Part Two of Chapter Four of The Power of Authentic Leadership
What You Hear Isn’t Necessarily True
Our phone conversation on a roll now, Jeff continued sharing with me his excellent wisdom and advice.
“We live in this age where everyone says to follow your passion,” Jeff said. “I don’t think they are particularly helpful.”
Some people will tell you to jump off a cliff and grow wings on the way down. Jeff and I both don’t agree with this approach. Let’s take a test group of one million people. One or two out of those million people may be able to succeed in their venture by blindly jumping into it. But the rest of the people may crash. We tend to only hear about the success stories, not the failures. We hear from the few who make it, people who then scream from the mountaintops that the way to succeed is to jump off the cliff. Society tends to worship people like this.
Jeff and I are advocating for a more practical approach. There’s nothing wrong with following your passion, but the zeitgeist gets us into trouble when it tells us to go after our dreams without ever showing us how to properly do it. If you are working a full-time job and wanting to become an entrepreneur, why not wait to replace your full-time income with your side passion before leaving your job? If you hate your job, then transition to a job that’s a better fit for you. There’s no need to jump off the cliff and put undue stress on yourself, just because you hear about someone’s one-in-a-million, unlikely, success story. There’s absolutely no need to compare yourself to that person. That’s their journey, and this is yours.
Please don’t misunderstand: I’m all for dreaming and thinking big. I’m all for doing the improbable. In fact, I live for that kind of stuff. I love proving people wrong and succeeding faster than anyone would have ever expected. And that’s what you are and will continue to do. All I’m saying is to balance your big dreams with what you can realistically do in this present moment. In my own evolution as a person, I’ve found that success is more than just dreaming big dreams, although that is a great place to start. Success is about doing. It’s about taking action and moving the needle forward each day. When I stopped getting endlessly caught up in the fantasy of the perfect tomorrow and started to embrace the reality of today, the irony is that’s when I started to make real progress on my dreams.
When I left jobs to go after my entrepreneurial dreams before ever having made money as an entrepreneur, I fell flat on my face. This happened to me twice. I left well-paying jobs to go after this elusive dream of the good life of the entrepreneur, only to find that in reality, I had no idea what it really took to succeed as an entrepreneur. But when I approached the process from a more practical standpoint, that’s (ironically) when my business started to take off.
Here’s the point: Don’t be fooled by society’s obsession with following your passion. Instead, use the following process from Jeff to discover your purpose and your why. Then use that as a bridge to finding a career that’s meaningful, and gradually make progress over time. This may not make for a good movie script, but it’s the reality you must hold to if you want to most effectively embrace your authenticity and achieve prosperity.
Jeff’s Three-step Process for Self-discovery
“Step one, figure out who you really are,” Jeff said. “The only way to do that is to look inwardly. Ask yourself: Who am I really? Do some soul searching. Years of counseling and relationships have taught me that people do change, and the understanding of who you are grows and evolves.”
Jeff explained to me that some people are rigidly caught up in who they are and how they act, in the sense that they feel like they will never change. This is a limiting belief: Both my friend Jeff and I have seen plenty of people change, including ourselves.
“Step two,” Jeff continued, “is to get feedback from trusted sources. We really struggle with this in the western civilized world. We don’t do a good job of inviting friends, mentors, bosses, and peers to say what they see in us. In one light, yes, people will tell you to do this or that, and it may not be relevant to you. But in another light, you won’t find your true self alone. It happens in community when others see something in us.”
This reminds me of Dananjaya Hettiarachchi’s World Championship-winning speech I See Something, in which he shares how he became great because of what other people saw in him. I featured Dananjaya in my previous book, Reach Your Mountaintop: 10 Keys to Finding the Hidden Opportunity in Your Setbacks, Flipping What You’ve Heard on Its Head, and Achieving Legendary Goals.
“Derek Sivers says something that I absolutely love: What’s obvious to you is amazing to others,” Jeff said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the friends and mentors I surround myself with. I was just doing an interview, and someone asked me the way I approach writing. It happens by engaging the community.”
Jeff went on to explain that even as we actively seek feedback from others, it’s not always easy.
“Some people are going to say things like Who are you to try that? Don’t do that!” Jeff said. “Some people want you to stay in a box. So, this is a complicated and complex process.”
What Jeff is saying here is, it’s up to each one of us what we choose to apply in our lives. You have the final say when it comes to what you apply in your life. It’s also crucial to surround yourself with the right people – people who care about you and at the same time will be honest with you.
“Step three is to meditate or pray,” Jeff said. “Whichever works for you.”
