Remembering the unforgettable and being unforgettable

The VC congratulates me at Henley Business School's Graduation Ceremony on Friday, 18th October

The VC congratulates me at Henley Business School’s Graduation Ceremony on Friday, 18th October

Photo Credit: Ede & Ravenscroft Photography, Cambridge, UK

I almost forgot about 3 years of my life. I hardly remembered my fierce determination and obvious persistence. In the past year since completing my 3-year MBA (Master of Business Administration), I’ve faced small and medium challenges like starting a new job in a new company, finding my place in a new group, rekindling old friendships and making new ones. I was often worried about how I would cope or if I would survive. Indeed, I had almost forgotten what I could achieve if I set my mind to it.

It was last Friday, 18th October when I attend my MBA graduation ceremony that it hit me unexpectedly as I saw my classmates, many of which became friends of mine. They will be unforgettable because they taught me more than business.

I don’t know where strength came from. It often felt like there was a pipe pumping energy into my veins at high speed. I had low points when I thought I couldn’t continue, that the demands I had of myself were too high. But I was unable to accept that state for long. Looking back, I’m grateful for those low points as they helped me refuel. I’ve learnt to appreciate the stillness instead of panicking in the silence. I’ve learnt over time not to forget to be kind to myself in the excitement – to remain unforgettable in the process. Even as I shake the hand of the Vice Chancellor, I don’t think I fully got it. Hopefully someday, I will.

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High achiever? It depends.

When I went back to school in 2009, I was excited. I was ready to do my best; after all business talk is something I’ve always enjoy so studying it should be loads of fun. I remember thinking that the course material resembled the articles I would stop to read in a magazine anyway. But during my first workshop, the lecturer focussed more on taking a ‘personal journey’ to learn how to learn. He even went as far as saying that grades didn’t really matter and that if we averaged Cs, we were doing fine. My brain could not process this. What did he mean???

It is important to aim high and put your best foot forward. One way I thought hard work  is portrayed is through good grades. Back in the day, I’d go home to my parents after school and my dad would ask, ‘what did you make?’ I’d say a B or C. Then he’d ask if anyone got an A. I’d say yes and then he’d ask if the A student had two heads. And if not, why hadn’t I got an A as well? The result of this wasn’t all bad. At the very least, it made me what to be the best. But now I’m wondering, ‘what exactly is it that I want to be best at?’ Perhaps being able to learn new concepts, models and frameworks without the fear that I will not get the best grades is an achievement in itself. I’ll be more keen on certain topics than others and it may show up in the grade and that’s okay.

High achiever in the making (photographed by R "Doc Enigma")

The most important thing is I’m learning to learn without pressure. I’m meeting fantastic people. I’ve identified aspects of business that really give me a buzz and aspects that I’ll have to live with as they are part of the machine. It’s alright.

So, in the grand scheme of things, I’m amongst the high achievers (others may disagree). I’m getting some great grades and some okay ones. But mostly, I’m exploring new ways to think and embracing different perspectives that would have been alien to me eighteen months ago. At this rate, my dad may even say I’ve got two heads!

The Me-Brand

It's all about Me (photo from istockphoto.com, 2010)

I had never heard about personal branding until last month when I attended a workshop at Henley Business School. The idea of it was simple but it spoke volumes to me. It brought to the surface the fact that we are all different, unique and shouldn’t be ashamed or uncomfortable about that at all. Personal branding is selling yourself to your best ability; identifying that thing that only you can bring to a job, a business, or even a relationship. your personal brand. Prof. David James of Henley Business School calls it “Myography”. I must say that discovering this gave me a sense of relief (that it was alright to be different, in fact it was fantastic!) but at the same time, I struggled to decide what it was about me that was unique. What can I do better than anyone else??? It’s a toughie.

I came home and explored a little more about on the web (thank God for blogs etc). I came across www.personalbrandingblog.com. It was timely because sitting at the top of the blog posts was one called “A Cup of Coffee to Having an Enemy”. The author of the post, Wendy Brache said this,

‘Having an enemy is often one of the best ways to solidify your own brand. We can’t be everything to everybody, nor should we want to be…’

Being comfortable being you is standing up for yourself and out of the crowd- you are being authentic. This may seem trivial or even a no-brainer but in the world of business it is absolutely crucial. For example, when you start a business, or invent a product or offer a service, you immediately have to decide the people you will say ‘no’ to.  Again, you cannot be everything to everybody because not everybody will like what you have to offer. The good news is that some folks definitely will if you’ve done any amount of market research! So what do I offer that no one else does? I still don’t have the answer but this is part of my addictive journey. And maybe part of the answer is that I will find out in time, as I take risks, fail and succeed. Stay tuned!

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