I hate when someone gets anointed in our industry as being “authentic.”
Isn’t that a given for all human beings?
Whether they are authentic heroes or jerks, they are always being who they are…authenticity is not a learned skill.
There are exceptions…as I found out when I met comedian Steven Wright in person.
If you don’t know who he is, check out his stage persona here and expect to laugh for 6 and a half minutes straight.
When I met him in person at a friend’s wedding (my friend was his publicist at the time), he was much more than deadpan one-liners…although I wouldn’t call him a riveting conversationalist either.
Maybe how he performed was the authentic Steven Wright after all?
Regardless, I’ll consider him an exception to today’s thesis. His stage personality was not his “authentic” personality for the purpose of this post. But it was close. 🙂
When I am in the audience at a seminar or conference, and some “thought leader” is speaking, whoever is sitting next to me often whispers “Isn’t he/she authentic?”
To which I always answer:
Is there any other way to be?
Enough about my pet peeve about the concept of authenticity…but in thinking about this in the context of two interactions on LinkedIn–one recent and one from 10 years ago– I came up with an interesting distinction.
Well…interesting to me…and hopefully interesting to you. 🙂
It’s the non-semantic distinction between being authentic vs. being consistent.
LinkedIn encounter #1: Engage first, connect second
I receive somewhere between 50 and 200 invitations a week to connect with all of my best friends (who I have never met) on LinkedIn.
I used to email each one to explore the relationship (at least superficially) before accepting…I flamed out on that policy due to a “numbers crunch” …too many requests, too little time. 🙁
With so many requests per week, I needed to prioritize responding to folks who are not selling me something immediately…and even more to folks who I seem to have affinity with and/or folks who I might even know.
I received one recently from a woman who was a member of a mastermind I spoke at almost a decade ago:
You made an impression on me at the mastermind in 2015.
It’d be an honor to connect with you.
And are you still umpiring baseball? I remember you love baseball.
This certainly beats the request that says, “I see we have many mutual connections and I have a bridge to sell you.” 🙂
It’s also a lesson on how to send an engaging LinkedIn request which are few and far between.
It’s similar to the emails/requests I used to send to LinkedIn “prospects” when I had the time: Create a connection before connecting…by contributing first.
And this one was a divine contribution and deserved some serious engagement from me.
I thanked her for remembering me so favorably…and that she even remembered one of my passions (baseball).
I told her I remembered her…which was authentic… 🙂 …and I sent her this blog post about why I umpire baseball.
And that led to going even deeper with her with her next response:
Thanks for sharing your article. I very much resonate with the principle of being an umpire, because you didn’t strike me as someone who would “do something to get noticed”.
Unlike so many people I come across in business and life, this is precisely the reason you stood out to me since you radiate as a person who seeks excellence without recognition and status.
We are kindred spirits. This is why I still remember our first interaction all those years ago, because it didn’t seem to matter to you that you were having a conversation with a newbie.
You were generous with your time and energy which I very much appreciated.
I was obviously touched.
And I am not sharing this encounter to brag about someone saying nice things about me…but rather to prove a point.
Admittedly, I didn’t recall the conversation I had with her in detail at the mastermind…I didn’t have to…since it “sounded like me.” 🙂
If it was consistent in how I live my life—knowing that being authentic is a given—and I don’t need to think about who I was (or trying to be) at that moment in 2015.
Thanks for remembering me that way Jen.
And you just gave me a blog post idea.
Even though I remember you, I don’t remember what we talked about…but it sounds consistent.
Consistency means interacting with everyone the same way, regardless of their expertise, background or what they can do for you.
That’s very different than being authentic.
If you need to work at being authentic, you aren’t authentic.
We are kindred spirits.
Not a bad result/interaction/engagement from a LinkedIn request.
LinkedIn encounter #2: You never know who is watching or listening
This sounds like a setup to talk about some political conspiracy…but it’s not.
It’s a way of sharing an important “eternal lesson from Mom” we all have tucked away somewhere.
