Do you know the difference between a bandit and a common criminal? Why is it we love bandits, but fear and are repulsed by criminals? Why do bandits capture our imaginations, but criminals are shunned by society? I think the answer lies in the power of authenticity. One of my favorite bandits is one of America’s most famous train robbers – Jesse James. Jesse James was no ordinary criminal. Jesse James holds the record of one of the longest periods of active criminal activity without ever being caught – and this despite the fact that he was literally being chased and sought by hundreds of law enforcement people and bounty hunters of his day. The reason he lasted so long, was because so many people helped him. And they did so because they loved him. Why did they love him? Because he was real and passionate, and made no apology for who and what he was. And he was committed to his ideals – he robbed only those that he believed had gotten rich and powerful at the expense of others less fortunate – the rich northern banks and railroads that he believed were taking advantage of the people of the south.
One night when Jesse James was traveling through Missouri on his way home from robbing a train in Nebraska, he and his men stopped for the night at a farm, seeking accommodation and some food. What they found at the farm this night was a distraught woman, who was in tears. Jesse James inquired as to what was wrong, and the woman told him that her husband had died in the civil war, and without him she was not able to maintain their farming business. The banks, she explained, were foreclosing on her farm the very next day and would be forcing her to move. Despite her distraught condition, she offered food and housing for the night to Jesse James and his men. The next morning, before leaving her farm, Jesse James reached into his bag of stolen money, and withdrew almost all of it, giving it to the woman so she could pay the bankers and save her farm and her life. Sure enough, hours later, the bankers arrived, and much to their surprise, the woman pulled out the cash and paid them for the note on her farm. The bankers took the money, gave her the note and headed on their way. All turned out okay for this woman because of Jesse James. Two miles down the road from the farm, however, the bankers had a little surprise. Jesse James and his gang were waiting for them, and robbed them of all the money, their money, that they have given to the woman, and that she had paid them for the note on her farm!
How could you not love this guy? Even as a thief he had a heart, a sense of integrity, and passion, and he did not apologize for who and what he was. That is what made him so magnetic and allowed him to capture the attention of so many people. In other words, even though he was a thief, he was an authentic thief. He had authentic power. Authentic power, in my view, is one of the most important principles of life that can be taught, for becoming authentic changes people’s lives and expands human potential. Once obtained, authentic power becomes a tool capable of accomplishing amazing things, far beyond even that which we would consciously create for ourselves.
The first question that comes to mind when we speak of authentic power, is of course, what is it? And how is it different than other more common forms of power obtained through wealth, influence or connection. Authentic power is an energy that causes other energy vibrations to heighten and change. It influences subtly, and in unforeseen ways. It motives and inspires simply by the observation of it. Authentic power is more difficult to define and explain, but more tangibly felt when we are in its presence. It is a resonance and energy that affects our own with no action required on our part. It changes us and heightens our own energy simply by being in its presence.
Illusory power, based primarily in the ego and obtained through competition, is fleeting, and when the external rewards to which they are attached go away, so does the power. Illusory power is defined and limited by the ego that creates it. If that ego is powerful enough, it can appear quite powerful. We can all think of individuals who have amassed extensive money and influence that carry a fair amount of worldly power. But this form of power emanates only as far as the money and influence reach. And once that money and influence is gone, their once proud owners are left with nothing.
Authentic power, on the other hand, seems to carry an influence and energy that far exceeds the personal boundaries of the originator. The universe itself seems to be a conspirator with the authentically powerful individual, and their effect on people’s lives continues well after their own life has ceased. One only needs to think of individuals like Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, or Gandhi as examples of individuals with this kind of authentic power. But of course, few of us will ever by like these examples of authentic power. But we don’t have to be either. There is an old saying which says: Even the slug is a star, when he decides to be his horny, slimy self. I love that, because being authentically powerfully does not mean that we have to be saints or be perfect. It simply means that we strive to be exactly who we are, and present that without compromise in all situations and to all people.
Believe it or not, the biggest limitation that blocks the creation of authentic power for most people is that they do not realize how great they really are, they do not understand their power to create and manifest anything that they want. And so they begin to compromise – they compromise their integrity, they compromise their passion and accept less than what they really want, and they lose the courage to take the risks necessary to achieve their dreams. They choose certain mediocrity over potential greatness, and then spend much of their lives wondering why they are unhappy. Stepping up to authentic power is the reversal of this choice. It means a rededication to integrity and character, it means pursuing your passions and your dreams and not accepting less than, and it means taking risks and finding the courage to pursue your dreams and trusting that life will deliver. It means a willingness to be who and what you really are, without pretension, without apology and without the need to compromise.
As you begin this new year, I encourage you to challenge yourself to simply be who you really are. To accept that who you are is good enough and all that your are required to present to others. If you can do this, I promise you that this year will begin to turn your dreamsn and imaginations into reality.
Imagining the best,
If you would like to hear more about Authentic Power from Austin, go to the product store and get his CD, Stepping Up to Authentic Power.