This post deals with change.  How does one change from being poor to becoming successful?

It is incredibly difficult, is not impossible change oneself.  On the other hand, if you change your environment and change people to spend time with, you effortlessly change.

One of the most difficult decisions I had to make was move from Mpumalanga back to Gauteng.  It dawned on me that personal brilliance has very little to do with how well a person does in life.  Inasmuch as people would tell me about the great mind I had, I constantly noticed people who (in my private opinion) were nowhere near as as skilled as I was in doing certain things.  But they were getting paid to fumble in those things whereas I was just a spectator.

In observing this bizarre phenomenon where it seemed the world was not rewarding merit, I noticed that almost all these people were highly connected – or should I say entrenched – in a circle of people who had access to opportunities.  Then I noticed that the opportunities that these people had access to were provided by the environment they found themselves in.

With this insight I developed the following hierarchy:

  • Choose Environment
    • Choose People
      • Add Value

Choosing the Environment

Perhaps the most difficult of all these was to change the environment.  I was staying in Ermelo at the time and I forced myself to move to Joburg where I knew there were more opportunity even though I did not know exactly what they were.  I lied to my wife and told her there was a project in Joburg, and I had to leave them for about 6 months while I figured things out.  The truth is, there wasn’t anything.  After I moved to Joburg I stayed with an uncle that’s in the music industry and basically ran errands for him.  I will never forget his hospitality.

Choosing People

Having moved to Joburg, every chance I would get, I connected with old friends in Joburg.  The old relationships didn’t really take off (productively). So it dawned on my that I had to create new relationships.  Having said that, I was specific about the types of people I wanted to spend my time with – entrepreneurs.

I ended up helping a friend with his MBA Dissertation, which led to us working on fixing problems in one of his businesses, which lead to me working with his father (and helping him with his PhD Thesis) among other things.  This led to us working together to build an empire of companies, which I am rather honored to be a part of.

Adding Value

For me adding value is simply getting things done.  I wrote another article that talks about the three degrees of performance (or the three ways to get things done).  Either way, for me this is different from “being brilliant”.  In most cases we are encouraged to be brilliant at what we do, which I think is a fallacy that could get one stuck in the DIY rut.  What’s more important is finding ways to add value to people around you so they can exploit opportunities in the environment (sort of like moving back up the hierarchy).  That’s the cycle.

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If I were to give advice to my 20-year-old self, I would say invest time in finding the right environment; one with many opportunities.  Then invest time learning how to get along with productive people within that environment.  Then add value to them in whatever capacity – as a consultant, entrepreneur, employee, skivvy – whatever.  Just Add Value.