It is a fact that finding your passion in life is definitive and causes a deeper appreciation for and a better quality of life. The only thing better is perhaps finding a way to earn a living while pursuing that same passion. There are many examples of people the world over who have managed to hone their unique set of skills and then were able to make a living from it. It is rare, yes, but possible. That is why the person who is able to make it happen often stands out and is celebrated by their peers and possibly world-over.
Elon Musk is a prime example of taking his ‘nerdy’ passion of science and turning it into a profitable venture that will benefit the world. Another is famous author Stephen King, who took his awe of the macabre and turned it into hundreds of novels, short stories and even films celebrated universally, translated into many languages.
Closer to home we have Ulrich Jansen van Vuuren who has become a well known and renowned social influencer, making a difference in society as we know it on a daily basis. The Lounge recently connected with Ulrich and he is a fascinating human being, intent on doing his part to make the world a better place.
Being born in the Northern Cape, South Africa Ulrich says that he was exposed to nature at a very young age. His parents instilled in him the values of being kind to nature, protecting the environment and living sustainably. He waxes lyrical about his home province saying, “I love the Northern Cape; grasslands stretching to the horizon, its desert landscapes, wildlife and rich geological and prehistoric heritage.”
Ulrich joined environmental education movements in school which afforded him opportunities to see and even volunteer on conservation projects and contribute to the protection of ecosystems, plants and animals.
It is this early passion and desire to make a difference which led to him creating ‘Meet my Mzansi’ (meetmymzansi.com), a platform thats sole purpose is to promote celebrating the diversity of Southern Africa.
Through the use of digital and social media, the platform tells the amazing stories of Southern Africa and amplifies initiatives and causes that make a positive impact on the continent, simulataneously celebrating Africa’s rich cultural heritage and natural environment.
Ulrich is very proudly African, “I would not want to exist anywhere else but here. My love for this country and the continent is so much more than mere patriotism for the place where I was born, but rather reflective of my deep passion, appreciation and respect. This is home.” He further says what a privilege it is to live in a continent with such diverse peoples, cultures and opinions.
Having successfully turned his childhood passions and desires into a platform where he can make a living from it and continue to pursue and encourage other people all over Africa to appreciate, protect and be mindful of the environment and to wildlife is a source of great pride and satisfaction.
Thaddeus Shigwedha is an executive in an investment company that has been in existence for 21 years by day and a TV presenter, MC and anchor by night (or morning, as it were).
His interest in media was sparked by his inherent speaking abilities and eloquence which he polished up with training and accompanied by his personality then expanded to MC’ing commercial and private functions.
His passions are definitely lucrative for him and he extends that to other Namibians by supporting local designers and even produce as much as possible. “I only buy a foreign product if there is no Namibian substitute. My mentor Dr Panduleni Hailonga-van Dijk once got me a book ‘Decolonising the Mind’ by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. The book ignited in me a spirit of devotion to my African roots and the spirit of national identity as a Namibian.”
Although he indeed has the capacity to be one and may even be viewed by many as one, Thaddeus does not consider himself an influencer. He does not get paid for any promotions and finds joy in balancing his corporate and his creative roles in society. “Probably influenced people to pop champagne with [their] teeth,” he says jokingly.
Asked how he balances his corporate and creative sides he says “to be honest, I just wake up and God does the balancing. I also prepare in all that I do, I read, I prepare and show up ready. Where there are clashes, which is hardly the case, the corporate job takes supremacy.”
The lesson seems to be that even once you have found your passion and it has become profitable to you, it is helpful not to abandon the other commitments that you have.