What is a (networking) guru?

Last month I was mentioned as an example of a successful business guru in the Belgian magazine Vacature (if you speak Dutch, you can read the whole file online).

When the journalist Nico Schoofs approached me for the interview, I told him I didn’t consider myself a guru, that the word had a negative image for me and that he might want to interview someone else. After he insisted I asked him for a few days of “thinking time”.

When I spoke about this situation with my coach, he asked me what the negative image was that I had of gurus.

I told him that this was the image in my mind: a person with a lot of people blindly following him/her, enjoying the adoration (even manipulating them) and deliberately leading some kind of a cult.

When my coach then asked me: “So that’s the image of a real guru to you?” I answered: no, for me a REAL guru is someone who is followed by people kind of against his/her will, who doesn’t have any hidden agendas, whose messages resonate with people so they consciously (not blindly) choose to read their books or attend their speeches or seminars, while still making their own decisions and have their own ideas.
A REAL guru is someone who is pure and authentic. Someone who walks the talk. Someone who is an expert in their field, willing to learn from other experts. Someone who is humble about the fact they only are an expert in one domain and still have to learn so much from others. And most of all, a REAL guru is someone who lives up to their potential, is in sync with themselves and is grateful for everything life has already offered to them.

“So,” my coach answered. “Maybe this is an invitation to become a real guru yourself then.”

When he spoke those words, something happened with me. On the one hand I realized that I am far from being a REAL guru, that I have still so much to learn, that there are still so many conscious and subconscious patterns to be dealt with, in short that it is an almost impossible goal to achieve. On the other hand it felt like a call to live up to my potential and to become more of the real “me”.

After our conversation I went back to the journalist since he was the one who “channeled” this invitation to become more of the real me and told him I agreed to be interviewed. I also asked him if it was possible to change the word “guru” into “expert” since that is still the word that I feel more comfortable with today. (But apparently “guru” sounds better in media than “expert” :-))

When he asked me in the interview if everybody could become a guru, I answered him: “Yes, if they become more the real “themselves” and follow their passion and heart, everybody can become a guru.”

“But why aren’t there so many gurus out there then?” he asked me.

Because most of us don’t have the courage to make choices, to choose a field of expertise that really resonates with us and make the time and effort to pursue that dream and potential that is inside of us. It is the fear of not having enough.”

And although it might seem like that at first, I personally can testify that in the long run it is really worth the while, not because of the material success, but of the person you become, the real you.

So my question to you, dear reader, is: when do you make the choice to become a real guru, to become more of you?

With much love, passion and gratitude,


PS: thanks John for your wise words and encouragement! And thanks Ann for keeping me on the path of becoming more of me and not of becoming a “fake guru”!


3 Responses to What is a (networking) guru?

  1. Jan,

    You’ve done a great job in positioning yourself as a guru. This is the whole “Personal Branding Movement” headed up by Dan Schwabel at PersonalBrandingBlog.com to name just one of the gurus in that field.

    For example, I’ve established our brand/image/guru-ness around a few key topic areas/niches: job search personal branding, job search networking, success-based hiring and a few others.

    I agree that anyone can become a guru/expert in a particular niche/focused area. However, I think many people jump in and believe they can become an overnight success. It’s not an overnight success. My partner and I have been working at it for two decades. It takes a lot of hard work, discipline, investment of money and time, and initiative.

    The results of becoming a well-acknowledged “guru” are extraordinary – but one must have a long vision of how to get there. For example, I’m an avid reader and am constantly scanning the blogosphere as it’s called. I find that many individuals start out writing a blog in their niche, posting on twitter, creating a profile on linkedin — and then abandon the efforts because it’s just too much work to become a guru.

    Congratulations on being formally named a “guru” in our unique space. I enjoy your posts – I hope you keep up the great content and value you’ve provided in the past.

  2. Anne Konings says:

    While promoting you within my organisation, I constantly refer to you as the ‘Networking Guru’ :-). I worked with you a few years ago for a leadershiptraining at VOKA. I liked your style and your integrity. You were and still are a person who enjoyes his core business and who is very passionate about it. I worked with you again during my Congres for Management Assistants 2008 and I was very much surprised how the 200 women enjoyed your workshop and tried to enhance their networking skills the very same day. Last week we sat together to talk about the outlines of a networkingtraining we will start with you in a few months. Again it was a pleasure to hear and see your enthousiasm and your knowlegde and vision about networking in a broader scope. I believe very much you enhance the core of networking, which is in my opinion that people should connect as a person, not with their nametags. (But which can be helpfull, no doubt, to start first contacts). If you remain yourself and stay connected with your inner-core – the ‘guru’ tag will be both professional and funny. So, enjoy and spread the word. 🙂

  3. Kate Atkin says:

    Hi Jan – the title of this post intrigued me as I found myself being described as a networking guru, and confidence guru by the local press in Cambridge UK … much to my surprise at the time.

    On reading your article I now have a greater understanding of why the word “guru” was used… I have always aimed to inspire others using my personal experiences, help to connect people without any agenda and build others’ self-confidence so enable them to fulfil their own potential, again with no reciprocation requested.

    Thanks for providing an insight into the work “guru” and for encouraging me to accept the accolade should others choose to give it (though I still don’t think I will use it for myself).

    author of The Confident Manager

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