What’s the Truth About Authentic Work?

You compensate.  I compensate.  To some degree we all compensate for a lack of authentic work.  Over time we’ve made stuff up to rationalize our unfulfilling work.  We’ve pretended, avoided and shirked responsibility in order to make our work fit who we are. 

If you’re an employee, chances are, you’ve resigned yourself to a fulfillment-starved life.  If forced to tell the truth, you’d admit that you’ve settled for far less than fulfilling and delightful work.

I don’t bash employment just because it’s slavery.  I bash employment because so many employees are lying to themselves.  So if I have to piss off ten of you to wake one of you up, I’m happy to do it.

Here’s proof why employment is inauthentic for at least 90% of employees.

Your job was not created to give you greater freedom; it was created to restrict your freedom.

Your job was not created to give you greater opportunities for authentic self-expression; it was created to limit your self-expression.

Your job was not created to fit who you are; it was created to serve the needs of your employer.

Your job was not created for your economic benefit; it was created to increase the prosperity of others.

However, it’s not your suck ass job that’s killing you.  What’s killing you is all that compensation.  What’s killing you is all the time and energy you invest trying to fit a mold that is not a fit for who you are.

It’s draining as hell to fake it all the time.  When you act like something doesn’t matter and it does matter, you shrink your soul and smother your authentic spirit.

When your job doesn’t fit, then in order to survive, you must compensate by showing up as a lesser version of yourself.  This lesser, lower self is false and it takes a lot of energy to offset a lack of expressed authenticity.

All of this accumulated faking has diluted the true you so much so that your authentic voice can’t be heard because of all the excuses you spout.

So how can you find the gumption to live a bigger more vigorous work life?
Do two things.

1). Make space for your authentic voice by silencing your fake self.

All of your accumulated compensation is emotional and intellectual clutter and clutter must be cleared.  Without space for your authentic self to express and act, your little, fearful self will keep running the show by avoiding, pretending and shirking responsibility.

2). Create a work environment that brings you robustly alive.

Mike Tomlin, head coach of our world champion Pittsburgh Steelers knows how.  The Steelers are now holding their three-day mini-camp.  It’s the first time that rookies get to work out and train with the veterans.

A reporter asked Tomlin how he determines that a player has the hunger to be a champion.  Tomlin said he doesn’t look for hunger, because hunger can be satisfied.  He’s right; multi-million dollar contracts don’t guarantee that a player will even make the team.

Instead of hunger, Tomlin looks for drive.  Drive is aggressive readiness along with the energy to undertake taxing efforts. Drive is hustle, initiative, vitality, and get-up-and-go.

Drive is natural when we find or create our authentic space.

Scroll up and look at that picture ofHines Ward again.  At the wide receiver position, Hines is one of the most powerful and vicious blockers in the league.  Whether he makes the hit or gets hit – he always bounces up with that big ass smile on his face.  Hines is in his natural element.  He’s found his authentic space.

We can apply this lesson in our search for authentic work.  Authentic work isn’t a craving to be satisfied but an environment in which your natural drive can express itself.

This is so important to understand because fear around not having enough money is the number one reason folks give for not making their move to the freedom of self-employment.  But money is about hunger not drive.  Hunger is only temporarily satisfied.

Fear not, you’re authentic work is also seeking you.  Create some space and you’ll be more able to see it.

Find or create an environment where you can naturally speak your truth.

Find or create an environment where you are eager to do the work.

Find or create a work opportunity where you are driven to excel and then both your drive and your hunger will be fulfilled.



  1. Stephen - Rat Race Trap says:

    Tom, this is a FANTASTIC article. I absolutely loved it. I’m signing up! Thanks for this.

    Stephen – Rat Race Traps last blog post..Freedom From Compromise and Control

  2. Andrea Hess|Empowered Soul says:

    Oh Tom, I LOVE the unabashed bashing of employment!!! I so agree with you that employment SUCKS (the life right out of people) and anyone on a path of personal and spiritual evolution will eventually have to step into the greater level of self-determination, power and responsibility that only entrepreneurship can offer us.

    A lot of my own clients don’t like it – but it’s true. We are not in charge 40 – 60 hours of our week when we’re employed. We cannot truly exercise our free will, and therefore we are not creators of our experience.

