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The Power of a Vision | Kgadi MmanaKana

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South Africa

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One morning when I was on my way to school, my life changed for the better with The Power of a Vision. I was 14 years old and an eighth grader at the time, and my school was on the other side of Matlala River in Limpopo. It was quite a long walk through the trenches, a long walk I didn’t mind. In retrospect, a long walk to my freedom.

 

Here’s the thing about the river and valleys, whether you’re in the mood or not, they will force you to run through them. Down the slope. And sometimes even make you prank or make a fool of yourself. Nonetheless, that brief down the slope involuntary run, can be quite therapeutic.

 

It was when I was about to embark on the thrill of the slope that I suddenly stopped and let out a “yah” gasp. A gasp that was in agreement with the conversation I was having with myself in my head. It was not only the slope thrill that I found to be therapeutic, but also the long walk. I loved that long distance between my home and school.

 

And I preferred walking it alone, not only because I’m an introvert, but also because I sang my way through it. With my flexible vocal cords, I got to put myself on shuffle mode and transition between Luciano Pavarotti, Beyonce, Winnie Mashaba, and 2Pac in matter of minutes. I enjoyed the walk. I’d often pass scholars that attended school in my village, either by the river or in the woods, while singing out loud, and I’d greet them and continue to sing like nothing weird didn’t just happen. The volume that people use in their shower Idols Performance, is what I used in the woods on my way to school.

 

The "yah" gasp that I let out was a verbal handshake I was giving myself in agreement of the meeting resolutions I’ve just reached in my head. The resolution was based on the reflections of what had happened the previous night. And what had happened was, I stood up to my father and saved my mother from getting beaten by my father. When my sister and I reflect on that night, she refers to me as the starring, the one who saved the night, the one who saved everyone from the noise, weeping, wailing and torment.

 

For the introverted and quite shy 14-year-old me with old school values that includes never back-chatting an adult, that was a terrific move. With hands shaking, trembling voice and strength that couldn’t compare to my father’s, I held our bedroom’s door handle and told my father that I was not going to open the door after he had banged the door, called my mom a dog that he wanted to kill. He walked away that night, not a normal thing for him to go to bed without creating a scene.

 

I’m not sure if he walked away because really, I was a starring, or my small voice was heard above the screams of my terrified mother. Either way I was glad that he walked away.

 

The agreement I was making in my head was that “Something has to change. I am tired. Tired of the noise. Tired of being known as the Kgadi from that house that’s always fighting. Tired of the labels. Tired of being at the mercy of relatives and anyone who leveraged on my ‘poverty’ to mock and bully me. Tired of eating pap and water.” I wanted something different. I wanted to stop the cycle of struggle at home.

 

I wanted a different experience of life that involved ease and calm. I was thinking about my nephews and nieces. I was thinking that should I conform and succumb to this, that kind of life experience, those that will come after me will experience it too if not worse. It was that day that I unofficially changed my name on quest to tell myself a different story and build my own empowering identity. And that’s when a dirty kid who used to pull stuff from dustbins, became a possibilitarian.

 

“Kgadi the Possibilitarian” became the essence and anchor of what I’d become. Given the environment I found myself in which gave me all the “good” reasons why I will amount to nothing in life, I wanted to, I needed to, believe in the possibility of me actually making it in life. The possibility of me not becoming a static and succumbing to poverty and violent home induced depression, despair, hopelessness, and total death of dreams. Here’s the story I told myself; “When I was born my family marked me as the last born, but I believe that the Universe declared, ‘that’s a definition of possibility’.”

 

And it was that moment, that new story that I told myself, that I went on to become a top matric achiever at my school 4 years later with 4 distinctions, including of my favourite subject, Physical Sciences.

 

Here's the thing, that didn't happen because I became “The Possibilitarian”, it started with a vision. A vision of what could be. An alternative to what I was experiencing. An alternative that I gave birth to on that sunny morning with a heavy backpack pulling my not so tall self down.

 

Through imagination and desire, I envisioned a life where I’m not a static. A joyful life. A life where I have options in life. A life where my what was already proven to be a brilliant and inquisitive mind, was not going to go down the drain. A life where I can afford to buy my family electricity and seshebo.

 

A life where we no longer slept on the floor but on a bed. That was my vision. And that’s what went on to give the me resilience and focus I needed to achieve academic excellence throughout and bag those distinctions with a mountain of odds against me. Being a possibilitarian and truly believing that I was, I am, took having a vision. My life changed because of that morning when I was 14 years old and on my way to school.

