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“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” —Dolly Parton

You know you’re successful, not when you make a lot of money, but when you are being you: you enjoy and appreciate the people you work with, and your customers look forward to working and being with you.

That takes fully embracing who you are and then connecting with people genuinely. In conversation—and in your marketing.

I don’t know about you, but I was taught that ‘being professional’ was critically important to having credibility and doing business. ‘Being professional’ involves leaving behind all the human quirkiness I have and using the language of emotional detachment. Basically, presenting a kind of bland façade that doesn’t rub anyone the wrong way. Underneath this lies the belief that business isn’t about relationships – not ‘real’ relationships. Business is about transactions.

I once worked with a very successful consultant. Her customers loved her—whenever they moved from one company to another, they brought her in to the new organization. She always had enough business. Why was this? Well, she produced results, was prompt and responsive to customer concerns, and did what she said she was going to do. On top of that, what they really loved was her very direct, unvarnished communication and her authentic friendliness. Her customers and co-workers were friends—she always remembered what was happening with people in their lives and followed up with real care. When she died the memorial service was packed with her customers. She was entirely herself all the time. And people at all levels in these big-name companies completely appreciated that. They could count on her to tell them how it was.

I learned from her that integrating my life achieves far more than being professional sometimes and genuine other times: a full, rich work experience with people you care about and they care about you.

The alternative doesn’t appeal to me: being trapped by what I think other people see as ‘professional’ just keeps me from being my full self for them and me.

This applies to both personal interactions and everything you write to represent yourself. Do you enjoy reading website text full of jargon and bland talk—going on and on but not really ever saying anything? Or emails that do the same thing? Instead, write like you speak to a friend who needs your professional help. Be yourself.

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.” —Lao Tzu

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