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Published:April 24th, 2013 12:10 EST
We Were Born As Originals But Die As Copies

We Were Born As Originals But Die As Copies

By Jay Forte

There is nothing more difficult in life than knowing yourself. What a profound statement. I mean, how hard could this be? You were born with you " you see you every day. But even though we were each born with amazingly unique abilities, we weren`t given an owner`s manual; we don`t have an initial inventory of strengths, abilities, talents, values and interests, and we don`t have a list of what we rock at and what we stink at. We were left to figure out these abilities and talents on our own. And this often makes it difficult for people to know who they really are.

It has been said that our best lives are those where our doing comes from our being.  In other words, the more we know ourselves (our being), the more we can choose how we show up to each event in our lives in a meaningful and significant way for us (our doing). This is just part of the reason why we need to know ourselves. 

The Introduction: Getting to know yourself (and why it matters)

The best way to do this is to show up each day and be fully present in our lives. The next step is to observe the moments of our lives, then assess what works and what doesn`t work for us. This is why this is so difficult. We have to both be in our world and watch it at the same time. We have to slow things down enough to be really present in order to decide what to do next, in both work and life. 

Let`s first look at the workplace. Much of manufacturing has moved offshore; most jobs now require employees to be face-to-face with customers instead of working behind machines. To be successful in today`s workplace, we have to know what we are both good at and passionate about in order to positively impact customers, activate loyalty and drive results. The more we know ourselves, the better we can choose jobs that need our unique abilities and the greater value we can provide for the organization. 

Let`s dig into this a little deeper. Based on brain biology research, we know that no two of us process or think in exactly the same way. And because our jobs are now thinking jobs, not everyone is a good fit for every job. Our DNA hardwires us in very particular ways. By knowing our unique talents, strengths and passions, we have the information to determine which roles fit our abilities; the greater the fit, the greater the potential for impact. What we do best comes from a clear understanding of what we are inspired to do, what abilities we have and what interest and passions guide us. 

Though that example explores the importance of knowing yourself from a work perspective, the same rule applies for life. The clearer we are about what matters to us " what we believe, what we do, who we love, where we live " the more we live a life that allows us to bring our best. In this kind of life, not only are we more successful, but life is more fulfilling because it is aligned to who we are.

It therefore seems natural that we all should learn about " and know " ourselves. But instead, as we grow older and become more connected to our families, society and world, we lose that valuable connection to ourselves, becoming too easily influenced by those around us. We start to blend, acting more like others and less like our true selves. But based on our DNA, we were not born to blend " we were born to stand out. 

Why Fitting In Doesn`t Always Fit In

Though the benefits to knowing ourselves are extraordinary, it is both easier and more socially acceptable to focus on being like others. Consistent marketing from our society tells us what to buy, how to look and what is important. We have family expectations about what we believe, who we marry, where we live and what we do for work. Many times, the TrueYou has no room to develop, resulting in living someone else`s definition of life. Greatness author Robin Sharma says, Few things are as disappointing as investing all your time, energy and potential climbing a mountain only to find " once at the top " that you climbed the wrong one. " 

Knowing ourselves is the most difficult work we will ever do. Though the people who love us want us to be happy, they frequently feel that we will be happy if we live their definition of life, not ours. We find parents who guide their kids into decisions that are more about the parents than the kids. We find workplaces guiding employees into roles that the organization wants, not those that connect with or fit the employee. We find people who marry based on expectation, not love. We find people who settle about important things in their lives because others have downplayed their importance. 

But there are some people who are able to make it happen. How do they do this? With two incredible capabilities:  clarity and courage. 

Part One: Clarity

Clarity is the commitment to being more present in your life. People who have clarity are more connected to observing and assessing themselves in their worlds. They watch for the events and experiences that share meaningful information about what they are and are not good at. They remember this as the move through life, looking for opportunities that need the attributes they excel at. They know that the more they align themselves to work and life roles that fit their abilities, talents and interests, they will be happier. Being self-aware creates a constant flow of meaningful information, which leads to greater clarity. And once you are clear about the real you (your being), you can then make better decisions (your doing). 

Part Two: Courage

The second part of becoming who you were born to be is having courage. Clarity gives you information; courage provides the energy and stamina to act on what you know.

To stand out in life takes courage. Our world is quick, vocal and severe in its critique, judgment and advice. Blending is expected; follow the rules, live the way others do or get ridiculed, taunted, bullied and intimidated. 

But what if what is unique about you doesn`t fit someone else`s formula for a great and happy life? What if you want to live in a foreign country and not stay on the farm like your parents? What if you want to change faiths because the one you grew up with doesn`t offer you any real enlightenment? What if you want to work for yourself doing what you love instead of working a 9 "5 job like everyone else seems to do? What if having a family for you is having a partner and adopting kids, not getting married in a conventional way? 

But even the most courageous of us need support. We need the help of those who help us to stand our ground, be who we are and live authentically. Their lives provide the inspiration as we watch how they successfully navigate challenges and peer pressure. We learn what to do. We learn how to support. We learn how to be supported. Poet E.E. Cummings said, It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. " It does indeed. 

We Are Not Copies; We Are Originals

It is not easy to be yourself, though it seems like it should be. Blending, though it may be easy, only produces average. Average performance yields and average life. Being yourself and standing out is the key to greatness. And just because someone else may not understand or appreciate your stand out " your greatness " it doesn`t mean that it isn`t greatness in some form. Once we discover what makes us unique, we need to find the courage to step up and stand out, regardless of the challenge.

This is our life. It is ours to not only discover our unique talents, strengths and passions, but to then do something with them. As Pablo Picasso once said, The meaning of life is to discover your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. " 

We are not here as copies; we are here as originals. Being an original requires clarity and courage. This is perhaps the greatest challenge we will ever have because the stakes are high if we fail. If we fail to invent, direct and use our lives in an epic way, we have missed out on our gift. Be clear, be courageous and never be a copy. You were born to stand out. 

Jay Forte, a former financial executive and corporate educator, now business and motivation speaker, workplace and life coach, and author, is a nationally ranked Thought Leader and President of The Greatness Zone. Jay guides organizations " their leaders and managers " in how to attract, hire and retain today`s best talent. He educates individuals in how to reconnect to their talents and passions to achieve personal and professional greatness. 

Jay is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition and The Greatness Zone - Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World. The Greatness Zone tools, programs, books, resources and coaching can be found at and