Ubuntu: The Zulu Philosophy that inspired Nelson Mandela and won an NBA championship

A philosophy to connect deeply with your audience
Ubuntu: The Zulu Philosophy that inspired Nelson Mandela and won an NBA championship
Jake McNeill
June 30, 2021
5 min read
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Things were going badly for Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics.

It was a disaster…

The fans and the media were demanding for him to be fired. But the owner had faith in his head coach.

Loss after loss ensued. Then slowly things started to turn around. A win here and a win there.

At the draft, the Celtics got Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. They were the big 3 stars that could make the difference.

The problem? They were all leaders with big egos.

Doc knew he had to get them to play as a team or it wouldn’t work.

One of Doc’s rules is “Ubuntu is a way of life”

Ubuntu is an African philosophy about togetherness, unity. It’s translated as “I am because we are”

“A person is a person through other people,” explains Rivers. “I can’t be all I can be unless you are all you can be. I can never be threatened by you because you’re good, because the better you are, the better I am.”

It is the removal of ego. A union of souls to create something bigger than ourselves.

And it worked.

The sum of the parts was greater than the individuals and together, as a team —rather than a few talented but selfish leaders —the Boston Celtics won the NBA championship.


It is the spirit of Ubuntu that inspired Nelson Mandela to forgive the jailers who beat and abused him year after year.

It was the spirit of ubuntu that Mandela knew his struggle was his people’s — and his people’s struggles were his.

Mandela knew we are only human through the humanity of others. We are only pure from serving others.

We are one through the spirit of unity and mutual experiences.

Asked to define Ubuntu, Mandela posed a question “ What are you going to do in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?“

And this is the same question you should ask yourself as an artist and creative.

What are you going to create that will inspire and improve your community? Your audience?

What are you going to do to connect with them?

Build a community and not a fanbase

Ubuntu is the essence of being a true artist and creator. You can’t be successful ( whatever that is to you) without an audience.

It’s a symbiotic experience. The power of our art only exists because of the audience it connects with. And the community only exists because of our art.

Music is about creating human connections with shared experiences and feelings so we don’t feel isolated. So your audience deepest thoughts and feelings are validated.

And that is a powerful thing to do. That is how you connect. Having the empathy to understand and the compassion to care.

Your art can’t have ubuntu in insolation. It can have meaning to you but connections are what make us human.

The real power and depth of art exist because it means something…to someone…somewhere.

Creativity is an agent of connection.

Success is not something we get. It is something that is given to us by our audience. By creating material that has meaning.

They do this by engaging and sharing our content. They do this by connecting to our art.

300,000 new tracks are released every Friday. All of them wanting attention.

Artists post their Spotify links on all their social media platforms. That is hundreds and hundreds of thousands of posts every Friday all wanting attention from strangers.

It’s oversaturated. There’s too much music and not enough time.

Find your tribe. Your community who care about the things you create. Find your niche. Find your people.

It’s not about us. It’s not about building a fanbase with hacks to leverage our success. That is all wrong.

It’s trying too hard, being needy. People see through it. What’s in it for your audience?

You need to build trust with strangers so that they want to listen as they get something from your art.

It’s about creating without ego. It’s about making genuine connections with an audience who share your music.

It’s about making remarkable music that is worth sharing.

It’s creating word of mouth with your generosity and vulnerability. It’s validating the experiences, thoughts and feelings of others.

It’s making a difference and having an impact.

As Nelson Mandela said, “ What are you going to do in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?“

That’s the key to creative success. Make music that matters and makes a difference.

Peace Out


P.S Massive thanks to everyone that has been sharing these articles on their socials. It is much appreciated. X

Interested in 1-2-1 Creative Business/ Personal Branding Strategy?

I help creators and solopreneurs become famous in their niches. I specialise in:

  • Creative business strategy
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  • Standing out in saturated markets
  • Overcoming creative blocks that are holding you back
  • Building audiences.

I do discovery calls to check we’re suitable.

Cost? $0.00 Commitment? Zero. Time? 30 minutes

More info? Go here

A bit about me

I’m an ex- multi-platinum artist manager. I created strategies and built audiences for artists who sold millions. I’ve challenged myself to write 50 articles in 50 working days. 30 down, 20 to go.

You can read more in the archives here. Find out more information on my website or connect on my LinkedIn

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