Hello, my friend.
This week, I want to talk to you about a very important word – to me and to you as well – and that word is “authenticity”.
Authenticity is key to personal relationships, professional relationships, and to your relationship with yourself.
You have to be the real deal.
It doesn’t mean you have to be one way or another, but don’t pretend to be one way when you are actually another way.
I recently was sent a link by someone that I’ve worked with to a t-shirt that I really love. He sent a very nice email, basically saying, “Ed, when I saw this, I thought of you because that’s what you represent to me.”
In fact, I’m wearing that t-shirt in the video above. It says “Optimism and Grit”.
This is not a commonly used combination of words. Why that is, I don’t know; but I like the combination, and I like the shirt.
I am very optimistic, and I do have some grit. I have some rawness to me, and I always will. I’m not as raw as I once was, just as you are probably not as raw as you were in your younger days, either.
The point is, this person made the observation that I was authentic. I was talking to my wife about the email, and she reminded me of something I did years ago. I had just finished my MBA program, and I’d gotten a new job.
There I was, moving from being an engineer that wore jeans and t-shirts to working in corporate finance and wearing suits. I never had a “professional” job before, so I had to go buy suits and shirts and ties. Being an engineer is professional, of course, but the atmosphere was different. I decided I was going to change my personality to fit this new setting. I was going to be more professional and less talkative; and I was going to be calmer.
I started my new job, and I was doing what I thought was professional. I was in corporate finance and wearing suits and ties like the rest of the people in corporate finance. It was very different from my engineering job where nobody wore suits and ties.
After about a week of being “professional”, I was losing my mind and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I went home, and my wife said, “Honey, you just have to be you.”
I said, “Oh, I’ve already started being this new person, and I don’t know if I can really switch back.”
Well, I did switch back, and I made it. I didn’t get fired for being me after all. In fact, they said they didn’t understand what was wrong with me the first week. They had interviewed my authentic self, and then someone else showed up to work the first week.
The bottom line is, you have to be authentic. I’m not suggesting you be rude or disrespectful to other people, but embrace who you really are. There are lots and lots of opportunities out there in the world. Some of them are tailor made for you, and some of them are not. And you don’t want to have to pretend you are someone you’re not to take advantage of an opportunity that does not fit you anyway.
I am reminded of the famous actor, George Burns, who lived to be 100 years old. He played “God” in the movie with John Denver, if you recall. He said, “The key to acting is authenticity. Authenticity. People can read authenticity”.
Now he was a comedian, and he had his cigar, and he said, jokingly, “Once you learn that, the rest is easy”.
I don’t think he meant it as a joke, though.
It’s actually true. People read your authenticity, and they gain a sense of who you truly are. The absence of authenticity means the absence of trust, and without trust there is no relationship.
Being inauthentic creates a domino effect. Being authentic creates one, too.
Don’t waste your time pretending to be someone you are not. Be who you are, show your true feelings, and share your true thoughts. I’m not saying share everything in all circumstances – be discreet and know the degree to which you should be transparent – but always…ALWAYS…be yourself.
I am Ed DeCosta, full of optimism and grit. I hope you found this helpful, and wherever you are…make it a great day!
Ed DeCosta is one of the most engaging executive coaches and thought leaders of our time. He delivers results with companies of all sizes, from high tech start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations. Ed is an ICF certified professional coach. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University, a master’s degree in international management from the University of Texas, and an MBA from the University of Texas. Ed is also an adjunct faculty member in West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics, teaching Professional Selling and entrepreneurship courses.