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It’s not just words, it’s your whole life…

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about relationships and I said to him, “You know, I really don’t like clingy friends”. But let me explain myself. My dislike of clingy friends is born from personal experience. A clingy friend will make it seem like it’s wrong to have other friends in your life.  I am blessed with the ability to connect with various people and have long lasting friendships and I struggle when I have a person in my life who wants me to give them my undivided attention.

When I explained to my friend my predicament with clingy friends, his response was, “Bongs, maybe you should rather say, I love secure friends”. I smiled and looked at him, admiring his use of words. What he said resonated with me because of its profoundness and the fact that I had not looked at it that way before.

I love friends who live their lives to the fullest and who understand that even when we don’t talk every day, we still love and care deeply for each other. When my friend said, “rather say, I love secure friends”, I reflected on that, and there was an incredible shift in my mental and belief system. I am learning that language is not just about the words we use but it is a cornerstone of our whole life! Though reshaping how I see and engage with the world is a life long journey, I am happy with the progress I am making. There are some days I get it wrong, and some, right. But I have made a conscious decision that I will be intentional about how I shape my words daily.

In another personal example, I remember growing up in an isiZulu speaking church and reading the isiZulu bible. The way I perceived God then and how I perceive Him now is completely different. In the isiZulu church, I experienced God as this no nonsense, ready to punish, quickly angered character. Whereas in the English church, God is presented as a loving father, still no nonsense but always ready to forgive and who wants us to love the world like he does. What a difference! My relationship with God in my isiZulu church was always filled with fear and feeling inadequate. Whereas in my English church, it was filled with an understanding of God’s unconditional love.

Obviously, I am not saying that English churches are better than isiZulu churches because there are many English churches that still preach the ‘law message’ rather than the ‘grace message’. There are also many isiZulu churches who preach more of the ‘grace message’.  I would advocate that it is perhaps a combination of different things, i.e. doctrine, revelation and language.

Scientifically there is also much to be said about this idea. I am reminded of a Ted Talk where the speaker beautifully detailed how language shapes our thinking-(https://www.ted.com/talks/lera_boroditsky_how_language_shapes_the_way_we_think). The speaker had conducted research on how language has deep effects on our cognitive and reasoning abilities.

She then posed three questions to the audience which I would love to also leave you with. Please ask yourself:

  • Why do I think the way I do?
  • Could I think differently?
  • What thoughts do I wish to create?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this article, please share them at Bongeka@penthevision.co.za

 

Image- http://www.ethann.com

Hold that thought!

We all go through periods in our lives where sometimes we find it hard to attach to a language. So, one of the most liberating things in life is being able to put into words and explain to someone in a very simple way, the complex activities of our mind. I recall how a few weeks ago I was taken aback by something someone said to me. They had completely misunderstood and misinterpreted what I AM about. So, for a few days I was trying to make sense of the statement because at the back of my mind, I kept thinking to myself ‘hold on a sec, that’s not true, that’s not who I AM’. I attempted to come up with a response strategy packaged with perfect words. My aim was that when I respond to this person again, they should be very clear about what I stand for. I was kind of losing my peace about this until in my heart I heard the proverb which says, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he” Proverbs 23:7. Man, in this context expressing both male and female.

I wish I can fully express how liberating it was for me to hear those words. It felt as if God was saying to me, “Stop trying to convince people of who you are. If you believe you are something good, then you are that, stop and rest.”

If you live your life wide-open to wisdom, you will begin to realise that the world around us is awake and full of such great insights. In that same week as I was scrolling through Instagram, I bumped into a video which Khanyi Dhlomo shared (P.S If you don’t know Khanyi Dhlomo- please google her, this piece may not fully do justice to her accolades ?). She had been presenting at a women’s conference and one of the key concepts she shared in her presentation was a question she packaged this way- “What do you put after your ‘I AM’? “I AM…two of the most powerful words because what we put after them and what we believe about what we put after them shapes our reality” – Khanyi Dhlomo. Immediately I was convinced, if I didn’t hear the first voice, this was confirmation. She echoed how the legendary Mohammed Ali believed/ “had a thought” that he was the greatest even long before we all came to know him to be the greatest boxer.

