Don’t be A Nonny Mouse

Don’t be A Nonny Mouse

Gentle, kind, thoughtful she helps many who are distressed but she always does it – you guessed, anonymously. We all think highly of people who give and don’t want the credit for it. They are admirable achievers and the world would be a poorer place without them.

Beside the trail-blazers – among whom I have to count Trump much as I dislike him – and the show people, A Nonny Mouse type people make little media impact. Grey shadows do vital work but it is behind the scenes. Those who follow this philosophy usually do so from the best of motives – as far as we can tell. And anyway, personal publicity implies a certain lack of self-confidence, a need for reassurance. Powers of persuasion are most effective when they are quiet, sincere and low key.

Where is the decent point between a craving for publicity and a reticence that suggests excessive attention to modesty? We all have something to sell. Scientists want to acquire funds to support their research; business men aim to increase the value of their business for their shareholders; politicians feel compelled to obtain the power they think will enable them to make a better world. For selling, the most powerful tool we have is ourselves.

Richard Branson can attribute at least some of his success to his impressive and flashy stunts. They help to build his image and hence the image of his business. In a small way when I was building Cerebos Pacific Ltd it did the business no harm for me to be known around Asia as ‘Mr Brands’. Good Pope Francis makes a great show of his overseas visits. He knows that true humility is honesty, not false modesty.

Personal publicity can certainly promote your business. It has to be handled with care. Too much of it and the person is remembered while the business is forgotten, too little and the business is faceless. The balance varies from one business to another and from one time to another. Singapore had one of the greatest entrepreneurial statesmen of the second half of the last century in Lee Kuan Yew. He was vigorously opposed to a culture of personal imagery but used his own personality to impress on Singaporeans and others what he saw as the importance of his beliefs in discipline and freedom from corruption.

The great influencers of today do not, for the most part, seek the media limelight. They are people like Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, Elon Musk, Jens Reisch, Prudential – all people you hear about but not publicity seekers. Their influence for moderation, for fairness, for the true value of humanity is enormous, not because of widespread publicity but because everyone they meet takes away a message of courage and worthiness.

Being aware of what you can and cannot do in life is a major source of happiness. Living what is possible without an endless search for reassurance and self-aggrandisement is how people become fulfilled. Understanding your motives is the surest source of success.

I’m asking you not to be A Nonny Mouse, however worthy your motives.