Understand: your talent and hardwork are not enough!

Oh, the places you’ll go when you make meaningful connections with other people and start respecting the platforms which allow you to access people, places and opportunities you would not necessarily access if it were not for them.

I believe the greatest value lies with the people with whom you connect and build relationships. And while you at it, have the humility to accept that your talent all alone is not enough to get you where you want to go.

I remember saying to my friends: attending a Google-sponsored digital marketing learning programme (in June 2015) was not to be taken lightly because without the platform, we would not be able to get opportunities to present in front of 30 high level executives at global consulting firm, EOH, about how they should go about re-inventing their online presence. Or, engage with the Managing Director at media agency, Net#work BBDO.

Lest I forget the time when we had fun on stage and left the audience in complete disbelief with our pitch for Nando’s at advertising agency, Publicis Machine.

All these experiences which allowed us to express ourselves and to a certain degree, find and amplify our confidence were engineered by other people.

Likewise, many of the breakthroughs that have allowed you to grow were often facilitated by other people. Hence the importance of building and nurturing networks. And to achieve this, you need balance. I mean, be totally aware and believe that you are the greatest at what you do. However, also know that that greatness not helped along by other people is not worth a lot.

Another thing: many people talk ad nauseam about how you need to work hard and often not touch on the importance of access to opportunities. Granted, even if you’re heavily connected to people and things — nothing can replace the hustle. But working damn hard without access is frustrating. If hard work alone paid dividends, I believe a plethora of young people — especially those in townships — would be farther as I write this post!

So, from now on, please try to factor in weaving together strong relationships with other people. Realise as well that by being of value to others, you potentially open doors for yourself.

Realise that there are many ways to achieve what you deem to be success and that journey is quite nuanced with minutiae details. Example: relationships often don’t work out if they aren’t reciprocal — well-known. So, this means in other instances it is useless to approach people with your hand outstretched. What you want to do is ask, how can I help you?

At this point, I want you to take note of a brief story, From Intern to President!

Kevin Liles, originally a Baltimore, Maryland (USA) boy, is a music executive and artist manager. He got his head start at Def Jam Records when he took up an unpaid internship after he told them all he needed was an opportunity and was not necessarily after the money. (People tense up when you start talking big figures right off the bat — and they’re prone to saying they don’t have any opportunities.)

Essentially working for free, Kevin worked harder than people on the Def payroll! He was often the first in the office and last to leave — coming in handy a few times to Russell Simmons when he needed help after everyone had gone home. He added value upfront! He did what I am talking about: walking in with the attitude, how can I be of help to you?

When his internship lapsed, he was in high demand at Def Jam. This is why: when he left after his stint, everybody started asking, Where’s that dude Kevin? They couldn’t function without him because he was that good at what he did — irrespective of whether he was being paid or not.

A bidding fight ensued! The promotions department had to outbid marketing to keep him.
Just like that, he turned a free gig into being Promotions Associate. Because he gives of himself fully in the things he does, he eventually became president of Def Jam Records.

Life is blurry and a little complex. It is equally exciting because of those dynamics — we learn all the time. Look at adding value upfront this way: Giving is recieving inside out.

Anyway, I would suggest you think about your talent, skills precisely how Gary Vaynerchuk does.

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In conclusion, I’ll iterate what I opened with: start respecting anyone who- and any platform that takes you from point A to B and elevates you. You just can’t do it alone!

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THEMBA JAY,

Communicate Your Genius