“How to be authentic.” People talk to me about authenticity a lot because they pay me the “compliment” that I am authentic. First, I don’t think it’s a good pursuit: learning how to be authentic. Second, I feel there’s a better goal: how to be brave. Because when people talk about authenticity, what they really mean is that they want the confidence to be who they really are and feel brave about talking about it.
“How to Be Authentic” Isn’t a Very Good Goal
I say this because it means you’re learning how to portray authenticity, not how to live with confidence. The term “authenticity” when used in the way people throw it around means to be accurate, factual, reliable. It means that you mean what you say and say what you mean. It troubles me that people feel they can’t do this. But of course, that’s not really what one is saying.
Learn to Be Brave. You’ll Appreciate It More
Bravery is built on courage, and the root of courage is the ability to do something despite feeling fear. That seems a better concept to master. For instance, if you’re like me and you deal with depression, it’s “authentic” that I say that because it’s factual and reliable and accurate, but it’s also “brave” because I say this information knowing that it might sway someone to not hire me. (In my calculus, if a company doesn’t work with people who deal with depression, they’re probably not my kind of people.)
The path to bravery is simply through repetition of effort on one hand, and through contemplating what matters to you on the other. There are so many areas of your business and life where you would do to be more brave:
- Learn not to talk so much, and listen more without fear that people might think you’re not so smart.
- Practice hearing someone’s concerns without overlaying their words with your own autobiography.
- Experience that it’s okay not to know everything without worrying that people won’t trust your knowledge about what you do know.
Bravery is about repeatedly confronting what you thought would scare you (or does scare you) and beating it. It’s also about learning more about what matters to you.
Bravery Beats Authenticity
A lot of my friends suddenly found themselves working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their bosses at various companies hadn’t run many remote teams, and didn’t have the tools necessary to manage remote employees. Instead of bravely telling their teams: “Hey, we’re all new to this. Let’s talk about how we can make this work best for everyone,” they acted as if they were professionals in this regard. But lacking that knowledge, they put their teams into greater stress and reduced productivity by forcing more frequent status meetings, and far more video contact than is necessary.
Imagine being a team member working with that group, and having some suggestions. Is it authentic to share your ideas with the boss? No. It’s brave. Which one helps more? Authentic means being factual and trustworthy. It doesn’t mean you’ll tell people you report to what you think might better suit the team as far as arrangements for remote working and status check-ins.
How to be Brave
Instead of worrying about authenticity, focus on helping others. Instead of wondering when you’ll get your turn, work on what you’re doing. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing out on, sink yourself into what you can build for yourself.
Stop worrying about what you’ll lose. There are always more things and people and opportunities out in the world than there are days left in your life. Don’t hold on so tight, and you’ll find your hands free to reach out for the next opportunity and the next.
Bravery is a verb. It’s an active state. It’s a morning ritual and a daily promise. It’s learning that mistakes aren’t failure as much as they’re another opportunity to try something else. And failure is just an outcome you didn’t expect or intend.
I wrote a book about bravery a few years back. The lessons all still work the same way. It’s about building up the tools to be more brave and it might be useful. Let me know. I’m always here to help.
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If you’re looking for personal or corporate team coaching, I’m always available to help you win. Just get in touch.
I’m always here to help.