Forget following the road less travelled – meet the people who chose to follow their hearts.
Betting on yourself is the best bet.
The words of poet Langston Hughes, “a dream deferred is a dream denied”, truly encapsulate the course of Motse Molatela’s journey towards establishing himself as a force in the creative space. Molatela pursued his passion all the way to the edge of homelessness, even when all the signs were pointing him towards a different direction.
Molatela, who quit his job in a what most would define as the peak of one’s career, has since built his dream with his bare hands. The owner of WoodenSteel is now working towards “buying time and freedom”, to make space for the next phase of his artistic pursuits. He recalls a time when he didn’t have privilege of doing so.
“You get into a job that will earn you a salary, but after a while you figure out that your passions and ambitions are not being fulfilled.
“Advertising has a cut-off date, only a few get to make it to the top. There aren’t enough spots. It’s all about time, place and luck. If you find yourself in the right agency, at the right time — you get picked up by the right people who will groom you and, ultimately, you will end up at the right places.”
He says, for some, it doesn’t matter how talented they are. If all those fortuitous elements don’t come together, then they will be sentenced to the kind of restless that comes with not being fully seen or heard.
“Sometimes you’ve got talent, but the environment is not right. I didn’t want to wait till I was 40 years old to feel like I had finally arrived. So, I pursued something that would be an outlet to drive me into the future.”
He walked away from advertising in 2015, after 10 years in the industry. “Betting on yourself is the best bet. I wasn’t happy in industry and the culture around awards. Advertising is like a p*ssing contest filled with egos. And sometimes all you want to do is create beautiful work and get fulfilment from that.
“I jumped ship and as soon as I did that, suddenly there were positions for creative directors and jobs that were paying the salary I had always wanted.”
Unmoved by invitations to return, he stayed true to himself.
“For me that was a test to see, ‘how much do you believe in yourself? If you leave and suddenly all these good things start happening, will you take them? If you do that, then you’re bailing out on yourself. You’re going back because it’s comfortable.’ So sometimes, just have to bare the discomforts of life because you believe in yourself.”
The triumph that came with leaving and turning down lucrative salaries was soon eclipsed by, what he describes as, the lowest point in his life.
“My mom had to pay my rent. In the first three months there were no clients. Okay, you can survive the first month. In the second month, you are panicking and considering going back. In the third month I was like, ‘if nothing happens now you need to make a plan’. That’s when I called home, to tell them it wasn’t working out, ‘I’m not getting clients, I don’t know what to do’.”
It is often said that good things come in threes. On the third month of being unemployed his fortunes changes.
“That’s when I finally got one of my first clients, and that client pushed my for two years. At the same time, I was trying to put money away. I was designing and building prototypes.”
Motse’s furniture combines distinct elements of African culture with materials like steel and wood, which has proven to be a winning formula as he is now a household name – literally -.
“The first two chairs were the most fulfilling, and one of them was the Basotho chair. It was amazing. Then sometime this year I saw people replicating it. I wasn’t mad because it means I’ve done something right. Sometimes it takes that one little spark for you to inspire someone else.”
Happy to share more of himself with others, Motse is now working towards his own gallery. He has started displaying some of his work in his shop.