Sam and Jayson discuss the importance of authenticity, and how it applies to business and life.
--Episode 11 - How to Be Authentic, and Why It Matters--
Sam McRoberts, CEO of VUDU Marketing and the author of Screw the Zoo, and Jayson DeMers, CEO of EmailAnalytics, discuss How to Be Authentic, and Why It Matters.
With many decades of combined business and digital marketing experience, Jayson and Sam will walk you through everything you need to know as you go through your own entrepreneurial journey.
Links to things mentioned in the podcast:
--New episodes go live every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8am Pacific--
Sam: Welcome to The Entrepreneur Cast, your source for tactical lessons in entrepreneurship from a cast of entrepreneurs. I'm Sam McRoberts.
Jayson: I'm Jayson DeMers.
Sam: And this week, we're going to do something a little different. This is going to be a discussion about how to be authentic and why it matters. So, this has been on my mind for a while. Jayson, what do you think about this?
Jayson: Well, to be honest, I'm a little nervous about this episode because this is something different. So, on our previous episodes, we have generally prepared with, you know, notes, bullet points, statistics to reference. I'm the kind of guy who, I like to have sort of a note sheet in front of me and make sure that when we discuss this thing, I'm going to be sure that I don't forget to say A, B and C, you know, I want to feel like I did my homework for each episode, and like, I came into it prepared. Well, this one I feel not prepared at all. And so, I guess and the reason why I don't feel prepared at all is because we've got no bullet points or anything like that. This is going to be sort of a freewheeling discussion. And I think Sam, this is sort of your style, whereas for me, I feel woefully underprepared, and I'm interested to see what I have to say on this topic without doing any research coming in.
Sam: And that's very authentic. So yeah, like that's, I think that's very authentic. Yeah, I'm very different. I like to just sit down and have freewheeling conversations. I don't like referencing notes because for me, it ends up feeling scripted. So, we're very different-- we're very different in that way. But that's, I would also say that that's a, I don't know, a rather simple piece of authenticity so, it's not inauthentic to read from notes. I mean, I guess it can be if it's a little too scripted. But when I'm thinking about authenticity, and this is what's really been on my mind lately is changing the way you act, speak, how you present things, based on what you feel like you need to from other people, right? Some outside force, fear, judgment, whatever is pushing you to do something differently than what you feel like you ought to be doing, and that to me is authentic. Authentic is being you, like the purest version of you without filters and without reservations. Like, you know, kind of following who you think you should be, speaking the way you think you should speak, but not based on outside factors. Does that make sense?
Jayson: Yeah, no, that does make sense and I mean, I think that authenticity is really important when it comes to content creation these days, because there's so much content out there. And so, you can really differentiate yourself by being real and separating yourself from that corporate voice that we've all become so used to. But I mean, what-- so, what prompted this? I know that so, just, you know, full disclosure, Sam hits me up, like last night, literally over text message, and he's like, "Hey, let's talk about authenticity.", and I'm like, "Oh, shit, I don't know what I'm going to say.". And he's like, "That's cool. Let's just do it.", and so, here we are. But, Sam, I mean, what prompted this? What are you seeing that made you want to talk about authenticity?
Sam: So, this is a sequence of a lot of things. So, one, over the last, I'd say, year and a half to two years, I've really been digging into the rabbit hole of the nature of reality, right? Like, what's real? What's fundamental? What's the part of us like, real crazy, existential, spiritual, new age, all over the place, right? I'm trying to, I don't know, I've always been interested in that rabbit hole, and there's a thread in there that is, a little bit synchronicity, a little bit pattern, a little bit alignment or flow. But the concept basically is, perhaps the universe has a plan, maybe not perfectly organized plan, like a rough direction. And in your life, as you live your life, you can kind of feel the difference between when things are flowing and operating smoothly and when there's friction. And that friction usually comes when you are resisting something, when you're energizing something like, you're putting energy into not doing something you know you should or, like, have you ever experienced that? Like you, there's a thing that on some level, you feel like you should do or want to do, and every time you do it, you just kind of like, hit a wall, it feels abrasive, like something is just grinding at you as you do it, and you just kind of get that feeling that you're maybe a little off center.
Jayson: I'm getting sort of a vague picture here. Can you give me an example to sort of concrete this idea?
