Five Tools to Sharpen Your Authentic Edge

Your authentic edge is based on who you are, where you are in your business development and what you’ve experienced.  That edge drives your personal power.  It’s your natural positional advantage in the marketplace and you’ll struggle to the degree that you fail to exploit it.

When I first began following  small business owners on Twitter it appeared as though  everyone had a thriving online business.   A client also noticed this and asked, “Where are all the regular people?”

It matters little where anyone else is, even if they are further along in their business development.  Here’s what matters, are you exploiting your authentic edge?

An outside focus will dull your authentic edge by positioning you in the  reactionary hell of deadly comparisons.  Success comes from looking within to determine the purpose of your business and that purpose must have a whole lot of you in it.

Many contend that Walmart hurts small businesses, yet you’ll find thriving exceptions in every town.  News of a so-called global economic crisis permeates the airwaves, yet many one-woman and one-man shops are flourishing, right now.

When your eye is on the competition or the economy, it dumbs you down and dulls your true source of power. Your authentic edge is found within and keeping it sharp is essential to your business success.

Expressed Authenticity > Personal Confidence = Business Success

Greater confidence will help you to complete more often, risk more frequently, bounce back from mistakes more easily and kick more marketplace ass.

Since confidence comes from within how can we keep our edge sharp enough to act boldly?

Here are five tools to keep your edge razor sharp.  Ask yourself these questions, note the answers and feel your confidence build.

1). Passion

What do you really care about?  Are you sure?  Try this one.

If you woke up tomorrow morning and had all the time and money you could ever need, what would you still care enough about, to want to make a difference?

2). Willingness

Early in our business development we have more time to deliver exceptional one-on-one service.  Express your willingness to do so.  Those who are ahead of you in earnings or business development, just don’t have to give as much individual attention anymore.  You both can, but you have the edge because you will.

What’s the greatest value that you can offer right now, that the big guys can’t or won’t?

3). Empathy

When people know that you really get them, that understanding leads to connection.  I hope you’ve selected a business purpose that you’ve personally experienced or are experiencing.  If you’ve felt the same pain as your market then it’s easier to be real.   Molly Gordon writes about empathy as a powerful marketing strategy.

In which area do you really understand the pain of others because you’re there now or recently have been?  What’s working well for you that they may not yet know?

4). Imagination

We all unwittingly set our own limits.  We get to make all the rules in our own mini-empires.  You get to imagine a business that perfectly suits who you are.  When you hold yourself in high regard, you’ll build your business in a way that will ideally serve you.  By honoring who you are, you’ll also be in the best position to generously serve others well.

Specifically where do you need to rewrite the rules to expand opportunities?  In what area of your business objectives are you thinking way too small?

5). Practice

Is it truly authentic to practice so much that repetition creates mastery? Yes!  I like how Steve Pavlina explains Steven Covey’s habit of sharpening the saw.

Somehow we’ve gotten it into our heads that engaged authenticity should come easily.  It does for some and it doesn’t for others.  If you haven’t been blessed with an obvious natural talent, then you have been blessed with the necessity of honing the ones you have.   Steve Chandler thinks practice is the most powerful trick ever.

What strengths have you been afraid to express?  What natural talents scare the hell out of you?  If you practiced the same strength for one hour daily, how might that change your life?

I’m challenging you to sharpen your authentic edge beginning now. The latent advantage of authentic business building is that the owner remains eager to do the work.  When work is not a chore you’ll naturally be more productive and attractive to ideal clients.

Which tool do you need to use the most to sharpen your authentic edge?

I feel a definite bond with those of you who are building your business authentically.  I also admire those of you who want to start a small business built on a foundation of who you are.

Let’s connect on Twitter.


  1. Tom, thank you! Everything here just really struck a chord in me. Thank you for the welcome reminder in paragraph four, for the thoughtful questions that I want to revisit, and for the beautiful, warm, embracing feeling I’m left with after the video that moved me to happy tears. I really appreciate what you do for us! ~ Julie

    Julies last blog post..Our World in a Christmas Tree

  2. Julie – Thank you! I love striking chords and it’s always a pleasure to see your smiling face. I hope that all of my readers will take five minuted to watch this video all the way through. It just keeps getting better and better. Peace and love to you.

  3. Christine|the bonbon life says:

    That video was really nicely done–gave me the warm and fuzzies.

    Your ideas are all good.

