High praise no one would have told me before

April 15, 2017 by Joshua
in Exercises, Relationships

The host of a podcast we just recorded emailed:

Again, I so enjoyed our conversation today. Thank you for bring your whole self to the table. … I loved it. (and I know my audience will love it too.)

I never used to hear that I brought my whole self to anything. On the contrary, as I’ll share below, I spent the first few decades of my life only able to do the opposite.

One of the most popular exercises in Leadership Step by Step—both the book and the online course—is the Authentic Voice exercise. Students tell me how it enables them to speak more authentically than ever, and that doing so leads others to speak newly authentically back. In other words, they learn to lead others by leading and improving themselves. (There’s a reason it has 98% 5-star reviews).

I practice the exercise all the time. People today call me natural, which makes me feel honored and flattered, but if they think I started this way, they miss the work I put into it. The exercise emerged from practices I developed from watching what worked with others, fitting it into the progression of exercises, and coaching many people.

I enjoy seeing my students use the exercise to improve themselves in a week what took me years. I envy them too.

The cringe-worthy experience that motivated me

Part of my motivation to learning how to speak authentically was an experience I share sometimes in podcast interviews. Within a short time, in graduate school, three people from three different parts of my life said nearly the same thing:

Josh, I’ve known you a long time, but I still don’t feel like I know the real you.

Hearing that hurt. Who wants to know people for a long time only to find your longtime friends feel they know you only superficially? But I protected myself then to the point of not sharing many important things about me.

Their comments, and how I felt hearing them, led me to decide that I would change how I met people and connected to them so I wouldn’t stay aloof for years.

Fast forward to today. After years of practice, I enjoy sharing things I used to protect. I use the public nature of podcasts to motivate me to speak yet more openly, the opposite of what I used to do.

Part of the result is that nearly all my relationships now are better than nearly any of them from before. Another result is that I can teach people how to open up in ways that others open up back.

For now, I’m just appreciating that people whose big life projects are to interview people tell me that I stand out for being open and candid.

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