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The 67 minutes that changed my life for the better

Pat mahlangu. CEO of Lerato Agency

Pat mahlangu. CEO of Lerato Agency

Published Aug 3, 2021

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Pat Mahlangu

An act of goodwill from a stranger changed my life for the better.

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In 2009 I had taken an unintended gap year after completing my matric. I use the word ‘unintended’ gap year, because my family did not have the funds to pay for my varsity fees.

Disheartened, I found myself languishing at home without a job or funding to help me pursue my academic dream. On July 18, 2009, like many other South Africans, I heeded the call to action and decided to go help set up a vegetable garden at a local preschool.

The government had just announced Mandela Day for the first time in the history of South Africa, and I was excited to take part in a charitable activity.

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While at the preschool to do my 67 minutes of charity work, I struck up a conversation with a stranger, who asked me what I was doing with my life. I told her about my depressing situation, and to my surprise she offered on the spot to assist me with money so I can start the application process.

To cut a long story short, she even offered to pay for my registration fee, and gave me transport money to travel from Moloto in Mpumalanga to Gauteng, where I started my academic journey at the University of Johannesburg.

Fast forward 12 years later, and I am a university graduate with a Master’s degree in marketing, a part-time lecturer, and the CEO of a digital marketing company that I founded. I also run a digital platform for brands, and have gone on to work with some of South Africa’s most admired organisations and personalities.

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What happened all those years ago within those 67 minutes, shows we can impact people’s lives in a powerful way through genuine acts of goodwill. The ripple effects have extended to the people around me, including my employees, who now have an opportunity because someone else saw potential in me.

I think this is what I love most about marketing as a career. Although people might see it as another corporate ploy to coerce people into spending their hard-earned money on products and services, I believe that true marketing is about empathy and finding people whose problems you can solve.

A true marketer puts themselves in the shoes of the person they intend to serve, and this is what giving back to our communities is all about. In her book Marketing, A Love Story, Bernadette Jiwa explains that all humans are essentially marketers because we are hard wired to want people to agree with our world view and belong to our group. Poverty has a way of destroying that sense of belonging, and a simple act of kindness can change a person’s perspective, giving them more courage to keep striving for a better day.

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I have reason to believe that there are many other stories of people whose lives were changed through this initiative. My hope is that they continue to pay it off by making a difference in the lives of others. Those 67 minutes might seem like an insignificant affair, but for me, it set the tone for a life filled with opportunities. I am a living example of the ripple effect that one act of kindness can have in the life of a person in need.

Pat Mahlangu is a marketing expert and the CEO of Lerato Agency

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