A Simple Truth: Being Genuine Brings Success

being genuine brings success
Photo by the half-blood prince

There’s a Chinese restaurant called the Panda Garden that my family used to frequent every Sunday. I recently read in a paper that it had been voted one of the best Chinese restaurants in Lawrence annually. That’s pretty impressive, considering there are a slew of Chinese restaurants in the college town.

The annual award might be because of the cuisine, but I have a different theory. I believe the Panda Garden is consistently voted best Chinese restaurant because of the owner.

The owner is one of the most personable people you’ll ever meet. Without fail every day, you can see the owner walking around and chatting with every single table, asking how the food is and getting to know her customers.

She isn’t friendly because she believes she’ll get more business from repeat customers (which she does). You can tell from the moment the owner approaches the table that she’s truly interested in how the food tastes and how your day has been. She’s genuinely interested in your life.

It might sound like I’m a regular at the restaurant, but the reality is that I haven’t eaten there in 15 years. That’s how much of an impact the owner has on my opinion of the establishment. I can remember our conversations and how she laughed and chatted with our family nearly every week.

So how does one go about being that genuine of a person? So genuine that they can take a commercial venture and add a couple dashes of character and personality, without feeling forced?

Blending your true personality with business isn’t an easy thing to do, if you’re doing it for business purposes.

But that’s just the rub: If you’re only being genuine because you think people like it when you’re sincere, then you’re really not being genuine, are you?


So how do you know if you’re being truly genuine?

Knowing if you’re being genuine is one of the easiest things in the world because it will feel natural. In fact, you’ll feel wrong/forced/weird/uncomfortable if you’re not being genuine.

Have you ever slept on your arm and then woken up with a numb arm? I do this every now and again, and it’s one of the weirdest feelings in the world. I can swing my arm around and not feel a single thing. The arm could be somebody else’s, for all my nerve endings are telling me.

This is what being insincere feels like: You’re wearing somebody else’s personality, and it just doesn’t quite fit.

Make a List!

I love Jason Teitelman’s method for maintaining your genuine self: Make a list of truths about yourself, and display it publicly, where you can see it every day.

(In the event that you’re a compulsive nose-picker, it might be prudent to be a little disingenuous and hold off putting “nose picker” on the list. At least the public list.)

Your Roots

Constantly reminding yourself about who you really are helps you stay true to your core self. Your core self is comprised of all the things that have shaped you:

  • your upbringing
  • your location
  • your likes
  • your dislikes
  • your temperament
  • etc., etc., etc….

Being Genuine Like a Politician

Politicians have exploited their background to gain more votes. Maybe they’ll bring out an unnatural dialect, or a sudden interest in the local sports team, or anything else they think they can play off of to win more votes.

The problem with this route is that many people see through this and eventually figure out the smarmy, under-handed tactics. Nobody likes having smoke blown up you-know-where. The same can happen if you try too hard to win affection by being insincere.

Think of the stressful lives those people who have built their entire careers around being artificial.

So, in all things.. be yourself, and people will respect you more than if you tried to be someone you weren’t.

Other Tips to Being More Genuine

Show emotion

Being genuine is one of the hardest things because it requires you to be vulnerable. Every person has a “face” that they can put on to hide their true emotions. But the fact is, we’ve come to accept that emotions are weak.

Not to turn into the macho-guy, but think about the movie Gladiator. The main character, (played by Russel Crowe), is purely driven by emotion, and he doesn’t try to hide them. It’s one of the most endearing qualities about him. It’s ok to show how you’re feeling. It’s healthy.

Note: There are some of you, (don’t worry, you know who you are), that might show enough emotion on a given day for five people. There’s something to be said for not being too dramatic on occasion.

Show vulnerability

Being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you put on a turtleneck, and start weeping and strum a guitar. All it means is that you allow other people to see what you’re really thinking and feeling.

Being vulnerable gives others a way to look into your life, to become closer to you because of your openness about some aspect of your life.

And the True Indicator to Being Genuine…

The owner of the Panda Garden could stay at home and manage the “business” side of things remotely. Paying bills, paying employees, marketing, and many other things. But instead she comes every day to the restaurant and chats with everyone. Why? It’s because that’s what she loves to do. It fills her, and it would feel foreign and awkward if she weren’t doing that every day.

What about you? Do you wake up with someone else’s personality between you? Or are you being yourself? It might be fun to list a few traits that you find original to yourself below, just to see what you come up with.

Leave a Comment

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Ibrahim | ZenCollegeLife August 25, 2009, 11:51 pm

    This post is so right. Being genuine will bring success in not just business, but in everything you do. A genuine person will find himself surrounded with people that enjoy his/her company, because people flock to others who are “real.” You won't impress everyone, but those who enjoy the real you will definitely come around.

    And we don't want anyone around us who doesn't like us for us, right?

