I have long known that it is part of God’s plan for me to spend a little time with each of the most stupid people on earth, and today was proof that even in a lockdown, when you are lucky to see anyone, I would not be spared. It became evident that today would be a self-inflicted rarity.
After several weeks exploring the option of brand consultancy, hustling a bit too, I fell in with a small venture. Excitedly they asked me to hold a workshop with them to help them develop a clearer brand strategy.
What’s this got to do with stupid people I hear you ask? Well, let me tell you, there is a huge difference in being advised on brand strategy and being the one doing the advising. Then there is also the slight issue of which planning model to use, materials and equipment, meetings in lockdown part in person, part virtual. Finally, and the bit that stung the most, my own sartorial elegance.
When I decamped from the office last March, not only did I lose close contact with my work colleagues, and ultimately my job, but I also lost my daily exercise regime – 30 minutes of cycling twice a day being a key part of my commute, and a significant driver in my own fitness and post 40 svelteness.
So, there I was 45 minutes before the dreaded fledgling step to self sufficiency, my first consultancy gig. Laptop: check. Print outs: check. Flip charts, Post Its and Magic Markers: check. Suit, shirt, shoes… oh my goodness… not check. Squeezing into my tailored suit, I could hardly breathe until, PING! First a jacket button flew off, and then SHWIPP! My suit trousers ripped front to back as I bent to pick it up.
Shamed and shuffling in a rather moth ball smelling larger suit (pre cycling to work attire), I rather shambled into my first consulting job, feeling like a fraud and a bit of a fool.
It didn’t matter of course. My self-consciousness was merely a manifestation of my own fears. Taking Mandela’s inspiring words about rising every time we fall, in striving to prove myself to myself, I did feel again some glory in living.
The meeting went well. We covered a lot of ground. I could tell by the email from the CEO afterwards that while it was all a nervous rush for me, they had had an invigorating few hours thinking about their purpose, values and customers. Opening their minds up to new possibilities and different ways of approaching problem solving. Learning a more customer-centric framework. There is such power in asking simple questions: Why is that important? Where are we playing? How are we going to win?
Maybe there is a route through here for me. Not forever perhaps, but to see me through the next few months. Walt Disney once said “The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing”. Today was one of those doing days, and it felt really good.