It’s difficult to explain to my daughter what it means to be authentic. Authenticity to any tween is a foreign concept, as its conception is in its infancy. The paradox here is that the past and the distant future already hold the answer for her. Although she neither knows where the various paths her decisions will lead her, nor the obstacles she will plow through to get her there, where she finds herself at the end of her life’s journey already holds the key to her authentic self. It’s at the end that we tend to realize we knew who we were all along. We possessed all the insight and power to be who we want at an early age, but lacked the combination of experience, wisdom and reflection to gain such enlightenment in our youth. The innocence of childhood, like a branch that bends and eventually breaks under the pressure of the torture of adolescence, that dies a slow, painful death, and succumbs to the ignorance and arrogance of early adulthood. We’re born students for the sake of preparing for what comes next, which prepares us, or better yet, conditions us, for a lifetime of preparing for what comes next. We’re bred to continually want more, and what comes next must be bigger, and better than what came before it. Until, one day, the see-saw balances for a blink before we start needing less and the descent into the winter of our lives begins. Through all that, the smoke and mirrors of achievement for the sake of leaving our marks on the world, corrupts the simplicity of authenticity – our authentic selves. Epitaphs get it right. “Beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, son and friend.” Just 63 characters with spaces! Beloved is the essential word, as it hits the nerve of what it means to be authentic. What about who we are and what we do makes us loved by others? And, how do we show our appreciation to those we love? If you can easily sum that up in 140 characters (with spaces) – if at the end of your life you can tell your full story in a tweet – you truly know your authentic self. More importantly, whatever stage of life you’re at, if you can do this, you know what’s most important to focus your attention on succeeding at. Because you can focus on being that beloved person down whatever path you choose to travel in your life, and right action will be your machete to clear away the brush.