The Twin Values of Authenticity and Audacity

I turned 30 a month ago, and I celebrated by spending a week in Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, where I had a chance to reflect on two of my most precious values.

We had dinner that evening on the terrace restaurant of the Central Palace hotel, which is the remodeled Palazzo Tarallo, an old noble residence from Palermo’s golden years during Arab and Norman times. From this terrace, we enjoyed gorgeous views of historic Palermo’s sloped rustic orange rooftops jutting out at right angles, surrounded by the limestone mountains brooding in the distance. Oleander pink dotted the terrace itself, and the setting sun splashed gold across the palette. The dress code was ‘mafia chic,’ in honor of the often covert and sinister organization of “entrepreneurs,” popularized for many of us in past, who still flex considerable muscle in Palermo. We had Pasticceria Capello, the city’s most famous bakery, to thank for inventing and delivering the birthday cakes for the night — 7-layered chocolate and pistachio marvels.

Turning 30 in “mafia chic” in Palermo, Sicily

In this surreal setting, I figured some well thought-out remarks to my family and friends would be in order. Near dinner time, however, I decided I would speak more freely on 2 of my core values — values I recognized, embraced, and refined during my 20s, and ones I expect to drive progress and focus even further in my 30s.

These two values are Authenticity and Audacity. These are core to who I am, why I do what I do, and what I envision for my life. They constitute a duality — one is internal, the other external, one is grounded, the other aspirational — which make them well-suited to be employed together. They are present, to varying degrees, in everyone whom I keep close to me, including of course the group that was gathered to celebrate my birthday.

They are also two of the values core to Romulus, and to everyone we hire. Our firm could not have survived or grown without these two values being embodied on a daily basis. Indeed, as we look to expand our team, I have realized they are non-negotiable traits of anyone who joins Team Romulus.

Authenticity (7-layered chocolate) and Audacity (7-layered pistachio) at play in the birthday cake selection

Below is a paraphrase of what I said that evening, with some additional exposition to crystalize my thoughts on these values. The night ended with a liberating, fist-raised call to “chaaaargeeeee,” which cut through the Palermo air and startled the patrons around us — a job well done!

The first of these two values is Authenticity.

Life is short. It’s a narrative we have the privilege of crafting, a film we get to shoot. The idea of letting the film shoot itself, of simply being an actor rather than the director, strikes me as criminally inauthentic. I have always believed, in some ways inspired by Camus, Sartre, and Nietzsche, that we must take control of our lives by making authentic choices. We can’t live in bad faith, nor let others dictate how we perceive or project who we are according to some pattern or norm. We must stamp our authority on the fact that we exist.

Authenticity has become an increasingly important value for me. I have always been a very independent thinker and do-er, but I used to care more about what others thought of me. Now, I care very little. A life lived authentically is worth the hard work required to achieve the same.

theThe other value I cherish greatly is Audacity.

In the past decade, I’ve lived and learned a lot about the world and about myself. I don’t like the status quo, and I don’t like constraints. I am constantly seeking to break through barriers and do what people tell me I can’t. That audacity has brought me great opportunity and knowledge to date. It is easy to acquiesce to what is comfortable, but the ethos of audacity doesn’t allow for that comfort; rather, it forces one to constantly charge at the next target, at the next boundary seducing one from afar. Nothing great is accomplished without audacious thinking and doing.

These values of Authenticity and Audacity have stayed with me wherever I’ve gone, whatever I’ve done. Their potency has increased as my life in some ways becomes more complex and in others becomes simpler as I grow older.

Many of the great men and women of history embodied these values to the maximal extent. You know how much I look up these great leaders.

But I’ve also learned that this — the gathering and nurturing of familial and friendly bonds — is also critical to me living out these values. Being an entrepreneur is a very lonely journey, and I am thankful for having a personal mafia surrounding and protecting me: those who can appreciate and reinforce these values in me.

Thank you for making this the most special birthday yet. Thanks for spending your most precious time, and thank you for being here, there, and everywhere for me.

With that, I would like everyone to raise their glasses, and on the count of 3, let’s bellow the earthiest, most authentic, and most audacious chaaaaaaaaargeeeeee we can!”