It’s rare that these days I come away from a meeting feeling inspired or challenged, it’s not a cynical statement it’s just that these days a lot of people in marketing led environments say the same things, “We want to show how dynamic we are...It’s like we’re one big family....Our CEO is a real visionary...We want to unveil our character.” Yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. Except at this meeting I heard a different perspective, one which was less self centred and less about the brand ego of their hotel group. It focussed on their guests.
“What do you want to say about your properties?” I enquired.
“Very simple”, the silver fox replied, “I want people to be” he paused “Be yourself.”
I don’t think he was encouraging guests to respond with Keith Moon style tantrums and I’m sure he wanted his television to remain firmly fixed on the wall instead of exiting through the bedroom window. Rather he was simply encouraging his guests to simply be rather than responding to their environment or feel that they have to be anything other than themselves. In many ways it’s a bit counter cultural in an environment which celebrates persona rather than the person.
A few weeks later I squeezed into a swaying London underground tube carriage. Every other person pushing their fingers across a phone or tablet, heads down, digits dancing across screens, a brigade of digital junkies and sheeple.
Yet in their midst sat a figure oblivious to his surroundings and enraptured with the sounds plumbed into his ears, eyes fixed on the music score resting on his knees whilst his hands performed short sharp rigid movements attacking the air in front of him with an imaginary conductor’s baton. Lips pursed in concentration as he led his nonchalant orchestra of commuters into...into indifference. He performed more vigorously twitching his head in unison with his hands now reaching a crescendo with his performance. “The next stop is Westminster” the automated human sound-alike announced. He broke from his exertions folded his papers carefully and disembarked.
His focus and determination provoked me, unfettered by what others may have thought of him, he refused to be shackled by social convention and was simply himself. Rather than shoe horning our personalities into a size that simply doesn’t fit, there’s a much richer and liberating alternative, which requires one to simply be. However, in the Python-esque farce depicted in the film The Life of Brian, perhaps we might identify with one of the multitude gathered under the bedroom of the mistaken identity of Brian the ‘Messiah’. Flinging wide his window shutters he’s greeted by a thronging crowd waiting to hear his Messianic wisdom, demanding a blessing. Brian responds by telling them to listen;
“I’ve got one or two things to say.”
“Tell us, tell us both of them,” cries the crowd.
“Look, you don’t need to follow me, you don’t need to follow anybody, you’ve got to think for yourselves, you’re all individuals.”
“Yes, we’re all individuals.” They respond in unison.
“You’re all different” continues Brian.
“Yes, we’re all different.” They speak as one voice.
The point sadly and comically missed and in the process my recollection twanged a raw nerve with Brian’s parting wisdom, “You’ve all got to work it out for yourselves.”