Hone your unique skills to stay ahead

Chart your own path in the race to stand out in the crowd

Business Daily (Kenya) - - LIFE: FINANCE -

As a girl, I was raised not to speak loudly. It was im­proper for women, and es­pe­cially young ones to speak loudly. More so in the pres­ence of men. When I later joined the work­force, I quickly learned that a di­min­ished voice com­mu­ni­cated a lack of con­fi­dence, poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion and even a sign of low to a com­plete lack of in­tel­li­gence. Iron­i­cally as an ex­ec­u­tive coach now, I am not only asked to but I get paid to speak. Loudly.

By the age of 15, I had been trained to cook, clean and keep the house well. I had skills and would find a good hus­band who wouldn’t send me back to my vil­lage caus­ing un­told em­bar­rass­ment to the fam­ily, my mother said. At 27, I had a near-mar­riage-ex­pe­ri­ence. My at­tempt at mar­riage failed in spite of my im­pec­ca­ble home-mak­ing skills.

As a school­girl, I was re­peat­edly ad­vised to study very hard in or­der to get a good job in the fu­ture. Later, I had what would have been con­sid­ered a good job at my level but it sim­ply wasn’t enough. I re­alised that I didn’t want a job. I wanted to cre­ate jobs and have them done a par­tic­u­lar way to at­tract par­tic­u­lar clients ready to pay par­tic­u­larly well for it.

I plunged into en­trepreneur­ship in 2002. A for­mer em­ployer told me that I’d made a mis­take to leave my job to get into such a crowded field.

I was so broke at the time and lit­er­ally play­ing hide and seek with auc­tion­eers at my house but I knew with­out any pre­vi­ous per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence that I was onto some­thing.

So in spite of my pro­found re­spect for him, I didn’t heed his words. Yes, like you, I too was taught to re­spect my el­ders but I re­spect­fully went against that valu­able coun­sel.

Six months later, I pleas­antly re­alised that he had been as right as he had been wrong. Ad­ver­tis­ing is in­deed a very crowded field. It is so crowded with cus­tomers that 16 years later to­day, I still won­der why I didn’t start the busi­ness ear­lier than I did!

Please un­der­stand me; I am very thank­ful. I love and will for­ever be grate­ful to my mother, my en­tire fam­ily, my teach­ers, peers, and all the great peo­ple at whose feet I have had the priv­i­lege of re­ceiv­ing their valu­able in­struc­tion over the years.

How­ever, you and I have been taught to be­lieve that be­ing dif­fer­ent is wrong. Maybe it is. I want you to have trou­ble with the as­sump­tion that what most peo­ple do, what most peo­ple have and the way most peo­ple are, is the right way. If that were any­where near true, most peo­ple would be wildly pro­duc­tive, suc­cess­ful and ec­static about their lives. That is NOT the case. There very few truly pro­duc­tive peo­ple and even fewer suc­cess­ful peo­ple while happy peo­ple are a ru­mour.

The few who are pro­duc­tive, suc­cess­ful and happy are the peo­ple who dare to do the seem­ingly un­usual, ab­nor­mal, un­com­fort­able and even un­ex­cit­ing things. They de­lib­er­ately and con­tin­u­ally do the things that most peo­ple do not like to do. These peo­ple be­long to the rare breed that is will­ing, able and ready to go across the grain, to rock the boats of nor­malcy, to stick out like sore thumbs and look crazy to the rest of the world to be­come the best.

We envy, ad­mire and even try to em­u­late them when we fi­nally come to the re­al­i­sa­tion that be­ing dif­fer­ent is good! What is your dif­fer­ence? When you com­pete on aca­demic achieve­ment, years of ex­pe­ri­ence and the num­ber of multi-na­tion­als you’ve worked for, you lower your play­ing field al­low­ing any Otieno, Wan­jiku and Mueni to com­pete with you for op­por­tu­ni­ties.

What is the edge that you have over oth­ers? What is your unique per­sonal and pro­fes­sional propo­si­tion? This is what you need to high­light in ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion with po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers and busi­ness part­ners. With it, you not only be­come the only log­i­cal can­di­date but also the SI unit by which oth­ers are mea­sured.


SERAPHINE RULIGIRWA KA­MARA Ex­pert in at­ti­tude and lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment sera@iupon­line.com @Sru­lu­girwa

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