David O’Sullivan interviews BrightRock’s Leopold Malan on Hot 91.9 FM

Executive director Leopold Malan was interviewed by David O’Sullivan on his Joburg PM-show on Hot 91.9FM about what it takes to start your own business, and how to equip it for a success story like the BrightRock success story. The interview was broadcast on Thursday, 8 December 2016 at 18:30 – listen to it below:

Breaking the Final Taboo of Marriage

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Love and romance may lead you to the altar, but a happy and healthy relationship will depend on your ability to share your thoughts on the ultimate taboo. Money. For richer or for poorer, here’s why you need to talk about it.

Whether you marry for love or money, sooner or later you’re going to have to sit down and talk about money. It’s the single biggest issue in any marriage, and talking about it an open and healthy way may be the best opportunity you have to keep love and romance aglow.

Marriage is a contract between kindred souls, bonded as one by love, trust, respect, and understanding.

What more do you need, beyond the dreamy shared gaze, the glittering band of gold, the echoes of “I do” that invite the happy couple to seal their magical moment with a kiss? Well, for one thing, you need a good lawyer.

For all the romance we associate with marriage, it is also a legal proposition, calling on both parties to choose whether to share or divide their possessions in the event that the glitter wears off.

“You need to plan for divorce before you get married,” says Kirsty Bisset, entrepreneur and blogger. “Marriage, without all the fluffy stuff, is a transaction. It’s a binding agreement to spend the rest of your life with somebody.”

That may come as a jolt to those of us who believe in the fluffy stuff, but as Kirsty made clear during a BrightRock Iris Session, hosted by David O’Sullivan, people change.

And so may your feelings for each other, 10 or 20 years down the line, which is why it’s good to have those “healthy and happy conversations” while you still can.

The chief subject, of course, being money, and how you should divide your worldly goods in the event of an irretrievable breakdown.

Psychologist Dorianne Weil, who also took part in the Iris Session, calls these “courageous conversations”, and argues that they’re not really about money after all.

“It’s really about what’s mine and what’s yours. It’s about power struggles. The mindset is me and you, not us. The money becomes the natural scapegoat.”

Dorianne, known as Dr D on radio, also believes that people don’t fall in love, as they do in the movies: “You fall in lust, and you grow in love,” she says. “The fantasies that you have are almost always positive, you’re making decisions that are going to last the rest of your life, very often without even knowing anything about the person.”

A good and lasting marriage depends on what Dorianne calls the Platinum Rule, which is: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”

But for attorney Aleisha Oliver, the third member of the panel, marriage is more than a relationship; it’s a regime. And it’s very important for the parties to choose the “marital regime” that will best govern their finances: an ante-nuptial contract with community of property, or out of community of property, with or without accrual.

Either way, says Aleisha, there must be equal communication, and equal respect at the heart of the negotiation.

“Money is at the root of problems, 80 to 90 per cent of the time.”

Kirsty agrees, which is why, every few months, she sits down with her husband, Barry, to discuss finances over a glass of wine and an Excel spreadsheet.

“Money is always a huge issue between two people, so we’ve kept the conversation very open. We have access to each other’s bank accounts. You need to meet each other halfway.”

For Dorianne, healthy communication is the key to a healthy marriage. “You go into marriage with hope and an open mind,” she says. “You want security, you want friendship, you want continuity, some shared interest, kindness, concern for the other person, respect. Marriage isn’t the icing on the cake. It’s the nourishing fruit-cake underneath.”

How you choose to divide that cake can make all the difference to the way your marriage thrives and prospers, for the good of both parties.

But it isn’t easy: “It’s hard work,” says Dorianne. “You have to keep asking yourself, what if? You have to face up to certain realities. You have to sit down and talk about your hopes, dreams, and intentions.”

And if you get that right, if you manage to find what Dorianne calls the balance between closeness and intrusion, space and distance, you’ll have more than enough time to celebrate the fluffy stuff – the love and romance – that brought you together in the first place.

*For more advice and insight on making the most of your marriage and your money, visit the Change Exchange, our breezy online portal for everything you need to know about the Big Change Moments in life: Tying the Knot, Starting a Family, Landing That Job, and Making a Home.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

When You’re in Love With the Smell of Wet Cement

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Every home-owner knows that a home is a work in progress. Whether it’s a bathroom in need of new tiling, or a kitchen in need of new everything, the quest for improvement goes on and on. Here’s some expert advice on how to add value to your home, and peace of mind to your renovations 

Everybody wants to live in the home of their dreams. A bright garden with a sparkling pool; a sun-lounge with bay windows and Oregon floors; a study at the quiet end of a shady path; a big bathroom with a pressed-steel ceiling; a kitchen expansive enough to accommodate your heart and soul.

But every dream comes with a disclaimer, and in the case of domestic bliss, it is this: sooner or later, you’re going to have to renovate.

Because every house is a work in progress, and anyone who has ever owned one will be happy to share their terrifying tales of absconding builders, burst geysers, overflowing budgets, and enough noise and dust to drive you out of home.

At the same time, if you manage to get it right, you could add significantly to the value of your property, not just in financial terms, but in the happiness and well-being that comes from a job well done.

With that in mind, David O’Sullivan invited three home-renovation experts into the BrightRock studio for an Iris Session on the do’s and don’t’s of home improvement.

Mandy Collins, a journalist, author, and “home improvement fanatic” who has just moved into a new home in Johannesburg; Wicus Pretorius, editor of the home improvement glossy, Tuis; and Christopher Hajec, managing director of the real estate agency, Seeff Randburg West Rand.

Mandy, who fell in love with her new home on the first amble up the garden path, admits she overlooked a few minor flaws in favour of its charms. “If you call it shabby chic, you can get away with anything,” she says.

Then, one day, she looked up and saw the massive damp spot on the ceiling. “The guy I bought the house from said, it’s from a previous leak, the roof is sound, don’t panic.”

But you do, not just because you’re worried about the roof over your head, but because you’re already spending enough money on your mortgage.

That puts you in a classic dilemna: do you keep on fixing things up, or do you start looking for another place to fall in love with?

The reality, says Christopher, is that more and more homeowners are turning to renovation, because it’s become so “cost-prohibitive” to move.

“The upper end of the market has slowed down considerably. Rather than selling, people are renovating.”

But renovating a home can be its own reward, especially if you see it as a creative task, rather than a bothersome chore.

Wicus, whose publication offers homeowners advice and inspiration on reimagining and reinventing their homes, sees renovation as a fulfilling hobby: “To me, the smell of wet cement is better than the smell of a leg of lamb,” he says.

But he draws the line at toying around with plumbing or electrical work. That’s where you need to get the professionals in.

But even small cosmetic changes can make a big difference to the look and value of a house.

For example, “take up the horrible carpets and show the Oregon pine floors. Floors are the fifth wall of a house. They can totally change the look. But proper doors, replace door handles. You can make a huge difference for a fairly small investment.”

While Mandy says her new house felt like home from the day she moved in, she still plans to change the tiles – “They’re beige, and I’m not a beige person” – and she has a bathtub standing in the garden , waiting for that big renovation day. Until then, she uses it as a sanctuary for reading, filling it with cushions and lying back for a relaxing escape.