    I guess there are certain reasons why some people struggle with authenticity. I think sometimes they feel doubt and confusion and begin looking to others as life rafts. Maybe they think that others who are successful should be looked to because they are afraid to trust themselves. They’re scared to screw up and they are scared to fail. At least if they follow someone else who seems to have things together they might have a chance.

    Of course this is a slippery slope. It’s ok to want to model successful people to a point. The trouble as you’ve pointed to in your post is when you don’t allow much of yourself to come through.

    Other issues are that there are many people who probably couldn’t even tell you one or two things they are passionate about. I suspect this happens a lot with those still in Corporate America whose identities have become so much about their jobs. Or, they are so miserable there that by the time they get home to try and focus on nurturing and monetizing those passions they are emotionally exhausted and numb. It becomes more pleasing to escape these problems with mindless entertainment than practicing a skill or craft. Of course this is a problem with the individual not being willing to do what’s required to make changes and discover or hone their authenticity and talents.

    Overall I agree that putting one’s unique self out there gives them an edge. People need to remind themselves that others are drawn to those who appear authentic and real.

    Christine|the bonbon lifes last blog post..Information and Marketing Overwhelm: 5 Ways to Manage the Clutter

  4. Hi Tom,

    Sorry I missed the conference, something unexpected came up. I ‘ll try again another time! Heard was great from Stacy!

    Loved this article! It’s so true staying focused and honing skills for your business is a practise well worth the time. I wenr to a conference and he talked about doing something to forward the motion a hour a day! It gets the locomotion chugging along!

    I’ll have to watch the video later!

  5. Hi Tom. I got the feeling that you mean business when I saw that picture of the axe. To answer your question, “If you woke up tomorrow morning and had all the time and money you could ever need, what would you still care enough about, to want to make a difference?” I would still care about helping people. I saddens me to see so many people unhappy and not having faith in themselves. I’d love to help people realize that they don’t have to fix themselves and to recognize that about each other.

    Davinas last blog post..A Positively Dysfunctional Christmas

  6. Hi Tom,
    I love that song, and this rendition was great! Thanks for sharing it here!

    Exploiting our authentic edge…I’m looking at the questions you’ve asked in each of these five areas… and some of them do scare me. I’m okay with that, as long as I’m willing to also still seek to answer these. I think that’s an important point. Even if some of this stuff scares us, forging forward is the only way we’re going to get “there”. When I really start to think about these questions, in addition to having them scare me, it’s also very exciting. And that’s what I need to remember – that this stuff is a risk, and yet, what is life if we don’t take on the risks that really, deep down, matter to us. Tom, great, great message here today!

    Lances last blog post..Sunday Thought For The Day

  7. Diane – yes, momentum is one of my favorite tools. As long as we are headed in an authentic direction, frequency and regilarity of actions is a powerful force.

    Christine – Thanks Christine for your well thought out and detailed response. I find that it does work to model the specific methods and approaches of others but to do so from a core of who we are. In other words, if we would simply use something as simple as the tools in this post, then we’re authentically grounded and we can try others methods from there.

    Davina – That’s my axe and my hand. Didn’t want to scare you. I was simply trying for a fully authentic post. 🙂 Yes, I asked that question of myself of course, as coaches it’s central to who we are to help. Like you, I’d still be working in the field of human development and empowerment. With more resources I would simply risk more and be even wilder. On the edge, 🙂 if you will.

    Lance – I watched that video three times and had it blasting. I found it truly uplifting. Good man. I pleased to see that you are still facing the things that scare you. You’re right, there is great value looking at it from risk assessment and from the beauty of opportunity.

  8. I’m working on giving myself empathy. I can really beat myself up if I don’t get everything accomplished. My passion is pushing so hard I just need to step back and appreciate what I’m able to create.

    Like you said it takes practice. We try to do more of the things that feel right and bring us closer to our goals.

    Karl Staib – Work Happy Nows last blog post..Day 18 of 30 – Bonus – No Complaining

  9. Hi Tom! Thanks for the great post (and I enjoyed the alternate rendition of the song btw)! 🙂 I agree we need to get our passion right, first and foremost – by looking internally for what keeps us going, rather than externally on what others want. Many people fall into the trap of doing the latter and deny themselves of their real desires.

    Celes | EmbraceLiving.Nets last blog post..6 Things to Consider Before Discovering Your Purpose

  10. @Christine- If you look at those who seem to have it together, you will find they have made many mistakes. The thing about these folks is they learn from them and keep moving on with their business. While I am new at this small business thing, I came out of the starting gate making a huge mistake which will end in front of a small claims court in Jan. I’m not scared about it. The worst thing that can happen is I’m out 5K more money. The best thing is I get 5K back from a meanie guy, but in either case, I have learned a great deal and (with a push from a couple of people including our guru, Tom) I kept moving on with the business. I think the biggest thing I learned is that I can recover from a major mistake (in my case starting all over with the canyon manufacturing) and persevere to succeed.