Did you know that holding certain thoughts about your life is not just ‘wishy washy’ and ‘soft fluffy’ stuff? According to scientific research, thinking affects gene expression in cells of the Brain and the rest of the Body. This in turn affects the structure, function, and the health of the Body. This study is called Epigenetics. It’s not only what we eat, but also what we think that CONTROLS how our genes are expressed- for better or for worse. As people we have a choice to eat healthy or not and we also have a powerful choice to control our thoughts and reactions in a good or bad way.

The research continues to grow and advocates that the human body responds physically to what it THINKS reality is. Thus, thoughts have a larger impact on our DNA and health than ever imagined (https://renewingallthings.com/).

I don’t know whether this was a third and final confirmation, but realising that the kind of thoughts we hold can literally affect every area of our lives. This has made me feel much more at ease that I can control my quality of life even as I age. It has also made me realise I should be more conscious and proactive at fighting thoughts that are negative.

In a nutshell my friend if love, kindness, peace,joy, progress, growth, innovation, etc, comes to your mind, please HOLD that thought!

Learn the lingo – Why McDonalds got it right and Coca-Cola got it wrong.

I always think that people who are natives of a country; where there are only two official languages have one less thing to worry about in their lives. My country, South Africa, has eleven official languages and that obviously is one of the things that make us a proud rainbow nation. However, if you can speak only two of these eleven, it can sometimes pose a challenge. I often tell my friends who grew up in the province of Gauteng just how blessed they are that they can speak 50% or even more of the eleven languages.

South Africa has nine provinces and Gauteng is the one province where there is a serious mix of people from literally all walks of life. This is because Gauteng houses Johannesburg which is the economic power hub of Southern Africa. My friends from Gauteng don’t know this, but I am sometimes very uncomfortable when I go to meet their parents and I have to speak my language or English so we can understand each other better. Now I can understand some of the languages, but responding is a mission. Fortunately, most of their families can speak my language but I still feel really bad when they have to adjust their dialogues just to accommodate me.

Beyond just my friend’s families, navigating your way in public spaces in Johannesburg when you don’t speak some of the languages can be a bit problematic. Most South Africans would agree that Johannesburg is the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” and most of us come here because of the vastness of opportunities available. Whether I am catching a taxi; or trying to respond to an elderly person; or asking for something at the grocery store, I have noticed that when I make an attempt to answer the person in their language there is an automatic connection and when they pick up my limited vocabulary and my “shabby” accent they become more understanding and we able to meet each other half way and speak a language that serves us both.

I think we need to begin to appreciate that speaking someone’s language or being culturally sensitive is not just “pink and fluffy”. A language is not only about the verbal expressions, but sometimes it can embody the very essence of a nation’s identity. And in this global village, in order to be truly successful we have to be able to adjust and “speak” the language and culture of others.

Two interesting cases come to mind when I think of cultural understanding equaling success for one and failure for the other. When McDonalds was intending to launch in India it was completely willing to localize its offerings. India was a unique and very conservative market because most of the Indian population is vegetarian and they don’t eat beef and pork. As most of us are aware, beef is one of the core ingredients of the McDonalds brand; however in India, McDonalds adopted a concept called Glocalization (Globalization + Localization).They intended to obviously maintain global standards whilst also meeting the needs of the local customer (http://www.academia.edu and www.bbc.com). Though it was an expense to localize for India, it paid off big time. They adopted a very authentic Indian menu comprising of chicken, fish and vegetarian meals and what a success it has proved to be.

When Coca-Cola initially launched its sales campaign in Saudi Arabia it was not so successful. Since their sales team couldn’t speak Arabic and most of the Saudis didn’t speak much English they thought surely simple pictures would work to portray the message and they believed that to be a brilliant idea. So they put together three simple pictures and these were meant to be a story line:

  • Picture one showed a man lying in the hot desert sand totally exhausted and fainting.
  • Picture two then shows a man drinking Coca-Cola
  • Picture three shows the man now totally refreshed and on his feet running.