But when talk turns to home improvement, it inevitably takes a detour to a syndrome estate agents like to warn you against – over-capitalisation.

“In the real estate industry, we like to say that we sell a used product,” says Christopher. “For the uninitiated, it can be scary. Think about the style and longevity of the décor when you renovate. We often say to a seller, if you had known you were going to sell, would you have put in this improvement? We see overcapitalisation all the time.”

But if you think carefully about why you’re improving your home, and what you hope to get out of it in the long run, it can help to turn your biggest investment in life into a dream home come true.

For more advice and insights on making the most of your home, watch the full Iris Session below:

*For more advice and insight on the changing world of work today, visit the Change Exchange, our breezy online portal for everything you need to know about the Big Change Moments in life: Tying the Knot, Starting a Family, Landing That Job, and Making a Home.


The High Cost of Tying the Knot

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Whether you settle for a quiet get-together with family and friends in the garden, or a lavish weekend do-I-do at a manor house in the country, getting married is an expense that could put that richer or poorer pledge to the test before you even say your vows. Here’s how to handle the budget on your Big Day

Marriage is a contract between parties, and few parties are as significant as the one you hold on the day you get married. “For richer or for poorer,” runs the pledge, the latter being the likelier option once you’ve tallied up the bill.

Unless, of course, like the Russian oligarch who spent $1-billion on his daughter’s wedding – he hired Sting and Jennifer Lopez to sing at the reception – you have no need to trifle with budgetary constraints.

For the rest of us, who have to make to do with the guy who runs the local mobile disco, the big question, next to whether or not we take our beloved to be our lawful wedded spouse, is whether we can afford to get married in the first place. Well, of course we can.

The cost of living happily ever after is always negotiable. All you have to do is start with your ultimate fairytale fantasy wedding, and bring the budget down from there.

To get a sense of what that means, we invited three experts in wedding affairs into the BrightRock studio, to share their thoughts in an Iris Session with David O’Sullivan.

On the couch: wedding planner Khali Collins, owner of The Wedding Specialists; and Mike Sharman, co-founder of the ad agency, Retroviral, who recently tied the knot with his wife, Taryn. And beaming in from Cape Town, our resident financial commentator and common sense adviser, Maya Fisher-French.

As Maya sees it, wedding planning should not be seen as something separate from financial planning.

“You need to ask yourself, what are your goals and aspirations? If a wedding now means not being able to put a deposit down on your dream home, is that the decision you want to be making?”

If you borrow R100,000 for the wedding – and a lot of couples are now financing their own weddings, says Maya – you’ll be paying off R5,500 a month for the next three years.

Better to scale your wedding realistically according to what you can afford, advises Khali. The most expensive budget she’s had to work with was R8-million, but on average, you can look at spending between R2,000 and R2,500 per wedding guest.

“Some clients do want a champagne wedding on a beer budget,” she says, but you can manage your costs by taking a good look at what you really need on the day. Do you really need a bottle of red wine and white wine on each table? No, says Khali. Rather make it an option on the menu.

“What’s more important to you? Do you want to focus on the drinks and people having fun, or do you want to focus on this great lavish dress? Where are you prepared to spend money?”

For Mike and Taryn, who both work in advertising, the answer was to approach their wedding with the same attention to detail and cost as they would approach a campaign for a client.

They broke their wedding down into “pre-production, “production”, and “post-production”, incorporating every element from the bachelor party to the service to the reception.

“We sat down and discussed all the items,” says Mike, “and then unfortunately you have the miscellaneous line item which continues to grow and grow as that big day nears. It was important to start off with a base of, what are we trying to achieve from this day, from an execution point of view? What is the delivery?”

Being in the industry also brought other benefits, such as the gift of a day’s free videography from a friend who also works for an ad agency.

“You have to strike that balance between affordability and the wedding of your dreams,” says Mike, who thoroughly researched options for a venue online, before settling on Old Mac Daddy, a retro-hip “trailer farm” in Elgin in the Cape.

Hosting your wedding in an out-of-the-way place is also a good way to put a cap on numbers, laughs Mike, because only your true pals and close family will make the trek.

It’s now become commonplace for couple to start their wedding planning on social media, says Khali, although that can create false expectations of a “Pinterest-perfect” wedding.

And that’s just the trouble, adds Maya, who happily admits that she rented a wedding dress for her big day, rather than splash out on tailor-made garment that she would only wear once.

“Don’t place your entire happiness on one perfect day,” she advises. “Go with the flow. Enjoy it, celebrate. And if it pours with rain and the cake collapses, don’t worry about it!”

Whatever the budget, wherever the venue, whatever the table settings, it’ll still be a day you’ll remember all your life, for all the right reasons.

For more advice and insight on planning your wedding day, visit the Change Exchange, our breezy online portal for everything you need to know about the Big Change Moments in life: Tying the Knot, Starting a Family, Landing That Job, and Making a Home.

** The opinions expressed in this piece are the Iris Session participants’ own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.


Getting to grips with teen anxieties

By Thabo Monama

ONE MUM who lost her 14-year-old daughter to a sudden suicide in August last year, remembers talking to her youngest child a week before she died.

It was an everyday conversation between a parent and her teen; light-hearted talk packed with the challenges of growing up.

“She asked me when she would be old enough to have a boyfriend. “I joked with her and told her she would have to wait until she was 40, because you don’t have brains until you’re 40,” she said.

The grieving mum started the Klara Gottert Foundation to create support and awareness in her daughter’s name. Recently, the mum was part of the online chat Iris Session, hosted by BrightRock and broadcaster David O`Sullivan.

Other panellists included educational psychologist Tshepiso Matentjie and journalist and author Mandy Collins. Iris addresses the very complex topic of parents talking with teenagers.

Mandy said it’s impractical for a parent to say they know for sure where their children are at all times and what they might be doing.

But it is possible to lay down clear boundaries and build a relationship based on trust and understanding.

However, it’s one thing to be able to act on your instincts, but it’s another to be able to get through to a teenager. Any parent will tell you that there are two default teenage responses to a good parental talking-to: The back-chat, followed by the door-slam, and the simmering sulk, followed by silent treatment.

Tshepiso, who has served as resident psychologist on TV talk shows, and as consultant psychologist at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, said: “I would rather have a child who chats back. With the quiet ones, you might miss something. You need to look at changes in behaviour, loss of appetite, the signs of something going on. For a parent, it’s so hard to find the moment of crisis. Even adults struggle to deal with stress.”

Mandy said: “If we don’t let our children see that we also have emotions then, when they’re suddenly hit with those emotions, how do they know what to do with them?

“We often don’t listen well or deeply enough. Instead, we lecture. Listen to what they’re saying, not to what you think they`re saying.”

For more information visit The Change Exchange.

* This article was originally published on page 20 of the Daily Sun of 18 February 2016.

David O’Sullivan talks #WEF16 with Alec Hogg

After Davos-veteran Alec Hogg shared some some of the vital take-outs from the World Economic Forum’s 16th Annual Meeting (#WEF16), he sat down with media veteran David O’Sullivan to talk about South Africa’s economic and political prospects for the year ahead.