Sam: Sure. So, I think, as a kid, for example, you have traits that are innately you, right? There's going to be a basket of things that you just, you come out of the freaking womb with it. You know, people see it early and they tell you about it, "Hey, man, you're like this sort of person.", and you these threads are really common. And then as you grow older, they kind of get bent, dumbed down, padded with other things, with expectations, with experiences, and over time, if you're not careful, you become a little less you. So, maybe, you know as a kid, you wanted to be an astronaut or an adventurer, or you showed a propensity for writing or singing, or creating music or designing games or whatever it is. And somewhere along the line someone tells you, "Well, that's not practical. You can't do that, you're not good enough.", whatever it is. And so, you start to think maybe that's true. And you get off center and you start doing something different. One example would be, I would say, people who go to school for a degree in an area that will make them a lot of money, but about which they feel precisely zero passion or interest. And so, they pursue this career and sure they make money, but they just feel absolutely fucking dead inside, because there's nothing you know? It's not true to them. Does that make sense?
Jayson: Yeah, I mean, I get where you're coming from. And so, what you're saying is, you know, you start out sort of in one lane in life, and you gradually change lanes, depending on other people's feedback, and you change and you become less who you used to be.
Sam: Not even less who you used to be, but maybe just less true to those fundamental attributes. Because I see this pretty universally, I've never encountered a kid who doesn't have some set of things that just, they appear there very early and they're consistent, and they're really hard to hammer out, like you can, but they're there. You know, I saw it with me as a kid, I've seen it with Connor, same with Ashley, same with just a lot of other kids and, you know, adults that I've observed, like there are these traits that are there. And people who are the farthest from those traits, and their true interests seem to be the least happy and the least successful. Just an observation. So, this is one of the threads. Another was, I just listened to a podcast with Tim Ferriss and Brian Koppelman. Brian Koppelman is the creator of the show Billions amongst other things, bunch of different movies like, the dude is brilliant. But the podcast episode, I don't think it was the original intent, but it ended up being all about authenticity, right? The authenticity that Brian tries to bring into his creative work, and his openness and effort to be more open about his struggles. You know, I think people who look at high performers, sometimes they only see the highlight reel, and they think, "Wow, they just, you know, they hit it out of the park every single time and they're always perfect, and everything's always polished.", and you're seeing a highlight reel, like, you're not seeing the authentic, full picture, you're seeing the resume. And so, that podcast kind of stood out. And then, there's just me like, personally, you know, I'm trying to really dig into my own life and identify areas where I'm being inauthentic and to try and be more transparent and more me, and to just give that thought. So, it's been on my mind from like, a lot of different angles, but I think it applies in the scope of podcasts. It applies here, it applies to business and entrepreneurship, because as you said, it seems to be something that is sorely lacking in the world, particularly the corporate world.
Jayson: Yeah, I agree. And I think it really does make a difference, you know, and like I said, especially for content creation, which is really, I mean, the field of content marketing and content creation is so flooded right now, with so many people and businesses and brands doing so much stuff, that I think it's a way to stand out above the crowd. And so, that's sort of how I see it in the context of entrepreneurship.
Jayson: I mean, another angle of entrepreneurship would be, being different, taking a different approach, whether it's, you know, having a business that is focused genuinely more on like the customer, their happiness, their success, regardless, even if it costs them money, even if it doesn't make them as much revenue, they still insist on doing what's right for their customer, above all. Or maybe it's a brand that is trying really hard to be a good steward, you know, sourcing their products from places that don't use child labor or that don't abuse the land, or aren't breaking laws or, you know, whatever it is, right? It's trying to do something to stand apart from the crowd, but not to stand apart but, because you feel that's right. Like, that's authentically you, that's authentically that brand.So, when I think of authenticity, I tend to think of it more as being real and not putting on a front or like some different face. So, I think some of the examples you just gave, I can't help but think maybe for me, those might fall more into a bucket of like, integrity, you know, having integrity as a business, or even just having good customer service, you know, in terms of taking care of your customers and stuff.
Sam: I was just saying, I mean, sometimes it can be, but sometimes it's driven as corporate strategy like, "Hey, it's going to be our strategy to be green. It's going to be our strategy to source things from, you know, whatever, like, we're going to sell only vegan products and appeal to vegans.", but then there's the ones where it's the founder, like the founder comes in and just absolutely insists that it has to be that way, because it's the only thing that feels authentic to them, and to do anything else just feels jarring and wrong. I mean, one example would probably be like, Toms Shoes, I don't know if it began as a schtick, the idea of like, for every set of shoes you buy, we give one away, I don't think so, I actually know the guy who founded it, Blake Mycoskie. And my understanding was that he, you know, he traveled around South America and seen like, how big a difference just something as simple as a pair of shoes could make to someone who was poor and really wanted a business that could help, and that was the approach but I think there, yeah. Just because something seems genuine doesn't necessarily mean it is. But I also think people can kind of get a sense when what they're looking at is authentic and I actually defined authentic earlier today on Twitter. The way I said it is, "Know thyself, and be consistent to that character.". Right, you know your character, you dig in, you understand yourself and you operate consistent with that, since.
