The Fear of Our Own DNA

What are we afriad of?
Photo by Anna Fischer

I finished Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It! a while back, and surprisingly, I was a big fan. Nothing against @garyvee or course, it’s just that I had feared the book would mostly be an instructional for sites like YouTube. I was dead wrong.

While the book does have beginner training on technologies that most of us already know (Twitter, YouTube, etc.), it also adds some excellent thoughts on not being afraid to be us.

What’s Your DNA?

A major part of Gary’s book is about finding your true DNA and using it to rock your business. Gary, admittedly, is a bit of a “live wire”. The man is intense. If you’ve seen any episodes of Wine Library TV, you know what I’m talking about. Gary has reached incredible success by embracing his high-energy appearance. Sure, he could dial his rhetoric down a notch and possibly retain 4% more of his audience. But Gary knows that’s not him, and trying to be someone else is hard work.


If you’re like me, you’ve got a lengthy list of quirks. For example, I have an unhealthy fascination with jackalopes and squirrels. I re-write radio tunes with my own corny lyrics. I’m an extrovert and an introvert rolled into one. I dissect songs to their basic elements, replaying them over and over until I’ve figured them out (much to my wife’s chagrin). I like to mix random ingredients while cooking otherwise simple dishes. And I’ll be a people-pleaser till the day I die.

I could go on and on.

Yet I spend most of my time attempting to cover up the things that make me different than everyone else.

Sharing the weird little things that I do–the things that make me me–makes me vulnerable. But I’d imagine that you’re a tad more comfortable with me for sharing these quirks. You know things about me that I have a hard time admitting to even myself. We’ve become that much closer, and you’re more comfortable with me.

I’ve helped earn your trust.

The Special Sauce

Often We don’t take advantage of our quirks, of the things that give us that little something that makes us interesting. Because let’s face it: the Internet is becoming a boring place. We have a serious “monkey see, monkey do” syndrome. Nobody wants to be different, we all want to copy what’s working and not what we are.

And I’m as guilty as the next guy.

What if our super powers
Liz might be on to something…

How ironic is it that we try to squash things that make us unique to “help” our brand? Here are some things that I’ve done to cover up my weird unique qualities.

  • I haven’t really tweeted any music recommendations. Music is such a huge part of my life. I figured that people would only be interested about stuff that they’d find on LifeDev.
  • In the past LifeDev has had a lot of “list” posts (ie. “30 Ways to Make XYZ awesome“). It’s not that I think list posts are bad, I just find them draining to write. (And personally, I’m kind of getting tired of how often they pop up on the web.) From now on I’m writing what I want. If it’s a list post, then it’s a list post. I won’t feel pressure to do so.
  • I haven’t started a number of projects for reasons like fear of failure. Nobody wants to read about a failure, right?.
  • I haven’t starting posting daily pictures of jackalopes or squirrels. (Not sure I’ll ever do that… we’ll see. There’s a fine line between turning people away and scaring people away.)

By suppressing the bits that make me unique, I’ve watered my personal brand down. I’ve tried to sand off the edges that don’t fit in with everything else.

our DNA
Photo by ynse

But can you remember the last time you were truly interested in something or someone really boring? We’re magnetically drawn to interesting people. People who have changed things and made us think differently about how we think and live. Gandhi, Einstein, Muhammad Ali, Lennon… these weren’t ordinary people.

They were people with quirks.

Sure, it’s hard being me. But it’s even harder trying to be someone else. It’s not easy being a fake; we’re never totally satisfied with who we are.

A disclaimer: The results won’t always appear to be positive. Since I’ve been eating my own dog food and changing the type of content I publish, I’ve dropped some Twitter followers on my account. Maybe I’ve lost some subscribers to LifeDev (though numbers have been up). I’m OK with that. There’s always going to be a small fraction of people who want a different me. But that’s not who I am. Odds are that I’d lose more followers faking my way through tomorrow.

So what aspect of you are you pushing deep down? What are you keeping others from seeing? It just might be the thing that brings them closer to you.

Leave a Comment

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey March 21, 2010, 11:09 pm

    Great post! Our true confidence sparks when we relinquish the fear of ourselves and step out boldly , and take up our purpose.

