If you’re reading this, I can more or less guarantee that you want two things out of life: you want to be happy and you want to be successful. After a while, you inevitably learn that it’s sort of hard to accomplish one without the other.
Think about it. What good is success if you’re not happy? Talk about a hollow victory … there really wouldn’t be much point to it, would there?
On the flipside, how can you be happy unless you’re at least on a path to accomplishing whatever it is that drives you? You really can’t.
Now that we’ve established that we all want to be happy and successful, let me fill you in on a popular myth that’s supposed to help you get there but, in reality, is far more likely to stop you dead in your tracks. I call it the likeability trap.
I was just reading an article that talks about the importance of being likable at work and essentially coaches you to fake it. It says, for example, that to be more likeable, you should “seem trustworthy and authentic” by “behaving in a way that feels natural and comfortable.”
That’s so wrong on so many levels, I’m not sure where to start. Let’s see. Don’t you think it would be a lot better if you actually were trustworthy and authentic instead of trying to contort your personality to appear that way? And don’t you think it’s better to actually be natural and comfortable, instead of trying to fake it?
The truth is, nobody ever achieved lasting success and happiness by trying to be something they’re not. That’s like trying to build a beautiful house on top of a flawed or flimsy foundation. Sooner or later, the whole thing will come crashing down like a house of cards.
If you have a bunch of great attributes, then being yourself is probably the best way to showcase them. For example, if you work hard, work smart, and get the job done, you never have to worry about faking it. And if you don’t, then don’t you think it’s about time you took a long, hard look in the mirror and asked yourself why that is?
Related: Quit Trying to Be Like Steve Jobs
Here’s another way to look at it: In the real business world, the most powerful brand influencer is your product. If customers have a great experience with your products and services, you’re golden. If not, then you’re better off improving that instead of trying to put lipstick on a pig.
It’s the same thing with personal branding. Sure, you want to come across as being polished and professional. That’s a no-brainer. But if you hold yourself out to be something you’re not and set expectations you can’t possibly live up to or, even worse, make promises you can’t keep, that will do far more damage than good. It will come back to haunt you in the form of a tainted reputation.
Perhaps you remember Stanford professor Bob Sutton’s popular book, The No Asshole Rule. Let me tell you, Sutton is a very smart guy and his heart was certainly in the right place. But at work as in life, the perception of behavior is a highly subjective thing. And different cultures have different values.
Just as one person’s nemesis is another person’s best friend, an outlier who flames out at one company might do remarkably well at another.
Besides, human behavior is situational and not always as it appears. Everyone acts like a jerk sometimes – and our behavior is certainly influenced by how others treat us. Maybe you’ve noticed how, oftentimes, the biggest bullies are the ones who complain the most about being bullied.
As successful entrepreneurs and business leaders go, it takes all kinds. For every Richard Branson, Herb Kelleher or Fred Smith who, by all accounts, seem to be likeable guys, there’s a Steve Jobs, Martha Stewart, or Mark Zuckerberg who...well, let’s just say they don’t share the same sort of reputation.
If you spend enough time in the real world – business or not – one thing stands out loud and clear: those who are happy and successful have found themselves. They’re comfortable with who they are. They know what they stand for. And when you look at them, you know that what you see is what you get.
I call that The No BS Rule. Try it sometime.
Related: 7 Things Great Entrepreneurs Know