Achieving Authenticity

Jamil Sanders Key Private Bank

Authenticity is something that is often discussed on our podcast and we often talk about in the sense of professional development and professional growth. Authenticity, by definition, will mean something different to every single person and ultimately we all pursue it differently. However, the key is that you simply have to be authentic in what you are doing. Today’s guest is Jamil Sanders, a Vice President with Key Private Bank. In this episode, Jamil shares his thoughts on what it means to achieve authenticity and we discuss steps that we can all take to become a more authentic version of ourselves. Jamil studied Business Administration and Cleveland State University and completed his MBA at Ashland University, specializing in Project Management. His expertise at Sequoia is centered around working with emerging professionals and successful entrepreneurs and his approach to financial planning and investment strategies are disciplined, strategic, and tailored to each client’s unique goals and primary objectives.

Key Points From This Episode

  • Jamil shares what authenticity means to him and how he strives to achieve it.
  • Moving from mimicking others to forming a truer version of yourself.
  • Why we have to be intentional: Is this really who we are? Who I am?
  • Jamil shares some challenges he had to overcome when he asked himself who he truly was.
  • The importance of giving yourself grace as you go through the process.
  • Being grounded in your authenticity as life forces push and pull on you.
  • Being conscious of the daily battle and aware of when you aren’t being true to your authentic self.
  • The importance of yourself daily to be your authentic self.
  • When you establish your values it positively impacts your decision-making.


[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast. Helping middle-market professionals connect, grow and excel in their careers. Through a series of conversations with leading professionals, we share stories and insights to take your career to the next level. A successful career begins with meaningful connections.

[00:00:20] AD: Hey everyone, welcome to Branch Out. I’m your host, Alex Drost. Today’s guest is Jamil Sanders, a manager with Key Bank’s Private Client. Jamil shares his thoughts on what it means to achieve authenticity and we discuss steps that we can all take to become a more authentic version of ourselves. Hope you all enjoy.

[00:00:43] ANNOUNCER: Connect and grow your network. We are on LinkedIn. Search for Connection Builders.


[00:00:50] AD: Jamil, welcome to Branch Out. Excited to have you here today.

[00:00:53] JS: Absolutely. I’m here with the cool kids today. Awesome.

[00:00:56] AD: Awesome. So Jamil, you and I have had a handful of conversations around this, and it’s this idea of achieving authenticity. And talking to our listeners for a minute, authenticity is something that’s thrown around a lot in the Branch Out podcast and we talk about it a lot in a professional development, professional growth sense of you have to be authentic in what you’re doing. And while authenticity by definition will mean something different to every single person, I invited Jamil on here today because we had a great conversation about what that means and how he has strived to achieve his own version of authenticity. And Jamil, maybe you could start with just sharing some thoughts to our listeners about, one, what does authenticity mean to you. And then two, what have you done to strive to achieve that in your daily life?

[00:01:43] JS: Yeah. No. Alex, that is a great question. And as you kicked off the conversation, I think about like striving for authenticity is different for everyone else. We all pursue it differently. And I think about my journey and really like trying to find authenticity, I think my earlier years of my career, it’s different. If you don’t have authenticity, you’re really just trying to look at and mimic and say, “Okay. Well, if this person is successful, if I do those things, I’ll be able to achieve what they have,” right? So it’s creating a whole bunch of templates.

But what happens is, is that for me and my journey, is that I realized that when we had this conversation, I was talking about Forest Gump, and he was just running and then eventually we get to that point. It’s like, “Why am I running?” And then that’s when that authenticity collision happens where it’s like, “Is this really me? If this was the last chapter of Jamil, is this is what it ends by this version of Jamil?” So I had to really think about that. And just authenticity is really reconciling your values and who you are as a person and then connecting it to your passions of what you really want to give this world. So it’s really a great conversation and it’s very important.

[00:02:55] AD: I want to peel back one of the things you said there, and it’s moving from mimicking others to being your true self. When we start in a career, you start in something new, there is always a level of mimicking. I mean let’s just think about humans in general. As you are born and brought into this world and grow and develop, you mimic other people, right? I mean that is part of being a human. That is how you learn is – And when we talk about it in a professional sense and you get into a career, you do look to other people and say, “Well, I’m going to act like this or I’m going to act like that.” And that is absolutely part of evolution and part of development and growth as a person, but also as a professional. But to your exact point, I think what’s so critical here is making sure that we are stopping and taking the time to really step back and say, “Who am I? What am I doing? How am I acting? And are those aligned to my core values? Or am I still just mimicking someone else and following what they’re doing simply to try to be someone I’m not?” And that’s such an important question to ask yourself.

