Here’s what I want to know: I want to know what kind of person you are. I want to know what you believe in. I want to know what you ache for and what brings you joy. I want to know how you handle the challenges that life throws at you.
And I can’t tell that from a label.
People in Japan sure do love their Louis Vuitton and Prada goods–the bigger the logo the better.
But they’re not the only ones who love their labels. I meet people in every country who show off their brand name goods, and others who are impressed by brand, school and company labels.
“Did you see his Rolex?”
“She works for Goldman Sachs.”
“All of their lawyers went to Harvard Law School.”
School and company affiliations are not obvious when we meet someone. Now people put their company’s name and their university’s names on their backs.
Why, I wonder would you wear a sport shirt or jacket with the name of your company or university to a non-company event? Would you wear this T-shirt to the gym?
I don’t think it’s because it’s the only thing you could find in the closet. Is it because you think, “I am someone because I work for this company or went to this university.”
It doesn’t impress me. It says nothing about who you are and that’s what I am most interested in. In fact, if you wear one of those shirts or carry one of those bags, I am likely to walk the other way and find someone else to talk with.
You are not who you are because you work for Goldman or have a Rolex. Anyone with the money can buy a Rolex. It takes more than money to get a job at Goldman, but you can figure out some way to do it if you really want it.
Beware: Using those labels as a form of identify or a shield may actually inhibit your growth. You have something to hang on to that will impress some people, but it will not last long. And think about the people who you might impress. Are they ones you really want in your life?
How do you develop as an individual if your identity is so tied in with labels?
And if the company faces hardship or dissolution, like Enron or Arthur Anderson, what happens to your identity then. And how about your T-shirt collection? Throw it out or trade it in for another?
It’s inside that counts. And that’s a lot harder to develop that than it is to getting into Harvard or getting a job with Goldman.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
When people talk about you, what do they say first? You work for ABC Company, You went to this school, you wear all Prada?
I’m glad my partner never mentions the name of the university where I teach or where I have worked. He talks about me-who I am. Ditto for when I talk about him and for when I talk about the students and the artists I work with.
I choose the artists because of their work, not because they went to Tokyo University of Fine Arts, and when the students get a job with a well-known company, I wish them the best, but I don’t say that is what makes them good. It’s a job or a career, or a university or a bag, not an identity.
And it won’t be why the people you want in your life will love you.