Celebration of uniqueness: Improving yourself by being yourself

Many reasons went into my decision for choosing W.P. Carey School of Business as the place to get my MBA. Here is one key one. My interactions with the admissions staff, student support staff, and faculty were overwhelmingly positive. Never have I met a group of people that celebrate uniqueness with such authentic and heartfelt enthusiasm. It is contagious, liberating and empowering. This is individuality acknowledged in a wholesome and constructive way. It evinces that the W.P. Carey Staff and Faculty truly believe that business is personal. And that sense of a people who believe what they say and are desirous of an inclusive community where all are welcome and all are celebrated won me over.

Even more, upon arrival, I quickly realized that incoming students had generally bought into this philosophy that business is personal. The school became a place to herald one’s being and show oneself in all of one’s grandeur and failings. Learning takes vulnerability and this is something that one never fully achieves, yet we keep on attempting. And so, as newbies ushered into this philosophy we keep on essaying because when business is personal it makes vulnerability that much closer. And so here is one example of how some of us students interacted with this desire for a wholesome acknowledgment of individuality and making business personal.

The first time I heard Ari speak in public I was captivated. Silence falls upon a room as she delivers her passionate and wonderful stories. Occasionally, she injects conversational exclamations and asks questions that simply make you laugh. She pauses at the right moments and simply sweeps you away into a trance. A long, wonderful and funny trance – which sometimes makes you glaze eagerly over her jokes in search of more, more words from her. I enjoy listening to her speak in public.

Now me, I am a little on the short and sweet side of things. Last time I had 30 seconds to deliver a speech and I gave it in 17seconds. What did I say? Well, that’s the subject of another piece. I love telling stories in person and can take you on an hour-long tour of my imaginings without even breaking a sweat or seeing the time pass. But in a public speaking setting, I am the opposite aiming to hit and run, leaving people wanting more. Now whether I achieve that or not is something else. In fact, that could even be a mischaracterization. I have given long speeches and presentations before.

Anyway, in a conversation with Ari, we discussed these differences in our manner of speaking in public. She suggested she was hoping to be more like me when it came to public speaking. My response to her was born of my desire for all of us to be ourselves and it was infused with business being personal. It was about how it would be a tragedy if our presentations styles merged to become one. The world would be robbed of a wonderful and captivating storyteller.

Ari’s stories are long only because she has 5 minutes of our time. What if she had 30minutes, could she deliver the same captivating story and finish in time as well as impact someone’s life? What if she had an hour of our time? So yes, she could work on tailoring some of her stories for 5minute presentations. And she could also work from her strengths which include being comfortable enough in front of an audience to go off script and keep people’s attention. Such natural speaking is simply a gift. And I am writing this in the hopes of celebrating the gift and Ari’s uniqueness.

This is my hope for every individual and every country in the world. That they remain themselves. That they change in ways that allow them to be optimized functional parts of society or the world, but they blur-not the lines that separate us into wonderful unique individuals. As we seek to change, and the world becomes global, I hope we can retain our uniqueness. I am convinced that the worst thing anyone can ever be is not themselves.

Allen Matsika

Born and raised in the small town in the land of milk and honey in south central Africa, I moved to the USA to study philosophy. The hope was to understand where humanity had lost its way. I took a historical perspective on the trajectory of western thought and was especially struck by Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. The memorable description of human nature in that book contributed greatly to my understanding of the human condition.

Life is a misery to be endured until we die. Even those with terminal illnesses find times of respite and laugh and enjoy their lives. So too is mortality a terminal illness. We will all die, I for one am glad this is so. But before that day I will define myself, I will not go without giving everything I have got, and I will love with all my heart.

I am proud to be an Afropolitan; a world citizen of African descend. I am called Allen and I love writing, eating, and singing in the shower!

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