time to swap denial with results. I want experience financial freedom because I want generations that follow me to realize that your financial position and achievements in life is a choice.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank all my family and friends who are always there for me. I also want to point out a few of the books and online resources (in the order I’ve experienced them) which I’ve read that have gotten me to the place I am now in terms of mentality and attitude:

7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Dr.Stephen R. Covey)
Rich Dad Series (Robert T. Kiyosaki)
JT Foxx Seminars
ET The Hip Hop Preacher – Dr. Eric Thomas

A special thanks goes to all those who have helped me to get to this point in analyzing and editing this blog post, and for the valuable input of those individuals.