Note from Steph Bester: When I got back after the year-end break I found this wonderful letter on my desk. Straight from the heart, it is by one of our people and celebrates the "firsts" she achieved in her first year with us. It is honest. It is touching. But I am sharing it with you because more than anything else, it is inspiring. Enjoy!
By Sam Watt
When I joined The Unlimited in February 2014, I felt like Alice who had just fallen down the rabbit hole – anxious, but fascinated by a company that was so different from anything I had ever experienced. Suddenly I was in a whole new world, a world with its own values-driven culture, language and people. It was a world I didn't completely understand, but this left me totally intrigued. I was captivated by the way-of-work and curious about their drive to shift lives (little did I know that it was my life that was about to be shifted).
Every day brought a new adventure, a new wonder to be revealed, a new puzzle to be solved – not unlike most new jobs I suppose. But this was different. Yes, I was learning something new every day about the role I was fulfilling, but it was more than that. I was being pushed, albeit subtly, to do things that took me beyond the walls of my comfort (and role!) Like Alice, I came face-to-face with many fears, but in doing so, it became a year of fantastic firsts for me.
Here are just a few things I did for the very first time in 2014, thanks to The Unlimited.
I am not sure if I've walked 5km before (does a stroll on the beach or trawling a big mall count?) which is why I consider my first ‘official' 5km walk to have taken place on 26 February 2014. Anyone who knows me will confirm that exercise is not exactly my strongpoint. Not convinced? It took me a shocking 1 hour and 7 minutes to complete it (by the way, it should take a ‘newbie' no more than 40-50 minutes.) Lucky for me, my competitive spirit soon overtook my lack of desire and before I knew it I was completing 5km in less than 40 minutes (P.S. I cried like a baby when I finally hit 38 minutes for the first time).
I don't like needles – it's as simple as that. I graced the doors of a hospital for close on 6 weeks when I was 20 years old and have hated them ever since. Fortunately my will to shift a life (planted and watered by The Unlimited) outgrew my complete disdain for needles, and so, I donated blood for the first, second, third and fourth time in 2014.
Now, this wasn't scary – it was completely awesome. Not many people can say that they have been part of a Guinness World Record attempt, or that they played a part in setting a new African record. I managed to tick both those boxes and all I did was build sandcastles on the beach. kingofthecastles
Looking back, I often wonder what on earth possessed me to sign up for a 14km race on sand from Umhlanga to Suncoast. A couple of 5km runs did not prepare me for an experience that was, without a doubt, painstakingly awful. Every bone in my body ached, I lost my personality after the first 5km and I wanted to give up more than once. All of this was soon forgotten as I crossed the finish line and received my very first medal (outside of school of course!). No words can express the absolute gratification that comes with doing something that you never thought you could.
Inspired by a colleague who went from zero to hero in only a year, myself and a few enthusiastic friends on impulse, entered a mini triathlon. Truth be told, I didn't train very hard and so I completely underestimated this ‘little' race. I almost drowned (two lifeguards saved me!), I huffed and puffed, and I was incredibly slow, but my to my surprise, I finished. Another first and another medal – yay me!
The Unlimited gave us the most amazing gift in June 2014 – it was the opportunity to volunteer in a state hospital for a day. From fluffing pillows and painting walls, to cleaning windows and chatting to lonely patients – it was heart-breaking and sad, but also incredibly humbling. This was a first that I would love to repeat again, and again.
Mrs Pape (my grade 8 Home Economics teacher) would be so proud! It only took me 18 years to complete my first sewing project. My propellant was the fact that it was for The Unlimited Child (our NPO). Our Team Love team had great aspirations of sewing curtains and making mattress covers for an underprivileged crèche in the Valley of the 1000 Hills. It was only once we discovered that only one of us could sew, that I was thrust into action. I had a sewing machine, but had no idea how to even thread it. The patience and persistence of an amazing colleague saw me sew 13 mattress covers in two days. Yes, I'm officially a seamstress too!
Now I know what you are thinking… this can't possibly be the first time that I have embarked on self-development, I mean, I have a degree right? And you would be right, kinda. The thing is – it wasn't until I joined The Unlimited that I became conscious about developing myself. Up and to this point, I thought that upskilling myself every couple of years would be good enough – turns out – it isn't! The Unlimited taught me that embarking on personal development is a daily exercise that is critical to my long-term success not only as an employee, but as a mom, friend, daughter, sister and wife too. This ‘first' is the one that I hold in the highest esteem, and one that I will be forever grateful to The Unlimited for.
You should be – that's what living in Wonderland does to you.
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, Chapter 6
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