This is the perfect third step to self-discovery because it is through meditation and prayer that we can access our intuition and go with the decision that feels best to us. When we connect with the truth of our inner selves through silence, the noise of the outer world fades away.
One of the keys to achieving prosperity through authenticity is to live your life. If you don’t have enough content to share with others, it may not mean you lack creativity. It may simply be an indicator that you need to put yourself out there more and really live your life.
Finding Your Calling
“Parker Palmer wrote a powerful book called A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life,” Jeff said. “What it comes down to, is having integrity and being a whole person. This doesn’t mean you are always going to be good and honorable, but it does mean you are who you say you are. When you are not true to yourself, you lose your integrity and disintegrate. Disintegration means you are falling apart on the inside. Being disintegrated from who you are will cause uneasiness.
“Palmer talks about the inner teacher. There’s this resonance that occurs when you are doing what you love. When someone points out to you, That’s it, keep doing that, you know you’ve found your calling.”
I love how Jeff also provides meaningful and authentic examples.
“An example is parenting my son,” Jeff said. “When I see my son light up, I know I’m being a good dad. We know intuitively when we are doing something that feels true to ourselves. Your calling is that place where your deepest joy meets the world’s deepest needs. You may have hobbies that don’t meet the demands of the world. The sweet spot is that intersection, yet so many people are trying to find themselves by themselves.”
It’s a good idea to take time for yourself to figure out who you are. Don’t stop there. This is where Jeff is saying some people get stuck. Instead of staying by yourself, go into the community and figure out where your talents intersect with the needs and wants of the world. “Nothing beats talking with someone face to face,” Jeff said.
“Once a quarter, I text ten friends,” Jeff said. “I send emails to former co-workers and old friends.”
Jeff proactively engages with the people around him because he wants feedback and he wants to make sure what he’s doing is relevant to others. This takes a lot of courage to do, and Jeff is leading the way.
“When I get in an argument with someone I’m close to, I sometimes tell them This is who I am,” Jeff said. “But the truth is my temperament is a choice.”
Jeff, like the rest of us, has ongoing ups and downs, trials and tribulations. But through self-reflection and seeking outside help, he becomes aware of his areas for improvement.
“Sometimes people are doing what they want in a selfish and immature way,” Jeff said. “That’s why being true to yourself and finding your calling has two parts. One, ask yourself Who am I? Do that soul work and tap into your interests, passions, and things you love. Two, get that feedback. You cannot become self-aware alone. We find our true selves where self-awareness and community intersect.”
Doing One Thing Versus Having an Overarching Focus
“To sum up what we’ve covered so far,” Jeff said, “get people to give you honest feedback on the areas you might be missing. Also, listen to your inner teacher. When you do these two things, you will have a deeper appreciation for who you really are, as opposed to going off to the monastery.”
What does Jeff mean by “as opposed to going off to the monastery”? He means rather than secluding yourself from others, society, and the world, seek to integrate these lessons into your daily life. There are parts of ourselves that want to be alone, and there are other parts of ourselves that enjoy being with others. Your most authentic self is where those two come together. To activate your authenticity, you must find the balance that works for you in finding community while also making time for yourself.
This may sound a little contradictory at times, but give yourself space to play with two opposing ideas in your head at the same time. Enfolded within spending time with others is the need to be alone. And at the end of alone time is the desire to be with others. Both are true. Jeff’s advice is solving a problem I’ve had for a while: reconciling my introverted nature of needing alone time with my outgoing nature of enjoying socializing and going to networking events. There is value in having multiple sides to your psyche, and when these sides are merged together, your truest self will emerge.
Bestselling author Neale Donald Walsch agrees wholeheartedly with what we’re discussing. I asked him on Twitter if ultimate truth can be realized in this moment, or if there is more to realize based on the foundational truth we now know. He responded with one powerful, enlightening word: Both. Sometimes you must hold contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. There are usually degrees of truth to both sides of a discussion or argument. The goal with this chapter, and the book as a whole, is to integrate seemingly contradictory sides of your psyche and find the authentic wholeness that is innately yours.
“What are your thoughts on doing one thing versus having an overarching focus?” I asked Jeff.
“The goal is not to be a Jack-of-all-trades,” Jeff said, “but a master of some. It can be very risky to just do one thing, like an investor putting all stocks into one portfolio. The portfolio life is about diversifying yourself without spreading yourself too thin. Yes, pick one thing you really want to do, but typically when you master one thing, it leads to other opportunities.”
