The Character Within

Come the end of the war in Zimbabwe, elements of the Selous Scouts were silently filtered through the border into South Africa. Arriving at an unmarked dirt road a few kilometres from the outskirts of Phalaborwa, we were shown to our newly constructed Recce base. A couple of weeks later a number of prominent locals invited us to the Golf Club, probably as much to view these mysterious aliens as to welcome us to the little mining town. A young lady struck up a conversation with me. Her first words, “So, what car do you drive?”


A bit taken aback, I replied, “A Ford Anglia”.

“And what else, what accessories?” she demanded.

“None”, I confessed.

Visibly unimpressed she stepped back to give her stage space and then unleashed into a full-on description of her boyfriend’s space-mobile. His vehicle had an engine big enough to push an aircraft carrier and turbo’d up with jet afterburners. Included in the stylish interior was a laser guided steering wheel, Rayban rear view mirrors and a sound system that could power up an Olympic stadium. I assumed her brain was also wired to the exhaust.


Having grown up north of the Limpopo in a sanction starved country ravaged by war, we were quite happy with any vehicle as long as it had four wheels and a rubber band.

She continued, “When I go out, I have to look good.I like to step out of an expensive car so people can admire me. That’s how you make friends and become popular”. The more she jabbered the more I realised that the blood flow only went as far as her jaw – it didn’t reach the grey stuff next to her hairstyle. Fearful of being pinned in the corner for another lengthy diatribe, I didn’t ask her what she did for a living – probably a hat-stand at the local vogue shop.


However, sympathy is due. A lot of people grow up believing possessions are the requirement for success and our self image is dependent upon what other people think about us. It takes a lot of energy to maintain your peak and what happens when things go wrong in those troughs of life and we lose wealth or wrinkles replace the smooth exterior? ‘Friends’ disappear like monkeys avoiding a mamba, popularity evaporates and self-worth plummets. This is when you have to have character and firm relationships to raise your game.


Recognize that self-esteem arises from WITHIN you and is not determined by external trappings. Act upon and take responsibility for your own self-improvement. Appreciate that relationships are only built when you show real interest in others and consider their needs before yourself – this is how you make and keep friends.


“You will make more allies in a week by getting yourself interested in other people than you can in a year by trying to get other people interested in you”.