Last month we commented on what a messy world we live in. It is messy! This messiness can easily make us negative, speak negatively and focus only the messy negative things in our environment. And there is a great deal to look at and focus on. Not only in South Africa, but anywhere in the world. There is much going on!

It is almost impossible to be in the company of others whether at a braai, a dinner, a social event or any other gathering without the conservation deteriorating into a cacophony of moans about the Eskom, the government, the municipality, Jacob Zuma, politics, the state of the country, the state of the world economy, climate change, the mess in the UK, the war in Ukraine. I could go on. I will not. You have heard it all and that is not the purpose of this article.

The question is not what is happening about us and how bad it is but what we can do to maintain equanimity and focus in the midst of all of this, so that each of us can be the ray of positive sunshine for all we encounter.

There is an ocean of difference between optimism and positivism. We frequently forget this.

Being optimistic means believing that everything will be all right in the end, even if we do nothing. Being pessimistic means there is no chance of things being all right in the end and, therefore, there is no point in trying to do anything because it will have no impact.

Neither of these two approaches are particularly helpful. Neither result in action, and inaction leads nowhere.

If we look at two icons of the past, we can learn so much about being positive and behaving accordingly.

Winston Churchill was the solid unyielding rock in World War Two. He fervently believed that they would overcome, notwithstanding the almost overwhelming odds against them. He thoroughly recognised the odds stacked against his country and the allies. But he resolutely refused to yield. He famously ended one of his most famous speeches with the words:” ……but we will never give up.” This is being positive. He gave the efforts of the allies a backbone and belief that that they would, in the end, overcome. Which they did.

Our own Nelson Mandela also approached his world with great positivism. His speech on his release was almost a mirror-image of his speech at the Rivonia trail. A positive belief that never wavered for 30 years. Being positive means being patient. It means that being positive requires a powerful vision of the future and the behaviour and actions required to reach that future. It certainly does not mean ignoring or playing ostrich with the harsh facts around you. On the contrary, it actually means seeing and recognising those facts and determining to overcome them no matter what the personal cost.

There are far too many of us that bemoan our fate and look for anything or anyone to blame rather than look the demon straight in the eye and figure out a way to achieve the positive end goal ourselves for the good of all.

Of course, there are risks! I am sure Churchill and Mandela, and many others like them, recognised the risks and went ahead anyway.

Will me make mistakes. Absolutely! But these too are opportunities for us to learn, to try something different and move on. There is no sin in making a mistake. The much bigger sin is to not have tried at all! Positive effort is usually recognised. Inertia, never.

Each of us has within us the capacity to make a positive difference. This starts with a positive mindset.

We can look no further than President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, a small man with a big vision and an even bigger heart, to see a uniquely and powerful positive mindset being turned into positive action. An approach that has most of the world supporting his little nation in one way or another against the big Russian bullying bear! We can learn much from him and his compatriots!


Tony Frost