“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Carel. It’s about diversity.

Many of you have heard me go on about diversity. And here I go again as I firmly believe it can solve much of what is wrong in the world. I’ll be succinct.

My life has shown me that diversity makes for fun, for value, for strength and for opportunity. I love searching out new experiences, challenging physical spaces, people different to me (a white, Afrikaans, middle aged man). And every time I expose myself to diversity, I am richly rewarded.

At TED 2017 I spoke about diversity. I used the South African coat of arms as inspiration. ke e: ǀxarra ǁke is written in the Khoisan language of the ǀXam people and translates literally to “diverse people unite”. I love the fact that Ex Unitate Vires – In Unity, strength, was replaced by a coat of arms of diversity.

At one of CN&CO’s partners – Purple Group – the company has engaged in Agile HR. A fundamental tenant of this management style is diversity. Recently, we shut down the company for half a day and spent time getting to know everyone in the company better. I was blown away by the diverse strength this revealed. A company of around 80 people has talents beyond imagination. It confirmed my belief even more that we are at the tipping point of success.

While making yourself vulnerable and exposing yourself to the “other” may be a challenge, I can assure you the benefits are worth it. Drinking warm goat’s milk and camel blood in Eritrea to reading about Donald Trump, to accepting and questioning my Afrikaans heritage to learning Zulu to running the Comrades, listening to classical music at the Linder Auditorium, participating in Burning Man, serving St Stithians, to chatting to the homeless people under the Rissik Street bridge, diversity always proves a lesson my mum taught me as a kid: “Jy kan leer by die dominee, die straatveër en die koning. En jy kan vir hulle almal ook iets leer.” I think that’s why I am not impressed by “famous” people. My most special, rewarding moments have often come in the most “ordinary” happenings. So, put yourself out there – experience something new. Do something different. Have fun! Life’s short. Live it.