Seth Godin Says Authenticity is a Bad Thing

Christina Frei

In his latest book, This is Marketing, Seth Godin writes,

It takes a small amount of energy and guts to be authentic. You need to feel confident enough to let your true feelings be exposed, knowing that if you’re rejected, it’s personal. 

But there’s a lot of hiding involved as well—hiding from the important work of making change happen. If all you do is follow your (make-believe) muse, you may discover that the muse is a chicken, and it’s steering you away from the important work. 

And if the authentic you is a selfish jerk, please leave him at home. If you need to be authentic to do your best work, you’re not a professional, you’re a fortunate amateur. Fortunate, because you have a gig where being the person you feel like being in the moment actually helps you move forward. 

For the rest of us, there’s the opportunity to be a professional, to exert emotional labor in search of empathy—the empathy to imagine what someone else would want, what they might believe, what story would resonate with them. We don’t do this work because we feel like it in the moment. We do this work, this draining emotional labor, because we’re professionals, and because we want to make change happen.

Godin, Seth. This Is Marketing (pp. 75-76). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Godin is pitting authenticity against professionalism, which makes the “A-word” less powerful than it actually is.

Godin is making 2 assumptions: 1. That authenticity is based on changeable human moods. 2. That authenticity and service to others are diametrically opposed.

There are folks who want to be themselves and are disconnected from those they might serve.  (Some might call them teenagers).  They want to be “real” about their feelings and need to tell everyone about them.  But that’s not really authenticity. That’s a boring, irrelevant belly-button gazing. That’s an art student who doesn’t need to make money. That’s a hobby business.

Also, I could authentically want a donut, but I’m not going to on about it. It’s not that interesting or helpful to anyone, not even me.

Then there’s the deeper desire to help and the satisfaction of making a difference. When those are your foundation, i.e. you’ve aligned your inner awesome with outer service, your authenticity means everybody wins. You do your work, you love doing it, and it serves others well.  Even when you get constructive feedback and need to course correct, you do so without drama. You simply love being an offering to others, whatever it takes.  That’s authentic. You show up as consummate professional because you authentically want to serve. It’s not “Either I’m professional or I’m authentic.” Not at all.

This isn’t always easy.  It’s a muscle, this come-alive-in-contribution muscle. Most of us tend towards an exhausted martyr posture.

This is why I have every client take my 30-Day Generosity Practice Mastery program before we dig into their marketing.  This is the training program for that joyful contribution muscle. It’s the only way live, a fresh surprise every day, and the best mindset tool for marketing I have found.  It opens up a deeper, richer authenticity of loving service to others. It’s how we’re meant to be as humans.

While the rest of the book is fantastic, I respectfully disagree with Mr. Godin’s passage on authenticity.