The past week was marked by three events that have converged for me: the death of Muhammad Ali; a respectful, spirited dust-up between Brene Brown and Adam Grant; and the second anniversary of the surgery that confirmed and removed my endometrial cancer, taking all my “girl parts” with it.
The unifying theme is the dust-up’s focus: authenticity. What is it? When are we fully occupying that rarified space? Who decides when we’re authentically authentic?
I was a kid when Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. My father had Clay’s album I Am the Greatest. I didn’t remember anything about it other than the fact impressed me at the time. Whatever else you want to say about Ali — and with all the eulogies it’s easy to forget he was once both wonderfully unifying and wildly polarizing — I have always believed he was uniquely authentic. A boastful, unbeatable pugilist; devout and determined; eventually, boundless humility cruelly constrained. Authentic – and evolving. He knew who he was.
Brene Brown and Adam Grant, two people whose work I very much admire and enjoy, have been waging a highly civil battle in social media on the topic of authenticity. I’m not sure to which side I fall, but I have loved the debate — the genuine, thoughtful, engaged, authentic debate… how refreshing…
And then there is me, and my new normal, and trying to stay authentic in this space, as in life. I appreciate the reminders that Ali, Brown and Grant provide. It is a fight we should all be waging – gloves off, all in, eyes on the prize, battling with everything we’ve got for our authentic selves.