Less Show. More Soul.

Scroll down ↓

2002. Mexican riviera. I’m sweating, almost violently…

Barefoot in the middle of a tiled, thatched-roof palapa feet from the rolling surf. I’m there with yoga wunderkind, Baron Baptiste, famed kirtan singer, Krisha Das, aka KD, and 100 sweaty humans training to become yoga teachers.

We practice. We teach. We move. We twist. We grind. We stretch. We shake.

Until we can no longer move.

My head is pounding. Fruit is abundant. But all I want is caffeine. And a fan.

On the last day, something’s different. Baptiste begins to call postures. Minutes in, his number two takes over the call. Updog. Down dog. Fingers wide. Palms kiss the mat. He tags number three, who takes us through the next Sun Salutation.

I see the pattern and know what’s coming. Three others on his team take the teaching baton as we flow, a hundred nubile bodies, pose-by-pose through the soupy morning.

Baron steps in to lead us again. But I’ve done the math.

Ninety minutes remain. Who will lead?

I stand in Namaskar. Mountain Pose, erect at the mat’s edge.

Hands in prayer as the Universe sweats through me.


I look at Baron. I want to go first.

His eyes catch mine. He smiles. Nods.

I step off my mat and begin to stalk the room.

Inhale, I incant. The next few minutes are surreal.

I’ve never led a group this size though anything quite like this. I’m overwhelmed. I’m new at this. But I own my own studio back home. Damned if I’m not already good. Better than most. Or so I think.

I finish the sequence and step back to my mat.

Baptise looks.

“Less show,” he says, “more soul.”

Then calls the next sacrifice.

I’m pissed. It would take years for me to own the truth of his words.

Show is soul’s cover-up.

It’s been a lesson hard learned.

So much bravado. So much posturing. Positioning. All to distract from the simple fact that you really don’t quite know who you are. Or what you’re doing. And the last thing you want is for others to know, too.

So, you put on a show. And it brings in an audience.

But an audience is not a community. Nor a business. Nor a tribe.

An audience stays as long as you perform. A community stays as long as you serve.

I see a lot of show in the online and entrepreneurial worlds these days. Especially in video and copy. So much bravado. So much blatantly fierce language and sound and movement and imagery. Sometimes I buy it. Most times I don’t. What the “creator” offers as a mechanism to attract attention and build connection becomes something that shines bright, then gets old fast. Eventually, people feel the disconnect.

To this day, I continue to struggle with the dance between show and craft.

I know how to engage and entertain. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, adding the element of theater can be incredibly powerful. Provided, it’s built on top of craft and impact, rather than as a distraction from an inability to deliver the same.

So when I default to the mode that tends to come easiest to me, I increasingly find myself asking “to what end?”

Sometimes I’m good with the answer. Sometimes not.

But at least I’ve gotten more into the habit of asking the question.

What need is the show serving? What work, if any, is it keeping me from?

Is it stopping me from, or enabling me to serve better?

What about you?


Join our Email List for Weekly Updates

And join this amazing community of makers and doers. You know you wanna...

57 responses

57 responses to “Less Show. More Soul.”

  1. Kim says:

    When I read the title, I was so excited to read your piece.

    “Less Snow. More Soul.”

    What could be better than that after this shovel-breaking winter?

    When I read more carefully, I saw the words correctly. Good essay!

  2. Thanks for this reminder!. My husband and I have been offering our workshops for many years. Although there is necessarily a “show” component, we have been told that it is our in-the-moment unscripted interaction with each other that provides the “soul.”

  3. Laura says:

    This post hit deep, Jonathan. Thank you for putting this to words. I could blame it on being a full-fledged Leo, but fact is, there’s a terrified part of me that automatically wants to shove out a show the nanosecond it feels threatened or vulnerable. I can see that the “light” side of that shadow is the powerful ability to inspire, to invite, to capture and captivate. But you are so right: without the depth, the soul, the truth, and the authentic, true service orientation behind and beneath that show, all it becomes is a surface level tap dance that can’t last long. And this: “An audience stays as long as you perform. A community stays as long as you serve.” As someone with a high value of community, this was also such an important distinction to have articulated. Many, many thanks. So much more to come…! ~L.

  4. A piercing story today. I love the word play (soupy morning) and the story drew me right in. So raw and brave. The recollection, 12 years later, proves a powerful lesson learned. One that I’ll not forget soon either.

