Becoming successful out of necessity.

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of GuydingPrincipals

“Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it”


A while back it was mentioned to me that in our darkest hour we could achieve our greatest success. Hearing it at first made me think that it was a bit of a crazy statement. When everything is going wrong, how on earth can you achieve anything even remotely great? We all go through tough times but to my understanding we never really achieve anything from that. So I deemed the whole theory ludicrous.

It was not until later that I truly understood the theory and got to see it in action. I have to admit that it changed my thinking about achieving better results out of desperate times.

Recently I have been active in some projects around South Africa when established entrepreneurs coach and assist up and coming entrepreneurs. In a country where unemployment within the youth and working force (age 15-34 is considered youth) is at 32,8% (Q1, 2018) it is crucial that the public sector has to assist where the Government is failing at an alarming rate. Overall national unemployment is at 27,7% (Q1, 2018). So needless to say that many families are struggling to keep up with the living costs.

I would like to share a story of a young man I met while working with entrepreneurs in impoverished communities. This is a great example of how we can create a better situation for ourselves even from desperate times.

For the sake of the story, lets call him David.

David came to South Africa as a refugee only 6 years ago. He was unemployed with a below par education and no real job skills. Him, like many refugees around the world leave their home countries in search for a better life for them and their families elsewhere.

Like most refugees new in a foreign country, David was not able to speak any of local languages (SA has 11 official languages) and was forced to live on the street and beg for money. Ridiculed by the locals for being a refugee he struggled finding any form of employment that could help him get on his feet and even just a place to stay. Day in and day out was a struggle for him, a struggle many can not even understand.

He saw numerous other refugees turning to a life of crime. Selling illegal drugs and armed robberies. He was struggling so much that he had no choice but to consider doing the same. Being in that position will force anyone to make some drastic decisions.

He told me that he thought about what he was going to do day and night. It completely consumed him. He was starting to think and act on instinct as it was becoming a fight for survival.

He then made a commitment to himself not to go for a life of crime, no matter how bad it got. He told me that he felt that he had survived some terrible condition at home and that he survived the long trip to South Africa. He felt that he needed just a bit of luck to get him out of that situation. Notice how he was becoming positive in the dire conditions he was in.  He started to believe that there was a way out, and a better future ahead.

Eventually he did find a job as a delivery person for a small take out restaurant. He did not need a drivers licence as they were using bicycles. He mentioned that his pay was not really great but at least he could afford a room to stay in and that he was given meals when working. He said that it was like a dream come true considering where he was just a couple of months before.

He kept on working at the same restaurant for some time but he still had that dream of something more. The same dream he had when he arrived to South Africa, his new home.

After a couple of years he was in a better financial situation and mentally and physically a new person. When I met him for the first time he could speak the local language and came across as a professional and disciplined person. I had no idea about his past and what he had to overcome just to be able to be alive and working.

He got involved with the program as he is now part owner of that take out restaurant he worked at. The owners have decided to retire and left the restaurant for the staff that was working there. It is not a complete fairytale ending as he still has a long way to go to live the dream life he is chasing. Owning a business is a big responsibility and can be very challenging. And he admits that this is only the real start for him.

With assistance from the previous owners (as they have great experience with this operation)  the program I am part of is guiding and training the staff on how to best manage the operation and good financial practices. I believe that if he commits his energy to the business as he has to himself there is no other option but success.

The point I would like to get across is to show that we all react differently in tough situations. David could easily have chosen the easy and fastest way out of his troubles by choosing a life of crime. Just like many others did. But he chose the honest and positive way out. He believed in a better future and his situation did improve. Not overnight, but with persistence and hard work he is a lot closer to his dream than he was when he just arrived.

This story reminds me every day about how lucky many of us actually are and that we as humans are very resourceful even in the toughest of times.

We can achieve greatness even through the darkest of times.






























Networking for the Shy Guy.

Networking for the Shy Guy.

By Donnavan Finlay. Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.


I was at a networking event recently and noticed something. I was meeting new people in the community and a young man got my attention. Not for all the right reasons but all the wrong. He looked out-of-place. Completely overwhelmed by the situation. Basically me 15 years ago. He clearly had no idea what he needed to do. I felt sorry for the kid and went over to talk to him where he was standing alone.

He told me that he was new to the event and an aspiring entrepreneur. During the conversation I realized that he is determined to be successful but had no idea or guidance to get what he so desires. I then realized that he is most likely not alone. It took me ages to get better at networking when I was younger. As with this kid, I had no one to show me the ropes at the start. People kept on telling me I had to network, but no one told me how it should be done.

I introduced him to a couple of my friends for him to feel a bit more at ease. He seemed a bit more confident by the end of the night.

The following week I offered to help him with some techniques I had found to work for me. We worked on the techniques and I am glad to say that he made great progress at the next event. He made some fantastic new contacts and people who can help him put his dream of being an entrepreneur in place.

Following are some tips on networking for an introvert.

  1. Manage your expectations.

You need to remember to make realistic expectation. Plan ahead and set a goal of making maybe two or three key connections. Try not to get overwhelmed by the event and focus on your goal. Once you have achieved your goal, you should leave. Avoid over staying your welcome. If you stay too long you can also get tired and it will turn into a bad experience. You will then lack motivation for the next event.

  1. Get a list of possible attendants. 

If possible I would suggest getting a list of the attendants. Reason is that you can then have a look at the people who you would like to meet. This will usually be the people in your field of interest. You can learn some valuable lessons from someone who has experience in that sphere.

If you feel confident you can make that connection before. Maybe send an e-mail to that person and ask if he can spare some time to talk to you about whatever it is you may want to know. Making a connection via e-mail first can break the ice for the conversation to follow.

Consider volunteering at networking events. This will put you in touch with some people who have been doing it for a while. Someone there may be able to put you in contact with some serious key players. If a key person has to be driven around, you should volunteer. This will give you some alone time that is priceless.

Other charity events are also good for you to volunteer. This will help you be at ease with people around you and help you meet new people. You will be exposed to all types of personalities. Networking is all about meeting new people, and this is great practice.

  1. End with a Plan to Action.

When you end any important conversation with a person of interest, ask for a follow-up discussion or meeting. If you ask for a follow up meeting you may be lucky and get to meet the person at a less crowded environment. These are the times you will really learn some valuable lessons. An e-mail contact or phone number is also good. Some people might not have time to meet in person or even live in another city.

My one mentor used to go for coffee at the same place every workday at the same time. We would meet up some days and spend maybe 15 minutes together. This was perfect for me. Those 15 minutes in the mornings taught me some great lessons.

  1. Bring a Wingman. 

Taking a wingman to a networking event will be great. It will give you at least one contact there and this person can help to keep you focused. The person might also be able to introduce you to his/her contacts. Avoid clinging to that person too much. Once the introductions are made you will have to keep the conversation on your own.

Finding a good wingman should not be overlooked. If I had to choose one tip that helped me the most, it will be this one. 

As an introvert you will have to get used to meeting new people. Set yourself a target per day on meeting new people. Strike up a conversation at a coffee bar. Meet someone new at work and make some small talk. Keep focused and take note of what works and what does not.

Now that you have some tips on improving your skills you should go out and try them. They have worked for me and for the people I have assisted. There is nothing wrong with being a bit shy and you should not let that keep you down. At the end of the day your success is up to you, and only you.

Do you have any conversation ice breakers that have worked for you in the past? Please list them in comments so our other readers can see them.