Authenticity at its Finest
My first conversation with my new friend Evan Carmichael happened in the late morning/early afternoon of January 12th, 2017. His vibe, energy, knowledge, and wisdom is simply incredible and it was an honor to speak with him on one of his YouTube live broadcasts (I didn’t even know you could do a YouTube live discussion until I met Evan).
Evan is a legendary YouTube creator, author, and entrepreneur, inspiring millions of people around the world to live their entrepreneurial dreams. He recently published a great book called Your One Word: The Powerful Secret to Creating a Business and Life That Matter.
Evan is one of the most sincere and authentic leaders I’ve ever met, so he’s a perfect fit for this book and has great insights to share with us.
What One Word Best Describes Your Core Values?
“In your interviews with successful people from around the world, I’ve noticed you are consistently authentic and yourself,” I said to Evan. “What is the secret to being authentic in a world that is trying to get us to be like everyone else?”
“Know the one word that describes your core values,” Evan said. “And model everything around that. I get brands who approach me all the time, offering me a lot of money to endorse them. I say no to a lot of them because they don’t align with my one word. When you know your one word, you’ll be able to place your values above the money.”
“That’s very impressive,” I said. “Not a lot of people are able to say no to the money like that. You have integrity. Placing your values above money is profound.”
The Importance of Self-Awareness
“Also, self-awareness is crucial,” Evan said. “The moment you catch yourself doing something because you are worried about how you are being judged, you need to stop yourself and then do the very thing you were afraid of being judged for. I’m not going to let a stranger’s opinion affect my actions. You catch yourself by being self-aware.”
“I love that,” I said. “Facing the fear directly and doing what you are afraid of being judged for is powerful”.
“Yes,” Evan said. “For example, one time I was listening to some music and dancing while at the mall. I could have cared how I was being perceived, but I didn’t let that affect me.”
This reminds me of an insight I picked up from Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning, one of my favorite books of all-time and considered by many to be one of the all-time great personal development books. Frankl talks about something called paradoxical intention, where you consciously do the exact thing you are uncomfortable doing. Evan mirrors this wisdom with his tips.
Yes, this is easier said than done. But when you muster up the courage to stop worrying about how other people perceive you, you’ll thank yourself afterward and feel like a million bucks. Congratulations! You are now living a life that isn’t dictated by external forces. In a world that’s trying to get you to fit the mold and be like everyone else, that’s a huge accomplishment.
Focus on Caring Less About How You Are Perceived
“This is excellent content,” I said with a smile. “What are some tips and tactics you have to stay true to yourself and follow your own inner compass even when other people are not agreeing with what you’re doing?”
“There are two sides to this,” Evan explained. “One side involves the haters and naysayers. With them, the key is to not care about what they think and say. Train yourself to not be affected by their comments, knowing that it doesn’t apply to you. The other side is when people you work with don’t like what you’re doing. With them, the important thing is to find out why they don’t like it.
“Someone you work with may think YouTube is stupid. You may love YouTube. Talk to that person and find out why they don’t like YouTube.”
What Evan is saying here is that when you seek to understand the people you interact with on a routine basis, you’ll more easily see where they’re coming from. Then you can objectively decide if you want to listen to their feedback and change your course of action, or stick to your original resolution because you know their opinion doesn’t apply to your actions. Think in terms of solutions and constantly be forward-thinking by asking the question, where do we go from here?
The theme of this book is for you to activate the power of being yourself by maximizing your strengths and living your life as an authentic leader. Evan is the perfect example of this for us to observe and learn from.
“I put zero – I mean literally zero – thought into how others perceive me,” Evan said to me. “I don’t show up needing the people who work for me to perceive me as some kind of hero or someone they look up to. It doesn’t matter how others perceive you when you are being yourself.”
Let’s pause for a second because what Evan said here is so valuable, it’s worth repeating. It doesn’t matter how others perceive you when you are being yourself. If you are not living a life true to yourself, then you will be out of alignment with your core values. But when you are yourself, you don’t need to concern yourself with what others are thinking about you because it literally doesn’t matter.
Are you feeling as liberated as I am right now? This is something I used to be horrible at. I’m much better at it now, with room for more growth. I, like many others, have a deep need to be respected and appreciated. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this until it starts to define our self-worth. Evan is helping us transcend this primal need by remembering that our self-worth is tied to how closely we are being ourselves, not how we are being evaluated by others.
“I’m training a leader right now,” Evan said to me, “and he’s super concerned with how he’s perceived by others. I’m doing my best to tell him that it doesn’t matter how you are perceived by others. I don’t care if others respect me or not. And guess what? I get lots of respect for that.”
“You remind me of a quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer,” I said to Evan. “He said, ‘those who get the most approval are the ones who need it the least.’ You embody that truth to a tee.”
