Illusion of Authenticity

Multi-bestselling author Mike Robbins shares that for a long time, his whole world had been tied up in becoming “someone important”. And in reality, he was on his way. Even as a kid the American Dream was alive, well, and showing up in Mike’s playground. Let me explain: As a highschool student he was drafted by the New York Yankees, but he turned them down in order to attend Stanford (where he continued to play baseball). After graduation, he was again drafted, this time by the Kansas City Royals. 

I have said many times that we are all living out a story, and the only question is: Are you writing it yourself, or allowing someone else to?

After a devastating injury that resulted in three arm surgeries over a three year period, it was clear that Mike’s dream baseball career was over. He came to realize that the story he thought he was going to live, and the identity he thought was his, were not going to be realities in his life. He found himself having to ask who he was now that everything else was stripped away.

I recently interviewed Mike Robbins on the Leadership and Loyalty Podcast. He has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, and the Wall Street Journal. He started out as a pro athlete and today is a sought-after thought leader who delivers keynotes and seminars for some of the top organizations in the world. He focuses on teaching people how to infuse their lives with authenticity and appreciation. You can find Mike online at


You don’t have to lose someone you love to experience grief. Losing anything you’ve held on to or cared about can create a deep sense of loss in your own life.

A career you loved, a dream you cherished, or even losing your grasp on a certain lifestyle can create unimaginable and often unrecognized grief. Sometimes even the wonderful experience of becoming an older parent can trigger a grief response! Mike shares how he sometimes experiences a sense of grief when he sees young children and is reminded that he will never have those moments with his own daughters again.

Grief also doesn’t have to create a sense of sadness (although it might). It could actually manifest as a sense of anger, depression, fatalism, anxiety, or something else altogether unique to you.

Rather than try to brush these feelings away simply because we (or others) may believe that we should have moved on, what if you chose to face them? You may find that it helps to ask yourself one of the most powerful and personally insightful questions we could ask: “Who am I without this?

Feeling okay (or even great) in one moment does not mean you no longer have the right to feel the hard feelings all over again. As much as we might prefer our feelings to have a clear chronology, that’s not how it works! Within the same day and hour, you can have a wide range of emotions and ways of being.

So, please allow me to remind you: 

Grief is an ocean with unpredictable tides.

The Illusion of Authenticity

Speaking of “ways of being”….the idea that we have to be locked into only one way is ludicrous!

We don’t have a “single” face! Authenticity can be many things in any given moment, and we can’t try to make it a static way of being. Part of the “authenticity trap” is that we think it has to look a certain way, or feel a certain way, to be real.

What if we acknowledged that true authenticity contains both the light and dark, the grief and the celebration, the joy and the pain?

Often, it’s the ability to embrace pain and hardship (and other hard truths about life), that actually create an authentic way of being. This is an invitation to STOP pasting on a smile and trying to pretend that authenticity means being happy.

True authenticity is about actually experiencing the reality of your life, your feelings, and the good, the bad, and the ugly that every person’s life is filled with. It’s also about honesty, courage, and empowerment!

The “Authentic” Jerk

Now, some people use “authenticity” to excuse all sorts of terrible behavior. This often comes with an attitude of “I’m being authentic, and you shouldn’t try to change me.” 

News flash: You don’t have to let people walk all over you in the name of authenticity!

In fact, if you just swallow your own feelings and attempt to appease these people, you’re missing out on the possibility of ever being able to have authentic relationships with them. True authenticity desires to not only be personally authentic, but also to engage in relationships that are also authentic.

Mike shares that a mentor once taught him that the number one thing standing between himself (or anyone) having more authenticity in their relationships is a 10 minute, sweaty palmed conversation they are too afraid to have. Avoidance of this conversation can turn you into a “victim” that is then stuck with whatever people want to give you (or however they want to act around you). Don’t do this!

There is a way to build environments in which everyone is bringing the good, bad, and ugly in an authentic way that actually builds relationships and trust! Real authenticity can also include boundary creation, which is hugely important.

In an authentic environment, people care about one another, and they are willing to give feedback about what does and does not work. It requires kindness, but also courage and truth telling.


Part of the authenticity trap is this idea that we have to quickly move into the “lesson”. 

When you’ve experienced a hardship or loss, you do not need to immediately claim it as being “a wonderful learning experience” or a transformative time. In the moment (or for much longer than a moment), it is normal for hard things to feel hard, terrible, overwhelming, and certainly unwanted.

You can authentically grieve, hate that something has happened, and otherwise rail against reality for a moment.

You can also authentically release that pain, choose to see the lessons you’ve learned, and later circle back and reexamine your hardship from a different place. 

Another perspective? 

There is a difference between conviction and self-righteousness. When we are convicted, we have strong beliefs that we are willing to speak about and even fight for. However, we also have the ability to understand that we may be wrong, and we are open minded and willing to learn from others. Self-righteousness creates disconnection and separation, because it is a sense of “rightness” that refuses to listen to anyone else. 

At the end of the day, a convicted, authentic person who is willing to take ownership of their life and experiences will be equipped to live a truly authentic life, even when things are hard.

With gratitude,
Dov Baron, Expert on Leadership, presents his Authentic Leadership Matrix!

My Authentic Leadership Matrix is free this link! Why? Because one of the questions I’m most often asked is; What authentic leadership is and how do we define it? As a result, with years of experience and extensive requests, I created the Authentic Leadership Matrix. It’s designed to give you a clear process of how to perform in each of the five main areas that are required for you to become a world-class authentic leader. Start your yes and no evaluation to discover your leadership traits here:

Want to retain your top talent? Then my “Fiercely Loyal” book is for you! Plus get your free: “How to instantly bond any team” infographic.

Copyright: Dov Baron International© 2020


  • @TheDovBaron

    Inc Magazine top 100 leadership speaker, Inc #1 Podcast for Fortune 500 Executives, Entrepreneur Mag contributor, Leadership Strategist, Storyteller.

    Dov Baron

    Dov Baron is “The Dragonist”, guiding us in how to recognize and nurture dragons (the top talent) hidden in our organizations. A Dragon Leader is not a position; it’s someone who is always pushing to improve and wants those they serve to reach their full potential.   Dov’s humour and no-BS style is contagious. As a master storyteller, he is considered to be the leading authority on actualized leadership. Actualized leadership means getting the result you set out to achieve in the most meaningful manner.   Working with diverse leaders and executive teams, Dov filters common bonds to create Fiercely Loyal cultures. You can’t achieve loyalty without “meaning”, and talent only stays when they feel they are a part of something larger than themselves.    Besides being a bestselling author of One Red Thread and Fiercely Loyal: How High Performing Companies Develop and Retain Top Talent, Dov has been named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers to Hire and as one of the Top 30 Global Leadership Gurus. He has spoken to the United Nations, The World Management Forum (Iran), The New York National Speakers Association, and The Servant Leadership Institute.    In June 1990, while free rock climbing, Dov fell approximately 120 feet and landed on his face. The impact shattered most of the bone structure of his face. After ten reconstructive surgeries, no external evidence remains; however, this experience wasn’t just life-changing, it was completely transformational. Dov shares how Dragons are born in fire. Experiences that could potentially destroy you can, instead, birth purpose, passion, and the hunger to champion others. We can learn to nurture the Dragon Fire in ourselves, our families, our communities, and our companies.    Dov believes the world needs more "Dragon Leaders" committed to living their purpose, standing in their truth, and empowering others to find their fire and do the same.