    Spiritually-minded people often tell me that they just have to change how they react, or how they feel, or how they think in order to make the best of their employment. I believe that’s the compensation you’re talking about!

    I say – let’s not change ourselves, let’s create our ideal circumstances instead. That’s what we’re here to do, anyway.

    Entrepreneurship rocks!


  3. Employers are looking to get the most our of you in a position that wasn’t created for you. Yes! I whole heartedly agree.

    We try to fit the mold within a position that 99% of us (employees) aren’t meant for. The hardest part isn’t recognizing this, but making a choice to change this circumstance.

    We all have a chance to make the life of our dreams. We can’t be afraid of the consequences – failure. We might start our own business and have it blow up in our face. The thing is we learn so much from this experience that the next chance we have to create our own business has that much better chance at success. And besides…every business owner wants to higher someone who started their own business. Entrepreneurs are creative and have so much drive that they want to succeed no matter who they work for.

    Karl Staib – Work Happy Nows last blog post..28 Lessons on Working Happy From My Icelandic Mother

  4. Hi Tom,

    I admire your courage is speaking up so strongly for what you believe is right, and helping people to achieve the lifestyle they want, pursuing their authentic work. Could you write more on ‘authentic work’? I learn a lot from your perspective.

    Daphne @ Joyful Dayss last blog post..8 Lessons from the Lindy Hop

  5. Mary Anne Fisher says:

    Hi Tom,

    Fantastic article. Compensation, indeed!

    I spent more than 15 miserable years in corporate environments before I stepped out and put up my coaching shingle. You really nailed it here…

    “…fear around not having enough money is the number one reason folks give for not making their move to the freedom of self-employment. But money is about hunger not drive. Hunger is only temporarily satisfied.”

    I really enjoy your writing style and look forward to more! 🙂

  6. We spend a lot of time fitting into and justifying our jobs. Going down the authentic work path can be a bit frightening, but that quickly subsides as our feelings of enjoyment and satisfaction increase. Thanks for the post!

    Laurie | Express Yourself to Successs last blog post..Self-Expression: Is it OK?

  7. Tom,

    This post just makes me wanna cry. It is so true. We waste our lives living for a someday of joy that might never come. All we really have is time, this moment – and we waste it in jobs that smother our authenticity. How many more moments will we have? We don’t know. How many wasted moments will we get back? NONE.

    I LOVE Hines – and Troy. They play with PASSION and they always seem like they are having FUN. How better to describe authentic work?!

    I see some similarity, too, when looking for “sport dogs”. If you know anything about dogs people train for schutzhund, French ring, search and rescue or police work – you’ll know that they never look for dogs with “hunger” (they’d all be fat! 😉 – they look for dogs with DRIVE. Dogs who work for the love of the game, they need no other reward than the reward of the work itself.

    Keenas last blog post..Doing Work You Love

  8. Andrea – Thanks for saluting the flag of freedom with me. Creating the ideal circumstances is what we are here for. Anything less just crushes our spirit and limits our joy. That’s no way to live.

    Karl – You make a good point. The big talk around HR circles is finding employees who will treat their employers business with an owners mindset. Of course the better step is to be the owner and the mindset comes naturally along for the ride.

    Stephen – Thank you and welcome aboard.

    Daphne – What would you specifically like to see explored regarding authentic work? Or anyone else for that matter, what aspect of authentic work would you like greater clarity on?

    Laurie – Thanks it takes a lot of work to fit into something that doesn’t fit. Just ask my jeans. 🙂 Why not create the custom fit based on what you want? That’s the question of truth.

    Keena – Another member of Steeler Nation stands tall! 🙂 Good stuff you’ve shared about the working dogs. I love watching the determination and drive in border collies for example and those drug doggies sure do show enthusiasm for their work. You’re right, our time is now.

  9. This is a very nice post which got me thinking if I’m part of the 90% who’s inauthentic or the 10% who are actually true to themselves as an employed person. I am both employed and profiting from entrepreneurship. My job isn’t that restricting so I do feel like I stay true to myself, even if I do work for someone else half the time.

