The Rag Parade
The Rag Parade


Spontaneous Decisions Can Produce Unexpectedly Big Returns

Leadership University South Africa

The opposite of “Just do it” is to delay, to think it over, to overthink it, to put it off until another day, to say you are too busy or already committed. In short, to procrastinate. This recognizable pattern can ultimately lead one to miss the many opportunities that are presented daily. You decline an invitation to a networking function because you are a little uncomfortable in a social setting. You make excuses rather than have dinner with someone because you do not agree with them politically. You decline an invitation to participate in a video interview because you have never done something like that before. ever so gradually, avoiding a commitment to anything becomes a habit.

I would like to share my story of a “Just do it” moment that changed my life for the better. In my final year of university, while I was at home on vacation, I got an unexpected call from a fellow student I didn’t know well. The caller explained that he was not going back to university, as his partner was pregnant and they were getting married. He was calling to see if I would be interested in taking over a Rag Week fundraising event known as Campus Carnival, an event I knew nothing about. My instinct was to decline right away, but I played for time, faking interest and asking questions with no intention of committing. As the conversation continued, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being unable to come up with an excuse that didn’t sound flakey. So, I simply said, “Ok, I’m up for it,” having no idea what I had just let myself in for.

Rhodes University, 1969 RAG Committee Members

The biggest risk was to my perceived image at that time as a fun -loving, beer -drinking, happy -go -lucky, laid -back type of person. As it turned out, Campus Carnival, a one-day event on a Saturday afternoon, the penultimate day of Rag Week, took up a tremendous amount of my time and dedication. I could be seen around town hanging up posters, organizing ticket sales, and even speaking at a local school assembly to drum up interest. I was in charge of getting food and refreshments donated and setting up a beer garden and barbeque. For entertainment, I organized an array of spectacles, even negotiating with the town council for permission for a parachute drop! There was both a women’s rugby match—not common at that time—and an inter-varsity men’s rugby game, slippery pole wrestling, and a treasure hunt. The day’s festivities ended up raising a record amount of money for charity since the event’s inception. Bottom line, Campus Carnival turned out to be a big success, which surprised me and perhaps some of my beer -drinking friends.

The event was a catalyst, opening my eyes to the fact that I could potentially have a career in marketing. In turn, this led to my beginning a three-year diploma through the Institute of Marketing and Management after I had completed university. I studied at night and was a social worker by day. Later, I would decide to leave social work and take my first job in marketing, ultimately starting a successful 25-year career running various companies, where my marketing skills were one of the primary reasons I was hired.

I share my story not to suggest that you say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. In fact, as your time becomes increasingly committed, you will probably need to say no more often than not. But beware of saying no as a habitual way of responding to new types of experiences, where perhaps the only thing to worry about is a little social discomfort or putting your ego on the line.

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