Introducing the great Pieter-Dirk Uys would never be able to do justice to the life and career of a truly Great individual who has crossed the lines from Performer, to Author, to Social Activist. No matter who you are, you have been touched by him, laughed with him and probably had your beliefs challenged in more ways than one. Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome onto stage…..
My Definition of Success | Success means file it, store it, forget it. It’s so-called ‘failure’ that remains, a word that makes non-success such failure. Nothing should succeed easily. Everything grows through reinvention and a second try. When I look back at the work that has ‘failed’, I realize most of the reasons came from lack of confidence, listening to good advice that wasn’t pertinent or properly thought through, compromising to appease the disease to please. Success is nice; the process towards it is greater. Not getting it is always a kick in the right direction. My mother’s advice to us as kids at the local piano/singing competition: ‘If you win you get an ice-cream; if you don’t win you get two ice-creams.”
What Drives Me | Happily no longer the disease to please. I am 68 and the audition is over. I don’t have to explain or apologize. If they don’t like what I do or say, they can go somewhere else. Which means I have become my strictest critic and the one most difficult to please. I am not driven; I drive. Having been unemployed since 1975 when the apartheid regime through censorship stopped my work as a playwright – I could not get a job, so I became my job. I am self-employed. If I do nothing; nothing happens. If I do something, anything is possible. The key is discipline. Work, work, work. Planning. Structure. Lists. And the enjoyment of those planned moments in the timetable for doing nothing. Nothing is very important. Essential to heal the spirit.
My Key Talent | Not depending on anyone to solve problems for you. Not waiting for anyone to clean up for you or after you. Not expecting help; help yourself. Not buying into the fantasy of entitlement. Decide: what do you want? Why do you want it? How will you get it? How much time can you give it? Plan how to do it. And start! Don’t panic if it doesn’t happen at first. Leave it alone and do something else. During that time the sticking point could have been solved just by not staring at it. I don’t give up on ways to do what I want. I find different ways to make it work. If something looks obvious, surprise yourself by trying to find another way that is not obvious – and very often more original. When I tell people about an idea and they say ‘You’re mad’ – that’s good. That means they haven’t thought of it. If they nod and smile and agree, then you’re just in someone else’s queue.
A Principle for Greatness | As a writer I have always been aware of ‘writer’s block’ and feared it. It has never happened. Maybe the barrier to the inspiration is ego. We all have ego and it is the kryptonite that fuels every superman, but it can be counter-productive if pushed in the foreground. Be the conduit for inspiration and deliver – don’t become the product. I insist on 100% on every project delivery, even though in retrospect and through development the early stages look trite in comparison to the final product. There can never be compromise in excellence. Not for the sake of the critic, but for the sake of your self-respect as the creator. Principles of discipline and patience, the values of being open to opinion but not brainwashed by those alternatives. Stick to your ideas. Do not ignore your instinct. You will never fully understand it because it’s far ahead of its time, but it’s usually the right way to go. Most of my errors in life have been because I ignored that first impression, that first flashing red light of danger – or that glowing green light of encouragement.
Lessons I have Learnt | Organize your energy. If you’re good in the morning, get up early and do a few hours before the phones start ringing. Make lists: all the important blandness of daily life – car tyres to be checked, cat vaccinated, bank overdraft, dentist, tax return, birthdays to remember, etc etc. Get those details out of your head onto a list and open your mind up to less clutter. Tick off and add to lists each day. A great therapy and you manage to do everything without needing agents, secretaries, wives, lovers, or lawyers. Stay in charge of those details so your mind can enjoy the open spaces of adventure without trying to remember the essential boring little things like dentist, tax returns, overdraft ….
Dealing with Doubt | Self-doubt will always be there. Make it a positive question of your ability to deliver, not an obituary to a dream that is doomed to fail. Words can be very negative. I am asked: “Are you nervous when you perform?” I say: “No I am excited. Nervous means I can’t; excited means I can. It’s the same feeling, the same need to control the symptoms, but you are looking forward not cringing back. Fear is the ultimate 21st century weapon of mass destruction. An essential ghastly tool in the politician’s hands. If you look away from your fear, it become huge, taller than a mile. You will never have the courage to confront it. But when you look your fear in the face, it will never be taller than you. Still lethal, still a killer – but at least you’re in charge and you can navigate round it with knowledge and care.
To Perform at My Peak | Health is essential. Indulgences need to be carefully planned. You cannot function though the haze of drink or drugs. Do them far away from the workplace. Confront each step of your creative life as the first and the last chance to do something that you are proud of.
The Best Advice I ever Received | When I was a teenager in Standard 7 in an Afrikaans school, our English teacher said that we must write a poem. I panicked.
“No, Miss Nel, I can’t.”
“Yes, Pieter, you can.”
“No Miss, I can’t …!”
“Pieter, you can do anything. If you believe in it and work towards it, you can do anything!”
Thank you, Miss Nel.
Getting Rich | Look at others who have made those things a priority. Do you want to end up like them? Maybe you do because they lead by good example as they also asked themselves this question when they started out. Most did not and are no example to strive towards. Riches and wealth are the toilet paper of life. If you have too much of either, you spend your life on that toilet!