October 16, 2012
I recall seeing a tweet from Tom Peters a few years back that said, "I love y'all. But could we lighten up a bit on 'authentic'? The authentic anyone is usually at least half not very pretty."
It reminded me that we live in a society where copycatting is a common occurrence. It happens because to really show your authentic self would expose you to an ascribed status that may result in less than the identity you were hoping for. It's simply easier and safer to emulate the efforts of others to attain a liking and respect to boost your own self-esteem and avoid being labeled poorly by your peers and the larger society.
It's reinforced all around us through television, social media, radio, websites, books, magazines, and so on. Each is filled with the latest copycat strategies based solely on an idea of the network and economic advantages that one gains by following this path. It's such a positive stereotype for so many that the idea of losing their true identity and becoming someone else's clone seems more rewarding than achieving status based on a position that is earned through total transparency so the "curtain is pulled back" and others see you for your own unique, authentic self.
The risk of not following your own path is that copycats rarely offer any unique content and have no clear identity. You may believe that by taking this route, success can be attained through taking a shortcut, and we all want a shortcut! But what most find is that you'll spend a lot of money, time and/or create a lot of stress to really get nowhere. As a result, you are not memorable and will have to rely on waiting for someone else to make a new move before you can too.
When I was on the radio, my PD use to tell me all of the time; "You have the mechanics mastered, but what I need to know is who you really are. Don't just do what you think everyone else would do (or want you to do), but give me your true, authentic opinion, position, angle, etc. to connect me more to it, and to you."
If you study the people who are being followed and emulated, you'll also find a path never before or rarely taken by others. It's what makes us want to be like them in the first place because it's new, different and exciting.
You can follow a successful format, or incorporate good ideas, but you will need to put your own unique self and content into the mix to make it a truly memorable and compelling experience. Remember the definition of authentic is not false or imitation and true to one's own personality, spirit, or character. It was never meant to be "pretty" at all.
Be you, be useful, be interesting and be compelling.
If you have the courage to do it in every moment, good or bad, the power will set you free and the result will connect with others in a way where you just may be copied and emulated too.
And as Tom Peters later tweeted, "Success=Effective bumbling." I'll simply add, "that's unique to you."
It's one of the keys to making a social impact.