When my daughter occasionally remembers that I make a living writing, speaking and advising leaders on the art of being human in a tech-obsessed world, she smiles, shakes her head and says things like;
"They have no idea who you really are, do they?"
I know why she says that and she is right. Apart from my business partner of eight years, people I work with do not know the Pia my daughter is talking about. It's not like I'm trying to hide her or that I'm afraid people won't like her. Rather, it is because she lives and gets her sustenance from somewhere else.
The Pia my daughter is talking about is not just different from the Pia who gives keynotes and participates in panel debates and podcasts, she is also different from one moment to the next. She even goes by a myriad of different nicknames depending on her mood and the state of mind of her and her loved ones.
The Pia my daughter is talking about is far more erratic and eccentric than the professional Pia. There is a shorter distance between what she thinks and feels and what she says and does. And – not to forget – she speaks Danish. Her mother tongue. The language she came to know the world through 45 years ago and in which all her deepest feelings and thoughts still live and grow.
The Pia my daughter knows and loves (among the many other feelings a 16-year old has for her mother) is not for everyone. And I think that's an important reason why my daughter loves her: That she exists only for the very few, the very special.
But until recently I hadn't thought that it might also be the reason why the professional Pia has something to offer.
I was participating in a panel discussion about perspectives in leadership and how artists and philosophers offer "a unique angle, one that is authentic and deeply felt and expressed" when it hit me that the ability to "ask new questions and seek out alternative points of view" doesn't come from what we are sharing with the people we work with, but from what we are not sharing.
The idea that it is important to be authentic and bring your 'whole self' to work seems to conflict with making a distinction between your private and professional self, but conversing with the other panelists made me realize that the secret to authenticity is to cherish the secrets we keep to ourselves.
We all know that there is more to being human than what we say and do, and by keeping some of our thoughts, feelings and personal quirks to ourselves, we trust others to respect our humanness.
This trust is not expressed in what we say and do, but in how we do it – with a smile, a twinkle in the eye, a pause after someone tells us something – and when we do it; after making room for others to share their perspectives and respecting their need to keep some of their thoughts and feelings to themselves.
The beauty – and magic – of being human is that we are more. More than what meets the eye. More than what can be put into words. More than what can be collected, processed and analyzed as data.
When we rush to explain and defend ourselves, we make it difficult for other people to experience our more. And when we don't save a part of ourselves for those closest to us, we lose touch with and forget to cultivate our more.
That, I believe, is what we can learn from the great artists and philosophers: Not to lose ourselves to an idea of what we are and should be – including the idea that we must share our 'whole self' to be authentic.