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A Life Authentic

When my clients ask me to give them an example of a life lived authentically, I have often answer with a cliche-like response — Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, Mark Twain, Hunter S. Thompson.  Those were my stock and trade answers.  Until now.

On May 23rd of this year, Bob Fletcher passed away with little or no fanfare near Sacramento.  A handful of people, however, knew him and of his actions of honor, integrity and sacrifice during World War II.  And yet he never donned a uniform, never fired a weapon, never faced the enemy.

In 1942, shortly after the sting of Pearl Harbor, Bob came to the rescue of some innocents affected by the tyranny of war.  When FDR signed the Japanese-American internment order, Bob’s neighbors and friends suddenly found themselves about to be rounded up and sent away.  These people were fruit farmers in Florin, California and these people were Nissei — Japanese Americans.

Bob was asked by these quiet and humble folks if he would  be willing to manage the farms of three Nissei families.  He agreed to keep the farms alive and active, to pay the taxes and mortgages from any income earned from the harvest and, for his efforts, Bob could keep the profits after expenses.  It would not be much.  All total, he would be managing only 90 acres of Tokay grapes.

For three years, Bob worked hard and kept the operations solvent.  Ultimately, the families returned to their farms.  Bob had only kept half the profits; he put the rest into a bank account and the money was waiting for the Nissei families upon their return.  While many interned families lost all their property and farms, three came back to their homes and livelihood.  All because of one man who was willing to do what he felt he had to do.

Bob answered with his Authentic Self.

Dr. Phil defines the Authentic Self as a level of existence that is the real, true, genuine substance of who you are.  The authentic self is what can be found at your absolute core. It is the part of you not defined by your job, function or role. It developed within you as a child and evolved with the composite of all your skills, talents and wisdom. It is all of the things that are uniquely you, within that core, within your heart. It is the natural sense of doing the right thing as it comes from within you, rather than what you believe you are supposed to be and do in the eyes of peers, employers and society.

Bob Fletcher knew what was the right thing for him to do.  He honored the property and work of his neighbors.  He sacrificed — working 18 hour days for modest compensation — so the common good was realized for all he touched.  He had nothing to prove, yet he proved that his integrity was intact.

Living the Authentic Life.  It looks so simple, sometimes.  Yet it is perhaps the most challenging part of living.  Polonius said it best.  Living it is the test.

From NY Times Obituary, June 6, 2013