Every now and then I have the privilege of combining so many of my passions. This came about once again when I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Carel Nolte.
It was a productive industry discussion, it was a fascinating personal interview, a discussion about books and it was an opportunity to reveal more to my audience about a valuable leader in our community. On top of that, I got to learn something about a friend that I did not know before. All round, a great experience to share with everyone.
What excited you most about life while growing up and how did this change, if at all, as an adult?
Opportunity, possibility and loving/ supportive structure. As a child I had no sense that anything is not possible. I grew up in a comfortable middle class home where I could try anything I wanted to try. I was raised understanding possibility and giving others confidence and belief in themselves, especially since so many people do not have that confidence.
I do however have a good dose of realism and received a sense of my own self-worth. I love helping people see their own possibilities. That goes for companies and the country.
Tell me about an AHA moment in your life?
One that stands out was Little Rock Arkansas, USA. I have been to all but two of the states in the US and in 2001 I wanted to check out the Bill Clinton Library. In the Presidential Library were eight photos and 12 lever arch files with the presidential diary. I looked at his schedule and it struck me that I was way busier than him. My aha moment was “Get a life”. Whenever I am too busy I think “I don’t run the free world. I create my own reality and my world”.
I have been in your library and it is spectacular. Where did your love for books come from and do you have a favourite genre or two?
I am lucky to have this love. It started as a child and is also how I learnt English, reading a wide range of English children’s books. My father and grandmother were also very into books and especially Shakespeare. I love his works and am sure that he wrote for the commoner on the street. I even ended up reading the Bible on the beach on a holiday as I ran out of books.
I read many books a week, to this day. I love biographies and trashy novels but, actually, I love reading everything with a deep respect for authors. At varsity I read a novel by a black author recommended by a fantastic lecturer. That opened a whole new world for me, making African authors a favourite of mine. Books like Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyám, as translated by Edward Fitzgerald. I was gifted a first edition copy. Quotes from his book, like: “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on”, or “One life. Don’t regret”, “Say yes rather than no”, inspire me
I dislike Kindles and electronic books, even travelling with real books. I don’t give them away and find first edition books an absolute treasure. Sitting in my library is a happy place for me and I always come home from travelling with new books.
You are clearly passionate about education, as illustrated by your years serving at St Stithians College as Chairperson of the Council. If you had a magic wand, how would you want to impact education in South Africa?
I am absolutely passionate about education. I believe that if we educate the world, we will be better off. Education is helping us to be critical thinkers and a better version of ourselves. It gives people confidence and allows them to see possibilities. It is about values, not abc’s. The things I learnt from people and friends are what I remember.
We need to value the people who do the teaching and see teaching as a profession. If there were more authors, teachers, painters, the world would be a better place. We need the best people to be authors.
Your other passion is investment and especially getting people to be interested in the stock market and assisting to benefit from investing. Where does this come from?
I remember as a kid my, dad subscribed to Financial Mail. I even impersonated my father and tried to buy things like Gold that some advertiser was wanting to sell. Property is a favourite investment of mine but investment was never a natural place for me to go. It really got going with my engagement with EasyEquities. The sale Charles Savage, EasyEquities founder did is about teaching people that they can do it for themselves and providing the platform to do it.
EasyEquities really showed me that anybody can invest and that it can be fun. The stories from our investors really excites me. Like the time someone in a rural area starting a club “Don’t be blessed, invest”, teaching girls to invest. There are so many more stories, especially those about helping people get financial dignity. You need financial resources to provide for yourself and those around you. I also love the fact that these new investors do not keep quiet about brands. They are critical.
Tell me one thing about you that I know nothing about.
I am a pretty open book but I am a huge introvert. Activities where lots of people are involved is extremely draining to me and lockdown in a way has been fabulous. I love travelling and walking by myself with a high need for alone time.
I served on an art board in Burning Man, learning so many things there that I used successfully at Etana. I love putting together things that seems to not fit and always seek out new challenges. I’m not a camper so I go do the Burning Man, where you camp. I am overweight so I go do the Comrades.
Another one of my aspirations is to be a bridge champion.
Strangest thing experienced when travelling?
This must be in North Korea and the anniversary of the current leader’s grandfather’s death. People are forced to celebrate and everyone was outside celebrating.
Then there was the time I went skinny dipping with Michael McCann and some people we met on a trip, with two cows joining us. Those people became friends. I remember visiting Ethiopia’s underground churches and meeting a man in a hole in the rock face. In devotion. You really get to understand that there are so many ways to look at the world.
Everyone has a valuable story. We just need to listen
However, the strangest thing might be Sarajevo 1996. I ended up staying with a family while there was still much evidence of the war. As we left the mother had knitted a pair of socks for my Mom because we are going back to dark Africa. It highlighted my own prejudices. Her seeing me going to Africa and me seeing her there in Sarajevo.
I am certainly not unique as a person and believe that everyone has a valuable story. We just need to listen.