[00:03:55] JS: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean there’s so many layers in what you just said, right? I think the first thing we have to be, we have to be intentional. Intentional, what I mean by that is really asking ourselves that real question. Looking in the mirror, “Is this who I am?” Like I said, if the chapter ended and this is what my legacy was. Is this the true representation of me as a person that I leave people with? So I think that’s the first step, is first we have to ask like that question of, “Who am I?” And we talked about this. That’s scary, because we’ve only done what we thought was the recipe for success, right? We looked at other people. We’d see. We executed. We did. And then it was like, “Okay, good. All right, I’m a father, I’m a husband. I’m all of these things and I’m also successful in business.” But the reality is a lot of those things – I’m talking about from the professional side, were built off of templates. So how do we know?

The thing is it’s not that templates are bad. I love templates. I don’t believe you have to reinvent the wheel. But I do believe you have to create the original foundation and use those templates as frameworks, but not necessarily of what it’s built on, if that makes sense.

[00:05:04] AD: I think you’re so right there. And back to that template is such a great term around that, right? And I’m with you. There’s no need to recreate the wheel. And I am the most systems and process oriented person you’ll probably ever meet. I love to have things that you don’t follow a flow and follow a process. And if I do it once, why can’t I figure out a way to do it 10 times the exact same way? I’m a believer in that.

However, to your point, and as much as that’s powerful and valuable to have those things in your life, you do need to take that step back and make sure that what you’re doing and whatever process you’re following is real to who you are. It aligns with what you really want to achieve. Because what I see all too often, this is where authenticity definitely shows itself or I guess lack thereof. When someone goes in and they’re acting a certain way or behaving or doing certain series of steps where you know in the back of their mind they’re saying, “Well, I’m just doing this because I was told to do this. I’m doing this –” Or a great example is you know that you should start off a meeting by asking a prospect or whoever it is, anyone that you’re having a meeting with. Talk about something personal. Ask them how they’re doing.

Well, if you say, “Hey, how are you doing?” but in the back your mind you don’t really care what their answer is. What are you doing? That’s where you have to really make sure that you’re saying to yourself, “Why am I doing what I’m doing and does it align to who I am?” Now, you mentioned, we’ve talked about this before, this idea of asking yourself who am I, right? Because I think that’s where it all starts when you really want to be authentic, right? You can have your systems, your templates and the things you follow, but at its core you have to be able to ask yourself, “Who am I?” And that’s a really powerful question and it’s not an easy question. It’s not something that you ask yourself and like, “Oh, there’s the answer. I’m done.” It is something that takes thought and effort and constantly evolves and you have to continue to reflect on.

But as powerful as that statement is, that’s a scary one to ask yourself. And do you have any thoughts or anything you can share around when you say, “Hey, it’s a scary question.” Why do you think it’s scary? Or what were some of the challenges you personally had to overcome when asking yourself that?

[00:07:05] JS: Yeah. No, that’s a great question. And so when I think about my journey with discovering my authenticity, it really forced me to be truthful, be honest and really discover my passions. I think when we think about authenticity especially being in this kind of like business development influencer type role is authenticity is capital. Like it’s literally a source of like what drives success. It’s a source of what drives relationships that we engage either from a positive standpoint or a negative, right? It’s just all about which aspect of authenticity. Like you said, I can ask you how are you doing. But if it’s not authentic, it’s going to come off like, “Yeah, you really don’t care.”

But to answer your question more directly as well is that what I had to do is kind of like, I said, process oriented. So it’s almost like you got to whiteboard it. You got to sit down. You have to carve out time and say to yourself, “Who am I? We got to start with the foundation of it first. who am I? And then we got to start peeling back the layers. Like what do we enjoy? If it’s volunteering, okay? How does that integrate into our life and are we doing those things? And if the answer is no. Okay, now we need to figure out how do we integrate it, right? Am I being the best husband and father?

Realistically, early in our careers, we’re driving and we’re just kind of going a million miles per hour. But eventually as we get older, our life changes, we get a family. Now we have to say to ourselves, “Am I being as present and relevant as a parent?” And if the answer is no, it’s okay. It’s not a bad answer. But it’s just saying, “Okay. You know what? Let me be authentic with, A, I’m not being that person. So how do I integrate that that I can be more intentional?” And if it’s blacking out two hours when I get home from work is nothing but family time. I need to be authentic and real with myself. Because I think that’s the biggest thing with authenticity, is being real with yourself and reconciling and saying, “Hey, this is a gap.” So it’s being intentional about that brainstorm. Carving out time and giving yourself some grace. I think that is another important piece that we talked about. It’s like you got to give yourself some grace that, “Hey, you don’t have to figure it out in one session,” because it’s a constant evolution. You’re going to constantly keep looking at it over and over and it’s going to change depending on what type of life events transpire.

