As much as us founders, and aspiring entrepreneurs want to obsess over the visual details of our business, what keeps us up at night is not the perfect shade of yellow that will really make our logo pop, but how we can rapidly rise to popularity. We can wishfully hope that designing a brand that people rave about is just about good looking photography, banging logos, and meticulously selected colors. Unfortunately it’s just not enough. (Yes I know, I’m crying inside a little too.) What your people want to know is who the real you is. And a lot of people struggle with this, especially in the beginning.
As a business owner, being authentic has so many benefits, you can skinny dip through it. Most favorably, “keeping it real” is what helps us gain a reputation of respect, and expertise which is paramount to a successful business (unless of course you’re goal is to be unsuccessful, then by all means, be fake AF.) The cool kids rise to the height of celebrity because they understand the fundamental rule of what it means to ‘keep it real’: be yourself or perish.
Let’s start with why people struggle with “keeping it real” to begin with. In theory it could be an infinite variety of complexities that may require a therapy session with 4 twinkies, a bubble bath, and some champagne. But I’ve found there are three top reasons that have repetitiously surfaced, and thus are worthy of mention:
The constant comparison to some other person.
So… you’ve stumbled upon some other business that’s doing exactly what you want to be doing, and KILLING IT. Naturally, you can’t resist but replicate exactly what they’re doing because it’s obviously working (Duh!). Here’s the thing, yes, you can copy them and you may very well get success. Maybe. Problem is, you’re not being you. You’re just a carbon copy of some other brand with different packaging. Your audience may entertain it, but they certainly won’t respect you. Most importantly, you’re always going to find yourself being one step behind; always trying to figure out what to do next since all your moves will be motivated by what someone else is doing.
The insistence to appeal to everyone.
Have you ever tried going out to eat with a group 8 of people and finding one restaurant that everyone likes? Doesn’t it make you want to rip out every hair follicle on your body? It…is…hell! Some people are really adamant (arguably to the point of stupidity) about creating a brand that is for everyone. Meaning they want their mother, brother, grandmother to love it in that order (Did you catch the Kanye reference? I did that just for you.) Problem is the larger the group, the harder it is to please everyone. You end up saying or doing something that is so basic, it completely bores everyone.
Just having no clue what to do.
Imagine a photographer walks up to you and asks to take your picture. You could fall into two categories: photogenic, or non-photogenic. You either have a pose ready for them, or you look like John from the movie Hancock, forcing a smile smile that looks like Penny Wise from the movie IT. When we’re not ourselves, we become the non-photogenic person posing for the camera. It’s just ugly. When we’re in our element, comfortable in our environment, discussing topics that actually interest us, and fashioned with stuff that makes us feel like super models, we become that photogenic person who seemingly is always ready to pose for the camera. Point being, when we have no clue what we’re doing, we can come off so weird and awkward that people would rather be anywhere and doing anything except for being around us.
Essentially being authentic has everything to do about doing a quick self check-up. We need to ask ourselves: Am I just copying someone else? Am I trying to please everyone? What exactly am I even trying to say? These questions help us focus on getting down to the real essence of what our objective is: being you. The real you. The unapologetically lovable version of you.
Never feel obligated to imitate something else. Instead, unleash the vision you originally conceived and you will be able to speak to it like you would describe the best slice of pizza you’ve ever had. Never feel stifled by the demands of a large group with thousands of picky personas. Niche it down so that you can satisfy the every need of a small group. And most certainly never get caught being fake. Instead be one of the cool kids that has a reputation for being hella smart and hella respected.
So I want to know, did you fall into one or all of the three categories above? If not, what do you think is hard about being authentic?