Sometimes it's just easier to be fake. To go with the flow. Act like everyone else and not rock the boat. Also, blunt honesty runs the risk of offending people. Just imagine your neighbor inviting you to a wine party and you say,"The last time I came over your friends put me to sleep, the wine was awful and I was bored to tears. So, no thanks, I'd rather watch paint dry." Safe to say, neighborly relations would decline rapidly.
Jean Paul Sartre might have written that "Hell is other people," but in society today, you have to play nice. Nobody enjoys crabby personalities or incendiary comments. If your spouse laments gaining a few pounds, best not to earnestly agree. I'm not suggesting outright lies. I'm simply acknowledging that we all adopt socially acceptable responses. To spare people's feelings. To get along.
Find the 1% of you
Now that I've established the importance of benevolent diplomacy, let me share the flip side. People are more interested in the real you. Savvy individuals can spot a fake a mile away. That forced smile, insincere comment and feigned interest? They can spot that, too. This is particularly true with politicians. The impossibility of pleasing everyone forces candidates into scripted monologues, non answers and murky platitudes. That's why, when a candidate speaks from the heart, we listen. Because we're shocked to hear the truth. We're blissfully refreshed to encounter some authenticity.
Website designer, writer and self described "freelancer evangelist" Paul Jarvis had this to say in one of his blog posts: "Regardless of your skill set or the audience you serve, 99% of what you do is the same as the competition. The remaining 1% is unique to you. That’s your personal brand. That last 1% is how you stand out, differentiate, build a tribe, become known. That 1% is the most difficult and most scary part to work on. Because it’s you, the real, honest, vulnerable you. Yet, this is how you stand out in a crowded world.”
Whether you're a visual artist, sculptor, musician, writer, crafter or creative spirit, you probably want people to notice and appreciate your work. The problem is that most of us have our creative idols. And we often try to emulate them. In a way, this is fine because it helps us develop and grow. But eventually, we need to cut the artistic umbilical chord and find our own voice.
The Susan Boyle moment
When the infamously blunt Simon Cowell first met a frumpy Susan Boyle on the stage of "Britain's Got Talent" in 2009, he asked her, "How old are you, Susan?" and she said, "I am 47, and that's just one side of me!" Then she sashayed her hips from side to side. Simon Cowell's eyes got big. The audience clearly viewed Susan as a joke. Until she began singing. And out of this unknown, frumpy, middle aged woman came an angelic voice. Afterward, people were in tears.
The key thing that Susan Boyle said was "And that's just one side of me!" Because the reality is that we are all made of many layers. We play many roles for various people in different situations. But beneath all of that is the core. The real you.
In the case of Susan Boyle, her reality was more than a frumpy, middle aged woman from the back country. Her core, her truth, was an achingly beautiful voice and creative spirit. No doubt, Susan's seemingly plain exterior brought its share of insecurity and pain over the years. But Susan transcended that and tapped her authentic self. The other side of her, within, that possessed a remarkable gift.
Don't give up, express what's in your heart
What I love about Paul Jarvis' 1% insight is that we each have it. The challenge is figuring out how to get out of our own way. How to stop copying everyone else and anguishing for approval. Yes, there is hard work involved here. You've got to experiment, push, practice and dig deep. And each time you finish a piece of creative expression that's not quite right, don't give up. Like Edison's lightbulb experiments, you can chalk it up to progress.
Let the real you come out. Give expression to what's in your heart and creative soul. There's only one you, and the opportunity is there to craft something unique and authentic. It may have shades of other influences, but as long as you infuse that 1% of the real you, people will take notice. And then you'll be on your way.