Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On Being A Chameleon

In my early days of radio sales, the range of our client base went from a downtown advertising agency a la Mad Men to a suburban used car dealership on the fringes of where our signal reached. How you approached each client shifted from the way you spoke to what you wore to the appointment.  I was told that if I wanted to succeed I had to be a chameleon.

I didn't know if I liked that advice. A chameleon sounded unauthentic to me, perhaps even a little slimy. After all a chameleon is a lizard. It is its  unusual ability to change colors that distinguishes it from other lizards.

But I was not settling for anything less than success so I got pretty good at being a chameleon. I  assessed a situation and determined how best to approach it with my focus on making the sale. I stopped questioning whether that was authentic or not and viewed it  as a role I played, as though an actor on a stage. It felt right, it felt comfortable and it was fun. Over time, the scope of the roles expanded to include managing the people reporting to me and those I reported to.

And then something happened. There was no inciting event. But what started to shift was how I felt in those roles. It stopped being fun.  I started to question what I never had before. I started to feel unauthentic. And those roles that had once been so effortless became difficult.

At first I thought it was because I was just tired of being a chameleon. That it was unauthentic and I was exhausted from pretending it was.

But it wasn't. It was just an early warning sign that it was time to change, that other roles were looming on the horizon for me to step into. I have three work roles now. Personal Coach, Novelist and Blogger. They each require a different way of me being. In my coaching I must still rely on my chameleon skills because every client is different and not one approach will best serve them all. The only thing that is consistent across the board is me stepping into that role from a place of authenticity.

Being successful in every aspect of your life requiring honing the skills of a chameleon. Everything is changing every day, not just the colors around us. That requires assessing and deciding how best to approach. But you have to be coming from a place of authenticity because if you're not, in this interconnected digital world we live in, you'll get seen quickly and not in the way you want to. Plus it is not nearly as much fun.


BigLittleWolf said...

I couldn't agree more with what you say here. However - "authenticity" is one of those terms that's thrown around lightly.

Who gets to judge what's authentic or not? And by what criteria?

That distinction aside, however you define it, I also believe that authenticity is more fun. Perhaps because it's a letting down of our guard to some extent, which allows more to penetrate, and be enjoyed.

Unknown said...

Thank you!

I don't think authenticity is a judgment call, but a feeling. When I am being authentic I feel it physically and my realness is conveyed to whomever is there.