School of Athens 58 | What does your name say about you?

school of athens newsletter Jul 23, 2021



Hi, it's David here.

My mother always calls me David, friends call me the more casual Dave and for a long time at school I was known as Alby, in fact I’ve been called many things but when I write it's always David, I wonder why? Maybe I want you to take me seriously.

On opening my emails this week I saw there was a short story from The New Yorker Magazine and knowing they have made a name for themselves for featuring great short stories I opened it up to see one of my favourite authors, Haruki Marakami, being featured.

Murakami’s story, ‘A Shinagawa Monkey’ is about a lady who has literally forgotten her name, nothing else, just her name and the effect it has on the way she lives her life.

The great geo-designer, Bruce Mau, (now there’s a name that evokes all types of thoughts and images) worked on a project to transform the self belief of the population of Guatemala. The word ‘Guatemala’ in Spanish actually translates as ‘Bad People’ and some asked whether this was having a negative effect on the population’s already fragile self-esteem resulting from four decades of civil war. The solution, change the spelling from Guatemala to GuatAmala and you suddenly change the meaning of the country’s name to ‘Loved Ones’, encouraging Guatemalans to think positively about their country’s future.

The School of Life
, another of my favourite and very aptly named platforms, this week featured their latest book, ‘The Book of Me, A Children’s Journal of Self-Discovery’, that they describe as “an engaging guided journal for developing children’s understanding of themselves and their emotions”.

We encourage kids to go out and explore the world but do we teach them arguably the more important adventure of going inside and exploring who they are and what makes them them.

Brands and Companies, like people, also need to have a very clear sense of who they are if they ever want others to understand who they are, yet we often spend so much time looking outward, broadcasting what we think people want to hear rather than looking inside to understand what we want to be.

In an article entitled ‘Gone, but not forgotten: How dormant brands lose their spark’, Stewart Hodgson, author at Fabrik Brands discusses how old famous brands, once household names, have lost their way and discusses why, how and if they can reclaim their rightful place.

In the beginning of our journey we would often shorten our name to BTDT, and Kevin Havelock, one of our early clients and then investors, pointed out that he could never remember whether it was TTBD or TBDT. “Your name is your differentiator. It is for people who have BeenThereDoneThat from people who also have been there, done that. Always say the whole name”, and he was right, our name is one of our greatest assets.

As a bonus this week, and it is nothing short of entrepreneurial genius, Michael, a Rasta from Jamaica who appreciates the value of a name has set up a business on Fiverr and for as little as £7.63 he will sing your loved one a happy birthday song from the beach, village and island of Jamaica.  As the media folks say, it's all about personalisation!

(p.s It’s my birthday on Friday so there will be a School of Athens mug for the best birthday greeting that mentions my name this week).

As always, we are curious to hear what you think.

David Alberts
Co-Founder at BeenThereDoneThat




1. A Shinagawa Monkey

Read Time: 40m 

If somebody takes your name away what else do you lose.




2. A visual campaign for change in Guatemala

Read Time: 6m

By changing one letter Bruce Mau turned a country full of 'Bad People' in to a country filled with ‘Loved Ones’.





3. The Book of Me, A Children's Journal of Self-Discovery

Read Time: 8m

Try this at home, and then do the same thing in the office.





4. Gone, But Not Forgotten: How Dormant Brands Lose Their Spark

Read Time: 16m

Remember my name! Brand Fame.





5. Happy Birthday From A Jamaican Beach

The beach is literally this man's office.



 UK Address

Zetland House
5-25 Scrutton Street
London, EC2A 4HJ

 US Address

BTDT Global Inc
PO Box 831, Larchmont
NY 10538