    If people can find their authentic business, working is like play. I feel very satisfied with my work, offer a wonderful product, and understand the need of my customer – because I’ve been there myself. My business is one of a kind (as am I) and I cannot wait to create other streams of income through it.

    If a person can figure themselves out enough to know how they can make money by being who they are, he will never feel unfulfilled from his work. I am crazy in love with my work and it is the coolest because I made it all come to life myself (with a great partner). Now if I could figure out the rest of my life, all would be good. But if we had everything figured out, it might be a bore. 😉

  11. Tom,

    This post is so JAM PACKED with incredible insight and wisdom, I don’t know WHERE to begin!

    I’ll just stand and applaud you! BRAVO! [whistles approval]

    Kathy @ Virtual Impaxs last blog post..Small Business Marketing- The Yellow Page Directory’s Place in your Marketing Mix

  12. LifeMadeGreat | Juliet says:


    Great post.

    I find that it is very easy to get trapped into in “what others are doing” or “how they are doing it” etc.

    If I get caught up in others’ ways, I find that it all becomes rather meaningless. If I stay true to myself (even if I am not sure what I am doing), then I feel much more grounded, whole and fulfilled. I think that is the foundation for success.


    LifeMadeGreat | Juliets last blog post..Experiencing Fear As It Is Meant To Be

  13. Thanks for the inspiration. I’m building an authentic voice online workshop right now and will use your questions to jump out of the box to provide above and beyond authentic value to everyone who will be participating in this global online workshop.

    Stacey / Create a Balances last blog post..Gifts From My Dad

  14. Great post, Tom. Our marketing messages should always highlight our Unique Selling Proposition. However we need to make sure that this USP is truly valuable, that we enjoy offering it and that every customer receives the same excellent treatment.

    Matt Thomass last blog post..9 Things You Can Learn from Market Research

  15. Karl – Yes, the gift of self-understanding and self-acceptance is so very strong. Go for it man! You are ready.

    Celes – When we first match up the inside the outside falls into place. I acknowledge you as a card carrying member of Club Authentic!

    Laurie – You can use the same authentic framework to create exactly what you want in the other areas of your life. First believe that.

    Kathy – Thank you, I’m graciously bowing with a big ass smile on my face. 🙂

    Stacey – You are a quick adapter. I love the way you decide and move. You can’t go wrong teaching authenticity.

    Juliet – Welcome. Staying true to oneself has to be the foundation of success. Otherwise we are running around wearing masks of make believe.

    Matt – Aren’t you clever getting that marketing word in there?
    I promise to check out your blog in greater detail very soon. I appreciate your support.

  16. Brett Legree says:

    Hi Tom,

    I finally made it back over here to give this a good read.

    Two things – I absolutely love that axe. And the questions you ask are really great – I’m going to sit down with them and put my answers on paper. I believe I already know all of the answers – my answers – but it never hurts to hone one’s focus.

    The new year, 2009, is going to bring great things for us.


    Brett Legrees last blog fridays – burning logs and reindeer bones.

  17. Van Theodorou says:

    you absolutely hit it right about passion, practice and imagination. these crucial ingredients are simply the basic things needed to start and keep a business, and with determination, succeed with it.

    thanks for the food for thought!happy holidays!!!

  18. Comparing myself to other e-tailers or bloggers is deadly, yet I fall into the trap all the time! Asking myself those questions was a great exercise for me in understanding my motive and how I can improve doing what I’m doing.

    Carlas last blog post..Green and Chic Blog | What is it?

  19. Nice set of tools in your tool belt!

    Empathy is quite the tool and a key part of emotional intelligence. I remember I used to be confused by sympathy and empathy until I finally realized sympathy is you understand the pain (intellectual), but empathy is you *feel* the pain (emotional/internalized.)

    The cool thing is empathy is something you can develop. If you watch a movie and you feel the movie, versus just watch it, that’s what empathy feels like. Emotional Intelligence by Dan Goleman is a great overview.

    Imagination is a sweet skill. Have you seen THINKERTOYS? It’s by a former Disney imagineer named Michael Michalko. It’s probably the most comprehensive catalog of thinking techniques I’ve ever found (granted I’m still early in my quest, but I’ve traveled many towns).

