Maureen: Okay, so our next guest is Arnaud Collery, the Tech X happiness speaker and Chief Happiness Officer known as Mr. Happiness. Arnaud's background includes being a former stand-up comedian, a serial entrepreneur and a keynote speaker. He's based in France. He leads a personal growth platform called Humanava that teaches human skills through masterclasses.
So today, Arnaud, we'll be talking about authenticity, ‘Authenticity is Your New Currency’. Over to you.
Arnaud: Thank you so much. Can you all hear me very well? Thank you, Henry. Nice to meet you. I love your smile. What a moderator you are. I met Henry, I think I reached out about, 10 years ago when I was getting in the field.
I was getting out of a depression, the movie I was doing didn't do well as a director. A comedy movie and, you know, and when a comedian is depressed, he’s not good to be around, right? Better to be happy. So I started my happiness journey and quickly became addicted to it, to helping people - transforming, healing, keynote conferences, coaching, so forth. And very quickly, I moved on to happiness in the workplace. What can I do in the workplace? I used to be an executive before comedy, so I went back to that field and, yeah, I had a lovely time in many places around the world.
Today, we are going to focus on authenticity. What does it take to keep being ourselves? and I'm going to share with you a few slides for the first nine minutes and then I believe you're going to break out, and we'll come back. Thank you. And I'll do with the second part with no slides, but I thought it would be a nice way to introduce some of my concepts for the first part. So, let me share my screen with you guys.
Can you all see my screen?
Arnaud: Okay. And you can all see it says ‘Authenticity’.
[New slide: “Authenticity transforms fear”]
Thank you very much. So, yes, authenticity for me, it's the best thing against fear, right? Everyone says, oh, you need to go through love or fear, and many of us were like, okay, how do I do love? Right? How can I be more loving? How can I get love? I can receive love. How can I give love? Especially if you didn't grow up in a loving family, right? Let's say 15, 20% of us grew up in a very loving atmosphere when you were a child. So you learn that. But many of us at least understand what it is to be authentic, to be a true self. And for me, that's the best weapon to go after fears, fear of judgment, fear of other people, fear of standing out.
[New slide: The costs of inaction (Quotation, “The tragedy of life is not death but what we let die inside us while we live”- Norman Cousins)
There's one question to ask yourself, and maybe this will be the question you ask yourself in the breakout room. What's the cost of inaction? What will it do to you? What will it do to your soul not to change? How are you going to feel with yourself 2, 5, 10, 20 years from now? If you have not made the change now to your mindset.
You might know many of you, an Australian nurse by the name of Brownie Ware. She was very famous a few years ago. She came up with a book talking about what she's seen through thousands of patients at the end of their life. 90% of them, it's ‘why didn't I become what I wanted to do?’ Basically, why didn't I listen to myself? And many people it is fear of change.
And this is why I love to talk about authenticity. We think being authentic is not to change. It's to keep changing until your real self comes out. This is being authentic. And you'll see in a minute, I've changed often. I have 12 reinventions and I'm going to change as often as I need until I die, to be authentic, therefore to be a little bit happier, right, to have a little bit more of a smile on my face and to feel I'm aligned. So that's the cost of inaction - that you're going to die, not knowing yourself, wasting your entire life. And I love that quote, of course, from Norman Cousins, right? I mean, I’m not afraid of death. I'm not. If I die tomorrow, I've done my life. And have a 5-year-old kid, so I really hope I'm not going to die, but I've done what I'm supposed to do in this life. But many of us say, Oh, I'm going to die when I'm 70-75. No! Just make sure you're alive now, do we want to do now.
[New slide: Quotation, “It’s the privilege of life to become who you are” Carl Young)
For me, it's all about having a compass, right? Vision, a direction. And even though I spent 15 years in America, I'm not sure the big American vision of that big house or the car or exactly where you want to be. You know, for me, the compass is your character, your values. You want to show to the up to the world, how you want to show up with those values. What character do you want to be? Who you want to be surrounded with, you know, keep in mind again, happiness, especially at work. Right. It's who we are surrounded with. So what value do we want to be surrounded within your colleagues? What value do you want to show up?
