Darren Smith
Darren Smith

2009 — a period of stimulating challenge, or one of opportunity?

For those of you whom I have not been able to say a personal “best wishes” to, let me take this opportunity to wish you a relaxed and safe festive season, wherever you might be going, or staying. May it refresh you, energise you and afford you new insight and perspective into your life, your relationships and your career.

All told 2008 has been a fantastic year, not without its challenges (such is life), but one in which we at Technews have accomplished much. I have great respect for all the people who have delivered, consistently, diligently and with continued integrity, both within Technews and amongst its suppliers and clients. You know who you are. Thank you and well done.

That said, it is at times like now, in a world awash with uncertainty (unprecedented economic turmoil, fragile business confidence, political change and seismic global events beyond our control) that we need to stand back and reflect on what we’ve come from, what we’ve achieved and what inspires us to dream big.

Rather than trying to “preach the gospel” according to Darren, I thought I’d highlight the words of Pick n Pay founder and chair Raymond Ackerman, who has urged South Africans to “stop the cynicism” … during a recent speech at the Cape Times/Safmarine Business Breakfast. It is a speech which resonates with me and I would urge you to read it:

Full summary: http://www.sagoodnews.co.za/your_good_news/raymond_ackermans_speech.html

Ackerman is an optimistic man, and a jaded view of his words might describe them as ‘Pollyannaism’ … (http://snurl.com/7tqle)

But Ackerman is nothing if not a realist. He concludes his speech by saying:

“Despite all I have said, none of us can deny that business is experiencing a period of severe stress. Beset by high interest rates and elevated inflation, and buffeted by a formidable financial crisis which has seen the virtual collapse of banking systems and currencies, we are navigating perilous waters.

“As a player on this turbulent world stage and as Minister Manuel has cautioned us, South Africa cannot hope to be immune to these difficulties. However, I am reminded of the ancient Chinese curse that dooms us to live in interesting times. But my experience over a long lifetime has also persuaded me that such times are also periods of stimulating challenge, of opportunity for the brave and of optimism for those with the courage to hope, work hard and think strategically.

“As danger and possibility jostle for the upper hand, I therefore have no hesitation in asserting that we are well equipped to weather the storm. Every period of storm is followed by an era of revitalisation and reinvigorated energy in which our ability to rise to the challenges and remake the world is tested. Our country has time and again demonstrated its capacity to respond with innovation and initiative to changing economic, political and social circumstances — and I have no doubt we shall continue to do so.

“And always I return to the reassuring equilibrium of perspective — a perspective that tells me that we must maintain that sense of confidence and promise that is altogether different to the restricted, inward-looking siege sentiment of only two decades ago. Our economy has never been better managed. What we often forget in the angst of our growing pains is that we have created a climate in which a whole new generation of upwardly-mobile, ambitious and entrepreneurial South Africans for the first time enjoy access to and participation in the formal economy.

“It was the Austrian Holocaust survivor and psychotherapist Viktor Frankl who taught us that one of the principal avenues by which an individual can find meaning is by doing something meaningful or creating something meaningful. In seeking to live out that maxim, I have lived all my life as an optimist and have never yielded before the force of those who argued that the best was impossible. It was for that reason that I never lost my faith that one day South Africa would emerge from the long night of apartheid and regain its status as an envied land of promise. I have no intention of abandoning my confidence now.”

On that note, as you review 2008, and look towards 2009, I would simply say: Let’s not abandon our confidence now. Have the courage to hope, work hard and think strategically … and this period of stimulating challenge might just become one of opportunity.Dream Big