Anton Savage: Be yourself, follow your passion and other stupid pieces of advice

1st May 2024
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Originally published in the Business Post.

Moronic advice is everywhere, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t avoid it.

At a conference I was recently chairing, I ended up in conversation with some of the people due to speak. One of them declared himself very nervous. His colleagues proffered advice, prime among it that absolute clanger “be yourself”.

The only answer to “be yourself” is “thank you for that stunning insight. I was torn between being Louis XIV or Batman, but your suggestion is revolutionary. I’ll abandon Batman and go with your idea”.

“Being yourself” is not only vacuous advice, it’s also rooted in a false assumption. We are not always the same “self”. We’re different depending on context; Sunday afternoon tracksuit telly-watching you is not the you who goes to the board meeting.

“Be yourself” is closely related to the great truism of public appearances: “audiences can sense insincerity”. No they can’t – not even slightly. Bing Crosby’s warmth and charm were adored and admired by his audiences. He would then go home and beat his kids with a belt.

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