Words of wisdom from a much-loved legend – and a tender tribute from a mentee

Marc Wainer’s passing left a huge hole in the universe – he was a business leader and a benefactor, a family man and the founder of a property empire, a man of wisdom, warmth and wit, and a generous philanthropist who, through The Mentorship Challenge, made it his life’s work to give back – and to change lives in the process.

Even while in retirement and under lockdown, Marc’s mind was preoccupied with mentorship. He crafted a personal letter to mentees, to remind them that obstacles should always be turned into opportunities, and that the crises in our lives – including COVID-19 – could serve as a catalyst to trigger new ways of thinking, and to give us the impetus we need to imagine a new future.

The entrepreneur in the time of COVID-19. Crisis as catalyst – turning obstacles into opportunities…

Hard as it is, rather than lamenting the lockdown, you need to understand that it is giving you time that you never had before – and the key is how you put this surplus time to good use.

One thing that is certain in these uncertain times is that, when we finally find our way back to some semblance of normality, the world will not be the same again. People’s behaviour patterns will have changed, unemployment will have increased, many businesses will have closed. And many people’s values will have been utterly reassessed.

But we shouldn’t be alarmed by this upheaval – we should be awakened by it. This is the time to think and reflect on the opportunities that are going to open up, the chances that will be created, and how you can use these to finally get a business off the ground, or to improve on your current business, or even to explore a whole new and unexpected venture that speaks to the new needs brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.

Opportunities will always be there, but initially it will only be the brave – and those who are most prepared – who will be able to take advantage of them. It is in difficult times that entrepreneurs always come to the fore, because these visionaries see what others can’t yet see – they see every obstacle as an opportunity and each crisis as a catalyst. And they have the courage and commitment to follow their dreams.

So, instead of spending all your time binge-watching or playing online games, here’s how to bring a whole new interpretation to the coronavirus:

C: Conceptualise – think it

O: Opportunity – identify it

V: Vision – imagine it

I:  Innovate – improve it

D: Do – do it!

Stay safe, and remember, if you have the passion and the perseverance, your dream will become a reality!

Marc Wainer

At the news of Marc’s death, a mentee on the platform, Brenda Lindelwa Salemone, was prompted to pen words of praise and encouragement. Lindy, as she prefers to be known, is a 24-year-old paralegal with a full-time job. She supports five dependents, including her widowed mother. Awarded a bursary in her matric year, she was told in her first interview that she would not amount to anything but a nobody stuck in a lawyer’s office, doing the work that a lawyer would rather not do. It was a brutal blow, but she understood the meaning of resilience – she has lived it her entire life – and she knew that to succeed you need to push beyond the barriers.

Here’s to the brave…

How often we started our sentences with the words ‘these times’. Now, during this difficult, uncertain time of crisis, these words are a mark and measure of our days. And those motivational words we used to love in memes and on fridge magnets – they were nothing more than nice sayings. Until now. Suddenly, they are the words we most need. 

These are historic times where the entire world agrees on a common goal: to save lives. And we are reminded that we need to take care of each another and of our planet. That we should be selfless, compassionate, and keep apart to stay united.

One question after another rises in the minds of many who hold hopes of making a difference – what does it matter now, these days? How do we keep our lights shining when we are so far from our fellow man? How do we keep motivated and keep on building the world for their benefit? Many more questions wage great battlefields in many once hopeful minds.

And to the brave that have dared to take to the path before them and blow their trumpet, to those who rise to the challenge of mentorship and take on the call of holding hands symbolically, now is your time!

It is precisely in ‘these times’ that you must be a mentor, that you must take your light and extend it to others. Let us unite, and build each other in the spirit of bringing change. Let’s seek together all possibilities to be found. Because those never-give-up motivating memes couldn’t have been wrong. Now, more than ever, we need to be strong.

In loving memory of Marc Wainer, rise to the challenge – be a mentor. 

Brenda Lindelwa Salemone.

Marc Wainer was passionate about people and property. He believed that, as a leader, if you weren’t lifting others up, you were failing. And while he has left this world, his legacy lives on, and his impact and influence will prevail. It’s up to each one of us to take up the task he set us: to build a deep-rooted and enduring culture of mentorship in South Africa.

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