The Lost Art of Authenticity

We are all trying to find ourselves – our passions, our strengths, our weaknesses, our purpose, our whatever. Truth is, it’s an endless journey. By accepting this fact about life, that you will always need to continue learning and growing, you will be more at peace throughout the journey, and with inner peace comes outward mindfulness. You can stop reading this right now and walk away a little more wise… but it would be wise to keep reading.

The side-effect of our modern day society is that most people are totally fake. It’s sad. No one will admit it either and that’s the funny part, and by funny I mean fucking terrifying. People fail to realize how much of a consumer they are, how they are all just fitting into a system that they are only a part of because they were indoctrinated from a young age. I mean, I was too, I’ve just had enough shit thrown at me and enough realizations from constantly learning that it’s pulled my head out of the bull shit… but I fear this level thinking because it can cause me to become complacent. Cognitive dissonance is inevitable, but it’s how we react to it that matters. Confirmation/congruence biases can stop you in your tracks, just like it does to at least 80% of the people trying to improve their life. Until you can put a label on the problem it’s almost impossible to identify.

Thanks to the reading of books like Riveted by Jim Davies and The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson (any many other books actually) I’m able to realize these harmful thought processes and become mindful of them, not only in my own habits but others as well.

On a side note, I think we live in one of the best times in human history. I might gripe about people but I gripe as a warning. Our society is by no means perfect, nor will it ever be, we will always have “problems” and it takes someone to point out the bullshit in the system to, in any way, get closer to a better whole, or so we could hope.

When I first moved away from my little drug-riddled town in New Jersey, I made a pact with myself to change my life. To become “successful” or whatever that means. For me it really just meant money, nice cars, nice clothes, vacations. And I went full swing, and I’m glad I did. But I also become ignorant of my own bullshit droppings I was leaving everywhere. I still see this in so many people today. What I mean by the “bullshit” is looking back in hindsight and realizing that I was doing a lot of stuff that just made me feel good and on the right track. I wasn’t doing something that actually pushed the ball forward. It’s so easy to get caught up in this, I still do once in a while, but once you know the difference between porn and real life, you know when you’re spoiling the broth. (Totally just made that saying up.)

As I’ve pointed out in older posts, I used to work in sales. I was a financial services consultant for business owners around the city I live in. The income was a roller coaster because I worked full commission. You learn a lot about yourself when you work a full commission job for almost 2 years. I’d recommend that most get into sales just for learning reasons, and so does Robert Kiyosaki who wrote the classic Rich Dad Poor Dad. I also worked in car sales for about 4 months at 2 different dealerships which taught me a lot (like that I hated selling cars.)

Through all of this – the sales jobs that 99% of people would never want, the rejections, the self-managing, and most importantly, the awesome mentors I had around me – I realized something about life that is so important, you could only wish everyone deeply understood it.

Authenticity

Growing up, I equated authenticity to the quality of a jersey I was buying for my favorite sports team. Then I realized you can buy them 80% cheaper from China. Go figure, right?

Go on LinkedIn right now if you have a profile. Look at all the people trying to sell you something. That’s all it’s become. I used to be one of them. I used to wear the suit and tie. I used to figure out ways to impress people without seeming pretentious. I found ways to build long lasting relationships and to make people feel comfortable and open to talking with me about their money. I’ve read a ton of books on sales and psychology and charisma to help me be more marketable. And…

Most of these skills are very important!

But there is one trait that cuts through all the noise, all the tricks, all the hacks, and bullshit sales processes faster and more effectively than any of them. It’s authenticity. And I know you’re not convinced yet because I haven’t explained what authenticity really means. I’m sure at this point you have a basic definition. Some mantra like “just be yourself” which doesn’t work 93%* of the time. *I made that stat up

One thing I realized when I was working in finance was that putting on this bullshit professionalism type persona, walking around people’s ego’s like egg shells, doing the fake smile for a picture at a networking event, was all making me feel so fake, I really couldn’t stand it. Trying to be “likeable” to everyone I met, hoping they weren’t going to put a wall up in fear of me trying to sell them something, while also not putting a wall up to the people trying to sell me something. God forbid if they were from some MLM group, someone really needs to teach those people how to actually sell.

Don’t get me wrong, I got good at sales and I believe it to be important for many businesses around the world, and if done right, you don’t need to be a sleeze or act slimy and pretentious. Daniel Pink wrote the book To Sell is Human, and this is very true, that book alone taught me a lot, and debunks many of the stereotypes that surround the word “salesman.” Bleh…

You’re being sold right now, by me, and my ideas. Later you’ll be sold again, maybe it’ll actually be a purchase. And it’s okay, this is just the way life is.

As I was nearing the end of my career in finance, I turned the ripe age of 24. I started catching up on the philosophies of people like Tim Ferriss. If you’ve ever read the 4 Hour Work Week, you know what I’m talking about. I could write a book on why I left the finance industry but here’s what really hit me…

Life is way to short to be fake, and all the titles and money and accolades in the world will never bring me full happiness.

