Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Embracing Each Other

I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room a couple of days ago and was observing some children playing.  The children were of mixed gender, race, language and potentially religious background.  Here is how their interaction went:

My name is yyy – what’s yours?

My name is zzz – let’s play.

It was as simple as that – authenticity in its purest form.  Once they had some context by which they could name each other, that was all that was important to having an authentic relationship.

As I have been consumed by authenticity lately, I have started a detailed review of my social network, the hundreds of emails I receive daily from this network, the hundreds of invites I receive to participate in events, etc.  While I am grateful for all of this, my recent focus on authenticity has caused me to examine much of this traffic in a closer manner.

Here are some exaggerated snippets:

I am an 18-year old student and life coach.  I believe my 18 years of life have been invaluable and I would like to share this supreme knowledge with you at a discounted monthly rate of $xxxx.  <<yes – some 18-year olds have lived a full live – however ……>>

I am an enlightened life guru with no job or life experience but I would like to show you how the Law of Attraction can earn tons of money for you.  <<meanwhile a background check on the person shows they are bankrupt and the only thing the Law of Attraction is helping them with is making money promoting the Law of Attraction>>

I am an expert on collaboration and believe that we all need to work together to make this world a better place for all.  By the way,  let me tell  you that so and so has a chance to steal some of our market so if we can find any way to discredit or sue him, there’s more money in it for us.  <<I’m sorry, tell me again how this is collaboration>>

I need your help promoting product xyz.  It’s not MLM of any type but you’re at the bottom, I’m at the top and if you put in 80 hours a week, I will get rich.  <<now there’s an incentive>>

How about gems like these?

I serve on the board for corporation xyz and I know the CEO is stealing money, but if I rat on her, people will not hire me for other boards because I will not be perceived as a team player.  <<meanwhile, that person gets paid to make public presentations about the need for transparency, honesty and accountability>>

“We provide a high quality product to the consumer”, quotes a senior executive of a major frozen food manufacturer to me on a plane one afternoon two years ago.  “That being said, I don’t let my kids eat it”. “Why not?”, I ask.  “Because I know what is in that stuff”, is the reply, the speaker oblivious to the disconnect of that statement from his assertion of the high quality of their product.


I wonder:

  • if the fear of being perceived as not being as in control as the next person causes some people to be less than authentic, since we don’t want to be perceived as weak amongst our peers.
  • if the fear of expressing our real selves causes us to repackage our knowledge, beliefs and passions into something the masses will agree with (even if this is not in congruence with what is important to us).
  • if the fear of appearing to be too normal causes people to elevate their status so as to be far beyond normal (ah, so you’re just an accountant; well, I am Master of the Galaxy – Well, I’m not just an accountant, I am really the Accountant Guru of the Universe – Oh yeah?  Well I am ……).
  • if the fear of appearing to not be able to stay caught up (whether it be in knowledge, money, gadgets or other toys) causes us to overspend our resources while lack of authenticity with ourselves prevents us from putting the brakes on this self-destructive behavior.  Don’t forget – whoever dies with the most toys …… is dead.
  • if the notion of exposing our heart, mind and spirit to others may also allow others to see our pain and our weaknesses, allowing them to see that we are in fact human.  Since this demonstrates that we are less than perfect, we present a false persona where we never fret, get angry or cry.
  • if the fear of exposing others to our personal belief structure, including our belief in God (or other deity important to us), is so strong that we are ashamed to live by the values of our belief structure, fearing ridicule or fearing being ostracized from our peers, clients and others.
  • if the fear of failure paralyzes us and prevents us from trying anything, forcing us to rely on someone else to solve our problems (which then creates frustration because they are not doing it fast enough for us).
  • if our desire to climb to the top of whatever mountain we are climbing is so strong (probably to beat someone else climbing the same mountain), that we are willing to portray ourselves as something we are not just so that we can accomplish the journey as fast as we can.

I do notice one thing with these fears.  The more inauthentic someone is with themselves and others, the more they resist even discussing stuff like this.  They will even get quite angry!

I wonder why.

All of these fears seem to be creating a lot of baggage in our lives and puts us on an ever-increasingly slippery slope that leaves us exhausted financially, spiritually, physically and emotionally.  Analyze the events that have led up to any significant negative event in world history and somewhere along the way, you will find one or more events that perhaps have been tied to lack of authenticity.

I’m not suggesting that life is so simple that we can easily strip a lot of these layers away and expect to be as authentic as children.  If it were only that simple.

However, I am suggesting that the number of layers of obfuscation and complexity that we have added are not commensurate with the beauty and simplicity of life.

I wonder if we have made life too complicated and then, being inauthentic with ourselves and others, refuse to take any credit for this complexity.

How about a return to some base levels of authenticity?

