Catching up with a colleague over a teh tarik is by far one of my favourite ways of working. It is relaxing, enjoyable and when it ends, a spark of an idea always gets lit. The idea that day was life directions and how it was akin to branding a corporation.
When I facilitate a branding process with my clients, I always ask them what the core purpose of their business is. Many of them immediately start rolling out the obvious functional aspect, i.e. ‘I sell this’ or ‘I provide solutions’. And so I get them to drill down deeper as to why their companies exist at all. What was the main reason that got them here? What was the impending need that galvanised them to start a company and become an entrepreneur? My amazingly creative colleague then said, actually to get to that question, you really have to know who you are and what drives you. You have to know what your purpose in life is.
Simon Sinek, asks us to “Start With Why”: and has even written a book about it. For the longest time, I knew that my path lay in service. But I mistakenly read this as saving the world and doing projects that were much larger than what I could handle.
That was not sustainable. I got into branding by default – it was something I was doing while I planned my next big scheme to save the world. Well actually if I was really honest, I had the big schemes, though none of them paid a dime. But branding was what the world demanded of me and so I acquiesced.
Fast-forward a decade. I began to realise that there was a connection between helping companies brand themselves and doing my part for the world. In branding, it was through connecting with a CEO and helping him or her empower his/her employees. Happy, empowered employees change work cultures for the better. And by turn, organisations with an empowered culture often perform better financially and commits acts of charity that can transform the communities they touch.
3 years ago, in the middle of this ‘default ‘branding phase, I was asked to teach at a university college. This was a default of the default – it had nothing to do with branding and was not in any way connected to my business. But it reconnected me with my first love – theatre and I was more than happy to plunge back in. The teaching turned out to be one of the most powerful gifts I could have received. Prior to my first class, I was warned that there was a high possibility that students would be distracted and unfocused. I was, however, not buying into this reality. On the first day of class, I asked all of them their WHYs. And in the three years that I have been teaching there, I realise there is a core ‘why’ to all of us – it is the need to matter.
In that moment of honest revelation, we connected as fellow human beings searching for meaning. Another revelation that came from this – I found my own WHY. I was to serve as a humble teacher, teaching what I know, helping my students and clients connect to their WHYs and allowing them in turn, be my teachers.
And so my career as a Brand Consultant is no longer a default but a calling. It took a while to get here but the gift of the journey has been a blessed one. Whether you are thinking about your company or yourself, don’t be afraid if you haven’t found your ‘why’. Set the intention. Keep the faith that all roads will lead you to it. And embrace the Journey.