The audacity of hope

The audacity of hope

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of watching Barack Obama speak live at the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg.

I thought of capturing some of my thoughts on his lecture, and the title ‘The audacity of hope’ came to mind. It is the title of one of his books, and ties in powerfully with the themes he expressed.

His pleasantly meandering talk took us on a 100-year journey from the birth of Madiba until present day. Who would have thought that a young boy born in Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa a century ago, would have such an effect in history, altering the destiny of a nation, and in a way, the world.

He called on us to appreciate just how much progress has taken place in that 100-year period, a blink of an eye in the larger context of our human heritage and history. In that time, nations have been liberated from colonial rule, countries have shifted from unjust arrangements to more democratic ones. Globalisation has brought the world closer together, and all in all, billions have been lifted from poverty. We live in a world that is safer, more prosperous and more tolerant than ever before.

Not to say that we have not made mistakes. Ideological and tribal conflicts still happen with heart-breaking frequency. The things that have brought us progress and made us closer in some ways, globalisation, technology, trade, have made it easier for the rich to get richer and exert more control. Social Media, supposed to connect us has been weaponised to keep us misinformed and outraged. Unfettered capitalism has decimated communities and environments. We have failed at many of the bold claims we have made.

Which is why today, the world seems teetering on the edge of return to days gone past. From the ideals of democracy to politics of the strong man, the authoritarian. It can seem that we are on the regress, back to the historical cycles of competition, mistrust and conflict.

And that is where the audacity of hope comes in.

Progress has always been as a result of people fighting relentlessly for it. The fact that you are ‘right’, or ‘good’ does not mean your win is automatically assured. There is the prevailing sentiment, that things will work out, that ultimately the arc of progress is always forward, that technology will solve the problems, that our politics will eventually work for our benefit.

But that is not the case. We mustn’t just hope for the best, we must also fight for the best.

In his book, Zero to One, Peter Thiel outlines four main philosophical tendencies – definite optimism, indefinite optimism, definite pessimism and indefinite pessimism.


An indefinite pessimist looks out to a bleak future, but he has no idea what to do about it. 
A definite pessimist knows the future can be known, but since it will be bleak, he must prepare for it.
To an indefinite optimist, the future will be better, but he doesn’t know how exactly, so he won’t make any specific plans. He expects to profit from the future but sees no reason to design it correctly.
To the definite optimist, the future would be better than the present if he plans and works to make it better.
  • Peter Thiel (Zero to One). Emphasis mine.

In a postmodern society like ours where repeated disappointment has made it far easier to be cynical than to believe, easier to disengage rather than hold firm convictions and advance forward, it is rebellion to believe. It is activism to hold on to hope and act accordingly.

We can create a better world. We have knowledge, we have technology, we have several billion people on the planet. We can do it. But it will not happen automatically or by accident. It will take us working together towards definite goals. Keeping the wheels of progress moving forward is perpetual work handed from generation to generation.

It will happen with great leadership. Individuals across all strata and levels of society, government and business. People with the Madiba spirit. People without ego, people with a passion for people. People with firm convictions, a stoic attitude and a steady patient hand. From the president of the nation, to the student leader.

It will take all of us. In his article, Umair Haque (one of our present day greatest thinkers in my opinion) outlines the idea that the forces of darkness and authoritarianism are not defeated by any one person. The idea of the lone ranger, the sole hero is a myth perpetuated by western thinking. But what’s the opposite of a hero? A chain reaction. Real change is as a result of a chain reaction, of waves of actions multiplied by the masses. Of people around the world being inspired by an incarcerated Mandela and continuing the struggle. Of people risking safety and even laying down their lives in service of an ideal. That is how change happens. When the people move as one, with leaders to steady the course and ensure safe landing.

So, we must believe. So, we must have hope. So, we must challenge ourselves to imagine a better world. To imagine new ways of engagement as a society, as businesses, as nations, as a human race. Our greatest challenge ahead is not one of technology, or ideology, or conflict. It is one of imagination. It is one of resolve.

Amandla Awethu. A luta Continua. The struggle continues. In solidarity, we will prevail.

