To Call Each Thing By Its Right Name

In my profession, definitions are critical. The marketing and communications industry is built upon them, especially in advertising agencies.

They exist in order to provide clarity, succinctness, and direction. They inform action. They also inadvertently give birth to typecasts, insinuations, and predisposed notions of what those said definitions imply. It is how we formulate meaning through words. That is the power of language and that is the power of communication. Which is why the right insights that translate those definitions for communication are so important. It is also why sometimes some definitions need to be debunked.

For example, through my experience over the years, I have found that I have had to spend a great deal of time explaining the subtle distinction of who I am and what I do to various stakeholders in the industry. There is this idea that a creative is a person within a department of an ad agency, whereas I like to think of being a creative as a way of life. It is something that I proudly identify with. It is the essence of my being.

I break it down like this: I am a strategist by function. I am a creative by disposition.

So there would occasionally be some confusion when my email signature or business card read: Senior Strategist, but I rock up to a strategy workshop in a military-styled shirt and kicks. By doing this, I have seemingly violated the predisposed notions of what a strategist ought to be, based on preconceived definitions of what a strategist is. Attire is not an indicator of value or aptitude. It is however an indicator of agency culture. Everything we say and do, as individuals or organisations, is a piece of communication. They are symbols that say something about who we are.

The English word ‘emotion’ is derived from the French word, émouvoir, which means: to move. Not that I ought to justify it, but I like to be nimble and mobile in my working process, comfortable yet robust and agile. So I choose to compliment this preference practically through my wardrobe choices. It carries energy.

For me, I want to be judged by the quality of my work and value-add, not by what I am wearing. Which is why I had developed a daily work uniform. It’s inconspicuous. All black, inspired by Steve Jobs. Internally facing, that is, within the agency. Externally facing, I do the corporate yuppie thing and don a suit jacket and dress shirt, with a bit more colour. Even though it doesn’t symbolically represent who I am, it is a necessity of the broader collective objective, which is bigger than me, and that is something I respectfully comply and synergise with. In my personal capacity, I am more laissez-faire and expressive.

With age and experience, I’ve come to appreciate how a lot of people are just inherently impressionable as human beings. It is the nature of how we are. Which is why it is such a deft skill to know your audience that you are engaging with. To wear the right hat in the right room, metaphorically. Being versatile enough to be malleable in order to ‘fit in’ it.

The Strategy Director at the agency that I am planning to go to has now evolved to MD, so I will need to step up to the Strategy Director mantle over time. If I am freed up to be myself, and feel okay being slightly different from the traditional mould, then that is when I am potentially at my best and most innovative. To have the managerial reverie to experiment and try new things. Trust.

Definitions are also how we derive our view of the world and how we act within it, based on our ideals and principles that define us. Love. Courage. Truth. All these things, they carry immense weight, even by just mentioning the word(s). You immediately generate a very clear picture in your mind of what they mean based on how they have been defined and what we associate with them.

This is why authenticity matters and why we must always be consistent in how we define ourselves in relation to the definitions that we have chosen to live by, in any context, personal or professional. To be inconsistent through our actions is to be inauthentic and that is to strip those things of their meaning.

Along the journey, consistency is key.

On The Journey to Why

Given that we are currently in an unprecedented time, and we have all given greater thought to our finite mortality during this period, I have also mused about the legacy that I would like to leave behind if my time were to come sooner than expected. What would my epitaph say?

I defined it like this:

Mbasa Qukula

2 March 1988 — *to hopefully a long time from now*

Seeker of truth. Speaker of truth. Defender of truth.

In the meantime, my bio will simply read: Strategist

Living authentically and abundantly.

xo,

MQ

Living authentically and abundantly.

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