Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Saturday, 3 June 2017

INNOVATION CLUB - June 2017 - Jean De Villiers

Thursday night 1 June, was Innovator's Club time again. The last one I attended was Andrea Bohmert's Venture Capital talk in February. This time it was hosted at the slick new Citadel Investments building in Claremont (I think it's not THAT new, I have just not seen it or been there before).
And the guest speaker was Jean De Villiers. Yes, he of Springbok rugby fame. It turns out he is Citadel's 'Head of Philanthopy'.

What does Jean De Villiers have to do with innovation, you may ask? I was also wondering... in fact that was a big part of why I went along this time, to get the answer to that exact question.

So it seems that's a pretty obvious first question and one Jean addressed immediately as he got his talk started. He said that if we were there for tips on tech innovation, he had none, and we were in the wrong place. He went on to say that if however we were there for tips on the Springbok's rugby game play and how they can get back on top... he has none of those either, and again we were in the wrong place. And if that was the case, we'd better leave.

No one left and so he had to go on to tell his story. And what he did was give us a brief run-through of his development into and then extensive and lengthy career in the game of rugby, starting at the age of 5. I have admittedly not really followed the rugby scene closely for the last *cough* 10 *cough* years since the 2007 world cup win, but I do at least know who he is.

Jean has a candid, open, engaging and slightly self-deprecating and humourous style, which is quite endearing. This coupled with his story about his rise to fame in the rugby world, which was marred constantly by many and varied injuries at critical points, made for an interesting and engaging tale of repeated cycles of success and set-backs at every turn.

For me personally, and due to my own life experience, I related strongly and quite emotionally, to his message about how in those moments of set-back and failure you face your biggest choices. The choice to give up or try again. How you can either accept defeat and stop trying. Or you pick yourself up, learn and grow and try once again. And how each time you have to make that choice to keep going it actually gets easier. Not necessarily easier to do, but easier to make the decision to do so. Because you build grit, tenacity and resilience along the way. In my experience giving up also feels bad. Keeping going and trying to be and do better and to build on the failure to hopefully achieve possitivity feels much better.

He also brought in the sentiment of how you can't really claim to be innovative unless you have failed. This is a pretty widely held belief...

Jean then also spoke briefly about his philanthropy work much of which seems to focus on Early Childhood Development in underprivileged communities.

It was great to see speakers from many of the other Innovation Clubs I have attended there too, Sihle Tshabalala, Marlon Parker, Mark Forrester, and Andrea Bohmert and as usual getting a chance to network, chat and interact with interesting, dynamic and successful innovators and entrepreneurs is always inspirational.

I have been lucky enough to get a chance to speak to Sihle at several of these events now and each time he appears to be even more confident, successful and driven. He certainly seems to be doing things right and I was very impressed to hear that he is not only running his not-for-profit ventures which seem to be thriving but has now also running a for-profit set-up too which is doing really well - evidenced by his slick suit and the MacBook and iPhone he was toting. I just love his story and what he is doing. What an inspiration!

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