BrightRock illuminated all Alec’s news coverage and analysis from Davos in BizNews.com, before he presented the key take-outs from Davos during a breakfast for BrightRock’s Laureate advisers at Blue Valley Golf Estate in Midrand after his return from Switzerland. Watch or read the full conversation below:


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] Alec, if I could start with a couple of issues you raised right at the end there. And they are the topical issues. We have the State of the Nation Address; what do you think, and I’m not going to ask you what Jacob Zuma is going to do, but what should he be saying in his State of the Nation Address to appease foreign investors that South Africa is still the place to be?  Now that was his expression in Davos. He said to foreign investors that this is the place you should be. What should he be saying to persuade foreign investors that South Africa is still an option?


[ALEC HOGG] Shoo, David. I think the reality of where we find ourselves as a nation is a little bit like a company that has just had its reputation destroyed. Reputational risk is something that we should all be aware of. Warren Buffet says that you don’t ever do something that will land you on the front page of a newspaper that all your friends are going to read and you will not be proud of. And we’ve done that. We’ve landed not just on the front page of the paper that all our friends read but that all our enemies read as well. What happened to this country in December and the reputational risk that was created, at that point in time and through Nene-gate and prior to that, just emphasized the direction the country was going economically. The challenge that now exists is rebuilding that reputation. And that’s not going to happen overnight. But Pravin Gordhan has been…you know, the business hasn’t met with government seriously for about seven years, literally, and Pravin Gordhan is now initiating that process. Zuma literally goes along to those meetings and sits there and chuckles and Pravin runs them. There’s a process that is now moving in the right direction. I guess the best … what we should be hoping for is a return to sound economic policies; a realisation – and this is really what the big story is – after 2008 we had quantitative easing. Quantitative easing, just pump money into the system. So it didn’t matter how good you were or how bad you were – you just flourished. The whole world flourished. Even a moron – and he is a moron – like Chavez, he’s dead now and you can’t defame the dead so let’s go for it. But what Chavez did to Venezuela is unconscionable. He had an oil price of $100 a barrel and he could do what he liked. He could employ crazy policies. Venezuela has voted out the socialists after 16 years and voted in a new government but the old government doesn’t want to let go. I mean it’s a crazy thing. Argentina had the same situation but the new government is in there.  But the reality was that when you had this easy money just flooding the system you could get away with anything. And you did. So 21st century socialism flourished – including in South Africa. In South Africa if you take a look at how our budgets have been structured over the past few years – it’s been more spending on the social net and less spending on developing the economy. It’s been more tightening of the socialist type rules which restrict growth and less freeing up on those market type rules which promote economic growth. As a consequence we’re one of the worst performers on economic growth at the moment. A reversal of that tide is going to require political courage; and if we can see a start in that direction, first in the State of Nation and secondly in the budget, then we’ll start going in the right direction.


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] He’s certainly sending out signals to foreign investors that things are good in South Africa. He was saying we are open for business. From the people you were talking to in Davos is that confidence that the President is exuding is that shared? Is there a belief that South Africa at least still provides opportunities for foreign direct investment?


[ALEC HOGG] Well, again a lot of these things are a process. You might recall that there was a very rapid visit to Angela Merkel by Jacob Zuma towards the end of last year. And after he arrived back Mercedes Benz announced a R4 billion investment. Now the timing was not coincidental. There were certain guarantees, no doubt, that were provided in those discussions. The Brand South Africa every year in Davos takes the Kirchner Museum which is a landmark area. It was like a morgue this year. There wasn’t interest. The trouble is you screw up and then you say: ‘Oh hell I’m sorry, please come back.’ Or, things aren’t what they seem to be, or … the first step to recovery is admitting we’ve got a problem. And Pravin has done that. The President is in a different zone.


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] He was talking about, also, in his statement – in his speech – in Davos; he spoke about Invest South Africa; this initiative to ease constraints to get rid of the bureaucratic slowdowns to ease foreign investment in South Africa. Is it making South Africa more investor friendly? Is that an initiative that’s going to bear fruits at any stage do you feel?


[ALEC HOGG] The problem is he signed into law the ‘Promotion of Investment Act’ in mid-December while nobody was paying notice. That’s the worst thing that you could think of. In this day and age we have many social imperatives in this country and really we can all buy into them. We can buy into BEE, we can buy into the fact that the previously disadvantaged need to be brought into the system. And it’s true. And it has to happen. But you can’t say to a foreign investor to come to the country but give away 50% of what you put in. Why? Why would they do that? They’ve got the rest of the world to choose from. So, you’ll find where the investments are happening here are where there are special dispensations. The ‘Motor Industry Development Plan’ is extremely attractive to the motor manufacturers. As a consequence we have very happy motor manufacturing companies who are expanding it. When the tide goes out; when the easy money tide goes out – you see who’s been swimming naked. To use another lovely Warren Buffet term. Both Christine Lagarde of the IMF, and there were other commentators as well, said that countries like South Africa and Brazil have not taken advantage of the good times and now they have to struggle through the bad times. So when you hear Gordhan talk about structural reforms and grasping the nettle and spending less than we earn etc. then for the first time we are hearing the right language. For the first time, literally since the Zuma administration took over. The Zuma administration I would remind you, were saying a few years ago that we’re going to create 5 million jobs by 2015. And then it’s we have a good story to tell. And, and, and… I don’t know if it’s because the Presidency is very poorly advised, or whether within the Presidency there’s just no grasp of these major issues. But there are people within the cabinet who are … and there are people within the top six of the ANC who are very mindful and very aware of these issues. And if you go back to the ninth of December when … you know that was like the final straw … with this guy who was chased out of Carletonville as the mayor being appointed as Finance Minister. And Trevor Manuel said afterwards … and then being painted as superstar … Trevor Manuel felt strongly enough to actually issue … to write a statement to City Press newspaper, an open letter, where he said that if this guy was such a star why did I never see him in the five years I was an MP in Parliament? So that whole thing has now unravelled. Sometimes you need to push the envelope just that little too far and it appears as if 21st Century Socialism did that and it’s now being reversed. So, if you were to take South Africa, would I rather be sitting in South Africa today or on the 8th of December? I would choose today a lifetime. Every lifetime, because we actually hit that issue that opened everybody’s eyes … to the reality to where we might have gone to. And the problem is if you’re used to bullshtting, it’s very hard not to bullshit. If you’re used to propagandising or thinking that people listen to your propaganda it’s very hard to reverse that. And until you van grasp the modernity of a complex economy like South Africa where everybody’s informed … I mean the Edelman’s Trust Barometer was something if I were running the government I would be terribly concerned about. Because if only 16% of the people of this country believe that they can trust the government … if you had 16% of the people believing they can trust your company you don’t have a company. So those are the realities that are being grasped in certain quarters but it’s politics … and politics, and sometimes you have to get the votes.


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] Let’s talk about Pravin Gordhan. We’ve got the budget coming up. You’ve mentioned those IMF figures dropping the forecast for economic growth from 1.3 to 0.7%. Pravin Gordhan in one of the addresses Davos said that the challenge is to see what we can do differently to surprise the IMF. Is he able to pull the rabbit out of the hat as soon as the budget; is this a longer term process for him? What are you anticipating for the budget?


