Authenticity: No crock

Authenticity: No crock

I listened to a podcast recently featuring Seth Godin and his latest book, The Practice, where he proclaimed, “authenticity is a crock. Authenticity is overrated. Authenticity is a trap. No one wants you to be authentic.”

I’m a huge Seth Godin fan – I love his work and principles, but I completely disagree with him on this position. He professes that his position on authenticity is controversial, and I couldn’t agree more!

According to Godin, the only time in our lives when we’re truly authentic is when we’re an infant. When something doesn’t go our way, we spiral into a tantrum. Post toddler, we lose that raw, unabashed authenticity because our decisions and actions become calculated, carried out with intent and purpose (even if subconscious).

For example, you may not like something your boss does, but you’re not likely to go run screaming into their office, as that’s not likely to get you your desired result. What you do instead is weigh actions and consequences, navigate the political landscape, and moderate your behaviors. Godin considers this inauthentic – what you deep down most want to do is not what you end up doing in your actions.

“If you go see a concert,” he says “you don’t want the authentic musician. You want that musician (despite exhaustion from a 20-city road tour) to give you the best performance of their day, their week, their month. If you need surgery, you want the surgeon to ignore that they had an argument with their spouse and instead bring the best version of themselves. That’s what we want in every interaction.”

Godin continues, offering that people don’t want authenticity. What people want from you is consistency, humanity, and empathy…for you to deliver the best, most talented, skilled version of yourself. And the best way to deliver this is to do what comes naturally to you.

I read this. I hear this. And my response is, this IS authenticity – at least my definition of it.

For two weeks now, I’ve churned on Godin’s viewpoint that “authenticity is a crock.” I’ve wrangled with it internally and debated it with colleagues. Where I’ve landed is this:

  • I have a deeply held belief about what authenticity is.
  • To me, consistently delivering who you are IS being authentic. If humanity and empathy is core to who you are and you show up and deliver that, then you’re being authentic.
  • Authenticity is being true to who you are, aligning with and living your values, and delivering on your personal brand promise day in and day out, regardless of whether or not people are watching.
  • Being authentic is being the truest, realest me…the me-ist me I can be.

No, I’m not going to run into my boss’ office and throw a tantrum because something didn’t go as I had hoped. I refrain from doing this, not because I’m being inauthentic, but because my authentic self functions in a world where I’m keenly aware of rules, protocols, and the political landscape.

With this example and many more, I’ve learned about cause and effect, actions and consequences, and the culture of “this is the way we do things around here.” These lessons have saved my life, my career, and relationships. No, I won’t necessarily live out my unadulterated, unfiltered, raw self out on the street, in the boardroom, or even at my kitchen table necessarily, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not being congruent and authentic.

My clients know my skill, talent, values, and qualities. They know that when they work with me, they’re going to get these things fully and consistently. And I’m human, I can have a bad day, I can get overwhelmed and exhausted, and when these things happen, the impact can show up in my work. When it’s likely to, I name it, we adjust and adapt, change or reschedule…whatever the situation calls for. This is authenticity.


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Whole Life Balance – Creating Flow and Alignment

Whole Life Balance – Creating Flow and Alignment

I remember elementary school and “field day” each year in the late spring. I looked forward to it with great anticipation. We’d have team relay races – three-legged, potato sack, egg-and-spoon – and then the best event of all…tug of war.

Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, summertime

We’d grab the rope with our sweaty fists, grit our teeth, dig our heels in, and go to it. Tugging ferociously to and fro, sometimes the battle was quickly won and other times it seemed to go on forever until one team succumbed to the other, often getting drug to the dusty ground and across the line.

I may have liked this challenge on the playground, but it certainly is not the experience I want coming alive in my real life. Yet, sometimes it happens – mostly when I’m torn between competing priorities of work, family, community, and self. I feel “up against it” trying to manage and balance the many priorities and expectations.

Much like Elizabeth – the nonprofit executive portrayed in the attached article “Yes, You CAN Balance Work and Family Roles” – I experience the tension between consuming work responsibilities and my other life roles. This was especially true for me while serving in various leadership roles in the nonprofit sector, most recently as President & CEO of an arts council.

Early on in that position, I didn’t know any other way to be than “always on.” I thought, “If I’m not thinking about the organization, who is?” I constantly assessed, planned, strategized, and engaged my team and stakeholders. I knew the importance and necessity of being the face of the organization, a presence at local arts and cultural events during evenings and weekends, and “at the table” with other critical community leaders.

At home, I had a 4-year-old son, a spouse with an equally demanding career, and aging parents that needed my increasing attention and support. For years, I served in this complex and demanding role, often recalling the field day memories of tugging to meet all the demands while aiming for balance among my life’s personal and professional interplay.

Nearly a decade later, I completed my tenure with the organization. Between leaving that post and starting my own business, I decided to take a sabbatical. I wanted to clear my head, explore creative pursuits, and allow myself the space and time to renew my energy, be with friends and family, and shape what would come next.

During this time off, I learned that, while successful, the way in which I led was not a sustainable practice. Going forward, I committed to living a more realistic pace, adjusting my expectations of myself (and others), and more fully honoring my core values.

waterfall balance

Courtney Welch, Inspired by Movement

For me, work-life balance is more about creating and managing flow than literally attempting to divide up and assign the number of hours in a day to the important activities of life. If something I’m doing has positive impact and gives me energy, then I have this sense of resonance and ease – regardless of the actual hours I’ve spent doing it. My life feels aligned, or “in balance.” This allows me to channel that energy into taking care of what’s important to me – both at work and outside of work.

Finding a workable approach to life is critical and can benefit your well-being, relationships, and the organization you serve. This article – “Yes, You CAN Balance Work and Family Roles” – offers five steps that can help you start today to create a more fulfilling life for yourself. We’d love to hear what’s working for you to create work-life balance.


Read other related blog posts:

I Got This! Creating a Life of Choice, Resonance, and Flow


about-leadershipAbout Jeanie Duncan: Jeanie is President of Raven Consulting Group, a business she founded that focuses on organizational change and leadership development in the nonprofit sector. She is a senior consultant for Raffa, a national firm working with nonprofit clients to lead efforts in sustainability and succession planning, executive transition and search. Additionally, Jeanie serves as adjunct faculty for the Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of executive leadership education.