A formula for being happy in SA

This is not about irrational optimism for the future of SA.

This is about helping you decide whether you can be happy elsewhere.

This about highlighting the biggest risks of living in SA and how to mitigate them.

And this is about advice on how to maintain an optimistic mindset.

The truth is that there is no rational argument for South Africa having good times in the coming decade. All the evidence points toward a tough economic environment, more unemployment, and messy politics whilst Cyril Ramaphosa tries to undo the damage of the Zuma years. 

In fact, there are good reasons to consider leaving the country.

The three major ones are:

  1. Crime
  2. Job opportunities, or the lack thereof
  3. State failure

These are big problems, each one by itself sufficient to justify emigrating. 

The challenge is leaving SA and being happy.

So the question of, “Do I leave?” must include the proviso “Can I be happy elsewhere?”


  1. Am I an economic prisoner? I can’t be happy in another country simply because I can’t get the same bang for buck, i.e.: In SA I can pay R18,000pa for a world-class government school. Not possible in Sydney. 
  2. Am I a social prisoner? My parents are here. My brothers are here. My ouma is here. My in-laws are here. Most of my friends are here. My fellow Protea and Springbok fans are here. My braais are here. My Big 5 are here. My Afrikaans, Sotho, Zulu and Xhosa are here. My soutie sense of humour is here. My heart is here. 
  3. Am I a purpose prisoner? As I get older it is becoming more important that I make a difference in other’s lives, not just live a selfish existence. I don’t think I can find as much purpose anywhere outside of South Africa.

Once I did the checklist, I realised that if want to be happy, leaving SA is not an option.


Provided I mitigate the risks:

  1. Crime – This is the biggie. If you can’t have peace of mind for your family, then it’s hard to argue with the decision to leave. There are lots of ways to try mitigate the risk of crime, most powerful being: Don’t live a flashy life. Don’t show off. Don’t make others jealous. 
  2. Jobs – It’s hard to get a job, especially if you’re not previously disadvantaged. So I chose to be self-employed. I chose to take responsibility for my own financial future. Regardless of where you live in the world, you will one day be on your own. Forced retirement in Australia is at 65 years. You’ll likely live until you’re 90. That’s 25 years of fending for yourself. Are you really willing to bet your future financial security on a company pension?
  3. State  failure – Some towns are failing. Potholes, water shortages, rubbish. If you can’t move towns, step into the vacuum and do the state’s job. Farmers are already doing it. In the Karoo, local farmers are already providing everything from healthcare to education to housing. 

Better yet, start a business that solves problems that the state is failing to address. That way you can make a difference AND make a profit. 

The Namola app is an example of an entrepreneur stepping into a void, creating a service that substitutes 10111 for emergency calls, and dispatches police or ambulances or neighbourhood watch or whoever is closest to the incident. One day everyone in SA will have a Namola Panic Button, meaning crooks will think twice before mugging you.

Our country is safer. An entrepreneur makes a living and creates jobs.  


With the checklist and risk mitigation out of the way, it’s easy to commit 100%. The logic is straightforward:

If I’m going to be here for the next decade, I may as well go all in. If things go bad, I’m screwed anyway. If things go well, I’m in the money.

The alternative is to sit on the fence. After ten years if the country is a mess, I’m screwed anyway. If it’s a success, I’d just feel like a fool for sitting on the side-lines and missing out. 


The last step is to find a way to be optimistic in the midst of a seemingly infinite flow of bad news. 

Willpower is not enough to be an optimist, especially in a country with as many problems and injustices as SA. 

I’ve had to develop life rules for maintaining an optimistic mindset.

  1. Stay away from negative people. 
  2. Stay off social media and don’t read headlines. If you insist on regularly perusing Facebook, unfriend the negative folks. STAY AWAY FROM PESSIMISTS, VICTIMS AND NEGATIVE FOLK. 
  3. If you can afford it, travel internationally. If you can’t afford it, travel locally. Travel opens your eyes. Other countries make you realise the grass isn’t greener. Local travel makes you realise our country is full of kind, generous and friendly people with Christian values, rather than the bad apples highlighted by the media. 
  4. Buy Rand hedge stocks like Naspers and Glencore. That way it doesn’t matter what the Rand does. If the Rand weakens, you win because your shares go up. If the Rand strengthens you win too because you’re earning Rands.


Most important is to find a purpose that’s bigger than you.

If you’re not making a difference, you’re not balancing the risks of living in South Africa.


When I was eleven years old I watched a TV show about the hole in the ozone layer. The TV explained that soon we’d all have to cover ourselves in blue paint when we walk outside or risk being burnt to a crisp by unfiltered UV rays. 

I panicked and asked my dad what we’re going to do. He said, “Don’t worry son, it will all be ok. Don’t panic.”

Turns out he was right. CFC’s were banned, the ozone layer grew back, and no one walks around with blue paint on their face.

Don’t spend energy on things that are outside of your control. If you can’t influence it, ignore it. 

Put all your energy into what you can control.

And remember: Everything will be ok in the end, if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.

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