The days of touting accolades and achievements are over. Authenticity, vulnerability, and transparency are the new currency to get ahead.
I never thought much would come out of my life, especially since a decade of my life resulted in earnings that were shy of $35,000 a year, according to data from the Social Security Administration. I’ve never been good enough for anything, either, from the sports I played at the Boys and Girls Club while in elementary school to the relationships I had in the past and the startups I worked at that kept failing. In fact, I was so defeated by life and my constant failures that, in 2011, I was ready to end everything and give up on my life.
All of that changed when I started writing in 2013. I opened up and shared everything that happened in my life. Not just the good moments either, since I didn’t really have any, but I delved deep into the bad and, most importantly, the ugly. I started to share the scariest moments of my life with the world and, within a year and a half, there were 10 million reads on my content on a platform called Quora.
As time progressed, I started writing for a few publications, started a business, landed amazing jobs, and met people from all across the world. People took a chance on me, and I had enough time to work with people that I was able to start documenting my results in what I thought I was good at.
I took a two-year hiatus; one year to let my life fall apart after a heartbreak, even though I was at the peak of my career and being featured in publications like Forbes, and the other in the honeymoon stage when I met and married my wife Angie. You would think things were smooth sailing from there, but hardship struck again when my wife decided to leave her job due to a misogynistic incident in February of this year, coincidentally, a few days before I finished writing my book with McGraw-Hill Business, Ditch the Act: Reveal the Surprising Power of the Real You for Greater Success.
I thought we’d lose everything, from our home to our cars. In fact, we did downsize from a Jaguar to a Hyundai then moved from a luxury one-bedroom apartment back into my mom’s rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment, which ended up being a nightmare for three people and a dog to live in. But what helped us get back on track was opening up and being completely honest about what we were going through, letting others know that we were drowning and that we needed help to stay afloat.
Taking off the mask and sharing what was really going on.
I didn’t wear a mask like other public figures where I paraded around as if things were perfect; if I did, I would’ve lost all that I had, just like when I was pretending things were okay until I couldn’t pay my electricity bill for six months, had to shower in the dark, then was evicted from my home. Instead, I shared my true self with the world and let them see the struggles that we were facing. And what that resulted in was loyal clients whom I could help build their personal brands, like:
- Steven Dux who teaches his students what he did to make $5 million day trading from the ages of 19 to 25;
- Quant Matti Owens who teaches investors how to create trading algorithms that trade for you to potentially earn a residual six-figure income;
- And a position as a chief marketing officer of a company focused on bringing privacy back to the people called ZeU.
These people and companies saved me from financial ruin. And there was so much more than a business relationship with these people; they turned into deep friendships. Yet, none of these things would’ve happened if I had stayed quiet about what was really going on in my life.
The one thing people are craving now more than ever before.
People are seeking human connection now more than ever before. So many people have been touting their accolades and talking about how successful they are that we’ve lost the ability to connect with others at a human level. We’re taught to keep our dirty laundry to ourselves and paint an airbrushed Instagram life where everything is perfect.
Yet, the people who are invested in their careers who do this seem to be staying at the same level and the entrepreneurs who are running businesses don’t seem to be moving the needle. That’s because, when everyone is going out there doing the exact same thing — touting their accolades and trying to one-up each other — they are pushing people away instead of bringing them closer.
We’re not the only ones who have shortcomings and downfalls.
Many of us feel as if we’re alone — that we’re the only ones who are struggling. No matter who you are, there will come a point in time where you face a huge tragedy in life, whether it’s losing everything financially, experiencing the death of a loved one, or going through a breakup with the love of your life. And that’s the harsh reality of life. Yet, our natural inclination is to hide this from the world and to not tell others about it. If everyone experiences these kinds of tragedies and no one talks about it, then it makes perfect sense as to why people who face failure struggle with feeling that they’re all alone. But if we opened up and shared what happened in our lives, could that help us create a deeper sense of connection with others? And, if we create a deeper connection with others and build camaraderie, what could that do to our careers and businesses?
In late October, the Inflow Summits flew me to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines and put me up at the Four Seasons Bosphorus, where I would be speaking about my book. I arrived on Monday, October 21st, and they picked my wife Angie and I up and took us back to the hotel with Sanne Vloet and Max. It was my first time in Europe and the city was absolutely beautiful, from how clear the water was to the depth of the design of what was once a 19th-century palace.
When a country halfway across the world knows the secret to success.
The first night of the event, my wife and I went to the welcome reception. Seated to the left of my wife was Fatih Daloğulları who works in PR at Turkish Airlines. We struck up a conversation and what he told us was that the Turkish culture was based around deep friendships. He told me that the reason why therapists weren’t huge in Turkey was because when anyone in his country would face a challenge or a struggle, they would call up a friend, meet up and talk intimately about what happened, crying if they had to.
When we think about our culture here in America, we’ve been given so many rules about how we should act and behave around others. Don’t show weakness. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. Look strong and impress others. Be on your best behavior when the boss is around. These rules have been engraved deep into our minds and have caused us to lose our ability to connect with others the way my grandpa did when he was growing up. We’ve lost that ability to create deep senses of connections with others. Yet, if we think about that vulnerability of crying in a car with the music blasting with our best friend, the reason the person is our best friend is because we are sharing our darkest moments with them.
What we can learn from a culture halfway around the world.
If friendships are held so highly in Turkey and the citizens of that nation are able to achieve their dreams, it makes me wonder why America has a mentality of “me against the world.” And living from experience, I can see why it holds each of us back from getting the promotions we want, flourishing businesses and so forth. Yet, ditching the act and revealing our whole selves works wonders at making any of our dreams come true, whether they are personal or financial.
Sharing our scariest moments isn’t going to be easy. Brené Brown says, “The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.” Just like any other muscle, it takes practice to feel comfortable with sharing our weakest moments. And some people may never feel comfortable doing it. But many of our hearts have been locked away for so long from speaking our truth because of the norms that society placed upon us. And it’s time for us to open up our hearts and speak our truth.
The one thing that will reframe how you see your weakest moments.
My coauthor Ryan Foland and I created an Exposure Résumé to help readers recognize that any of the fears that they feel would happen by sharing their truth, whether it be that they will be mocked or ridiculed, will not happen. And instead, it would lead them to become well-respected thought leaders within their space, much like Ryan and myself have been able to do, along with countless others.
Sharing isn’t going to happen overnight. It will require people to start sharing Level 1 exposures, which are the simple struggles that happen in life, before they could work their way up to Level 4 exposures, which are the scariest moments that have happened in your lifetime.
It may sound counterintuitive to share these moments. It may feel like sharing these moments could destroy your career or business. It may even feel like you’d be shunned into solitude. But the stark reality is that sharing these moments is the secret recipe that will propel you to achieving success in your career, your business and all other aspects of your life.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Give it a try. See how it works. And, for a full blueprint and model on exactly how to do it, with personal stories, research, and examples, take a moment to read through Ditch the Act.
Leonard Kim is recognized by Forbes as a Top Marketing Influencer and Inc. as a Top Digital and Youth Marketer. He is a personal branding expert whose content has been read over 10 million times. He has amassed a social media following of well over 250,000 people.
Leonard is managing partner of InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Leonard and his team teach you how to build your brand, get featured in publications and grow your social media following.