I remember exactly when it happened. It was more than a year ago that I lost my faith. I could no longer follow Seth Godin nor call myself a marketer after a horrendous experience in one of his online classes.
The weird thing?
I was the only one who was disappointed. Everyone else seemed to think the experience was worth the money. But it was driving me crazy. Day in and day out, I was seeing messages pop up on my phone from strangers who had business problems. I remember feeling guilty that I couldn’t be mindful of them because they were supposed to be my tribe, my cohort. It was a one-way ticket to hell so I pulled out and got my money back. Well even getting my money back wasn’t smooth. There were technical problems and my request was lost a few times in the e-mail system.
The point of this isn’t to say that Seth Godin is evil or wrong. Because he isn’t. No one person is totally evil or completely wrong, ever. We are all good, bad, ugly, beautiful, manipulative, truthful and everything in between. I’d projected God-liness onto the human Godin and of course, he couldn’t live up to that in his rush to produce content like there’s no tomorrow as if he were some productivity machine (which is, in essence, exactly what I was doing in his workshop, trying to respond to everyone with a business problem).
Truth be told, Seth served me well over the years with all of his teachings which he shares freely and with great generosity. His course on bootstrapping a business was just not for me. I’m an emerging writer with two young children whose core desire isn’t to run a successful business. I simply want to connect with readers like you and to listen to everyone with great care. After all, every life matters, even that of a Muslim Turkish suburban mum with two young daughters.
So I rejected everything I thought of as the gospel after I felt let down by a marketer. I turned my back on marketing, labelling it nothing more than trickery and thievery. I focused on writing. I had to build a portfolio because that’s a writer’s asset. These days I’m back to where I started trying to find support in the form of community grants and magazines that will pay for my work. To put myself and my work out there, it was inevitable that I make peace with the practice of marketing and marketers and that brought Michelle to my life.
What a breath of fresh air.
It was a fateful decision for me to return to Killara Dinners to submit anonymous stories to be judged by the others, many of whom aren’t professional writers. I felt in my heart that there was something different this time pulling me back into the mix. There was a new face, a female who’d worked as a marketing manager leading large teams, in effect mothering, raising and developing the careers of many junior marketers.
She literally wore her heart on her sleeve – a Tiffany’s heart on her bracelet, matching the one I wear around my neck on a silver chain. What struck me is that like me, Michelle is a seeker who not only looks outward but within herself for answers. She’s also a true blue Lane Covian, who ended up here in a roundabout way, from the western suburbs via London. She brings an inside/out philosophy to her marketing and branding practice.
Let me explain.
One of the first stories she shared with me was being in Iran for her work and finding herself in a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor and senior staff of Al’Zahra University. They were talking about creating an institute for empowering women. She chimed in “now that’s something I can talk about.” It came as a surprise when they turned to her with eager faces asking her would she really do it. Not one to back down from such a powerful calling, she said yes.
She had two days to prepare a speech for the event and in Iran, where people get jailed for offending sensibilities, she had to make sure she was pitch-perfect. She worked with her Iranian counterparts to get the balance right in engaging her audience with inspired thinking whilst avoiding the risk of upsetting the status quo set by the Islamic Law.
The special event was held with a mere two-day notice and attracted over 100 female students. Thankfully, no eyebrows were raised to cause any concern for Michelle’s safe return back home.
Perhaps because Michelle doesn’t come from a socially advantaged background, she has an innate empathy and understanding that we all experience life in a way that was dictated by the culture in which we were brought up. I personally found that being an outsider has great benefits, especially for those of us who are communicators. We are made aware of our differences and because we’re not automatically accepted, we start to dig deeper within ourselves to find the common denominator that we can express, which will form deeper connections with others.
I suppose all this soul searching and connecting to one’s self makes us sensitive and aware of nuances around us. This might be called intuition. Indigenous cultures around the world celebrate people with intuitive qualities and these people are often the Shamans, the healers of the community. An embracing of spirituality is evident, particularly in the IT sector. Companies now have evangelists, brand ambassadors, Chief Happiness Officers among others on their payroll. In our world of fragmented media and consumer psyches, intuitive powers and creativity are what’s needed in breaking the silos to bring people back together as many companies strive for a culture.
To make it clear, branding isn’t just a pretty logo and some colours splashed across company assets. It involves inner work and it involves aligning the people in the organisation so that the spirit moves from the inside out, to the clients, customers and prospects. Michelle recognises this and brings cultural awareness to the work she does which connects people. She is a bridge.
Swiss IT people and aboriginal artists creating art together?
Michelle’s made that happen recently. I was fascinated to hear how these two completely different tribes created beautiful and brand-compliant art together. That’s some honest to goodness work, wouldn’t you agree?
If you want to hear more about how marketing is there to open eyes, hearts and minds, have a conversation with Michelle. She’s got me back on the track to think about marketing after I’d lost my faith.
Over to you…
When was a time you rejected something you once believed in? Did you ever end up making peace with whatever it was you turned your back on?
*The title is a reference to Seth Godin’s book All Marketers are Liars.