People who've inspired me



What wonderful people and sources of inspiration surround us - many who have touched my heart not only exemplify the power of the human spirit, but fill their days with fun, laughter and an amazing zest for life.


Everyone who has come into my life (either in person or by example) has been a precious gift and I identify some of these amazing people here in the hope that they might inspire others.


I introduce them in the order in which we met, or that I began to fully appreciate their enormous contribution.


Others, including romantic partners, continue to profoundly enrich my life and mentor me along my path. To all I’m hugely grateful.



Thanks to these two wonderful beings I grew up in an atmosphere of love and caring in which I learned to appreciate the joy of selfless service to others. In the troubled days of Apartheid my Dad extended the previously Whites-only Scouting movement to other racial groupings, and especially the local Indian community. He served in various capacities and was nominated Chief Scout of South Africa. Mum was always involved in service and her passion was helping children who had less than she considered fair. She was an enthusiastic volunteer for Child Welfare and helped run a shop called Jumble Joint. I miss them both and remember their legacy with deep gratitude.


SIR EDMUND HILLARY mountaineer and philanthropist

He was the first man to set foot on the summit of Everest (along with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa) and to explore both North and South Poles - but while he was proud to be the first to stand on Chomolungma, ‘Mother Goddess of the World,’ he was prouder to have used that fame to make a difference.

Ed, as he was known, created the Himalayan Trust which established no fewer than 27 schools, two hospitals and 12 clinics in Nepal, as well as piping fresh water to villages, creating airstrips, building bridges over difficult mountain rivers and restoring and maintaining the Sherpas’ beloved Buddhist monasteries.


 “Achievements are important and I have revelled in a number of good adventures, but far more worthwhile are the tasks I have been able to carry out for my friends in the Himalayas,” he said.


A humble beekeeper from New Zealand, he was the first real-life ‘hero’ I met as a very young boy when I attended a talk in Durban. He inspired me then and again later when I hiked to Everest Base Camp in 2007 and saw his amazing legacy firsthand.


His advice to others was: “This was my Everest. Go and find your own Everest… it’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves… you don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things - you can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated.”   



My daughters and treasured friends Bonnie and Tammy have taught me many valuable lessons about life, love, laughter, caring, compassion, truth and authenticity. They are great gifts, teaching me about the unconditional love I would like to express to all, all of the time.


On one thing my beloved ex-wife Carol and I have always agreed – our part in bringing them into the world and helping nurture them is our proudest achievement.


Watching them grow and evolve has always given me hope for a brighter future in which love and peace prevails. I can remember watching those little faces, and those of their nursery school friends, and realising that everything I dared to imagine was possible.


Bon and Tam inspire me to set my sights higher and live a life they can be proud of, knowing their Dad is not only having fun, but doing his best to ensure that they and their children inherit a world as magnificent as the one I was lucky enough to be born into. Thanks, my Babies!


AYRTON SENNA racing driver

It might seem strange to include a deceased Grand Prix driver in my cast of inspirational influences, and if Brazilian Ayrton Senna, why not my earlier Formula One racing heroes Stirling Moss, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart? Or the ever-smiling Malcolm Smith, star of the motorcycling cult movie On any Sunday who I brought to South Africa in 1975 to win the gruelling Roof of Africa Rally through Lesotho?


But the fact is that while history might remember Senna as the greatest driver of his time, who died at the age of 34 while characteristically in the lead, I was awed not only by his devastating speed and supreme confidence, but his deep faith in God and single-minded commitment to being the best he could be.


I met him only on brief occasions but was captivated – I believe that with that passion, uncompromising focus and sense of purpose we will always win at whatever we set our sights on.


NELSON MANDELA South Africa’s first democratic president
Here is a man who laughed easily and often, delighting in the way life had unfolded for him.


Ironically this much-loved and revered world icon personified evil to many White South Africans during the Apartheid era; the wicked propaganda machine of the former minority Government demonising the man who would emerge from 27 years in jail to lead our magnificent country to democracy.


And remarkably ‘Madiba’ would not only display great wisdom and courage, but exemplify the qualities of forgiveness and reconciliation. He showed a special understanding and empathy for the Afrikaners who had incarcerated him and attempted to silence his quest of freedom for all, irrespective of color, creed, religion or gender.


Twice I was lucky enough to meet him during his Presidency, responding to invitations to visit at his official residence in Cape Town where he displayed his characteristic warmth, humour and insightfulness, asking searching questions of myself and others in the African Connection Rally team led by former Minister of Telecommunications and Broadcasting Jay Naidoo.


In 2008 I celebrated his 90th birthday by organising for extreme athletes Braam Malherbe and David Grier to run a combined 90km around Robben Island, starting from his tiny prison cell.


Inmate number 46664’s long walk to freedom is a monument to perseverance and belief in a just cause that has made me grateful to be a fellow South African.


“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination,” he said, also noting: “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is protection of a fundamental right to dignity and a decent life.”