 

The lives and businesses that went on to be changed for the better because I encountered them, was all because of a vision of a 14-year-old. If it was not the 14-year-old me, the world wouldn’t have known and know Kgadi the Possibilitarian, the brilliant Business Strategist that that little girl went on to become, and you wouldn’t be reading this article and possibly having a seed of possibility being planted in your mind right now.

 

When schools invite me to speak (motivate) to their students, I always say this to students; “I’m not going to tell you to bag distinctions because when it’s time to wake up and study and it is too cold for you and you are prompted to snooze the alarm, I won’t be there. The only thing that would grant you the discipline you need to get up, is your vision. And that’s the only way I can truly ‘motivate’ you.”

 

And that’s what I have for you today leaders and professionals. Today I don’t have stats, innovation hacks, leadership tactics or anything business-y. Today I’m personal. Today I’d like to be personal with you. Today I’d like you to be personal with yourself. Today I’d like you either develop, reaffirm, or reconnect with your vision. Whether this vision is entrepreneurial, professional, or personal.

 

In his 1961 Inaugural address, John F. Kennedy said; “Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.”

 

So, what is your thing? What stars are you exploring, and deserts are you conquering?

 

As a leader, you must have a vision. For Nelson Mandela it was a South Africa without apartheid. For Susan B. Anthony it was a United States in which women had the right to vote. For Capitec Bank it is simple and transparent banking for all clients regardless of their level of income or assets.

 

For Discovery it is to make people healthier. For Amazon is to be the absolute one-stop shop for everything a person would ever want to buy. For the 14-year-old me it was to have options in life and being able to buy electricity for my family.

 

  • So, what is your vision?
  • What’s your big picture?
  • What’s your thing?
  • How do you want to change your life or the world?
  • What kind of impact do you want to make as a leader in your organization or division?
  • What vision do you have?

 

 

I have found vision to be the only fuel you will ever need to recharge yourself, unleash your fullest potential and achieve great things.

  • Vision gives you resilience – to embrace the dark and get to the light at the end of the tunnel, you need to first see the light, even if it is in your mind. I passed my matric under pretty tough conditions, the odds were against me but the only thing that pushed me to do great throughout school was because I knew that my matric results were going to be my ticket. They were what would give me options in life. With them, when they’re good, I can decide what I want to do with my life, thinking from a place of abundance not of desperation.
  • Vision keeps you focused and disciplined – in my language, Sepedi, there’s this saying, ‘motho oa itaya’ – loosely translated; ‘at the end of the day you get to decide for yourself and live with what you choose’ I lived by that maxim. My family never really sat me down to give me “the talk” about life and stuff. I always knew everything was on me. ‘if it’s to be, it’s up to me’. So, I don’t tell young people not to smoke, date, drink, or fool around because they’re still young. I teach them about choice and responsibility. When you have a vision, you tend to make better choices that build and move you towards your vision. And that’s the same for the kind of people you choose to associate with, as it is for the kind of stuff you feed your body.
  • Vision enables you to evolve and adapt – sometimes in life we get dealt a bad hand. Bad things happen. Rude awakenings happen. Sabotages happen. Disruptions happen. And it is only vision that can keep you grounded and in pursuit. When I couldn’t find a funder to enroll for my second year in Engineering, the vision I had is what helped me create other possibilities for myself and helped me find other avenues to achieve my goals and build my career.
  • Vision gives you the courage and bravery you wouldn’t logically have – having a vision doesn’t immune you to fear and uncertainty. If anything, I’ve come to experience and learn that people with visions tend to be more prone to fear and uncertainty. And that’s because when you have a vision, it means you have something to lose. And everything to gain if you brave the fear and uncertainty.

 

A vision is good for you. For you as a leader and professional to gain Competitive Advantage against the disruption prone workplace and markets, the technology unemployment, and any threats that come with the constantly changing world, for you to build engaged and innovative teams, for you to make an impact as a leader, for you to build resilience and navigate ‘toxic’ workplaces, for you to have better and sustainable relationships, for you to have a thriving career, for you to have options in life - you need a vision.

 

Today I implore you to sit with yourself and ask yourself what your vision is. In my first article I talked about the importance of clarity and implored you to ask yourself what you’re trying to build. Revisit the article for reference as you work and get clear on that vision.

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