  5. Cassia says:

    The lessons we need always sting the most right? They also often show upright when we need them. So glad I caught this one today. 🙂

  6. This post landed smoothly in my inbox and in my soul today, Jonathan. I’d noticed myself thinking, over the last few days, “Why does this site bother me so much? Why is this email just plain aggravating? Why should I sit here one more minute and listen to this canned webinar? Does this marketer know how fake she appears?”

    Head stuff like that… but, as it turns out, soul stuff, too.

    My soul is experiencing the web with a greater level of wisdom and I need to pay attention.

    Less show and more soul – what a great mantra! Thanks, I need that today.

  7. First, great storytelling, Jonathan. I love how you showed us your showing. That’s brave. I’ve “been there” so many times and find that the more “exposed” I and my ventures become, the more I need to keep checking in with a question I crafted for myself over a dozen years ago when yoga screwed up my life in beautiful ways. It’s the same question every single morning, one hand on belly and the other on the heart, but with varied answers each day: “What are you ____ [creating/teaching/consulting/ building a business] for?” Variations include, “What/who is calling my best self to create and act well in the world?” followed by, “What state of mind and body does my best ask for to fulfill that duty?”

    Despite my intentions, I can still slip into show – but these days not to hide that I don’t know what I’m doing and more to hide my heart. And I so appreciate your distinctions about the online showy-ness that we’re all a little fatigued with.

    I’ve met Baron before. Funny he should be the one to call you on “show.”

    Thanks, JF

  8. Bernardo says:

    What a powerful and vulnerable post Jonathan.

    I feel like we are all on a path to align ourselves with the soul-ness of life, that’s the real itch and the craving, but at times it feels like the show part is the thing to go for and what can help us “feel” that, it rarely works that way.

    Anyone who claims to have truly mastered this is probably full of sh%t, it’s a lifelong adventure right?

    I personally resonate with everything you shared and though I haven’t had anyone directly remind me to put on less show (I wish they had), I’ve certainly recognized it in myself, many times in the midst of it, which is not fun – it breaks the spell and forces you land back on your feet, although in an abrupt way, like an emergency landing.

    I will take your words today as a deeper invitation to consciously allow my heart out more when I feel the show starting to come out, especially when such show is uncalled for.

    Un abrazo fuerte,


  9. Michel says:

    Nice one!

    On a similar theme here’s an article i read this morning (http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140310042839-7374576-this-ryan-gosling-story-will-change-the-way-you-talk-about-your-business?goback=%2Enmp_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1&trk=nmp_rec_act_article_detail)

    While the Gosling example would probably work for many, i was more thinking of Yvon Chouinard’s story, the founder of Patagonia, who i believe is setting a good example in showing more soul than show and has managed to build a very successful company by staying true to his values and trying to transmit them to his customers. I have a deep respect for that.

  10. The following sentence is worth the whole reading:
    An audience stays as long as you perform. A community stays as long as you serve.

    Grateful to be stumbling upon this reading in my time of needs.

  11. Alan Fawcett says:

    Perfect timing, as these things so often are. I have been avoiding all the bright shiny objects with no substance or sustainability recently. I have stopped buying into all the short term tips and tactics that will help me “build my community” or “get more traffic”. Most importantly, I have stopped hiding my voice behind a homogenised message that is “safe” and will not offend (or for that matter inspire people), just in case I lose my audience. If by showing my real self, my true self, I lose my audience, then of course they were never my audience in the first place. I have stopped checking my numbers for vanity purposes. My logic is that behind every number is a person and I want to create a connection that counts. Thanks for another little push on that journey.

  12. Irene Ross says:

    Very, very thought-provoking article, Jonathan. I’ve been giving this so much thought lately–I, too, have that same reaction, some websites and e-mails just seem to aggravate me. There is one well-known entity–whom most people seem to love and hang on to her every word–me? I just become highly annoyed by her. I realize it’s the show vs soul problem (ironically, she claims to be highly spiritual, but I see nothing spiritual–or sincere–about her) It also speaks to my philosophy–if you do a good deed/work/service, then have to scream it to the world for all to see, maybe it’s really not such a good deed/work/service.

  13. Rodolfo says:

    I slip into “show” mode when I’m feeling superior to someone. Terrible attitude but I then see someone as an empty vessel to be filled rather than a thinking, creative, problem-solving human being. I want to be quick and to the point, getting instant satisfaction on my part, but sacrificing long term learning.

    Thanks for pointing this out. It will help me step back and be aware of my behavior on the field as a youth soccer coach. Especially since the tag line is so short and easy to remember.

