We bear witness to many declarations in the world about rights, privileges, freedoms, purpose and laws, and by our consent, we accept their existence and all that they entail.
“Before the sacred, people lose all sense of power and all confidence; they occupy a powerless and humble attitude towards it. Yet no thing is sacred of itself, but by my declaring it sacred: by my declaration, my judgement, my bending knee. In short, by my conscience.” – Max Stirner .”
As a young child, I spent my nights on my grandfather's lap watching television shows like The A-Team and Knight Rider, since we were one of the very few families on our block to have a full-colour Telefunken TV set. My grandfather enjoyed the shows as much as I did and was equally entertained by my re-enactments of the action scenes afterwards. At the end of the evening's viewing, there was always the national anthem, with a picture of the South African flag fluttering in the wind in slow motion. The broadcast clock would follow.
What struck me on these American shows was the constant presence of the American flag, the sound of The Stars and Stripes and the famous preamble to that country’s declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to b self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
It was on American shows that I had my first impression of affluent, eloquent, successful black people and communities. When I asked my grandfather why they were so different from the people in our neighbourhood, he replied: "They are not that different from us – they just enjoy freedoms that we don't have yet. Some people believe and say the same things here too, but we're just not there yet."
As a seven-year-old in Soweto's Dube Village, I simply couldn't grasp why some people enjoyed freedoms and privileges because of a declaration, while others who recited the same words were in a state of oppression and bondage. If we were all the same, what made those words effective in one place and of no effect in another?
Americans had a declaration, written by Thomas Jefferson on 4 July 1776, during a revolution by common colonists against the tyrannical parliament of King George III, in a bid for independence from Britain. It wasn’t the work of only one man, but a culmination of borrowed documents and ideals, as Jefferson explained that he wasn't striving for the originality of principle or sentiment, but rather hoped that his words would serve as an expression of the American mind". The result was the cornerstone of enduring liberty (at least on paper) for generations of people.
So what constitutes the potency of a statement? Is it the flow of the language, or the intent? Is it the length of the document? Or is there something deeper than the actual words? What enables the statement to bring down tyranny, wage a war for freedom, start industry, send a man to the moon and build a global economic superpower?
In his foreword to The Diary of Petr Ginz (Penguin Random House), kept by a young Jewish boy in the Theresienstadt ghetto during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, Jonathan Safran Foer writes: “Giving a word to a thing is to give it life. ‘Let there be light,’ G-d said, ‘and there was light.’ No magic. No raised hands and thunder. The articulation made it possible. It is the most powerful of all ideas: words are generative.”
We bear witness to many declarations in the world about rights, privileges, freedoms, purpose and laws, and by our consent, we accept their existence and all that they entail. Those who make such declarations – calling only on God as their authority and witness – are then committed to them. In essence, we become what we proclaim to be true and what we declare ourselves to be. If we are to strive to become positive, enduring and amazing, we must be careful to observe the principles we’ve sworn to uphold.
Equally, if we’re to strive for true success, we must construct positive declarations to act as rudders that will direct our paths. By doing so, we take control of setting into play what we desire to see as outcomes in our lives.
Or perhaps a declaration is an agreement, written not only on paper but on our hearts and conscious minds, inscribed in the animus of our existence as human beings.
The power and impact of words wrought deep inside our core create unbreakable principles by which we can attain our highest values in life, business and society. Declarations precede victories. Declarations are life-changing. Declarations are dreams spoken out in the open and then realised.
I challenge you to consider the infinite possibilities of a dynamic declaration. Take control of your actions and the influences around you. Don't just go with the flow, but carve out a victorious path and inspire the same in others. I invite you to steal away to a quiet space, grab a pen and paper and draft your life-altering declaration. Create it and then follow it.
You’ll be astounded by where it leads you.