What does success mean to you? Has your definition of it changed over the years and if so, why? | As a young adult, I used to think of it as achieving certain goals, like ‘making a million rand’ or ‘buying a holiday house’. Now, success for me means sustaining a positive framework around me, strong enough to withstand the meteorological challenges of existence. In my mind, I visualise this framework as a cube-shaped metal scaffold. The cube consists of four foundation rungs, identity, marriage, family and work; upward rungs of nutrition, exercise, friends and worthwhile daily rituals; and top rungs of travel, learning, community and creativity. This scaffolding allows me to withstand most hardships. Building it is a lifelong journey, but whenever I feel I have those 12 rungs securely in place, then I consider myself successful.
What is your LIFE-MISSION in one sentence? | I aim to evolve my life into a platform for peace, for me and for my community.
What do you think is often the difference between people who are good at what they do and people who are great at what they do? | Focus. To be more precise, I believe as a youngster you first have to cast the net out as wide as you can. This means that, when you enter adulthood, experience all the attractions of life, travel, explore, get involved in various industries and try different jobs. This provides perspective. However, that net must intentionally be drawn and a choice must be made. The people who achieve greatness are invariably the ones who have picked one thing to focus upon, and then applied deliberate practice to it.
What is one talent or strength of yours, which has been critical to your success? | I am deeply curious about people. Over time, I’ve realised that this trait enables me to connect with a very diverse range of individuals. The resulting network has been instrumental in successes in my career.
What is your biggest weakness? | I am easily distracted. It also contributes to my biggest strength, as it’s driven by curiousity.
On a psychological or mind-set level, how do you use your mind and how do you think in a specific way to help you achieve your goals and realize your ambitions? | My distractedness means that I am obsessed with systems. Without systems, I’d be a wandering mess. I believe that the art of creating good systems in your weekly routines is one of life’s greatest hacks.
How do you deal with self-doubt, fear or negativity? Can you share a time in which you either doubted yourself the most or had great fears, yet faced up to them and conquered them? | I have tended to suffer from anxiety in the past. Anxiety has twice in my life (when I was 23 and when I was 41) tilted into depression. Fortunately, I managed to navigate through those seasons without medication. In each case, the anxiety was triggered by a lack of honesty in my life. During those occasions, I was projecting a false reality to myself and to the world. The gap between this ‘false self’ and my ‘true self’ became too big and led to feeling deeply anxious, and then deeply depressed. The habit that saved me, both times, was journalling how I was feeling. I wrote down all the daily events with as much detail, truth and vulnerability as I could muster. As I did so, the fog of the depression was cleared away by the weight of clarity through my journaling.
What are you most afraid of right now? | I am afraid of extreme views. We’re living in a time where extreme views are being conveyed with abandon throughout global media. This black and white thinking can lead to unnecessary pain, on varying levels. Empathy is a great strength in this environment. However, I’m also aware that extreme views have sometimes led to profound positive changes in history. Life is full of paradoxes like this.
What resources (people, books, environments, movies, music etc) do you use to keep yourself inspired, informed and growing? | I rarely use social media, but Quora is a vice. I love the community of Quora, even though the answers are often flawed. I subscribe to various newsletters, Daily Maverick, Time, Wired, New York Times and News24. I also have an ever-growing list of podcasts that I listen to while I commute. I believe it’s important to escape, so I’m an avid fan of books, music and movies.
What is the best advice you have ever received? | Figure out what you’re good at. Do that and delegate the rest.
What’s one deeply honest thing that most people don’t know about you? | I moved to London in February 1997. My first home was a digs in Wimbledon. One day soon after I arrived, I borrowed a bicycle and explored the area. I’ve always been a big tennis fan, so I wanted to find the famous Wimbledon tennis grounds. At around 6pm that evening, I passed a bunch of workers leaving a massive big tennis complex that had a sign saying ‘All England Lawn Tennis Club’. I was disappointed, as it didn’t say ‘Wimbledon Tennis Club’, which is what I was looking for. The area was strewn with renovation equipment, and they were obviously doing a major refurbishment of the grounds. The workers left a slight gap in the make-shift fencing at the entrance. I snuck in to find the area completely deserted. After wandering about, I found a tunnel leading into the main stadium and I walked right on to centre court. Only when I looked up at the scoreboard, did I realise that ‘All England Lawn Tennis Club’ was in fact the real Wimbledon grounds. The board still displayed the result of the previous year’s final between Richard Krajicek and Malivai Washington’s game, which I’d watched on South African TV. I was standing on the most famous tennis court in the world. I sat down right in the centre of the playing area to take it all in and spent around 10 minutes reflecting on how epic this moment was. As I left, I pulled out a small tuft of grass, which I put in my pocket. When I returned to the digs I posted the grass to my mom, in order for her to plant in her garden back home in South Africa. My claim to fame from then on was that my folks had Wimbledon grass growing in their lawn.