Here's a very good small exercise. I have about 12 example of stories. There's a very good example that you can all apply to yourself. It will be about values. Think of three people that mean a lot to you that have impacted your life, whether they're dead or alive, whether you know them or not. Maybe someone from your friends and family. Maybe someone from colleagues at work, now or in the past. And maybe someone from a public figure, right? Someone famous, again, dead or alive, men, women, young or old. It's not really the point. The point is to extract what it is that you feel those people give out to the world. What if you come up with one or two words on each of those persons, write it down either mentally or with a pen and paper. It could be generous, moneymaker, deal maker, leader, fearful, whatever it is, what are those words. Write those adjectives you're going to come up with five, six, seven adjectives. And what you're going to come up with, and this is an exercise I've done with the hundred organisations I've worked with; you always see something coming up. A friend of mine calls it the cream over the coffee. Just the very top, beautiful, creamy things of life. What are those values? And all of us have different values and your compass is to keep up with those values, I think, for the rest of your life, or as much as you can, even if you're going to change job or change teams or change product or change companies.
[New slide: Quotation, “There are no successful people with an easy past” – Anonymous)
Five people that inspire me a lot, you might recognize the first one, Victor Frankl, who in my book, wrote the best book ever on soul and men's search for meaning, right. Victor Frankl, who survived the camp. But just before the camp, he was a psychological student. Most people that entered Auschwitz and concentration camp or, people who are doctors, healers, and go through an atrocious experience like this one, often don't go back to being a doctor, a nurse, a psychologist. Why? They've seen the worst of humanity. Many of them say, I'm not going to go back helping people. I've seen the worst. People are not good. Not him. He's been authentic for him. Being authentic was keep the same job. He went back, talked about the atrocity he’d seen, and helped others to find meaning in their life. That's how we find meaning.
The second guy is a French guy I helped as a coach in New York. Matthew. Failed startup number one. Kept going. Failed startup number two. Kept going. At the third startup, in the middle of it, his wife left him, thought he was a loser, went back to France. And he said, no, I'm not going to quit entrepreneurship until I have a product that works. That was his mission in life. Created some (?) pop: 100 million downloads, 1 dollar per download, 100 million dollars, made a fortune. And that was the beginning of a big holding. For years he did not stop. He knew exactly what his mission in the world was.
Richard Branson, of course, the pride of UK. I met him when I was 18 just for a few minutes. The whole world loves him, why? Because he kept being an entrepreneur at what is the most important for him, right? And not entrepreneurship. I believe it's creativity. He just wants to create, right? Virgin Space, Virgin Cola, Virgin Space, Virgin Train, Virgin, this and that. Sometimes it's failing. I think, recently Virgin Space is losing a hundred million dollars. He's taking from his other company and every time he goes to his board and he starts a new venture, they say no. Every single time, even though he made these billions of dollars. But he's authentic to his core. His core is keep being a creative guy at heart. Create things from scratch he knows nothing about.
Reshma Sojani. Amazing person. She came to our stage in New York City when we did an event all over New York on transformation and happiness. Reshma Sojani started out as a lawyer. A good one, but in the midst of it, that was not enough. She became a politician, she failed as a politician, and then she became the head of an NGO called Girls Who Code. She's being authentic. Her goal when she became a lawyer was to change the world. She could not change the world enough, you know, her eyes when she was a lawyer, she became a politician. She could not change the world enough in her own way. She became an NGO president.
And then Trevor Noah, of course, right? I'm sure many of you know him. I love him. He's probably for me, one of the best comedians in the world. Same thing. I don't know his story, right? I'm not going to go into his childhood, but he had a very tough childhood, right? Half black, half white, very difficult in South Africa, 35 years ago, still, even after Apartheid. He was doing a small job, making his friends laugh. He became a comedian. He became a comedian and he thought he needs to film his endeavours, become a documentary filmmaker on comedy, then started to do events. US saw him, cast him, and now he's going back to stand-up comedy. No matter what he was doing, his thing is, I'm going to do the best I can and bring as much joy as he can in his work as a comedian, as a filmmaker, as an event producer, and then as a host of The Daily Show in America. I’ve done the same for my whole life.
(You hear something? Some sound? Henry? All good?
Henry: No, it's all good. It’s all good!)
Arnaud: I'm probably speaking too fast because I want to remain within the time. Hopefully you guys get my strange accent, right? I've done everything to lose my accent, but it's, I'm authentic, right? It’s French. Authentic accent, which I can't lose.
[New slide. Quotation “There is a way of working with what shows up. You can fight ‘what is’ or embrace it”- John Kabat Zinn]
You see the Tokyo Tower at the very end. That was where I started my life as a corporate guy. I was selling jewels for Cartier in Japan. Amazing being a Frenchman in Tokyo 25 years ago. Believe me, that was something. Yet I was not being authentic, just selling jewels. I'm a communicator. I love communicating with people, interacting. I wanted more adventure. I wanted to see what else I got inside of me. I went to Hollywood, and I became an actor, director, comedian. And then one time a film didn't work enough. I said, what else have I got inside of me. I became an entrepreneur in residence in South Africa, Capetown, one of the loveliest places in the world. And then something was not enough. So people, some of them, thought I was not authentic when I changed. On the contrary – until I show what I want to show to the world, until my soul is happy, I will keep changing and I will keep showing a different character of mine.
Then I create those Stand Up for Passion events. We've coached and trained hundreds of people around the world to be themselves on the stage of life. That's with my team a few months ago, a little bit of a longer hair!, where we create a course on personal growth. In French, unfortunately, for now.
[New slide: Quotation “Those who were dancing were called insane by those who could not hear the music” – Nietzsche]
I love this quote right? Because whenever you change, whenever you decide to be authentic, 70 to 80% of people around you don't get you. It's fine. They don't hear the music. They're not you. They don't have the vision. They're not where you want to be in five years. And in five years later, every time I do a change, it’s, ‘oh my god, you did it. I didn't think you were able to change from one country to the next, or one career to the next’. It's fine. You're the only one hearing the music. And at some point, just like our friend, the Dervish Turner, [the Whirling Dervish] at some point, it will become beautiful, and it will become a gorgeous thing where everybody wants to do like you, where there is spectacle, a show about what you do.
Imagine that guy that first started with his female dress, how crazy people thought he was, and now this is a beautiful thing that I enjoy, that most of you enjoy.
[New slide: Quotation, “The secret to life is when you say, what you think, and how you behave, are aligned” - Ghandi]
The secret is for me to take time to be aligned, to listen to what you want. To take time off two, three, four days, no phones, no friends, no spouse, no children around you. All of us can do that. You can all take three days off and see what emerge with no goals. No pressure on yourself and seeing what comes out twice a year. I do that. And every time I come out with new things, I don't have to act on it right away, but I know it's there, and I'm going to have to find the right time to get to it. That new goal is coming, before it's too late.
[New slide: “Substantifique moelle”]
That's substantific moelle. I'm going to finish with a French word right at the end. It's a beautiful French word, that means the reality behind the reality. And of course, Steve Jobs exemplified this. Even though he was not really good in terms of happiness at work, when you read what he's done with employees, but on an individual basis, he was authentic for himself.
Yeah, that's my information. I'm going to stop sharing. Okay.
Henry: But what are your questions?
Arnaud: I have two questions.
On a scale from one to 10, if you look at your life trajectory, how authentic have you been? First question.
Second question, what's the cost of inaction? What's going to happen to you in 2, 3, 4, 5, say 7, 10 years from now if you don't change what you really want to change? We know what we need to do to be more ourselves. That's it.
So feel free to chat away. About everything we talked about.
Arnaud: I had an interesting chat with Erica, I was paired with her, who had this insight. She says every time we talk about midlife crises, it's actually people who didn't think about the cost of inaction and just went on a treadmill. But fortunately, she did years ago. She's working in a hospice, and so she didn't go through this midlife crash. And hopefully never will. So we had an interesting talk. And rightfully, she points out that the people I was inspired by in my own talk were people who had a lot of failure, and yet moved on. And it's exactly that for me.
I was, at a big event yesterday in Paris, hundreds of people. And I was sharing with one of the participants that I'm not inspired by someone who's just a successful man or woman, if he doesn't show me the scars of his life and how he rebounded, he made the leap to what he became, I have no interest in how much success he has. I think one of the reasons we like Richard Branson is we know he's shy. Sometimes he gets, I don't know if you've seen him in real life, but sometimes he gets really red. He doesn't know his words sometimes. So we see there's a real vulnerability and yet he's able to create those billion-dollar projects.
