Contagious Passion | Meet: Craig Willemse

It was Albert Einstein that was quoted saying;


“If you cannot explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

I agree.

I was booked to attend a two-day First Aid course here in my home town, Cape Town for the past two days. And at the course – I want to say that – I was fortunate enough to meet a guy who gave meaning to the quote I used to open this post. This man inspired me so much over just two days that I dedicated an entire blog post to him.

Enter, Craig Willemse. Craig is a passionate, [young] confident lecturer at Clinical Dynamics and volunteer for the City of Cape Town’s Metro Ambulance Services. Craig lives in a small West Coast Town, Atlantis and has a simple dream; He just wants to work on the ambulance and when he says it, you can see [no wait] you can actually feel that he means every single one of those words leaving the confines of his well articulated mouth.

I have a tendency to get bogged down heavily on details and if the details aren’t clear at the outset of any task or project, I’d get stuck into research, trying to puzzle the facts together before I will actually get started on the task at hand. I have this inclination to want to be able to at least be able to explain something to myself in a way that I’d be able to make sense of after someone has explained something to me and for this reason, I will ask a lot of questions.

Now, if someone makes the time to make content so simple that I (Elridge) don’t have to get bogged down on the details, I could probably get excited and ace any exam on any topic.

Here’s what’s remarkable about Craig’s style of lecturing. I got this very vivid impression that the content for him is useless unless his student convincingly grasps what he’s trying communicate. And when you get it, he gets passionately excited for you; my gosh, that’s refreshing.

Craig Willemse

When you have a question, he stops. He comes over to you and listens. He makes sure he understands what you’ve asked, explains and finally confirms that he’s given you an answer which puts your understanding of the point or topic in line with what he aims to have you to take out of it.

He used his personal real-world experiences to help me bring the content home for myself and most importantly, remember it. He stayed away from jargon and if he needed to use jargon, he wouldn’t delay on coming to the fore with a well-thought through explanation. I genuinely felt that he had my (his student’s) interpretation of this information at the top of his priority list.

Not once did I feel that he wanted to show off how much he knows with the examples he made of some interesting experiences he’s had in a variety of situations while in the line of active duty. He stuck to the basics with everything and during the practical and even the theory bits of the training insisted that we ALWAYS do the same. He insisted that it’s easy to become blasé about your responsibility as a ‘first aider’ but that the dignity of our patients and the primary objective of our presence should always overshadow this propensity.

I take my hat off to the person(s) responsible for this man’s training because with every one of his lectures given, he’s passing on the passion. If, this obvious love for what he does [however] stems from pure internal drive and an inherent source, I salute the level of commitment he attaches to his work, it’s deeply inspiring and absolutely amazing. I almost seem to doubt that he’s aware of how much he gives, which is naturally the case with humans who’s literally living their life’s ‘calling.’

I end with another one of my favorite quotes where someone once said;

“If you do the work you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Thanks for being an inspiration Craig! You deserve every bit of success coming your way.

Image of Albert Einstein: | Image of Craig Willemse: Used with Permission


The Things Successful People Know About Turning Your Passion into a Dream Job

Boeing LandingYesterday, on our way back from a family gathering, my wife got into an intensely stimulating discussion about our dreams and ambitions. It was one of those conversations that had the potential to last for hours. But… in the middle of my tangent – about what I really want to do – vocalizing my elaborate desires and dreams, she utters with a slight hint of a smile; “There goes your passion.” It was a Boeing 737 flying overhead, on its final approach to the nearby Cape Town International Airport.

I immediately went quiet. For a moment I couldn’t believe that I just let go of that dream. I wanted to be a pilot with all my heart and I love flying till this day. I am sure I never pursued my dream due to my inability to stick close to or surround myself with people who were in a position to take me toward that dream. In hindsight I now realize I in fact had such an opportunity (Vanderbijlpark, ZA – 2002) and I didn’t even get the hint. So, I think I needed that nudge and probably even owe a thank you to her for unintentionally dusting off and flipping that switch for me.

And now in celebrating my moment, and perhaps a moment you may have had, I am certain you’ll find the essence of this article as inspiring as I have.

