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Oct 25

The Worst Advice Ever: Be Authentic

authenticdefinitionIt is possible to wear out a good thing by overusing it. Tap someone once with a finger and you get their attention… do it repeatedly and you make a bruise. The same is true with using words until they become so stale that they induce nausea. Listen to the advice given to someone looking for a job in a tough market and you will undoubtedly hear the advice to be authentic. The problem with the well-wishers offering this sage advice is that nobody knows what that means anymore. Does it mean that people who are authentic liars should do the best job possible at lying? If pop labeling an action is important, then why not tell them to be organic? Or gluten free?

The best way to find out if something has been used up or reached maximum saturation is to look at motivational memes that use it out of context. There is authentic comedy in pictures of the word authentic offered to people who will make it a meaningless mantra to themselves and then share it as wisdom to others. I have a picture on my desk of a ship in a storm-tossed sea. It has meaning to me because I know who gave it to me, I know the circumstances of that gift, and it motivates me to make things happen. If I gave that to you, would you think I was suggesting that your life is a disaster and you are probably going to sink? Context is more important than slogans or mere words.

We live in an age where advertising slogans are created to induce people to buy things they don’t need for a price they can’t afford. We have lowered our defenses against the onslaught of meaningless propaganda to the point that we have trained ourselves to repeat it to others as if it were some kind of divine revelation. In doing so we have diluted the message and cast a borderline insult at the people we are trying to help. There is no point to advice that has a flimsy definition or cloudy understanding.

If somebody tells you to be authentic, engage your crap filters and go deeper into yourself. You don’t have to go back to some state of being that once existed. The original may be flawed or become broken in the process of living your life. The goal should be to become better than the original. There doesn’t seem to be a sliding scale of authenticity, but you are not a static being. You don’t have to be better than everyone else. You just have to be better than you are today. Only you can measure that.