I'm part of a great organisation actually, for you in London, called Humanity 100, where Richard Branson’s company gathers some HR people just to, not to do training, but to share new things he's seeing around. I’ve seen him a couple of times, very interesting.
So, I wanted to share a few points, which for me are so important when you decide to be and share your authentic voice, and I'm going to share a few stories.
First is emotional intelligence. Of course, we've heard so much. It's cliche. I'll give you a very clear example. Yesterday night, just after the event, just before I came back to Bordeaux, where I live now, I had a dinner with a friend of mine. He's 60 years old. One of the top HR you could imagine. He was HR of a hundred thousand people organisation, friends! So, you know, as successful as you can get. Yet, my friend left his firm a year ago to start his own HR practice. And for one year, he's been feeling guilty about leaving his company of 15 years. It has not sat well with him. And he's a very human, very emotionally balanced guy. And yesterday I feel relieved. He had talked with his former boss, from the company that he left. And keep this in mind, he's 60 years old. Always been a corporate guy, just set up his own company at aged 60. He still had a blockage just because he didn't convey his emotion. Yesterday, he saw his former boss for only 15 minutes in the whole day, and they just shared their feelings, open book. That's it. Just shared their feelings. So even a 60-year-old man, super-emotionally balanced, can have a blockage. That tells you that all of us need to open our hearts to why we want to change at some point in life, whether you're again, 20, 30, 40, 50, or 60, like my friend, you need to share.
Resilience. I'm not sure what example I wanted to tell you on resilience. Ah, oui! Everyone talks about resilience. You know, for me, resilience is just to keep going with the pain. You can keep going with the emotional pain, because you know there's something at the end of the world, you can keep going.
There is some hope. You need to work as much on your hope as your resilience.
A good example. A friend of mine, she was 45, a very successful event entrepreneur, she produced some of the biggest events in France before Covid happened. And then, you know, 50% of people in events went bankrupt, right? In most of the world, no more gatherings. Some people tried to reinvent themselves, kept their company afloat. Most of them had to let go 80% of their staff. She had a small staff. She let them go, but she said I'm just going to take a corporate job. I told her not to. I say you have enough money. You can keep going for two years, and in two, three years, it's going to go back. Can you keep going two years? So, she said, yeah, I can keep going two years. Do something else, write a book, do online events. It's not going to make much money. It's okay. It's going to come back. (And she thanked me the other day when she opened a huge event, thousands of people three months ago.) But she kept on. She had to be authentic. She had to develop a bit more resilience to judgment, of course, for being authentic.
The big thing is how we're going to deal with the judgment of others. And I don't know much. I know a lot about America, a little bit less about the UK, but in France, people judge themselves so much, right? And this is why they're not, we're not as entrepreneurial as you guys or America, even if the word entrepreneur, is French. It's because there's this judgment. What is my family, my spouse, what are they going to think?
A good example the other day, a young Spanish girl, 28 years old, called me. She really wanted to get my advice because she finally took the leap. She had been an engineer for the last five years. She wanted to spread happiness and she just became a Chief Happiness Officer. And after one week on the job, she's like, ‘is it okay? Can I do it? I'm an engineer. I've only studied numbers and process and wireframes. Have I the right to do that? Is it okay?’ I'm like, are you passionate about people? Is it your thing? Is it your mission? ‘Yes, it is. But, you know, I was an engineer and I still feel like I'm an imposter.’ Keep going! Fake it until you make it! Even in your job. You're fine. Experiment! Experiment, there's a lot of methods out there, you know. Listen to me. Listen to Henry Stewart. There's lots of great people out there but keep going. She took the leap of faith. Another great example of the pain you can sustain to be authentic.
It's all come down to this, right? What is the suffering we can take? We all suffer, right? It's not just the Buddhists, all of us, right? Being a happy guy and becoming a happiness specialist for the last 10 years, for me, it's okay that part of me suffers in some way when I know there's going to be something better. Thank God, I don't suffer in everything at every time, but there's always a part of me who suffers and I'm okay with that.
