Authenticity

A few days ago, a livestream popped up from Seth Godin. I know, I mention him quite a bit. I find his intellectualism to be challenging and very uplifting so when he pops up, I will often tune in. I do this because he is also really good at speaking well thought out concepts in short tidbits.

Anyways, he covered many subjects and in the middle of ranting he blurted that “Authenticity is a trap.” I grabbed onto that statement as I feel that I have worked very hard to “be authentic.” It rubbed me the wrong way. How could he say that swithout explaining it? A fellow viewer also tuned into the same thing and asked a question about it in the feed. His assistant pulled that question up and Seth noticed it as well.

He proceeded to explain that when we go to a job interview, we don’t scratch our genitals (he didn’t use that word) in front of the interviewer, we use self control and we wait. He explained it a bit further using a couple of examples, but I didn’t get it. I think I was provoked by the fact that he had called something into question that I value so highly and I couldn’t quite process it right.

I kept thinking about it. I brought it up to my partner. I just couldn’t shake that I believe that authenticity is really important and Seth said it’s a trap. I don’t need to agree with him, but I do need to understand.

The next day, I sent him an email. His email address is not hard to find. Seth@sethgodin.com is published all over the place. I have a friend who ordered a book from him and when it didn’t arrive by Christmas like it was supposed to, he emailed Seth’s team on Christmas because he was just laying around thinking about it and he thought that the team would answer him the next business day. He got an answer in five minutes, directly from Seth. Seth proceeded to send him 5 copies of the book instead of the three that were supposed to come with the order. There’s a lesson in business right there folks.

Anyways, I also got a reply from Seth in six minutes to this email:

Hi Seth, It's Jesse,
I watched your livestream yesterday and as usual you hit all the nails on the head.
Except for one. One doesn't sit right with me, and I think it is because I have worked very hard at being "authentic." I work hard to be genuine. The real thing. Honest. Transparent. I also work hard at being consistent in that authenticity. Am I off? Did I miss something? I would love to hear more.
Thank you for always being so generous and inspiring people like us to do the same.
Peace and love and keep making a ruckus!

This was his reply:

thanks Jesse
appreciate the kind note
I think it's more a matter of semantics
being a good person, who is compassionate and caring and trustworthy and consistent is a CHOICE
we can own that
having a tantrum is authentic. It takes no self-control.
if you're using self control you're not being authentic, at least that's my point.

Aha! The lightbulbs went off. Authenticity. Rawness. Who we are at the base. Naked. Stinky. Our hair will naturally bind together into dreads. We don’t live outside naked and shit on the ground and leave the skids on our buttcheeks and proceed about our day. We scrub the the authenticity off every chance we get. In fact we really like it when others consistently smell washed and clean rather than authentically animal.

I think he is pointing out what makes us human. We can show up in the world however we choose. His point is, it is the process of showing up consistently that gains trust. It earns us the right to be seen and heard. Anybody can be "authentic," but it takes real work to choose and be consistent in that choice.

I think he is right. Authenticity is a trap. It’s up to us to choose how we want to show up in the world and how we want others to see us. In order for us to do that, we must first fully see them, so that we can know what they need to see that equals what we want them to see.

I am going to keep chewing on this, but I think it’s a really good piece of the puzzle in considering how we sell ourselves, what we do, or our product. I hope you have a wonderful day and would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. If you find the time and the inspiration you can email me at jb@barneydesign.co or hit me anywhere on social @thejessebarney or @barneydesignco

Peace, Love and Rock and Roll.

Jesse Barney