The late, ever-beloved Dr. Seuss said it best:
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive as youer than you.”
I own a relatively new smartphone purchased some months back after my less-than two-year-old, not-quite-as-smart phone was destroyed in a boating accident. But that’s another story. New to me, this phone unlocks when I put one of my index fingers on a back-cover dot.
This is old technology, but for me, it’s a geez-whiz new thing.
Recently, I learned to say “OK Google” and, bingo, the phone followed my voice command to call one of my contacts, then find an address, or search for a historic fact that has escaped memory. The phone recognizes both my fingerprint and voice. Scary!
Celebrating your voice, embracing the fact that “no one alive is youer than you,” is foundational to becoming in business and life your very best self. Why is it, then, that we entertain the crazy idea that being someone else or aping another’s mannerisms, voice or personality leads to success? Crazy idea indeed!
But follow the rise to superstardom of any number of pop singers and notice, in their wake, talent-show contestants vainly attempting to perform like their idols.
Some years back, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, whose groundbreaking book On Death and Dying changed how we understand death and grief, was asked in a public forum what made for a meaningful life. She responded, and I’m paraphrasing here, the ability to give and receive love, finding your own voice, and knowing your life made a difference.
Finding your own voice is as important as love and making a difference, because the genius that makes you ”you” makes the other two possible.
In many ways, business seems averse to this transformative idea.
We learn that a competitor is using a sales technique successfully and we think if we copy that same process, we will enjoy the same success. Watch an effective management team meander through challenging HR issues with remarkable ease, and soon a research team will collect data, make assumptions and publish findings on how you too can attain the same results.
None of this is bad or inappropriate unless we copy creative sales gurus and management mentors who teach us scripts, stories, and techniques but fail to translate what we learn using our own voice and personality.
If you have not done so in a while, record your voice in conversation with a friend, spouse or colleague. Notice how you inflect sentences, place emphasis on words and use clichés. Be self-critical of language, tone and even the speed with which you speak.
Record again and again as if you are an NFL wide-receiver repeatedly practicing the same play until it’s second nature. Discipline your voice to be a servant, and you will know a new and better level of professional competence.
Years ago, a respected professor shared her story of gaining tenure at the school I attended. She noted that when she began teaching, she faced the temptation to be the person she imagined others wanted her to be rather than herself. She confessed she could have spent those first seven years being like her senior tenured colleagues, or she could lecture and publish her own way using her own voice.
She decided to be herself. “Had I played the game of being someone other than myself and gained tenure,” she mused, “I would have had to play the game the rest of my life. I decided to be me, gained tenure anyway, and learned I made the best decision.”
There is no greater power in your business than you. Your voice, your personality and your way with others — as anything else in life worth celebrating — requires discipline, courage and practice.
Refuse to be anyone other than you, doggedly committed to being your best you. “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive as youer than you.” Success always welcomes those who master being the uniquely created and gifted person they are.
It’s the only sane choice we have.
(The writer, who lives in Augusta, is a certified financial planner and author of Cadence of Care: Imagining a Transformed Advisor-Client Experience. He can be followed on his blog at www.timowings.com.)