Authenticity, according to Chris Sacca, “is one of the most lacking things out there these days.” Known as the “Silicon Valley investor” Chris Sacca was an early-stage investor in companies such as Twitter, Uber, and Instagram. He’s also known for his cowboy shirts. He shares in his Forbes interview that entrepeneurs are disappointed if he showed up wearing something else. Be unapologetically you is his message.
Steve Jobs had his black turtleneck. Chris Sacca has his embroidered cowboy shirt. He bought his first one, impulsively, at the Reno airport en route to a speech, and the reaction prompted him to buy out half the store on his return. He now owns almost 70, in various flavours, which he keeps near his front door and in the trunk of his car in case of emergency.
Alex Konrad, Forbes
Chris Sacca is also one of the people interviewed by Tim Ferriss and included in his book Tools of Titans. This morning his chapter was where my random flipping landed. What struck me and what seeded this writing is his advice about authenticity – “be your unapologetically weird self.” He is referring to his commencement speech at the Carlson School of Management. What he said was –
Weirdness is why we adore our friends … Weirdness is what bonds us to our colleagues. Weirdness is what sets us apart, gets us hired. Be your unapologetically weird self. In fact, being weird may even find you the ultimate happiness.
Weird as a Marker of the Journey to Authenticity
Now I’m not clear how he defines “weird”. According to Cambridge Dictionary, weird means “very strange and unusual, unexpected, or not natural.” Merriam-Webster defines it as “of strange or extraordinary character : odd, fantastic” and “of, relating to, or caused by witchcraft or the supernatural: magical.” Looking at the Online Etymology Dictionary, it comes from Old English wyrd meaning “fate, chance, fortune” and from the Proto-Indo-European root wer- “to turn, bend”.
I wanted to dig a little into this as I’m finding polarized camps of “normal” and “weird”, each extolling the merits of being what they are, both calling for authenticity. Though not always with respect to “Other”. I am still surprised when I see spiritual teachers, influencers, feminists, and others with a following perpetuating tone-deaf messages. We are not immune to the process of “Othering”; being impeccable with our words, actions, and beliefs is ever so crucial in these times.
Weird is a badge of honour these days. I feel it’s a good thing that we can express who we are, more so than say 50 years ago. Even more recent than that, actually and we have some ways still to go. We are today less bound by conventional definitions of success, happiness, feminine, masculine, etc that our grandparents, parents, and even we have grown up with. It’s not so much they are wrong as much as they don’t work for everyone.
Stigma and taboos continue to dissolve as people of colour across the globe speak out against persistent colonialist mentality, cultural appropriation, white privilege, and racism. Women’s voices come across stronger and louder in our changing climate. Masks are falling off and unethical practices are being exposed across industries. Ways of corralling people, dividing us by misdirection and disinformation and dominating the narrative with fear, are weakening. Pluto in Scorpio has made for interesting times.
This is not an issue of colour and race is a false construct though both are still at play. People of all colour, culture, gender, walks of life are frankly tired of oppression and suppression. We are tired of being told who we are and how we should and should not act. Even if we haven’t quite figured it out for ourselves.
The more we focus on colour or participate in polarizing pro/anti movements, the more we remain separated from the real problem – a loss of connection and sovereignty. Without a strong inner anchor, we easily fall prey to external influences and narratives based on fear. People then abdicate and barter their freedom and power for an illusionary promise of safety and security. Becoming victims of gaslighting is more insidious than we probably think.
Weird as Awakening
As I sit at home, dozing off book in hand at 9pm, I am completely comfortable with the other definition of “normal” many people use. Boring.
How do we define weird for ourselves? We understand still from a dualistic model. We know hot, because we know cold. Tall, because of short. Weird, because of normal. So what is normal? Perhaps we define something as weird because it lies outside our expectations and experiences.
The first year I lived in Bermuda, it hailed. I thought that was weird. It hails in Bermuda (it also hailed the last year I was there). It was weird to me, because that was not my understanding of what Bermuda is like. Weird is an outlier person or event.
Becoming Our Authentic Selves
Part of growing up is deepening our self-awareness and accepting who we are. We all came into this earthly incarnation with a personality, through which we learn and grow. As we gain experience and broaden our horizons, our reality as the construct of our belief systems evolves. When Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow named their daughter Apple, way back in 2004, people thought it was ridiculous and weird. Even though Peaches is an old nickname and flower names like Dahlia, Daisy, Fleur, Hazel, Iris, and Ivy are common. Apple was just new to those times and now people aren’t batting an eye.
When we find something outside of our experiences, it gives us an opportunity to broaden our minds. While it sounds simple, it isn’t always easy. Our brain likes familiarity for survival reasons. We do have a choice. Do we welcome the unease that can come from cognitive dissonance? Do we let fear take over? Or?
This is where being authentic comes in. Authenticity means nothing more than the ability to be present with whatever we are experiencing. Without judgment, expectation, or glorification. Being authentic means not wearing masks, with a transparent interface between our interior and exterior.
We don’t filter to make ourselves or others more than, or less than. Or to help ease any discomfort that may arise, when discomfort is appropriate.
Revealing who we are is not a competition. Denigrating “normal” to feel special or to justify and defend our own experiences is unnecessary. We are special and we are all made for these times. We are unique and we all have our own paths to walk.
So while I appreciate the essence of what Chris Sacca is saying, I disagree with his emphasis. Here’s why. Weirdness is not why we adore our friends. We may find their quirks endearing; it’s accepting the whole of who they are that allows true friendship to blossom. If we only build friendships based on “opposite attracts” it reflects this idea that we are lacking. We continue looking outward, for a “better half” to being fulfilled. We are also in danger of seeing an illusion of who they are.
Let us all be unapologetically who we are. The essential thing is for us to understand who it is we are. Accept and love ourselves, so that we may be open to people who appear to be different. Let us not continue to distance others by eroticizing or exoticizing the idea of who they are. Let us stop supporting the politics of “Othering” in order to justify global exploitation for economic power. When we abuse others for cheap labour and when we commoditize the environment, we also suffer. We do not need to dehumanize or devalue others in order to feel safe or to feel valuable ourselves. There is no need to label and box people in, so that we feel more in control of chaos.
It’s time for a new narrative. Embrace who you are.