Notions of success. Opinions from real (successful) people.

Success, much like happiness, is something that is not easily defined. The degree of its subjectivity is as unique as the freckles on one’s face, however, popular culture has set itself on making people believe that success and happiness are directly proportional to the balance in one’s bank account.

We chatted to an editor, an entrepreneur, a furniture designer and business owner, and an investment professional, all of whom enjoy both success and happiness, about their notion of the S-word. This is what they had to say.

The editor: Zanele Kumalo

After starting out as a sub-editor and reporter for the Sunday Times, Zanele has gone on to work at magazines such as Oprah, ELLE, Marie Claire and Grazia. Her roles at these glossies have ranged from beauty editor to Joburg correspondent, bureau chief and editor. Currently, Zanele is the editor of W24 as well as an entrepreneur, writer, dj and speaker. Her first loves are music, fashion and art.

When it comes to success Zanele says…

It’s all terribly corny and cliched, the realisations you come to you the older you get – like life/work balance and self-love etc. The higher up the rung you climb, the more responsibilities you have, the more obligations you feel you have to meet. I think success in work and love is having freedom and flexibility. To be an individual who values themselves and others.

It’s great to drive a nice car and live in a beautiful home and shop cool clothes but those really aren’t the things that count. Most people would be lying if they say they aren’t nice to have but I feel the most successful when I’ve been creative and productive at work and still get time to explore my passions and have lots of energy to give to loved ones. And when I allow myself to refuel.

When life is in sync in the way that I need it to be or when I don’t freak out when it doesn’t, that’s a successful day, month, year. The rest is just a treat I’m lucky to enjoy.

The entrepreneur: Alistair Barnes

Alistair was born and raised in the KZN Midlands before moving to Cape Town to complete his tertiary education. He spent a year in advertising, started a few ‘failed’ businesses, freelanced and consulted before starting his own business, Ballo, in 2013. Ballo’s initial offering was centred on wooden eyewear, or eyewood as its more commonly referred to as, which is produced from a unique combination of recycled paper and off-cut timber. Ballo has grown to now include a full ethical fashion range of eyewear, luggage & apparel. In 2016, Alistair started Bo-Op a local design concept store which showcases 16 of Cape Town’s designers and in 2017 he started Sustainable Sundowners, a monthly gathering and launch platform for local sustainable business owners.

Alistair’s notion of success…

For me success is not something that we can measure in the bank or in any material object. Success is being able to answer yes to these questions at the end of the day:

Was I impeccably honest today?

Did I try my best today?

Did I treat every human I came into contact with equal respect?

I don’t think I’ll ever be perfect at any of these, but moving towards them is enough for me. Progress not perfection.

The furniture designer and business owner: Monya Eastman

Monya completed her social sciences undergrad at Rhodes before securing an honours in philosophy at Stellenbosch university. She worked in advertising as a copywriter and then as a fashion buyer for 7 years before starting her own business, Stokperd (

Monya’s motivation for starting Stokperd was born out of frustration of not being able to find the kind of furniture she was looking for in the stores. She made a few drawings and got someone to build her ideas from scratch and that’s how Stokperd began. In addition to creating beautiful things and spaces she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, loves gardening, winter, small towns & the Karoo.

What does success mean for Monya…

Before I started Stokperd I always felt like there was something else I should be doing with my life, and that “thing” was always to create beauty in my surroundings. Leaving a comfortable corporate job was hard, probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done because I was scared of the unknown and what I was about to do felt completely impossible. As hard as this was, the thought of staying and not following my heart was scarier. Looking back now I can say that I have been successful in turning a vision into a reality. Success will be defined in different ways by different people, but for me it’s setting yourself a goal or having a vision of how you would like to live your life and spend your days, and then making that happen, no matter what it takes.

The Investment Professional: Dale Taylor

After completing his B.Com undergrad at Stellenbosch University Dale wasted no time in diving into the financial industry. His first job was at Old Mutual, where he worked by day and studied by night in order to further his studies  at UCT. Following this, a few  years at Business Partners equipped him with the confidence and experience he needed to step into the wider arena of London’s financial playground.  15 years of financial industry experience, ranging from investment banking, corporate finance and private equity, saw Dale progress from a wet-behind-the-ears undergrad to taking up the role as Director at a leading investment bank in London.

After a successful 7 years abroad he and his wife decided to return home to South Africa where he now runs the  Corporate Finance and Special Opportunity businesses for a local financial firm.

Dale’s notion of success…

I believe that success is defined by the goals that you set for yourself. When I first started working, success meant clocking long hours, getting promoted, doing big deals and so on. As a young twenty-something, my goals, or main focus of success, were financially based. Not for want of being flashy but to ensure financial stability and security for my future.  As I’ve grown older, those things are still relevant but they form part of a more holistic view of success. Success for me now, first of all, means being a good husband, being a good father to my twins and being a loyal friend. I still set and work hard toward my career goals. It’s important to strive to be good at your job or what you’re doing and to grow. Being well-respected in my job or field is more important to me than the role, title or position.

One’s idea of success will change. If you are constantly improving at something then you are succeeding, regardless of what it might be. Success is about the people around you being happy. Your family being happy.


Mar 9, 2018 | Vuk’uzenzele

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