Did you follow that? Jeff is not discouraging you from having that one thing you focus on like a laser. He’s pointing out that in the process of having your one thing, more things will emerge – the need to master new skills, the opportunity to meet new people, etc. – and that’s where you must delicately and strategically expand your horizons.
Jeff also pointed out to me that it’s not important to fit in as much as it’s important to focus on your strengths and excel at the things you are good at. In fact, a big part of Jeff’s success was to focus on what he wanted to do, often not listening to the things other people said he should be doing. If what you are doing is to please others and not a reflection of your true self, it may be time to change. If your “one thing” isn’t you, then do something else!
To be clear: This is not encouraging you to constantly jump from one thing to the next. It’s getting you to implement a mindset that allows you to try different things, accounting for the benefit of widening your perspective while having a general focus. It doesn’t mean you will try to do everything, but it also doesn’t mean you have to only ever focus on one thing.
“A great example is Michelangelo and Da Vinci,” Jeff said. “Michelangelo was all-in on sculpting. Then Da Vinci said to him, Hey, painting is better. They made a bet and Michelangelo lost, so Michelangelo picked up painting. The Pope heard Michelangelo was now painting and that led to Michelangelo becoming an architect. Michelangelo was essentially an entrepreneur.
“As was the case with Michelangelo, one thing leads to another thing, which leads to another thing. When this happens, you learn a couple complementary skills. Using myself as an example, my first and main skill is writing. My second skill is business and entrepreneurship, which is about making money. And my third skill is marketing. By creating value and then selling those things, I get the money I need to give myself more time to work and create.
“You are looking for one really focused skill, and then some complementary skills that benefit that main skill. One opportunity tends to beget another. You don’t have to chase every single opportunity, BUT it is advantageous to combine a couple of skills in a unique way. This is what makes you marketable.
“Robert Greene, in his book Mastery, talks about mastering your craft and how the future belongs to people who take different skills and combine them in interesting ways. The company Apple really hit its stride when they introduced two different groups to one another: engineers and artists, people who love to make really functional things and people who love to use those functional things.”
Create Daily Habits
“One of my favorite blog posts of yours was how you talked about the best year of your life happening when you stopped setting goals,” I said to Jeff. “Do you think there is any value in having goals, or is there a better way to go about getting what we want while helping others?”
“I love achieving things,” Jeff said, “and I do enjoy planning. But the best year of my life was not about a plan. At the same time, it wasn’t just letting things happen either. It was about habits, doing what I could do right now to set into motion things that can continue without me. That was the year I went from working at a nonprofit job with a salary, to becoming a dad, starting a business, publishing two books, quitting my job, my wife quitting her job, and now chasing my dream. This was not the plan and this was not what I thought would happen.”
“Would you say habits are the secret to your greatness?” I asked Jeff, smiling through the phone.
“Yes,” Jeff said. “Creating daily habits. It’s not about having these big, audacious goals. It’s about doing the hard things now and the easy things later.”
“That’s very well said, Jeff,” I said. “Right on the money. People have asked me how I’ve written several books. I told them it wasn’t about conquering the whole mountain in a day. The key to success is taking it one bit, one day, one step at a time. It’s alright to have a long-term goal, but it can’t be something you do someday. Someday is an undetermined point in the future, which often turns into never. Your dream has to be something you work on today. What are your parting shots, my friend?”
“Do a quarterly review of your life,” Jeff said. “I have a very formal process I go through. I ask feedback from trusted sources, connecting with good friends at least one day of the week. Some people are busier than others, so do what works for you regarding the exact timeframe, but I suggest taking inventory at least once a quarter. Ask yourself, What did these last three months look like and what am I learning about myself? Most people never do this.
“I just connected with my mentor, a twenty-five-million-dollar CEO of one of the top companies in the world. I asked him what he wishes he had more of when he was starting out. He said he wishes he got coaches and mentors to give him feedback much, much earlier.”
You just got direct input and wisdom from one of the top bloggers in the world, and one of the greatest writers in human history. Take what most resonates with you from his remarkable insights and run with them. If you apply these tips into your life, you will achieve prosperity through authenticity and reap a lifetime of success.
I’ll leave you with another life-changing quote from Jeff Goins, to show you what he’s really made of: “It’s not about ego for me. It’s about helping people.”
Now go be the authentic leader you were meant to be.
Jeff Davis is an award-winning author, keynote speaker, and leadership expert. Learn more about authentic leadership in his book The Power of Authentic Leadership: Activating the 13 Keys to Achieving Prosperity Through Authenticity.