I was dating a lot at the time. Almost one date a week with a different girl, I’m not bragging, and for the record I only got a few 2nd dates. It was easy because I was all dolled up in a thousand dollar suit and my job was mobile and flexible. But I noticed on dates, that sometimes, not always, the girl I was with seemed to think I was worth and made way more money than I actually did. To make them think otherwise, I would purposely make our first date at a cheap Mexican style place, and we’d eat nachos and I’d wear jeans and Vans and a plaid button up or something (I still looked good.) Don’t get me wrong, they were amazing nachos, but I made it a goal to point out who I really am.

I’m the class clown guy, the punk trouble maker, the stoned kid playing video games; a contrarian thinker. Most people don’t think like I do, I never wanted a job growing up. I never wanted to be a lawyer or a banker or some corporate guy, or an astronaut. Not because I was lazy, just uninterested. I really wanted to do stand up comedy and start a rock band when I was 18.

And there I was, in a suit, in my office, trying to get more fancy titles on my business card by taking more classes and getting more licenses so I didn’t just have to be a Kyle anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it all looks good on a resumé but people don’t hire pieces of paper, they hire people. And I too would prefer to work with a well rounded educated person when it comes to money or my health, there is no doubt about it. But on personal level, I realized it was all stupid, it was all petty. It was the very definition of inauthentic.

Here is my definition of being authentic.

Being authentic is far more than what people perceive you as. Being authentic is more inward than it is outward. It’s having the right set of moral values that question your own bullshit. It’s having a system in your own mind for filtering out the bogus stories and ideas we tell ourselves. Once this is in place, you will know. Stoic philosophy helps a lot in this department. I’m at the point now where, certain people lucky enough to be around me, get called out on their bullshit. I can’t live my life letting close family members and friends waltz through life smelling their own bullshit and thinking it’s roses. Obviously this doesn’t go over easy for anyone, most people will fight it.

In the book The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck by Mark Manson he has this “superhero” called disappointment panda. He’s great. He basically walks around going door to door yanking out the truths people refuse to tell themselves but know they should acknowledge.

After I left the finance industry with no actual game plan, I was pretty broke. Growing up in the restaurant industry I decided to go back to my roots and start cooking again. I forgot how much I missed it and got a job pretty quick thanks to having some good connections at a nice restaurant that makes some amazing food. My love for cooking good food landed back in my lap and I met some really awesome people and made some amazing friends. This is when I realized that it is, to some degree, very important to do things that you love. It will make you feel whole again.

Leaving the finance industry was a huge weight off my shoulders, it was around this time as well when I started to really see the importance of authenticity. I didn’t need to be fake anymore, it gave me a fresh outlook on life. I made a pact to always be true to myself and others. To only give a fuck about the right things.

I gained an unapologetic understanding of what it means to be true to yourself. Some may call it a bit shameless, but that’s okay. Because when shit gets real and you remain authentic, people will respect that. One byproduct of being truly authentic is that people will really start to respect you. And you’ll also know that even if they don’t respect you, or seem bitter or hateful towards you, it’s not because of you but because of them, and their own problems and their lack of filtering their values.

I don’t encourage any behavior that would harm other people or yourself. Telling someone something they may “need” to hear doesn’t exactly make it right inherently, so use your powers responsibly.

Being authentic is about deeply accepting yourself for who you are, and knowing that you should never have to try hard to impress people, and to always be straight forward and honest. It’s learning how to let go and allow the things that you can’t control to just be. The irony in impressing and influencing people is that you usually can do it far more effectively by trying less. People can sense other peoples bullshit much better than their own, ironically.

It’s about knowing what you’re capable of, but also pushing yourself to grow and remain humble. True authenticity will give you an inner peace, and will become an effective tool against fear and doubts. It’s a good way to get comfortable with being vulnerable.

But always remain humble, and remember to always continue growing. Remember to give back to those who might need your help. Always be kind. Don’t be a douche. Question your own beliefs. Question your own perception of reality. It is only when we truly know ourselves and our own stories that we become capable of teaching other people.

In the wise words of Ice Cube “check yourself before you wreck yourself” because living in a bogus reality is bad for your health.

Thank you, and remain forever a student…


As a last minute bonus, I decided to throw in a quote from Charles Bukowski. I would like to warn the feint of heart who might go and seek his knowledge, you cannot unsee what you have seen, unless you’re like totally shit faced or something.

“I see men assassinated around me every day. I walk through rooms of the dead, streets of the dead, cities of the dead; men without eyes, men without voices; men with manufactured feelings and standard reactions; men with newspaper brains, television souls and high school ideas.” – Charles Bukowski

Some of the terminology is slightly outdated but the message remains true. Just change a few words around and it’s just as applicable today as it ever was, and always will be. If you don’t know much about Charles, either read his biography on Wikipedia or something, or better yet, go buy yourself a copy of The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck in which Mark Manson begins the book by explaining Charles’ life and his unusual rise to fame.

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