He’s Not The Messiah, He’s a Very Naughty Boy

Let’s start off here with a statement I’m sure some people will agree with, but will make others guffaw: over-amped faux business titles get my blood up. Running through sites like LinkedIn, or online business profiles, or simply after I’m handed a business card, I see someone referring to themselves as a “guru”, or a “wizard”, or a “ninja”, and it makes me cringe.

But not just because it’s hokey. Hokey can be eye-catching. Hokey can be good marketing.

I wonder why. How on Earth does anyone justify using that kind of a title? And it’s not just a rhetorical question for me, it’s a practical one. You’re talking the talk, but can you walk the walk?

A while ago, I chimed in on a TYM LinkedIn discussion about this. My first response was to set a few benchmarks for legitimately using these kind of titles.

I figure that, to call yourself a Guru, you need to have spent at least 20 years studying a minimum of three Asian Holy texts, at least one of which being the Baghavad Gita. You must also have lived in isolation on a mountain for no less than 5 years (something Himalayan is preferable, though the Cairngorms will do in a pinch), and own nothing except the clothes you’re sitting in. Said clothes are expected to be ‘basic’; Gap jeans and a TM Lewin shirt don’t pass the test.

And to call yourself a Ninja, you need to have mastered at least three traditional Japanese martial arts, including kendo and kenjutsu, to Black Belt level, plus attained a detailed understanding of Bushido (including having learned both the Hagakure and at least one other 16th century key Bushido text by rote). You must also have mastered the art of stealth as outlined in the Bansensukai. There will be a series of gruelling tests to prove this. The one where you will be expected to inhale a mysterious psychotropic vapour then navigate a maze of jagged rocks while being hunted by an unknown number of masked assailants is a crowd-pleaser, so that one’s up first.

As for calling yourself a wizard, I think the paradigmatic qualification requirements might involve a detailed knowledge of the life and works of Alistair Crowley, a good few years of being a practicing Wiccan before being kicked out of the friendly local coven for being too wild-eyed and freaky, and a certain moral flexibility to accommodate the need for all those animal sacrifices on the dining room table. A Degree or two in pre-Christian religious symbolism would be a bonus.

That one’s over-used, of course. So maybe you can also refer to yourself as a wizard if you’re a fully paid-up member of The Magic Circle (and I don’t mean the cosy club of vaguely dodgy London law firms), or a member of a 1970s Glam Rock group with only one well-known song.

Or it might be a way to market yourself if you’re happy to be open about being a member of any of a number of despicably nasty but also remarkably pretentious “gentlemen’s clubs” in the southern States of the USA.

Seriously, though, I often think anyone in business who wishes to call themselves a wizard needs to be able to demonstrate an ability to, literally, conjure money out of thin air.

You really want to be a business ninja? Then be prepared to accept a reputation for the stealthy assassination of your competitors.

If you’re intent on defining yourself as a business guru, then at least start delivering your pearls of wisdom with a soupcon of transcendental meditation and a snifter of eastern philosophy.

Anyone who wants to refer to themselves as “genius” must be able to prove that they have an IQ in the top 0.1% of the population. In terms of how Mensa measures IQ, that basically means something above 162. Anything less is just vanity or false advertising.

But, ultimately, anyone can call themselves whatever they please in open forum.

After all, it’s as much a part of who we are to question how others define themselves as it is to wish to define ourselves.

What all of this comes down to relationships and credibility: can you back up what you’re claiming you can do, what kind of a message are you trying to send, what kind of relationships are you trying to create, what does the definition you’re giving yourself actually say about you?

So, you can call yourself a Mutant Ninja Turtle if you like, but be ready for plenty of people to think you’re a bit silly or unhinged.

Unless, of course, you’ve had an intimate encounter with some weird radioactive goo and are quite good at martial arts.



In the Yorkshire Mafia?

Have your say on LinkedIn

Become a member

of Yorkshire's biggest network