Authenticity has become one of those overused, misunderstood, and abused word. It sure is one of my generation’s favourite throwaways (I’m an ‘older’… ahem, millennial).
And having heard the word all through the years, I think I may have developed an allergy as I often catch myself wincing in disguise when I hear someone use it without context.
Of course, I still believe authenticity is essential. It’s one of those things that define you as a person and a professional. But you can’t let ‘being authentic’ be the reason for being a dick. Or produce shoddy work (or worse, no work!) as a professional.
Think about your favourite personalities from the sports, music, film, or business arena. I can bet that one of the reasons why you like them is because they’re authentic. But is that the only reason why you buy tickets to their games, shows, or conferences? Is authenticity be the reason why you will buy their products/services/merchandise?
I don’t think so.
Imagine you buy tickets for a U2 (the rock band) show, and you’re all excited only to get the news that Bono, the lead singer, isn’t the mood to sing that evening. He “doesn’t feel like it.” So, they’re refunding the money to everyone who bought the ticket.
Now, would you be upset or empathise with Bono for being authentic? What about the others who were eagerly waiting for this event? You know where I’m going with this — authenticity is excellent, but it’s irrelevant when it comes to someone else’s performance or your expectations.
You don’t want to see the authentic Bono or U2 but the best of them. That’s what you associate the band with — (one of) the best rock band in the world. And that’s why you bought the tickets! You wouldn’t tell your friends, “Hey, let’s go to the U2 concert… they’re the most authentic band in the world!” Would you?
The critical question is, how did they become the best band in the world? By being consistent. Year after year. One decade after the other. That’s how they became the best; by showing up and doing their best irrespective of how they’d felt.
Believe me, if they’d focused too much on authenticity, their story wouldn’t have been any different from Tekashi 6ix9ine or Loon or C-Murder. These folks took the authenticity to an all-new level — stupidity.
Consistency trumps authenticity. All the time. It always has and always will.
So, stop obsessing about authenticity. Show up and do the work today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of your life. That’s how you create a body of work. The world may or may not marvel about it a year or decades from now, but the important thing is that you showed up when your authentic self kept telling you not to do so.