[ALEC HOGG] He’s got, we’ve all got as South Africans, a long road ahead of us. We blew it in the good times and now we don’t have the advantage that some countries had from the good times. Many of the enlightened countries took the money, even Nigeria from their boom, and they stuck it away into special funds which they can now draw on. We don’t have that benefit. And the most important thing that one has to look for in the budget is that Pravin is actually following through on what he’s been saying. If he is as … you know R.W. Johnson who wrote that magnificent book, if you haven’t read it, ‘How long will South Africa survive?’… It’s a … to be an informed citizen of this country you should read it. Because it often … people just go by headlines and then go by reality and he makes the case quite forcefully of what really is going on in the country and has been going on in an economic sense. And his view still is that at some point in time we’ll go into junk status and then have to ask the IMF for a bailout which he said is a good thing. Because when that happens the IMF gives you certain conditions which are common sense economic conditions and then you get rid of all the rhetoric and you can you blame it on the IMF. You have to do this, like flexible labour legislation and all the other obvious things that they’ve been saying for years and that we’ve known for years is wrong with this economy. So the reality of where South Africa is going … Pravin says we can avoid junk status; R.W. Johnson says it’s just a matter of time. Pravin has the tools at his disposal politically to make those changes. R.W. Johnson says Pravin is ‘unfireable’. And I think that anybody who saw the tailspin in the Rand after Van Rooyen was brought in and before Pravin was re-appointed will have to agree with that. But then again, stranger things have happened in politics so let’s just hope we don’t go and blow both feet off with one shotgun.


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] But you don’t expect a kind of Rubicon-type reaction to the budget? The budget is going to be something that will consolidate our position. Just steer us in a steadier course than we have been.


[ALEC HOGG] Well, Nene was a very good Finance Minister. And he managed to, against all odds, to balance the books. He did it through sleight of hand; if you know the numbers and look at them. Last year we had the Unemployment Insurance Fund which was … which was … got plenty of money. He took R16 billion from that; effectively it was supposed to go into the Road Accident Fund and never made it there. It went into the coffers which as, as far as an international investor’s concerned is not a bad thing. Because it meant you balanced the books. But if you took that R16 billion out you might have been in a more difficult situation. What the world looks at are just a few stats really. The big one … it’s like when you look at international companies you see what’s their PE ratio, what’s their dividend yield and you can then scan many companies at the same time. When you looking at countries you look at their budget deficit, percentage wise, and their debt/GDP ratio and then the higher, the worse it is. So in South Africa we’ve gone from a debt to GDP ratio of 26% when Trevor Manuel was running the place to over 50% today. In a developing country you shouldn’t really get to 50%. You should try to keep it at least below that. However, the good news is Japan is at 200%. So rather be a South African than Japanese at the moment.



[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] Right, let’s take some questions from the floor. I did see a gentleman with his hands up over there. Please wait for the microphone because are recording this and need to capture the sound of your question as well.


[QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE] Good morning colleagues. I would like to ask the gentleman a question and then from there I’ll make a statement. My question is would you prefer Jacob Zuma to be President for six months or rather have Thabo Mbeki to have four terms as a president?


[ALEC HOGG] No question. If we go the route of fiddling with the constitution then I don’t believe South Africa has a future. We’re a constitutional democracy with a constitution where the constitutional court is the supreme body in this country. So I would … I know where you’re going with, I think I know where you’re going with his … If Mbeki had wanted a third term as has been widely speculated and believed at the time then I think the whole country did the right thing by not allowing that.


[QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE] But the reason I asked the question is that reality is that we don’t have many candidates … who … fit candidates to be president of this country. More especially from the ANC. Cyril Ramaphosa, I’ll count them one-by-one, Cyril Ramaphosa he has already dented himself with Marikana to be part of the mess that the country is in today. So he’s not a fit candidate. Mmusi Maimane doesn’t speak to the ordinary masses of this country. So I’m simply saying, I’m suggesting or my view is that we need to change the constitution to allow people who are fit and proper to run this country. Because we cannot have a situation whereby we are limited by the constitution to have any guy who just stays for two terms and from there we get another guy who is incapable who brings the country down.


[ALEC HOGG] I can’t disagree with you more. Thankfully we are in a free country where we can have our own statement. I would just say to you though to remember that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. All we have to do is look to examples on our continent where constitutions have been changed; where we have presidents-for-life. Supposedly good presidents and unfortunately that is part of the human condition.


[QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE] And then secondly … I also …maybe this is political. I disagree with the fact that Africa contributes 3% to the global GDP, you know? If you look at Africa as a continent it’s the richest continent in the world. The problem is just that the Europeans are systematically destabilizing Africa. They take resources from us. And they actually depend on Africa to survive. So that need’s to change so that they come and invest in the country and also empower the citizens of the country. I just believe that there’s just so much in Africa which Europeans are not doing for the indigenous people of the countries.  I’m also against BEE because it only empowers the few black elite.


[ALEC HOGG] We agree on lots … we are always going to disagree on the numbers. The numbers are clear. Africa’s contribution to global GDP is 3%. You can take all the GDP on the continent and add it together. But we do agree on a lot more. My approach to these things is that we cannot be emotional. The world doesn’t need us. The world doesn’t need Africa. And it’s shown. You know there’s massive amounts of aid that are pouring into this continent through the good people of other parts of the world; not necessarily the politicians. We have no right to anything, we have to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] I think you are right; the potential for Africa to be a greater contributor to global GDP should be a lot higher. But as Alec said the reality is at the moment it’s 3%. Raise your hand if you’ve got any more questions; we can send the microphone. …


[QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE] Howzit, Alec, I’d like to just…uhm … you mentioned briefly Britain and India being … you know … apart from the rest. India’s almost been quiet in the news. Just quietly growing by 6%. And from the people I speak to there, they’re very happy with their government. Also a massive economy. What are the views out there in terms of their contribution to the global picture? Because it’s almost, from a media perspective, it’s dominated by China and Brazil and these places but it’s been quite quiet in India. These are good things. I would just like to hear what the Davos reviews were on India?


