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The Last Train…

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Helen Keller

This morning, the memories of the days I used to catch a train while I was a student at Wits Technikon, now known as University of Johannesburg, came flooding back. I would study with some of my guys until late in the evening and then we would run to the nearby Doornfontein train station to catch the last train. We will be armed with our train tickets and no extra money in our pockets. This last train of the day would be scaringly full and those in the know would testify and so, missing it would be a serious problem mainly because of two reasons: 1. There would be no other train, and 2. There would be no money to arrange the alternative transport to get home.

In this train, if you don’t push yourself in, you’ll remain stranded on the platform. If you’re inside and can’t push yourself out, you’ll miss your destination. The attitude there is not that of being ‘Mr Nice Guy’, no one cares about you there, I mean no one!  So, no one would push for you, you had to put a funny face on and push unapologetically. That was not a place for: “Please or Excuse me, May I pass?” This train, the last train, is not for the faint at heart, I tell you!  The trick was to position and pace yourself accordingly for the push and also recognise when you are nearing your destination to start slowly pushing your way closer to the door, sadly some completely missed this trick and were victims every time.

You see, there are two groups in this situation, the one pushing in and the one pushing out. The main challenge was when you were the only one to get in or out, in this case, you would be the only one pushing against a number of people pushing from the outside, against you, and in this instance, depending on how strong you are, you would easily miss your destination. Same as when you are getting in or boarding, if you are the only one doing so against the many that are getting off, pushing against you you’ll miss the last train.

This pushing would make you forget about your friends and make you focus on getting yourself inside the last train. My friends and I would loudly laugh about this experience afterwards. You would see some people becoming victims of this situation, the pushing in and out, some even falling badly on the platform and getting injured.

What are the unwritten requirements to board this train and reach your destination?

  1. Strength and sharp focus on the task at hand;
  2. Tucking in and not carrying too much baggage that would prevent you from getting in;
  3. The knowledge that getting in or out of this last train today, is not dependent on what happened yesterday, today is a different day bringing a different experience.
  4. Understanding and accepting that you are on your own and that it’s all on you. There’s no time to be busy talking to people (family, friends or strangers) when the train has moved in because there’s a lot at stake.
  5. Clear knowledge that the train is only in the station for a very short while, for few minutes and that’s it!

Our dreams and goals are exactly like this train, the last train, to achieve them require all of the above. No one is going to achieve them for you, you’ve got to push. You don’t need a permission from anyone to board, you’ve got the train ticket, push in and out, position and pace yourself accordingly, put on your funny face and push or else, you’ll either miss the last train or your destination. This train, the last train, created one of the experiences I will forever treasure in my life because it helped me develop the fighting spirit. This proves that character cannot be developed in ease or quiet, NO! Only through experience of trials and suffering can the soul be truly strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

There are many ‘last train’ experiences in different areas of our lives that we have to embrace. The experiences, literally like my last train, can either build you up or break you down. I saw many people missing out on this train and some missing their destinations because they couldn’t push enough or had not developed required techniques. You have to develop techniques to deal with this ‘last train’ challenges and for you to do this, you need to be positive and optimistic about the future.

Finally, if you are the victim of the ‘last train’ challenges in whatever area of your life and you gave up on your desired destination, it’s time you to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and breathe life to that dream again. You have the power to live your dreams!

Veli Ndaba is a Professional and Motivational Speaker, Life-Coach and Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner, Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!), Newspaper Columnist and Entrepreneur. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on, or +27 83 304 9773