What the hell does it take to be authentic?


As I sat in a meeting last week, I looked over at a box of teas that were nestled in between the lukewarm coffee and a small sweating pitcher of ice water. The box was open so I could see the offerings which were cleverly labeled with names like “Calm”, “Refresh”, “Passion”, and “Zen”. Good marketing. The box looked to be made of bamboo and had stamps on the lid which gave it the air of authenticity. It seemed to be a well traveled box!

It started me down a string of thoughts on what it means to be authentic and if is this even around anymore. It wasn’t a rant on “things were better in the old days”, but more of an examination on whether or not we can tell the difference. Or if we even care. There are things that are made today which last hundreds times longer than they used to. Which obviously has good and bad outcomes.

The deeper meaning behind my Tazo Tea dissection, however, was how humans “show up” and our ability to be authentic. The veil of illusion we carry with us, telling us stories of who we are and how we should react to things, is very clever. And the number one directive of the mind is not to love, or to have joy, or to be kind… it is to be safe. The veil (call it what you will) protects us from a barrage of an incessant attack on our attention. Kids, politics, bosses, the asshole who can’t get his Starbucks order right. Anything that grabs our attention is filtered through the paradigm through which we see the world. It’s an ancient tool that used to protect us from saber tooth tigers, but now is put to use making sure we don’t make a fool of ourselves.

The good thing is that we have a choice on how this plays out, but we have to be conscious to participate. Example: consider you are buying a new pair of sunglasses for your next vacation (or whatever occasion you may need them for). There are hundreds of colors, styles, and lenses to choose from. When you put them on, they may be dark, light, pink, amber, blue, grey, red, etc., depending on the lens you chose. They also make you feel a certain way. Do you look cool? Sexy? Rich? Punk? All of these things from a simple pair of sunglasses. And if you are like me, it takes a long damn time to choose just the right ones. I’m picky and I have a big head.

We walk out of the store with our glasses on our face and actually look at the world differently. Cause we look so damn good!

Do we do the same for the “glasses” we choose in every moment of our lives (the lens through which we see the world)? Or do we switch glasses based on the occasion? It’s reasonable to say we need glasses appropriate for the occasion. Vacationing in the Caribbean requires one pair of glasses while a funeral may require another. That’s fair. But is it authentic? I’m not so sure.

I can’t get away from the fact that I often change my outlook based on the environment I’m in. Sometimes I need to be a tough guy. Sometimes soft. Those are behaviors, but not way of seeing the world. I’m not perfect by any means, but I am getting better at noticing when I am not showing up and being the person that is authentic. The person I was when I was born.

All of this from a box of tea.

“Looks like the University of Illinois!”




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