[ALEC HOGG] India is an interesting country for us to look at as a model. Because when the liberation movements finally succeeded in India it took 60 years of reimplementation of the Raj – the licenced Raj they call it – before they threw out the socialists. Which they did last year and Narendra Modi’s party was voted into power. What is interesting, and it’s a similar situation that happened in Argentina, in India Modi was running one of the states. And the state was an outlier to the rest of India. The policies he had implemented there were modern economic policies. There’s no reason why the United States should have 26% of global GDP with only 5% of the people. The only reason is that they have economic policies that promote the efficient distribution of goods and services. It’s that damn simple; when you put obstacles in the way of human ingenuity then you will not grow as fast as those who allow human ingenuity to grow. So what happened in India last year when they changed their government was that they started implementing lots of new policies. They grew last year at 7.5%. The Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, was quite celebrated in Davos this year and he was saying that it should have been higher than 7.5% but they had a really bad monsoon on which two thirds of the Indian population rely. So they’re expecting a base-load of 5% he said; they won’t go below five and they’re expecting quite a significant increase over that. The Indian example tells us how corruption can destroy a country’s fabric. When the British colonialists were in power they ran it like a colony and as a consequence anything you wanted to do you had to have a licence for. So when it transitioned to the new government everything you wanted to do you needed a licence for … And if you can imagine a more fertile ground for corruption than that; you have to pay someone to get the ability to actually do something. And they’ve suffered under that for 60 years. India is … you won’t find more enterprising people. We know this from our own group of people from an Indian background in South Africa. Massively aware of value, very enterprising, very hardworking, very able to develop business pretty quickly in the most difficult conditions as they did in apartheid South Africa. And when you unleash that potential then you have another China happening. The reality is now that with that potential being unleashed; with just a different approach towards governance and corruption, India is the next driver. It’s pretty consistently believed around the world that that’s what’s going to happen. Britain is a small population. India has a billion people, Britian has 60 million. Although Britain is well positioned for the fourth industrial age, and it really is, because of the history of the British. They are tolerant, they are educated. You know why do the Russians and the Iranians and the Israelis buy expensive property in London? Because they think that the political system is stable and continue is going to. The advantages that Britain has in this fourth industrial revolution that we’re going into is enormous but the size of its population means that it will never be the driver that India or China would be.


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] You met some very interesting people in Davos, Alec. You spoke about Ian Golding, The age of discovery, the new renaissance being led now by the developing countries; you spoke about India, China. You also mentioned in your address, you touched on Argentina. Just flesh out a little bit more about the lessons that Argentina is teaching us? What’s happening there?


[ALEC HOGG]It’s a wonderful time. It reminds me of ’94 when we had the ANC government is South Africa about to take over; with idealism, with bright eyes, with enthusiasm, with the determination to fix everything of the wrong of the past. And to make it new and to make it fresh. We have a … Davos is like the typical Swiss. They have a number of different organisations that the more you go there the more you move up the hierarchy. I’m a member of the International Media Council. There are about 70 people who are on this. And we have a day that they organise presidents, three presidents to come and see us. It’s a small little group, maybe 30 who are there, because not everyone in the International Media Council comes along. And the presidents usually bring along their entourage. The president of Iran, Rohani, came a couple of years ago when they were trying to woo the world media or the world really for investments. And he had to huge big bodyguards standing either side of him. Which is the only thing I remember of what he said. Last year the Turkish guy was there who was quite aggressive. And this year we had like three different presidents. We had a guy who is a top coder, who’s the Prime Minister of Canada, Rock star president – Justin Trudeau.  I mean he really is. He looks like he could be a Justin Timberlake or something. And young. Very young. And then we had a 66 year old Princeton professor who is an Afghan and went back to Afghanistan and stood in election and was elected as president in that country. And left this very privileged existence in the West to become dedicated to the cause of his own country. If you think you’ve got problems in your own country, that’s the wonderful thing about Davos, just look around you and you will see they just pale into insignificance. He was fascinating. And then the third of these was Mauricio Macri, who is a little like Modi in India in that he ran Buenos Aires as a more modern economy, just the city. Just like Bloomberg ran New York City. And he made such a success of it that he used the prospectus of Bueno Aires as a prospectus for what he would do for the country. And there was a massive swing in Argentina, again after a decade and a half of socialism. They voted the socialists out. Voted Macri in. One of the first things he did – there was a running fight between Kirchner, the previous president, and the international community over bonds that Argentina refused to pay – he went and settled them. He said, he told us, it was all off the record but I can tell you this now because it’s happened. He said: ‘My first priority is we got to get back in the international capital markets. We can’t be an island on our own; we need to embrace the world. We need the world’s money. And that’s what people often forget about a developing country. Developing countries need the world’s money. We in South Africa know it better than most when in 1985 when PW Botha’s Rubicon speech was made, Willard C. Butcher, the chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, after that cut off credit lines. And if those of you with memories will recall that between 1985 and 1990 South Africa had what was called a debt standstill and we had to export capital. And as a consequence, we just didn’t have capital to export, and the economy then just imploded on itself. The consequences were that the transition to democracy came a lot more rapidly. That was exactly what Macri has seen. He was a business man. He understands business. And increasingly around the world you’re seeing business related people who are getting into more positions of authority. And if there was an ETF in any country in the world today I would buy in Argentina. You just see they just hit rock-bottom. The people have gone through so much pain that they’re just not prepared to carry on with it. And they’ve rejected the ideological issues that have taken them into this trouble and started embracing the old-fashioned ideals of let’s work hard and we’ll make it happen.


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] Any questions from the floor? I’ve got a few more issues that I would like raise with Alec as well. This issue with this new age of discovery, the new renaissance; where does South Africa fit in as a player? Do we … are we up to speed? Do we have the skills? Do we have the education to be part of this revolution as it’s unfolding?

[ALEC HOGG] David, I’m very positive on this because we are in the top … remember we are a small country. There are seven billion people on earth; we have got 54 million. We’re manageable and that was the thing when I spoke to the guys in India about our challenges in South Africa. They said: ‘We’ve got 300 million people who are in deep poverty in India’. So although India is moving in the right direction; the challenges that they face are just so much greater. We in South Africa are in a very very privileged situation. We’ve got the first three revolutions. We’re in the fourth revolution. We have very smart people. You just look at people around the world from South Africa and what they’ve done. The greatest entrepreneur in the United States today is Elon Musk and Elon Musk is from Pretoria. The people who are transforming the whole solar energy market are a company called Solar City. It’s run by two brothers, the Rive brothers from Pretoria. Maybe it’s just Pretoria. [Laughing] No. We do have an engaged population that are well educated, or if you like, a sliver who are well educated. We have a desire that not many other countries around the world have to do good. There’s an ability by South Africans to embrace the new world that we’re going into. I mean not everybody likes some of the restrictions that have been applied to doing business in South Africa but you kind of embrace it. People in South Africa do social responsibility because they want to do it not because they have to do it. So there are a lot of things that are to our advantage but the biggest thing, why I’m most excited about this, is that we have the tools with which to take those 54 million people and to give them the opportunity to participate in the fourth industrial revolution. You know that the Vice-President of Nigeria was saying that they literally don’t have the resources to go out and build a 100 000 schools. So what they’re doing is taking mobile phones and training teachers; 600 000 teachers in the next few months on mobile phones. And using mobile phones as a way of educating those millions of kids in a country of 160 million people who otherwise would just have no education whatsoever. So it’s that leapfrogging. We’ve got the infrastructure. We’ve got the telecoms infrastructure. We’ve got the desire. We’ve got the incentive. We’ve got the desire. Everything is there; we just need to unleash that human potential. Sometimes you need to hit a hard place where you realise that people actually do a hell of a lot better when they are given the opportunity to have their own potential unleashed rather than being fed. And I’ll use probably the most remarkable person I met in Davos this year was Mohammad Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. As it happened, you know you get lucky sometimes, we were staying in the same 3-star hotel. And he … I had a half an hour with him … and what he said … and my wife who has obviously sat in on a lot of these interviews just to listen said that she’s never ever been so inspired. He’s a short little guy. He started a thing called Grameen Bank. He’s feisty as anything. Some of the questions I asked he didn’t like and he kind of almost wanted to box me over them. But Grameen Bank is in Bangladesh and again you think we’ve got problems; look at Bangladesh. What he did there was he found illiterate, unemployed women and started off lending them $30 and the $30 loan, once they’d been able to repay that, they would get more. It was all to do with giving the ability to employ themselves. And it’s been a massive success story. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed illiterate Bangladeshi ladies have created business because of Grameen Bank. It’s why he won the Nobel Peace Prize. It has been that successful. In fact the Indian Finance Minister went to visit with him and applied something that he’s applied, which was what was really inspiring to me, to create a hundred thousand new businesses in India in the last few months. He said the problem was, after 30 years on, after all these illiterate ladies from Grameen Bank had taken their kids and sent them to university and their kids came out of university with their degrees they sat at home and  waited for someone to give them a job. You see that’s not the way the world works, when we came out of wherever, mud huts, caves whatever or that time our ancestors came out of those places they didn’t put together their CVs and go around and asked people to employ them. The human condition is self-employment. Other people are not there to give us a job. We need to create our own jobs. So he took these kids who were sitting there, far better educated than their parents, he’s taken them back to university – to his Grameen Academy – and he starts teaching them about entrepreneurship. Most of them didn’t have a clue of what business to start. So as a consequence – because he asked them for business ideas – as a consequence for the next six months you’re going to work with your mother. And you learn from your mother about entrepreneurship. And so as a consequence once you come back we will lend you the money. We will own a 100% of your business from day one. But as you repay the loan … You own a 100% when you have repaid in its entirety. Last year he started 5000 new businesses this way. This year he started 30 000 new businesses. And the Indians have applied the same principle and started 100 000 new businesses. It’s all a question of allowing the human potential to come out. They’re doing it in Bangladesh; they’re doing it in India. It’s possible in this country.