[00:09:25] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out, a Connection Builders podcast.

[00:09:34] AD: A few things there that I really want to unpack. So one, carving out the white space. Carving out the time to put that thought into to ask yourself who you are. And again, this isn’t a one-time exercise. This isn’t something that you carve out a Saturday afternoon and you’re done. This is something that is a constant evolution and you have to continue to look back on it. But as you said, the whiteboarding it out. Again, whether you’re actually using a whiteboard, which anyone who knows me, I’m obsessed with whiteboards. I have them everywhere in my life. But I’m also just a big believer, and you have to write stuff down. Because the human mind is powerful and as strong as our human brain isn’t as great as we all think we are at remembering stuff, we’re all actually pretty terrible at it when it comes down to it.

And it’s really easy to sit down and reflect and think, “Hey, I want to do this.” Or to start thinking through who you are and asking yourself those really tough questions about, one, “What are my core values and who do I want to be?” and then asking if my life is aligning to those. And if you’re not putting those things on paper and if you’re not really writing them down, looking at them not just during the process to make sure that you’re capturing it, but also on a continuous daily basis to make sure that you are staying true to that, that’s how you steer away from being authentic, right? If you really want to stay centered on it, you have to do those things. And you brought up a great point, right? I do not have children at this point in life, but you talk about in your world, in your life, you are a father, you are a professional, you are a husband. And I think all too often I see people who they want to be the very best career person they can possibly be. And so they would never go to work and admit, “Man, my wife and I had a blowout argument this morning. And holy cow! This is going to be a hard day.” That’s part of being authentic. It doesn’t mean you have to run around and wave a flag telling everyone, “Hey, you had a rough start to your day.” But to your exact point, giving yourself grace and recognizing that that stuff’s going to happen and that’s who you are as a human is so critical to really getting to that true, genuine, authentic version of yourself.

[00:11:41] JS: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean I couldn’t said it any better, right? It’s who you are is a daily battle, right? It’s a constant fight of battling who you are as a professional, right? Because you have those professional ambitions, I want to be great, I want to compete. Who am I the husband? I want to be the best husband. I want to compete. Who am I the father? And so you have so many different life forces pulling you every direction. You have to constantly stay rooted in that authenticity and those values.

And you gave me an idea. It’s funny when you said that you have whiteboards everywhere. I was like, “You know what? The only place I don’t have them, attached to my kids.” So I’m going to just attach them to my kids so when they walk around I can just start dotting down. I’m just kidding. But no. You’re absolutely right. It’s just who you are is a daily battle and you have to continually focus kind of like into that authenticity. Let me make sure that wherever like life takes me, I’m grounded in that. So that way I don’t ever feel out of balance, because I think that’s when I noticed I wasn’t being authentic. If people were curious or like, “You know what? I don’t feel authentic or I don’t feel like myself because I’m out of balance. I’m not being true to myself.” So I think who you are, you have to be conscious of that daily battle, one. And then also, two, be able to identify when you’re not being true to who you are, being authentic and you’re out of balance.

[00:13:08] AD: Well, you bring up some really great points there. So one, we especially as professionals in today’s world that moves at a thousand miles an hour, you have a lot of demands on your time. And I don’t know anyone who steps back and says, “Oh, 24 hours in a day, that’s perfect. I can do everything I need to.” But yet we all only get 24, right? There’s no way around it. And those constant drains or demands I should say on your time and your energy and your focus, those at times tend to pull you away from being authentic, right? It goes back to if you, “Say, hey I want to be a really good husband,” but along the way your career demands are taking 100 hours a week from you and you haven’t seen your wife and kids in four days. Okay, that may happen for a period of time and there are times where you have to make sacrifices and demands. But you have to really step back and say, “Is this who I am? Or what how am I making sure I’m approaching things in a way that is true to me as a person?”

And where I think that that really comes out and this is where I think so many people miss the value of authenticity. If you’re truly acting in a way and living in a way that you yourself are proud of and that you feel good about, you perform better everywhere. Every aspect of your life you will perform better if you are true to yourself. If you have parts of your life that are out of control and are not in center and in alignment with who you truly want to be, those will be in the back your mind. Those will be constantly screaming in the back your mind. And maybe not in the short term, but in the long term, I can tell you, it’s going to throw you off in your performance in general. And that’s where you have to constantly come back to that.

