Friday, January 7, 2011

What Do You Stand For?

Deep within our heart and soul, many of us have something that we believe in or dream about when it comes to our potential and Life purpose.  We tell compelling, riveting stories to our friends over a coffee about how “someday I’m going to ……..”.

I’ll bet you have one of these compelling stories.

Are you living your story?

How does your dream stand up to the following questions?

  1. What are you willing to do to prove your dream is possible and even necessary for you to accomplish?
  2. What would you do if you discovered that the world is actually waiting for you to embrace your story and bring it to Life?
  3. Do you have the courage to share your story with others in a forum other than in whispered conversations amongst a small group of friends?
  4. Are you willing to expose your dream to public scrutiny, knowing that it can stand on its own merits and perhaps be stronger as a result of public scrutiny?
  5. Are you willing to collaborate with others to bring your story and theirs to fruition?
  6. Is your dream in alignment with your values and beliefs?
  7. Will accomplishing your dream make you proud of the legacy you are leaving to others?
  8. Do you realize that living your dream will inspire others?
  9. How will you be remembered if you had the courage to live your dream?

It’s Tougher Than It Looks

I find that many people who have a compelling story cannot answer most of these questions with a positive answer. 

By dreaming one story but living a different one, they are not being authentic to themselves or to others

It’s like the paradox of living in today’s world, where people are encouraged to take the short, quick-hit, impatient view of getting anything they want right away (and going into debt to do it) while being encouraged to take a long term, patient view of investing for their retirement.  We put opposing principles inside someone’s head and then we act surprised when they can’t do both.

The challenge is that the longer people choose to be inauthentic to themselves and others, the lesser the chance that their story will ever see the light of day.

…. the lesser the chance that they will be able to live their Life in congruence with their perceived purpose or to even know what their purpose is.

…. the lesser the chance that their story will have an opportunity to impact the world or to inspire others.

It’s not easy, is it?

Oftentimes, being authentic is difficult or seemingly impossible to achieve consistently.

Many times we can justify why it is safer or easier to not be authentic.

The Danger of Inauthenticity

The problem is that every time we are not authentic with ourselves or others, we weaken our belief in our dreams and therefore weaken our potential.  Eventually we may believe we have no potential or purpose at all.

Try this: Ask someone WHY they think they exist on this planet or what their purpose is.  Most people cannot answer this question at all.  Can you? 

At some point, we invent another persona that has unlimited potential.  After all, we reason, “who I am is of no interest or value to others, so let me see what the populace-at-large likes and I will promote and become that person”.

I know several well known self-empowerment experts who promote to their customers that if you think, say and do as they do, you will live an empowered life like they do.

The unfortunate secret is that these “experts” are financially, emotionally, relationally and spiritually broke.

I think promoting a fa├žade of success when you don’t have it is to promote a lie and I tell them this (which makes them angry).  When you take someone’s money to teach them these “secrets of success”, you are stealing from them because you can’t actually prove the system works.

When I explain to these “experts” that they should be honest and transparent with their customers, they tell me they cannot do that.  They even write inspiring stories about being honest and transparent and live the opposite way – the ultimate level of inauthenticity.

And success eludes them while they tell others that success overwhelms them.

Perhaps if they had the courage to be themselves and not work so hard to be someone else, then success might follow.

They fear that to reveal their true selves would be an embarrassment.

I think that having the courage to be authentic would inspire others. 

New Year’s Resolutions

This is the season for New Year’s Resolutions.

This is the time of year when most people resolve to accomplish the same list of things they resolved to accomplish last year, the year before, etc.

The primary reason most of these resolutions fall flat is that they are not hooked into what inspires the person making them and for this reason, they lose their sizzle and the person eventually falls back into the same old routine.

Perhaps if we realized that our story, as big or small as we think it is, could serve as an inspiration to others, we might be more inclined to resolve to do whatever it takes to make our story a reality.

Perhaps if we decided to embrace ourselves and our story instead of being someone else with a story designed to make other people happy or to impress them, then we would have some real things to work towards.

Maybe then we would discover our true purpose – the answer to the questions “Why am I here?” and “Why do I matter?”.

Maybe then we would have real, inspiring things to work towards that matter to ourselves at the deepest level of who we are.  Maybe then we could make tangible resolutions that would help us move towards our true self; a self that inspires others and that leaves a positive impact on others.

Now there’s a resolution worth keeping.

I know you would keep such resolutions.

So what are you waiting for?

Resolve to be true to yourself – it is the greatest gift to yourself and to others.

In service and servanthood,


For my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “What Do You Stand For?”, please click here.


  1. This was a brilliant post. I've been thinking a lot lately about your notion of authenticity. Initially, I questioned whether it was an "angle" of some sort to prop yourself up as some sort of guru.

    After communicating with you personally and reading more of your work (including your chapter in 97 Things Every Project Should Know), I've decided that this is a true and genuine insight of yours that you are sharing.

    Your section on "The Danger of Inauthenticity" above is important from a psychological perspective. When Cognitive dissonance occurs, and is not dealt with correctly, it's very dangerous. The inner-conflict is pure turmoil and can ruin someone from the inside out. Please keep up the good work.

