When you grow up in a community where there are no opportunities that will help you to prosper, where you don’t have mentors to help mould you, or the support system that allows you to reach your brilliance, it’s difficult to reach your full potential.
But it’s not impossible. There are those who have refused to let their circumstances define them and who have managed to reach their full potential.
When most people think of Khayelitsha township in the Western Cape, the two things that come to mind are crime and gangsterism.
But twin brothers Wanele and Wandile Ganya refused to fall into the trap of allowing the challenges in their community to define their future.
Growing up in the crime-infested community and raised on a domestic worker’s salary was never going to stop the two brothers from reaching their goals.
One brother will now graduate with a Bachelor of Medicine degree, while the other will be graduating with a Bachelor of Surgery degree.
“Growing up in a disadvantaged community motivated us to dream bigger, and knowing where we came from also helped us to work harder,” the Ganya brothers say. They were also inspired by other people who came from their communities such as Dr Vuyani Mhlomi.
The brothers are just two examples of people who have achieved great things against all odds.
Every word you say changes your life. I had to stop talking about how bad the situation was and I had to start talking about what I was going to do about it.
Ntokozo Qwabe is another inspiring young man who had to drop out of university because of financial constraints.
Instead of sitting at home and complaining, Qwabe got a job as a cashier so he could save up for his tuition fees. Two years later he returned to university and finished his law degree with brilliant marks.
His achievements – 17 recommendations and 34 distinctions – helped him to score a bursary to attend Oxford University in the UK.
We’ve all heard similar stories of people who have refused to let their environment hinder their progress, but what drives these people, what makes them push themselves beyond the limit?
We asked motivational speaker, author and life coach Simon T Bailey about how one can reach their goals despite challenges that could potentially hold them back.
Like many other young people whose families could not afford tuition fees, Bailey had to drop out of college at the age of 17 as his parents could not afford the fees. Not only did they not have the money for tuition, they also didn’t have the funds to bring him home.
“I dropped out of school and moved into a drug-infested community because that was all I could afford. But there was something within me that didn’t see myself staying in the circumstances I was in. The first thing that I had to start doing was to pay attention to my dreams,” he says.
Even though he had holes in his shoes and no money, he saw the bigger picture and who he wanted to be.
In order to channel your brilliance, the first step is to see things differently, says Bailey.
Don’t sit and think that your current situation is permanent. You might be coming from a broken home, going through a divorce, your business might be struggling, you might be battling with your finances or might not have money for tuition fees for next year, but that situation is not permanent.
The second step is to harness your potential. This requires asking important questions of yourself: What do you want to achieve, who do you want to be and how do you want to make a difference?
When you gain a clear vision of who you want to become, you start internalising your vision and believing it.
Bailey says that once you start believing in your vision, that is when your mindset starts to shift. “When I started believing my vision, it impacted my belief system because my belief system said: you are as black as tar, you are ugly, you’ll never be anything. You’ll never get out of poverty,” he says.
Bailey adds that you need to speak positivity into your life.
“If you want to succeed, change your language. Every word you say changes your life. I had to stop talking about how bad the situation was and I had to start talking about what I was going to do about it. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself because I grew up in a poor family. What I realised was that being born into the family and circumstances that I was in, was actually the greatest gift, because this gave me the belief and the fire in my belly to do better,” he says.
Bailey also advises fuelling your mind with positivity, whether it’s reading books that will inspire you, going to seminars to listen to motivational speakers or simply watching programmes that will inspire and motivate you.
Bailey adds that you reach a point in your life when you have to start getting rid of the negative people in your life, whether it’s toxic friends or bad relationships.
He concludes that the one thing that holds you back from achieving greatness is what you think you are not. For instance, if you don’t believe that you are good enough, no one else will. So focus on who you are and what makes you exceptional.
“I started taking the wheel, beginning from the inside out,” he says.