How to check your baggage – bringing to life The Marketing Academy 2019 Scholars’​ number one learning. By Gina Hood, 2019 UK Scholar Alumni

If you haven’t already heard about The Marketing Academy, it’s worth finding out more about this incredible organisation. It all started with the founding of the Scholarship: a free, nine-month programme packed full of money-can’t-buy experiences designed to develop future leaders.

To maximise the impact, Scholars are expected to share what they learn with as many people as possible. And so, at the end of the 2019 Scholarship, we took the opportunity to showcase our cohort’s number one learning to over 400 of the industry’s biggest names, at the Academy’s 10th Birthday Bash in Leicester Square.

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Learning to check our baggage

The learning our Scholarship year chose to bring to life was about Self-Limiting Beliefs. Dan and I decided the best way we could do this was to create a one-of-a-kind ‘Bag Check’ for the evening (manned by the Virgin Atlantic Cabin Crew, and involving lots of gold glitter — it was a party after all).

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So what is a Self-Limiting Belief

We all form assumptions as a result of experiences we’ve had or things we’ve been told earlier in life, which are then internalised. This is a crucial part of how we learn and develop, and of course not all assumptions constructed in this way are inherently bad.

But where they are dangerous is when they aren’t true, or don’t apply anymore, obscuring the way we understand the world, and holding us back from reaching our potential.

 Self-Limiting Beliefs are the mental baggage we carry around, weighing us down and preventing us from realising our ambitions.

To help explain what we mean by Self-Limiting Beliefs, we crowd-sourced five of the most prevalent “assumptions” from the 2019 Scholars, representing these as five physical cases of baggage at Bag Check. It turned out that these assumptions also strongly resonated with our audience, who voted using ‘Bag Check’ labels for the self-limiting belief with which they most identified. And boy, did we get a lot of votes.

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We wanted people to put a tangible ‘vote’ on each assumption to show that whoever we are, we ALL carry them in some form. Prompting people to think about what they might be assuming about themselves and the world . To demonstrate this, we also shared examples of self-limiting beliefs from some of the industry leaders in the room. One of my favourites was…

“My limiting thought was that perennial challenge between being liked or being respected. Which, incidentally, is cack. You can have both. Break that binary thinking.”

Although it might seem like a simple concept, the identification of self-limiting beliefs was the foundation that enabled our year to unlock further personal development during the Scholarship. Why? It helped change our mindsets and be more open to change, breaking through to a new way forward, and allowing to us to establish different beliefs and behaviours.

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Moving forward

So we’ve talked about what a Self-Limiting Belief is, and the importance of identifying them. But what’s next? You’ll be pleased to know there is a tried-and-tested process to help change mindsets that have been cemented by these internalised assumptions.

It might seem simple, but getting it right takes practice. You can do it by yourself (or ask someone else to partner with you), and even use it to help others around you.

It’s called Empowering Questions, and involves five steps:

1: Firstly, ask the person what their challenge is

2: Ask them to think about what assumption they might be making that’s holding them back in this challenge

3: State what this assumption is back to them to test it

4: Identify what the ‘positive opposite’ of the assumption is

5: Then ask an Empowering Question e.g.

“If you knew that [positive opposite] what action would you take?”

“What if [positive opposite] were true, how would you now feel / act?”

So to use an assumption example from the Bag Check (which I certainly have identified with in the past)…

Identified assumption: “I can’t be me and be successful”

Empowering Question: “If you knew that you could be yourself and be successful, how would you now act?”

It’s not about providing a solution, but breaking a mindset, and opening up yourself or someone else to new possibilities.

Pass it on

The Marketing Academy Scholars are tasked with passing on what we learn to those around us. I hope the above inspires you to think about what baggage you might be carrying, and then check it. It worked for our year of 30 Scholars, and we hope it works for you.

Huge thanks to Sherilyn, Taylor, Ellie and the rest of the MA team for supporting us through this life-changing year.


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The Scholarship – a 9 month, free, part time program for 30 of the UK’s fastest rising stars in Marketing, Advertising, Media and Communications.

The Fellowship – Equips CMOs and Marketing Directors with the tools, knowledge and insight to make the move onto Boards and into General Management / MD / CEO roles.

12 month full paid Marketing Apprenticeship for young adults who because of challenging backgrounds, lack qualifications or poor life choices are normally overlooked for this kind of work experience