‘Personal Authenticity’ and Fear

I meet with many people, but a meeting last week really stays with me.

I met up with a young entrepreneur, who had started a company and is now working on a new idea. His previous company has gone through some ups and downs. They received great venture funding and were off to the races.

The company received an early offer to sell, but the “more senior” founder didn’t want to exit. Since then, their space has been flooded with competitors. At the same time, the company has gone through some culture issues. So, the early group of founders and developers have all left.

It was a pretty dramatic story to hear.

But, what stays with me is this entrepreneur’s sense of “authenticity.” Now, I’ve blogged about this in the past (here and here). I define “authenticity” for me in this way:

  • Living life in a way that is real and meaningful in all areas and at all times
  • No spin, no masks
  • Being the same person at work as you are at home
  • Living your values consistently

It took me many years to get to that definition, and, to have the courage to strive for it and not compromise. But, this entrepreneur, in his early-20s, has already figured it out.

He talked about how he had worked at a private equity firm one summer, and in spite of the huge dollars they dangled in front of him, he declined their offer for a full-time job.

He talked about the decisions that he made at his first start-up. It was clear that he was willing to buck conventional wisdom, but they were based on deep values, and not just well thought-out plans.

Also, his personal authenticity made him unpopular with some at his start-up. This person said that it put him in some lonely situations. He was in fear at times. But, he was cool with it all. He felt he did the right things in the end.

It was a great meeting. How do you define personal authenticity?

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