3 things every school leaver needs to know

David Scott of ‘The Kiffness’ fame spoke at our school speech day recently. He hit the mark with his creative brand of wisdom. Here’s (some of) what he had to say.

I could talk about my time at this school for hours, but today I only have a few minutes, so I dug up this letter of recommendation that my House Master wrote for me in 2005, “David has enjoyed playing sport and has represented the school at Rugby, Cricket and Soccer. However, it is in the area of Music that he has made his biggest contribution.”

My love of music continued after school. I started a project called “The Kiffness” and today I am proud to say that I’m a 4-time SAMA nominated (another way of saying 4-time SAMA losing artist) and my YouTube page is the #1 performing Music Artist Channel in South Africa. My music is consumed by people all over the world, and the cool thing is, YouTube pays me to do it. My wife is pregnant with our first boy so with any luck, YouTube will eventually pay for his school fees in 13 years’ time (so like and subscribe!)

I don’t want to pretend that I have life figured out, but I hope the lessons I’ve learned will guide your choices both at and after school. Before you read on though watch my intro video below.

1. It’s OK to not have everything figured out

My father was one of the top ENT surgeons in this country. He’s now retired and one of the best spinach growers in the country. I grew up seeing the difference he made in people’s lives. My dad cured people who were deaf, and seeing the letters and gifts of gratitude that they sent to him made me want to become a doctor too.

When it came to choosing subjects Music, Art and Drama were on the top of my list, but the side of me that wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps made me choose Biology, Science and Economics. I actually quite enjoyed them, but I’d be lying if I said a part of me wasn’t insanely jealous when my friends would walk down to the art school while I was left in the biology class drawing pictures of mitochondria.

After my finals I got accepted to study Medicine but after 6 months I threw in the towel. I had no time to pursue music which had been such a big part of my life at school. When the music disappeared, I got depressed. Depression is often seen as a bad thing, but the way I see it, it was just my soul telling me that I was stuck in something that I was never supposed to do.

I don’t regret these choices. I needed to go through the experience to realise I didn’t want it. In the end I listened to my soul and found a way out.

“Some of you will go on to be rich and famous but if it’s through doing things that you don’t enjoy, it could cost you your peace. And if it costs you your peace, then it is too expensive.” David Scott

2. Pursue the things that make you happy

We all have that one thing that makes us tick. Many of you still need to figure out what that is, but I was lucky enough to know from an early age that it has always been music. Most of my school friends enjoyed my musical creations and were really encouraging. But then there were those who were quite mean. Those boys undermined what I enjoyed doing most. It really affected me and made me question the very thing that brought me joy.

I still deal with bullies every day. On my YouTube videos, there are always those people who have nothing good to say. The only difference now is that I know how to deal with them, through years of practicing something called “The Fine Art of Never Being Offended”. I wish I knew as a schoolboy, that every mean comment directed at me, almost always had nothing to do with me, and almost always everything to do with what that person was going through.

Don’t worry too much about how you’re perceived by others. Pursue the things that make you happy, and if that means standing out or getting picked on, then you’re on the right track.

3. The process is the prize

Today is all about giving out prizes, but the trophies and certificates should never be the motivator for doing something in the first place.

Throughout my career, I used to look up to musicians who were doing better than me. I convinced myself that if only I could play Kirstenbosch, or if only I had X amount of followers, then I would have ‘made it’. Eventually I did play Kirstenbosch and I did reach X amount of followers. But I didn’t feel any different. If anything, I felt worse.

Jim Carrey once said, “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that’s not the answer.” Some of you will go on to be famous and rich but if it’s through doing things that you don’t enjoy, it could cost you your peace. And if it costs you your peace, then it is too expensive.

It took me many years to realise that the happiness I was after was right in front of me the whole time. When it’s 2:00AM and I’m in my studio and I’ve just made a song I really like, that’s the feeling I’ve always been chasing.  That feeling is the same feeling of wonder I got when I created my first song back in Grade 8. Anything that came afterwards, the fame, the money, will always be a distraction from the main thing, the process.

“I wish everyone could get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that’s not the answer.”

Jim Carrey

I’d like to close with a quote from James Cameron Todd, made on the occasion of the first Michaelhouse Speech Day in 1897: “Our aim is to make, not accountants, not clerks, not clergymen, but men; men of understanding, thought and culture.”

I am very glad he said that because I am the furthest thing from an accountant, clerk, or clergyman.


  1. Wonderful post, Tim. What a refreshing change from most “speech day” speeches. I also would like to see the full video which appears to have been taken down.


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