[00:14:47] JS: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. We have to think about if life was a race, how are we running that race? Are we running it as light as possible or are we carrying a bag which I’m trying to be this or I’m trying to be that? And being really not who you really are. And sure, it may be people that are built into – or I would say it’s people that’s in your life based upon that template or that unauthentic version of yourself. But the reality is, is that if we’re friends and you appreciate me as the person, if I start to more so align with those values and being more authentic, that doesn’t change our relationship, right? I think that’s another thing you have to really take into account. Like when we think futuristically, like a lot of times we think about the immediate impact versus two, three and those other factors. And I think that’s another thing, because when you do kind of like be your authentic self, it could have people like, “Hey. Alex isn’t the same guy I thought he was. But it’s still the same person.” But this is who I really am. This is what I’m passionate about and this is how I want to, like I said, run this last part of my race. Doing the things I really enjoy.

We talk about you go from an investment banking career and logging a lot of hours to now you’re like, “Hey, I’m having some of the most fun that I’ve ever had.” So now you’re living in that authenticity. And now it’s not really work. Now you’re having fun. Now you’re smiling and everyone in your network is benefiting from, like you just said, being authentic and being happy and just living in that moment. So yeah, that’s a great point and I think it’s so important that people must take into all factors of when they kind of make this shift or when they start to pursue that discovery of themselves I think they have to prepare for, it’s going to be different.

[00:16:35] ANNOUNCER: This is Branch Out. Bringing you candid conversations with leading middle market professionals.

[00:16:43] AD: You hit on such a great point there. It’s going to be different. And life’s going to change. And one thing that I have personally had struggles with, I’m sure others have felt the same way, is you do genuinely sit down and say, “Okay, who do I want to be?” And you start building the life and living the life that you really want to live and being authentic to yourself. There are likely people that are in your friend circle or in your social circle that you’re just not going to align with anymore. And that’s really hard especially if it’s a long-time friend or especially if it’s someone that you’ve been close with. And when that happens and if you find yourself in a situation where your values and your life and the way that you’re trying to live to be for yourself isn’t aligning with someone else, sometimes you have to let go and you have to move past previous relationships and previous friendships, whatever it might be, or careers, and shift and say, “Okay, this is now who I’m moving into being.” You have to let go of the past to make room for the future. And that can be really tough and there’s no way around it.

That goes back to why it’s so hard to ask yourself who I am, because that does require change. That does require looking in the mirror and saying, “Wow! I’m not really performing the way that I want to perform in these areas. And maybe it’s because I spend too much time with so and so who doesn’t live the way that I want to live.” And that’s tough. There’s no easy way around that. But the reality is if you don’t start taking those steps and really focus on it, you’re never going to all of a sudden become that person overnight. It’s going to take that slow process of reflecting.

[00:18:17] JS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s where we talked about it earlier, right? It’s that consistent daily battle. And I think that is what is most important. I mean finding authenticity and preserving it is a non-stop battle. It’s not microwavable, right? It’s like you put it in the microwave, “Boom!” and then it’s there. No. It’s not that. It’s,  “Hey, you know what I have to commit to it each day and remind myself that this is the direction I want to pursue.”

And, sure, I can make adjustments along the way, right? That’s perfectly fine. But at the same time it’s helping kind of condition the world around you. Because I think we tend to condition the world around something that’s maybe not 100% aligned with us and then we say, “Okay. Now I’m making a shift to this is who I really want to be. I want to be happy. I want to be in this. Now I got to condition or recondition potentially the people that’s in that network or that world.”

So yeah, it’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable. But I try to help it. That’s one thing when I sit down with clients and talk to them about their finances is always a conversation of grace. That’s always important. But it’s really a discovery about let’s look at your finances differently. Let’s look at it more on what’s important to you in that authenticity and values-based. And it’s a shift, because it’s like, “Wait. Jamil, I’ve been always chasing a number and I’ve always been chasing this and that. And you’re telling me to shift my whole thinking all of a sudden?” And I’m like, “Absolutely. That’s what we have to do.” Because you owe yourself that. This is not for me. On the other side of this you’re going to say, “I’m so glad that I’m living or I’m preparing for my retirement the way that I want to live versus what I believe should be a standard or a benchmark.

[00:20:00] AD: Jamil, that’s so well said. And I can talk about it from my perspective and especially what I do here today with Connection Builders. The clients I’ve worked with from a coaching perspective where we do go through an exercise and a process of identifying the core values and helping people really put together their own personal life mission statement and then go out and accomplish what they want to accomplish. That’s a difficult task. It can be hard questions to ask and it can be very draining from a mental energy standpoint to really step back and ask those things. But to your exact point, the exact way you brought it up in where you apply it in your career. When you push someone or when you help someone, really step back and think about that longer term, what they want to be, where they want to go and not about what the immediate short term looks like. That’s where you really do achieve much greater things.