Hi – my name is Harry.  I don’t want you to know me as a Wall Streeter, a business strategy guy, a networker, a writer, a speaker (or however else you know me).

I am a human being who believes in God, who is awash in gratitude for his family, friends and life experiences, who marvels at the things we do right in the world, weeps at the things we do poorly, marvels at the complexity and simplicity of nature, is amazed by the power of love, aspires to be more patient and wonders when we will finally realize our true gifts and purpose.

That’s all that is important.  That is the real me – the rest are man-made constructs that are not important.

That being said, perhaps that is not important either.  What is important is that I am a human being with unlimited capacity for loving and sharing.

So are you.

My name is Harry. 

What’s your name? 

Let’s play.

Yours in service and servanthood.



  1. Harry:
    So much fear controlling our thoughts, diminishing our actions. Coming between who we are and who we show the world we are.

    Once again, you've given me quite a lot to think about. I believe I am approaching another crossroads in my life and I really don't know which path to take.I know this because I can feel a new fear overwhelming me and creating paralysis as I try to take action.

    My joke has always been "I can do anything for 3 years, some things for 5!" Problem is I'm overdue and overwhelmed.

    So for now:

    Hello, I'm Gary. I create and I love. What do you do?

  2. Dear Gary,

    Thank you for a heartfelt reply. I believe that the position you find yourself in is one that many find themselves in - yet people are afraid to explore it or are told not to explore it.

    I found that I had to actually remove myself from a lot of my environment in order to think through where I was in my life and where I wanted to go.

    Without silence from the bombardment of emails, text messages, instant messages, phone calls, etc., I just couldn't get the time to just be ME - in my own head. Without this silence, everyone else was inside my head - not what I needed!

    Perhaps a silent retreat of some type would provide some value to you. We can get together for coffee if you would like to explore further.

    Thank you for your heart and your transparency, Gary - you are a gift to the world.

    As for what I do, I will let you know when I grow up, which at this rate is a LONG way away.


  3. Hi Harry,
    My name is Leonard and I'd like to play with the concept of authenticity.

    Today I washed clothes, caught up on chores, prepared a seminar and wrote. I also talked on the phone with some friends and felt sparks of connection when I shared what I thought and felt. I get a similar spark when I write from my heart.

    Which takes me to authenticity. No matter what we do, the trick is to stay in our heart. (Okay it was difficult to be heartfelt when I stuffed my wet clothes in the dryer!)

    Authenticity is staying present with who I am and living a life exposed, naked and vulnerable. It's about connecting with my innocent child within. I can be like one those children you met.

    Washing clothes is a metaphor about authenticity. I toss my grubby garments into the washer and scrub them clean, something I strive to do with my ego. To remove the "shoulds" so I can reveal my True Self.

    So tonight when I attend a play, I'll think about authenticity and watch myself. Though I'll be wearing fresh clothes I'll try and remain exposed - authentic.

  4. Thanks Harry. Lots there to think about. Sadly, a lot of it sounds very familiar, as I read similar comments on Twitter and other places. But happily, there are many good and authentic people out there too. I've been blessed to play with many of them, and am a better person because of it. The goal now is to make sure they feel the same way when they think of me.

    Hi. My name is Lorne.

    Let's play.

  5. Hi my name is Brenda.

    I wear a lot of emotional armor that gives you the perception that I am always in control. But deep down inside I am afraid that I will never be loved for exactly who I am, a person who does not have all the answers, is not always pulled together.

  6. Dear Leonard,

    I am honored by your message - thank you for it.

    I love your metaphor for authenticity - thank you for sharing it. It really resonates with me.

    It's a scary thought, isn't it - the notion of being "naked and vulnerable" in a world that insists that we probably should be anything but!

    Thank you for your authenticity. :-)


  7. Hi Lorne,

    Thank you for your insightful sharing.

    You raise a couple of excellent points - the importance of associating with others who are authentic and the notion of self-evaluation on a continual basis to make sure we remain authentic.

    Two interesting and essential challenges.

    Thank you for sharing this! :-)

    Take care and create a great day!


  8. Dear Brenda,

    Thank you for a powerful, personal sharing.

    You are experiencing a challenge that many of us deal with every day - will we be loved for who we are and not just for what others expect us to be?

    I think there are a few key things to keep in mind:

    1. The importance of loving who you are

    2. The realization that there are people who love you no matter who you are

    3. The acceptance that you can't make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time

    So, know that you are loved by many, find the ones who love you (they are closer than you think) and love yourself for the wonderful person that you are.

    For the folks that don't accept you for who you are, you cannot let them be a millstone around your neck that prevents you from reaching your wonderful, unlimited potential.

    Thank you for your personal sharing, Brenda.

    Take care and God bless you.