How Target taught me about Self-Authenticity

I used to think I went  through fazes throughout the year: from crazy Halloween decorating,  and “spooky baking to an overbearing Christmas spirit to the  New Years organization fad.  Even the Spring “gardening” and the summer desire to make Ice Tea in bright-colored jars.  For so many years, I was astonished by the foresight and customer knowledge Target Stores possessed.  obviously they were capitalizing on the seasonal needs of their customers.  Recently, however, I read an article by Jeff Goins about the DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS.  I resonated with the anticlimactic, even empty feeling  after Christmas.  I am searching for more.  I search for more because I am accepting the wrong things as ends in themselves.  Target isn’t listening to the customer, the customer is listening to Target.  Target, is in fact the puppet master.  This isn’t Target’s fault.  This is my fault.


Self-awareness (Photo credit: Shasha ma)

What does the “Target Puppet Master” have to do with seeking our awesome self?  I have written extensively on authenticity.  Lately, I am thinking  a lot more about self-awareness, what I call “self-authenticiyty”.  I must first discover who I am are before I can be authentic.  Marketers at stores like Target create a lot of noise.  That noise becomes clutter for those working to organize their self-awareness.  It’s time to turn the volume down on what other’s tell us we should be or should want.  It’s time I listen to what I want.  If you relate to the is, get intentional in your self-awareness. Take time for yourself and be brutally honest.  This isn’t about quitting your 6-figure salary to open a shore-front pizza store.  It’s about being honest about what you want, defining it, admitting it, and planning how to achieve it.  When you know what you want, you’ll know if that desire to buy 18 different sizes of Rubbermaid storage bins serve your purpose or the Marketing department at Target.

How is 2014 different on your search for self authenticity?

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I Love Being the Victim: unmasking our true self

Sometimes I feel like I encourage or at least don’t stop things from happening and I embrace being the victim. Am I playing a character? Do I find meaning in martyrdom? Maybe it’s easier to be “successful” if I have a perceived handicap (ie; single dad, not enough money, feeling sick). My electricity gets shut off because someone “screwed” up the auto pay, or the insurance didn’t cover the damages because I was “misled”.  I can’t wait to rant and rave about these things happening.  I have to succeed in spite of negative things happening…shall I restate that I GET to succeed in spite of negative things happening.  I am a walking and talking self-fulfilling prophecy of victimhood. This easier than pushing myself 100% at 100%. Why is this? Insecurity? Possibly. Insecurity is rampant and very dangerous. I often see “confidence” used to cloak insecurity.

Many Faces

Many Faces (Photo credit: whoaitsaimz)

Once discovered, it usually looks a lot like arrogance and incompetence. I also see many people hold back, even apologize for simply “trying”. I had a public speaking professor once tell the class the cardinal sin of giving any speech is to apologize for at the beginning .  Recognizing this as a “defense mechanism”, we were trained as a class to clap uncontrollably (all in fun, as it usually got a laugh and eased the tension ) anyone who would apologize. We all got 1 or 2  rounds of applause before we learned our lesson.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about self and being, well…your “self”. Read my article on playing the “character” . I’m reminded of Brene’ Brown’s great work Daring Greatly. She discusses the need to be vulnerable to find our true happiness.

Vulnerability is not just “opening up”,  it is the culmination of discovering our true self and not only fearlessly putting ourselves out there everyday, but fighting to keep the “characters” off our personal stage.

So now we must be ready to discover our true self by unmasking our characters, and fearlessly seeking what we are all about.

Will you fight to keep the characters away? Do you know who your “character” is?

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Stop Being the Character and Play Your Authentic Part

Disneyland is a paradise for kids.  All the fun, food, and entertainment all catered toward them.  One of our favorite things to do at Disneyland is take pictures with our favorite characters.  Goofy has always been my guy.  In fact, I have a great picture of my kids and I with him on my Facebook.  Goofy is  a 6 foot tall talking dog that runs into situations that are hilarious. The thing about Goofy  is he’s not real.  He is a character with an actor “playing” the part. There is nothing wrong with playing a character for work or fun, but what about the character we play in the game of life?

drama queen

drama queen (Photo credit: beccaplusmolly)

I am guilty, guilty, guilty of playing many roles.   I was,  for many years the “super single dad“.  My high flying antics included taking kids to the dentist, doctor appointments, church, and school plays.  I have chronicled my adventures on my Facebook page.  Before my heroic adventures as a single dad, I was the super “victim husband“.  Everything was my [ex] wife’s fault and I was just trying, heroically, to keep it all together.  I spent a lot of energy griping and complaining rather than listening and seeking to understand. There are characters everywhere.  The “super single mom” posting pictures of soccer practice.  The “super athlete teen” with all his trophies and championships, and the “tortured soul teenage girl” with black lipstick and and angrier than Avril Lavigne look.

