Lately I have had a lot of occasion to look back over my recent past in some awe over what has taken place in the last five years. I have closed a PR company, published 3 books, embarked on 2 new careers as a training facilitator and a key note speaker and am now planning a major incursion into the international market. And it all stems from one decision. To write. To focus on that dream after all this time.
From David Chislett jnr to David Chislett snr
I remember as clear as day a conversation I had with my best friend in standard 3, one Bruno Heese. We were both pretty alienated little kids at 11. He was super bright; I was mature beyond my years thanks to four older siblings. We wrote a lot of poetry, went for long walks, listened to obscure music and wondered what sort of men we’d grow up to be. He was adamant he would go onto huge corporate and business success. I said at the time (I was 11!) that I too would be hugely successful, but that I would do it from outside the structures. At 11 I already thought like that. WTF? Where did THAT come from?
In any event, Bruno now lives in America somewhere and is hugely successful and has been for some time. A B Business Science from UCT got him nicely on his way. I have meandered along through a good many byways before getting to this juncture in my life, informed, I am coming to believe by the decision that was implicit in that 11-year-olds words: I will do it from outside.
Punk Rock and Poetry
When I was 14 I discovered punk rock. It was 1985 and post-punk was HUGE and we reversed engineered our way back to The Dead Kennedy’s and The Sex Pistols from Bauhaus and Siouxie and the Banshees. I was still writing poetry, which of course took a turn for the socio political. We were not political. We were nicely brainwashed suburbanites. But we were anti-authoritarian and we did everything in our limited power to act, think and define ourselves that way. Sure, I was in the school play, I debated and I ended up getting colours for athletics and playing A-team rugby, but we stood to one side. Another decision…
When my family moved to PE I fell in with another old primary school friend, Julian Kievit. He who can play anything musical. Despairing of my ability to ever learn how to play guitar, he taught me bass, we wrote some songs from my poetry and started a band or two. I finally sorta learned to play some guitar chords and we were all good to go. Again, alienated from the mainstream, by our choices, we revelled in the otherness this gave us. Then we both got conscripted.
Books, Bands and Booze
By the time I get out of military service I had learned some powerful lessons: in order to survive, do not attract undue attention. Never come first, never come last and you can do whatever you want. Become invisible and do what you want to do. It got me through basic training and one year in Bloemfontein as a medical orderly driver. It also got me through University. I did what was needed and passed. I also played in a punk band, drank like a fish, run the 400m hurdles like a man possessed for WITS and decided to become an academic.
I got a bursary from the English department to do my honours in English. On my first day of film studies, the lecturer, I think it was Stan Peskin took one look at my punk hairdo, torn jeans and tattoo and said, “Chislett? What the fuck are you doing here?” And that was the start of the downhill slope for me.
Anarchy In The UK
Six months later I was in London, working for a TV post-production facility and seeing every punk and alternative band I had ever loved. I was also learning that, as a middle class kid from the suburbs of Johannesburg I was neither as hard nor as weird as I have been schooled to think. Again, I was anonymous. I revelled in it, drifting around that big old city becoming someone new. Practicing invisibility. But when the chance came to return to SA to start my own business in the music industry came around, I was very quick to return
From there to hear and back again
In many ways, those were the experiences that moulded me into the man I am now. It has taken some time for me to stick my head out my rabbit hole, admit to my ambitions and work powerfully towards them. It’s not that what I did before was never successful. In fact, without that, I would not be able to achieve what I am now. But rather that, I had to come to a cross road where I had to ‘haal uit en wys’ or be forever filled with regrets.
My oldest brother Andrew once said to me, what would you regret more? Getting into trouble for what you just did? (I had been sent off the field for punching another kid in a rugby match) or regret not having done what you needed to do? You can guess the answer to that one. And I have lived my life by that light ever since. I t has meant no wife, no house in Parkhurst, no luxury car and no predictable income or immediate wealth. It has also meant world travel, an ensemble cast of wild talented, crazy and amazing friends and books. Books that I now know will never stop coming.
It has also led, inexorably, to this point in time where I am packing up 9 years of life in Johannesburg, 5 years in the same block of flats and eyeing out the horizon, looking for the next thing to do. But this time I am focussed energetic and decisive. It really is amazing what decision can do.