I had a really interesting conversation this week with a couple of friends about the price of authenticity. At the root of the discussion was the intersection where full freak-flag-flying authenticity meets the need to conform to the context of doing business.
You and I have had this discussion a number of times over the years. Let’s say you do the good (and hard) work of getting clear on important questions like:
- Who am I?
- What are my gifts?
- What do I stand for?
- What do I value?
And then, you even take the brave steps to begin living in a way that provides evidence of your answers to these questions, there are still some situations where conformity appears to rule the day. There are situations and times, it seems, when packing up that freak flag might be the right thing to do. But, maybe you will see it differently.
For example, you are a dude with some pretty significant and visible tatoos. In what situations would you cover them up? Are there situations where a business opportunity would make you consider looking more “conservative” in order to get in the door? Or is that never a consideration?
- Is dressing up or looking a particular part to get a job conforming if you wouldn’t normally wear that kind of clothes?
- When do you share your opinions and when do you bit your tongue?
- When do you show some serious creativity and put your personality into your work? When do you play it safe?
I think when we talk about authenticity and freak flags, it’s tempting to go down the extreme route of thinking that this means never conforming to your situation and always letting your opinions fly. I think we both agree that flying your freak flag isn’t an aggressive action, but is more about acting accordingly with who you really are as a person.
The tricky part is navigating the trade offs and decisions that show up when you have to decide to conform a bit, particularly when there’s high stakes. As I’ve thought about this, I personally think that it’s all about priorities and understanding what’s most important to you. By getting crystal clear on what’s most central to your identity and beliefs, it becomes easier to make decisions on what is open to compromise and what is not.
But, you are our resident freak flag expert, so you may have a different opinion on this topic. I’ll be interested to hear your take on this issue.