Be yourself no matter what the circumstances. Believe in the fortitude of yourself first and always. Always be yourself in all situations. If you do this, your energy will be higher, people will listen with enthusiasm, and you can never be wrong. Yep, you can never be wrong.
I learned this important lesson early in my career. In a meeting where I did not know what I was listening to–I was the son of a fisherman, very much out of place, in a meeting about agriculture with Cascadian Farms, engaged in a very technical discussion on how to get more organic acreage for growing vegetables. Like many meetings, we got off track and started arguing about why Cascadian Farms needed more acreage. I was confused and not really in-tune with the conversation. My brain just wasn’t wired like everyone else in the room. I kept listening, feeling that I was not educated enough on the subject to contribute to the discussion. But, since I was trying to secure a consulting contract, I needed to contribute. I kept listening, looking for an opportunity to say something—anything—but I was not feeling very confident.
Then I saw my chance, and when I saw an opening to speak I just blurted out what came into my head unfiltered, “You guys aren’t walking in the farmers shoes!” The room went quiet. The CEO looked at me and said, “Wow, that’s profound.”
I did get the contract, but much more important was that I went with what I personally felt about the conversation—not about the details of farming or organic agriculture. It was a lesson I have carried with me and now want to share with you. Just say what you feel in meetings, yep just say what you are thinking. People will enjoy you more and you will be respected for your honesty. In the example above I didn’t know a thing about farming or what others were talking about, but it became apparent that if the organic market is going to grow, it needed to include the perspectives of those who grew the food. I learned right then and there not to worry about what you are saying as long as you speak from the heart.
Being yourself means presenting yourself to the world with confidence in who you are. Be enthusiastic, show up and share your most recent insights or thoughts, speak from the heart, and be your incredible and extraordinary self. Remember you are incredible and valuable as yourself. It’s more than just your presentation to the world. Deep within you, your genetic code was uniquely created to give you certain advantages and characteristics. Are you maximizing your genetic potential, or are you fighting with it, trying to be someone that you’re not?
Yes, sometimes it takes incredible courage just to be yourself and say what you think. But being yourself has an added benefit—it encourages those around you to be themselves, too. Many teams I work with are too homogenous, everyone trying to be the same thing. These teams need to diversify, to let each person on the team be themselves. By being yourself, you can get people around you to be themselves.
You are unique, exceptional and incredible, so why would you live by anyone else’s rules or expectations? Just think for a moment how it feels to be in alignment with who you really are. You are not your job, golf score or husband/wife—you are an individual with a unique set of genes and experiences that gives you a unique view of the world and a unique way of interacting with it. You are as unique as a snowflake–physiologically, emotionally, and experientially. Let your uniqueness thrive in every meeting, in every interaction, and every day.
To do this, you can’t hide behind anything. On the contrary, you want to present yourself to the world every chance you get. One of my most financially successful friends always insists on coming to my office to catch up, and I always reply, “No, I will come to your office.” It’s become a kind of standing joke between us. His income is like a lottery jackpot every year, and if you ask him how he does it, he’ll tell you it’s by always showing up, no matter where or when or how insignificant the meeting. He always meets with people in their offices or favorite places and spends his entire week on the road interacting with business contacts and new leads as well as old friends. He realizes that giving his true self to each situation by showing up in person and being himself is the key to making exceptional things happen.
Surprisingly, he’s not really what you’d call a “social butterfly.” He is basically shy, with an almost savant-like personality. But he excels at making things happen while being himself. He has done everything from marketing medical devices to oil trading to selling chicken in Russia – all while being himself and going out of his way to get face-to-face with interesting people and taking the time to understand them and their needs. By always presenting himself with authenticity, he is able to demonstrate his passion in every endeavor that he undertakes. He shows up as himself no matter what. And it is by always being on the scene and speaking from the heart that he is able to influence it for the better—and to his advantage. Of course, not everyone can do what he does, but you’ll never know to what extent you, too, might influence people for the better unless you enter their domain, as yourself, and with conviction.
At all times ask yourself: Am I being me or something that someone else wants me to be? If the answer is that you’re pretending to be something else, quickly revert back to you. You have zero genetic potential to be anything other than yourself.
So next time you’re in a meeting, don’t just show up physically, show up emotionally and with passion. If you’re a shy introvert, present your passion and ideas with thoughtfulness. If you’re an arm-waving extrovert, present your passion and ideas with exuberance. But remember that no matter what your presentation style, always be yourself.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.― Ralph Waldo Emerson