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Belief, Taking Ownership and The Importance of GRIT

“You become what you believe” – message from my sushi takeout guy.

Made me think.

I’m pretty attached to my belief systems hey. I believe in God, I believe people should take responsibility for their actions, I believe that my beliefs are informed by my history, my context, and my paradigms, and I will therefore often look at complex issues with a narrow and often ignorant view.

I believe that the rugby Springboks are lucky to be in a World Cup Rugby final. I believe that the Proteas national cricket team is likely to choke in a knockout match. I believe that our soccer team is unlikely to ever perform on a global stage, and I believe that we consistently produce individual world-class performers like Elon Musk, Roger Federer (well maybe 50% of him), Charlize Theron, Roelof Botha, and Louis Oosthuizen, because they carry a resolute stubbornness to succeed in their genes.

I believe that people are quick to take credit for success and slow to own up to failures. I believe that I know a lot but I often fail to act on that knowledge, I believe that history can teach us a lot, but we tend to ignore the lesson. I believe that responses to aggression should be proportional but I also believe in decisive action as the only way to avoid bigger trouble down the line. And I believe that you can always find ample evidence to justify your actions.

120 years ago, in the second Boer War, the world’s smallest nation invaded the greatest empire in history. The result was, predictably and eventually, a near genocide of my people. And that bit of history, unfortunately not unique in the world, led to the atrocity that was Apartheid, where we decided to marginalize the “Other” so we could feel safe. But it is worth noting the start of all this – British aggression led the Afrikaners to a desperate place, where they knew war was inevitable. And, as such, if there is going to be a fight in the schoolyard, it’s probably better to throw the first punch. Or so the saying goes.

That ill-feeling towards Britain lingers today, in various subtle forms that still bubble. In an acrimonious semi-final that was ugly to watch but compelling nonetheless, the Springboks, representing all that is South African, defeated the English. It was a performance that spoke of grit, resilience, surviving on scraps, enduring despite the odds, and finding a way to win even when all is lost. Kind of like those Boer commandoes in the first years of the war. They provided a metaphor for those of us who choose to stay in this country, who choose to fight, who choose to make lemonade of the dubious lemons handed to us daily by our reprehensible leaders.

And, battered and bruised, we march on to a final against the old enemy, New Zealand. And, once again, the odds are against us. We win only 1 out of 4 games against this lot. But that’s the way we like it: With our backs against the wall.

I believe we can win this weekend. But, more importantly, I believe that our team – our people – have, over these last tumultuous years, found an extra gear of resilience, inventiveness, and problem-solving. And that, my friends, is why I believe.

Rugby, in South Africa, is more than a sport. Win or lose this coming weekend, we have once again been reminded by this team that we can also believe in ourselves a little more. We can believe that we can solve our big problems, and we can believe we are not small as we stand tall next to the world’s ‘great’ nations.

We believe that our differences are what makes us stronger, and we KNOW that a symbol (the Springbok) that divided a nation forty years ago now serves as an enduring symbol of hope value, and inclusion.

Like the ad, hey. I believe.

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