I was pitching to a client a few weeks back for a project and we got to discussing the project’s goals, the company profile – and me. They asked me a number of questions about my skills and experience and then surprised me with the following:
“If you could invite three people – dead or alive – to a dinner party, who would they be?”
I have to admit, as great a question as it was, I’d never been asked something like this before so I had to think on my feet. It was clear that the client was looking for someone they could form a good working relationship with and this question – informal yet probing – was aimed at digging a little deeper into what makes me tick. I thought for a few seconds and before I knew it I could think of about twenty three people! But three was all they wanted and, knowing that my answer to their question could be a deal-breaker, I gave them the following:
Richard Branson was the first name to pop into my head when I first heard the question. I read Richard’s autobiography back in 2003 on a (Virgin) flight back from the US and it really caught my imagination. His passion, sense of humour and sheer determination to succeed shone through on every page and it re-ignited a sense of entrepreneurism inside me. Richard is also a larger -than-life character – certainly not a dull suit from the business world – and his track record in public relations and promoting his businesses speak for themselves.
Whether you run your own business or work for someone else, I believe it’s essential to have an enterprising spirit in order to consistently innovate and challenge conventions, otherwise life can become monotonous and the potential for group-think looms large. Sir Richard Branson’s philosophy is all about creating something new and being a pioneer, regardless of who you are or where you work.
I first heard of Seth Godin whilst at university about seven or eight years ago. It was his book The Purple Cow that stood out for me in a bookstore one time and it immediately made me want to pick it up and start skim-reading. It was immediately apparent to me that Seth is a brilliant and provocative thinker and before I knew it I was hooked. Apart from the numerous books he’s written, Seth is also a great speaker and prolific blogger.
Seth’s key message in The Purple Cow was about standing out and being remarkable. What’s the point in following other’s and producing a ‘safe’ product or service? It’s much more fun (and potentially profitable) to find your niche a make an impact of your own.
If I was asked to name four people to invite to a dinner party I may have been tempted to have said John, Paul, George and Ringo! The Beatles have been an inspiration for me ever since I listened to my dad’ old 78 record of ‘The Blue Album’ back in the mid 1990s. But it was always John Lennon who I could relate to most. His character, back-story and song-writing style, along with his willingness to experiment and innovate, have always appealed to me and (partly due to his tragic death in 1980) has always been a legendary figure and cult figure for me and millions of others.
John Lennon may not have been a business person, but there’s still so much we can all learn from what he did and how he thought. He was an artist with a passion for creating brilliant work that he believed in, which is something that I’d like to be remembered for myself in years to come.
I could have picked many more dinner party guests but I’m happy with the three I chose. Which three people would you invite ? And why?