Jayson: I like that definition. So, obviously, I think you've done more thinking about this topic than I have, you know, if you were to ask me, what's one way that you've been, you know, inauthentic lately? I really don't know. Like, I don't have an answer for that, because it's not something I've really dug into. But can I take that question and flip it? Like, what have you-- how have you found yourself becoming sort of less authentic? And can you give us an example?
Sam: Yeah, actually. So, I mean, what I do for work, right? I do search engine optimization; I've done it for a long time. I kind of fell into it, and I'd say on some level, it's authentic in that I really enjoy puzzles. Like, I I like solving puzzles, but there's also aspects to it that I just, I don't like, that don't feel authentic to me, you know, having to handhold clients through things or having to try and you know, in some cases, maybe game the system. I try to be authentic in my approach to SEO, but they're, on some level it also feels like that's not really my calling, not really the thing that I'm, I'm going to do to make a dent in the universe, which is why I try-- I like to try a lot of different things because I have interests that are all over the place from making music to designing games to writing to you know, you name it, a bunch of different-- fingers in a bunch of different pies.
Jayson: Well, we all have to make money. And you know, for me, I wouldn't say that if I could choose one thing to be doing, I would want to be making money through a SAS analytics app, which is currently what I'm doing. However, I do. I like it. Like, I genuinely like it. I wake up every morning and I'm excited to come to work, but I could-- I do feel like I could be doing better. I mean, where are you on the spectrum, right? Like, and I think everyone's somewhere on that spectrum, and I think if you were to say what would be the number one thing you would do? Shit, I don't know when I was a kid, I always wanted to be, I always thought I'd be an NBA player. Lol.
Sam: As a kid, I think I wanted to be like a professional thief or an assassin, or hitman. There's my video game childhood coming out.
Jayson: You need to play Final Fantasy seven by the way. That's why I'm so--
Sam: I've never played any of the Final Fantasy games.
Jayson: Final Fantasy seven remake. I'm playing it right now. It is so good. But I digress. But anyway. So, Cloud is the he's the main character in the game and he is a mercenary. And so yeah, you can yourself off of Cloud.
Sam: I almost, right out of high school, I almost went into marine force recon with the goal from hopping in from there over to Navy SEALs just because I did it actually, I wanted to end up a merch. But, you know, life went a different way.
Jayson: Well, I think it's okay, and it's normal to have a job that you know, supports you and then to sort of pursue who you really are elsewhere in other ways, because we've all got to make money. And so, if you can make money doing something you love, I think you're really, really lucky and probably in the minority. I see--
Sam: That I think is kind of a key, you know, if you can find something to do where for you, it never feels like work. You know, you happily wake up every day to do it, and you know, other people look at it, and it looks like work, you spend a lot of hours on it, it's complicated and hard, but to you, it doesn't feel that way. I mean, that's ideal. I also think, weirdly enough, there seems to be an enormous amount of hunger for authenticity. And so, one of the ideas or one of the things that I wanted to like kind of poke at are musicians, professional musicians in particular, some athletes also. But the concept of authenticity, kind of coupled with alter egos, right? Talking about pro musicians, have you ever heard of Katherine Elizabeth Hudson?
Jayson: No, but immediately I'm thinking are you going to say Kate Hudson?
Sam: So, and then, have you ever heard of Stephanie Joanne Angelina Germanotta?
Sam: Okay, what about Brian Hugh Warner?
Sam: Okay, those are Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Marilyn Manson. So, I have a sense that each of those people created, initially an alter ego, right, a stage name. And they imbued that alter ego with all of the attributes, maybe the ones that were genuinely them, but that they felt like they couldn't express as themselves for whatever reason, criticism, expectations from others, whatever it is. So, they create this alter ego and they empower that alter ego to be the most authentic version of them. And then, not always, but I think in some cases, they end up kind of merging with that alter ego, you know, they realize that they can be, or maybe even flipping the script, right? And the idea that comes to mind is the Batman, Bruce Wayne dichotomy. So, in the two, which one is the alter ego?
Jayson: Well, you know, I mean, obviously, well, I mean, Batman, it would be the alter ego but you know, we don't know much about Bruce Wayne.
Sam: So, psychologically, it's actually not. The alter ego is Bruce Wayne. And it didn't start that way, Batman began as an alter ego to empower Bruce Wayne to do what he needed to do. But over time, Batman became the primary identity, Bruce Wayne was the alter ego, Bruce Wayne was the mask that he wore so he could operate in the normal world to enable him to have the resources to be Batman but, Batman became the primary identity. So, I actually think this happens a lot. I think the musicians, sports players, high profile people, they'll initially create an alter ego, to empower themselves to be the most authentic version of them and since you know, the people closest to them, see them create this separate name and separate identity, it's like, "Oh, it's okay. It's an alter ego, you know, they're acting.", but I think the reality is that they are unlocking the true version of them, they're being most authentic when they're wearing that alter ego. And over time, they kind of make the shift, where they really become the true version of themselves under that alter ego, and then the other version, the person that everybody, you know, the people closest to them know, that's the mask, that becomes the mask.
