Vail Daily column: Inside out
I was 17 years old and working three jobs during the summer. At 7.30 a.m., the call schedule at the small telemarketing firm where I spent my waking hours would start. My team and I would call people on their landlines (this was 2001) in order to gain consent to ship them a free cell phone that had a two year contract attached. There was no training and the calls were grueling. The 10-minute break allowed by law consisted of every salesperson in the building walking onto a nearby patio and chain-smoking. I didn’t smoke, so I would take a lap.
After a month or so of calling for exactly eight hours a day, then going to one of my second jobs until 9 or 10 at night, I started to get bored. The only thing I could think to do was start to perform my calls in different accents. Incredibly, though my dialect impersonations were downright awful, this activity spiced things up. In addition, the engagement level from the people I called increased. My sales went up, but my conscience, and our call auditing team, eventually caught up to me. It just wasn’t authentic.
The more I considered the tactics that many top salespeople were using at the firm, the more I realized that authenticity was a core issue regardless of your accent. I finished out the summer at the job and was grateful to leave for school.
I’m glad I had that lesson as a teenager. As I look around our business world today, it has become even more apparent that much of the fear and uncertainty we bump into is a result of the separation between our public selves and our authentic selves.
Occasionally I’ll find someone who is the exact same on the inside as they are on the outside, and these people tend to become part of my inner circle. We do business together. I’ll clarify: It doesn’t matter if we have similar goals, beliefs or political views. All I need to know is that who they claim to be is actually who they are (or at least, who they are trying to become).
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Of course, as you likely already know, false authenticity is around, too. They gain your trust and then hang you out to dry. I suppose that’s why the Reaganism “trust but verify” exists. There are also those that use authenticity as an excuse to be mean-spirited, lazy, or whatever laundry list of flaws you want to come up with. “I guess I’m just blunt.” No, you enjoy not having to put effort into your personal communication and use authenticity as the reason for your lack of effort and caring for other people.
As you also already know, authenticity makes you vulnerable. It leaves you open to be taken advantage of on some level — if, of course, you are being completely authentic at all times and in all places. Your negative and positive emotions show. Some professionals, as a result, create a pretty defined wall between their public selves and their private selves. I call that playing defense.
Though I agree that we need to protect ourselves from time to time, can you imagine what would happen if we didn’t? I’m not talking about just a small portion of the population here — I’m referring to every being on the planet simultaneously making the same decision to be authentic. We would do business more quickly. Most of the public problems would be resolved and we would put our heads together on the ones we couldn’t immediately fix. Impossible? Yes, yes I know, and it kills me to admit it.
I believe that we can make a choice to play offense, regardless of the consequences. When we make the choice to be authentic, all of a sudden we start to attract authentic people. We build trust. We create synergies. The result is not just a transaction but a community. Some might say that this is an impossible task — that the presence of self-interest and potential loss will prevent the average person from being authentic. Self-interest is fine; so is loss.
I bump into way too many people who get to the end of their lives and have to rewrite the memories in their brains in order to avoid constant regret. I ask myself: What stories am I telling myself? Why not simply accept responsibility for writing the story you truly want to be written? Anyone can make the choice today to start creating instead of justifying. The first step, I believe, is in recognizing the beauty in allowing your true self to be a public part of your life.
Ben Gochberg is a commercial lender and business finance consultant. He plays, lives, works and is trying to do a little good in Eagle County. He can be reached for business inquiries or free consultation at 970-471-3546.