Recently I was watching a documentary on Netflix that was entitled “The Playbook: A Coach’s Rules for Life,” which had coaches with championship resumes share their personal rules for success in sports and in life. It featured Doc Rivers from the NBA, Jill Ellis of the USWNT soccer, Jose Mourinho of many European soccer programs, Patrick Mouratoglou, a world-class tennis coach, and Dawn Staley a women’s NCAA basketball coach. From the very first episode, I was engulfed and found myself taking notes from each one. Now while each one provided such amazing insight on how they got to where they are and the rules they have developed and followed, it was the first episode with Doc Rivers that really inspired me and taught me a concept that I never heard of before. That concept is called UNBUTU.
So what is UNBUTU? According to Wikipedia: ubuntu means “I am because you are”. In fact, the word ubuntu is just part of the Zulu phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which literally means that a person is a person through other people. To expand it even further, it embodies the ideas of connection, community, and mutual caring for all.
Many well known people, especially those of South African descent, have used UNBUTU in various ways. Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and yes, even Bill Clinton have all used UNBUTU in their teachings and activism. However, for me, it was the way Doc Rivers taught it to his Boston Celtics team in 2008 when they were struggling but then embraced the concept and went on to win the NBA championship. According to Rivers, “Ubuntu works in life. It works for everybody. It doesn’t have to be basketball,” says Rivers. “It’s about being resilient and sharing the joy with your teammate when he’s doing well and feeling the pain when your teammate is feeling bad.” Interesting concept, I thought. So I began to research it more and have since decided that I, too, would embrace this concept of UNBUTU.
As I researched more, I came across how Nelson Mandela explained what UNBUTU meant to him. He stated,” Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is, are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you, and enable it to improve? These are important things in life. And if you can do that, you have done something very important.” Powerful, to say the least, when most of us are so consumed with just us only.
Looking back at my life over the past years, I realized I was only concerned about one person, ME. I mean, yes, I am worried about my family as well; however, when it came to others outside this, I didn’t care at all. When others struggled, I would pass it off, and I wouldn’t feel bad for them; when others did good, I would get jealous or mad instead of enjoying their successes. In my profession, as a Real Estate Appraiser, I wasn’t offering help or trying to improve the appraiser community. Well, I thought I was by being an outspoken, loudmouth, and problem leader instead of a problem solver. I was creating more issues and enabling others to do the same. A lot of that had to do with my trying to be bigger than I was, my addiction to alcohol, which gave me that amazing superpower of not taking responsibility for my actions and words. I was enabling poor behavior, enabling others around me to follow my lead, and thus, instead of improving the appraiser community, I was making it worse. Why? Because I wasn’t concerned with others one bit. I was just concerned about me and me only. I was more focused on my thoughts, ideas, and if you ever noticed, most of my comments were made while under the influence because I was most comfortable. There was no sense of community and I allowed others to influence me and determine my path that they wanted. I wasn’t a team player, nor a community player. I was a me player and being a me player got me nowhere.
The past year and 5 months have been an eye-opening experience for me. I’ve embraced the changes I have made. What’s even more eye opening is that I started to embrace this concept of UNBUTU months back without even knowing it. I am because you are.. Because of my wife and her non stop support for me battling alcohol, because of people like Blaine Feyen who took me on as a student, my mother in law and my family for their support, my peers for accepting me as a new person, and certain friends, I am who I am today because of them. Crazy! Now it’s up to me to embrace UNBUTU to make my community better, make my profession better, and make others around me improve and become better themselves. Its time for me to embrace my communities and profession. Its time for me to make it better for all in the best way I can and know how to.
I am Because you are… If you are better, then I am better. If you are struggling, then I, too, am struggling, and we need to become better together. The South Africa Interim Constitution, created in 1993, added UNBUTU in this way: “There is a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for ubuntu but not for victimization.” A powerful statement that we all can use in our lives and in our professions. Lets seek solutions and seek to be better. Lets come together and make the changes as one. Let us all lift up others when they are down but also enjoy the successes of others and learn from them. Let’s improve our community instead of tearing it down.
I think we all could use some UNBUTU in our lives and make everything around us better.
I am because you are…..