Hone your unique skills to stay ahead
Chart your own path in the race to stand out in the crowd
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.
I QUICKLY LEARNED THAT A DIMINISHED VOICE COMMUNICATED A LACK OF CONFIDENCE