  2. Nathan,

    Thank you for your very kind words.

    My quest for authenticity is a very personal one. I struggle with being authentic as do others and don't claim to have a monopoly on how to "be easily be more authentic".

    However, I have great concern over where society is headed as we get more inauthentic.

    I don't see myself as being any type of guru - I want to see us create a world for our children where we know we have done the best we can for them.

    And I'm not sure we are doing that ... which weighs heavily on me.

    The fact that we talk about fixing things a lot without actually changing anything in a measurable way weighs heavily on me also.

    In regards to the challenges in the world (and don't get me wrong, there is great beauty in the world), I say "correct it or be corrected".

    And we are leaning toward the latter - which will be out of our control and much more painful.

    I think we should be smarter than this ... for us ... and for the future of our children. Hoepfully we will "get it" at some point while things are still under our control.

    Thanks again for your kindness.

    Create a great day, Nathan.


  3. The kind words were well deserved. Above you mentioned what individuals can do in their struggle to become and remain authentic. I'll be interested in what you think society as a whole can do. What things are helping us and hurting us?

  4. Thanks, Nathan - I am honored.

    I don't think the solution is at the society level. I believe the solution is at the individual level - if we correct our level of authenticity at the individual level, it is automatically fixed at the society level (since our values and results at the society level are merely the sum and / or intersection of our individual values).

    As for the things that are helping and hurting us ... I am not an expert although I feel consumed with wondering what it is, why it is and where it is taking us (and know first hand the price we pay for NOT being authentic).

    The great challenge with much of this stuff is that it takes courage to be first, to stand up for what we believe in .... to resist the strong current of inauthenticity that is at play. Easy to say - difficult to embody.

    Think about our peer and society pressure - be this way, buy this thing, think this way, etc. If you don't buy your child the latest fad, you are made to feel you are depriving them. If you drive your car into the ground, you are made to feel you should have purchased a new one sooner. If your house is not as big as your neighbors, buy one bigger ... then get the larger job to pay for it (even if the bigger job compromises your personal values).

    If you try to embody certain values, some people find you quaint or old fashioned or a rare person they aspire to be (but think they cannot) or perhaps they are envious but deride you for "putting on airs with your holier than thou self". Sometimes the person who embodies less than ideal values appears to be rewarded faster or larger and you think "if I want what they have, I have to do the same thing".

    We are afraid to voice an opinion when we see things going wrong, because we are afraid of the reaction from society, peers, family, etc.

    Certain movements, whether it's the anti-whatever or the pro-whatever, carry so much strength that many times people feel that voicing an opinion will put them in an "us versus them" fight and many would rather be quiet than submit themselves to the conflict (which may be or at least appear to be unwinable, so why bother).

    From an early age, we are taught to be this or that. We are taught to try to avoid displeasing people ... parents, teachers, bosses, spouses, children, friends, etc.

    So we end up striving to be everything to everyone.

    The only problem with this is that the true self is left behind .... screaming in silence and wanting to show the world who it is, what gifts / talents / strengths / insights / etc it has.

    And many people carry this in silence, telling the world that everything is fine while dying on the inside, perhaps confiding in someone they feel is safe but never letting the real person come out.

    I have people tell me EVERY day, literally, that who they are on the outside is not who they are on the inside. They find in me a safe haven for their REAL identity - I think they sense that I have followed a similar journey and know where they are coming from.

    Empty words about "you should do ..." or "you should be ...." are easy to say to them but empty platitudes make their situation worse, implying to them that they COULD fix it but are probably incapable, making them feel even more lost.

    I have some thoughts on allowing the inner person to break out ... but I'd like a little bit of time to formulate them.

    Thanks for the exchange, Nathan - I am grateful for it.


  5. One thing I think we need to do, though (before getting into a more long-winded answer) is to worry less about what the world thinks of what we do. This is easier said than done but when one can reach some semblance of it, Life does become a little easier.

    We are so consumed by the need to please others that we focus most activities around making others happy or we sacrifice our own needs and interests so as to not upset or disappoint someone else.

    OR .... we allow people to inform us how disappointed they are in something we said, did, thought, or anything else ... as if we have signed a contract promising to do as they wish and to never disappoint them.

    You are not here to please the world. You are here to make the most of the miracle that you are, to make a positive impact on the world using the gifts you have and to show subsequent generations how to do the same.

    As Stephen Covey says ... to live, to love, to learn and to leave a legacy.

    If people aren't in alignment with how you choose to do this, doing what is important for you and having the impact that YOU believe is important, than they should find someone else to impart their negative opinions and lack of support on ... and should be told this ... politely at first but if they don't get it ... well .... .:-)

    In the end, preserving your sense of self can only come from within ... most people won't or can't do it for you.

    Authenticity is something you must own - surround yourself with people who care most about the real you and allow this support to build up a stronger, more confident version of YOU .. a YOU that is AS important as anyone else.

    And given that you are EQUALLY important and capable in the world, then your results are as valid as anyone's and are therefore not subject to evaluation or criticism.

    Thoughts to follow. :-)