The simple message was meant to say that when you feeling exhausted because of the desert heat, have sip of coca-cola and you will regain your energy. Sounds simple enough right?

Wrong! What Coca-Cola failed to do was be culturally sensitive by speaking in a way relevant to the Saudis. The rest of the world read left to right however, Arabic readers go from right to left. To the Arabic people the advert read, when you feeling energetic (picture 3) take a sip of Coca-Cola (picture 2) you will faint and be exhausted (picture 1) (http://blog.asiantown.net/-/7257/this-is-why-coca-cola-failed-in-saudi-arabia). This obviously miscommunicated the intended message because to them it said stay away from Coca-Cola it will cause you to be dehydrated and faint. I do believe though that Coca-Cola has bounced back since then by investing a couple of million dollars into the Saudi Arabia market.

I think we can learn some interesting lessons from these multinational corporations and perhaps we can start becoming more aware of the languages and cultures of others around us and perhaps go further by engaging in a lingo that serves others. My friend, trust me when I say authentic human connections are more likely to be the new success in the near future.

Confident in a language not my own and that’s a shame…

Something really interesting happened whilst we were having a family meeting. So I was sharing something in my language and my mum corrected me for pronouncing a word incorrectly. I was born and bred in the Province of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa, which makes me a Zulu and my language is isiZulu. So in my conversation with my family, I was making an example of some Kings. Now, in IsiZulu when you referring to one King you say Inkosi”. When you referring to more than one King you say “Amakhosi”

I accidently said “Izinkosi” because I assumed that since in IsiZulu we add “izi” when we referring to things in the plural for most things, then that should automatically apply to the word King/s as well. But of course I was wrong and mum corrected me. Now I knew the word “Amakhosi” but I think subconsciously I didn’t pay attention or didn’t care to pay attention because maybe I figured as long as I know English nothing else matters. I think of the many times I made silly mistakes in public whilst speaking in my own language but I didn’t get embarrassed as much as I get when I make a mistake whilst speaking the English language.

One of the missions of the British Empire was to conquer most of the world and create a mighty empire through influencing cultures, languages, nations etc. The days of an active and mighty British Empire are long past but the product of their influence remains through the English language. English no longer belongs to just a small country in Europe; English is a global culture print. Language influences not only the tongue but the customs and behaviours of the conquered begin to reflect those of the conquering nation.

I know a lot of people undermine and don’t even understand why certain institutions or professions that seek to preserve indigenous cultures exist. These institutions and professions ensure that the language and culture is preserved despite the insurmountable influences of globalisation thereby entrenching a sense of identity.

When we lose a sense of our identity we lose ourselves and a sense of our future. I always marvelled when I was younger watching the FIFA soccer world cup or Olympic Games or any other major event. I noticed that when the various leaders of the host countries would address the crowds they spoke in their own languages. This was a contradictory observation to me because, through the shaping of society especially in South Africa, we were made to believe that it was inappropriate to address crowds in your native language. I obviously understand some of the context around that, because if you have a mixture of different languages its best to speak a common language. But if the option of interpreters, sub-titles and other forms are available, then maybe we shouldn’t limit someone to express themselves in a language they most comfortable with and if that happens to be their native language, then so be it!

Now I know I have been told that this over focus on ‘isolated’ cultures, languages and people, causes a rift in society and fuels things such as tribalism and racism. I have heard commentary that says; actually we all just one big human race and that it’s society that created these various classifications of language, race, gender, culture, nation etc. Others say for goodness sake, let’s just get over this thing and just speak one unified language, what do you think?

Your Excellence…

I bumped into one of my old diaries recently when I was packing some of my stuff. I began to open up a few pages and was marvelled at some of the things I wrote two years ago. I can’t fully express how some of them were so funny, interesting but mostly insightful. One thing in particular blew my mind off and I knew I had to share. The diary entry dates 14 May 2015. The entry was inspired by a book I had read and I wrote “The outcome of excellence is as a result of consistency and diligence.”

