You see, for a long time (even before last year) I had felt resentful of the training company Cam and I used to run together, where once upon a time it had meant everything to me. It had begun to symbolise everything that was 'wrong' in my life. I had become so tired from all the commuting that I couldn't 'enjoy' my downtime. Empty from giving so much of myself to the work that I began to lose myself. And stifled by the constant financial pressures we seemed to have even though we had a bunch of top quality clients and plenty of work. I simply couldn't make sense of it, and every time I tried to talk with Cam about it he'd get angry. He'd tell me that we have to keep focused "keep in the zone" and that the only thing that was important was the business.
And I began to believe it was the business that was keeping me from enjoying my life. The business that kept me away from Dylan and my home. The business that meant Cam and I were so tired from working that romance and tenderness was reduced to a few snatched moments. And so I began to resent it - hate it even. I wanted to distance myself from everything it represented.
Now, of course, I realise that it was not the business that was eating in to my life. It was my relationship with Cam. It was the fact that I was so blinded by love, I couldn't see that I was living with a cold calculating controller who spent money like water and didn't care about me in the slightest. THAT was why I felt tired and drained. And THAT was why we had so many financial battles.
I actually used to believe that the financial issues must be my fault - that I was clearly crap with money. Now I know that's as far from the truth as it's possible to be! I haven't earned a penny throughout 2009. I have survived by selling things from the house, by being frugal, and also through the generosity and support of those around me. And within that year I have managed to save the house that was going to be repossessed. I've also met every bill and mortgage payment. My bank manager here in France has faith in me because I've done everything I said I would - even though sometimes I didn't know how I was going to do it. I've also kept food on the table and a smile on my face (most of the time!). So no, there is no way that I'm bad with money! I'm actually pretty darned good with it!
And as for the re-branding of the business? Well, guess what's coming back to me time and time and time again. Much to my utter amazement (and honour) clients and friends have told me "YOU are the business, you always have been! We bought YOU, because of what YOU do - some people liked Cam, many people just tolerated him, others simply hated him. But no one has anything but praise for you".
To be honest, I didn't believe it for a long time - I actually didn't WANT to believe it. Because if I did, then I'd be obliged to set it up all over again. I'd also have to come out of the shadows, which has been my enforced 'home' and therefore become my comfort zone over the past few years.
Since the beginning of this year, though, I've had more and more proof of the strength of the Top Banana brand. And I am now allowing myself to remember that I was the driving force behind it. I chose the name. I commissioned the logo design. I brought Lara in to the business. I targeted clients. I took their calls. I met them all. I wrote the proposals. I designed the training - god damn it, I even coached Cam on what he was to present - and how he was to deliver! So how on earth I'd allowed myself to slink away in to the shadows, and to turn against the business, the brand, that I gave so much to and that in turn gave so much to me - well, it's beyond comprehension. I take my hat of to Cam's skills of manipulation. He was very VERY good.
Over the past two weeks I've heard enough 'coincidences' to convince me to keep the brand. If I am pitching as 'Mel Carnegie' that's one thing. But mention Top Banana, and everything becomes elevated. Talking to a major player at Disney last week, the mention of Top Banana in Brighton immediately allowed us to discover that we share a best friend, who was very taken with our company ten years ago! Another blue-chip is keen for me to send them information because they've also heard great things about Top Banana. My friend Matt came across someone high up in a particular radio group who has nothing but praise for Top Banana (even though I don't personally know this lady) - and the same for another radio group who's also heard a ton of good stuff about Top Banana. Another friend from the Northeast told me yesterday about a motivational speaker who also said he'd heard great things about Top Banana and the things we do!
So - as my friend Greg said to me so many months ago, and as so many people are saying to me now - to be recognised and admired just from a company name is a rare thing in this day and age. It's a diamond in these dull grey times.
You know what they say about diamonds? They're a girl's best friend. And Top Banana? Well, for many many years it was everything to me - and it brought me riches in experience, exposure, confidence, enjoyment, reputation, contacts and friends.
So who am I to bury it for good?
The old Top Banana - or rather, what I thought it was, what I believed it stood for - is dead and buried along with my relationship with Cam. But the new Top Banana - the new me, the new group of people around me, the renewed energy, passion and authenticity - well, now that is most CERTAINLY alive and well!
In it's infancy at the moment, The Top Banana Bunch will bring together like minded people and companies who want to serve and make a difference. Together we will provide an unrivaled service in people development. The timing is absolutely perfect as we move out of recession - management teams will be tired from the fight. Employees will have lost their belief. Board members will no longer have the necessary chutzpah to stand up make the difference. But WE do - and we know how to teach others to have the same. Because we've been through it ourselves. Every one of us who plays a part in this group will bear our own battle scars with pride. Each of us will have faced our own personal battles. Between us we will understand the devastation of loss. The hurt of betrayal. The vulnerability of despair. And between us we will create differences in the lives of people who are striving to make this economy strong.
Top Banana is indeed dead. LONG LIVE TOP BANANA!!!!!!!!