Don’t Be Your Authentic Self. Do This Instead.

I nominate authenticity as the single most damaging and self-limiting word that exists.

“I’m being my authentic self.” “I’m just trying to be authentic to who I am.” You hear it all the time.

The problem with authenticity is that it’s stagnant. It’s fixed. If we’re being genuinely authentic to ourselves, we’re committing to being the same person we were last year and the year before and the year before that. 

Do you really want to be authentic? Really? Or do you want to be the best version of yourself that you can be?

As an exec coach, I’m in the people growth business. Growth is really hard. It’s hard because it feels weird. It feels different. It’s uncomfortable. By definition, growth is inauthentic.

Growth is also hard because, over time, those around you expect you to act in a certain way. And they don’t always like it when you try to change. Some people flat out want your change efforts to fall short. They want to see you fail. Your change makes them uncomfortable.

This is why it’s so critical to surround yourself with people who will build you up. And in turn, you need to be the kind of person who builds up others. We all can do better at champion self improvement.

Real change requires acting differently. It’s easier to do what comes naturally. It’s easier to keep the same habits and beliefs. It’s easier to be authentic. But authenticity shuts down our growth. It limits our potential.

So, let’s rethink authenticity. Let’s stop glamorizing authenticity. Let’s focus not on being true to who we are today, but instead on being true to the person we can become.

Let’s focus on growth, not authenticity. Because growth is what we’re all really seeking in the end. 

LinkedIn, Microsoft, and the Never-Ending Need to Adapt

Two months ago I was invited to speak at a career conference in Provo, Utah. I was excited to return to my alma mater and teach career advisors how to help college students thrive in today’s workplace. I concluded my remarks with a quote that one of my undergraduate professors kept posted outside his door:

It is not the strongest that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

I remember walking by his office, reading the quote, and wondering why he put it there. But a few months after graduation, when the company I joined declared bankruptcy and I was struggling to find work, I realized why my professor felt so strongly about the need to adapt.

Like many people in their career, I planned on one thing, but events outside of my control forced me to pivot. I think Mike Tyson said it best: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

On Monday I woke up to the announcement that LinkedIn had been acquired by Microsoft. Like many of my west coast colleagues, I heard the news through a flurry of text messages and emails. Experiencing a range of emotions, I couldn’t help but think back to the presentation I had recently given on the need to continually adapt. Now I had to practice what I preached.

Having had a few days to process what this all means for LinkedIn and our future, I am genuinely excited for the acquisition. Of course, having worked in M&A, I know that acquisitions are never easy—the devil is always in the details. But I’m optimistic about how this new partnership can help LinkedIn realize its vision of creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.

Shortly after the deal announcement, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner addressed the company. After discussing the opportunities that lie ahead, he shared a story about Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) of the Duke Blue Devils. In Jeff’s words:

“Every time (Duke) goes up and down the court and they complete a sequence, offense or defense, Coach K yells out the exact same thing, every time. He yells out “next play,” because he doesn’t want the team lingering too long on what just took place. He doesn’t want them celebrating that incredible alley-oop dunk, and he doesn’t want them lamenting the fact that the opposing team just stole the ball and had a fast break that led to an easy layup. You can take a moment to reflect on what just happened, and you probably should, but you shouldn’t linger too long on it…”

When change happens, we must be willing to adapt. We can’t dwell obsessively on what once was or what might have been. We must look forward.

The past is to be learned from, but not lived in.

Next play.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.