The most popular column I’ve written in a while was 10 Behaviors of Genuine People. It’s been shared more than 150K times on Facebook alone. I have no idea how many folks read it but I’m guessing it’s a pretty impressive number. This is why it has such broad appeal.

About 12 years ago my wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer followed by another serious condition that also required major surgery. (Just so you know, she survived that ordeal and is absolutely fine now.)

Soon after, my dad died and, within a few weeks, my mom sort of lost it. Come to find out she’d battled depression her whole life and I guess losing her husband of 50+ years was a trauma she simply wasn’t equipped to deal with.

After all that I went through a long period of soul searching, onion peeling, head shrinking – whatever you want to call it, it was quite a journey. Slowly, things I never understood started to make sense and the pieces began to fall into place.

It’s sad, but that’s what it took to get me to see things – and myself – as they really were.

The reason that piece I wrote seven months ago resonated with so many people is that, on some level, we all want to have the courage to drop our pretenses and facades so we can see ourselves, and others can see us, for who we really are.

I’m sure many of you are thinking you are the real deal; it’s everyone else who’s fake. Just so you know, we all think that … until some tragic or traumatic event shatters the illusion once and for all.

Much of what I write is informed by that journey of self-discovery and self-awareness. Two insights in particle come to mind:

Being genuine is a rare quality. In a world full of phony fads, media hype, virtual personas, positive thinkers, and personal brands – where everyone wants what they don’t have, nobody’s content to be who they are, and, more importantly, nobody’s willing to admit to any of that – it’s becoming more and more rare all the time.

All true leaders – those who have the courage to break from the status quo and not just see things differently but also do things differently – are true to themselves. That quality transcends every field, from science and technology to business and politics. Einstein, Jobs, Drucker, Reagan … they were all their genuine selves.

Here’s the thing. The world doesn’t need more “them.” The world needs more “you.” The genuine you.

(Image Mark Sebastian via Flickr)