Addressing the last question from the audience on raw material challenges in the medical device industry, I said, “Thank You.” Panning from the left to the right of the conference hall, watching attendees applaud; I continued to stretch my lips from ear to ear and sat on the table with the panel of speakers where my name was displayed. After all the speakers are done sharing their thoughts on the topics they had chosen to speak on, one question that can be felt radiating in every square inch of the room is— What time does the networking reception start? The evening receptions at these conferences are to relish the snacks you normally don’t eat at home, imported cheese and of course free wine; but we are all here with an agenda — an agenda to see what do you have to offer? The ubiquitous question that will decide whether you are worth anyone’s time— what do you do? At the evening reception, holding a glass of red wine in one hand, I joined a group which had some familiar faces in it. “Well done, that was a great presentation!,” said one of the guys in a gray suit and blue tie. “Thanks,” I replied followed by an abrupt pause. I had met him in the same conference last year as well. His name is Bill, maybe not; I am horrible with birthdays and unfortunately with names. I have mixed Bob’s with Bill’s and Sarah’s with Sandra’s. My wife has told me for seven years, “just don’t say their name if you are not sure.” This time, I did not want to embarrass myself, hence the abrupt pause. “So what do you?” asks another unfamiliar face in the group. If you are intelligent, you need to decipher that— “I am here to sell you anything, even if I don’t have it, I will make it for you!” The conversation went on for a few minutes for the guy to decide if I was worth pursuing as a lead. An exchange of business cards happened while I kept sipping the savory wine until the glass was empty. On the surface, it all seemed like a staged drama.
After attending numerous conferences around the country and as a speaker in a few, every reception, every marketing dinner, I knew the agenda everyone had for coming to these conferences. They say, sometimes it only takes one event to find the answer you are looking for. Well, the conference in Cleveland was the one for me— it was a life transformational event. As I was sitting on a round table with a “highly qualified” group of people from Fortune 500 companies, I glanced at the badge hanging from my neck that I was given to wear at all times. I saw my first and last name, and right below my name was the name of the corporation I worked for. While the group I was dining with was talking about the New England Patriots, in a very subtle manner, I quickly glanced at everyone’s badge. Clearly, every one of them had the corporations they worked for attached to their name. The only people in the room that did not have their corporation’s name hanging from their necks were the servers. In that moment, the only thought that came to my mind was — if I only had my first and last name written on my badge, would I get the same treatment like I did from the sales guys? As I dined that night, I kept thinking, what if every person here was to strike the name of the corporations they work for from their badges— would they be looked at differently? Would they be treated differently?
Our job, our profession, the work we do, whether we work for a small or big corporation, or if we are self-employed, we carry our job titles with us to give ourselves an identity. We all know and have used the conversation starter—so what do you do? Which implies, how do you earn a living? How do you pay your bills? How much money do you make? Are you any different than me? And all the other comparative analysis questions that are hidden in just one question, what do you do?
Try going to work for a day without a label. I am the owner, I am an IT engineer, I am the marketing director, I am the CEO, CFO, COO or whatever label you carry to describe to the world who you are. Instead, if you rewire your brain to think that I am here for service, to create excellence in my life, so I can help others excel; you start creating success in every action— every day—in everything you do. This is a tough transformation to create since our professional domains have been conditioned with years of “I am…” but once you transition into working independent of the professional labels, you become an open-heart and open-mind that creates excellence in his or her life and for everyone else around them.