Why “Being Yourself” is Actually Good Advice

I’ll be honest. I’ve always hated the advice, “Be yourself.”

Before a big speech or presentation or job interview, the last words echoing in your head are usually, “Be yourself.”

(Not so much if you’re about to act in a play. Then you don’t want to take that advice.)

But I always wanted something more from my supporters, like some grand philosophical entreaty from the Greek gods.

But I was always left with, “Just be yourself.” And why did I hate that? Because honestly, I’ve always kind of hated myself.

I hated my voice, my cereal gut, my bald spot. I’ve had some serious insecurities. So much so that not too long ago I deliberately lowered my voice to sound more like Bear from Armageddon. 

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As a result, a supervisor at work repeatedly asked if I was okay and said that I sounded like I just heard the truth about Santa Claus. After a week my wife lost it and told me to stop and that it’s annoying.

Recently my best friend wrote me something which kind of took me back. He spoke about how I have this gift of storytelling and evoking emotion in people when I speak. The truth is, the information I deliver may be utter bullshit, but I have this Steve-Jobs ability to make people feel, despite how annoying I think my voice is. My friend ended on this note:

And so, my advice to you is to learn to open up. Tap in to that inner place in your heart that is hidden from everyone else. Let the darkness see the light. For it is when we are most vulnerable and raw that we can truly impact the emotions of others. Because…you can actually influence others to be on your side. Storytelling is a way to relate to others and a way for them to relate to you. It’s a way for us to feel human. And before long, we find out that we all have similar journeys and experiences and that, despite what we may think, we aren’t in it alone after all. 

So yeah, I might get plugs when I hit the jackpot, and I can promise myself for the millionth time that I’m going to stop eating cereal and lose weight, and I can change my voice to sound like the Green Giant, but none of that will replace my skill of changing opinions through my orating, influencing ideas, and guiding peoples’ emotions like a crossing guard.

So when people tell you to be yourself, tap into your strengths. They’re not saying to lift your shirt and expose your fat, or to point to your twitching eye, or to walk around with a sign over your head saying, “ACCIDENTAL SLOB,” or “SUCKY CONVERSATIONALIST.”

They’re saying to be the best things about yourself. BE that confident speaker. BE that wonderful artist. Let your voice ring through the concert hall. Let your fingers fly across that piano.

Here’s the thing. We all have insecurities. They’re about 60% of who we are. Our confidence ranges from about 5-10%. The other stuff is just what we’re okay with.

When you’re told to be yourself, they mean to check the 60% at the door. Go in there and inflate your 5-10% to 70%, because now you’ve got a 60% gap to fill. If you’re awkward talking to people, capitalize on it. Point out that you’re awkward, be comfortable enough to joke about it, but make sure that what you have to say is going to knock their socks off.

Think about why your friends are your friends. They’re not friends with you because of your thin hair or your personal hygiene or because you have to drop a deuce  every half an hour. They’re friends with you in spite of those things. They’re friends with you because they love the 5-10% of what you’re so often trying to bury underneath your 60%.

That 5-10% of awesomeness is what draws people to you. It’s what gets you ahead.

And it’s what you need to focus on expanding and bringing to the forefront. No one cares that I’m balding, even though I do. But if I can forget about it and check it at the door, I then can make room to be more of my awesome self instead of my insecure self.

So today, go out there and be yourself. Really dig into that 5-10% you’ve been hiding from everyone and just let it out, and then you’ll find that you’re not as awful as you once thought. Because, as my friend said, we’re really just all the same.

Podcasts: What Do You Get Out of Them?

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Podcasts. Something that’s relatively new on the social media market, yet they’ve been hidden underneath some digital rocks for a while.

Do you listen to them? If so, share below which ones you like the most and what you get out of them.

As a visionary I like to keep on top of what’s trending and if all of my blog followers are listening to podcasts, I’d like to tune in. So share your favorites down below, even if it’s your own!

Don’t have a favorite podcast? Then what sort of podcast would you like? Suppose you found a podcast on writing, what would keep you listening to it? What sorts of nuggets of wisdom would you hope to find?

 

Poll: What Tunes You In?

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I’m always getting my news from Facebook, not even clicking the articles, just basing most of the political stuff I know off of headlines that fill up my feed, as well as all of the hilarious comments that follow.

My world’s too busy to trick myself into thinking I can affect the political climate by pretending to know what’s really going on out there. My thoughts are: All we know is what’s publicized. But we’ll never really know what’s going on. Might as well try to find the secret code to get into Narnia.

