MY GREATEST SET-BACK

Let Go

 

 

 

 

The year was 2013 when I received an offer letter from one the most prestigious law firms in the country to serve my articles of clerkship with them commencing January 2015. I was very excited and grateful, but equally felt content because I knew that I had worked very hard to distinguish myself throughout the entire selection process.

I began serving my articles and everything was going great. I was achieving so much both inside and outside the firm and I can confidently say that everyone knew who “Phemelo” was. However, about halfway into my first year something began to change in me; like I was undergoing a massive psychological transition and began to question if practice was really where I belonged. Fast-forward to October 2016, retention decisions had to be made by the firm.

I felt calm about the whole process but was still overcome by this overwhelming question mark concerning whether this was for me or not. The day came and I was told that due to economic reasons I cannot be kept on as a commercial Associate.

I was disappointed and hated the fact that I would need to start job hunting immediately to ensure that I had a job come 1 February 2017, which was not going to be easy considering the fact that the job market has been increasingly tough throughout the world. This development led me to asking myself two fundamental questions: a) who am I and b) what do I truly want out of my life and career? People have always told me that they always see me in business; actually, I had about two directors at the firm telling me that I ought to be doing far great things than being in practice.

I finally came to terms with myself and accepted the fact that business and leadership is where I truly belonged and that it’s the area where my purpose truly lay. After multiple rejections from my job-seeking adventure, a recruiter I did not know sent me a message on LinkedIn telling me that one of her clients (one of the best corporate finance and private equity firms) was looking for a candidate who had just completed articles to groom from the ground up. Of course, I expressed my interest and within 5 days I was signing my employment contract with that organization.

When you have a strong identity and are in constant pursuit of your most authentic life, then purpose will always find a way of making you get there. However, it comes with the knowledge of knowing that you have to let go. Sometimes you need to let go of what you thought to be the perfect plan in order for you to enter the next level of your dreams. We tend to hang on far too long to things that are serving us very little purpose and bring no fulfilment. Let go of the clutch, you cannot access your next level with anything that represents the old.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Choice

 

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I have often wondered why we as individuals feel that our lives are directed by fate and that we don’t have a choice in how certain events turn out in our lives. I have always been a free spirit and a risk taker who was always ready to take the path less travelled than my peers. Despite the fact that I have always respected every person’s individuality and uniqueness, I became fascinated at how people’s lives turned out so differently after a number of years. Some became incredibly successful in their respective endeavours, and others just average virtually coasting along and waiting for a miracle to happen. Those that succeeded managed to do so despite the unfavourable circumstances they were in and the humble beginnings they were from. So how then could life turn out so differently for everyone?

The secret lies in the power of choices. We always have a choice in any given circumstance and how we act on those choices determines how our live take shape. In essence, our lives at the present moment are the strongest reflection of the choices we have made. If we want to change our lives then we must change the quality of our choices.

I have made the choice that I want to see exponential growth in my life. I want to be able to look at myself periodically and see precisely where I have been, where I am going, and how far I am from where I desire to be. I owe it to myself to grow and expand and it is my desire to grow in maturity and stretch my potential as far as I possibly can. In as much as I believe in the spirit of inclusion and not succeeding all by myself, I equally believe that I cannot limit my growth out of the fear that others might feel threatened by it. We all have a responsibility to determine our destiny and to direct our paths, and that means that a line has to be drawn between pleasing people and fulfilling our purpose.

I have decided that if I am going to realise my dreams and maximize my potential in every area of life then I have to ensure that I am relevant to the world that I am living in. That relevance is informed by the depth of my self-knowledge and the knowledge of the world around me, and can only find expression in my decision to live a growth-centred life.

Some of the most life-changing choices are those that are often the most difficult to make. Usually because such choices involve a lot of self-introspection (which is something many of us avoid doing), discomfort and the change in relationship dynamics with our peers and family members. Once we begin to consciously function within our choices, our outlook on life will change and we will begin to be more deliberate about every step we make in our lives. It is these small deliberate steps that form a magnificent end result- not one major “aha” moment. We therefore cannot give up, but have to keep pushing and demanding more from life. I certainly have made that choice.

 

THE ANSWER TO AUTHENTICITY

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I will never forget how excited I was when I started my first corporate job in January 2015 at a premier commercial law firm. I felt like I had finally “arrived” at the place I have always wanted to be at – working, earning a good living and also making strides all the way to the top. Within the first few months of my corporate job and being exposed to other professionals in in different sectors, I was struck by how unhappy, unfulfilled and unmotivated many of them were. It was very rare to come across individuals that stood out and were actively pursuing a specific and clearly defined vision.

I walked into this new chapter with a sense of certainty, energy and an assurance of what I wanted to do and be someone who was different from the rest; however this was greeted with negativity, resistance and opposition. People within closer proximity to me were more defiant of my rugged and unapologetic approach to life, whilst people who were more removed from me and knew me on a not so personal basis stood (and still do) in high admiration of my stance on life, but despite it all I had to remain authentic and stay true to myself. It almost sounds like a paradox when you speak about being a young person and living with authenticity, I doubt that’s what 20somethings are known for or branded to be about. The thing is authenticity is the bedrock of self-leadership and self-mastery and the earlier a young person can encounter this truth the better for them.

