Two Words: Colin Kaepernick
Like many before him, he is giving the mainstream world a thing or two to think about. And making it better in the process.
In case you don’t know, Kaepernick is the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who in 2016 began kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racism, social inequality and police brutality.
He left the 49ers to become a free agent. But the NFL believed him a pariah because, like many big institutions, they can’t handle the truth. Or more simply, they can’t handle losing money in the short term because the peanut gallery can’t handle the truth. And big institutions get rich by catering to the peanut gallery.
Nike was in a similar situation. According to anonymous sources quoted by this New York Times Article, Nike was considering ending their relationship with the controversial, non-playing football player.
Now, as you probably know, all that reversed.
The company is now charting record “brand engagement” as a result of getting behind Kaepernick’s cause, according to their CEO. Particularly among the urban demographic, a coveted target for the athletic brand.
But this story is about Kaepernick as an example to would-be iconoclasts.
There is no value in you playing small and going along with the crowd.
There is every value in being your authentic self, no matter how much ire that authenticity will draw in the short term.
If you stick to your guns, you will prevail. And the world will be forever changed for the better as a result. You came to change the world in your own way great or small.
Going with the crowd is not world-changing.
For two years, Kaepernick withstood criticism from many institutions. Including the nation’s highest political office. Now his rise as a national civil rights icon with a massive brand backing him, is testament to what any human being willing to stand in their authenticity can do.
Individuals change the world. Not groups.
At this point, there is barely a limit on what is possible for the former quarterback. His platform has expanded dramatically. It is reported he now has a book deal, speaking tour and is developing a comedy series.
Kaepernick’s example isn’t the only one.
Shepard Fairey’s name should be no surprise. If it is, his artwork isn’t.
Now enjoying a huge artistic career, Shepard didn’t become famous over night. According to the documentary about his life and art, Shepard had a singular ambition: to express himself artistically.
As a young skateboarder and graffiti artist, he roamed the country posting stickers, posters and flyers on virtually anything and everything, before creating a poster for the Obama presidential campaign.
That poster made him famous.
But what some don’t know is in the midst of all that election fame, Shepard was in the toughest year of his life. He was being sued by municipalities for his history as a graffiti artist. But what was even more scary was the Associated Press filed a massive lawsuit against the artist. A lawsuit that could bankrupt the artist, his family and end his career.
Just like Kaepernick however, Fairey stuck to his path, lived his authentic life creating beautiful and compelling critiques of political figures disguised as art. Even though, as he describes it, he weathered some of the greatest challenges during that entire time.
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You must not underestimate the value of your authentic expression.
The more radical the better. But you also must not underestimate the value negative attention brings to your cause.
If you allow your fears of rejection or “crucifixion” by the “mob” that is mainstream society or a subsection thereof to intimidate you, you are bound to give up your authentic voice in favor of….what?
Social acceptance? Money? Reputation? Is social acceptance, money and reputation really on par with the potential to change the world?
Besides, when you’ve done what you came to do, you will have all the acceptance, money and reputation you can handle. And then some.
You have an authentic voice. You came into the world equipped to make it a better place. That better place doesn’t happen when you’re going along with the mainstream.
It only happens when you speak your authenticity. The more radical the better.
Now we know a lot of people talk about “living authentically”. Rarely if ever do these people explain how to do that. We’re going to.
How to live your authentic life:
First, realize this process will not happen over night. But know that, no matter how old you are, or how little time in life you think you have, you have plenty of time to accomplish this. Perry is 54 years old and just getting started, for example.
No one is too old.
So you start by releasing the idea that time is a factor. Or age. Or any current situation. None of that has any relevance.
Second, you must screw on knowing that your voice is valid. We use the phrase “screw on” purposefully. Threads on a screw have great holding power. They will hold under great stress. Your knowing your voice is valid comes from within. It comes from your connection with the source of the “sound” of your voice.
The stronger your connection with that source, the more invincible you will feel. Silence, meditation, long walks in nature are great processes reconnecting you with your source. Do that regularly. We recommend this process for getting in tune with your source.
Third, reorganize your priorities. Your voice’s strength must be nurtured. That takes time. What gets you through the time it takes for your voice to be ready is how freaking great it feels being in touch with your authenticity. Again, this process is golden.
Perry quit his job at Intel to pursue his value-based priorities. We don’t recommend this. He has a supportive wife. You don’t have to quit your day job. But at least put it in perspective.
For example, in some places around the world, up to 50 percent of people work bullshit jobs. That means you’re probably doing something for money that represents a compromise, or perhaps many compromises, on your values. It’s time your values retake the priority high ground.
That’s because your voice lurks within your values.
Fourth, start doing some serious introspection. The best place Perry has found to reconnect with his voice is his childhood. He asked some time ago “what did I really want to be when I grew up?”
Look at what you liked to do as a child. What inspired you? What did you dream about? How did you see the world? The fantasy world of your childhood often holds within it your voice’s small timbre, waiting for you to crank the volume.
Another place to look: your reaction to the world around you. This is tricky though. If you’ve lived, even a little while, on the planet, you likely have taken on stories which cause knee-jerk emotional reactions that fill you will injustice, a sense of unfairness and moral outrage.
Those areas can be where your voice is lurking. But they could also be ingrained knee-jerk reactions you’ve taken on from society. These kinds of reactions tend to cut you off from your voice. So you have to be discerning as you observe how you react to the world around you.
Once you’ve found your voice, you need to practice delivering it. So get started expressing your voice to yourself at first. Not to others. We offer this for several reasons.
First, you’re not ready for the potential onslaught from the peanut gallery trying to kill your originality before it’s mature enough to survive such attacks. Second, you need time to figure out how best to express yourself. Is it with film? Poetry? Writing? News commentary? Podcasting? Walking across the United States? Interviewing homeless people?
There are endless numbers of ways to express yourself. Somewhere in there is your niche. You’ll find it if you dedicate time to discovering it.
Meanwhile, in the self-discovery, you’ll have fun. And, when you’re ready to tell the world, you’ll have an impressive amount of content ready-made to share. Not all of it will be brilliant, but it doesn’t have to be.
Next: Practice, practice practice.
Follow your impulses. Do things you think are crazy. Sure, quit your job if you really know that’s what you want to do. Just realize quitting your job isn’t required to find your voice, or express it. At least not at first.
Refine your voice, explore things. You’re on a wild goose chase for the co-inciding events and circumstances which delight you and thus indicate you’re on your path. Take all this as the greatest adventure of your life and it will be that.
And if you keep at it, you will come to the same sense of steadiness, of invincibility we’re sure are embodied by two words, which actually are a name: Colin Kaepernick.