But it got me thinking about my readers – you guys.

I’m not naive enough to think that all of you still read every word of my (often) lengthy blog posts. I know and respect that you’re all busy. But I still want to be apart of your lives and be somewhat of a positive influence.

But the best way to do that is to find out more about you.

So my question is, how do you get most of your information? That’s the poll you’ll find below. I’m sure there are some mixed answers and options I left out, but please, let me know so that I can best tailor my structure to best meet your media needs.

Specifically, what would entice you to pay more attention to Adopting James or even tune in to upcoming information about my publishing company? Or perhaps the content is lacking? Just let me know! What sort of stuff would you like to see me write/talk about? And as always, don’t hesitate to leave your comments below.

How to Merge Creativity in a Professional Environment

People often ask me what one book I’ve read the most. Here’s my answer. It’s not a work of fiction.
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Creativity, Inc. is a book for businesspeople, managers, supervisors, artists, writers, and creative-types of every kind.

It is written by Ed Catmull, the president and cofounder of one of the most fastest-growing and successful companies on the planet.

If I were to start picking out highlights from this book to share with you, I might as well just copy the whole thing word for word in this post, and I don’t think WordPress would give me that much space to write.

As you journey through this insightful book, you’ll come to realize Catmull has reimagined the way business is run.

This isn’t our grandfather’s suit-and-tie world anymore. This is a world where leaders and organizers need to be open to good ideas coming from anywhere.

If you’re more of the creative persuasion, whether you write or draw or sing and dance, this book is equally for you as well. You will be inspired by the grueling and relentless process of storytelling and how to persevere and hone your craft. If you draw, you’ll learn new ways to gain inspiration and even look at the world a little differently.

And if you’re just a Pixar buff, you’ll find loads and loads of fun facts and information about Pixar you can’t find anywhere else.

Don’t think about it. Just get this book. I honestly don’t care who you are or what you do, it will most definitely pertain to you in some way or another.

The Most Important Thing to Have at Work

I’ve been asked to pitch some ideas for an intracompany newsletter at my job today. The point of it being two-fold:

  1. To increase better communication between colleagues and management
  2. To make work fun

They don’t know it, but I’ve gone over and beyond with a Power Point presentation all set up and everything. In honor of Michael Scott, I even thought about throwing out candy bars during the pitch.

But it got me thinking a lot about having fun at work.

Why is that such a big deal and is it that important?

Speaking to a buddy of mine, I asked him the question I ask almost everyone I come in contact with: “What do you want out of life?” His answer: “I want to have fun at work. I want to sit back and laugh with my friends while we get work done.”

When we’re kids we naturally gravitate toward anything that’s bright, colorful, or even has the potential to be fun or funny.  Then we go through a phase where we back off from that sort of stuff for appearance’s sake. But once we’ve been in the dark long enough, as adults we crave what we fought so hard to obtain as kids.

We want the fun back.

We browse YouTube for hours looking for the next big laugh.

Fun and humor stimulate us. Back when I was the director of some after school programs, our best and most successful ideas came out of just gabbing and cracking jokes. Ed Catmull, in his brilliant and flawless book, Creativity, Inc. says the same thing about his team of power brains making all those Pixar movies.

Fun begets passion. When there’s no fun, there’s no passion. Passion drives ideas. Passion almost always benefits the bottom line. 

If you’re the owner of a company, imagine if all of your employees had passion on the clock. How much better would your customers be treated? How much could your business grow because of that?

I love the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. Like, even though we can’t own it since there’s kids in the house, that movie is on my list of top five favorites. Why? Because those dudes be havin’ FUN! Sure, they broke the law and got busted, but I don’t think they ever looked back and regretted the fun they had.

wows-dwarfI also don’t think it’s a coincidence that my favorite band is Fun..

So, I challenge you to put together a list of ideas for your team at work, or for your manager, and present this simple yet beautiful idea of fun. If you can’t do that, start cracking jokes at company meetings, shake things up. Wear a funny hat to work or pull some pranks. Some work environments might not like it, so know the rules and don’t get yourself fired (and if you’re in that sort of situation, get out of there already), but find little things you can do to brighten up your day. Because when you’re happy, others will be happy, too. Happiness is contagious.

Here’s a little something I did at work not too long ago. My little addition to the janitor’s sign was taken down after like, a minute, but I did see the guy after me walk out smiling.

Now, start aiming for a good time. Life is short (and it’s even shorter if you die of a heart attack because work is so stressful and boring).