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..My Favorite Personal Development Books

  20. Brett – Glad you like the axe. I have a vineyard hoe that puts it to shame. I’ll show it sometime. I just love the strength and heft of a good tool. Your wise to challenge yourself with questions form different sources. Bestto you in 09 and beyond.

    Van Theodorou – Welcome. Chew that food for thought well and let me know how it digests.

    JD – Welcome I’m familiar with Goleman’s work and I’ve been developing my empathy for about 10 years now. I had to learn how to feel my own stuff first. I took a look at Michalko’s website on your recommendation and he seems to offer a lot of tastes so I can see if I like his flavor. Thanks for the tips. I’m pleased to meet another traveler on this never-ending journey.

    Carla – Yes there are so many of us out there for the world to see , that comparison is such an easy trap. Happy to see that the questions helped to raise your awareness.

  21. In a word? PERFECT. I am still in awe with so much food for thought. I always say I’m a very musical being so having the song and the awesome video here does make a huge difference for me. I totallya agree with most of the comments and the idea of developing empathy is the key one for me. Thank you very much for sharing.

    Gilmars last blog post..Web 2.0 – Favorite images

  22. Gabriel - Gadfly Revolution says:

    I can definitely agree with the idea that confidence helps you to achieve more, and therefore increases your success. I’m a writer — a poet mostly, but I do some fiction work too — and people always say to me, “I wish I could write, but I’m no good at it,” and I always have to tell them, “No, not with that idea in your head.”

    Our reality is what we make it: we each have boundless potential, and we are capable of anything.

    Gabriel – Gadfly Revolutions last blog post..Happiness Doesn’t Have a Secret

  23. You live the life you think about. That is what it comes down to. The focus of your thoughts and fears becomes the life you lead.

    Liara Coverts last blog post..What do you do when they fear for you?

  24. Gilmar – Welcome. Be sure to return and tell us how your empathy development is going.

    Gabriel – Welcome. Yes. Confidence is absolutely essential for success.

    Liara – Welcome. Well said. That is the bottom line. Focus on what you want.

  25. Tom, what a terrific post. This, “An outside focus will dull your authentic edge by positioning you in the reactionary hell of deadly comparisons,” really grabbed my attention today.

    I’m intrigued by the relationship between sharpening the saw and maintaining one’s authentic edge. I know that I find it easy to slip unconsciously from pursuing mastery to comparing myself with masters. I’m looking forward to exploring this and will come back after more thought.

    I’m grateful for your work.

    Molly Gordons last blog post..How Prospective Clients Can Teach You Marketing: The Surprising Relationship Between Marketing and Empathy

  26. Tom,

    What a fabulous post! I’ve just discovered your blog and so glad to find it/you. What you wrote just reached in and held my heart as I have been challenged to let go of all the shoulds and comparisons in my own quest to develop a business that reflects my authentic self and talents. It’s quite a journey. And I have been listening and watching that video for over 2 months, and it still is magical!

  27. Got your post from Molly. Much appreciated. I like the concept of the authentic edge, and not being distracted by comparing yourself to others. The Buddha once said that, “Comparison is sin.” Indeed!

    I’m also a big fan of practice — and The Ten Thousand Hour Rule — that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in Outliers: The Story of Success. I wrote an article about it a couple of years ago that’s up on HubPages now.

    Interesting that much of Outliers is about debunking the heroic version of success, and although he does say it takes a lot of effort to be be and stay successful, it also takes a lot of lucky circumstances. So, comparing yourself to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or other well known successes is usually futile.

    Love your blogsite. Very clean and appealing. Cheers!

  28. Molly – Welcome, yes slipping into comparison is a natural outcome of us all being so well connected these days. The important point is that we remain aware and catch ourselves as you have obviously done. So nice to have you visit. I’m a big fan of your work.

    Manya – Welcome. I’s an honor to met yet another authentic soul who is committed to expressing that authenticity in her work. You’re more than enough just the way you are. Looking forward to connecting further.

    Bruce – Welcome and thanks for the Twitter connection. I just got Outliers for Christmas and haven’t cracked it open yet. I’ll be on the look out for your excellent points. If you read this come back and leave the link for your Hub article.

  29. Hi Tom,
    The article on practice is called Ten Thousand Hours: The Awesome Power of Passion, Persistence, and Practice. It can be accessed at–The-Awesome-Power-of-Practice.
    Thanks for the support. Much appreciated!


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