It is possible to Smile in the dark

It was only when I found myself scouring through Viktor Frankl’s Man Search for Meaning for coping skills that I realised it was time for me to get a grip. Frankl of course is well admired for assisting fellow-concentration camp prisoners, and for proving them with coping skills during one of the most horrific periods of the 20th century.  Indeed, loadshedding might be awful and is most definitely an affliction. But we have suffered worse. Way worse.

South Africans can hardly be blamed for feeling negative and impotent. We understand full well what has caused the situation that we find ourselves in (and if we forget for a minute, there is always the D.A to remind us, repeatedly), but it is time that we get a grip.

Getting a grip does not mean that we let the perpetrators off the hook, but rather that we find a way to now plummet ourselves into a depth misery that will do us and our families more harm than a few hours without DSTV does.

My morning show sms line is a very interesting and accurate barometer of mood. The messages have been predictably negative. Listeners are anxious, furious, frustrated and depressed all at once. The emotional price of loadshedding is tangible and cannot be underestimated, which makes it all the more important to find ways to cope.

In a 6 minute unscripted diatribe I told listeners that whereas I by no means will take the responsibility of advising people not to leave, I will say that no one should be making the decision in the dark. The choice to leave is a serious and significant one and will impact on the course of any family for generations. I pointed out that as someone who has lived in 3 different countries, I am certain that whereas we might lack electricity in South Africa, there will still be some lack of something elsewhere. Whether that lack is the absence of family, of lifelong friends, of other South Africans, or of a corporate and social network, thinking that there will not be significant compromises is naïve and dangerous.

I further argued that whereas many of listeners suggested that they would leave for the sake of their children, that this is not a given and not something that is strictly a benefit. I believe that South Africans grow up exposed to real adversity and I believe that this is a positive and not a negative. If our universities are uncomfortable and challenging and if our social environment is in constant flux, then this might be exactly what it is that many of our children need.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book David and Goliath explains why sufferers of Dyslexia often excel. Some of the reasons are that they have to work harder, they have to develop other skills and because they have failed, they are not afraid of failure. South Africans are the dyslexics of the world. And there is nothing more powerful than that.

That is one of possibilities as to why so many South Africans have succeeded around the world.

When discussing load shedding, one of my guests on the show suggested that we should turn the excess of darkness into an asset and a business opportunity. He didn’t mean that we should export it or move into the generator business but by doing things that require darkness, like growing Shitake mushrooms. I am not convinced that this is a sound approach.

What I am convinced about is that people should be going to prison for what they have done to the country and we should be relentless in the pursuit of a corrupt free government.

What I am convinced of is that it will not serve us to make emotional decisions in the dark and that we won’t serve ourselves by being miserable and by allowing ourselves to sink into a negative hole that we will struggle to get out of.

I am further convinced that whereas Load shedding is awful, it is unlikely to kill us and that we should leave Man’s Search for Meaning for another time.

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Smile, Dammit! is a book about optimism and hope. It is about spring and new beginnings, and about endings that are happy – even if sometimes, along the way, the journey is not. It is about learning the critical skill of holding a mirror up close and loving what you see – and changing that which you don’t. In short, this book is about harnessing the immense super-power of positivity.

About Howard Feldman

Howard Feldman is one of South Africa’s leading entrepreneurs. His experience is global and extensive, spanning more than 20 years of working as a business strategist, keynote speaker, published author, both locally and globally, social and political commentator, morning drive show host and philanthropist.

Feldman provides insights into strategic thinking, motivation, facilitating solutions and addressing organisational challenges.

Feldman has used his experience and innate understanding of markets and business to also take his career into the fields of writing and radio. He is the author of two successful books – Carry-on Baggage and Tightrope: Musings of Circus South Africa. His third book; Smile, dammit – is scheduled for release in March 2019.

He is also the Morning Mayhem host on ChaiFM from 6am-9am, Mondays to Fridays.

Part of Howard’s career includes a 15-year stint building a global commodity trading business. He found significant conventional success, but lost himself along the way. His journey is an exploration of authenticity and meaning. Armed with business and academic knowledge as well as a brave and unflinching sense of humour, Howard uses his personal experience to educate and entertain.

Howard Feldman works extensively in executive and corporate training. His delivery draws on real-world experience, recognising the value of people and relationships without compromising the energy of entrepreneurship and career growth, providing audiences with applicable wisdom and the tools needed to thrive within a mercurial and challenging business world. He has a unique, positive outlook and courageously engages in conversations that most would prefer not to have. Through humour, insight, and disruptive thinking, Howard unravels complexities, unlocks talent, and ignites potential.