MAHATMA GANDHI father of a nation

It amazes me that I feel his presence and legacy so powerfully when he died at the hands of an assassin before I was born.


His life answers the question about whether one person can make a difference and many of his famous quotes remain an inspiration to countless millions - and perhaps none more so than his entreaty to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”


I love the wisdom of his observations that “There is enough in this world for everybody’s needs, but not enough for anybody’s greed” and that “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”


Perhaps unsurprisingly the multiple academy award-winning film Gandhi is one of my favourites.


It portrays a small brown man wrapped only in a dhoti and shawl who held no high political office and had few possessions, but moved mountains with his policy of peaceful resistance and non-violent activism, bringing about massive change and becoming the father of a nation.


J MICHAEL FAY ecologist and explorer
American naturalist Mike Fay (above left)  is known as a wild child of Africa and grabbed worldwide headlines with an astonishing 456-day, 3 200km hike across the heart of Africa during which he braved contact with just about everything that grows, crawls, slithers, swims, stampedes or bites.
That audacious walk led to a meeting with the President of Gabon and within days Mike’s vision of a network of 13 new national parks had been signed into law, Mike then raising more than $100-million in donations to fund his dream.
He’s survived goring by an elephant, removed countless leeches from his body and has had to swim and wade waist-deep through crocodile-inhabited swamps, but he isn’t complaining. Life is a great adventure and despite the seriousness of his quest, he smiles easily and is fun to be around.
He sees a priceless African Eden in urgent need of protection, and so inspired was I by his passion and ability to think really big, that I joined forces in 2004 with The Bateleurs (a non-governmental organisation of volunteer pilots flying for the environment in Africa) to help launch what was known as Africa MegaFlyover.
This involved a low-level flight over many of Africa’s eco-regions between Cape Agulhas in South Africa and Gibraltar, with Mike at the controls of a tiny red Cessna equipped with sophisticated cameras that captured digital images every few seconds.
The idea of MegaFlyover was to examine the weight of the ‘Human Footprint’ and spark conservation action wherever necessary in areas that are either untouched, or in danger of being lost to our children’s children.
It is a tribute that National Geographic published a special issue (September 2005) entitled Africa – Whatever you thought, think again. South African-born editor-in-chief Chris Johns commented: “My hope and belief is that Africa can be a model for the world in finding a balance between the needs of people and the needs of wild places.”


JUDY BEKKER AND VALERIE MORRIS Vision Quest facilitators
Fun-loving facilitators Judy Bekker and Valerie Morris have become valued friends with whom it is a joy to share a meal or a joke. They are also an ongoing source of wisdom after guiding me through five 11-day Vision Quests, which involved solo time in the wilderness without the benefit of food or formal shelter.
It was while alone in the wilds that I renewed my commitment to the environment, again appreciating that Nature is my cathedral, temple and mosque.
They explain: “The need for deep reflection time is increasingly evident in our corporate societies and our communities.
“The Vision Quest is a personal transformation process that is part of an ancient tradition with wilderness playing a significant role in the quest for a new direction in life.”
In a sense it is a symbolic death and rebirth as you sculpt the person you choose to be and design a life that is a truer reflection of your higher self.
I’m reminded of the ancient African proverb: ‘Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents; it was loaned to you by your children.’ My quests have been dedicated to them.



I’m delighted to count both Braam and David as friends and to recognise that through their courage and determination I’ve been able to raise my own sights higher.
The essence of their message is that ‘Nothing is Impossible’; something they proved so dramatically in 2006 when they established the world first of running, walking and scrambling along the entire length of The Great Wall of China – notching up 4200km and the equivalent of 98 marathons in as many days.
Two years later I was to spend four months with them while assisting with logistics on the Miles for Smiles Coastal Challenge in which they ran a smile around the coastline of South Africa, covering an epic 3 278km in 100 days.
Whenever possible I’d cover a few kilometres with them, delighting in their wicked sense of humour, practical jokes and passion for a great country and its people.
The benefactor on both runs was Operation Smile which provides free corrective surgery for children with facial disfigurements – everyone has a right to a smile and we can all make a difference, in ways big and small.
“I’m exhilarated and feel proud to be a South African and extremely grateful to my Maker,” Braam, a 51-year-old motivational speaker who works in youth development, said at the time. “I’m so grateful that I was granted the opportunity to walk my talk, especially with children, proving that ‘Nothing is Impossible!’”
David, then a 48-year-old celebrity chef and restaurant owner added: “I feel like I’ve caught my dream after chasing it so long, and now I’m going to really experience it and live it. But the achievement isn’t about what my friend Braam and I have achieved personally, but that with the backing of an amazing team and sponsors like Toyota, Cipla and Spar and the Round Table Organisation we have been able to make a difference.”
Those wonderful children taught us all a great deal and especially immense gratitude for the bountiful gifts we enjoy as healthy individuals born into privileged lives in a magnificent country.
David has since paddled from Mozambique to Madagascar, running the length of the giant island, while Braam is planning his greatest adventure yet. and    



