Monday, June 02, 2008

Who will bare witness to your life?

At a friend's recent wedding he told how he had read the above somewhere and how he had found that person in his new wife. That life was richer for having someone to bare testimony.

While I'm fairly self sufficient, it is something I identify with. As I grew up I was taught that telling someone of your achievements was boasting and equivalent to sin.

It has meant that my successes in the latter part of my life have been largely my own. I have not even told my parents. No one.

So I'll tell this anonymous blog.

  • After being sick in my first year, I repeated through UNISA. I aced everything. Stung by being excluded from UCT, I had a point to prove. It was the first year of my life that I'd actually risked failure and really worked. Until then, I think fear of failure meant that I held back, using lack of effort as an excuse. My aggregate was stratospheric. UCT accepted me back the following year.

  • After chronically underachieving at school and in my undergraduate career, I graduated with a first class honours from UCT. I was 3rd in the class, but it was a big improvement.

  • After a year at an accounting company, I moved to an international strategy consulting company. One of the top 3 in the world. After a solid start and first promotion, I was promoted through the second rung in record time. My promotion was presided over by the head of our London office and the it was globally the fastest anyone had been promoted through senior to managing consultant ever. The record was never broken to my knowledge.

  • While a junior consultant I sold work in the first two projects I was ever involved in.

  • As a senior consultant I was asked to lead a project and manage client interaction. This was unheard of below managing consultant. The client was a director with years of experience managing consulting contracts at SAB. He told my bosses I was one of the best consultants he'd ever worked with.

  • While still a senior consultant I was asked to join the strategic management forum of the business. Some more senior colleagues objected and were told that if they didn't like it, they could leave.

  • I won awards every year they were offered. From innovation awards about three times, to best consultant.

  • As a managing consultant I worked with a Director in London. He wrote one of the world's best selling handbooks on strategy and was a partner in two of the world's leading consulting businesses. He brought me in to advise a company he owned a substantial stake in. He told my bosses that I was one of the most promising consultants he'd ever worked with.

  • While a managing consultant I built a team of 8 consultants under me that I recruited from industry. I sold and delivered work with them around the globe.

  • At 26 I sold strategic advice to South Africa's leading financial services provider. I remained advisor to the MD for two years.

  • I was promoted to Principal at 27. The youngest in the history of the South African office.

  • I was debt free at 30 with a paid off house and car. This seems minor but in the context of my upbringing it freed me of the fears of my parents who worked their whole lives to pay off their house, car and provide the best they could for their children.

  • At 31, I was asked to take the managing director position of the South African branch of a global company, execute a merger and manage a staff of over 70 people. I turned this down to start my own consulting company.

  • I took 9 months off after being emotionally exhausted and burnt out. I studied economics III through UNISA for a third major, 11 years after studying economics II. I aced it and came top of the class.

  • I started studying another honours part time, this time in economics, through WITS last year. It is a two year course. At the half way mark at the end of last year I was a fraction off a distinction and top of the class. With my work load this year I'm way off this standard and miserable about it.

  • I have now been running my company for about a year and a half. If she agrees, I'm taking in a director of a listed company as a partner. I'm employing consultants. And I've signed a 5 year lease on new offices.

  • One of my current clients is a leading investment bank. Two weeks ago, one of the CFOs told the exco that I am the best consultant ever to work with the organisation.

Why am I telling an anonymous blog? Because it illustrates the point. After underachieving I've done quite a lot over a number of years. But no one knows and there is no one to bare testimony. If I got hit by a car tomorrow, not even my parents would know that I actually did some special things. I want someone to share the secret. Someone who finds me special without knowing any of the above. And then one day hears me share and is surprised but loves me no more and no less.

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