    Imees last blog post..Earn Extra Income through Online Writing Jobs

  10. Clem Gigliotti - Power On The Web says:


    I have foud it difficult to keep those “employees” (that are filled with excuses and justification) in my life. Not intentionally, but clearly, I consistently choose to not spend time with them, and they have therfore become secondary players in my life that has become more authentic. And keeping in step with that desire to stay authentic and genuine to myself, I recently realized that while I greatly ENJOY my current work (especially as I have refined it to be the best fit for me), I do not LOVE it. So my next endeavor will be in pursuit of something I believe I will actually love. Right or wrong? Who knows, but this sure is a fun way to live!


    Clem Gigliotti – Power On The Webs last blog post..Pittsburgh Technology Examiner

  11. Tom,

    I should have known you would ask a penetrating question to make me think! The definition of meaningful work (I’m not sure if this is the same as ‘authentic’) I use is: work that you enjoy, that you’re good at, that people will pay you for. I think finding the intersection of these three circles would be my life work, and I’m quite sure I’m already there. I’m just curious if that would be considered ‘authentic’. Maybe I’ll write a post with a diagram to make this clearer, and send you the link once it’s done to see what you think.

    Daphne @ Joyful Dayss last blog post..8 Lessons from the Lindy Hop

  12. I always read your posts at just the right time. I am exploring authentic work in my own life.

    And, you posted a week or two ago about work you love vs. work you want to do. I explored and in a place I didn’t expect I think I got the answer. Like you, it kind of blew my mind. Now, I’ve been “cleaning up the mess”….ha ha. It’s all good when it makes me think.

    Stacey Shipmans last blog post..5 Skills I Wish I learned in School

  13. LifeMadeGreat | Juliet says:

    Wonderful – as usual.

    You are so right about having to play the part for the job. Crumbs, I’ve done that to such a huge extent and for so long. And it does simply kill you.

    I’m actually in the process of breaking free. Quit my job yesterday 😉


  14. Tom – You’ve done it again!

    I absolutely ADORE the way you share the “truth” here all the time – and yes, you do provide a GREAT wake up call!!!

    “Find or create an environment where you are eager to do the work.”

    I don’t believe everyone is “cut out” for self employment. Not everyone has the “drive” and especially the tenacity needed to succeed in the cut throat world of the self employed… but I do believe everyone can find or create an environment where they are EAGER to do the work!!!

    Too many people “settle” for a paycheck instead of seeking an environment where they are eager to do the work!

    For example, I could be “self employed” and own a sub shop franchise. I’d make GREAT money but I can’t say I’d be able to wake up every morning, anxious to deliver fresh submarine sandwiches to the masses. Unfortunately, I also can’t see myself getting excited about managing a staff of submarine sandwich making “artists.”

    There’s lots of money to be made owning a submarine sandwich franchise – but in my case it would NOT be an environment where I would be eager to do the work.

    SIGH! All that money and so little opportunity for real “satisfaction”.

    I guess what I’m saying is – self employment doesn’t necessarily lead to fulfilling work. Finding that is the real trick.

    Then again, that’s where YOUR fulfilling work comes in to play -isn’t it?

    Kathy | Virtual Impaxs last blog post..Social Media: Same Shit-Different Day

  15. Unfortunately, too many people don’t take the time to get to know themselves well enough to seek out a job (or career or self-employment) that works for them. (I doubt this is the case for most of your readers.)

    If someone doesn’t know what their strengths are and what does energize and empower them, they don’t know what to look for wherever they’re working.

    Sometimes there are changes that can be made within the workplace, if you work for a good employer who values these kinds of things. If not, then it’s time to look elsewhere – or look to yourself. 😉

    All the best!

    debs last blog post..a course on the artist’s way

  16. Laurie says:

    In my last job, I was told to make the job my own. Silly me, I thought they meant what they said. What they really meant to say was “Whatever you do Laurie, we’ll criticize you and tell you you’re not a fit. ” It doesn’t matter that I got the best results their data ever showed having.

    While that was an experience in hell, I did learn some things that are helping me now. But I also learned to value authentic work. I have never been happier or more excited about what all I can do with my business. My potential is great and I am loving the journey. Thanks Tom for your help in getting me here!

  17. Mary Anne – Welcome. Fifteen years of hell is about average for most. I’m so pleased that you’ve claimed your freedom. You stand as a shining example for others who ae still in their hell.