And you said earlier, it’s this idea that so many people, and we as humans we’re all guilty of focusing on kind of the first order outcomes, right? I do this today and that happens tomorrow. What’s the immediate effect of that? And not thinking about what is the second or third order consequences that happen from an action, right? And where you have to step back, and that’s where coming up with who you really are and knowing who you are.  You have to spend that time to figure that out.

But again as we’ve said it a couple times here, it changes. The world – I mean I was working with a client the other day and we’re working a little bit more on a business plan side of things, but we talked about what would your business or even your life plan look like in February versus what does it look like today? The entire world has changed, right? Everything is different. And so that’s where you have to accept that life is going to change. Dynamics and circumstances are going to continuously change.

Now, I’m a believer that your core values, they may shift slightly. You may have different evolution of thought and different perspectives that give a minor change, but it’s not where you get it on paper and then next week it’s totally different, right? There is some stability in there. But you do have to continuously look at and put that effort in to really focus on understanding who you are if you want to achieve that true, authentic, genuine version of yourself.

[00:22:08] JS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And hearing it from you in that aspect, it makes you think about a lot of decision making, right? When we understand our values and what we believe in and we create that as our frame, like our foundation, we tend to be able to make decisions quicker and we tend to live with them better, right? Like it’s like, “Okay, I made this decision, but it didn’t infringe on my values.” Or it may shorten the cycle on that decision that you have to make. But you’re absolutely right. Yeah, there are going to be times where it’s a slight shift, but it shouldn’t be a major shift. It should just be a slight shift, slight shuffle. But for the most part, your authenticity and your value should still be consistent. That’s a better word. It should be consistent. But yeah, man. Like you said, it’s a daily fight, man. It’s a daily battle. But like you just said, that client scenario where, “Hey, February, we’re here. But guess what? The world changes.” And how do we adapt to it? But the core of that person’s business should not change. It’s just how do we be agile enough to go forward?

[00:23:10] AD: 100%. Listen, I’ll give a quick example I think that we can all relate to, and I think I might have referenced this on a different podcast before. So sorry for the duplicity behind this. But if you’re sitting back and saying, “I want to live a life where I am healthy and I’m taking care of myself and I’m fueling my body with the right foods so that I feel good about who I am.” Well, that’s great. And I think we all can generally say that’s what we want in life. Well, ice cream’s really good too. And I love ice cream as much as anyone else. And there becomes – And this is back to that first order consequences versus the second and third order. If I’m sitting here today saying, “I want to live a healthy life taking care of myself and focusing on putting myself in the best health place possible in the future.” That means I can’t go have ice cream every night as much as I want it. As much as I may want it in the moment, I can’t do that.

Now that doesn’t mean once in a while I don’t go grab ice cream and it doesn’t mean that I don’t have a rough day once in a while. I’m like, “I’m just going to eat some ice cream.” Listen, we all go through that, but it comes back to you have to be asking yourself what are you doing. And exactly as you said, when that framework’s there, it makes decision making easier. It frankly makes running your life and making – Because we as humans, we get hit with hundreds and thousands of decisions every single day. Decision fatigue is very real in this world. And if you have a framework where you’re like, “Hey, no. I’m going to live a life where I try to avoid sugary, sweet things because I know they’re not good for me.” Okay, when you’re offered it you just say, “Oh, no. That’s not what I do because that’s not who I am because I’ve agreed to myself that my long-term goals are this.” And again, that’s just one example. You can apply that in any other way. But as I said, I think ice cream’s something we can all relate to especially on these beautiful summer days, right?

[00:24:51] JS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:24:53] AD: Jamil, I really appreciate you coming on here today. This has been a great conversation about authenticity. I really hope our listeners took some great points away from this. And I encourage everyone out there listening, spend some time, carve out the white space, put the effort in. And obviously a little bit of a selfish plug for myself, but find a coach. Find someone to help you through that if that becomes a greater struggle for you. But when you invest that time and that effort in doing that, it will go so far in really helping you reach those longer term goals of being who you want to be and someone that you’re proud of.

[00:25:22] JS: Absolutely. Absolutely. I would definitely say, thank you for the opportunity. And like I said, I hope the listeners find value as well. So this is great.

[00:25:29] AD: Awesome. Thank you,  Jami. Take care.

[00:25:31] JS: You too.


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