Following up yesterday’s post’s exercise for how to speak authentically, I wanted to give a couple more examples illustrating mastery of speaking authentically.
People who speak authentically can say things others can’t, meaning they have more freedom. We respect them not for their technical mastery of some craft but that they speak without that.
A great master today is Charles Barkley, whom I wrote about the other day. He’s famous for speaking about race, sex, class, and other topics many people lose their jobs for, yet people don’t condemn him. They recognize he’s sharing something about himself, not imposing his values on others. He leads people to accept him instead of judging him. The video below shows a different authenticity. Note the vulnerability he shows talking about what could be a great shortcoming in his life—not winning a championship.
I believe that kind of openness only comes through practice. I asked some students in my class and they didn’t see any gaps between the exercise I mentioned in yesterday’s post and being able to speak so openly to a global audience. You just have to practice.
Probably the greatest master of all time is Muhammad Ali. Though he rose to prominence as a boxer, he became the spokesman of a generation in many areas, most having nothing to do with boxing.
First let’s look at some early boxing talk. As funny and spontaneous as it sounds, I believe it came through practice, mainly because he expanded on it in time.
Some rhymes he must have come up with before, but I don’t think that implies less spontaneity. The more you practice speaking authentically, the more you move from saying just words to saying phrases. Your thoughts often come in phrases already, so to speak in phrases makes sense too. You just have less experience speaking without a filter. You already think that way, though parts of your mind probably try to suppress some thoughts from other parts of your mind. That’s partly why this exercise helps build awareness.
Here he is several years later, more mature.
How did he mature? Partly just from getting older, but also because he chose to live authentically in between. In particular, he chose to become a conscientious objector instead of going to Vietnam, speaking eloquently on his motivation, and risking his money and career.
This video shows an example in between, where you can only imagine the personal risks he took, already having lost most of his money and not knowing if he could box again.
Not all of us have to face such obstacles, like having your government strip your ability to work at your profession and to leave the country to do it elsewhere. Time has vindicated Ali, as did the Supreme Court, unanimously, but he didn’t know that they would. But we all want to know that we would do what we considered right if forced to, as he did. I believe that comes with practice. However minimal speaking your inner voice seems compared to taking on the United States government, I believe the difference is a matter of degree, not kind, meaning practice will get you there, as surely as practicing piano gets you to Carnegie Hall. What else can?
Discretion being the better part of valor, Ali also knew when not to speak, so he wasn’t just a loud mouth.
A more recent example, by actor Patton Oswalt:
I hope this post helps motivate people to practice speaking authentically, like in that exercise. It’s simple, free, and effective.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book