Yesterday I was interviewed by Alan Kohler for the June edition of his business show on Qantas Radio. One question Alan asked that I wasn’t expecting was why I dyed my hair purple. Confused at first by why he wanted to know I responded that my decision was based simply on my love of the colour purple. Prompting me for more insight, Alan shared that he had watched a video of me speaking during which I used my hair colour as an example of when I have made courageous decisions in my life.
Having given it further thought since the interview, I’ve realised my hair colour is reflective of my willingness to show the world who I really am. I consider it a blessing to have been raised by parents who encouraged me to be myself, even if that meant being different and standing out in a crowd. I would be lying however if I said that has always been an easy thing to do. Like so many other people I meet, I spent many years desperately wanting to fit in afraid of being bullied, ridiculed, rejected or excluded for being different.
As I’ve grown through experience I’ve come to believe that not only is it OK to be different, it’s essential that we be truly who we are. I believe our ability to thrive in life depends on it. Of course we need to work on the aspects of ourselves that need to improve, but our goal should always be to become the best possible version of ourselves.
Only when we are willing to bring our full selves to any situation in life are we likely to be at our best. Those with a healthy sense of right and wrong understand where the boundaries lye between honouring ourselves and respecting others; if there is no harm done by being who you are then go for it. Some people may be uncomfortable with your choices, but leave their fears and concerns with them and be proud of who you are. Self-respect is a powerful energizer of our spirit and essential to having the courage we need to thrive.
Reflecting on my conversation with Alan I’ve also realised that my purple hair is one example of the ways I have chosen to challenge conventional wisdom in business. There are so many ‘rules’ in business that I’m sure if challenged most people would struggle to say why they matter at all. Take for example neckties that so many organisations insist on men wearing – I really don’t understand – especially when I see men walking around in summer looking like they are about to melt.
When Tom joined our team 5 years ago I was faced with having to decide if it ties matter at Ryan Gately. We agreed he would have one on stand by just in case an ‘important meeting’ came up. Today I wouldn’t dream of asking Tom to wear a tie; so long as he is dressed in a manner that demonstrates respect for the people we are meeting with then I’m happy. If our client or prospect is hung up on ties I figure they are likely to get over it when they realise how talented and respectful Tom is.
To tap into the full potential of people encourage and allow them to be who they really are. Challenge the rules you and others impose; question the value they add as well as the constraining impact they may be having on the spirit of the people in your business. Lets shift past outdated modes of thinking, get rid of policies based purely on conventional wisdom and harness all that people can bring to a business when they feel free trusted, respected and able to express themselves.