  14. What a great distinction. I too am suspect of the marketing people teaching “more show” and the lack of authenticity that comes with that. I have always used the distinction sizzle vs. steak, but yours is much more elegant. Thank you!

  15. Robin says:

    It becomes unbearably painful to watch someone performing when it’s supposed to be something real. We want the real…it creates safety and ease. Please continue speaking to this. It’s a core issue for so many of us trying to do something in the world. Service is the new currency.

  16. Stephanie says:

    There is a self serving aspect to helping others. Co-dependent at times even. We can never stop growing if we want to serve others with soul.

  17. carmen says:

    If I can’t find the courage to bare my soul, to scrounge up the wisdom that comes from being authentic, then maybe it’s time to close down the show and find something else…but what…

    The show must go on, but perhaps the soul can be found in a different act.

  18. Pip says:

    This topic has been on my mind this week when writing my blog and you have captured it beautifully Jonathan! Such an ongoing lesson.. thank you.

  19. Jackee says:

    This post cuts to the core and is honest and vulnerable. I wholeheartedly resonate with every word. This is the Jonathan that gets me. I too love the quote, ” An audience stays as long as you perform. A community stays as long as you. That is a lesson I am taking away for myself in a big way. It reminds me of the quote by therapist Irvin Yalom, “Technique is what you use until the therapist arrives.” Thank you for sharing.

  20. Mike Warwick says:

    Thanks, that was very good. Made me reflect.

  21. What a great teacher to have spotted that in you and be willing to say it. And kudos to you Jonathan for accepting the truth of it and following through with it.

    Sticking with the “I AM” rather than the I should or could is always valuable. thank you for another great reminder.

  22. “An audience stays as long as you perform. A community stays as long as you serve.”

    As a musician, this is a key reminder and goal post for me. Every artist struggles with identifying with their audience, their people, their “tribe” – and yet, I would bet many don’t make this distinction. You can be sure I will from now on.

  23. leah says:

    Beautifully expressed, thank you Jonathan. I think most people who are in touch with their souls struggle with this. I also think this is linked to Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability and authenticity (- and shame?) I’m still waiting to hear of a magical self-help solution.

  24. Kristine says:

    I am speechless. Thank you. Warmly, K

  25. Owen Marcus says:

    Thank you for your humility and naming what I see in others and myself.

    I keep learning to let go of my need to ‘perform’ and just show up embodying what I’m attempting to teach. As you championed in a recent post, I keep asking myself how can I best serve. Usually the first answer is be myself.

  26. Hannah Ellie says:

    Thank you again for more wonderful words to ponder. I struggle. I need both show & soul for the upcoming community site as well. Being an entrepreneur requires one to be open to change & growth and to be aware of what is needed in this world. Trying to find a way to use your talents to serve and inspire others is not always an easy feat. But if we can push even further to find ways to use our talents to help those who are underprivileged – doing all of that would be truly amazing!

  27. Gregory Berg says:

    This post really resonated with me, Jonathan. It’s something I consider all the time with my show — balancing the desire to grow an audience and build a “tribe” with making sure that I do so authentically and that I’m not just doing something for the splash or because I know it will draw attention. I think sometimes I err too much on the side of caution, which keeps me playing smaller than I’d like. So the real challenge for those of us wishing to reach and serve more people is HOW to do that authentically without coming across as phony or pushy. Would love any recommendations!

  28. Ann says:

    “An audience stays as long as you perform. A community stays as long as you serve.” Beautiful reflection for me today as I am in the midst of some very important but mostly hidden work for the community that I am serving. “More Soul” and more love–great love for those that I serve. Thanks Jonathan for the gift of your soul.

  29. Cynthia says:

    great words .
    My brother says “do more.. with less”
    “Can you do that again, but this time, less effort.”
    Can we release our inner horsepower with the ease and grace of a yogi.
    hhhmmmmmm, interesting

  30. Kathy Sacks says:

    Less show, more soul. How insightful and cut-to-the-core of a phrase.

    This one is staying with me in my back pocket for myself and for others–sharing it when I see an opportunity to pay it forward. I no longer do it to the degree I once did, but I can remember plenty of times where I put out more show than soul. And it never felt right afterwards, and the audience knew it too.

    Looking back at what we do and how we do it in an effort to expand our self-awareness, being honest with ourselves is a daily practice, and I’m addicted.

    Thanks Jonathan.

  31. What a great article. I cannot tell you how much this resonated with me. I look back on all the times I know I have as a leader or a trainer been coming from a place of performance rather than heart.

