Ongolo Proud African

How to ensure that 2020 does not defeat you

5 October 2020

2020 will forever be remembered as the annus horribilis for most of mankind. The year got off to an eventful and soul-destroying start with the Australian bush fires, floods in Indonesia, a volcanic eruption in the Philippines, a brush with World War III and billions of locusts ravaging East Africa.

Then Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash and reminded us all that the Angel of Death does not discriminate. The music can stop at any moment, whether you’re the one of three Kings of Basketball (along with Michael Jordan and LeBron James) or the janitor who cleans the courts at Staples Centre long after the players and their adorning fans have left.

At the end of the day we all become ash, with or without cash

That was just January! 2020 continued to shock and awe from February until today with countless natural and man-made disasters. COVID-19 brought the entire planet to its knees and to date has infected over 35m people and killed over 1m. Local and global businesses from aviation to retail have collapsed as a result of the economic paralysis, leaving many people unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. Racial tension flared up after George Floyd was murdered in April by policemen in North Carolina – the same month that some Africans living in Guangzhou faced racial discrimination and were forced to sleep on the streets. In 2020, the world became an angrier and scarier place.

There has never been a better time to be a Kalahari bushman or Amish people, living a blissful existence away from this mad world

The Bushmen of Kalahari
The Bushmen of Kalahari live the simple life

Chadwick Boseman’s death in August was a reminder of how to live your best life in the face of death. Unbeknownst to everyone outside his inner circle, Boseman produced some of his finest work, including the iconic Black Panther, after he had been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He was dignified until the day he took his last breath as a testament to the expression:

"Never complain, never explain" – former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli

So how can we emerge strong post 2020?

Develop mental toughness

Mental strength is about managing your thoughts, reactions to situations, and how you rationalize the world around you. There are three things that help one build mental toughness: positivity, patience and resilience.


“A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results” - Wade Boggs

Positive Mental Attitude
A Positive Mental Attitude is the first line of defence

Many people are struggling with social distancing which has altered the way we live, work and play. A positive mental attitude (PMA) is the first line of defence to get through these dark days by conditioning the mind to overcome all situations no matter how bleak. The Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone book entitled Success through a positive mental attitude is packed with twenty-two life changing chapters that will flip the switch of positivity in anyone who reads it with purpose. At the heart of PMA is that the energy you put out into the universe is what you get back and that positivity is what attracts success.


"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant" ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Bamboo tree

The story of the Chinese Bamboo tree is an important lesson about patience. The first four years after a bamboo is planted are uneventful as there is no visible sign that the tree is growing beneath the soil. Yet the soil still needs to be watered and fertilized to ensure that it is ready for the magic that happens in year five. The bamboo tree makes an appearance five years after it is planted by shooting up by 80 feet in just six weeks. Those uneventful first four years are what laid the foundation for the tree to stand tall for a lifetime. Patience is not just a virtue.

COVID-19 has altered many plans and caused major frustrations. But frustration caused by impatience can lead to irrational and regrettable decisions. The mentally strong are using this down time to focus on the things that are with one’s control – building new skills, working out, spending time with family or picking up new hobbies. Acceptance of one’s situation is key to developing patience and preparing the mind for future opportunities as they arise.


“Never say that you can't do something, or that something seems impossible, or that something can't be done, no matter how discouraging or harrowing it may be; human beings are limited only by what we allow ourselves to be limited by: our own minds. We are each the masters of our own reality; when we become self-aware to this: absolutely anything in the world is possible.” - Mike Horton


Resilience is the ability to overcome setbacks. Have you ever heard the proverb “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going?” What this means is that times of difficulty are when the strong persevere.

“No retreat, no surrender” is a saying in the military, which means to not stop until the job is done. You’ll win half the battle if you adopt the attitude that you can do anything and vow not to quit.

Final word

Charles Darwin’s theory that only the fittest will survive is as relevant today as it was in 1869. Darwin concluded that only those who are agile and able to adapt to their changing environment, good or bad, will thrive.

2020 is not the first difficult year that mankind has faced nor will it be the last. We have survived world wars, terrorist acts, multiple cycles of economic depression and famine. Like the Spanish Flu, we will overcome COVID-19.

We need to find within ourselves the strength to face adversity with dignity and grace.

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