Becoming an Identity Thief

Photo stolen from Kate Atherstone 
I had never imagined that when I left for the States I would come back a completely different person. We used to mock those certain individuals that did one of what I called the “Big Three life-changing experiences”: teaching English in Asia, a ski season in Colorado or those annoying Facebook official Yachties. Get real. Why spend your time scrubbing boats when you should be studying or working? Something told us that a loss was made by those who did that. This loss was time.

I am not a believer in spending your life surfing the world’s oceans, nor am I a believer in giving your life away to 15 hour work days, but I understand them both equally now. Much like the saying, “You are who you hang around with,” comes a saying “You become where you have been.” It’s as if someone took you out of a box and placed you directly into another. It’s the outside perspective that is most absorbing. For once in your life you are looking at yourself from an outside view. You get quick insight into the way people react to situations, how they think and how they live. What becomes the most telling, is how people who have lived in different countries change for the better in different ways. If you keep everything good about you that is South African and you are willing to pick up the good in other cultures, you’re open for change. For example, you will notice that people who have lived in Korea or China have become more spiritual, they have learnt to breathe in the beauty around them. Those who have lived in Italy or France become intensely passionate. They become lovers of music, of literature and of each other. People who have moved around a lot become addicted to adventure. They become addicted to new places, people and sights. Perhaps, if they do it right, they can pick up the best of everyone.

The United States taught me to be more open to strangers, to believe in my ideas and to take more chances.

As if it were yesterday, one defining memory sticks out that I hope I won’t ever forget. We were at a bar in Los Angeles, doing our thing, standing in the corner trying in vain to act cool and reeking of South African. I stepped out of that bubble for a second and watched as an American friend of mine floated across the bar befriending strangers, both guys and girls. The ability to approach complete strangers is one lesson, but the ability for complete strangers to accept you into their circle is something I’ve had limited exposure to. Whether there is falseness to them or not, American people genuinely want to meet and have fun with new interesting people, no matter who they are and where they are from. South Africans tend to close themselves out a bit more to their own bubble.

I tend to test my faith in my ideas with those around me. Don’t get me wrong, South Africa is home to some of the greatest entrepreneurial minds in the world. However, this mind-set is lodged into a select few people. Imagine living in a world where everyone around you tells you that you won’t fail instead of telling you where you will. You become so involved with the idea that your idea will work, that you get up off your seat and you do it. That element of risk, however big it is, becomes only a figment of your imagination. You become invincible in self-belief. It takes you only a few seconds to sense the entrepreneurial energy that saturates the streets of New York and San Francisco. It’s an addiction and an energy that I won’t ever forget.

I sat one day at lunch with some work colleagues laying out numerous business ideas. These are ideas that I had already shared and discussed with family and friends back home. The difference in response shook me and became the base for a social experiment that I continue to carry out today. Americans always respond positively, often with suggestions to make any idea better. Common responses are “You know what you could add to this” or “You could also sell this”. South Africans tend to lay out every single thing that can go wrong and eventually respond “But ya it could work”. I try to not make general statements, but I keep proving it time and time again. It makes us some of the most risk astute minds in the world but it suffocates us all at the same time.

So my plea to myself and to you, is that the next time someone presents an idea to you try and remember that the glass is always more full than it is empty. Perhaps if we all contribute to this self-fulfilling aura of self-belief, we would add a lot more value to our country than we could ever imagine. Further, if you have the chance to live abroad for a while, do it and when you do, try pick up everything good about that culture while maintaining your own. Become an identity thief that picks and chooses the best in the way others work. Learn from the ways in which people respond to situations and re-evaluate yourself at every turn.

By Just Kicking It Brether Peter van Doesburgh

See more of his articles here:

I Hate the Fact

25 and Changing

Pls vote here


  1. Hi im WInny from indonesia and participating too in and i do vote for u because i like ur blog,