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On authenticity

I do quite a few Coursera courses (I count more than one a year as “quite a few” … I do know there are plenty of people who do many more!). And once I’ve finished a course, I like to commemorate that here on the blog. I haven’t gotten a grade back yet, but I’m confident enough that I successfully finished Better Leader, Richer Life.

Better Leader, Richer Live is a “soft skills” course, which I’ve explained to people as “an approach to the idea of work/life balance that’s not right out doomed from the get go.” Rather than imagine that there’s a “balance” to be struck among areas of your live (work, family, community, self), the course asks you to see where there are possibilities to make changes that will impact multiple areas of your life. A simple example is if improving your personal fitness and being involved in charity is important to you, being involved in the Cycling Team (*cough* MS City to Shore) at work is a great multi-way win.

I especially thought about writing about the course here on the blog when, at a holiday party yesterday, there was a mention of building relationships, and the corresponding ideal goal, doing so with authenticity. That resounded with what I recently learned in the Coursera course (which, if you’re interested, the professor has a book, Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life, that covers essentially the same topics), in the “Be real” segment of the process.

Total leadership flow chart
Image from

To be authentic, to act with authenticity, first begins with understanding your values. It makes sense, since you need to know what you’re being authentic to!

I found that the authenticity part of the “practice” from the leadership course was the most valuable for me, as I took the time to codify my values. If you’d like to do this yourself, think, chronologically, about events in your life that had that resonance to help form who you are today. I’ll share my values here, without the corresponding stories (as they’re quite personal), but hopefully the sense of them is evident.

– To be independent, and always be able to be self-sufficient.

– Question the rules of the game, challenge “authority”.

– Do improbable things, never stop learning, and strive for greatness.

For each of these values, I can also reflect and see how, after the event, my behaviors changed to reflect these values. For example, expressing the first value, I graduated college early (because I wanted to work), and had made some investments in the stock market during college such that I was able to pay off my student loans in my first year of working, despite making a salary in the 30k range while living in Washington D.C. ($1000/mo. for a room to rent was a great deal, for context if you aren’t from the East Coast). Despite my relative financial success now, I’m still very conscious of building that safety net and living well within my means.

Thoughts on your values? How you live authentically?


Footnote: This blog post is brought to you by me being stumped on what to write about … if you have any requests, I’m taking them! I write weekly on The Webivore, so if there’s things you want to know about JavaScript (or now, Swift), ask them!

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