Serve the Work

I like a lot of this article on Brené Brown who, like most of us, struggle to present our “authentic selves” while also making sure that we can be effective professionals in our work environments:

“Fuuuuuuuck.” Sighing sotto voce, head falling into her hands, Brown is responding to the obvious question: How does she prioritize her load of researching, speaking, writing, and running her company?

As soon as she utters the exasperated expletive, Brown regrets it–and starts negotiating to erase it. It’s a perplexing reaction from a self-described “fifth-generation Texan with a family motto of ‘lock and load,’ ” who even admits to me that the F-word is “very comfortable. That’s my cuss word.” So isn’t using it authentic and on-brand for Brené Brown?

Yes and no. “It’s on-brand for me, but not for the work,” she says, noting that being known for profanity risks alienating a wider audience. “Here’s the tension: Not being my authentic self is incredibly dangerous to the work.” She pauses. “My language can sometimes not serve the work.”

I know what this is like and use the F-word pretty liberally (it’s one of my favorite words too). But, it’s not always useful and not always helpful for certain situations. Balancing authenticity with one’s work is really, really hard to do well.

And, I’m not sure there’s a good answer either. One must decide, for themselves, what the balance (and cost) is (might be) and then execute against that decision and then be entirely okay with the (potential) results (or consequences…?).

But, we must always try to serve the work that is required of us which means that we need to serve people (i.e. our customers) as best as we possibly can. Sometimes this may requires a fuck (or two), sometimes it doesn’t require any.

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