It’s some version of: “Treat everyone like you would want to be treated”
And: “Always give of yourself first and don’t be selfish”
Or simply: “Be a mensch.”
In past blogs I have spoken about one of the greatest events ever, The Bencivenga 100, which was the high bar that was set for Titans of Direct Response in 2014.
And even before The Bencivenga 100, there was another powerful event I attended in January of 2000, hosted by one of my mentors, Jay Abraham.
I remember reading the promotion for it from an imaginary bunker in December of 1999…and I came away with three big lessons from that event:
1. The world did not end on December 31st 1999 as some were predicting.
2. Selling online caught on…big time.
3. Always be consistent and congruent in all you do, all the time…with authenticity taking care of itself.
On January 1, 2000 my clock and computer continued to work (miraculously)…and later that month I traveled to Los Angeles for Jay’s “all superstar event” dedicated to some new marketing medium called “The Internet.”
Jay–along with fellow marketing rock stars Audri and Jim Lanford–created an event like no other:
“Billion Dollar Internet Strategy Setting Summit”
Not a very big promise but sounds kind of interesting, doesn’t it? 🙂
Click here to read the sales page which a friend uncovered for me.
It’s like opening a time capsule…but it’s hard to believe it’s only been 23 years.
I made some lifelong friends at that event…who also became important people that I’ve followed and learned a ton from over the years including:
- Audri and Jim Lanford (no longer with us due to a tragic accident…but I encourage you to read the profile I wrote about them here.
- Paul Hartunian (who taught me the lesson, “Money doesn’t buy you happiness…but it does buy you freedom…and freedom IS happiness.” Read this to learn more about this Renaissance Man and also how he sold The Brooklyn Bridge.
- Dana Blankenhorn
- Jim Sterne
- Corey Rudl (a pioneer of online marketing who we lost too soon as well—he was only 34 when he died—but proved that you can become a pioneer in a very short time. Click here to listen to an interview Ken McCarthy did with him when Corey was 29…and already legendary)
- …and of course, Jay Abraham, who I knew almost 20 years before this event…and learned the valuable lesson of when you want to learn something, don’t look for the bubble, create one…which he did with this event. This also took our relationship to a new level, culminating when he wrote the foreword to my book, Overdeliver 18 years later (and he rarely writes forewords). Life is long. 🙂
Unbeknownst to me, there were other people watching me at that event I wasn’t even aware of…future superstars…who became life changing to me later in my career. Did I say life is long?
Speaking of LinkedIn, 13 years after the “Billion Dollar Summit,” I received an invitation to connect from a guy by the name of Jeff Walker.
If you don’t know Jeff you may know his product, Product Launch Formula (PLF)–which accounts for well over a billion dollars in online sales of products and services…and that number is growing as I write this.
He’s known as one of the real good guys in this business…he’s got a heart of gold to go along with being a “marketing badass” (and to me, “badass” is at the top of the marketing food chain).
Jeff is a hero to thousands of entrepreneurs worldwide and a giver of the highest order.
But if not for the “Abraham-Lanford event” (and my philosophy for how I engage with LinkedIn requests), Jeff could have remained one more amazing person I looked up to in business without developing a deeper relationship.
Thankfully it didn’t go that way. 🙂
My response to the LinkedIn request from Jeff:
“Is this THE Jeff Walker?”
And to my surprise, I received a response back from Jeff saying he had followed my career for many years and he was a fan…imagine that…who knew?
And where did Jeff initially meet me?
He told me how he scraped and clawed his way to Los Angeles to the event in 2000 described above (and he also told me he had no idea how he even was able to pay for it) to learn for himself how to create a billion-dollar Internet strategy.
Talk about being an attentive student…he is the ultimate case history of the promise of the event.
He said he watched me moderate a roundtable discussion on something at that event…and he was impressed.
He couldn’t believe how much I was sharing without any expectation of anything in return, since I was a paid attendee, and not technically a speaker.
This certainly sounded like something I’d do but I had little or no recollection of it at all.
I also told him that he must not have known all that much at the time since he was so impressed. 🙂
And thankfully it wasn’t simply dumb luck that I was on my “best behavior” when Jeff was observing me.
Once again, I didn’t remember what I did or said that impressed him but talking openly with peers (or anyone), sharing everything I’ve got, is something I am an “expert” in…and consistent with my behavior.
This re-connection to Jeff on LinkedIn led to Jeff inviting me as a guest to his “Platinum Plus Mastermind” in January of 2013 where I met and interacted with 30 of the most successful online marketers in the world…and I fell in love with all of them.
They all just gave and gave…and still give and give…Jeff attracts the best of the best marketers with the biggest hearts.
Not surprisingly, I try to do the same with my own masterminds which I only launched after attending his for a couple of years.
In addition, despite most of the “Plats” (i.e., members of Jeff’s mastermind) being a lot younger than me, they knew as much or more about direct response marketing (and how it drives all marketing regardless of channel) than I did.
I had 30+ years more “experience” (and hopefully some wisdom) than most of them but I was far from the smartest person in the room (making it the right room). 🙂
My experience as a guest at Jeff’s mastermind led to me joining the group as a paying member…and I have never looked back.
In fact, I head to Durango, Colorado in a couple of weeks to begin my 10th year in the group.
Being a member is like studying for a PhD in online marketing (and entrepreneurship) with the studying (and learning) never ending.
Or…I could have my degree in a few decades…although doubtful.
I have also made friends for life in that group, many of whom are like family to me now.
The takeaway for me…and you…is obvious.
Or as Jeff likes to say, it is “hidden in plain sight”:
I decided well before 2000 (especially because I thought the end of the world might be near) that my life was 100% about contribution and connection…and by staying consistent to that philosophy then (and now), people noticed then (and now).
And I never needed to think about being “authentic.”
In closing, I’m reminded of a wonderful quote from Winston Churchill:
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
The purpose of sharing all of this with you today is not to pat myself on the back…it’s about the importance of being true to yourself, always being congruent, and never having to talk about “being authentic” because your authenticity is a given.
Be scared…be very scared…when you hear people teaching and preaching about “being authentic” …which is not something you can “learn.”
It’s simply you being you…all the time…without ever thinking about it.
Tip of the week (and for the rest of your life):
Keep giving. Never stop giving.
And if you must think about “being authentic” or trying to be the same person in your “front stage life” as your “backstage life,” please re-think that very carefully.
The best practice (which is also convenient) is to be the same person all the time (not difficult to do)…and then there is never anything to explain or apologize for…with no excuses necessary for inconsistent behavior because you are always consistent.
And… because you never know who is watching…there will be no confusion when you get a LinkedIn request from someone who remembered your consistency even when you have no recollection.
Consistency speaks for itself. 🙂
P.S. Please keep an eye out in your InBox for the launch of the Overdeliver Bootcamp…a two week “e-class” (on Zoom) going through my book with actionable exercises and discussions that will change the trajectory of your career…and life…with personalized plans created just for you based on my 40+ years of success…and “learnings.”
We win or we learn…we never fail. 🙂
“Being consistent” is just one of many concepts we will cover, creating actionable plans for you on how you can maintain consistency and be the best entrepreneur or business (results) leader you want to be.
Building a family and not just a list…investing in relationship capital rather than simply collecting people…accessing the best copy and creativity (and using it most effectively)…why list segmentation and RFM are the building block in all of your marketing…why single channel marketing is boring and dangerous…creating compelling offers…and making sure your wisdom is cumulative and not a series of one-off pieces of knowledge.
With everything under the umbrella of never being in a room (or Zoom screen) where you are the smartest person…while maintaining confidence in what you can share and contribute.
Click here for a description of the calls that will make up the “Overdeliver Bootcamp”…sign up now if you like…attendance will be limited.
Join me on this authentic journey 🙂