It's been the buzzword of all buzzwords in social media for at least a year.

And, in response to my recent post, What People Think IS Your Business, many folks shared how important they believe it is "be authentic," then let the chips pretty much fall where they need to fall career-wise.

The world, we'd like to believe, will rally to support authenticity...and respond with money.

So, here's something that's gonna be a bit jarring...

Being yourself matters. Being authentic matters. In life. In business. In relationships. In everything. It's what allows us to align actions with intention. It makes us feel good. It let's us own our lives. It is sooo important. business, often times authenticity ALONE won't get you there.

To become truly magnetized from a business standpoint...

Authenticity must align with mastery and need

Think about it.

  • What if you have an authentic desire to help others, but you're also authentically horrible at it?
  • What if you're authentically under-skilled, under-trained, unprepared to lead...not yet enough a master of your authentic craft?
  • What if you're authentically lackluster, abrasive, nasty or defeatist?
  • What if you're authentically anti-consumerist, anti-business, anti-money?
  • What if you just haven't lived long enough or engaged in life deeply enough to have something deep enough to share that people connect with in a way that makes them want to open their wallets?
  • What if you're struggling to figure out which way is up...authentically?!
  • What if you're wholeheartedly, utterly and authentically a raging asshole (actually, sadly, that is monetizable)?

Yes, it's a good thing on a personal level to honor who you are, to revel in it, to love it, embrace it, own it, find the richness in it and, if you're so inclined share it or use where you are as a touchpoint from which you'd like to evolve. Hell yes! Be that person. Embrace your bad (bad, as in "cool," k?) authentic self! Live it, breath it, own it, grow it if you feel the need.

But, does embracing that authentic self mean you deserve to get paid?

Um...NO! At least, not always.

Existing in a blaze of authenticity doesn't AUTOMATICALLY translate to value to others.

For some people, it does. Either through effort, enough time and sweat to have mastered a craft or organic inclination, they've developed their authentic selves, energy, skills, abilities, interests, ideas, innovations, products, solutions and mastery over years or decades in a manner that resonates so strongly with the needs of others they become magnetized. And, so do their solutions.

But, for many others who's authenticity hasn't yet become aligned, through effort, seasoning and whatever else goes into the mix, with value for others, it doesn't. Nor should it.

Nobody, me included, is automatically entitled to get paid to just be and do, authentic and glorious as that being and doing may be FOR US.

There are zillions of artists, poets, painters, writers, hackers, makers and more out their completely and utterly embracing their authentic selves. They love, love, LOVE IT, but they're not creating extraordinary enough work or serving a need that others perceive as valuable enough to pay for. Or pay enough to live on.

They are authentic...and they're destitute.

Or tied to a day job that generally doesn't do all that much to allow their authenticity to flourish.

When you live authentically, your inner life gets a lot richer. You get to paint, play, act, write, create, be. That's an amazing thing.

But it's only when your AUTHENTIC SELF TRANSLATES TO VALUE FOR OTHERS that you get paid to be authentic.

If you don't care or need to care whether that alone creates a living wage, cool beans. Be with that own it. And, own the financial consequences of that choice as well.

If your wholehearted devotion to authenticity creates enough value for others to pay you, either through concerted effort or organically, rock on. You've found that magical sweet spot most others aspire to. You may not have overtly intended to. You may say you don't care about the sweet spot or what others think, but truth is, the fact that you've chosen to seek value from others in exchange for your efforts instead of just keeping it a personal pursuit speaks volumes.

And, if you've not found that place yet, if you'd kill to find a way to get paid to live in your authentic self and it's not happening no matter how real you get, start asking what you need to do to find the sweet spot between that authentic self and what people value. It may be a matter of time and work. It may be a matter of approaching your art in a way nobody else does.

Here's the real formula that wraps it all up:

A + M + N/D = ML


  • A = Alignment/Authenticity
  • M = Mastery
  • N/D = Need/Delight
  • ML = Meaningful Living

If you want ML, you need all three ingredients, even if it takes years to get to a place where you have them. For some, M may come relatively quickly and you may be able to scale your revenue lock-step as you increase your M. Are there the occasional outliers to this equation? Of course. But they are rare.

And, here's where we come full circle back to the post that the kicked this whole conversation off.

When it comes to the N/D part of the equation, what other people think about you, your business and your solution matter.

They're not the only things.

But when you want to get paid, it's not enough to just be authentic, what other people think and, more importantly, feel about you and what you create is the difference between making bank and owing the bank.

You may not want to cater to that. Or lead with it. But, it matters.

As always, love learning from you guys, always open to your thoughts.

Share away in the comments...

Jonathan Fields is the author of Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love.  He writes and speaks on meaningful work, being a lifestyle entrepreneur and creativity at and is a twitter heavy-user at @jonathanfields

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