Keep Moving – Calculated Momentum

In the present there is constant change and so much we cannot control. If you try to micro manage it all, you lose even greater control in the long run. The answer is to let go and move with chaos that presents itself to you. From within it, you will find endless opportunites that elude most people. Don’t give others the chance to pin you down.; Keep moving and changing your appearances to fit the environment. If you encounter walls or boundaries, slip around them. Do not let anything disrupt your flow

-The 50th Law (50 Cent and Robert Green)

It’s monday, and it’s a new week. Everyone is back at it, back at the hustle whatever that may be. The students are off to school, the workers are at their jobs and the hustlers are back in the streets. Lets get it in!!! My word to you today is simple, ‘Keep Moving’. This week, you are going to encounter setbacks, not every thing is going to go as planned. Stay fluid. Stay focused on the end goals, just be flexible on how you are going to get there. Be like water. Flow around the rocks and obstacles in your paths. Stay in the moment, enjoy each one as you race past it. And of course, do your very best!



This phrase ‘ART is WAR’ has been milling around in my head for the past week. For those of you familiar with the work of Steven Pressfield, there is a book he wrote called ‘The War of Art’. This post runs alongside the central theme of that great book. So I’m not saying that art is violent or anything. What i am saying is that Art is War.

The Creative Pursuit is thrilling, fulfilling and wonderful, but oh, so hard. It takes time, it takes effort. It is a battle. I experience this warfare in my design process. When I sit down to design a poster for instance, which usually takes an average 0f 2 – 3 hours to complete (The longest time I’ve spent on a Poster was 24 straight hours with a 3hr nap break, I was designing the 2008 Strictly Hiphop: Backdown Poster). The first hour, everything I design is crap. Its like  watching an inept, bumbling novice struggle across the Adobe interface desperately seeking something that works. That first hour is hard, in fact excruciating, especially if i’m unsure of what direction I’m gonna take. However it gets easier, a dozen false starts later, I stumble upon an interesting solution and slowly, the work begins to take shape. By the 2nd hour, I’m in the state of ‘flow’, and the genius begins. But getting to that point takes a lot of work, it demands reading, scanning, sketching, thinking, researching, trying…it’s work.

I have ideas, like everyone else. I have some really interesting ones too, like concept books, a streetwear line, posterArts and so on. And they are pretty exciting, with potential to become remarkable projects and connect with thousands of people. But none of them would happen, if I don’t sit down, for hours, for days…and work, and struggle with this obstinate mistress called design, cajoling, pleading, seducing, ignoring her until she yields me her fruits, the reward of my search.

So the idea that ‘ART is WAR’ helps me steel my nerves every morning, and go into the battlefield of my workstation, go HARD, unrelenting untill I return hours later, days later, weeks, months, years later…with the spoils of war, a remarkable product, an excellent design, head turning ART.

Dark Nights of the Soul

Dark Nights of the Soul

My friends and I refer to it as a weakening of the Force. There comes periods of times where you slip into the dark shadows of discouragement, depression, apathy and fear. Nothing seems worth it, life is dull, creativity is dried up and you feel paralysed. I know how it feels, I have been under that dark cloud for like 7 days now. Call it my dark week..I guess. I couldn’t design anything worthwhile, felt like I was just being a technician and not an artist, no inspiration, just rote design.

Anyway, the clouds are breaking up and I see shafts of light piercing through, as the issues that were stressing resolve themselves. One great help has been a book I picked up recently ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’  by David J Shwartz. I heard of this book before from other books I read, and I only found it a few days ago. It has been a quite perfect antidote to my situation. What you think about becomes your reality. It takes as much energy to think small as it does to think Big, you might as well THINK BIG. Infact, it is easier to think and act big than it is to go small, because most people settle for small anyway, they settle for small in their lives, their work, their projects. Not a lot go for big, a lot less competition on First Avenue.

So Think BIG! Especially if you are going against the grain, risking it all for an idea, for an ideal, for your vision with burnt bridges behind you. Don’t stand at the shore bemoaning the past, look firmly to the future, think Big, take massive action and fly. If you going to fail, at least fail spectacularly…let the world see you burn, make a mark anyway…lol. Cheer up, stretch, think Big and push hard. You got this!