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] I’m sure this strikes a chord with a lot of our audience here as people who I’m presuming are running their own brokerages, the self-employed, this philosophy of social entrepreneurship that Mohammad Yunus has been talking about must ring true. I wonder though how appropriate and fit that model is for South Africa? Is that something we could be borrowing from?


[ALEC HOGG] It’s the only way. If we are looking at a 50% youth unemployment rate in South Africa, which we are, and we’re looking at an overall unemployment rate of 25% and our best ideas got us there; we need to find new ideas.

[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] And you reckon this is an answer, this is a model. Has anyone in South Africa expressed an interest in this model that Mohammad Yunus has come up with?


[ALEC HOGG] David you know our people aren’t lazy. And when I say our people, as you know I spent two and a half years farming in Mooiriver. I took a semi-sabbatical. And the tragedy about Mooiriver was that it’s got 80% unemployment. Mooiriver is a little town, dirty little town, halfway between Pietermaritzburg and Ladysmith in KZN. And the reason it’s got 80% unemployment was they used to have a very big textile factory there called ‘Mooiriver Textiles’ – what else? And Mooiriver Textiles because of demands from the labour pushed up the salaries to the point where they no longer could compete. And the Taiwanese came in, just after democracy, and the place was going to be closed down. And the Taiwanese then did a deal with the government which no one really talks much about because it’s not politically that correct; where they could pay different wages. So they’re paying really really poor wages to people but they’ve just got jobs. Some of them; of course they cut this workforce down to a fraction of what it was before. We were getting on the farm people coming to us. A lot of people, as many as we could possibly employ who would do anything for R60 a day just please could I work for R60 a day. Now, it’s not a question of people not wanting to work. It’s not a question, and I hear this often, that South Africans are entitled. Chris Hart got into a lot of trouble for that. I don’t believe it’s got anything to do with that. I think … I really believe it’s do with just being able to get off, or get into, the game. Get into the game. Even if it’s through having buying a sewing machine. Finding someone that will lend you money to do that. Everybody, as Mohammad Yunus says, is a born entrepreneur. We get taught through conditioning … he says it goes back to slavery but also through the industrial hierarchical structures that we don’t need to fend for ourselves anymore or that someone else will fend for us. And it is part of the human condition that’s been adopted and is now having to work out just as human beings. Remember, when Craig Venter did the DNA testing he discovered that 99.9% of our DNA as humans is identical. Forget about black and white; think about someone who is Papa New Guinea or an Intuit in Canada. And yet we take that 0.1% and make it the be all and end all of our existence whereas we should be looking at the 99.9%. And I think the human condition is one of we want to all do better – just give us a chance.


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] Some final thoughts, Alec, before we wrap up. I was looking back at December and having covered South African politics for 30 years; I’ve seen us on the brink of civil war so many times, the slumps, Rubicon, all of those things that I had the fortune or misfortune of reporting on … I don’t think I had ever been as demoralized as I’ve been in December. Reading BizNews.com there are a number of articles that you write the words ‘hope springs’ into them; giving me a reason to think things are going to start turning around. We do know 2016 is going to be a rough year. I look at a bunch of … a group of brokers here who are looking to do business in 2016. How rocky a road is it going to be? Is it a train coming towards us or is there real light at the end of the tunnel?


[ALEC HOGG] I love what Warren Buffet says about these things. He says that these big trends are too difficult to call. You should just stick on what you can actually influence. Your circle of competence. That’s something every South African should look at. I remember having a conversation with … I was called in to a group of grumpy white old guys who were very upset about corruption and pointing fingers like crazy. And we had quite a vibrant discussion because after they had told me how bad everything was I said: ‘But well what are you doing about it? What are you doing in your own company? What are you doing about within your own little patch?’ Because I don’t know why Jacob Zuma’s got four wives. I really don’t. I don’t understand it. It’s … and I don’t even … I cannot judge it. It’s his culture, it’s where he comes from, it’s his mind-set, it’s through his ten years on Robben Island, and it’s through everything that he has had to do in his life. I don’t understand that, and by the same token if I don’t understand it, how can I try and change it. What I can change though is make damn sure that when that traffic cop pulls me over and he asks for a bribe; I tell him to “F you!” And if he wants to take me to the police station I’ll go to the police station with him. And I’ll make sure that I tell as many people as possible who he is and why he’s done that. Those are the little things that civil society can do. The kind of country I want to live in is one where I can just … You know that beautiful story of the starfish on the beach? A little girl…a guy come along there, there’s a little girl there. All the starfish have been washed up through the tide and the little girls is pick up the starfish and she’s throwing them back into the sea. And he says: “Stop it, man. You’re just … you’re just wasting your time. You’re not making any difference.” And you see what it is to him. And that’s my kind of philosophy on life. It … it just … I can operate within my circle of competence; the things I know the things I understand. I believe that there I can make a contribution. There is a lot of good everywhere but sometimes the mood will take us into a place where we don’t see the wood from the trees. We … we … we wake up in the morning in a frame of mind … and these poor people who drive from here into Johannesburg everyday … and … I … I guess they got an excuse but the rest of us really don’t.  We wake up with a frame of mind which says oh woe is me … I can’t leave the country … I am going to meet grumpy people today … Everything is going to hell in a handbasket …woe is me. I don’t believe that that’s the human condition either. I think it’s more a question of how can I approach things within my circle of competence. And when we see things happening in the country that are positive then we need to acknowledge them.