The best example of that is the story of Mark Manson. You might have read his book, you know, what's it called…. something, you know, he's swearing about the fucking book, the fuck book, whatever, whatever. Anyway, I'll find it. Mark Manson, you should read his books. I'm sure someone in the chat will remember his books!
Mark Manson wanted to be a rock star his whole life. I mean, from when he was a teenager. So, he started when he was 18, 19, 20, 21. He started to be on the road, you know, cheap motels, five people in the room, cheap pay. He had to be a waiter to pay for the van. And he's like, I don't want to do that for 10 years. And chances are he would have to do that for 10, 15 years. You know, one in 10,000 become a rock star, and he's like, I'm not going to do that for 10 years for a small chance of success. I'm not going to suffer it.
The other passion he has is the passion of writing. He can sit down for hours in front of a blank page. Many of us cannot. So, the suffering he can take is to stay in front of his white page for hours because he's a writer. And that's what the writer does. Sometime ideas don't come. You still stay at your desk. Each of us has a pain he can take and a pain he cannot take.
Henry: Arnaud! I need to wind you up a bit!
Arnaud: Okay. I'm wrapping up. I'm going to stop with this example. I’m going to finish on the title of my talk, Authenticity. It's a currency. Why? A currency is something you give, and you receive your share. And I believe it's a real currency. Especially nowadays of the social networks and climate change and the future of work. The more you ask yourself, the more you will attract the opportunities at work in your team, from your boss, from your colleagues. Why? Because they will see you are the same person with the same values. You might change again, jobs and department, but you show your real self. You need to show your vulnerability. This is the only way. People will want to do business with you. At least that’s how it's been in my case, with 13 reinventions in 30 countries. And it's been the case of many people I know.
So, I'm going to finish on the Latin words “Amor fati” – Love your destiny. Love, love your life.
Henry: Okay, thank you. So, any quick questions for Arnaud?
Maureen: And as you're writing the questions, there have been great bits in the chat, Arnaud. If you get the opportunity to have a look at that, some great discussions going on there.
Arnaud: Yeah, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Thank you. Thank you, Brendan. Great, great book. One of the best books ever.
Henry: Thank you. Thank you for the comment. Any questions for Arnaud?
Maureen: I think one of the things that I can say looking at the chat is that people are really self-reflecting. One of the things that we learn, what we teach in our apprenticeships is about self-awareness. We have to start with ourselves, first of all, first and foremost. Got a question there?
Henry: Have we got any questions? Let's have a look.
Maureen: “It was amazing, so much to think about. You made me cry.”
Henry: “How do you open this conversation in a work culture that's a million years from getting it.” How do you do that?
Arnaud: Sure. So, what I do is simple. I do a storytelling exercise. I've done that in 100 organisations. Tell me a real-life story. What did it change? How did it change? What was the rupture, the turning point in your life where you understood who you are as a person, not as a business guy. But I do that in the corporate space. And I let them open up. Usually, I do that in a group of under 30 people and one by one, they open up. In any culture anywhere from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan. Anyone wants to open up, even though they work in an office where they might do spreadsheets, they all want to belong to something that is above them, all of them. And they're looking for that unconsciously. They don't know why they're there. But they are there because they're looking for a tribe and a family. 10% of what I've seen of any entity, they're not supposed to be in the team. So, whenever I coach a team, I say 10% don't care, don't want to be there. And I can't do anything about this. 90% of them, I can help them.
Henry: One more question. How do you support those who are structurally oppressed to reflect on their authenticity when they are often struggling to just survive?
Arnaud: Yes, for me, it's the healing work you do on the side by yourself with a coach or the therapist. As I say, you go three days in the desert. The healing process is a long road. It's a road map, write down your milestones. Just like I'm doing now with my business plan. We are raising money. Now you do your road map of healing. What is it that you need to do? It might take three, four, five years. It's okay. You know, keep going. It's all the work of resilience and it's okay. There's work to do inside the corporate entity, and then your personal healing work. You write your personal healing roadmap.
Henry: Okay. Okay. So, let's say thank you. Thank you so much.
Arnaud: Thank you, Henry.