  • ibrahimzcl August 25, 2009, 7:51 pm

    This post is so right. Being genuine will bring success in not just business, but in everything you do. A genuine person will find himself surrounded with people that enjoy his/her company, because people flock to others who are “real.” You won't impress everyone, but those who enjoy the real you will definitely come around.

    And we don't want anyone around us who doesn't like us for us, right?

  • Price Jaccobi August 18, 2009, 12:06 am

    I think being genuine comes down to living the life you give the impression you live. It doesn't have to be the situation you were given by circumstances beyond your control (parents, ethniticy) but it does need to be something you stick to and don't change just to try to please someone.

  • sachxn August 17, 2009, 7:13 am

    Excellent post showing the genuine mirror to the readers.

  • PowerEssence August 15, 2009, 8:55 am

    So why haven't you eaten there in 15 years? Sounds like a blast!

    Great points about being genuine though, haven't seen a post like this.

  • Chelsea August 13, 2009, 7:09 am

    Great article and I know a Thai restaurant owner who does exactly the same thing and while talking to you makes you feel the most important person in the place. We go there as a family for every occasion.

    X Chelsea

  • xx August 2, 2009, 11:23 pm

    Totally off topic, but Yahoo stopped picking up your RSS feed a month ago. The last post their feed shows is July 1. Not sure if that's their problem or s/g with your feed, but thought you should know.

    • Glen Stansberry August 3, 2009, 10:49 am

      Thanks… not sure how to fix that, but I'll look into it. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Everything Counts August 1, 2009, 2:33 am

    Excellent post. I quite appreciate your view points. Keep up the good work.

  • Gaurav_M July 29, 2009, 3:08 am

    Genuity is rare..but one must aim too

  • jvaudreuil July 28, 2009, 12:02 pm

    I think part of Glen's point needs to be picked up from his example. The restaurant owner is interested in conversation and feedback, so that's why she talks with people. For all we know she started off awkwardly! What everyone sees is her interest in what they have to say.

    Yes, if you're genuinely selfish it will not help you a whole lot. If you can spin your selfishness into wanting to be better, you'll do a lot better.

    • Glen Stansberry August 3, 2009, 10:47 am

      Right! That's what I was trying to convey :)

  • davidlawrence July 28, 2009, 11:18 am

    This reminds me of dating. When learning the ins and outs of wooing one of the opposite sex, we're always told to “be ourselves.” But many of us find that “ourselves” aren't really that interested in others, just in ourselves. Or else we find that “ourselves” aren't really that interesting to others. And as we try harder and harder, we fail more and more.

    It isn't really until that epiphany happens and we really start acting genuine that results truly happen. It isn't until others see us for our true selves, and when our true selves are in fact real.

    This is applied to sales as well – dating really is just about sales (selling yourself). People aren't interested in what you have to say until you appear genuine and real.

    It's important to step outside yourself, look at who you are and figure out where you want to be, and who you want to be. And then take steps to make that happen. But never forget, that you can't CHANGE who you are, but you can BECOME MORE than you are.

  • Ryan Krueger July 28, 2009, 11:11 am

    What if someones true self is selfish or egotistical…would being genuine (i.e. letting people know your true motivations and thoughts) really bring you success? If you are selfish this is an important question…though probably what should be the least of your worries.

    I do like this post and think that being genuine is probably one of the best attributes to have in any setting (spouse, co-worker, friend). I also think it is the hardest attribute to fake.

  • jooliek July 28, 2009, 10:09 am

    interesting. So if you regularly reinforce what you are/think/like/do today isn't that a recipe for a rut?

    And.. if you are not actually emotional or vulnerable by nature isn't that a bit inauthentic?

    • Glen Stansberry July 28, 2009, 10:17 am

      Great thoughts! I don't think regularly reminding yourself of who you are is a recipe for a rut. I think if you meditated on the topic and took it to the extreme then sure. I've just noticed that in many commercial ventures, people feel fake when they're trying to turn a profit. It might just be me.

      You're right: if you're not emotional or vulnerable by nature, than it would feel forced and weird. And I guess on the flip side, those can be used insincerely to make you feel closer to the person… I know, it's a delicate balance.

      • jooliek July 28, 2009, 1:44 pm

        You're right on the Fakery front. I think there's a good rule of thumb: if it feels wrong, don't do it.

  • michaelarnoldus July 28, 2009, 6:14 am

    Now this is the really interesting paradox isn't it? Learning to be genuine? Isn't it somewhat like asking people to please remember to be spontaneous?

    It's one of those things we can only do by removing what stands in the way and then let the thing emerge by itself. Exactly like sleeping. It' impossible to will yourself to sleep. All you con do is remove what's preventing you from sleeping and then simply let the sleep come.

    Same thing with being genuine. No lists to remember, no imperatives. Just letting go and then with mild curiosity watch who emerges – the genuine you.