Actions speak louder than our endless talk
Wen asked why South Africa has not imploded given its harrowing past, Dr Martin Seligman responded that if the country were a person, she or he would not only be resilient, but also optimistic.
What Seligman didn't pick up from his pre-trip research, however, is that South Africa would also be a procrastinator.
As a serial procrastinator myself, I understand the false sense of achievement one can derive from conversation.
We have meetings about meetings, set up task teams to probe what went wrong in the last meeting and, at the end of those meetings, agree on when next to meet and discuss what needs to be done at the following gathering.
A friend, mentor and personal hero calls South Africa the "indaba nation" - procrastinating under the guise of conversation. There always seems to be a conversation, dialogue, bosberaad, colloquium or summit being hosted on this or that issue, often featuring speakers and opinion-makers from the same pool.
South Africans excel at discussions and, being a professional attendee and organiser myself, I'm growing tired of the blatant lack of tangible next steps.
We have fallen into the trap of discussing the "whys" of why action needs to be taken, as though we are not already intimately familiar with the technocratic "triple challenges" of poverty, unemployment and inequality - and expect new epiphanies to spring out of old colloquy.
We seem to be suffering from a debilitating fear of proposing, validating and testing solutions. We lack the courage to try at the risk of failure - possibly because one of the worst things you can be in South Africa is wrong.
One of our collective attributes as a nation is our refusal to acknowledge there isn't always a pre-existing solution for every problem we face. We expect the right answer the first time from anyone who ventures into proposing a solution. But we fail to realise if indeed the combination of our problems is unique, so too should be the solutions. To find solutions, there must be an increased level of scientific solution-finding that requires a degree of patience, resilience and commitment from all of us.
But, as a nation, we don't like that approach. We want answers now. So it should come as no surprise that those who might have a plan would much rather organise public meetings to "discuss", rather than venture into a systematic "solutions process". Controversial and ancient Fifa president Sepp Blatter lambasted South Africa for our slow start in organising the 2010 World Cup, stating we were "too busy dancing" to organise the football tournament. Although the imagery evoked by the comment is unfortunate, the objective sentiment is plausible.
We often derive the feeling of achievement from the wrong aspect of the process, often celebrating intentions rather than achievements. We spoke so much about the World Cup - we eventually had a false sense of doing something when we hadn't started anything.
Even our private sector is adept at appearing to be part of the conversation, without risking rubbing off the politically connected the wrong way. It's easy to get support for conversations about current topical issues, but once funding is required to investigate possible solutions that may directly contradict the government, the sector retreats.
It's remarkable that, as a nation, given all we've been through, we can still sit in rooms and talk to each other all day. But we shouldn't allow ourselves to derive a false sense of achievement while Rome continues to burn. We must accept that enough of us understand the unsustainability of the current economic context, and start identifying what needs to be done, then begin doing it.
Can we all kindly do some work.