Those who can, teach.


A couple of weeks ago I became a lecturer. Just a part-time one, for one post-grad course at UCT’s Film & Media School, but a lecturer, nonetheless! It’s been one of those things that always hovered on the edge of my “to do” list for life, and being an academic is one of my alternate universe tracts having split off when I left a Masters scholarship behind at Rhodes, and took myself off to the terrors of Business School and Joburg. So all things considered, this is a much more exciting and special event than it may seem at first reading.

Now I teach a lot as part of consulting, but somehow the formality of an academic context sharpens it all a little, and you have to be more structured, more theoretically based, and of course, more academically analytical than you would be in the pragmatic “real world”.

It also means that you immediately, with great fervour, question whether you actually know enough to teach anyone anything and whether you have learnt anything in all your years of working and whether you’ll be able to actually add any value to anyone other than your very loving and committed dog and husband who, luckily for you, will love you regardless.

But also luckily for me, I am teaching this class for a popular, down-to-earth academic whose content base was great, and whose reputation around this course has meant that my class is full of amazingly bright, interested and interesting people, some of whom may actually read this! (Guys, this is all a form of Narrative branding!)

And, as always, a new context throws stuff you think if as ordinary into relief and you can appreciate it again. So these are my various, vague musings at being on the other side of the windows of what was once called “Little Moscow” as it sat on the hill overlooking the stark geographic apartheid that was (and mostly still is) Cape Town.

  1. You know more than you think you do.

It’s a strange thing, I’ve been working with and thinking about brands for over 16 years now, and yet the prospect of having to fill a two hour class was suddenly daunting. Until I started talking. And I am not a great talker – I definitely prefer silence to anything else, including the sound of my own voice. But given the chance to talk about this stuff that I love so much, I found myself parched at the end of the class without a second thought. If you love something, it’s pretty easy to talk about it, and yes, you really do know more than you might think!


  1. When you still love telling people about it all after sixteen years, you’re probably in the right field.

Of course that is always much easier to know in retrospect than, say, when you’re finishing varsity and trying to decide what to do with your life. In my experience, that is when you should consider all the options logically, and ultimately go with your gut. There are only three occasions in my life that I think I really and truly did that – the last was regarding the barefoot man, and that has been the single best decision of my life so far, but the other two were pretty pivotal too. The second one was to step off the ladder and leave corporate life although everyone thought I had lost the plot. And the first one, in fact one of the first decisions I made entirely on my own, was to go to a place I loved and study things I really, really wanted to know about and think about. It made the world of difference to my experience of life, my worldview and, ultimately, who I became. Don’t underestimate your gut, it knows you from the inside out, after all.


  1. The basics are much more important than you imagine.

I’m constantly amazed by how things I take for granted as common knowledge completely fascinate people in other fields. Things like what happens to get a product onto a shelf at your local Woolies, or what you do to place an advert on TV. But this is true of everyone – things you know and think everyone must know, are interesting and worth talking about. But the downside of that is that it’s easy to forget about the basics and so when you suddenly have to teach what you know, you have to backtrack yourself a little and remember what the basics are. And the fascinating thing about that exercise is in doing so you remind yourself how fantastic those basic ideas and tools and perspectives really are! And you remember that if you keep the basics in mind you will start better, keep on track more, and end up on more solid ground from where you can build further. And I think that’s probably true of nearly everything, really. We tend to over-complicate things and they get tangled and messy in the process. So when in doubt, stop, breathe deeply and start with the basics again. Even their name tells you something – they are always there at the base, waiting to save you from creating a towering inferno for yourself.


And the other thing I’ve been reminded of, being on a campus again, is that life is fun and little things can really make the difference in a bad day – so take time to look up, see the lightness in the world and enjoy each day a little more!

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