Many of these characters are important and inspiring.  Once again, the problem remains that they are not real.  We where these badges, all polished and shiny for the world to see.  We have 275 friends on Facebook (of whom 2 send you a Christmas card).  When I played the “super single dad” hero, I posted pictures of myself doing cool things with the kids.  The little red box in the corner would light up with a 4 or a 5 and I would be validated.  Sometimes the photo upload session happened at a stoplight, or a school event, or the dinner table.  The world needed to see my character.  Lights, camera, action.  See the irony?

When you play the character you were born to play with authenticity and intentionality, it isn’t “play” at all.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing on Facebook.  As with anything in the pursuit of awesomeness, you must be intentional and in control.  Are you posting a picture to share something, for laughs, or perhaps memories?  Excellent.  Are you seeking more?  What if no one “liked” the picture of you and your daughter at choir?  Would that diminish the value of your time together?  My challenge to you and myself in this New Year is to be aware of WHY you are doing things.  Do things with purpose, love, authenticity, and a giving spirit.   Click here to read my article on authenticity. Be present.  Maybe even leave the iPhone in the car.

What character have you played the most this year?


Uniqueness Is Overrated: Authenticity vs Unique Overload

I remember the excitement of Krispey Kreme coming to my town a few years ago.  As a sales guy, I love to bring treats to my customers, and nothing sounded more “treaty” than a dozen of the finest warm donuts my corporate American Express card could by.  I was going to make a splash with my customers.  Pulling up to the drive through, waiting nearly 20 minutes for donuts, I could hardly contain myself.  As I finally picked up 8 dozen (one for each planned stop of the day), I was ready to deliver some tasty smiles to go along with my unique treat.  As the story goes, I wasn’t the only sales rep being unique that morning.  Several of my offices had piles of Krispey Kreme boxes stacked in a corner.

Unique (Photo credit: Goldmund100)

My “get unique quick” scheme didn’t work so well.
 Today. nothing has really changed.  A few years ago, someone began using the hashtag on twitter as a means to organize and monitor trends.  Facebook is following suit with hashtaging.  Everywhere you look online is hashtags. The problem is once hashtaging reaches a critical mass, it will cease to be useful.  Several hundred, maybe even several thousand references to Iphone 6 (#iphone6) can draw attention and add value to the reader, several million is just plain stupid.  If everyone is hashtaging, then no one is hashtaging.
Uniqueness has a tipping point where it becomes boring and no longer unique.

Where do we go from here?  Here’s a quick guide to help you stay authentic in an attempt to be unique (I argue that many times the attempt at uniqueness is enough if you are authentic).

1.  There are no shortcuts to being Unique.  Delivering Starbucks to the office is not unique.  There are 10 Starbucks within a few minute’s drive of my house.  Feel free to bring the coffee though.  It’s still nice.
2.  Unique is rare, don’t fuss over being unique 100% of the time.  A free Starbucks, while not unique, is still welcome.  As a nice gesture to a good customer,  a tool  to warm up a tough gatekeeper, or a pick-me-up on a rough day for your girlfriend. An authentic gesture is just as valuable as a unique one.
3.  Be infrequent in your uniqueness.  regular uniqueness is inauthentic and exhausting.
4.  Do your homework. You won’t hit a home run with every interaction you make.  Understand your audience, however, will vastly increase the impact of what your attempting.  Finding time to uncover a passion of a client, or sentiment for a girlfriend, will dramatically increase your odds for the “breathtaking” moment.
5.  Know WHY you are doing what you are doing.  Being authentic and having the appropriate motives is much more important than being “different” or unique.

Go be yourself.  You are unique in being yourself.  You are not the lightning thief, don’t worry about catching lightning in a bottle.

What is your unique “thing” you bring?

Be a Faker and Remain Authentic


No Hunting (OR TRESPASSING) (Photo credit: Nathan James)

