So tell me, who do you want to be?

Nonetheless, I sat on a panel in a question-and-answer session in Manchester for around 500 young people last week. I went along as much out of selfish curiosity as for philanthropy.

However, when I got there I was impressed on all fronts. The questions coming from the audience were both insightful and intelligent, and the other speakers were inspirational for me, let alone for their intended audience of 16 to 20 year olds.

The highlight of the day for me was listening to a very deep keynote speech by John Amaechi. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, he is a 6’ 9” former NBA basketball player, the most successful player ever to come from England, this country’s first basketball millionaire and the first NBA player to come out as being gay – all fairly notable ‘firsts’, so a remarkable man, whichever way you look at it.

Despite the wealth from his sporting career, John now works as a clinical psychologist, spending half of the year in the UK and the other half in the US. His clients include several members of the US intelligence agencies.

He explains the career change by saying it’s much more preferable to help people feel better than to put a ball through a hoop. Anyway, I digress…

His talk touched on many important subjects, all of them about personal goals and qualities, but the one that made an impact on me was his suggestion that the audience ask not one but two questions when they consider their career routes.

First, the typical “what do you want to do?”, then followed closely by “who do you want to be?”. Now, that’s a deep question.

On the train back from Manchester I gave it some thought, and I don’t even think I can answer it. That’s “who do you want to be when you leave the office, finish your meetings and stop working for the day, no matter how long that day has been? What kind of person do you want to be?”.

For me, I am so focused on the “what do you want to do?” and the related efforts to drive my business life forward that I don’t pay so much attention to the other aspects.

So I return from Manchester a little less sceptical of the government events – so long as they can attract speakers with such a finely balanced view on life who influence the people in attendance, and by that I mean not only the audience but people like me who were brought in to address the audience.

If I had only gone in for the keynote speech and went home again, it would have been worth the journey from Newcastle. Hopefully, I will be able to answer Question 2 sooner rather than later…

You can contact me through the Real Business Facebook group or directly by emailing

To read more columns from Richard Baister, click here.

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