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When is too much, too much?

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Now, I know this might be hard to believe, but there are people out there who find the Leela “too much”. Perhaps it’s her penchant for saying whatever pops into her head. Perhaps it’s the fact that she is very loud about her opinions. Or perhaps it’s just that she insists on talking about herself in the third person and using the definite article “the” before her name, therefore grammatically implying that she is somehow superior to anyone else who may have also been named Leela.

Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of back and forth about appropriate behaviour in a business context.

I spent a lot of time at the start of my business trying to conform to what I thought I had to be to succeed, with limited success. I found that when I let go, started uncovering my tattoos at presentations and generally being myself, “all of a sudden” my business exploded.

Recently I was asked to apologise for making a controversial comment. Now, I like to be controversial and often I’ll do it just for the fun of it – or in order to stir up interest in something I’m doing. Controversy is one of the greatest marketing tools I know of and I’m not afraid of confrontation.

However, this particular request was a difficult ask for me – on the one hand, the requester was someone I respect and would like to continue to work with. On the other hand, I totally believe in the controversial comment I made and stand by it 100 percent.

So, where is the line? At what point do you compromise what you believe in for the sake of profit? My answer to that has always been a resounding “never!” – but I don’t only like to challenge other people, I also like to challenge myself… so now I’m wondering if that answer is the right one?

I’ve always maintained that this is one of the prices of success and that it gets progressively worse the more successful you become. I tend to polarise people, so the more people who love me – statistically – the more will hate me. I’m something of a rabid individualist, but maybe I’m wrong just to accept this.

So, fellow Anthillians, tell me – is polarisation par for the course? Or at some point do we need to “grow up” and conform?

Is this a difference based on age? On industry? Or perhaps it’s based on the size of your business and/or aspirations? If my goal is total world domination (as opposed to eeking out a decent living), does that change the answer, too? Is it true that the higher I climb, the more I need to “pull my head in” and worry about what people think?

Should I start covering my full sleeve tattoo at meetings if I want to close large deals?

I know Richard Branson does stuff his own way, but is he the exception rather than the rule? Who else has built a successful company by thumbing their noses at authority and the majority?

When is too much, too much?

Leela Cosgrove is Managing Director of Business Writers Anonymous, focused on sales, marketing and business development. She is also a firewalker, has a black-belt in Tae Kwon Do, a penchant for tattoos, and enjoys bands such as Rammstein, Li Bach, Marilyn Manson, Pennywise and Bad Religion.

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