Be Yourself, Only Better

goldfish jumping out of the waterHave you ever noticed that a lot of people simply aren’t comfortable in their own skin? Of course you have. I have too. I think it may be true of all of us at different times in our lives. Ultimately, however, we learn and we grow. So, most of us seem to find a level of self-acceptance allows us to have rewarding and successful lives.

What Authenticity Is

Frankly, though, there are some people who translate their discomfort into a quest for self-reinvention. Others, it seems, translate it into an obsessive concern with authenticity. Regarding being authentic, a friend of mine once made the interesting observation that “The people most concerned with being authentic, usually aren’t.” [Tweet This] Perhaps this sort of façade is what prompted Gapingvoid cartoonist, Hugh Mac­Leod, to call one of his e-books, Authenticity Is The New Bulls**t. In it, he lays out a pretty simple success philosophy:

“i. Work hard.

ii. Be nice.

ii. Have great product or service.

iv. Don’t suck.”

I like it. Yet, I think a rewarding and successful life can be even simpler, and may only take trying to be just a little better every single day. While I’d love to claim this insight as my own, it’s actually something I discovered quite by chance. So, let me tell you a little story…

Limit Challenge

A couple of years ago, I posted to Instagram a photo of myself at the gym. I was wearing a Mizuno T-shirt emblazoned with Japanese characters, and the phrase, “Be Yourself, Only Better.” Over the course of the morning and next day, several of my Japanese Instagram friends responded favorably, posting comments like, “Me too!” And some even included the following Japanese characters:


…and referenced the literal translation as “limit challenge.”

Of course, this prompted me to take a closer look. So, I went to Mizuno’s website and found a video presentation that expresses how the company sees limit challenge. It said this:

“Every day
You make promises to yourself.
Be tough, only tougher.
Be strong, only stronger.
Be yourself. Only better.
And, above all, never waver.
Never quit.
Never settle.”

In digging deeper into their philosophy, I found a statement that really resonated for me: “Inside each of us is a better us trying to get out. Trying to make the most of what we’ve got. Trying to be more than we think we can be.”

Not only did I see a connection to my philosophy of owning your life, but also felt it captured the whole essence of living one’s principles. It’s about the daily promise to bring one’s true self to making the world better, not only for ourselves but also for others. And the better we do, the better we become.

Simple, Not Easy

Of course, as Mac­Leod, and others, point out simple is not easy. So, if you want to live your core principles, you need to know what they are. [Tweet This] Perhaps you already do. And yet, in my experience as a career and executive coach, I find many people have gaps in self-understanding. Perhaps it’s the human condition, but most of us need to regularly engage in some introspection, and to take into account external feedback.

Some of the processes I’ve used in my coaching lend themselves well to this. And yet, one of the most powerful I’ve found is investing time in uncovering the themes that are revealed in your life story. Or perhaps I should say stories … because the bigger story of your life is actually revealed in the collection of life events that have shaped your character. Each has it’s own lesson, of course. Yet, taken together they reveal your themes, or what I like to refer to as your brand DNA. [Tweet This]

So, if you are plagued by doubts, feeling stuck, or at a loss … and even if you’re not … take time to unravel your life stories. As you find the themes that make you who you are, you also gain more clarity about the difference that you are uniquely suited to make in the world.

It’s worth the effort.

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Do you know the key themes that drive your success? Leave a comment and let me know what they are. If you’re interested in gaining better self-knowledge, consider my Insights for Success coaching.


  1. says

    Walter- It is worth the effort and I truly enjoyed your message in this post. This is the biggest mistake I see young trial lawyers (and some old ones too) make when practicing law and trying cases. They try to be everyone else in the world but themselves. As you say, not always easy but critically important. Good stuff!

    • says

      Hey Mitch!! Thanks for your terrific comment!

      I think, at various points in our lives and careers, we may aspire to be someone else. After all, we all have role models and heroes. And yet, I believe people can only have true success when they get grounded in who they truly are, apply their unique talents and attributes, and live their core principles! I think our friends at Mizuno are astute to recognize this as a daily challenge.

      Glad you enjoyed this post!

  2. says

    This is terrific, Walter! I especially love the “simple not easy” part – that is so true, and I think that we often complicate things because that gives us a reason not to take action (or to look too deeply into that part of ourselves that we aren’t ready to see just yet). Thanks for this reminder ;-)

    • says

      Thanks for your astute comment, Stephanie!

      Yes, I think many people do unnecessarily complicate things. And yes, often because they resist facing their shortcomings. So, the concept of being yourself is simple, but the process challenging. Still, making that effort usually results in greatly enhanced effectiveness, confidence, and relationships!!

      Clearly worth it!!


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