I previously blogged about Paul Graham's Yahoo blog post where he describes Yahoo's strategic mistake. This mistake is that, by calling itself a "media company", Yahoo did not stay true to itself as a software company.

What is interesting is that people often also don't stay true to themselves, and in fact this is one of the main thing that they regret or find very important when they are dying or when they are old. In Bronnie Ware's Regrets of the Dying blog post it appears as the number one regret of the dying. In The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die by Dr. John Izzo this is also the number one "secret" that old wise people can teach us.

So being true to ourselves is really something important, as not doing so can be a strategic error that we will regret a lot until we die.

But what does it mean exactly to be true to ourselves?

Bronnie Ware explains it like that "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me." and "Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made." So it means having the courage to honor our dreams.

In his book John Izzo also explains it in the same way. He roughly says that it comes down to "know who you are" and then "follow your heart".

About the "knowing who we are" part, we can look back at William Deresiewicz's wonderful "Solitude and Leadership" article that I blogged about a few months ago, and reread at least the following sentences:

So solitude can mean introspection, it can mean the concentration of focused work, and it can mean sustained reading. All of these help you to know yourself better. But there’s one more thing I’m going to include as a form of solitude, and it will seem counterintuitive: friendship.

About the "following our heart" part, this obviously means caring about our relationships, and in fact many important regrets in Bronnie Ware's blog post are about people:

  • 2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
  • 3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
  • 4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

And two other items among John Izzo's "secrets" are about people too:

  • 3. Become love
  • 5. Give more than you take

Finally I cannot resist the urge to copy and paste the "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings." part of Bronnie's great post, as expressing our feelings is for sure an important part of following our heart:

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.