    Daphne – Please do write that post and let me know. I’ll be sure to throw my hat in the ring in your comment section. I don’t think meaningful is a synonym for authentic. Meaningful adds way too much pressure for my taste. Authentic work is simply is natural, genuine and real. Meaningful for me sets the bar too high for most folks.

    Stacey – Cool, I love mind messes. We need to shake things up frequently. Has working on what you want to been easier for you than what you love?

    Imee- Lots of folks have set themselves up to have it both ways. Good for you. If it still allows you to whistle while you work, enjoy it and be grateful.

    Clem – Did you read this post on doing what you want versus doing work that you love? I think you’ll find it very helpful.

    Juliet – Let freedom ring! Congratulations! That’s wonderful now go forth and deliver value like only you can. The world supports us when we serve form our authentic edge.

    Kathy – Yes, that is my authentic and fulfilling work. I love to guide and honor those who are about to make the leap to their freedom. You’re right, if you aren’t suited to creation then you can find an environment that stimulates you. It’s all in what you value.

    Deb – Good point, self-examination is key. I agree that some enlightened employers will work with you. Unfortunately they are in the minority.

    Laurie – Employers don’t always say what they mean. But at least you now know how to be a good and supportive boss to yourself.

  18. Caitlin says:

    Thanks Tom, for your insightful kick in the pants! I really needed this today. Just wanted to let you know your words have an important and uplifting impact!

  19. I use my authentic voice during my day job in corporate america. I think this is my strength and what makes me unique.

  20. Tom,

    I thought this was a very powerful post. I have a daughter struggling a bit in her job and I’m sending it on to her. She could use a bit of your “shaking things up” attitude.

    For me, I was taken by your 3 “finds” —

    Find or create an environment where you can naturally speak your truth.

    Find or create an environment where you are eager to do the work.

    Find or create a work opportunity where you are driven to excel and then both your drive and your hunger will be fulfilled.

    These are so true. Thanks:~)

    Saras last blog post..To Boldly Go Anger Free

  21. Caitlin – Thank you! Butt kicking is one of my favorite activities. I absolutely love the brisk slap of a wake-up call. Feel free to return the favor anytime.

    Stacey – Good for you. You’re right it is rare but so sorely needed. Keep standing tall.

    Sara – Hope your daughter decided to wakeup and create her own good sooner rather than later. I’m sure with you as her Mom, she’ll be fine.

  22. Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching says:

    Thanks for this Tom. Thinking about self-employment can bring up such deep issues, I’ve found — it certainly did with me when I chose that route, and it seems to do the same for my clients. When someone is working a job just to pay the bills, I’ve seen, there’s usually some belief in the background that they’re not good enough or they don’t deserve to do what they really want. It can be a painful process facing up to that belief but the rewards are definitely big.

    • Chris – Your clients are blessed that they have such a courageous coach to guide them through their challenging beliefs. Sure it can be daunting but even more so when we choose to walk that brave path alone.

  23. all of this resonates so much with me:

    When you act like something doesn’t matter and it does matter, you
    shrink your soul and smother your authentic spirit.

    1). Make space for your authentic voice by silencing your fake self.

    All of your accumulated compensation is emotional and intellectual clutter and clutter must be cleared. Without space for your authentic self to express and act, your little, fearful self will keep running the show by avoiding, pretending and shirking responsibility.

    most of my life I was told what to do and how to do it, and the last 7 years I have been unraveling and finding out who I am and what I think about everything personally,.. finding my throat chakra was HUGE and yet not only getting it cleared to level but staying cleared and confident is the challenge… it is a confidence thing for me now,.. more than being authentic… reconditioning is happening..and practicing and believing that I can do it. Now, I am in a position where I can be self-employed, I just need to start earning so i don’t lose my chances and get the stuff out there.. almost done the first info product!

    thanks for sharing,
    .-= Jenn´s last blog ..Strawberry Shortcake & Tea, Plus Videos & Living Transparently =-.

    • Jenn – That’s very cool. I might also suggest that it isn’t reconditioning but simply your authentic core shining through back to its original luster. You’ve always had it. Just like we all do. It just gets buried under years of fears.

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