We have a fantastic Minister of Education and if only somebody could realise that this lady is taking on such unbelievable corruption and difficulties but she’s bravely attacking them. You know in … in education … in certain parts of education you buy headamasterships. So once you buy the headmastership through the union … and it’s all in court, I’m not telling you new stuff … you own that budget that comes from the department. And she is trying to change that. She’s working really hard and standing up and saying that it’s wrong. We had Nhlanhla Nene, the Minister of Finance, who was summarily dismissed, saying: ‘There’s terrible things happening at SAA and I will not allow it any longer. There’s no way I’m going to countenance the nuclear deal.’ And he got fired for it. Those are the kind of people who are role models for us. Those are the kind of people we should be inspired by. And I believe, unlike one of the early commentators, that we have many options and many many alternatives to the current leadership situation because we have great people in this country. We’ve seen it time and time again. But it all starts at home and it starts in the way I perceive this. And it starts with going to the … you know, when I go to the garage and fill my car up with diesel and have a chat with a very smiley guy there who gives me his point of view on the day. Or … when I’m walking down the street in South Africa, I wave at someone and smile and they’ll wave and smile back. Not many parts of the world where that is. So, sometimes we kind of get a little bit too caught up in the big stuff; in the stuff we can’t influence and we can’t change and we forget that there’s lots that we can do within our circle of competence.


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] If there aren’t any further questions … Oh, there’s a question over there. Can you just wait for the microphone to come your way?

[QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE] You spoke about robotics. And we this this is fast becoming a reality worldwide. Would this destroy South Africa? Or build South Africa? Considering we have a very low skills base here?


[ALEC HOGG] That’s a really good question. The … the … the old way of thinking is going to give us more problems from the transformation. The new way of thinking is going to give us opportunities. So we can either look at this and continue along the path, the lemming path, that’s going to take us over the cliff; or we can look it and say that we really need to think differently. We need to bring in the thoughts of a … a Grameen Bank …a Yunus Mohammad … Mohammad Yunus. His kind of approach. Because the way we are doing things now … with the fourth industrial revolution coming on top of it then we really are … are looking at … a … A lovely story I would like to just share with you … uhm … when the Blue train at one point in time was on the same track as a cargo train…it happened some years ago and…uhm…the two were heading towards each other and they hit each other as they were going to … uhm … the SABC sent out a camera crew to interview the driver. And they said to the driver of the Blue train: ‘What did you do?’ and he said, ‘Well, what happened was I was looking there. And I had a look around the side and I saw this train coming at me and I thought O my God hier kom kak.’ And if we do the same thing, if we just look at the fourth industrial revolution as ‘hier kom kak’ then we’re going to find it. But if we use it as an opportunity, as has happened in the aftermath … I mean the loss of value to this country … of Nene-gate … was R500 billion. We’ve done the numbers. Go and calculate them. That’s what we can quantify. The unquantifiable cost of that is … probably significantly higher than that. But we got a shock. We got a wake-up call. Nothing else was going to change this network of patronage as rapidly as that event. And the fourth industrial revolution when it’s overlaid onto this does require a new way of thinking. The good news is there are people in government who understand it, who’ve been researching it, who’ve been looking into it and are aware. The other good news is we only have 54 million people. Imagine you are India with a billion people. Imagine the issues that you have to deal with there. So, I’m hopeful, I really am hopeful. We just need to change our mind-sets and realise that we have … we have … you know, it’s like companies. I used to remember often reading … reading annual reports of companies and they’d say that people are our most important asset and then you’d go in there and they’ve got a human resources department. So you might be the most important asset but actually it’s just a bag of kilojoules that’s in the … it’s a resource. If humans … if people … are the most important asset of any society of any nation, which they are, give them the ability to actually fulfil their dreams and there hopes. At the moment I get this feeling we’re just not hopeful anymore. So it’s … embrace this new thing. But that takes leadership … and … you know… leadership and courage. And those are the kind of things that we’ve had in abundance in this country in years gone by. Who else has had a Mandela and a bishop … Archbishop Tutu … at the same time? Who has had even one of them? So, we’ve got it. It’s there. We just need to … and it’s going to happen …you know I’m a great believer that the ‘big boss’ he looks at this … and we make our plans … and he laughs … but he’s got something special for this country. Because this country was heading for that hier-kom-kak-moment very rapidly and we avoided it.


[DAVID O’SULLIVAN] So many times we stared at that hier-kom-kak-moment. Ladies and gentleman, I think we’ll wrap it up there. There will be an opportunity to do some networking, enjoy … I’m sure there’s little snacks and drinks outside. But please give a big round of applause to Alec Hogg.

The Big Secret to Making Sense of Your Teens

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Given that every adult is a former teen, you might think it would be a simple matter for parents to understand and communicate with their adolescent offspring. But life is a little more complicated than that, as our BrightRock Iris session discovers. So what’s the big secret to making sense of your teenagers in an age of change?

“Mom,” said Klara Göttert, a bright and lively 14-year-old with a penchant for parkour, the art of running, clambering, and jumping over urban obstacles, “when will I be old enough to have a boyfriend?”

Her mother, Liesl, raised her eyebrows in mock horror, and leaned across to tickle Klara on the couch.

“When you’re 35,” she said. And then, as Klara laughed, she raised the bar even higher: “No,” she said, “when you’re 40. Because you know you don’t have brains until you’re 40.”

It was an everyday conversation between a parent and her teen, light-hearted but woven with an undercurrent of the challenges of growing up.

Looking back, Liesl wonders why she didn’t pick up on the cue, the thread of something “big and complex” hidden in her daughter’s heart. She still doesn’t know why, just a week later, in August last year, Klara took her own life.

Was it because of unhappiness at home? Trouble at school? A fight with a friend? A crush on a boy?

“It hit me so hard,” says Liesl, a corporate communications strategist who has started a support and awareness foundation in her daughter’s name.

“We had been through teenage attitudes and fights, the normal ups and downs, like any family. I keep asking why, and where did I go wrong.”

The truth is, there is no easy way to understand what goes on in the mind of a teenager. This we know for sure, because we’ve all been teenagers.

But in a world where the familiar pressures of adolescence are only intensified by the dark side of the technological revolution – cyberbullying, social media shaming, Instagram and its ideals of perfect beauty – how can parents get to know their children better, and help them through these years of turbulent change?

This was the hot-button topic on the agenda for a recent BrightRock Iris Session, hosted by broadcaster David O’Sullivan, himself the father of two young boys.

Aside from Liesl, his guests for the session included educational psychologist Tshepiso Matentjie, and journalist and author Mandy Collins, who writes with wit, warmth, and insight about the joys and challenges of raising her two teenage daughters.

Mandy confesses that it’s impossible for a parent to say they know for sure where their children are and what they may be doing. But it is possible to lay down clear and consistent boundaries, and build a relationship based on trust and understanding.