This blew my mind both in the positive and negative. I sat there quietly and for a few seconds, I really looked deep into my heart pondering what this meant for me at this point in my life.

What is excellence? According to the oxford dictionary definition, “excellence is the quality of being outstanding or extremely good”. In a lot of our dialogues we often speak of excellence and success as a power couple and I have to agree that this is a perfect union. When we express excellence at school, work, business, and our relationships, it’s because our overall objective is to attain success. Obviously that success mirrors differently for different people.

Back to the line that got me thinking, consistency and diligence equals excellence. Most people I have met want to be excellent and successful in everything they do and I want that so much too. I cannot tell you how I read this line at just the perfect time. I was complaining to myself about myself a few weeks about how I lack success in two particular areas of my life. And when I read this, I reflected and realized that actually I have been deceived, I was neither diligent nor consistent, and how then did I really expect excellence let alone success in these two areas of my life?

I fundamentally believe excellence and even success should not only be limited to our careers, businesses, academics or even relationships. There are other deep areas of our lives, i.e. our thoughts, our motives, our inclinations; shouldn’t we also place a demand of excellence in these areas? I mean personally I will give an example, I have an issue with someone being a great CEO and having received all accolades but that person comes home and is abusive to their family. Their behavior in turn affects their children, they grow up to be dysfunctional members of society and the vicious circle continues…now tell me how that is excellent and successful?

We so rush to be excellent for the outward things that others will celebrate about us. But my friend let the excellent attitude exude every area of your life…I mean literally, your mind, your soul, your heart, your body etc…

My enjoy life tip is this: We simply cannot “change” or make a difference in the world as most of us like to echo, if we have not learnt to make basic changes in our own individual lives. How do we conquer the world if we have not conquered ourselves? Remember again the mystery of your excellence lies in diligence and consistency.

Speak up my friend, oh but please, SPEAK LIFE!

My brother and I were watching this interesting celebrity lifestyle magazine show that targets the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

In this week’s show they were interviewing a very well-known radio Dj and business man. To be honest, before I listened to the guy’s interview I had already put my judgemental cap on. I had always viewed the guy’s over confidence as arrogance …but this particular interview ignited something in me and I can safely say I have gained new respect for the brother.

In fact the more I listened to his interview the more I was inspired by him and really got an opportunity to “know” his side. He didn’t just rise to fame but he has faced so many struggles that most of us face.

What really got me sitting on the edge of my sofa and excited was what he uttered in the midst of his interview. He mentioned that during the times when he was still trying to build his name and was working for free, he would speak life over his situation. Despite his situation at the time he continued to believe in himself and continued to speak positive words. I can safely say that today he is one of the most respected and successful media moguls of our time.

I sat there in amazement and realised that indeed it is true when the scripture says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”-Proverbs 18:21.

Why is this so true? It’s true because most of the time you speak what you believe. What you believe also leads to the kind of actions you take and ultimately shapes who you become.

In the midst of the interview the TV went mute because of some technical glitch. My brother and I got a bit irritated as we felt like we were missing out on so much more of his wisdom and It really hit me that WORDS have power.

Even history teaches us that some of the most celebrated humans used words change the course of their destinies and forged societal transformation.

Who can forget the great “I have a dream speech” by Dr Martin Luther King Jr… he stood up and spoke of a better America, one where all Americans will enjoy equal rights. We can testify that his speech was a great catalyst to the laws that were passed between 1964 and 1965 which ultimately ensure that “his dream” of a free and equal society came to pass.

The great Nelson Mandela spoke during the 1964 Rivonia trial and said, “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

I am particularly more intrigued by the bold words as those were a great catalyst for the 1994 democratic elections. We witnessed an amazing moment in history were South Africans who were previously marginalised had a right to vote for the first time.

My enjoy life tip is this: Be very careful about what you say about yourself and others when you open your mouth. Even if you not living the life you want now…start by creating it with your mouth…My friend speak your dreams into existence…create your own reality by the words you speak.

 
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