Lessons from the Blue Highways – Episode 8 – Authenticity

Adam Steele was following through on his commitment to involve others on his blue highways journeys.  This time he was going to take his Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Reginald Booker, with him. Reginald was rather frumpy. When you first met Reginald, you were impressed by his impeccable dress and his seriousness. The joke was that his first baby picture was of him in a coat and tie.

“Reginald, before we start on this trip. I want you to go to a Goodwill Store and buy some used jeans and flannel shirts and work shoes,” Adam cautioned his CFO. The look on Reginald’s face was one of sheer terror for what was to come.

The journey began on a blue highway through farming country. But something was different. The road was filled with cars and Amish buggies. Adam decided to follow them. All of them were going to an estate sale, and Adam decided this was a great place to start their journey.

When the sale started Reginald went into a trance. He was reliving his first day on the trading floor of the stock exchange. Adam was astonished watching Reginald. He started talking with people at the sale. Adam almost fainted when he heard Reginald say: “Hi, I’m Reggie.” He had never heard his CFO refer to himself as Reggie before. All of the pretense that had become the Reginald trademark was rapidly disappearing.

Reggie had become very engaged with an Amish family. As the sale ended, Reggie discovered that two aunts in the family lived 10 miles away and that their nephew would have to take them home in his buggy. Reggie asked if it would be proper to drive them. They immediately accepted and that led to Adam and Reggie being invited to dinner. Again, Adam was shocked by his CFO. For a man who had a very restricted diet, he was shocked to see Reggie ask for a second helping of chicken and dumplings.

There were more surprises to come as they continued their journey. Adam was beginning to see a new side of Reggie, one that he liked very much. Reggie was being his authentic self as he talked with others on the trip.

As they started their trip home, there was silence for a while; and then Reggie said: “Thank you so much for this experience. I feel like this changed my life.” 

“What do you mean?”  asked Adam.

“As you know, I grew up in a privileged environment. You could never be yourself because you were always judged by others’ expectations of you. I was surrounded by phonies who imposed their standards on me. I never felt I could be me. This trip was the first time I ever felt I could be the real me.” 

“But, you don’t think you can be the real you as our CFO?” asked Adam. 

“Not really. I’ve always felt you hired me for my pedigree, and that’s the way I acted.” 

“I’m very sorry,” replied Adam. “I’ve learned a lot from this trip as well. We need to value authenticity more. I have to admit, I get upset with someone speaks their mind. I don’t value their authenticity. We pigeon hole people with our expectations of them. I hope the Reggie that comes to work on Monday is the real you and not the former Reginald. You can be the authenticity spark that we need.”           

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“Authenticity is about being true to who you are, even when everyone around you wants you to be someone else.” –Michael Jordan


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