It was years ago, and I had recently moved to Houston from my hometown of Minneapolis. The economy had taken a dive in the wake of the Enron impacts, and like so many others, my job was a casualty. I couldn’t find a new job anywhere and was living off of unemployment. To make matters worse, I had already planned a trip to South Africa with a good friend. Her mother supported various ministries, and we had agreed to volunteer. So, there I was, broke and depressed with zero prospects. And yet, there was that knowing. Something in me said I had to make it to Africa.
And so, I did what any little sister does – I asked my older sister for help. Ever the realist, she cautioned me against taking a trip that I couldn’t afford. I couldn’t argue with her logic, but my inner voice kept nudging me. Eventually, she lent me the money for my plane ticket, and I was off to South Africa. My friend and I were hosted by a pastor and his ministries, and we spent our days traveling and doing mission work for local communities. On a day off, we found ourselves at one of the most amazing tourist destinations in the country, PheZulu.
Just a half-hour outside of central Durban, PheZulu is a shining example of rich history, culture, and entrepreneurialism. Run by the Zulu people of the KwaZulu-Natal province, the village sits atop a mountain with a clear view of the Valley of a Thousand Hills. With excitement, my friend and I caught the trolley up to the top of PheZulu just as the sun was setting. True to its name, we stared out onto thousands of hills tumbling down towards the Umgeni River. We stood in silence against the breathtaking backdrop of a perfect South African dusk. Again, I felt that familiar sensation and knew that I was exactly where I needed to be.
By the time we descended the mountain, it was already dark, and the other travelers had mostly gone. We were alone, and there were no taxis in sight. We had no idea things shut down at a specific time. My friend was in a complete panic, but I remained composed.
I knew we hadn’t been led to this mountain and this moment for no reason. If we’d made it there, I knew we’d make it back. Sure enough, a taxi eventually arrived and took us safely back to our lodging. As my friend’s heart dropped with relief, mine merely soared with gratitude.
PheZulu translates to “take it to the top,” and since that day, it has become a friendly reminder to trust my inner knowing, live life to the fullest, and push through discomfort. Externally, nothing changed about my life once I’d reached that mountaintop. I was still unemployed, financially strapped, and unsure about the future, but I descended that mountain with a changed perspective. I realized that greatness isn’t in the view from the mountain, but in the journey of the climb. As I looked out over the hills, I understood that there are no mountains without valleys, no highs without lows, and no triumphs without tribulations.
Mountains themselves are the result of great turbulence underneath the earth’s surface. Most are formed when tectonic plates smash together beneath the ground. Others are created when volcanic magma erupts and hardens into rock. Just like mountains, we too are hardened and shaped by the chaos around us. Maybe you’ve been fired or passed up for a promotion. Perhaps you’ve been crushed by grief, heartbroken, or struck with illness. No matter your story, you can still reach your mountaintop.
My trip to PheZulu brought me to a new place inside of myself. This is a place of limitless potential and abundant possibility. I call it my “greater than,” and it’s something that we all possess. It stems not from material things or worldly accomplishments, but from your innermost essence of self-worth. When you walk with faith in your greater than, you live from a place of love and not fear. This is what emboldened me to book a trip across the world without a job. It’s the same thing that assured me a taxi would come to bring us to safety; I suspect that it’s your greater than that has called you to this article today.
When I returned home from South Africa, I had a renewed energy and sense of direction. Instead of focusing on my unemployment, I became a resource for others. I began hosting intimate gatherings every Saturday to teach young people about the entrepreneurialism and rich culture I had experienced on my trip. I wanted to elevate the narrative about Africa to include the innovation and industrious spirit I had witnessed. Fifteen years later, and I now support Africa with twelve different collectives across the continent. I spearhead mentorship communities in Nigeria, Cameroon, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and more, and get to lead a major initiative through my work with BeyGOOD. PheZulu was more than just a trip. It was a pivotal moment in my life; an apex of transformation. And it all started because I listened to my greater than within.
It Starts Within
It’s likely that you have a dream. It might be as big as a career pivot or moving to another country, or as small as starting a new habit. I’m here to tell you that everything you want is available to you. There is always room for greater – greater to be, greater to do, and greater to contribute to the world.
What would happen if you learned to follow your own greater than? I urge you not to ignore the call. [Please share your comments, I promise to reply to each and everyone of you.]
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