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Five lessons to live by

By Ferdinand Mwongela | April 26th 2020

Great men and women have a set of rules they live by or have followed to get to where they are, we look at words of wisdom from five greats from different career disciplines

Denzel Washington: Make a difference

“We all have that unique gift, to touch people, to affect people. Understand that gift.” Film superstar and Denzel Washington is widely seen as one of the humblest men in Hollywood, despite his status. He has touched the lives of many. This became even more apparent when it was known that the Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman and Denzel to thank for his success or at least part of it for funding him to undertake a theatre program at the University of Oxford. “Denzel paid for me. I’m sure he has no idea. ... I’ve been waiting to meet him, so I can tell him,” said Boseman. But this was not by chance, as the actor believes in making a difference, however small around us. He says that we all can change each other’s lives in some way or the other.

Jack Ma: Learn how to fail

The Alibaba Group business magnate says people fail because they give up. he has talked variously about ho much he has failed in his life, but that did not stop him from pursuing his goal. “I failed a key primary school test two times, I failed the middle school test three times, I failed the college entrance exam two times.I was rejected for all the 30 jobs I applied for after college, was rejected by Harvard University 10 times and even KFC rejected me.” He says there were 24 applicants for the KFC job when the fast-food chain went to China, 23 were taken and he was the only one who did not get in. “It really stung, but I didn’t give up at any point. If you don’t give up, you still have a chance.”

Adele: Appreciate those around you

British songbird Adele awed the world of music when she won the Album of the Year at the 59th Grammy Awards in 2017. In her speech, instead as is customary thanking her team and family, she shone the light on another artist, Beyonce. "But I can’t possibly accept this award. And I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful and gracious. But the artist of my life is Beyoncé. And this album to me, the “Lemonade” album, is just so monumental. Beyoncé, it’s so monumental. And so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-baring and we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see. And we appreciate that. And all us artists here adore you. You are our light."

At the same time, Adele acknowledged her struggles as a mum: “And in my pregnancy and through becoming a mother I lost a lot of myself. And I’ve struggled, and I still do struggle being a mom. It’s really hard. But tonight winning this kind of feels full-circle, and like a bit of me has come back to myself."

Kobe Bryant: Sacrifice, don’t compromise

Earlier this year when an helicopter crash clamimed the life of the basketball great, his daughter and seven others, tributes about the icon flowed from all over the world. He touched the lives of many and influenced the world of sport and business in a big way. His drive was seen on and off the court. In interviews and speeches during his lifetime, Bryant always emphasised the need to focus if you hoped to achieve your dreams, but also not seel your soul while at it. “Be willing to sacrifice anything, but compromise nothing in your quest to be your best.” “If you want to be great at something, there’s a choice you have to make. What I mean by that is, there are inherent sacrifices that come along with that. Family time, hanging out with friends, being a great friend, being a great son, nephew, whatever the case may be.”

Richard Branson: follow your dreams

British billionaire Richard Branson has always talked about following his dreams, right into the world’s richest list. He says this was something that he learnt from his father:  “Dad didn’t get to live out his dream to be an archaeologist; he followed in the footsteps of his father, a High Court judge. Dad struggled in his career as a barrister, but instead of mourning a life he could have lived, he made sure I learned from his mistakes, giving me remarkably free rein to find my own way, and live out my dreams. Even when I messed up, which I have done many times throughout my life, he always stood by me; knowing that by showing me unconditional love I would become the man I was meant to be.”


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