You can get an instant read on a city by the way its drivers behave. Those from ‘nicer’ towns than Sydney often find our driving culture aggressive. When I first moved here, I’d sit in a line of traffic, my indicator patiently blinking, expecting someone to let me into the next lane. But when I signaled my intent, drivers sped up to block my path — forcing me to travel a longer, or even a wrong, route.
One day I just moved in, nose first. To my surprise, nobody got upset — they just got out of the way.
The message was clear: don’t wait for permission.
In a city that favors transactions over relationships, action wins hands down — you’re expected to move fast and confidently, or people assume you don’t want the opportunity.
Self doubt is expensive: meet ‘John’
John (name changed to protect the guilty) is a charismatic business owner seeking investment to expand offshore. I introduced him to an old contact of mine who had built a multi-billion dollar global business in a similar category and could help him scale. I sensed they would hit it off and they did. Indeed, Mr Big, quickly put a multi-million dollar investment offer on the table.
But it was John who hesitated because, in his words “I don’t know if we’re ready … I’m not sure we are good enough yet.”
I respect the importance of timing and smart investment. But my head exploded when I heard those words. Mainly because it bought back memories of my own experience with the same investor when I approached him, cold, about acquiring my business some years earlier. Despite his crazy schedule, he was interested enough to take a meeting during the narrow window of time I had in California. The meeting went well and we agreed to catch up again the same week. Somewhere in between, I had a confidence meltdown and a phone malfunction and — after trying to reach him once — I got spooked and failed to follow-up. Looking back, I wanted the reassurance of having Mr Big chasing me down; putting things on a platter. I wanted to hear that he was REALLY interested so I didn’t have to risk rejection.
Would he have invested? Maybe. But more to the point, my failure to act quickly meant it was opportunity blown. No investor of that calibre wants to be in business with someone who lacks the self-belief or tenacity to even pursue the conversation.
Rest assured there are always others in the line behind people like me and John, happy to pursue their chance.
What can one man and a dog do? A lot…
My old landlord, Harold, worked in the building next door, and often stopped by with his friendly labrador for a cup of tea and a gossip.
Harold was obsessed with protecting pedestrian road safety. But as a lone voice, his concerns were drowned out by the media noise of large government authorities. Determined to be heard, Harold formed a group called the “Pedestrian Council of Australia” to support what he called the “walking class.” This was an extremely authoritative-sounding organisation whose personnel consisted of Harold and his dog.
Whenever a serious road incident occurred, or when new transport initiatives were announced, up popped Harold — confidently giving voice to pedestrian interests as a spokeperson for his national Pedestrian Council.
Some years on, Harold’s Council has huge influence — managing major annual events such as National Walk to Work Day and National Walk Safely to School Day and the 7 Bridges Walk and has raised millions in charity funding. Harold also ran a successful campaign to advocate and implementing the first 40 kmh School Zone on a main road in Australia.
Not bad for a man and his dog — and a little self-confidence.
Got objections about being visible? Deal with them
Objections to having a highly visible profile normally sound like this: “That seems superficial! Why mirror bad behaviour? Are you saying fake it til you make it? Are you endorsing aggressive or unethical behaviour? I don’t believe in jumping the queue…”
You alone determine how much substance you have behind you when you step forward into the spotlight. And ethical choices have little to do with status, or profile, although we love to stereotype. It has everything to do with your inner compass.
I’ve spent much of my career persuading very worthwhile contributors to stop playing small because status and profile is often the best way to help their cause.
It’s not “worthier” to stay in the shadows. It’s simply more comfortable. And it’s infinitely better to nudge yourself forward than to be watching someone less worthy take your place.
When you see an opening go for it — no apologies. No waiting for permission. If you don’t, someone else will slip in ahead of you and you’ll be taking the long way home cursing under your breath.
For more on developing your personal brand — my book The Business of Being YOU is available on Amazon and in all bookstores.