Vusi Thembekwayo Dreams and Ambitions | My life mission is very simple. I want to be to public speaking what Steve Jobs was to Apple. What Mohamed Ali was to boxing, what Michael Jordan was to basketball. I want to be the greatest there ever was. That’s what I want to be.
Speaking to Emotions | Always remember that there is a humanness about you that attracts people to you. Very few people are attracted by technique. That’s why you’ll get very few people who will romanticise about being good debaters, because debaters are trained how to be technically sound. Public speakers are trained on how to be emotively sound. We’re trained on how to move your emotions. Barack Obama got up and said, “Yes we can.” He didn’t debate; it wasn’t a technical debate. It was an emotive call to action to say, “yes… yes we can.”
The Best Advice I’ve Received | My father used to say to me, “everything you need to achieve all your wildest dreams you already have.”
Finding Your Purpose in Life | A lot of people ask me the question, “So, how do I know what is my purpose in life?” My answer to that is always this: that which you can do best with the least amount of effort, that’s what you ought to be doing. And it sounds so simple, but so many people haven’t actually thought around what it is that they do best.
Going through the Learning Process | The lady who taught me public speaking for many years used to use an analogy. She used to say, if you took a potato and you’re a potato farmer, it doesn’t matter how much water you’d water that potato with on a given day. It doesn’t matter how much it rains on a given day. The potato’s rate of growth is fixed. And so too with developing a skill and a craft. Your rate of growth is fixed. It doesn’t matter how much you try and work at it, or how much you try and short-change the process; you can’t do it. The best way you can do it is to commit yourself to the learning process, and to go through that learning process. So I always encourage people: never, ever try to short-change the suffering. Never, ever try to walk away from the difficult times, the difficult moments, ‘cause those are the times that will build you and prepare you for what’s to come.
Starting with Small Successes | I really focus on the successes I’ve had and then go about creating small, little successes. I’ll never go after the big fish. I always start with the small fish and conquering the small stages and the small platforms. And as you conquer those platforms and those stages, your confidence grows. And as the old idiom would have it, success breeds success. So, if you’re successful, and you’re becoming even more successful, you get into the habit of success, and that really helps build up your confidence.
Focusing on the People | Entrepreneurs need to focus their time on vetting character, because any venturing capitalist will tell you this: you never find the horse; you find the jockey. It’s never about the business; it’s about the guy driving the business. And so even if you’re going to go into a partnership with people, it’s very seldom about the business you’re pursuing. It’s more often about the person whom you are going into the partnership with, right?
Networking | When I meet people, my task – every single time I meet a person in any social space, if you and I are involved in a conversation – is to make you feel like you’re the only person in the room at that moment. I’m not focused on anybody else, I don’t talk to anybody else, I don’t focus on my phone. I try to engage in the discussion, and it’s all about you and I in that moment.
Questioning the Status Quo | Young people create discomfort. We question. We question authority, we question thinking, we question tradition, we question relevance. That’s what we need to do. Lest we don’t do that, we’ll never advance our people forward. And so, when I talk about our generation being manufacturers of discomfort, what it is that I’m saying is not we should go out and seek to be controversial, but rather, that we need to ask the questions that the older generation is not willing to ask, purely because they’ve accepted the status quo. In other words, we need to force us as a people to rethink our thinking. We need to force us as a country to rethink our thinking. Force us as a generation to rethink our thinking. To say, “What is the legacy that we as a generation want to leave behind?” There are Mandela's of their generation that left us a free country. That’s their legacy. What’s yours and my legacy?
Advice to a Younger Self | What I would’ve said to a younger version of Vusi is: When it comes, take it. Don’t wait, don’t ask questions, don’t hesitate, don’t think, don’t rethink, take it. The time is now, don’t be too academic about it, just do it. Take it, and live your life.
Thinking About the Future | I’m taking a lot of personal pain, building some of those businesses out of my own personal money that I pump into the businesses to make sure they work and operate, and they are able to sustain themselves. And the only way we’re doing that, and the reason we’re doing that is so that we’re future ready. It’s very important to be future ready. So, I really talk to and try to surround myself with people who are future thinkers. Who understand where I want to go.
In Five Years | And the question I always, I always encourage any, any young person especially to ask themselves is… in the next five years, what do you want people to say about you that they wouldn’t have said about you now?