Photo Credit: Vanessa Serpas,

Written by Alan Cohen
January 10, 2020

As human beings, I think we derive a sense of security by having a system of sorting through human behavior, emotions, and choices. It’s just easier when things can be filed neatly under the categories of “good” and “bad,” “right” or “wrong.”

But what does this sense of security cost us in the long run?

We can live our whole lives trying to file ourselves into the good category, but what if these neatly arranged boxes cause more problems than they solve? What if these boxes don’t exist in the first place?

I’ve been the “good” boy (Or at least I pretended to be).

I led a double life, dipping my toes into the bad while still trying to stuff that side of me down. But then all that junk came to the surface, and I dove straight into it. It took me down paths that brought so much pain into my life: secrets, lies, drug addiction.

There are a lot of reasons for the dark turn my life took, but at the heart of it, I think it was an internal disconnection. I spent so long disconnecting from and rejecting a whole side of myself that the bad-boy eventually took over.

When I stepped into coaching and got sober, I swung back the other way. I worked hard at portraying my good-guy image, even if it didn’t represent who I truly was. Now, I recognize how easily the pendulum can swing the other way when I adopt a persona that isn’t authentic to all of who I am.

I know I’m not the only person who has these tendencies to hide whole parts of themselves.

Maybe, like me, you feel this desire to be accepted as your authentic self while being afraid of rejection due to the parts of you that don’t fit neatly into the good box. Especially in business, it’s so easy to play it safe and shove down the things we feel aren’t socially acceptable. This misalignment can manifest a whole host of unhealthy consequences.

So what’s the answer here?

As I contemplated this, I had to laugh because I know it all comes back to my calling as a coach: connection. It’s interesting how the things we teach are so easy to overlook in our own lives.

I’m an expert in helping organizations use the magic of connection to unite diverse groups of people under one shared purpose. When it comes to the internal contradictions of human nature, I have to wonder, is that so different than uniting a corporate team?

I don’t have it all figured out–honestly, I don’t think anyone does. But despite the fact that I’m still in progress, what I do know is that internal disconnection is never the solution.

Soon, I’ll be leading a group of men through an emotional intelligence program. Part of that work is measuring 15 different elements of emotional and social conditioning. While going over these elements for myself, I discovered I have absurdly low impulse control. It’s easy to label that as bad, but I also recognize that my tendency to just go for it before I’m “ready” gets shit done.

Think of all the progress I’d stall in my business and life if I rejected that part of myself and held back?

What if your “bad” traits are some of your most powerful assets in leadership?

Maybe being a good leader isn’t about categorizing and keeping ourselves in line with external definitions of good and bad.

Maybe it has more to do with the internal connection to your authentic self–warts and all–while giving yourself permission to unleash the bad-boy in your life and business so you can be an excellent leader.

Step outside of the box. It’s time to strengthen your internal connections and allow your authentic self to rise up so you can be the leader you were meant to be.

For more resources and support, please visit my website

Photo Credit: Vanessa Serpas,