The best version of yourself is always you
As a young bright-eyed, soul-on-fire 20-something, I found myself in a room full of female co-workers listening to a powerful woman (who is now a mentor) generously sharing her career advice with us.
When we got to the Q/A portion, someone asked a question that went something like this:
“We work in a company and an industry dominated by men. And there are times when situations come up that are more favorable for the men. (She listed some examples - hosting clients for golf, going to a cigar bar, etc.) How should I handle and respond in these situations as a woman?”
And here was the answer:
“Don’t think about how to act in the situation as a business woman - just act as a business person - yourself. If you don’t play golf, don’t force it just to fit in. If you don’t do cigars, don’t go to a cigar bar. Just do what you would do - as your most authentic self.”
She urged us to find ways to connect with clients, co-workers and leaders in ways that put us in our best light. And that forcing ourselves into adhere to someone else’s mold is the wrong way to go.
This advice has stuck with me ever since that day almost 10 years ago. And I try to use it every chance I get. It's tempting to see “old boys club” activity and try to adapt your behavior - its human nature to try to fit in. But I believe people in business (and life, actually) who are worth it, will see the true value in someone who is sticks to who they are. Intelligence and talent knows no race, gender, age or background. That’s why the best version of yourself is the perfect vehicle to reveal your own intelligence and talent - not someone else.
One year, I was going through my New Year’s resolutions and personal improvement goals with my business partner and also mentor. I thought I was being really smart by taking selections of characteristics from people I admired and trying to adapt them for my own.
I was listing my aspirations to my partner like this:
“I want to be more analytical like X-person.”
“I want to talk to a room like Y-person.”
“I like Z-person’s leadership style, so I’m going to make that my leadership style.”
And my partner just looked me square in the eyes and said “Why are you trying to be like parts of all these other people?
If you do that, you’ll just be acting like someone else all of the time. Instead, you should just spend your energy improving yourself.
Just be the best version of you.”
Nailed it. He was right (don’t tell him that).
A speaker I heard recently at a Diversity & Inclusion talk said,
“Be disciplined to who you are. Once you get outside of yourself, its trouble.”
That doesn’t mean insulate yourself to those who are different than you. I’m a big believer in always pushing to surround yourself with people that have different world views and backgrounds. The meaning behind the message is to take those differing views and apply them to your own self-improvement, not to turn into someone you’re not. That’s the discipline the speaker was referring to.
It’s small pinpoints to knowledge like the ones I’ve mentioned here along my own journey that build a compass for my personal development. And, no matter where I am in that journey, that compass always points inward first. Because it’s pretty difficult to become the best version of yourself if you’re always looking somewhere else.
Blair Brady, CEO | Co-Founder