Birds of a feather flock together, this old adage was drummed into me by my parents when I was a teenager to emphasize the fact that I needed to surround myself with hard working, determined, focused and accomplished people as that is what I sought to be. The truth is, this applies to everyone who seeks success, irrespective of age. For instance, the insight and knowledge I gain from being an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow is priceless and all my colleagues from across Africa have enriched my understanding of the continent and it’s challenges way beyond my expectations. I am so thankful to all those in my life who add knowledge to me, to those who challenge and stretch me, indeed they become a critical part of the journey towards achievement, or what some would call success.
Now, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Nelson Mandela are clearly some of the ideal representations of successful people. But what drives a young girl like Orpah (as she was meant to be called) from the depths of a tough and abusive childhood to the heights of fame, fortune and global acclaim? Is there a formula for success? A roadmap of sorts that can help increase the chances of attaining that which is sought after by so many? It is my assertion that there is and I’d like to share my thoughts on success. I’ll start today with a focus on one of my pet hates – human toxicity.
It is a sad truth that there are people who are toxic. I am not referring to a physical state but rather to an unfortunate metaphysical condition. This is where a person feels it is necessary, nay, imperative, to constantly whine, criticize, belittle, ridicule, malign and abuse others with either the conscious or unconscious intention of bringing them down in spirit, and holding them back in life.
Whether a family member, an old friend or just an acquaintance this person leaves a bad taste in your mouth every single time you meet. Each time you walk away from a toxic person your spirit is a little lower than it was before you met them. Your warm smile fades away and you soon end up with furrows between your once sparkling eyes. You feel like your energy has literally been sucked out of you, and everything that had so much potential and promise a few moments ago is now dashed against the dark and menacing cliffs of negativity. This is how you know a toxic person, they infect you with their toxic energy… and while it drains you, it feeds them.
Now I have a serious achilles heel, I cannot suffer rude, malicious or toxic people. That is one of my pet hates. No matter who you are, what you do, what you have – or for that matter what you do not have – common courtesy goes a very long way. And so I learnt very early in life to keep a significant distance from toxicity. I sought early in life to surround myself with people who give off positive energy, people who offer hope rather than despair, people who seek solutions rather than dwell on problems… people who dream great dreams. While critique and honest perspective is essential and critical towards the development of self, toxic people are negative for the sake of lifting their own spirits by crushing yours. They add little or no value with their contributions and only make the subject of their derision drown in a sea of self doubt.
I therefore believe it is essential to ensure you have people around you who can be honest, but are not seeking to dampen your spirits, or crush your dreams… people you can learn from, who are happy to either help you grow, or work at growing along with you. Far too often in life people are held back by the limitations of others. Instead you must propel yourself forward with the knowledge that sometimes as you move ahead it may be necessary to cut the cord of those who seek to hold you back.
I am told there is an African proverb that goes, ‘When there is no enemy within the enemies outside cannot hurt you.’ And so my friend, seek out the lights around you that glow and shine bright and stay close to them, for they will help light your own path to success even as others strive to block it.