In order for me to be fulfilled and be able to adequately carve out a vision and a purpose for my life I had to be authentic and take a bold step that would set me on a path less travelled. I equally realised that my uniqueness can actually be a gift to this world if strategically channelled and it is the quality that can set me apart from many and be advantageous in my life and career. As a young person, it is important to live a life that has clarity of vision and purpose to such an extent that people ought to have a sense of who you are and where you are going without them having to ask you; that is how you set yourself up for success.

For young people especially in the corporate world, it can be very difficult to find ourselves since we are thrown totally unprepared into this jungle that has so many subtle and undocumented rules, and we are pressurised to somehow end up very successful in the midst of all of that. The answer is not bowing to pressures and wearing masks that seek to give off the impression that we are thriving when we are merely existing. The answer lays in finding an identity by moving away from the noise, owning your values and forging ahead in the strength of who you are. Whist it is not easy to do initially, but with sufficient effort it gets much easier with time. I am now fully persuaded that I belong, I am capable and that I have unlimited potential to be noticed and to add value wherever I go. It can be so for everyone.

Mentorship Musings

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Over the last two years I have listened to many “high profile” business people complaining about the quality of mentees they come across. The main issue is that many mentees don’t seem to have any intention of extracting value from the Mentor-Mentee relationship.

I have come to find this to be true from my own experience in mentoring young people. I believe that people have the wrong idea about what a mentor actually is or does. A mentor is not someone who walks into your life and starts to work miracles, carelessly dishing out resources and connections or even constantly motivate you all the time.

Before you approach someone to be your mentor, you have to be able to define what exactly you desire a mentor to assist with and also what you will be giving in return. In other words, you must be able to articulate the gap you would like the mentor to fill. A mentor is only coming into your life to add on to what already exists, while you will be doing all the work to grow and develop yourself. The mentees who turn out to be world class are those that demonstrate the following qualities:

Vision and Purpose:  

They understand precisely what they want to do with their lives or where they they would like to end up. It does not have to be a picture that is crystal clear, but there is a general idea about what the destination is in their lives. There is also a great sense of purpose, an active pursuit of something greater than them that forms an integral part of their identity.

When a person does not know where they are going, any road looks like it. However, where there is clarity regarding their vision then it is easy to attract individual who will add value to that journey. A mentor can never find your purpose for you and neither can they set out a vision for your life, these are discoveries we ought to make ourselves in pursuit of our relevance in this world and once we have found such we have to work tirelessly to groom and perfect that vision in such a way that it is clear and understood by the world around us.

 

Intentionality:

Successful mentees are able to extract the highest value from their mentors by being intentional and deliberate about their growth. They understand that a mentor does not owe them anything and do not feel entitled to any benefit, rather, they utilise any resource around them to add value to their growth and ultimately positively impacting their lives.

For example, I am very passionate about Leadership and women in business. I spend countless hours on YouTube and Google reading and watching interviews by many business leaders I admire in order to gain wisdom and understanding on many aspect of leadership. I have never met any of these business leaders (that is not even the point) and yet my knowledge in this area of life and grown exponentially. It is those little consistent efforts that you are willing to make, in our own private space with nobody watching that will make all the difference

Independence of mind:

There is nothing worse for a mentor than feeling that you constantly have to think for someone. Mental laziness has to be one of the biggest issues facing our generation and no leader wants the unpleasant job of having a mentee who treats them like a crutch.

The next time you think of rushing and asking someone to be your mentor, sit down and do a long and in-depth self- introspection and see what value you are also bringing to the table. Mentorship relationships are value for value; it is not a one way street of constant giving without any returns.

 

The Confidence Gap

Growing up I was the overly inquisitive young girl and student who always had a question to ask or always willing to answer a question. When I was still very young, that was not much of a problem; resistance only became clear as I entered high school and onwards.

I would face the wrath of students who felt I was prolonging lectures through my questions and that I was haughty  know-it-all, wanting to impress superiors through my hunger for knowledge. Interestingly enough, I realised that the backlash came from both genders, rather than guys, who I thought would be the ones to react most negatively.

 

When I tried to figure out why people responded to me this way, it dawned onto me that in most, if not all cases, I was either the only female or just one on a few  in a lecture theatre who consistently engaged with the person on the podium. When I would think more about why there were such few women who ever interacted in open forums, it then hit me : lack of confidence.

Confidence still eludes women. While men brim with it, we treat it as our enemy. Be anything and everything, but dare not be seen as self-believing and having assurance in your skills and potential. Now I understand why it was found so distasteful when I asked or answered questions. This is highly ironic because in order for us to be recognized, stand out from a crowd and create opportunities for ourselves, we have to take action. A lack of action robs us of being proactive in our lives and keeps us in the false sense of reality that fate will eventually give us what we feel we deserve. The only trouble with that notion is that life generally does not give us what we deserve; life simply gives us what we demand. Therefore no confidence means no action, no action means no results and no results mean no progress in our lives.

 

My inquisitive nature has at all times worked to my advantage by making powerful people take notice of me (and form great mentoring relationships with them), helped me secure my first job as a Candidate Attorney at one of the premier law firms in the country , and most importantly I have seen my intellect grow exponentially. The only way to get to the next level is through your hunger to have more -and the way to develop that hunger is through an action-orientated mind which is birthed by the power of confidence. If you do not believe in yourself, nobody else will, if you don’t think you are worth investing in, then nobody will make any effort to pour themselves out to you. So go on, put up your hand and ask questions. No amount of resistance from others can ever be enough to derail you from who God has created you to be. At the end of the day, we are accountable for our destinies and all that we failed to be shall be on our own heads.

 

This article was published in the November 2015 issue of Destiny Magazine.