Manjula Naidoo wakes up every day and chooses to be happy. It’s her morning ritual. She opens her eyes, welcomes the day, and chooses to show up with a smile for life.
It sounds simple, but as most of us have experienced (more than once), it isn’t. It takes a conscious decision to focus on the positive. It’s certainly working for Manjula, Investment Services Manager, Sasfin Wealth.
“I show up with my best self as much as I can every day,” she says. “I’m not perfect and I’m not striving for perfection. We all have faults and limitations. But I do want to learn to grow from my mistakes and I believe that when we’re positive, we touch the people around us in ways we can’t even imagine. You never know what someone else is going through and how much they need the warmth of a happy person around them.”
It’s a mantra Manjula carries into everything. “There are so many memes online telling you how to live your life, but the reality is that we identify with people and the humanness of trying to do the best we can. It’s incredibly important to identify with people who have lived the change they wanted and follow in their footsteps. We can’t all be Nelson Mandela, but we can certainly try. I have had the incredible privilege of meeting Madiba, and his quiet confidence and stature fill the room. In many ways, he was larger than life – but he was also human. Someone you could see, have access to and draw inspiration from.”
Focusing on the light, not the darkness
Manjula doesn’t take her mantra or daily decisions lightly. “I try to be a role model and leader that lives authentic and predictable values and morals. What I would do for a colleague, I would do for my family and my children, but it all starts at home.”
For example, Manjula’s husband is an only son, and so her mother-in-law lives with her family. “There’s a social stereotype that people buy into, assuming that it’s a challenging situation, when in fact, we both choose to be happy each day and to live harmoniously. My kids have their grandmother in the house, which grounds them and creates a strong foundation, and I show my gratitude to the woman who raised the man who is a wonderful husband and father.
“In everything in life, it comes down to how you choose to view a situation and what you embrace – the positives or the negatives. It’s important to remember that you can’t control situations, but you can control how you react to them, feel about them, and learn from them.”
It’s a belief that has been a driving force through one of the most unpredictable times in most of our lives. “Under strenuous circumstances, it sounds like taking this attitude could be even more difficult, but the opposite has been true. It’s helped us to find the light and bring ourselves out of the darkness.”
The shift from PR to financial services
Manjula is an extrovert and studied Public Relations to expand her engagement with people. As a 16-year-old brand representative for Coca-Cola, she did promos and even took the brave step to give off-the-cuff announcements at prize giving events. “I’ve always grasped every opportunity to work and learn with both hands,” she says, describing how she worked for the Dean of Commerce while she was studying at Technikon ML Sultan. Little did she know when she stopped working at 23 to be a stay-at-home mom that her life was destined to take her in an entirely different direction.
“After nine months I went back to work. We needed the extra income,” she says. What started out as a two-week temp job grew into seven years. “The financial advisor who hired me had launched his own practice. His clients were pretty much all of the sportsmen in KZN, including the Springboks. The first client I met was Jonty Rhodes. People were constantly trying to bribe me for their contact numbers,” she laughs.
The ingredients to happiness and success
Following a merger of businesses, Manjula had the opportunity to study and now has a Post Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning Law. It’s been hard work. Manjula is a mother of two with a full-time job, but the journey has been worth it.
I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from some of the best in this industry. My role model – Nigel Scott – was founder of The Wealth Corporation. He was an upstanding human being who will be sorely missed, and the way he treated his clients, staff and the industry has instilled in me the values of integrity and respect.
“Nigel’s fortitude and values remind me that I should always believe in myself because I know what I stand for and who I am. It’s not about glory. It’s about having passion for what you do, getting up each day and helping people in small and meaningful ways.
Manjula’s analytical brain loves the financial services industry, but the creative side of her believes that food is the gateway to the heart or soul. This comes out in her baking especially. She has taken her two loves and crafted a mantra that is her foundation of life ; all you need is the right ingredients – a cup of courage, cup of determination, half a cup of adventure, half a cup dedication, tbsp. of discipline, pinch of fear and greased baking tray of love… And the result? A life well lived.