Wowee! What an amazing response to my first couple of blogs! Thank you very much for reading them, I never thought that many people would be interested… but then again we do quite often under-value ourselves and what we have to offer others.
Why do we under-sell ourselves so much? Is it a Scottish/British thing? I like to think that as a nation we are actually quite humble and see service to others as more important than self-promotion (but then again I can be hopelessly romantic in my views at times!).
Promoting oneself does not come naturally to many of us and like most things in life it is something that has to be learned, developed and perfected. I am fast learning that self-promotion is not necessarily a bad thing. If you have something positive to offer why shouldn’t it be shared with folk? How are they expected to know if you don’t tell them? I always tell my kids to ask as many questions as possible and that I may not have the answers but we could at least try to find them if we know what it is we want to find out.
A great friend of mine instilled in me at uni the belief of “A shy bairn’s a hungry bairn” (translated from Leith to English “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”) and I have tried where possible to apply this; although it is not always easy and is something I very much have to consciously practice.
Britain differs from the US and many other nations in that we’re not as bold (in general terms: I know plenty brazen British characters!) when it comes to asking for what we want and we often find ourselves settling for second best just in case we offend or upset anyone, and quite often these are the people who couldn’t care less about us. Self-confidence is a big player in this game and a lot of this comes down to up-bringing, the messages you hear from a variety of people and the lessons you live growing up.
If my rugby coaches back home in Jed told me to run through a brick wall for the good of the team, I would have done it (or at least I would have had the confidence to do it). I’m not saying I would jump off a cliff or anything, I just mean that people of influence in our lives do have great affects on us and how we think of ourselves and act around others.
Children learn what they live so if we turn this around and look at it from the other point of view, we can affect the lives of everyone around us just by the way we interact with them (I don’t mean this to turn into a preach by the way!) and we can help each other through encouragement and justified praise.
The term justified, I feel, is key here. Empty praise does not build confidence in kids, or adults for that matter, as much as (if at all) praise that has been earned. I don’t mean only offering praise or encouragement if someone does something outstanding or ‘wins’ at something, but when you can see where they were, where they are now and the efforts they have made to get there, no matter how small or large. This is the type of recognition that will warrant a positive esteem-building response.
I think what I am really trying to say is, all that people need to help them grow in confidence is fairness. I am a big believer in giving credit where credit is due and when people receive this it stokes that fire of confidence in them.
My own journey of starting a business and self-promotion (or promotion of the business anyway) has been a fantastic one so far and I have learned loads along the way. I have designed my own website, developed projects for the summer school, done all my accounts, organised staff and taken bookings among many many other things, but while it might seem like a one man show, this could not be farther from the truth!
The key to me having the confidence to undertake this project (a concept I have had for over 15 years by the way!) is the help, support and encourage from friends, family and outside agents (I’ll explain this in a minute, ‘outside agents’ might not be the right term anyway). There is no way I could have done this alone. The thought of designing a website was terrifying, I had no clue where to start, but luckily I’ve two amazing friends (one of whom even designed the MAKE Summer School logo that you see on this blog, on my website and Facebook page) who do, and they tutored me through it all until they were able to take the training wheels off and let me go; hoping I don’t fall off and graze my knee!
As far as everything else goes, I had help, support and encouragement from many many different people along the way and without this I wouldn’t even be where I am now, let alone writing a blog!
The people around you are key.
What is your business? What you think your business is and what it really is might be two completely different things. Think of McDonalds, most people would assume that their business is hamburgers and fast food. Hands up who can make a nicer burger than McDonalds. I know I can (please see below)
[I have always had a fascination with monster sandwiches (I always tried to cover the main food groups) and these two bad boys were born as a result of me watching Man v Food..]
Anyway, I digress.
McDonald’s business is real estate. Think about it. How many McDonalds ‘restaurants’ have you seen in your life? You could probably say the same for Starbucks nowadays too.
My point with this is make ‘people’ your business. Any good business has people at its core and while I am by no means in any position to give business advice, I have been a consumer for a good portion of my life and know that customer loyalty comes down to how well (or not) you have been treated. The same is said for the employer/employee relationship and this is very much also the case in the classroom, where you must treat each individual with genuine respect in order for it to be reciprocated (children’s perceptions of you are very heavily affected by the way they see you treating others and the fairness of your actions towards them). Reading this back, I’m starting to sound like Jerry springer! So I’ll stop.
There are people out there who want you to succeed and there is always help available if you are willing to look for and ask for it. The outside agencies I mentioned before have played an integral role in the development of my confidence and businesses. As previously mentioned, I have had the concept for the summer school for years but it wasn’t until I had the guts to pursue a search for help with another project that I found the tools I needed to make it happen.
Back in 2010 I was developing a design for a brand new type of product (I could tell you what it is but then I’d have to kill you, and I really don’t want to do that) and in looking for help I came across Stephen Burns at EDTC (http://www.edtc.org.uk/) and this was the start of an incredible journey that led me to the Cultural Enterprise office (www.culturalenterpriseoffice.co.uk/) and eventually onto their Starter for Six programme (www.culturalenterpriseoffice.co.uk/starterfor6/) where I met more fantastic people who helped and inspired me.
People were interested in my ideas and they gave me the tools and the confidence to ‘have a go’: The same sort of advice I would gladly give to others but very much needed to hear for myself.
We do need help and should not be afraid to ask for it, I have found that most folk do want to help you and feel part of the whole experience too. Like I said before (quite romantically) we do rate service to others very highly and rightly feel good when we help others…
So, if so many good things can come from not being a “shy bairn” then why not ask? Why not tell folk what you’ve been up to and what you have achieved and are looking to achieve? Why not involve as many other people as possible and try to create a ‘win, win’ situation?
It is a long road ahead for me and believe it or not I was a bit reluctant to continue with this blog in case people thought it came across as preachy or arrogant. The truth is it is actually quite a healthy way to communicate and let people know what’s going on in my head – my wife will tell you I do often think that people are mind readers and should automatically know what I know (like James Bond I tend to deliver messages on a need to know basis). Like I said self-promotion and communication are skills that need to be practiced – for some more than others!
So in that light I would like to direct you to my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/MAKE-Summer-School/354561317899424) where I’d like you to “Like” the page. I would also like you to follow @makesummerscool on Twitter, ask your friends to do the same and also take a look at www.makesummerschool.co.uk. If this is not enough, can you please follow my blog and tell all your friends about it too?
Jeeez, that was tough, but it’s getting a little bit easier every time, and soon I’ll understand that just having a great product is no good if people don’t know about it!