“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.

– ee cummings

Just when I think the battle to be yourself ends when you have gained a certain maturity and finding a place in time when you are “comfortable in your own skin” and whatever success you have attained (which creates at least some affirmation that “yourself’ has some merit) I am reminded that good ole ee was right … it is the hardest battle and you never have to stop fighting a world doing its best to make you like everyone else.


To be clear. I am not talking about doubting yourself.

This is about being distinct as an individual … and facing those who maybe don’t want you to be like everybody else … they just want you to be like them.

Here’s the deal.

ee  never worked in an organization (as a poet he worked for himself).

So maybe he missed out on the business organization aspect. Because, sure, the world does its best to make you like everybody else but in the business world you often face leaders who try and wear you down seeking to ‘do it my way.’


Sometimes that is okay (I am not suggesting it is always wrong).

But I sometimes see organizations do their best to take their best & brightest (who are often the most distinct) and constantly do their best to recreate them in a likeness of themselves.

For young people this is often what I caution them to be cognizant of:

Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess, and to gain applause which he cannot keep. ~Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, 1750

Applause is a tantalizing mistress.

And sure. On occasion you may be able to walk in someone else’s shoes and be comfortable … but the most comfortable will always be your own.

And just as each day you put your shoes on and head out we all need to learn to put “yourself” on and head out every day.

And be comfortable.

Oh. And put on a personality & character Kevlar vest.

Because this is a tricky one in the business world.

And I do believe it matters what age/experience you are.  Well.  At least in terms of what issues your Kevlar vest is trying to deflect.

Younger people are still being molded as well as molding/shaping themselves. So, in general, they are protecting their soul as well as some core of distinctness that kind of makes them who they are (they may get confused at times by mistaking external – how I dress and how I speak – as core distinctness but that is a different post for another day).

But older people have a more solid ‘mold’ and have to be more careful when choosing who to work for, work with and the culture of the organization.

I am not sure this is the best advice to give anyone but I tend to like ‘black & white’ thoughts more because … well … they draw a clear line you can see when considering where to step:

It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not. ~Andre Gide

In the end I guess what I am saying is … if you cannot be yourself, who you truly are, day in and day out … at work and not at work … you really kind of become … well … nobody. Harsh thought? Well, yeah. But sometimes truth is harsh. Oh. And sometimes truth is enlightening … and freeing.

So. Maybe I should end this way …. at minimum … choose to at least know who ‘yourself’ is. Then at least you know what choice you end up making between what you are and what you are not.

Written by Bruce