Jayson: It's an interesting concept. It sounds like what you're saying is that people who are the most authentic, truest version of themselves are the ones that you see rise to the top in terms of success and fame.
Sam: Yes, because people crave authenticity, and they-- you can sense it. I mean, I-- at least I've always been able, I can tell when somebody is putting on a face, when they're being inauthentic, when they're pretending, like you can just, you can feel it, you can sense that something is just not quite right. And on the flip side, you can tell when you're in the presence of somebody who's just being genuinely themselves all the time. And, yeah, I think because it's rare, because people are so rarely, genuinely themselves, genuinely authentic, that very few people are able to rise to the top.
Jayson: Yeah, I mean, the reason why I'm hesitating is because I know some people who, you know, no names or anything, but I know people who are able to sort of change into brand mode and out of it. And when they're in brand mode, I would, knowing who they really are, because I know who they really are, it's far, far different than when they're in, sort of entertainment mode. And when they're in entertainment mode, that's where they make their money, that's where they get their-- all their love and their fans and so on. But when they're not in entertainment mode, they are the truest version of themselves. And so, that seems to be a little opposite. I mean, what are your thoughts?
Sam: Maybe. So, I think in some cases, the alter ego is, I think that's probably what you're describing is probably accurate, if they are not integrated, right? There are two pieces to their personality that have not yet been fully integrated. I think at some point, you know, if you do it the right way, the two merge, you know, you become authentically you at all times and in all places, but yeah, I don't know, right? I don't know Katy Perry, or Lady Gaga or Marilyn Manson, but, I just, I have that sense that it's not just an act. It's a way to be more authentically themselves. But who knows? I could be totally wrong. Maybe I'll meet them someday and they can school me on this.
Jayson: Let's have them take a listen and tell us if we're you know, on the hitting the nail on the head here or not. What would you say-- what would you say to a listener right now, who is saying, "What-- How should I take this information and change in order to become more successful? Or to be a better entrepreneur? What--?", can you sort of wrap this up with a bow for our listeners thinking that?
Sam: I think it really boils down to the age-old adage of, “Know thyself”. And I think the best place to start with that is to try and go back to childhood, and take a peek at what's made you authentically you, you know? What are the things-- what are the common themes and threads from your childhood? Were you curious, adventurous, artistic? You know, what were those things that really made you tick? Not like a temporary hobby, you know, I was into video games for a few years, not like a, you know, not necessarily a particular trait. But maybe, but you know, I'm sure if you were to ask your mom and say, "Hey, you know, if you describe me as a child in one or two sentences, what would it be?", it's probably going to be a pretty good description. But try and think about that, and then think about what, you know, if you could do anything, if you could do absolutely anything, and you could not fail, what would you be doing? What would you be doing right now that would make you feel the most authentic? Nobody would judge you; nobody would critique it, you could do whatever you feel is the best thing for you to be doing, it's going to succeed. What would you do? I think that would be a very good place to start. And as an entrepreneur, applying that, alright, so with what I know about myself and what I feel to be authentic, what are the things that I could do to make money, that would be in line and authentic with me? With who I really am and, go from there. Because I think you're more likely to find success if you're authentic than if you're not.
Jayson: Words of wisdom there from Professor Sam. I would have to say that I agree that it is super important to find something that you genuinely enjoy doing, and I think that the more you enjoy doing it, the more authentically true you're being to yourself. With that said, it's okay to do something that you don't enjoy because we all got to hustle, we all got to pay the bills--
Sam: Got to pay the bills.
Jayson: --But I will say that when you can find something that you do enjoy, you'll just be happier, and you'll do better at what you're doing because you actually want to do it. And so this-- it is important to try and figure out who you are, what you want to do, and maybe start from there when you're looking at, you know, "What kind of business can I start or what new business or what side hustle, I can I steer towards?", I think that's a good place to start.
Jayson: Yep. Well, cool. Okay, thanks, guys. It's been an interesting discussion on authenticity. You know, Sam, you clearly think about this more than I do. But I think it is important as a concept for people and so, thanks you guys, really appreciate you listening.
Sam: And hey, if you authentically enjoy this podcast, subscribe, rate it, leave a review and let us know how we're doing. Thanks so much.
Jayson: Thanks guys.