by Lebogang Tshetlo & Charles Mathews. Bradlee Holcomb (@BradleeHolcomb; IG: @bradleeholcomb) is in the business of selling human hope. “Every person is unique and, when it comes to transformation from a career perspective — and my advice remains the same regardless of covid-19 — nothing has changed for me. My first point of view is that you don’t get a job; you get a career.”

Bradlee Holcomb, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, June 2019. Pic: Lebogang Tshetlo.
Bradlee Holcomb, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, June 2019. Pic: Lebogang Tshetlo.

Sustainable vs short-termism

The career and transformation advisor maintains that careers are sustainable but jobs are short-termism: “Basically, a job is a set of descriptors or requirements that a human must do for money. My belief is that, if people get a job, they will always feel inadequate. What we need to do, as humans, is to find ourselves and find opportunities to live our purpose and meaning. We do this in careers.”

Until debt tear us apartTransformers Transform 2020” is a special series produced by MarkLives and HumanInsight and sponsored by the Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA), running Jun–Sep 2020. Together with Lebogang Tshetlo, we’ll be profiling remarkable local #Transformers every other Friday until September, featuring Tshetlo’s photography. The objective of this an independently managed, journalism-driven research project is to explore and map new paths for brands and marketers to transform, adapt and build resilience while the world adapts to covid-19 and its resultant social, political and economic toll.

Change by its very nature may be difficult, challenging and slow to effect. But Holcomb, who’s helped thousands of people create better careers for themselves, believes that, once people gain clarity of purpose and a strong forward vision, they can change successfully — if this change includes working through negative patterns or limiting frictions. “The sum total of my experience has led to this point,” says the founder of Amazing Lives Consulting & Projects (ALCP), a startup that realises human potential through personal and business transformation.

Holcomb describes a career as a vocation that encompasses one’s being, personality, and characteristics. It’s a story in which you live your best life. “A career is something that you can contribute to and learn from. It is an investment in yourself and your story. It is a journey that you take. One in which you have agency — you know why you have arrived and how you will contribute to the greater good. A job is just about income and has no relation to purpose. A career is all about purpose and creating meaning for yourself.”

“Unique value proposition”

In his work of placing people in places of work where they find meaning and flex their purpose, Holcomb helps people mature their “unique value proposition”. “Each being has a unique value proposition, which I define as something that they uniquely can contribute to this world. My belief is that human purpose is to contribute and, when matched with a person’s unique value proposition, this propels each individual’s specific purpose. I define purpose as whatever contribution people make to the greater good of the universe, humanity and their community,” he says.

“The question I get a lot is whether humans can be purposeful in a job. To this I say yes, because a job becomes a career when you realise your value to your family by supporting your family and others who need your help at this time, like your community. A career is being part of a supportive structure that takes South Africa forward,” Holcomb explains.

In the transformational coach’s world, purpose is married to meaning. “When humans have a clear purpose that is linked to meaning, nothing can sway an individual from the purpose. This is because purpose sets intent. It is the very reason we do things. As Simon Sinek says, you start with why and then get into how,” he adds.

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Built on purpose

Self-described as an unshakable optimist, Sinek is a best-selling author whose work started a global movement built on purpose off the back of his book: “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”. A global bestseller with over 1m books sold in the US alone, Sinek has been described as “a visionary thinker with a rare intellect” and now devotes his life to helping “advance a vision of… a world in which the vast majority of people wake up every single morning inspired, feel safe wherever they are and end the day fulfilled by the work that they do”.

Sinek’s book investigates why some companies are hugely successful and others fail to reach their full potential, or flounder. Research by global professional services firm, Deloitte, shows that “organisations that focus beyond profit and instil a strong sense of purpose among their employees are more likely to find long-term success”.

Organisations which embrace meaning before profits deliver better results, the survey shows. “Purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow on average three times faster than their competitors, all the while achieving higher employee and customer satisfaction. Today’s consumers often identify with a brand’s purpose, seeking to connect at a deeper level even as the brand reciprocally aligns with who they are and who they want to be.”

Purpose catalyses success

According to Holcomb, what’s true of huge corporations is true of individuals. His experience with thousands of candidates shows that purpose catalyses success. “All humans feel vulnerable at times, and this has heightened during the pandemic. We are all afraid that, if we open ourselves, others won’t understand or accept us. This is particularly true of the boomer generation who were taught that emotions shouldn’t be brought to the workplace,” he says. “There is a taught culture that we don’t bring our feelings or passion to work, and so humans aren’t bringing all of themselves to work. How can you expect any human not to bring their emotions in? How do we leave part of ourselves at home to go to work?”

Bradlee Holcomb with a man and a woman at Melrose Arch, June 2019. Pic by Lebogang Tshetlo.
Pic by Lebogang Tshetlo.

For him, much of the work that needs to be done is reinforcing the self. “Everybody suffers from problems with self-worth and there are levels to this. Tackling this is about reminding yourself that you have something to contribute. It is about reminding yourself that you are worth it — that you are here to contribute and to receive.

“As a country and a continent and as a people of colour, as black people, we have not always understood our worth. Previous privileges have eradicated our own belief in ourselves. We at times can think that we don’t matter and put everyone in front of us. As black people we still somehow see white people being better than us. #BlackLivesMatter is an assertion that we deserve to be seen. We deserve not to be doubted when we take up leadership positions, or any position,” he says.


Holcomb says that this country and others on the continent still need to do a lot of work regarding inclusivity and diversity. “In the US, #BlackLivesMatter has become a catalyst for huge systemic transformation — but this has come after 400 years of oppression. Yet Africa is still a few steps behind in owning that black people matter.”

When it comes to advising careerists, the purpose-driven coach says the first point is to find yourself: “Find what makes you unique. Don’t just send out hundreds of CVs, hoping that people will bite. Be strategic and have intention about the career you want to get into. Purpose comes from knowing yourself and your unique value proposition, so rather let this drive you. Once you have intention, you know the companies and individuals you are approaching have something unique that they need from you. This will give you the confidence you need to hopefully reach out and find a position where you can contribute, and build mutual meaning. To build a worthwhile life, rather than just finding money.”

See also


Lebogang TshetloCharlie MathewsHaving worked in advertising, content and publishing, Lebogang Tshetlo (IG: @lebzskywalker) is a poet, artist, professional photographer and transmedia storyteller who now uses photography for art and work alike, and researches transformation and innovation. MarkLives thanks Tshetlo for the use of his photography for this transformation series. As founder and CEO of HumanInsight, Charlie Mathews (@CharlesLeeZA) leads research on #HopePunk, #Transformation #DigitalEcosystems, and works with the world’s most-transformative technology brands.

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