For instance, on the boyfriend issue: yes, if you must, let your teenage daughter bring him home. “If I don’t allow it,” says Mandy, “she’s going to do it behind my back. I’d much rather have a gangly, revolting, acne-spotted teenager in my lounge, than wonder what she’s out doing with him. At least you can have a measure of control.”

At some point, you have to trust your own parenting, says Mandy, and hope that you’ve been enough of a model for your children.  “Because children learn far more from what you do, than from what you say.”

Tshepiso, who has served as resident psychologist on TV talkshows, and as consultant psychologist at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, says a mother is often the best judge of a looming emotional problem her child may quietly be confronting.

It’s not called gut-feel for nothing. “You carry this child in your belly for nine months for a reason,” she says. “Your body will tell you, your instincts will tell you.”

But it’s one thing to be able to act on your instincts; it’s another to be able to get through to a teenager. Any parent of a member of the species will know that there are two default teenage responses to a good parental talking-to.

The back-chat, followed by the door-slam, and the simmering sulk, followed by the door-slam.

“I would rather have a child who chats back,” says Tshepiso. “With the quiet ones, you might miss something. You need to look at changes in behaviour, loss of appetite, the signs of something going on. For a parent, it’s so hard to figure out the moment of crisis. Even adults struggle with the stress and pain.”

For Liesl, who hopes the Klara Göttert Foundation will play a role in bridging the communication gap, the signs were there, but they weren’t always easy to read. Klara would tell her mom how she wished she could run away from home, “but I used to tell my parents that too.”

“Parents drive their children nuts, children drive their parents nuts,” says Liesl. “You just don’t know what the breaking-point is. We sometimes underestimate the fact that young people’s emotional capacity only develops much later. Their emotions are on steroids. They get super-happy, and they get super-sad.”

One of the biggest states parents make, believes Mandy, is that they keep their own emotions from their children.

“We all have days when we could quite cheerfully stab someone with a pen,” she says. “If we don’t let our children see that we have a range of emotions, then when they’re suddenly hit with those emotions, how do they know what to do with them?”

But there is a simple secret to parenting, and it lies at the heart of all communication. Learn to listen, says Mandy. “We often don’t listen well or deeply enough. Instead, we lecture. Listen to what they’re saying, not to what you think they’re saying.”

As Tshepiso adds, children can be excellent manipulators, and any conversation you have with them may need to be on their terms. For all the guidance and advice you give, you may get very little in return.

But learn to listen, and listen to learn, and with enough time and enough love, you may come close to cracking the code that has baffled parents for generations. What do teenagers really think?

* Watch the the Iris Session below or on the Change Exchange, our breezy online portal for everything you need to know about the Big Change Moments in life: Tying the Knot, Starting a Family, Landing That Job, and Making a Home.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.



The Happy Art of Finding Joy in Your Job

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There’s more to work than working for a living. If your job isn’t giving you joy, could it be because you’re in the wrong job? Three brave job-switchers share their stories of learning to live with change, and loving it.

Love. It’s what you feel for your partner, your children, your pets, your country, and maybe even, on a good day, your national soccer or rugby team. But your job? Well, that’s another story.

If you’re like most people, your job is what you do for a living, not what you do for a life. It’s a way to earn the money you need to do the things you love to do, such as wave goodbye to your workmates as you head off on the holiday of your dreams.

But for some people, a job is not a chore, a penance, or an excuse to watch the clock. It’s an opportunity to find fulfilment and put your passion to work. As Confucius once said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

He knew what he was talking about, because his jobs included bookkeeper, teacher, politician, editor, philosopher, and caretaker of sheep and horses. It’s probably safe to say the latter was the job he loved the most. But what about you?

Is it really possible to find joy in your job? It is necessary or compulsory to “love what you do, and do what you love”, or is that just a handy motivational slogan coined by Human Resources?

We asked David O’Sullivan to find out, by inviting three hard-working, work-loving, upbeat and inspirational South Africans into the BrightRock studio.

He spoke to Catherine Constantinides, a former Miss Earth SA, who is leaving her job as a Lead SA executive to teach social media to women in a refugee camp in Algeria; Michal “Loopy” Luptak, who quit his job as an accountant at a major auditing firm to run a community centre for children at Ponte City; and Trudi Makhaya, former Deputy Commissioner at the Competition Commission of South Africa, who now works as a consulting economist and media commentator.

What they have in common is that have taken a giant leap into the unknown, and restlessly pursued opportunities to reinvent themselves. That takes courage, says Catherine, who started her own marketing company while still at school, and dropped out of her Law and Anthropology studies at university when she lost her bursary.

“I carried a chip on my shoulder for a long time,” she says. “You map out a path for your career, but it may not turn out the way you think it will, because there are certain passions and callings that you have to allow yourself to open up to.”

Michal likewise slogged through his studies, got those two powerful letters after his name, and then decided that he didn’t feel like a CA at all. “The defining moment was when I sat down and thought, is this going to be it for the rest of my life?”

He felt trapped by the routine, predictability, and hierarchy of accounting. The toughest part of his job was having to sit behind his desk, doing nothing, when there was a whole world of possibility waiting outside the door.

“I firmly believe that it’s your choice in life to suffer,” he says. “You are the one who signs that employment contract.” He broke free, moved into a penthouse apartment on the 52nd floor of Ponte, and redefined himself as a social entrepreneur and inner-city activist. All very well, but how does he account for the substantial dip in earnings he took when he left the firm and went up in the world?

“Money will always become a consequence of doing the things you love,” he says. “You’ll be surprised at how little you need.”

For Trudi, who holds five degrees, starting afresh as an independent economist and consultant allowed her to live up to her dream of “marrying creativity with analytical skills”.

She concedes that it isn’t alway easy or possible to find a job you love, “but you can find ways to expand your horizons”. See your job for what it is, she advises. Put it in the proper place in your life. “It doesn’t have to be the sum total of who you are. You have relationships, you have spirituality, you have so many other avenues to express yourself.”

But Michal argues that if you’re looking at your job as a job, then you’re probably doing it wrong. “Every single day of your life,” he says, “do something that scares you, because that’s where the magic happens.”

Finding the joy in your job may seem like a tough ask for some of us, but it all begins with finding your purpose, says Catherine. “What are the things you love?” she says. “What are the things that feed your passion? Put pen to paper and jot them down. Then find a way to utilise your strengths in the space you’re in.”

As for our presenter himself, David confesses that he found “absolutely no joy” in the job he was doing on commercial radio. He approached Ruda Landman for advice, shortly after she had raised anchor and set sail from Carte Blanche.

“Ruda told me to step into the void,” says David. “Let the bridge come up to meet you.”

You have to have confidence, you have to have courage, and you have to be prepared to start all over again. But if you get it right, the perks will be greater than that steady pay-cheque and that office with your name on the door. You’ll love what you’re doing, and you’ll be doing what you love. And the joy of your job will be its own greatest reward.

*For more on how to find the joy in your job, watch the full BrightRock iris Session on the Change Exchange, our breezy online portal for everything you need to know about the Big Change Moments in life…Tying the Knot, Starting a Family, Landing That Job, and Making a Home.

This article first appeared on The Change Exchange, an online newsletter by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.