Originally Written By: Michael McCutcheon

A fifth grader from Georgia goes to space camp and experiences weightlessness for the first time. A few years later, he’s standing spellbound at an airshow. At 22, he walks into a conference room to broker the sale of a multimillion-dollar airplane and a business is born. Jamail Larkins, now 30, is the founder and CEO of Ascension Air.

It’s an incredible career full of lessons learned, and if you ask him about it, he’s still at the beginning. Ascension Air leases small aircrafts to pilots, who can then access a fleet of planes for a fraction of the price. It has 24 full-time employees and bases in Atlanta and Ft. Lauderdale and, with $8 million in annual revenue, it’s already a success. But his vision is bigger. Larkins wants to operate in every major metropolitan area. He wants to turn Ascension into a household name.

In an interview with Mic, Larkins, who’s often mentioned as one of the top entrepreneurs under 30 in the country, lays out some of the biggest lessons he’s learned about identifying one’s passion and turning it into a dream job. Because for so many young people who want to make an impact, the challenge is often identifying the what — what do I love to do and how do I make it happen?

  1. Identify the experiences you can’t shake.

Don’t waste a moment sitting behind your desk wondering, “What should I do with my life,” says Larkins. It’s the wrong question to ask.

The better question is: What experiences have you had that you can’t shake, that have had a profound effect on who you are? Build your identity around those.

Upon asking Larkins if there was a specific moment he could pinpoint, where he knew what he was going to do with his life, he laughs. He identifies a few different experiences that stayed with him instead, like going to space camp for the first time and later an airshow: “I thought it would be so cool to be one of those [pilots performing in an airshow] … everyone just watching me.”

He kept following his interests. After the airshow, Larkins started taking lessons. A year later, at 14, he petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to let him fly solo. The FAA wouldn’t let him (you have to be at least 16 to fly solo in the U.S.), so he traveled to Canada, where the age restrictions are looser. By then, flying was his full-blown passion.

  1. Surround yourself with those experiences.

Once you know which experiences really speak to you, immerse yourself in a related industry.

When Larkins got back from Canada, he landed jobs selling flight instruction manuals and washing airplanes. He continued doing things that kept him close to flying.

“I came from an average middle-class family. I realized as a kid that if I’m going to fly when I want to fly, I’m going to have to afford to do it on my own.” That’s when the pieces started coming together.

  1. Make connections and be ready.

It’s one of the most important lessons. Larkins does everything he can to stay up-to-date on the industry and the people in it — what they’re doing, what interests them — so if he’s ever in a room, he can connect with them and be ready for any opportunity.

“Networking is huge,” he says. “It’s hard to describe how important the people you meet and know are … and that’s really about preparation. Whatever it is you want … you’ll never get it unless you’re ready for it.”

When Larkins was in college, a wealthy friend was interested in leasing a plane. Larkins said, “I can help you with that,” and called someone he knew from Embry-Riddle, an aeronautics school, to help him broker the deal. His first one.

  1. People will discourage you, but forget them.

Don’t let other people’s hang-ups over your age, race, gender or anything else deter you. Larkins recalls walking into the conference room to seal that multimillion-dollar deal.

“The closing guy representing the company … when I walked in, he looked at me like, ‘There’s no way that this is the guy signing the paperwork.’ Looks can be deceiving,” Larkins says, laughing. No one knows your dream better than you do.

  1. Keep your eye on your goal and don’t stop.

Big dreams can seem so far away it’s sometimes hard to know where to begin. But if you have the guts to start, with every obstacle you overcome the more you’ll want to achieve.

Today, Larkins operates Ascension Air with bases in Atlanta and Ft. Lauderdale, but he has expansion plans that put every U.S. city in his sights. It’s a daunting vision that leaves an incredible amount of work undone.

“We’ve got a really long way to go,” Larkins says. “We may never accomplish it, but it’s the goal I’m going for.”

  1. Find role models and people you can learn from.

You’re not the first person to walk this path. If you need inspiration, it’s everywhere.

“I read a lot of biographies of people who have nothing to do with aviation,” Larkins says, “but are successful in their own way … and I look at the things they’ve done and try to apply them to my own life.”

Chances are, if you do the same, your career will start taking shape and bend closer and closer to the dream you’ve always had.


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