You’re asking yourself, ” how can a guy who published an article on AUTHENTICITY write an article about being fake?”. Keep reading.
You are in the midst of a good [not great] and productive life.  You are moving along nicely with a decent career, family, and some personal goals.  Yet, there’s something missing…fleeting.  You are staring down the barrel of a rather intimidating milestone age and hear nature’s time clock tick…tick…ticking away.  To be honest, When I say “you” I mean “me”…and “you”. With the birth of our 5th child, I have had an awakening.  This is why I am writing this blog.  You have these moments.  I have more to offer.  You have more to offer. Do you know how much Barrack Obama spent to become President in 2012?  Nearly a billion dollars.  Crazy?  For a job that pays $400,000.  Not crazy enough.  Mitt Romney spent nearly the same  NOT get the job.  Presidential candidates have their lives, and their family’s lives, torn apart, researched and flushed out.  We all know where all the bodies are buried.  Why do they put themselves through this?  Ego.  Not in the sense of I’m cool and you’re not.  Obama so believed the world must have him as President that he would endure almost anything.
 I’m assuming you are not running for president.  But, almost as intimating, you are or are trying to step out of your comfort zone and SAY something.  You are timid about pushing forth your dream, especially when you have yet to perfect your message. Permission has yet to be granted for you to “intrude” upon the world. You fear this vast land filled with great minds. You feel guilty just listening in on the conversation.  Like you don’t belong. You sit in the back of life’s classroom and half raise your hand to say something in the ongoing conversation of society.  Quietly you apologize, in essence telling the world that you are an intruder rather than an active and worthy participant.  Today, through my FAKE power and FAKE authority, I am granting you FAKE permission to speak.  Seth Godin, one of the most respected blogger/authors in the world was once a FAKER.  He granted himself persmission to speak.  It’s time for you to grant yourself permission.  You have something important to say.  The world WILL be BETTER for having heard your message.  FAKE your confidence until you make your confidence.  The world can’t wait for your confidence to catch up to your message.  We need you NOW.  SPEAK!
Rocco De Leo

Are You Failing at Authenticity?

Buzz words are all the buzz these days.  Some are fleeting phrases for a moment in time, while others have staying power and are truly profound.  This isn’t a post on phrases however,  or on the english language.  This is the power one word has over me, and how Jamie hit me over the head with it.  Words hurt, and words mean something.  Authenticity is one of those heavy words that leave a mark when they hit you; like a piece of plywood. While this word strikes me in particular, it is something I have thought about and challenged myself with for a long time.  To be authentic is to be what?  This blog is new to the world, but the ideas shared here on positivity and forward thinking are not new to me.  Not to say I don’t have moments of authenticity failure.  Last night I had a minor financial setback involving my mortgage and a mistake Citibank made with my escrow impound increasing my house payment from mildly uncomfortable to squirming in my seat uncomfortable.  I had about 45 minutes of authentic failure.  I panicked, went immediately to worse case and lost all focus on what was really in front of me.  I fell apart for a few minutes. My beautifully talented fiance’ challenged me.  She questioned if I am actually living the life I write and talk about (imagine that 99% of my material is yet to be blogged-she knows way too much).  Am I full-of-shit?  She stopped me in my tracks.  The Merriam-Webster definition of authenticity  in  this context is simply “not false” or to be “real”.  Authenticity  does not require perfection or even a perfect adherence to one’s own teaching.  The intention (another great word), drive, and desire to live our own teaching must be present.  Credibility can stand challenged if we are falling too short of our own teaching, but “less than perfect” is not “too short”.

The Authenticity  Gremlin can rear it’s ugly head if we feed it our doubt and allow it to grow.  We must certainly challenge ourselves to live our own message.  A pastor mired in adultery, a police officer addicted to drugs, or a teacher cheating on state testing are not areas of “just falling short”.  These are great failures of behavior.  Asking them to be perfect, though is impossible.  The last time I checked, the only sinless person to ever live was nailed to a cross 2000 years ago.  That’s not to say they can’t recover their authenticity. Trust may be challenged and even un recoverable.  Trust is earned and received while authenticity is lived and given away.  Those of us with a message to share (i’d argue that’s actually all of us) will certainly be held to a higher standard when it comes to our message.  You will be your own drill sergeant.  I read my own material because I learn from my own words. I am authentic as long as I share my imperfections.  Living fully with our passions, dreams, and needs/wants, is not easy.  If it was, I wouldn’t have a purpose to write.  You will hit bumps in the road on the way to “dreamville”.  Keep in mind these 3 things along the way to stay authentic:
1.  Has your message changed? The methods and tools may need to adapt and change, but the message should remain the same.
2.  Do you believe your message NEEDS to be heard or are you trying to SELL something? Intentions are important and dreams are seldom “get rich quick schemes”.
3.  Are others sharing similar messages?  Usually this is a good thing.  Sometimes being the first to share a message is great. but many times you’re the only one sharing it because it’s right (timing may also be a factor) If, after challenging yourself and your message, you discover its uniqueness is what makes it valuable, then by all means, share it with the world.  You’ve done the homework to quiet the Gremlins in your head and are ready to lead the charge.
    You know your true authenticity.  Check in with yourself.  Utilize a system to evaluate your progress on a monthly or quarterly basis.  I like Getting things Done (GTD) or Seven Habits.  The point is to take a look at your map every once in a while to make sure true authenticity.
Rocco De Leo
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