The Idea: To claim authenticity is very different than creating the image of authenticity. “Authenticity” is often times code for we are working to create an image that looks and feels like an original, but actually is not. We all value the idea of authenticity, but has it lost its meaning among the crowds of voices persuading you of their own genuineness?
You can’t create authenticity. You either reveal it or paint it up to look like something other than your original self. What makes you authentic is an original story and personal identity that makes you unique. It is not created, it is discovered.
Recently Amazon filed a lawsuit against the alleged operators of businesses that sell Amazon sellers fake 4 and 5 star customer ratings for their products. This shell game is just one example of how the game is often fixed, undermining the role of peer-reviewed products threatening Amazon’s brand image. When games such as these are fixed, it dismantles authenticity and births cynicism.
So what makes something authentic?
In an interview with Adrian Iraola, founder of a successful Mexican restaurant named Chela’s, Adrian describes the battle of moving to the U.S. and trying to keep his heritage in the way he makes food. He said, “There are the classics, like in music, that you don’t tamper with. To improve them would be to destroy them. We feel that way about our foods here. We stick to the basics, and don’t tamper with them, but are always focusing on the little ways we can improve things.” Adrian tells us that authentic cuisine is only as genuine as the person making it. It is about holding on to your true identity.
The “a-word” is much bigger than a story about a Mexican restaurant – it’s the essence of your personal brand. Adrian’s story is valuable; our stories are even more valuable. When we talk about authenticity, we are really talking about embracing our story.
When you use the “a-word,” ask yourself: am I revealing my true identity, or am I opportunistically creating one?