Epic words from Evan here. Live by them and you will soon find yourself being the epitome of an authentic leader like Evan is. This is Eckhart Tolle-level wisdom.
Jeff, You Stepped Up
Evan took it upon himself to compliment me.
“Jeff, you stepped up,” Evan said. “A lot of authors want to do a private Skype chat with me, afraid of how they might be judged by others. But you came right onto this live YouTube discussion. It’s awesome you did that. It’s more exposure for you and shows you aren’t afraid to put yourself out there”.
“Thank you for saying that,” I said. “It’s a pleasure to be here. I also give you a lot of credit for showing up every single week, putting out awesome and inspiring content to the world.”
Why am I pointing this out? Because Evan, by being himself, has exhibited a core aspect of leadership: encouraging others, complimenting them, and making them feel good about themselves. Evan has done way more live interviews than I have and easily could have kept the focus on himself. Instead, he used his social awareness to compliment me. Authentic leaders point out the strengths in others and make them feel good about themselves.
Be Transparent and Vulnerable
“Do you find there’s value in revealing your mistakes, flaws, and weaknesses to the world, with the specific purpose of helping others? What are your thoughts on that?” I asked Evan.
“Yes,” Evan said. “We’ve all had struggles and it’s helpful to be transparent about them. I got divorced from my previous wife and that was a tough time. But I got my 7-year-old son from that marriage and I love him dearly.”
Evan just hit a homerun with this comment, like he’s been doing with everything else he’s been saying. In my previous book, Reach Your Mountaintop: 10 Keys to Finding the Hidden Opportunity in Your Setbacks, Flipping What You’ve Heard on Its Head, and Achieving Legendary Goals a big theme was true leadership is about finding the silver lining in difficult situations. With this comment about his 7-year-old son, Evan embodies his leadership prowess as well as his maturity.
First, it took courage for Evan to reveal that he’s been divorced. Second, notice how Evan wasn’t negative about what happened. Yes, what he had to experience was unpleasant and challenging. But he was quick to point out how he now has his awesome son.
Being transparent and vulnerable means pointing out to others what went wrong in your life. From there, being an authentic leader means focusing on the good that came from the situation. Focusing on the good is not the same as disregarding the bad. It’s important to acknowledge the bad so you can process and fully feel what happened. Facing the bad also provides benefit to you and others. When you shift your focus to also sharing the silver lining, you are using negative situations from your past as springboards for others to learn from.
Internally Feeling Sorry for Others
“Your thoughts are beyond awesome,” I said to Evan. “Let me ask you – there are people out there I’ve spoken to who apply all these insights we’re saying. Yet they still feel pushed around by the outer focus. Their friends doubt them. Few, if any, people believe in them. They are moving forward, but struggling to fully break those chains. What advice do you have for them?”
“It’s true that not everyone around you is going to believe in you,” Evan said. “This even happens with family members. Here’s my advice. Feel sorry for people like that. And that doesn’t mean you need to literally say out loud to someone, I feel sorry for you. If you say it out loud, it will come across as a defense mechanism. What I’m saying here is to internally, on the inside, feel sorry for others.
“It’s ok to go to a Thanksgiving dinner to spend time with your family and loved ones, even when you know not everyone there will be supportive of your goals, dreams, and initiatives. Let’s hypothetically use Grandpa Joe as an example here. You may know ahead of time Grandpa Joe is going to go out of his way to be unsupportive of you because of the way he is and the way he chooses to be. Still go to that Thanksgiving dinner. Enjoy the time with your loved ones. Here’s what you need to remember and apply in your life: there’s a difference between hearing what Grandpa Joe says at the dinner table and letting his words affect how you live your life.”
This is unbelievably enlightening and one of the most powerful quotes I’ve ever heard in my entire life, and that’s no exaggeration. There’s a difference between hearing someone’s input due to circumstance and letting it determine the choices and decisions you make. Here’s the beautiful part of this process: you don’t have to let the naysayers in your family deter you from your life’s true course. Be respectful, internally have compassion for friends and family members who are putting you down, and then go about your life exactly as you were: being truly and authentically you. If you must be around a negative family member due to circumstance, be the bigger person and then make a conscious choice not to listen to their irrelevant words.
“Some people failed at turning their dreams into reality, or they never tried to achieve their dreams to begin with,” Evan pointed out. “So they attack and tear down anyone who is going after their dreams, afraid that others will do better in life than they did.”
