Oprah once said that the best answer to racism was personal excellence. The concept can be taken even further. Personal excellence is the solution to a great many things, one of which is the catastrophically damaging labour unrest currently choking our economy into negative growth. 

Yes, it’s strike season in South Africa. Again. Or still.

Far too often, our labour unions exist at the opposite end of the spectrum to Personal Excellence. Naturally, they started as a good idea: Representation for workers in the face of exploitation. A protector against bullies. 

But in the case of far too many South African unions, the pendulum has swung the other way and they have become the new bullies. Rather than encourage personal excellence, they protect incompetence. Their culture grows increasingly violent. They make it impossible for business owners to fire non-performers. 

There’s another way to live: 

Experts and icons, specialists and high-level achievers live and think very differently. Rather than desiring the protection of a group of people with the same skill level, they endeavour to stand out by raising their skill. They are constantly growing, constantly improving themselves, constantly becoming ‘worth more.’ Their value does not need violent representation. It speaks for itself.

Because of this dynamic, high-level performers also do not need to strike. Their expertise is so valuable that the market comes to them. They charge what they want and get it, because they are worth it.

US speaker and author Randy Gage summed it up: ‘If you are a commodity, they will shop you on price. If you are the icon, they will build the event around you.’ 

I contend that most labour unions would become redundant if South Africa’s leaders promoted individual excellence. Instead, we have seen a continual lowering of educational standards to ensure that ‘everyone passes.’ This is the opposite of excellence-mentality. It says, ‘mob is right,’ rather than, ‘pursue excellence and deserve reward.’ 

Imagine if our striking workers put the same energy into continuing education as they did into trashing public streets. Imagine if their leaders put the same energy into encouraging personal development among their membership as they do into encouraging the destruction of viable businesses and facilities.

It is almost impossible to change the beliefs of others. But you can pursue your own excellence. You can raise your own value. You can make the choice to increase your income through self-improvement, rather than violent demands of more compensation for the same value of labour. 

Your thinking determines your reality. I choose personal excellence over entitlement. How about you? 

May you raise your own value until you become the greatest in your game.