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Dom Burch

Hey, you there. Are you worth more than you give yourself credit? You may be a Rōnin


By Dom Burch, managing director

December 17, 2015 | 4 min read

Someone reminded me yesterday of something I'd said to them a few years back.

Returning from my six-month career break in 2011 I'd had a revelation of sorts about my true worth. I'd come to realise Asda didn't pay me because of what I do, but because of how I think.

What I do each day, my output, is a consequence of how I'm wired.

When my excellent mentor and coach, Jonathan Bowman-Perks lifted up the bonnet this past year, he discovered I'm put together in an unconventional way.

I used to be apologetic for my quirks, before I appreciated that most other people don't think the way I think.

By definition you too are wired differently if you are reading this blog; you are probably a marketeer or comms professional.

We are not normal. In a good way.

Yet we probably undervalue our expertise, which is one part knowledge, one part experience and one, very big part, how we think. That is our true skill.

A good friend of mine, Emma Bearman (aka @culturevultures, aka @playbox01, aka @playfulleeds aka @emmambearman) is the achetypal modern marketeer.

Until today I hadn't realised there was a name for people like Emma. But it turns out there is - she is a 'rōnin'.

Rōnin were masterless warriors in 11th century Japan, whose success depended solely on their wit and skill. Rōnin people, like Emma, flourish because of their versatility, independence, and initiative.

They are savvy, and build up a wide-range of skills, multiplying the career options they can chose from.

According to Dr Beverly Potter, who has written The Way of the rōnin, as society transforms its industrial base to an information base, organisations will need to find ways to revitalise and innovate. Rōnin thinkers like us are invaluable in that environment.

She's adds, 'Rōnin look like other people. The difference is in attitude and life planning strategy.

'A Rōnin is a person who is self-directed, self-managing; who views work and career as an adventure, not as toil, not as a negative thing.'

We relish new challenges. We welcome change. We are a glass half full. We innovate without thinking about it. As a result our career paths are nonlinear, in fact our next job probably doesn't even exist yet.

Dr Potter says rōnin people project an aura of autonomy, of being guided from a centre within. They don't just react to change; they take the initiative and direct their futures.

Emma is a perfect example.

The self-proclaimed mayoress of Armley, the architect of The Culture Vulture website, the inventor of Playbox,of Playful Leeds, curator of the Asda Foundation's social media presence, and trainer of 600 Asda Community Life Champions.

Emma was, until now, impossible to put in a box, she is a classic rōnin .

Her value is how she connects ideas with people. She is uber connected, with a network to die for. I'd argue she doesn't (yet) realise her true worth and undervalues her ability to do things other people can't do.

Rōnin thinkers like Emma do it naturally and seemingly without effort. But they have honed their skills over many years. I believe the time has now come for our tribe to recognise we are different. And that difference is extremely valuable to society and to our employers.

Don't be afraid to recgonise who you really are. Be a rōnin and be proud.

Follow Dom on Twitter @domburch

Dom Burch

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