What I Learnt While Trying to Re-Brand Myself

Posted by M ws On Wednesday, October 31, 2012 0 comments
This month, I have been very busy trying to re-brand myself in a new business. Having been closeted in educational institutions where things go by the book and co-workers do not spring surprises, I must say it has been quite a challenging experience. Sometimes I feel so happy while there are days when I felt quite Hannibal Lecterish. :-( I learnt quite a number of enlightening lessons about myself, 'friends', acquaintances and prospective business contacts. As it is, I am not even ten per cent ready and wonder if I can ever be ready. But I will plod on, regardless, to chase my dream.

Why did I choose to start something new?

* I have been quite idealistically blind doing free journalism writing about issues when I am not in the thick of things. Upon realizing the real world is not what I think it to be, I decided to venture into the real world to see how things and people tick to give more meat to my thoughts and works.

* I do not want to live my life working for others but I want to work for myself and enjoy the fruits of my labour. This way, I will not have such a theoretical approach when problem-solving or analyzing anything in life.

* Times are tough and with the increasing costs of living, I can foresee myself in dire straits if I do not catch the bull by the horns and explore opportunities.

* It is time to learn something new, re-brand, make new friends and start a new career - Better late than never.

* As one who thrives on the adrenalin rush, I am quite sick and tired of the daily routine and want to communicate with humans, learn to work together, develop new skills and earn more money.

I have always wanted to start my own business. Some of the dreams that blazed my mind include:

* Opening a cafe called Muffin Mania specializing in sweet and savoury muffins and other sweets.
   - My husband vetoed it because he felt that along the way, I would probably gain a lot of weight.
* Running an on-line cake store with special delivery in Penang
   - Same reason
* Opening a Wedding Planner Consultancy where I would plan everything
   - My family said it was too stressful as I am not the type to say 'Yes' to everyone.
* I really wanted to be a funeral director as the 'customer' cannot complain directly
   - My husband said that it was not nice to make money out of people's sorrow
* Open a music studio/school
* Run advertisements in my blog but I am still hesitating for aesthetical reason with regards to my blog design

Anyway, I have learnt quite a number of lessons along the way. Even before I conceptualized my business model, I made the mistake of telling 'friends' that I was attending classes and was on the receiving end of a barrage of negative remarks, sniggers etc. I am not ashamed if I fail for that experience of failing will surely leave me with precious lessons that enriched my life. This journey on earth is not about earning money, at least not to me, but about striding out to maximise our potential and chasing our dreams. If I never tried, I would never know if I could do it and I will die wondering and regretting about this. There are those who are watching closely and read laugh or clap if/when I falter but never mind - it is better to fall and pick myself up and know what to do than never falling at all and thinking that life is a bed of roses.

Lesson # 1 True friends rejoice with you. Other 'friends' will not hesitate to be the greatest critics and let their eyes shine in emerald green. 

It was quite a rude shock to me to discover that some can feel threatened even though my plans are still in the pipeline for fear that I will steal their clients. Then there are those who are ready to criticize anything and everything (bordering insanity in terms of the pettiness of the issue) in a most condescending manner all in the name of being expressive, open and honest. Then there are the fireman friends - ever ready to pour cold water on dreams before it has finished a planning course.

Lesson # 2 Be ready for free-wheelers or opportunists

Sweet and smooth talkers can swoop down on prospective prey to sponge on opportunities to the max. They may offer prospective opportunities but first, you must share your USP or forecasts/proposals after which nothing develops from there.

Lesson # 3 What we See is NOT what we THINK we have conceptualized

A very good example is the name card. What a rude shock it was to discover that my designer's perception of 'ivory' colour or 'textured' card was not the same as mine as all.

Lesson # 4 Not every communicates at the same level.

In an educational institution, it is easy to be open because in such an environment, there is the tendency to build a good rapport. We don't view others as competitors but co-workers. However, in the business world, a friend may view as as one encroaching their turf or with the potential to steal their clients. The worse is when this is communicated with a 'Don't-forget-I-was-here-first' tone.

Lesson # 5 Not everyone is honest for what they vocalise may be different from what is internalized.

I always believe in openness and honesty without mincing words. Standing on ceremony is not my style and what you see in me is what you get. What I say is what I mean. However, I learnt that not everyone is like that because of many reasons. Then there is a turnaround whereby the real person emerges and the shock can sometimes be quite unnerving. I think the degree of street-smart intelligence I developed this month surpasses all acquired in all my life.

Lesson # 6 Double standards apply

Kindness show to others may not be reciprocated. Instead, it is a dog-eat-dog world out there where only the fittest and strongest survive. Resilience and coldheartedness would be the insurance for disappointments.

Lesson # 7 Good samaritans appear when you least expect it.

Lessons # 8 Lying seems to be the norm

Lesson # 9 Mistakes are costly. 

Lesson # 10 To survive, one may have to join the game, but not me.
Honestly, I am thankful that for the greater part of my life, I have been cocooned by books and students. Although the $$$ is little, at least the reward is the investment that pays dividends when I see how my former students are doing very well in life. I am not sure if this proposed business project will take off at all but if I don't continue to try, I will never know.

So in the mean time, I will just have to pick myself up again when I fall splat on my face or when I trip and fall thanks to obstacles in my way placed there by others.

From all these experiences, I learnt to keep a lot of things to myself, not to share any more so openly or honestly but to observe and reserve my thoughts, plans and hopes to myself. I will only share with those whom I can really trust and whom I know are sincere. It has been such a shocking experience because people whom I have known for decades can be the greatest stumbling blocks. My inner circle is really very small now. But at least I know who are my real friends and how much I matter to them. They matter to me too.

For those of you who are running your own businesses, please share your experiences so that I can learn precious lessons from you too. Thank you.

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