March 18th, 2011 By: Rieva Lesonsky
How many faces do you have? Are you two-faced? Or do you, like Eve in that old movie, have three faces? Perhaps you’re like Sybil and have nearly two dozen. This question is not as odd as it may appear (and I’m not probing to see if you have a personality disorder).
I long ago discovered that I needed an arsenal of faces I could draw from that were appropriate to the situation I was in at the moment. Many years ago I was visiting New York and feeling a bit heady after an appearance on “Good Morning America.” My aunt asked my niece, who was six at the time (she’s now all grown up and, followed my footsteps into the world of publishing), “Wasn’t that exciting to see Aunt Rieva on TV?” My niece’s response: “What’s the big deal? It’s only Aunt Rieva.” Or as my brother likes to say, “People actually pay to hear you speak?”
While it may seem like my family thinks their job is to make sure I don’t get a swollen head, in reality they just don’t see me as a public figure. To them the face I wear is big sister or aunt. Most of you see a different me. When I started speaking publicly, part of my prep was channeling this “other” Rieva. The one who wasn’t shy or insecure. My friends and co-workers would call it “fake Rieva.” But eventually I realized that this other me wasn’t fake or phony. It was just another aspect of my personality, one of the components that make up the whole of who I am.
I’m hardly alone in maintaining a collection of faces, but most of us don’t want to admit it. We keep our various faces tucked away, either because we think people will judge us, or because we’re trying to craft a specific image. But it’s time we all came clean.
I thought about this the other day when I was asked (again!) what one trait successful entrepreneurs possess. One? As if! Sure, it helps to be confident, optimistic, persistent, persuasive, and energetic. Being creative or intuitive certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Many credit their success to having faith or being lucky. All great attributes to be sure, but not a single one will see you through all aspects of your entrepreneurial journey. To succeed you need to become adept at pulling up the right face at the right time.
This is harder than it sounds, especially in these days of social media, when more often than not you’re trying to navigate the line between transparency and posturing. I’ve met people IRL (Twitter-speak for “in real life”) who were just like their Twitter personas, and others who were nothing like theirs. As a business owner, in the course of a day you may have to show confidence to your banker, get tough with a slow-paying client, be sympathetic to an employee, reprimand another, encourage your kids, help your spouse, and give a brilliant presentation. All this while having another one of “those” days when you’re convinced everyone will find out you don’t know what you’re doing and the sky’s about to fall.
It’s not about trying to be something you’re not, invariably that will end badly. It’s about realizing that we all have the capacity to be more than we likely think we are, and that when we call on our inner resources, we won’t come up empty. Don’t reject your kinder, gentler side –or your tougher, stronger one either.
It all may sound contradictory, but it’s not. Sure Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true.” But he also wrote, “One man [or woman] in his time plays many parts.” The key to success is integrating all your parts and creating a greater whole.