Over the years, Felicia Mabuza-Suttle has applied her effervescent personality for the benefit of many. As a talk show host in South Africa’s The Felicia Show (1995 – 2004) and more recently, on The Africa Channel in the US on Conversations with Felicia, Felicia focuses on interviewing (mainly) South Africans to build the democracy in South Africa and inspires many via her books Dare to Dream and Live Your Dream. With Ubuntu in her DNA and a real humanity in her heart, Felicia expounds more of herself for you here:
About my Life Mission | Since my twenties, my mission has been to inspire young people and impact lives.
My Definition Of Success | My definition of success has been an ever-changing concept. During my teens in the dusty and dangerous streets of Soweto, success was to prove apartheid wrong and secure an education. All I wanted were alphabets behind my name – degrees. Nelson Mandela taught me, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I wanted to change apartheid, so I got those letters after my name, and then went on to impact my society.
During my professional years, success meant lecturing at a university in America or working for a Fortune 1000 company. I accomplished both. I lectured at Marquette University as a teaching assistant during my graduate studies, and then later at various colleges in Florida. After I had graduated I worked in middle management and moved into executive positions at prestigious companies in the US. The meaning of success evolved into the cliché of “accomplishing the American dream” and having a house in the suburbs, two cars, two children and travel. But, I was still passionate about moving the bar further.
In 1992, I responded to Nelson Mandela’s call to all South Africans living abroad. He asked us to come back home to serve and to build a new democracy. Success for me was, again, to make an impact on other people’s lives. Capitalizing on my academic training in journalism and broadcasting, I started the first audience talk show in South Africa aimed at bringing black and white South Africans together. The Felicia Show definitely got South Africa talking for over 12 years. The 90’s were undoubtedly a time to be involved with impactful change. I joined on as an executive with South African Airways and was part of the team that made significant differences in how the company operated:
• • Hiring both black and white flight attendants and pilots
• • Incorporating English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Sotho in the greetings
• • Updating the planes to disassociate with the old apartheid color scheme
Today, I want to use my success to change the lives of others for the better. I call it significance. As Mahatma Gandhi reminds us, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” It’s all about ubuntu – giving back. That is what success means to me now.
I Am Driven By | In my book, Live Your Dream, the resounding theme is, “No one and nothing should stop you from realizing your dream.” Growing up under the apartheid system, I was determined to be somebody and to prove the system wrong. I am passionate about passing along on that legacy.
My Highlights | Securing my degrees was my proudest accomplishment. I was the first in my family to finish college. One of my most fulfilling ventures was starting a dance and self-esteem academy for young people in Soweto. I was a reporter at the World Newspaper and often saw kids in my neighborhood just wandering around after school. Starting in the 70’s and into the 80’s, young people gathered at the YWCA every weekday afternoon, when I was done at work. I taught them Latin American and ballroom dancing. The goal was to keep them off the streets and away from crime. On Saturday mornings, the older ones came to my house where I conducted clandestine sessions on self-esteem and black consciousness. It was heartwarming to take them on field trips out of their deprived neighborhoods to Mozambique, Swaziland, Durban and more. Another proud dream-come-true was when I, just a girl from Soweto, would stand in a lecture room at prestigious colleges and lecture to black and white students. I still feel the same way today when I participate in seminars around the world. I cherish the memories of sitting on the same panel with heavyweights and interviewing luminaries such as Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Thabo Mbeki, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Cherie Blair; and personalities including Miriam Makeba, Hugh Maseklea, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, T.D. Jakes, Wayne Dyer, and Suze Orman.
The Magic in me Originates From | My magic, or as I prefer to call it, passion, comes from a deep love for my country and the young people who are our future leaders. I want to inspire them to dare to dream big and to live their dream. I wish it were magic and I could be a magician and just say, “Abracadabra” and things would change.
The Difference Between Good And Great | I believe people who are good at what they do, do it for profit. People who are great at what they do are driven by purpose and passion. Find your purpose, follow it with passion, and profits will follow.
A Key Talent | There are really two strengths: persistence and determination. When I set my mind at something and I believe in it, no one and nothing will stop me from making it a reality. I have never allowed my past to define my destiny. I have ensured that my past propels me to success, instead. My motto is: No excuses. Dare to dream and make your dreams a reality.
Ella Fitzgerald has been quoted, “It isn’t where you came from; it’s where you’re going that counts.”
The advice I always give is: “Seek out successful people. Read their books, attend their seminars, take pictures with them, and who knows, maybe by osmosis, you, too, will be successful.”