    Great post!

  • CoachIyabo February 6, 2010, 11:54 am

    I saw a video by Gary recently about linchpin and Seth Godin's new book. I fell in love with Gary! I don't know about you, but I love real people.

  • Jason of Kim & Jason February 4, 2010, 2:43 am

    Brilliant post, Glen. I spent a lot of 2009 digging into the successes of other bloggers. By the end of it, I came to the realization that everybody seems to be copying everybody else, and if everyone looks the same, how can anyone stand out?

    Then a few weeks ago I heard a speaker talking about identical twins, and how they can always be distinguished from each other by their personality. She talked about how twins often play the game of switching classes in school, trying to trick the teacher. But she said the kid sitting next to the trickster would have to be in on it, because he'd figure it out before too long. You simply can't copy someone else's personality for very long.

    The plus side of this is that you are completely uncopyable — as long as you let your full personality shine through (as you suggest.)

    All of this requires a lot of bravery and courage, but it's really the only way to go. As for me, I've made a resolution of sorts that all of my blog posts this year will be accompanied by original artwork. (I guess I figured I should be putting my iullustration degree to work :) So far it has been a ton of fun and I am looking forward to finding new ways to let my other quirks shine through. Thanks for the reinforcement!

  • Luke Wilson January 20, 2010, 6:49 am

    Great review, I read Crush It! a couple of months ago, and I had the same sort of feeling as you to start out with, but I ended up loving it.

    What you're talking about in the last couple paragraphs strikes me as being rather ironic in our culture. Being interesting seems to be a good thing, but quirkiness is generally a derogatory term. And yet, quirks really equal interestingness.

  • augapfel January 12, 2010, 8:54 pm

    So much of our time is spent trying to please others which often means changing our behavior to better satisfy others. It's one way that humans have adapted to become social animals. It almost goes against our nature to act in a way that may isolate us from the pack.

    It takes a powerful individual to overcome thousands of years of evolution. Ironically enough those people that are strong enough to really be themselves end up being more attractive to society because of their bullheadedness.

  • Tim Sanchez January 12, 2010, 2:06 pm

    You've been holding out on us with pictures of jackalopes and squirrels?

    I must say, I will definitely unfollow and unsubscribe if I don't get some jackalopes in here! ;-)

    Stay true to yourself Glen, it's the only way to consistently deliver your best.

  • Christina January 12, 2010, 1:15 pm

    Reading this post, I thought, “Yeah, I should totally be more intentional about embracing my quirks!”

    And then I realized… no, I definitely wouldn't if I didn't right away.

    Thank you. You're the reason I immediately Tweeted about my tendency to make zombie noises when I'm frustrated. Although I can't really project how my admission of undead sounds will help me long-term, I *do* feel a teeny bit more comfortable in my skin. :-)

    • Glen Stansberry January 12, 2010, 1:45 pm

      Don't underestimate the power zombie noises! You never know who you might have just endeared yourself too :)

  • Dan January 12, 2010, 1:14 pm

    Great post! It's refreshing to read thoughts like this every now and then.

  • cynthiamorris January 12, 2010, 12:17 pm

    This is great. A huge permission for us. This is the theme for me this year – Voice – to be more me.

    You've gone beyond just mentioning the issue (which we've seen elsewhere, that encouragement to be authentic). You've confessed your own cover-ups. That gives me a way to look at how I can be more my quirky self, by starting with what I am hiding.

    Thanks for this. You're the lead dog for fully expressing our own DNA.

    And you've even succeeded in not annoying me with the whole 'know your DNA' analogy. A miracle in itself.

  • Nichole Bazemore January 12, 2010, 12:16 pm

    Fabulous advice. There is no substitute for authenticity. It takes courage to be who you truly are. All the best to you; when you focus on being the best YOU, you can't help but succeed.

    • Glen Stansberry January 12, 2010, 1:32 pm

      Thanks Nichole! But I've got history on my side… won't need any luck ;)

  • Ideas With A Kick January 12, 2010, 12:02 pm

    Gary Vaynerchuk is the man! I really like his style because even if it does not appeal to everyone, you can tell it's very congruent with him and his comfort with his style is charismatic. I'm watching a sample of him speaking right now: