The University of Hard Knocks quickly taught me that success is about the ability to outsmart tacklers aimed at taking over your dream, or watching you fail just for the fun of it.  

Rugby is a sport I was always critical of because, as a laymen, I always watched a team of huge and well-fed players challenging one another with their strength with no clear direction of what they are aiming to achieve.  Only the 1995 Rugby World Cup showed me for the first time that the opportunity blocking tackles and scrums are not a necessity, and can be avoided. The late Jonah Lomu emerged to display to us all that determination, speed and power can lead to scoring many tries without any successful tackles.  Finally, I understood that the poor big rugby players were trying their best to score, but tacklers made it their business to block them from progressing further.  

Since then, I realized that actually, a rugby game is a mirror reflection of what most experience whilst pursuing their family, career or business goals.  Their first step towards their goals immediately invites mid field tacklers, and if they outsmart them, they still have to pass through the energetic wingers and full backs, before they can score.  As by-standers, we wonder about lack of visible progress which our minds translate to lack of ambition. When you come closer, you realise that they have the ambition to succeed but are continuously overpowered by their tacklers who come through in various shapes and forms. The problem is that they don’t bounce back, they just accept this as “Life”, instead of, as “Tacklers”.

A direct tackler to someone was through a break-in that led to the stealing of a desktop computer only, in a secure estate. This computer had a thesis that was due for submission in a week’s time. Sadly that immobilized this Master’s student who had no back up, he gave up and deferred his goal to the following year.   He lacked determination, speed and power to push back.  What a miss!  

Tackling could be represented by either positive or negative circumstances that can be viewed as overpowering. An example could be an exciting promotion with extra responsibilities and rewards which makes you think that it’s impossible to continue to pursue another set goal of furthering your studies.  Instead of pushing with all your power using an “I can attitude”, you decide to drop your study goal as you are worried about new demands on your time, forgetting that this just means you are worried about temporal social sacrifices you have to make and less sleep.   What a pity! 

You could lose a job, or lose a major client. It might seem impossible that you could push and bounce back, but you can.  When that door closes another one will open with bigger and better opportunities.  The only key to that door is your positive attitude, and speed of execution. You must not change the direction of your goal, be stubborn and confront your anxieties with determination.   

Those who pursue goals without speed get overtaken by so many events of life. When a UNISA Professor said “you better finish your studies quickly because after age 23 you will start losing some of your brain cells”, I got so scared I had no time to check the truthfulness of it. When I passed my CA exams at age 23 I had a big sigh of relief.  30 years later, I have not felt the process of losing brain cells but that tackler I was threatened with, increased my speed tremendously.  Some overtaking events can include getting married, having kids, etc.  All those life events, with your permission, voluntarily slow down your speed.  You can lose a boss who sponsored your career before you reach your full potential as you were on a “Someday” lane.  You can also be landed with a sudden responsibility to take care of your younger siblings whilst you were still cruising on a slow lane.  These circumstances are tacklers to your major goals, and had you applied speed and sense of urgency, you could have outsmarted them, you still can.

My determination was tested as an entrepreneur when I got a call at 3pm on a Thursday from a supply chain official of a prospective major client. She was tasked to inform all companies who were sent the RFP’s of the change in submission time to 11am, and the deadline date was Friday, the following day.  That was the first time I heard we were invited to tender, when I communicated my shock to the caller she proved to me that the RFP landed on my senior manager’s desk 3 weeks ago. My senior manager confirmed and apologized, she forgot about it.  I realized this was a serious tackler disrupting my aim of winning this dream client and I had to assume the determination, speed and power that Jonah Lomu displayed to me.  

My PA was off sick and all partners who became aware of the issue disappeared into thin air as they accepted this as a lost opportunity.  I became ding dong for about half an hour, then I called my former PA, Alice, to come and assist me overnight whilst I research and strategise on our response to the RFP.  I also called my brother, Mzi, to come and help with further research, input and quality control even though this was not his division. The entrepreneurial adrenalin pumped beyond our imagination.  Alice left her then employer at 5pm, and came straight to my office with her sleeves rolled up for the task. I ordered food to sustain us for the night, and ordered a triple dose power of positive mind for the 3 of us.  We did it. We submitted a decent proposal that was reflective of our brand promise by the deadline.  A month later, we won the 5 year contract.  

That was our determination, power and speed bundled together. We all just need to adopt this approach when we decide to pursue a goal and make our tacklers useless. I did, and no one has ever been confused about my sense of purpose and my ability to score.  

In summary:

  • We need to be determined and have a conviction to accomplish our goals within a specific timeline and with speed that will outsmart our tacklers no matter how hard they try to chase us. 
  • We need the power to mentally push back the tacklers that are too close for comfort, in order to pave our way towards the achievement of our goals.
  • We need to move with lightning speed towards achievement of our goals because time squandered can never be regained.  

After scoring, get used to the wonderful feeling of watching your “tacklers” gasping for air from far behind.