Survive and Thrive
Paul Cook was born into apartheid in South Africa and learned quickly how to survive and thrive. 1980 was a very turbulent time as there was a lot of pushback from the African and tribal population communities. White and red-headed, Paul was born into an upper middle-class family with all the amenities that status brought. They had the housekeeper, gardener and maid.
This turbulent pushback caused his parents to move several times. His first public school was all white, which wasn’t too different than most schools in the U.S. some years ago. But when he started attending a private school, it was fully integrated. This integration was unique for South Africa, especially in farming communities. But his parents could afford it and it expanded Paul’s world view as they lived in a multi-cultural community.
Most everywhere was a danger zone. Even when traveling in your car. You never knew if you were going to get stopped on the road, then end up in some kind of roadblock and shootout. To survive and thrive, they kept a gun in the glove box. His mom carried a weapon in her purse. Most people reading this article probably can’t imagine themselves in this situation. But there are those who live in fear, especially if living in an inner city with gang violence.
Johannesburg was extremely dangerous with automatic gunfire and explosions of all kinds going off in the middle of the night. To survive and thrive, they moved several times. After moving the family to the little town of Harrisburg, they had a similar violent experience right across the street so they moved again, this time out of the city to a farm. On the farm is where Paul learned to shoot at a very young age, at about eight years old. This proved to be necessary as he had to not only defend the farm but protect he and his sister from active shooters when just twelve years old.
After this particular shooting event, the family’s move to Canada was planned and eventually realized. When living in Canada, they could jump on the bus and spend a day in the city, go to the grocery store or even hang out with friends at night. They would be safe. This is when Paul became more aware of what was possible.
Working Today in South Africa
Fast-forward to today. Paul switched from what was basically steady work as an engineer after college to an industry that was completely disrupted for two years as a tour guide. His was a journey to not just find his passion, but to fulfill a passion he had developed at a very young age on the farm when spending a lot of time outdoors. From his previous experience living in Africa, he called upon his knowledge of the language, wildlife and the land and made his passion of working outdoors a successful reality.
But he had some hurdles to overcome. He had to change his mindset from being a victim to a champion. Was he just going to throw his engineering degree away? How could he survive and thrive working in Africa with those that once brought danger and disruption to his family? He had to do some soul-searching and work on his mindset before his dream became a reality.
It took about ten years, but he did the hard work to change his lifestyle and his dream working as a guide in South Africa became a reality. In fact, Paul was our guide on a recent trip. What was unique about Paul was not only his amazing knowledge of the different species of plants and animals but his ability to work with the people of South Africa, no matter what nationality or background. How did he get there and how did he develop such a love for the people as he had grown up with such disruption? He shared three mindsets that he had developed.
Paul’s three mindsets helped him work through his victim mentality toward being a champion. They are tools that most anyone can successfully apply to do the same.
Is it in my control? If it’s in your control step back and go through the steps to deal with the issue. Take a long walk and give your brain some space. If it’s out of your control, leave it. It’s not worth getting tied up in knots over what is completely out of your hands.
It’s nobody’s business what others think. What matters most is what you think of yourself and the situation. Surround yourself with a trusted support group that will give you input, especially for what is in your control, then support you in your decisions. (see Relationship Circles, ch. 7 in Women at Halftime)
Get back to life. A pity party is a waste of time. Life has its ebbs and flows. Be your best self and live your life.
Paul’s tools are great advice to survive and thrive. And you don’t have to grow up with apartheid in South Africa to apply them!
- about PAUL COOK
At 12 and 13 years old, he was able to steal away from home with his little backpack to wander into the game reserve when living on a farm. Turning over rocks and sneaking up on animals created his hunger to know more and more about animals and nature.
His college engineering degree got him a job, but he hated it, going through times of crippling depression. He saw others working 40 to 60 hours a week and decided to get outdoors to once again be in nature, turning over rocks. He has worked outdoors ever since. Now, Paul splits his time between Canada and South Africa, as a guide for Backroads Tours. His hobby is knitting beautiful creations, which he can easily do while traveling. Make sure you check out his YouTube channel. @tallpauladventures https://www.youtube.com/c/BurlyPurlyKnits
A pity party is a waste of time.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
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