Just ask Dave; a fake won’t do!
Two years ago I went to my local chiropractor for an adjustment. This guy knows his watches! From a practical standpoint, a $30 knock off watch tells the time just as well as the $30 000 watch it’s trying to pass itself off as. And, the fact remains it’s a phoney, an inferior copy. Unsurprisingly, the two watches, at opposite ends of the scale, are not valued the same way. Sure, you can say an expensive watch is a status symbol, and that’s why they’re sought after. As you know people go to great lengths to prove the authenticity of a prestigious watch and rightly want certificates and warranties to prove it. And, there are people who are happy to pay a little more and even a lot more, and when they do, they want to know they are getting what they’re paying for. They want the real McCoy.
We see the same approach in art. The famous Australian artist, Brett Whitley, whose Bohemian lifestyle meant there were times in which he sold his paintings under the table, so to speak, for a quick buck. He would do this when he was looking to support his drug habit. When this happened, Whiteley’s meticulous notes concerning his works, went by the wayside. This creates doubt regarding the provenance (authenticity) of some of his works. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to establish a direct line back to the artist and that makes it challenging to ensure the originality of the artwork. The lineage of the artwork is lost or at least called into question. What emerges are two classes of paintings. Even when two pictures are both original Whiteley’s, it’s the one with a clearly documented gallery history that commands more.
The real McCoy
An unfortunate art collector by the name of Rick Anderson paid $1.5 M at auction for what was, in fact, a genuine Whitely. Since the painting in question was associated with an art dealer whose reputation had been tarnished, the best he could on-sell it for in a private sale was $1 M. The painting had become stigmatised, and Anderson took a bath on it. Not everyone is interested in owning an expensive watch. Not everyone is in the market for a Whitely painting however the same principle applies to people. No one wants to be associated with a fake. The phrase “the real McCoy” is subject to many false etymologies. What is agreed upon is the real McCoy means you can count on it being the real thing.
Price, value and engagement all drop when authenticity is called into question. This applies to relationships and teams. If someone is authentic, we trust them. If something is authentic, we tend to trust; we consider it to be reliable. How do you feel when you have been duped? Years ago, I bought an estate sapphire ring for which I paid the princely sum of $475. Years later, I decided to remake the ring into a bracelet. The sapphire turned out to be glass. You can imagine how I felt. After all, I paid good money for worthless glass. The ring was probably worth $20, and I lost $455 worth of value. When we put our faith in people, and we get the equivalent of inferior coloured glass, it’s worse again. I could have asked for a certificate for the ring; it’s harder to do that for people.
The message is authentic (the real deal) is better
Of course, there are reference checks, Google and Facebook, and it’s not our natural go-to. Google search is a great reminder of why we will be found out if we are not who we say we are. Which brings us to the idea of narrative. There is an easily identified narrative surrounding authenticity. What narrative are you weaving? Again, you can see prestige brands have this down pat. When you look at the lengths they go to in telling and retelling their own stories and the mythology it creates. The central message is authentic is better, superior, and THE original has no substitute. A copy, no matter how good of a copy it is, is nonetheless a copy. Again, no one wants to be associated with a fake. Everybody wants the real deal; this applies to people; it applies to things.
A path to self-understanding
So, Narrative is essential for us in understanding ourselves. Think of immigrants who have left their homeland in search of a better life and what it means to their children when they return to the home country. Speaking from personal experience, the narrative matters. It fosters understanding and grounds you in who you are. It forms part of your personal history and helps you understand where you fit. Your history informs who you are. It doesn’t define who you are. You still get to choose who you are and how you show up and be the you that you say you are. This is where you have the opportunity to step up and author yourself: Be the real McCoy. Finally, that’s a whole other level in what it means to be authentic and how this applies to leadership. We will explore that further, in a further article.