Anton Pillay is CEO of Coronation and Chairperson of ASISA.

As we close off Youth Month and reflect on the significance it holds for our nation, it’s the ideal time to look at lessons we can learn from the great people who came before us – who changed the course of history through their acts of agency, selflessness and determination. South Africa’s young people today can also attain a life of purpose if they adopt these qualities.  

Young people’s voices, ideas, and actions are crucial in building a better South Africa. However, we must also acknowledge the formidable challenges the youth face today. South Africa grapples with an unemployment rate above 45%, and many young people come from underprivileged backgrounds with limited access to quality education and opportunities. These systemic barriers can seem insurmountable, but within these challenges lie the seeds of our greatest strengths. By recognising and addressing these obstacles, we can turn them into opportunities for growth and advancement. 

I can attest to the importance of belief in your goals, to try and not give up, to get up every time you fall, and to grab all the opportunities you can, including getting into the habit of learning from everyone in the room around you. You never know who could change your life.  

Despite life’s challenges, I firmly believe by cultivating a sense of agency – defined as the capacity and belief to influence your own thoughts and behaviours – you can overcome obstacles and create new opportunities not just for yourself, but for your communities and the nation at large. Education, determination, and an innovative spirit are powerful tools that can drive significant socio-economic change. 

If you just sit back and wait for someone else to come in and do everything for you, success won’t happen. You need to thoroughly and utterly believe that you can change the world, no matter how hard it looks, and you will get there. 

CULTIVATE YOUR AGENCY 

Agency is about taking control of your life. It’s your ability to set goals and work towards them, to influence your destiny. Think of your life as a business: you are the CEO. Your decisions shape your future. Develop skills in managing your reputation, marketing yourself, managing your finances, communicating effectively, building trust, doing good work, and networking to build a support system. Each of you is a brand, much like Coronation. Guard your credibility and other people’s trust – they are your most valuable assets.  

SET MEANINGFUL GOALS 

Goals give direction to your efforts. Your goals should push you beyond your comfort zone. They should be ambitious yet achievable, driving you towards greatness. Remember, it’s easy to dream, but dreaming means very little if you don’t set goals and take real steps to achieve those goals. This also counts for achieving your financial goals. – Remember, you can’t spend more than you earn.   

EMBRACE RESPONSIBILITY 

Taking ownership for your actions is crucial. It’s about owning your successes and your failures. Learn from your mistakes, and do not be afraid of failure. As many successful entrepreneurs will tell you, failure is a stepping stone to success. Remember, Formula1 champions crash often, because they push themselves to greatness. Resilience in the face of adversity builds character and fortitude. 

VALUE EDUCATION

Your education is a powerful tool. It expands your mind and opens up possibilities. Extract as much value as you can from your teachers, peers, and the resources available to you. Learning is a lifelong process, and the more open you remain to learning, the better equipped you will be to tackle all challenges that will inevitably come your way. 

FOSTER COLLABORATION 

Learn to work together. Many of the problems we see in society today stem from people being self-serving and uncooperative. The ability to collaborate effectively is essential in today’s interconnected world – especially if you want a life of greater purpose. Trust and teamwork lead to collective success. Whether in school, in business, or in society, working together amplifies our strengths and mitigates our weaknesses. 

DEVELOP A STRONG NETWORK 

Your network is your support system. Build strong relationships with your peers, mentors, and community members. These connections will provide guidance, support, and opportunities throughout your life, when you need it most. Never underestimate the power of a good network – it can be the difference between stagnation, or progress and support during a crisis.   

STAY GROUNDED IN PRINCIPLES 

Maintain strong principles and integrity. Be honest, ethical, and true to your values. These qualities will earn you respect and trust, which are invaluable in any endeavour. Success achieved without integrity is hollow and unsustainable. 

SEEK OUT SUPPORTIVE PEERS

Always strive to improve yourself. Read, learn, and seek out new experiences. Emulate those you admire and learn from their journeys. That said, surround yourself with people with big hearts and characters – giants in the making – as they will lift you up and enhance your character. Don’t compare yourself to others, especially on social media, because remember, for every successful person who makes it look easy to be successful, you only see the tip of the iceberg. Under the surface is all the hard work, hardship, toil, failures, friendships and networks that helped contribute to that person’s success. No-one achieves success all by themselves.  

FIND YOUR PURPOSE AND PASSION 

Discover what drives you and makes you happy. Pursuing a career or life path that aligns with your passions and values will bring you a sense of purpose. Success is not just about financial gain or social status; it’s about leading a life that feels meaningful and rewarding. To me it is always so sad to see someone reach 50 or 60 realising that what they had been chasing never made them happy. Don’t ever choose a career just for the money – it will come crashing down very quickly. Choose a path in life that interests you, that you have a passion for, and that makes you feel alive and fulfilled. This will enable you to make a much more positive impact in your own life, in the lives of those around you and in your community and country. In conclusion, remember, no matter where you come from, with a positive mindset you can achieve greatness.


Disclaimer

Anton Pillay is CEO of Coronation and Chairperson of ASISA.


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