Beyond "authenticity" and towards transcendence: what is your true inner self and what if you ran your company (and your life) that way?

What is your true inner self? Of the many viewpoints you’ve adopted, the thoughts you now have that aren’t originally yours, the mental models and patterns that were given to you by birth, by teachers or through circumstance, what below all that is really You? 

It’s easier to say what the true Self likely isn’t. It’s not the fear that makes us lethargic. Not the anger that makes us lash out. It isn’t the ego that makes us greedy. Those are layers we’ve built up to deal with a world we have been taught is a place of scarcity and violence. Of winners and losers. Of right and wrong. 

What are the masks you wear? What are roles that we just act out? What if you strip away the protective layers, the self-destructive patterns, the conditioning and reflexive reactions?

When you peel away at that onion of Self, what is there in the end? It begins, perhaps, with taking responsibility for ourselves in a world that just seems to compete on victimhood. Taking responsibility not just for our situation, but also for our perceptions. If psychedelics have taught me anything, it is that perception is a choice, and so we are responsible for how we view the world. Remember that next time you read an article that is trying to scare you, whether it is to entertain you or to rally you to a cause.

Taking responsibility for even our unconscious reactions (id), learning to practice circumspection and tolerance, breeds cooperation. This is the logical approach to surviving in a social species. You can’t do it alone. It is still egoic ambition, but rationally channeled.

As you gain self-mastery and the needs of the ego change - isn’t it insidious? - we develop compassion. Emotionally such empathy allows us to operate from a place of genuine concern or care. In service to others, rather than ourselves, or so it would have us believe. The motivation is too often that we want to be liked, accepted, perceived as better, in a position of power over others.  

As you approach authenticity in individuals, the perspectives of "responsibility-for" and "in-service-to" are reconciled by discovering a wider purpose to dedicate yourself and your organization to. This purpose suffuses the world with meaning. It creates opportunity everywhere. It inspires others. It is perhaps egoic in its need to achieve, but in its creativity is is an extension of the true “authentic” Self. 

So what lies at this very core, once we have shed all the layers of id and ego? There was a time we used to call this the soul, atman, spirit, anima… Liberated from a conditioned self, the mystic-sage is in essence Being, life that has consciousness. 

Authenticity is when this true essence of ourselves shines through the layers. The leaders we follow, the causes we support, the purpose we find it meaningful to dedicate our lives to - these all touch our true authentic selves, our “soul.” All wisdom traditions encourage the transcendence of the outer layers of “self” to live from the inner core of “Self.”

Authenticity, viewed in this way, isn’t a canvas of tastes, styles, or fashions. Authenticity isn’t “personality”, but how true people are to their real inner selves. It also isn’t relativistic - it is a firm absolute: there is, really, only one one true inner Self. It can find different expressions, can create in different ways. But the core is the same for everyone and, most importantly, it is a shared core.

The consequences of operating from this realization, both personally and as an organization, are radical. I hope to meet more startups and founders who do. 

May 2018

2 responses
Very interesting perspective and one that I have been reflecting on lately. As I find myself both in a personal quest of living more at one with my inner self and also starting a new venture with everything it involves, from managing product and getting users to fundraising, I occasionally find myself split between what I feel are sometimes conflicting energies. One thing that comes up quite often with both getting users as well as getting funding is the idea that you should 'fake it till you make it'. This is seriously at odds with my personal attempt to live life with integrity while paying attention to the finer gifts of serendipity, instinct and being in flow. At this stage of the brave tech era where we have seen so many paper unicorns fizzle out with a puff it is somewhat laughable to try to mind-bend a meager MVP into something with huge potential. Yet, this is what most investors, accelerators and VCs want to see. I feel most of them are looking for functioning bipolar 20-something year olds, that will create a unicorn or die trying. An investable proposition often manifests as a "big vision" - such as a claim to change an industry like, say, healthcare - lead by someone that can withstand a barrage of questions, from people that don't have the time or patience to even listen to the full answer, with near sociopathic ease and confidence. Anyone that has been through any kind of venture (successful or less so) knows that winning is combination of ability to live in the grind plus some lucky breaks/insights. They also know there is no guarantee. I would love to see a shift in this space and a general recognition that things of value have never been the sole result of unfettered personal will to win but truly much more that of an ability to listen. Look forward to your and others further musings on this topic :)
Thanks a lot for sharing, Maria. For me, to some extent, there's a willingness to see the world of form as somewhat distinctive to the real, and hence to be willing to play with the world of form while maintaining a healthy detachment. Will give this more thought because you raise excellent points. -- Max