Why We Don’t Tell Our Kids They Can be Anything They Want

It’s preached everywhere: “Believe, and it will happen.”

“Trust and you will find.”

“Try and you will succeed.”

“You can be anything you want to be and more.”

Once you get to a certain age you realize that’s all crap. Because, you know, when I was little, I believed I’d be an astronaut and go to the moon (there have only been twelve manned moon landings since 1969). I also wanted to be a cartoonist for a newspaper strip, but that was before I learned that Jim Davis already had the market cornered in that department.

The problem with me, then? Well, I believe there were two issues.

  1. My expectations were unrealistic. I hate science and always have, so any chance of me becoming an astronaut were doomed to begin with. And, even after some art classes, my cartoons were mediocre at best.
  2. I wasn’t consistent. I bounced around from one cool potential career to the next, whichever sounded most appealing at the time. Usually I was inspired by pop culture, and never really tapped into what I – little Andy – really wanted to do with my life.

Now that I’m a dad, I’m careful not to tell my kids they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, because let’s be honest: My daughter is too tall to be an Olympic gymnast. My son is too sensitive to be a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys, and so far his hand-eye coordination is as great as his dad’s – never mind hitting the broadside of a barn, we’re lucky just to make the ball past the fence.

I love the movie Wreck-It Ralph. Ralph didn’t want to be a bad guy anymore, and no matter 982468_032how many medals he won or good deeds he performed, he was always going to be a bad guy. But he learned to make peace with it.

An even better one is the bold Monsters University, where young Mike wants to be a scarer, but he really just sucks at it. He’s small, puny, and pretty funny looking.

No, as much as I would like to change things, our kids cannot be anything they want to be. It’s just not realistic, and beyond that, it’s a lie.

That’s not to say that if they worked and studied hard enough that they can’t become doctors and lawyers, business owners and CEO’s, or any other profession that requires a large degree of panache and brains. And as their parents, we’ll support them in every way.

But if my son dreams of making it on Juggling with the Stars in sixteen years but he can’t juggle any more than his daily chores, then I’m going to be flat-out honest with him and suggest that maybe he could coach someone to juggle or something.

But whatever they set their mind to, it is my hope that not only is it achievable within their skill set, but that they stick with it and don’t give up.

Let’s Resolve for a Better 2018 (Yes, 2018)

I think I know why New Year’s resolutions don’t work.

It’s because we expect change to be immediate.Like, we plan to lose thirty pounds next year. That’s great, but we’re just now coming out of a candy-crusted, cookie-frosted, eggnog-chugging month.

Guys. We can’t go from heavy creamed-based mashed potatoes to carrot juice and Power bars over night. Seriously.

And yet, year after year, we think it can be done.

Or what about people who are like, I’m going to make a million dollars next year! That’s fine and great, and I applaud your spirit, but you made that vow last year aaaaaaannnd… here you are sitting at your same computer reading this same blog about to make the same promise, which will eventually lead you to this exact same spot exactly one year from now.

But what if.

What if, instead of making our traditional New Year’s resolutions for 2017, we instead resolve to prepare for a better 2018?

Stay with me here.

I think about 3/4 of the world can agree that 2016 sucked, right? I mean, we lost a bunch of beloved celebrities, the elections were going to be bad either way, and it seems like everybody lost a loved one, and if they didn’t, it was just a really crappy year.

I want to label my toilet and every toilet at work “2016” and just crap in it all year long. Okay, that’s achievable:

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My first resolution is that, one year from now – nay, ten years from now – I look back and say that 2016 was easily the darkest and worst year of my life. (Unless of the course the zombie apocalypse happens first, then that might be considered the worst year ever. Maybe.)

And one step to ensure that happens is to make 2017 the year of…progress. As in, “We’re not there yet, but we’re making progress.” It’s the year to rebuild on the ruins of 2016.

We can’t fix everything over night. And the older I get, the more I realize that most things take more than a year to fix or build.

So let’s build toward an incredible 2018. Let’s get in the habit now of eating better, casual exercising, socializing more, spending less, writing more, whatever.

If your resolution is to stay married next year, focus more on how to stay married so that in 2018, you can resolve to improve your marriage even more and make it even a better year.

If you really want a new job, don’t just settle for the first dead-end job that offers you an out from your current situation. This is tough, but spend 2017 polishing up your resume, taking classes to improve yourself, sharpen your skills, so that in 2018, you can seriously be ready to apply for a newer, better job.

So, here’s to 2018. May 2017 be the ladder that leads to a greater year.