Mask Off: Unlocking Authenticity in an Age of Imposters

Adrian Crawford
7 min readOct 29, 2020



“Shout out to old dudes and old rules.”

-Jay Z

Let’s take it back to the Industrial Age. By the first half of the 19th Century, the Industrial Age was basically over, and its crowning development was mass production. We could now supply a large number of goods to a mass amount of people, incredible! But, like many good things, there was a downside. Swept up in the genius of mass production were jobs, purpose, and ultimately people. For generations, people were taught to fit a mold. There are paths to choose from, and we must conform to them. Obviously, it wasn’t stated this blatantly, or else people wouldn’t have so excitedly bought into the idea of having everything laid out for them. It looked a little more like…

After high school, it’s college. From there, pick a career and stick with it. Work 40 hours a week for 30 something years, get the gold watch, 401k, and retire. Then figure out what hobby you want to tinker with for the last twenty-some-odd years of your life. Done! (Sorry if that synopsis is morbid, but there won’t be any sugar-coating in these pages, so better get used to it now.)

This cookie-cutter life decision model doesn’t leave room for individuals to examine their lives. There is no space for introspection or allowance for external guidance to uncover unique gifts, skills, and talents. People are shoved into a box, like a time capsule, which can be reopened only after a realistic career is secured and accomplished.

Now we find ourselves in the technology age. Cultural norms are shifting, and still, we are surrounded by Industrial Age design. Masses are still looking for the 10-steps to success: taking jobs, following patterns, buying degree-laced blueprints to reach dreams they have been sold; dreams they may not even realize don’t belong to them until it’s too late. Millions of people funnel, like common goods, into industries, and down career paths. Millions of incredible time capsules filled with unused human-potential are buried underground like the talent the servant was too afraid to risk losing.1

We live in the future, and everyone has a voice. Cool, right? Absolutely! You have a voice, and I can listen to it. In fact, I am actively and attentively listening to the collective voice of this generation — the millennials and whatever the name of the generation coming up after them is called, I’ve come to a conclusion: You want to be in the ranks of Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, and Zuckerberg. You want to be risk-takers! You actually hate the mass production of people and thus you desire to write New Rules.

So why are so many of you stuck in the assembly line? You know you’re stuck, but you can’t figure out how to break the cycle. This is where it gets good… I can help you get out. Call me Morpheus (and if you don’t know that reference, put this book down, look it up, watch — just the first one — then resume reading).


Writing New Rules is not just for the college-bound; this applies if you are a stay at home mom, a budding entrepreneur, someone who wants to go into the nonprofit world, the list is infinite. There is no better decision than to harness who you were made to be and apply it to all areas of your life, including the workplace.

So, what’s the message? What are New Rules? We start with the basic belief that people are uniquely made. You are endowed with skills, talents, and gifts in a blend all your own. However, to reach your full potential, you have no choice but to take a hard, inward journey to discover what you have been given. From there, you will need to do the work of developing, honing, and perfecting exactly what you can do over your lifetime. Then, you can be deployed and actually do the work. I don’t particularly love math, but this equation is pretty simple: discover + develop + deploy = you doing meaningful work authentically.

Discover: how to be self-aware

Develop: the resilience to remain self-aware

Deploy: use your abilities (the healthy expression of your character, emotion, desires, and motives) to do meaningful work in the earth.

How many people do you know who love what they do for a living? My guess is not many. Recent statistics show that 80% of people work in jobs not aligned with their skill-sets — mass production side effect number one.2

This book is meant to guide and inspire you to write New Rules, unlock, discover, develop, and deploy authenticity… and get you off the production line! (Making sense now?)

Great, a book written by someone I’ve never heard of… just what I was looking for.

I’m not Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla, or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Civil Rights Movement. So, what are my credentials and why do they matter?

Here is where part of my autobiography might come in handy.

I have spent countless years going toe to toe, blow for blow with writing New Rules. I have the scars to prove it. My entire life, people have tried to put me in boxes. Picture a young Adrian, just starting to fall in love with basketball. I was a tall kid, so naturally, everyone tried to make me a post player, a “big guy” on the court. But my father, a college basketball coach by trade, thought differently. He trained me to be a guard. Why? He could see how it could be beneficial in the future. Soon enough, I was 6’6” playing the point guard spot. This formation set us apart and our team thrived where our opponents could not. I was a more valuable player because my father refused to put me in a box.

The boxes didn’t stop there. After a career playing professional basketball, I had a deep desire to go into ministry. Okay, not so radical, right? Well, I wanted to dedicate my life to ministry AND to becoming an entrepreneur who would start multiple businesses. Like clockwork, the advice I received was, “choose one or the other.” Four right-angles and four straight lines, every single time.

Ever think about how funny it is that a business card is shaped like a box? Probably not, I guess it’s not really that funny. What’s funny is the amount of time I spent laboring over how to describe myself on a business card. Something so simple, something inanimate, something so boxy and I was trying to fit in it!

As soon as I decided not to take the advice, not to aspire to the business card picture of success I was hypnotized by, I did it. Exactly what everyone said couldn’t be done. I chose to do both: ministry and business. The product of my decision to faithfully walk in what I was designed to do was successful. Why? Because I was operating fully in my original design, using the giftings and talents I had been given in both of the spaces I was called to.

You may not know this, but the church is notorious for never changing or being slow to change. It takes churches a while to learn how to remain relevant to current culture but still hold on to the truth. More than that, less than 13% of churches are ethnically diverse, even though we live in a world where 40%+ of the population is made up of people from different ethnicities. The cherry on top is the fact that I’m an African American man pastoring a church in the South. We started our church with 18 people and $10k. It was a big dream and pocket change.

They said you can’t start a church like that. They said you can’t pastor an ethnically diverse church in the South. They said you can’t have a thriving church AND be an entrepreneur; each requires too much of your time. They said it couldn’t be done.

Building a church like that would be like having a startup tech company with a seed funding of $10,000 and a handful of people to run the business. Now, imagine this startup company taking that seed funding and turning it into one of the top 5% of tech companies in the world! But, continually operating with half the staff, manpower, and overhead funding as their competitors. Oh, and by the way, in a tech world dominated by white males, their CEO is African American, and their entire staff is diverse in ethnicity, age, and gender. This is rare.

Yet, here we are seven years later living out the bi-vocational model. Currently, I pastor a church in the top 5% of churches in America. Ethnically, we are split down the middle at almost 50/50. We are multigenerational and politically diverse. Simultaneously, I’ve launched 4 businesses and sold one.

You may not have known my name before this book, but now you know that I have trail-blazed; I have gone where others said was impossible, and I went there because any other path would have been in direct opposition to who I was created to be. I believe I have the skills to guide you through the process of writing New Rules and unlocking authenticity because over the years I’ve had to wrestle through it myself. I’ve had to figure it out by trial and error and my passion is to impart wisdom to help others do the same thing without having to endure the same roadblocks I had to breakthrough.