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Cultivating GRIT for a life of success
Author: Tendani Tshauambea and Lide Janse Van Vuuren
Published: 11/05/2023

The Listen, Live and Learn programme recently hosted a workshop for its students on how to build “GRIT for success". The workshop provided an opportunity for about 40 LLLers to gain insights on how to build grit from the two invited speakers.

The workshop, which was held in the Russel Botman hall, was organised by the LLL management and forms a part of the LLL programme's co-curricular offering. Lukhanyo Mgobozi, a LLL intern, said that the workshop "was an opportunity to better equip postgrad students for the working world".

The first speaker was Mhlengi Ngcobo – a Stellenbosch University (SU) alumnus, entrepreneur and business owner – who in 2022 was selected for the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Mhlengi is the founder and CEO of CoffeeMM, an artisan coffee roastery with an outlet at the Co-Create Hub.

Mhlengi brought an interesting yet fun aspect to his presentation, sharing openly about his longer than planned journey with studying engineering – an experience which many related to in the room.

Describing grit as “the ability to endure over time", Mhlengi spoke about his own experiences and how he applied grit to overcome obstacles and achieve his goals. During 2020, he was robbed of all his belongings and business equipment, travelled from Joburg to Cape Town with nothing but R2000 in his pocket and 'couch-surfed' for a few months until he managed to get CoffeeMM going.

In unpacking the meaning of grit, Mhlengi discussed various characteristics which can be cultivated to allow an individual to become “more gritty". He also focussed on the importance of passion and persistence in pursuing your goals, even in the face of obstacles and setbacks.

His earnest yet personable approach resonated well with the students. Nicolas Miso shared that “Mhlengi's testimony brought me hope to keep working and to stay committed to the goal regardless of the hardships and failures that may come along the way".

Mhlengi kept the students engaged with his approach to the topic, emphasising the value of challenges in developing grit, quoting an African proverb, he said “it is important to prepare the child for the road and not the road for the child".

The second speaker of the day was Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng, who is the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT) and a renowned mathematician, educator, scholar and well-respected thought leader. Prof Phakeng has been recognised for her contributions to research, education and advocating for the inclusion of underrepresented groups in STEM fields through numerous awards and honours.

Prof Phakeng's conversation with the LLLers was facilitated by Kwenzokuhle Khumalo, Primaria at Irene Residence. Drawing on her vast experience as an educator during and after-apartheid, Prof Phakeng focussed on the importance of knowing your purpose, which she illustrated with an anecdotal reference to the Notre Dame Cathedral.

As an experienced educator, Prof Phakeng's presence in the room was palpable as she delighted the LLLers with her experience as an undergraduate at Bophuthatswana University (now NWU) studying her BSc.

Complementing Mhlengi's earlier presentation, Prof Phakeng shared that “it's never too late to be purposeful as purpose will carry you when things get tough". Speaking about grit, she emphasised that developing grit is a skill that can be learned and practiced over time. Her personal experiences and examples of how she had to apply grit to overcome challenges and achieve her success prompted the LLLers into thought, and provided a fitting illustration of her belief that “if you have purpose, you will do what you love and be successful at it".

The workshop was a great success, with attendees gaining new insights into developing their grit for lives of success. Arshia Rumluckun shared that “the LLL workshop was a highlight of my long weekend. Mhlengi's entrepreneurial background allowed me to hear a real-world case of grit being developed and used while Prof Phakeng's message on purpose made me realise how important the “why" behind the action is."

Developing grit is an essential skill for success in any field, and the workshop provided an opportunity for LLLers to learn more about developing grit. It was also a demonstration of the program's status as the flagship residential offering at SU, and its commitment to provide resources and opportunities for its community to grow and thrive.

Photo: ​Mhlengi Ngcobo (left), a Stellenbosch University (SU) alumnus, entrepreneur and business ownert Stellenbosch, and Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng, vformer Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT), were the guest speakers at a recent LLL event.