Coach’s Challenge for 4/20/09
Good day, team,
This week’s challenge is about authenticity. Last week, I had the fortunate experience of watching a wonderful video clip at the end of the ABC evening news. As you may know, many of the major news broadcasters are trying to add a bit of positive news at the end of their evening programs to finish on an uplifting note. In the midst of all the bad news they report, I think it’s a nice change to have them focus on a feel-good story.
That evening, ABC showed a video of Susan Boyle, the middle-aged, single, unemployed Scottish woman who sang on the program “Britain’s Got Talent,” the English equivalent of our “American Idol.” Out she came onto the stage, looking as dowdy as you can imagine but with a good sense of herself and a twinkle in her eye.
The judges sounded incredibly cynical and judgmental when they asked her their basic questions, members of the audience rolled their eyes, and there was definitely a sense that this woman fit into the category of some old frump who was going to make a fool of herself. Until she sang the first note.
Susan Boyle sang “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miserables,” and I found myself crying, clapping and cheering along with all the other audience members on the show. She was amazing, and the judges were blown away by her performance. Everyone was humbled by their misjudgment and negative attitudes about her when she first appeared on the stage. We all know you can’t judge a book by its cover, and never had this truism been more apparent.
I thought about why this performance had touched me so deeply, and why it is having the same effect on so many others. At last count, more than 12 million people had viewed Susan’s performance on YouTube, and many of us have had the same response. Just go to YouTube and type her name, and you’ll see what I mean.
So what’s going on here? Perhaps we are so starved for something truly authentic that its rare experience touches us deeply in our hearts and souls. Some part of us knows when we are acting falsely, and we suffer terribly as we watch ourselves being someone we’re not or doing something we don’t truly believe in.
It’s not only painful to watch ourselves being inauthentic, it’s also painful to watch others do so. Last week a client mentioned to me how hard it is to watch some of her co-workers trying to be someone they’re not. A sensitive, beautifully feminine woman puts on a “I’m really a tough guy” act. A senior manager covers up his fear of appearing less intelligent than he hopes he is. A financial executive assumes an attitude of power because she controls the numbers, meanwhile having hidden crucial financial information to make herself look good.
We have all created these false personalities to survive whatever environment we found ourselves in. But our external situations change, and when they do, we need to ask ourselves whether that particular personality continues to serve us, or just alienates others and make us look foolish.
In a culture that for decades has thrived on looking young, acting cool, wearing the newest styles, and glorifying being thin and hip, Susan Boyle was a breath of fresh air for being exactly the opposite of all those traits. She allowed all of us to feel good about exactly who we are, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Your challenge this week is to observe how you “act” with others and see if one of those assumed personalities no longer serves you. Ask yourself what’s preventing you from just being who you are. Try not to impress others so much with what you think they will like or approve of, but rather, allow your own essence to emerge and see if you don’t get a better response.
One of my favorite quotes, enscribed by an unknown author on a grave marker at Boothill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona, reads
“Be who you is,
‘cuz if you ain’t
who you is,
Then you is
who you ain’t.”
Have a good week,
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