Evan reminded me of a former manager I had at a Fortune 500 company I used to work for in Maryland out of college. I decided to leave the company after a year of being there to pursue opportunities that better suited my career interests. I was enormously grateful for my time there, but it was simply time for me to go. My boss was supportive, but my boss’s boss, the Director, was the one who didn’t like my decision. He was a big fan and “friend” of mine while I was unhappily living under his rules, but the moment I decided to go my own way in life he suddenly became my worst critic. My boss’s boss not only severely criticized me for my decision, but made it a point to publicly humiliate me. Our department achieved our yearly goals and we were all about to receive a monetary bonus. My boss’s boss deliberately took my name off the list so I would not receive the company bonus, even though I was still working there when the bonus was issued and had earned it as much as everyone else in the department.
Even though his words and actions hurt, I remained nonreactive and didn’t take it personally. I didn’t fight or push back on his antics; I let him be exactly as he was. I couldn’t possibly have been more proud of myself, as my core flaw in High School and College was that I was constantly overreacting to people and turning their problems into my own. In a moment of vulnerability and regret, my boss’s boss ended up telling me that he always wanted to be a speaker, but never pursued his dream. This is just an educated guess, but perhaps he was secretly jealous I had the balls to go after my dream of becoming a professional speaker. He was aware of my heavy involvement in Toastmasters, a organization that helps improve one’s leadership and public speaking skills, and may have been aware I was rapidly progressing. I could be wrong, but it’s possible I made him remember how he never went after his own dreams. No judgment and no criticism here, simply a statement of fact: my boss’s boss from the Fortune 500 company I worked at refused to empower others. He missed the boat! The best leaders empower others, giving them the autonomy needed to prove themselves.
Shortly after leaving I emailed him a genuine thank you note, saying that I appreciated the time working for him; after all, we did have a good working relationship before the weird ending. I share this story to show there’s enormous value in Evan’s wisdom: don’t overreact to people who treat you poorly and you will win.
People who are attacking and tearing down others (trust me, I’ve encountered PLENTY of people like this, as I’m sure you have as well) are missing the point of life. We are all in this game called life together and we’re here to help one another. The best leaders are the ones who encourage others to go beyond their own accomplishments and surpass them. The best leaders are happy when other people do better than they are doing and they cheer on other people’s success. The winners in life encourage others and the losers in life tear down others. Which do you want to choose to be?
“Leaders create leaders in others,” Evan said. “So many people out there are intent on stabbing people in the back to get ahead. This is not the way to be”.
What Evan is saying here is that authentic leaders seek to bring out the best in people.
Combine Multiple Passions
“Last question,” I said to Evan. “There are people out there who have a lot of competing interests. For example, they want to travel, but they also want to do other things. How do they get to know themselves better and decide what to do?”
“Your core genius lies in combining multiple activities,” Evan said. “For example, if you only travel but have interests elsewhere, you are going to always wonder about what else you could have done. If you’re only traveling and not pursuing those other interests, you’re not going to make it big. It’s going to be tough to be the best traveler in the world because there are tons of great travelers out there. But if you combine multiple interests and passions, finding the intersection, you’ll have a better chance of standing out because you’ll be operating from your core genius.”
This ties into what authors and bloggers Jeff Goins and Chris Guillebeau will share with us later in the book. There is truth in the statement that great minds think alike: Evan’s words of wisdom are the perfect setup for what we will hear from Goins and Guillebeau, and neither of them knew I’d also be featuring Evan in this book.
As far as getting to know yourself and your strengths, Evan looped back to the power of finding your one word, knowing your core values, and fully going after your passion. Read, reflect, talk to friends, spend time alone – do whatever you need to do to gain clarity on your values, because they will be the guiding mechanism for making right decisions for the rest of your life.
Remember These Tips as You Continue Being Yourself
Before we leave this chapter, I’d like to leave you with two core themes from my discussion with Evan that will help you continuously live an authentic life amidst the constant twists and turns. The first sentence in each point is Evan, and the remaining explanation is my own.
- Avoid negative people and step away from unsupportive networking groups. I love this advice. A lot of the time our biggest problems come from the fact that we continuously put ourselves into situations with negative people. As Evan pointed out earlier, sometimes we are forced to deal with people like this. But a lot of the time, it’s within our power to spend more time with people who uplift and encourage us. If you are in a group that isn’t supporting you, step away from it.
- It’s a learning process. The journey to fully being yourself, becoming an authentic leader, and living your purpose is an ongoing journey of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, setbacks and triumphs. Begin to view each experience as a learning situation instead of a failure and you’ll make progress more effectively.
Apply These Tips in Your Life
If you apply in your life the insights from this chapter alone, your life will be forever changed. With this chapter as your ultimate foundation, you are now ready to conquer the world. And you’re going to love who we hear from next.
Evan Carmichael, along with other successful world-class experts, will be featured in Jeff’s next book The Power of Being Yourself: The Real Secret Behind Every Authentic Leader. To stay tuned for updates on this book, subscribe to Jeff’s YouTube channel.