ANNA BREYTENBACH interspecies communicator

What a delight Anna is!
I have camped with her in the mysterious and magical Knysna Forests while searching for the elusive Knysna elephants, also attending her interspecies communications workshops.
Her gift to me has been an insight into previously unimagined possibilities and an appreciation of how we can communicate with other sentient beings when we quiet our minds, trust in the process and connect from a place of unconditional love and total empathy.
“Animal communication is not a gift,” Anna insists. “It is a natural ability that everybody has and is simply a matter of getting in touch with our intuition and accessing something that isn’t part of our everyday five-sensory reality.
“The First People and indigenous tribes like the San Bushmen and Native Americans were easily able to communicate telepathically with all of nature and didn’t consider this unusual.
“Every person in the tribe had the ability to connect in non five-sensory ways with their surroundings.”
She adds: “When we experience a direct empathetic connection with another being we’re much more inclined to understand the perspective of that animal and the challenges it faces, particularly at the hands of humans and what we are doing to this planet.
“Interspecies communication brings about mutual understanding and respect along with the possibility of co-creating solutions for even the most tricky situations where wildlife and humans come into conflict.”

Recently a clip from the film The Animal Communicator, which spotlights her work, has gone viral with a scene about a black leopard called Spirit being seen by several million people around the world. Visit and       


SATISH KUMAR ecologist, author and Earth Pilgrim
Spiritual and ecological activist Satish Kumar (who as a young man walked on a peace mission from India to the nuclear capitals of Moscow, Paris, London and Washington) sees life as a sacred journey and the Earth as our sacred home.

 “Either we can act as tourists and look at the Earth as a source of goods and services for our personal use, or we can become Earth Pilgrims and treat the planet with reverence and gratitude,” the 77-year-old editor of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine and narrator of BBC2’s Earth Pilgrim programme says.

“Tourists value the Earth and all her natural riches only in terms of their usefulness to themselves, while pilgrims perceive the planet as sacred and recognise the intrinsic value of all life.

 “As a pilgrim I discover the mystery, the magic, the meaning and the magnificence of life in every step I take, in every sound I hear and in every sight I see.”

It was while living in the Findhorn Foundation community in the north of Scotland during 2010 that I met Satish and attended a life-changing workshop he hosted about Exploring Inner and Outer Landscapes. During discussions and walks together new ideas about my life purpose began to crystallise, which were reinforced by the important messages in his inspiring books No Destination and Earth Pilgrim.       



I have much to be grateful to the Findhorn Foundation community for and not least of all the philosophy: “If it isn’t fun, it’s not sustainable.” So it’s no surprise that it is a happy place where joy often pervades even the most mundane everyday activities.

I originally travelled to the community in the north-east of Scotland eager to learn about a more sustainable way of living and there, in the company of like-minded souls, I finally found an overwhelming sense of purpose.
Through the examples of the founders, Eileen and Peter Caddy and Dorothy Maclean (who has become a friend) I discovered the courage to begin living in faith, knowing that my needs would be met - and in perfect timing.
And I increasingly fell in love with all of life as my heart opened and I began to see my world through new eyes.
One can debate whether Findhorn is the geographical location of a spiritual community, an ecovillage and a centre of learning; or simply a state of consciousness. But it was here, in this place of transformation and rebirth, that I met so many wonderful people, among them Satish Kumar, who also spoke of an amazing woman known simply as Peace Pilgrim.
There are no coincidences, so it seemed like divine intervention when I happened upon the book Peace Pilgrim, Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, which would introduce me to a remarkable life and inspire me to take a leap of faith and become a wanderer with a purpose.

During the past three years I've tried to pay back the gift of Findhorn by serving as the community's PR.  


PEACE PILGRIM a wanderer with a purpose

Known simply as ‘Peace Pilgrim,’ she was a remarkable silver-haired woman who walked tirelessly for 28 years throughout the United States and Canada on a personal pilgrimage for peace, vowing to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”
A pilgrim’s job is to rouse people from apathy and to make them think, she said, insisting: “Love is the greatest power on Earth. It conquers all things.” 
Penniless and walking without any organisational backing, she touched the lives of countless thousands who were inspired by her message of achieving peace between nations, individuals and that all important inner peace that is the vital starting point. On July 7, 1981 she died instantly in a car accident while being driven to a talk. She was 72 and had described death as “a beautiful liberation into a freer life.”
 Photograph courtesy of Friends of Peace Pilgrim
Born Mildred Lizette Norman in 1908, she went on to become a major force for good whose life as a peace activist, pacifist and vegetarian personified faith, commitment and simplicity; her only possessions being those she carried in the pockets sewn into her tunic. “Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens,” she said. “If you have them, you have to take care of them. There is great freedom in simplicity of living.”
She advocated a life of service dedicated to humanity and all God’s creations, delivering her message with a characteristic warmth and cheerfulness. “Life is like a mirror,” she insisted. “Smile at it and it smiles back at you.”


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