It comes down to what I call the Three Cs:
1. Courage: Test your courage. That is your key to success. “Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency.” — Maya Angelou
2. Confidence: Hold your chin up and keep your shoulders back. “Without confidence you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence you have won before you have started.” — Marcus Garvey.
3. Compete: Never give up. Remember there are many others competing to realize their dream. Believe in yourself and sell yourself. Capitalize on your differential factor. “A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her.” — David Brinkley
Principles, Values and Ideologies I Live By | The three most important principles, values and ideologies I believe are important are:
Integrity: Those who know me will tell you that one of my most often expressed sentiments is, “Always stand on the right side of history, even if you are alone.”
Gratitude: Showing appreciation is key for me.
Ubuntu: This is an African philosophy that is a thread into my DNA. I don’t have any living relatives I have not assisted in some way or other. It gives me great pleasure to assist where I can. My grandmother used to teach us “when you rise, you should raise others.”
Lessons I Have Learnt | The most important thing I have learned is to never take a job for the money. I must always use my personal and professional time for those things I am passionate about. If you follow your passion, you will feel like you have never worked a day in your life.
Also, I have learned to live with integrity. Author Robin Sharma says his father once told him: “Son, when you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” That is what I strive for every day.
Dealing With Doubt | In my book, Live Your Dream, I have a chapter called, Negaholics Can’t Stop You.
In life, there will always be cynics, skeptics, and critics. I have learned to never lower myself to their level, because I believe they will bring me down to their depths of fear, negativity and misery.
I have learned to overcome fear of failure. My husband calls me the biggest risk-taker he has ever known. In order to eliminate doubt and fear, I only embark on ventures I believe in and that I feel passionate about.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | The best way to get the future you want is to orchestrate it.
My success journey is guided by audio books and educational CDs and I keep a stack of them with me all the time. I am a “road scholar”, and my car is my campus. I listen to CDs on personal empowerment by Robin Sharma, John Maxwell, Suze Orman, Les Brown, Jim Rohn and others like them.
I am an avid reader of motivational and personal transformation books, and a couple of my favorites are Seven Habits of Highly Successful People (Stephen Covey) and Conscious Capitalism (John Mackey). Other authors who have affected my life include:
• Wayne Dyer on personal transformation
• The Psychology of Winning Women — Denis Waitley, Deborah Waitley and Dayne Waitley
• Rich Dad, Poor Dad — Robert Kiyoski
and most important to me
• Long Walk to Freedom — Nelson Mandela
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I will continue my inspirational roadshows to encourage young people to dream, stay focused on their education, and then hopefully, realize those dreams. In an interview I conducted with Oscar-winning actor, Louis Gossett, Jr., he said, “The single most important commodity on our planet is not oil, or diamonds, or gold, or military might. The single most important commodity on our planet is our children. All our children.” Any nation that neglects its youth is doomed to fail.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | I have received great advice from so many people I admire. Some of it came through personal encounters, and some from listening to lectures, and of course, there was the advice from family elders, who always emphasized the importance of Ubuntu.
The most important piece of business advice I learned was from Warren Buffet; “Never invest in a business you cannot understand.” And to paraphrase Buffett; You should always reinvest in the company that made you your first million.
I am moved by the words of Barack Obama; “We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.” No matter what your accomplishments are, somebody helped you. We should always show gratitude to those who helped us to accomplish our dreams.
Oprah Winfrey once quipped; “You haven’t completed the circle of success unless you can help somebody else move forward.” I have learned the virtue of giving back.
My mantra comes from my grandmother; “As you rise, raise someone.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a similar belief; “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
I Am Inspired By | The domestic worker who works long hours to ensure that the lives of her children will be better than hers, and who uses every extra penny to better educate them in hopes they become doctors, lawyers, engineers, and beyond.
• I am inspired by my grandparents who urged me to follow my dreams, and made me realize that I am capable of making my mark in history. I was the first member of my family to earn a college degree.
• I am inspired by the determination of Nelson Mandela who never gave up on his dream for a democratic South Africa. Hearing it firsthand in my interviews with him will remain the most treasured days of my life.
• I am inspired by these media icons, whose work also influenced my career: Barbara Walters, Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer and several others.
• I am inspired by trailblazers like Barack Obama, who became the first black President, giving hope to the black child who never thought it was doable.
• I am inspired by Shirley Chisholm, who became the first African-American and first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
• I am inspired by Hillary Clinton who made history as she cracked the glass ceiling and become the Democratic presidential nominee for a major political party.
• I am inspired by the courage of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who has fought relentlessly for female education, defying the Taliban.
• I am inspired by all the men and women in the private and public sectors and who are making phenomenal changes to make our world a better place.