A lot of us (young people) were raised to think that the only way to success is through education. Formal, traditional, institutional education. We are taught to go to school, get good grades, get a good job and retire one day. The sad reality is that in most cases life doesn’t always turn out that way. Instead, many people find themselves trapped in jobs that they hate just because they need to get by.
Personal development speaker Jim Rohn once said, “formal education will make you a living but self-education will make you a fortune.” Most people feel as though they have to stay in their miserable jobs for the “security” of having a salary. Those same people live from paycheck to paycheck doing the same mundane thing over and over again, missing out on the good things that life has to offer. This is probably because human beings are naturally afraid of taking a leap and taking risks in order to pursue our dreams.
Phakamile “PJ Speaker” Mzimela, is a true testament to the fact that not having the funds for higher education means not having to chase success or your dreams. Mzimela took a risk and dropped out of both the University of Johannesburg and Pretoria to chase his dream. “I didn’t want to be part and parcel with everybody else. I didn’t want to be just a number. I wanted to stand out and be completely different and pave my own path,” says Mzimela.
Expectedly, Mzimela’s decision to drop out of university was met with a lot of resistance from his family. He explains that “it was crazy because for most black folks, we’re only dependent on university. We think that it’s the only way that we can be successful.” However, Mzimela didn’t let their resistance influence his decisions and efforts to achieve his goals. “I believe that if your dream is worth chasing you’re not just going to give up on it because somebody said it’s not possible for you” he adds.
After dropping out of university, Mzimela admits that he didn’t quite know what he wanted to do. All he knew was that he wanted to be in the fields of leadership and personal development. So he joined the John C Maxwell programme and ended up graduating to become the youngest African certified as an independent speaker, trainer and coach. While in the programme, he got the opportunity to work with American author and speaker John C Maxwell.
At the tender age of 20, Mzimela has shared the stage with some of the biggest personal development speakers in the world, like JT Foxx and David Molapo. He has also spoken alongside our President, Jacob Zuma and at the Millionaire Mind seminar with over 4000 people giving him a standing ovation. And that is what he considers his career highlight thus far. “For a boy who is considered a dropout I have spoken alongside people whom I never thought that I would. In all honesty though, at the time when you are doing it the fact of the matter is that you are nervous and the only reason that you are doing it is because it will be good for your profile. As you’re doing it there is no actual excitement,” Mzimela admits.
He describes himself as a ‘human capital developer’. “People develop all sorts of things. You’ve got mining developers, you’ve got infrastructure developers and I’ve realized that we don’t focus on human development and that’s the biggest resource that we have in South Africa but we’ve left them dry. We’ve left them in townships. We’ve left them in schools that are mediocre. So I want to help individuals become better regardless of what situation they are in,” he explains. Mzimela also works with popular radio DJ, Sbusiso Leope on his weekend radio show on Metro FM called The Sound Revival. He hosts his own segment of the show called “Young and Gifted” and you can see how many lives he touches on a weekly basis just by browsing his Twitter timeline.
“The best feeling for me is getting the constant e-mails from people telling me how I’ve changed the way that they look at things. I mean, there was a person that was telling me by e-mail that he was a taxi driver and he quit driving taxis because he wants to [make] a change in other people’s lives because of what he heard me say on The Sound Revival show.”
Mzimela says that he dreams of becoming South Africa’s youngest millionaire one day and it seems as though he’s well on his way there. He’s a talker who is also a doer that currently runs a company called Young Professional Development which is aimed at altering the mindsets of young people and help them turn their passions into money through turning their dreams into businesses. Apart from that, he is always speaking at corporate events for companies likes KPMG, Transnet, and Hollard just to name a few.
Phakamile conquered his fears and stopped conforming. As individuals, the lesson we can take away from that is to take the roads less-traveled and think for ourselves, because in most cases we do things simply because we see other people doing them. We end up wanting to become engineers, scientists, and information technology professionals because we were told that we will make a lot of money. We must however realize that it’s not for everyone. Some of us can find ourselves caught up in a rut, feeling miserable and working at jobs that we hate. Mzimela’s choice to step away from the beaten path is making all the difference in the young speaker’s life.