How to practice rigorous authenticity by surrendering what others think


Contributed by Michael Brody-Waite, a recovered addict of 18 years who uses his incredible experience with addiction and recovery to benefit leaders and entrepreneurs who want to step into their own authentic leadership style. He’s the author of Great Leaders Live Like Drug Addicts: How to Lead Like Your Life Depends on It and was a recent EO 360 podcast guest.

The Question

In teaching leaders a step-by-step program to find their own authentic leadership style, I often look inward and ask questions about where I can improve my practice of rigorous authenticity.

Doing so often inspires difficult questions, including this one: 

What are you holding onto because of what people will think?

If I answer that myself, I have to say that I have a large book collection. I love reading, highlighting and learning.

And—confession time—I keep most of my books around to impress YOU.

The Story

For the last 10 years, I have moved my entire book collection from house to house.

Each time we moved, they stayed boxed up in the attic or garage.
Each time, my wife begged me, “Can we please donate the ones you don’t love to people who need them?”
Each time, I responded, “No way. I’m going to have a library someday!”

And if I get rigorously authentic, I want that library someday so that I can impress you.

In my mind, I’m already visualizing a guest walking through that library, thinking to themselves:  

“He read that business book? He must be smart in business!”
“He read that crazy sci-fi book? He’s got an edge!”
“He read that tender book? He must be deep!”

Those books physically and symbolically weigh down my house, family and soul with unnecessary “stuff” for the sole purpose of making me look good in the future.

Want to know how bad it gets? Here’s a great example:

In 2011, I listened to John Grisham’s The Litigators, realized I had no way to display it—and so I bought a physical copy of the book.  

I have been lugging that book and 20 others like it around for ten years!

Don’t get me wrong: About 20 percent of my books are ones that I love and go back to time and time again. That 20 percent of the books are for ME.

But the rest? That other 80 percent? Over the last 10 years, I have kept them around for you.

And between the pandemic, having kids, my mom dying, and becoming part of a Mask-Free Society that practices rigorous authenticity, I can’t evade the truth anymore.

I am tired of cluttering up my space and my soul with a bunch of books that represent just how much I care about what other people think.

So I’m getting rid of 80 percent of my collection. I’m donating them to someone who needs them.

If living a rigorously authentic life was a sport, today I would be winning.

The Lesson

Look at your own life and consider this question: What are you holding onto because of what people will think?

This week, commit to getting rid of something you think you “should” keep. “Should” always means something is about what other people think.

So, identify one thing you’re holding onto:

  • Clothes
  • Gifts
  • Trophies
  • Pictures
  • Degrees
  • Titles
  • Friends
  • Volunteer positions
  • Responsibilities at work

Then give it to someone who needs it, remove it from your profile, or delegate it to a co-worker. Then celebrate that you’ve taken back some of your freedom.

And remember: You can’t control what other people think but you can control whether you focus on the top 20 percent in your life.  

Categories: Best Practices Coaching Guest contributors Inspirational


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