You can’t outsource Respect.

One of the great pleasures of this time of year for me is the range of shows and events focused on gardens. Row after row of beautiful gardens, flowers, trees and people whose lives revolve around growing things.

There is also the pleasure of the theme that runs like a thread through these events; that of nature, growth, and craft. I find it quite humbling to visit a stand dedicated to Bonsai, and witness the dedication that has gone into creating things of outstanding beauty.

Then there are those who want to tag along in the hope of being linked to the feelings generated by those dedicated to their craft. The big banks, the corporates, the big brands.

For whatever reason, it was this area that left a real impression on me when I visited the Chatsworth Flower Show this week. Set in spectacular surroundings, in one of the most beautiful counties in the UK, it is always a pleasure.

The big brands were out in force, making their presence felt through advertising, sponsorship, and other quite “shouty” techniques. I was very aware of their presence, but felt little connection. On the other hand, there were the small businesses, unable to afford that sort of commercial noise, who relied instead on what they produce, and how they talk about it.

The craft belt business who spent ten minutes sharing the pleasure he gets from making a beautiful product locally that he sells for a fraction of the price of a product sold by a major fashion brand further down the line of stalls that is made far away by someone I’ll never meet.

The team who put on the “power of trees” exhibit that displayed a love of what they do that was tangible.

The craft cheese maker whose product has never been near a factory, and whose variations elicit joy and curiosity, not the wrath of quality control.

The maker of jeans who only makes jeans, and strives above all things to do one thing well, and has a clear goal not to become too big and lose the pleasure they get from what they make.

I think it was Margaret Thatcher who said that branding was like being a woman in politics. If you have to point out to people you are one, you’re not.

Branding is about being constant about who you are, what you do, and a dedication to who you do it for. It’s about the pleasure people get from knowing you, knowing that you know them.

Not the size of your budget, or the price you paid for the design of your logo.

The Brands that make you smile have little ego.

Brands that matter make themselves felt even if their marketing spend is invisible.

People who try to brand by tagging along are plain to see.

You can’t outsource respect.

Growth

Generally speaking, it seems that most of the posts we see on business or personal growth fall into two categories; therapeutic, or instructional.

The therapeutic works on the basis that we’re somehow not good enough, that we’re flawed, failing and need help.

The instructional works on the basis that we’re insufficiently trained; that we need to be taught, by those who are better than us.

Both have their place, up to a point, but only if we believe the purpose of our life is to fulfil others requirements of us.

If, on the other hand the purpose of our lives is to use the unique gifts we have been given, the unique perspectives we hold, the intent we have for our lives to use them to leave the world a better place than we find it, then they don’t.

Our lives have an expiration date. Between now and then, we have a choice to make.

How does that really work?

One of my vivid memories from school is calculus. Sitting in rows trying to keep up. Getting marks for being able to replicate what was going up on the Board.

The trouble was, I could do it, but didn’t really understand it. I couldn’t pull it apart and play with it. Be intimate with it. I could pass the exam, but was a mechanic with it, not an engineer, or an artist. But it did the job, I got the grades and moved on. I regret that – maths is a beautiful subject that I’m only getting to grips with now – a long time on. Learning to play with it.

With the change that we’re in, the skills we have learned will become obsolete at an accelerating rate. A little like software that’s just been updated.

The artist who codes it though, the person who understands how how it works, who can play with it, who can create from first principles, will thrive.

Learning keeps you current. Understanding gives you freedom.