BACKSTORY: Taddy Blecher, co-founder of Maharishi Invincibility Institute
Social entrepreneur Taddy Blecher is co-founder and CEO of the Maharishi Invincibility Institute, an NPO that provides education to young people on 13 campuses in five countries
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
Make it truly win-win. Even if you feel you have little to give, get creative and find ways to add shared value.
What was your first job?
After starting my career at Liberty I moved to Fedsure, where I qualified as an actuary.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
About R15,000. I was very committed to saving. My grandfather taught me about saving from a very young age. As a result, I have never had any debt, and have been able to work in the nonprofit sector for over 28 years without having to worry about money.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
Get the right people on board.
If you could fix only one thing in South Africa, what would it be?
Everything that’s going wrong right now in South Africa is fixable — the provision of food, energy, water, education, everything! And as we fix those things, we can create employment.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I grew up playing the piano and always wanted to become a classical pianist.
What’s the worst investment mistake you’ve made?
Not accepting the 10 buildings donated to us at different times in the Joburg CBD.
What’s the best investment you’ve ever made? And how much of it was due to luck?
In the past 28 years I have invested all I have in helping 24,000 young people to realise their potential. Our current graduates will collectively (and conservatively) earn R59bn throughout their lives.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently, and why did you like it?
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. It’s about leadership lessons from the US Navy Seals. It talks about taking total ownership as a leader and not passing blame.
What is the hardest life lesson you’ve learnt so far?
Don’t try to control everything. Be in the flow. Surrender. Work hard, but also allow the magic to happen.
What phrase or bit of jargon irks you most?
“What you see is what you get.” History didn’t just happen to us. We can create it. We will change the future of South Africa once we collectively decide to do it together and don’t wait for the government or anyone else.
What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress them?
Be true to yourself. Be true to your heart. Never stop learning.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
He needs to be better at selecting who he puts into what positions. We need individuals in the government who are competent and capable, empowered, and focused, and who are here to serve others, not themselves.
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