At the 125th-anniversary celebration of the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute, Professor William Mervyn Gumede urged graduates to break free from feeling like victims in a society that often clings to narrow ideas of success and self-worth.
The author of Thabo Mbeki and the battle for the soul of the ANC asked graduates to rethink the notion of success itself. He spoke candidly about the challenges facing South Africa due to the corruption of beliefs, culture, religion, and politics, leaving many adults struggling to find meaning in their lives.
Gumede emphasised the importance of a healthy concept of success, stating, “Success is about striving to develop to your full potential – to become the best you. It is about doing your best, continuously learning, and improving.”
Embrace purpose, growth, and open-mindedness
Encouraging Elsenburg graduates to find purpose quickly, he remarked, “Find a purpose quickly, a goal you want to achieve, which matters to you – which directs your actions, decisions, and behaviours.”
Gumede also referenced research showing the positive impact of having a clear life purpose on an individual’s resilience and overall happiness.
He advised against seeking external validation and urged graduates to consider activities that bring happiness and meaning.
“If you struggle to find a purpose, think about the things you do that make you happy, feel meaningful, or inspire you,” he suggested.
He further advocated for broadening horizons through new activities, meeting new people, and expanding reading interests. “Actively do new activities, meet new people, and read widely,” Gumede advised, stressing the importance of exploring beyond one’s cultural and worldview comfort zones.
The professor cautioned against fixed mindsets and limiting beliefs inherited from family, cultures, and political organisations. He urged the graduates to rise above these beliefs, describing them as hindrances to becoming the best versions of themselves.
Gumede stressed that fate is mostly determined by actions despite limiting environments. “Your fate is mostly determined by how you act,” he asserted, encouraging graduates to take firm responsibility for their lives and not let outside forces dictate their paths.
He highlighted the importance of regularly evaluating beliefs and cultural assumptions. “Make regular audits of your beliefs, cultural, political, and upbringing assumptions,” Gumede suggested, questioning their relevance and potential toxicity.
Diverse connections and growth mindset
Encouraging exploration of friendships and partnerships beyond one’s group, colour, and culture in South Africa’s diverse context, Gumede promoted enrichment and advocated against toxic relationships.
He cautioned against a scarcity mindset and encouraged nurturing a growth mindset, seizing opportunities after perceived failures. “See the opportunities. Often, after what appears to be failures, is a door to the greatest opportunity,” he stated.
Gumede also stressed the importance of values such as integrity, kindness, and personal responsibility. He cautioned against extreme thinking, victimhood, and the fear of failure, rejection, and unfamiliar challenges.
The professor encouraged building resilience, cultivating optimism, and seeking guidance from personal mentors for emotional intelligence development.
He concluded by emphasising the importance of self-care, forgiveness, living in hope, and consciously listening to one’s body.
“Its discomfort will tell you when you make the wrong decision or if you are with people and situations that will cause you harm. Live as if every day will be your last. Love consciously. Stay curious. Stay humble. Stay grateful,” he said.
- Established in 1898, the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute holds a significant place in Mzansi history as Africa’s inaugural centre for agricultural education. Over the years, it has maintained a prestigious reputation for excellence in agricultural training.
Sign up for Mzansi Today: Your daily take on the news and happenings from the agriculture value chain.