    It reminds me of a story I once read about Pablo Picasso. It was at a time when a number of paintings hanging in big collections had been exposed as fakes, and a curator for an exhibition of Picasso’s work decided to have the master himself authenticate his pictures. Picasso looked through the collection and picked out two paintings he said were fakes. The curator duly noted it down in his book, then after a few moments Picasso pointed to another painting and said this too was a fake. The curator objected, “You must be mistaken Pablo, after all I saw you paint that one myself.” Picasso shook his head and replied, “So what, I can fake a Picasso as well as anyone.”

  32. nikki says:

    Griping illustration Jonathan. Resonates loudly with what I’ve been trying to tell friends and clients as a general rule for years.

    When you don’t know who you are, many of the things you set out to do will have a flaky foundation. Time can choose to kill the fruit you do produce when you don’t know what you’re truly doing. But when you know who you are and do everything from a place of authenticity- that’s where legacy, service and creating an impact manifests.

    • Carol says:

      Don’t try to be someone else or something else. Just be aligned with your own divine spark. Just Be. People are attracted to integrity and that kind of attraction has staying power!

  33. Vi Brown says:

    Thanks for sharing….it sounds like many of us are all on the same page.

  34. Maggie Graham says:

    This is a great reminder for me. Thank you.

    I often think people won’t buy from me unless I position myself as an expert, and you’ve written about this piece, too, in a way that’s been helpful to me.

    So now I’m looking at my avatar: someone who values soul.

  35. Chris Willey says:

    I actually look forward to, and read, your emails and blogs.

  36. Melissa says:

    I wonder if it has to be “less show”. I wonder can we just have “more soul”. I do think it is a matter of being clear about the intent – not the intention (this comes from the head) but the INTENT (coming from the heart). As you point out, there isn’t anything wrong with a little theater and motivation when it comes from a soul-centered intent. When we are guru’s and stars, the show is often important, but where it comes from can either bring people in or repel them. #moreauthenticity #moreseekers

  37. Dawnmarie says:

    “…an audience is not a community. Nor a business. Nor a tribe. An audience stays as long as you perform. A community stays as long as you serve.” Beautiful, succinct, BRILLIANCE! Thank you for the pieces of soul-filled content you consistently share, so freely!

  38. Jeff Firmin says:

    I’ve just ‘found’ Jonathan. What a find!

    “An audience stays as long as you perform. A community stays as long as you serve.”

    That is a philosophy for life; one that we should all remind ourselves of on a regular basis. Any kind of performance should be the gift wrap around the present. The wrapping doesn’t really matter, it holds no substance by itself. But it makes the presentation of it’s contents more appealing. Just make sure the contents live up to the presentation! Having just unwrapped my first ‘gift’ from Jonathan I’ve got a lot to look forward to.

    Thanks Jonathan.

  39. Talk about cut to the chase. Love the memorability of this phrase that hits at the struggle of anyone who works before others with a desire to inspire. To default to show is the constant temptation, but show is hollow and we know at the end of the day, it did not carry the weight of passion and heart. It makes all the difference in the world. Yet, to bring more soul to the table is a greater risk of rejection. Thanks for sharing this.

  40. Sara says:

    I don’t always write, but I read and watch your videos regularly. This piece is stunning. It is amazing how much show covers fear and how we think sometimes it’s sincere, when it often times isn’t. Thank you.

  41. Vickie says:

    This post spoke to my “soul”. The line that I resonated with the most was “What need is the show serving? What work, if any, is it keeping me from?”. This made me question what was my “show.” I realized my show was negative complaining. I spend so much time complaining about what’s not right that I never get to doing the work that I need or want to put into the world. My show is preventing me from sharing my soul. Thank you for the reminder that it is always about the soul.

  42. Thanks for this one Jonathan..I like the way you write very much..I think I may have told you that I feel you write a lot like me. You have your own style, but there’s some deep thread that connects the way we both write. (My Lifeletters are posted on my Effortless Being page on facebook.)

    I shared this post with a lot of the yoga teachers I know.

  43. Murli says:

    Excellent comment re. Audience vs. community. Jonathan, could we use this quote on our website dedicated to classical musical professionals community?


  44. It all boils down to do we love ourselves unconditionally. And courage is the key to weighing out the scales of…oh em gee will ‘they’ still like/love/respect/etc. me if I’m vulnerably open and me, versus, I’m okay and loved no matter what happens, I’m never alone, I’m with me, God is with me.
    To be you boldly and having faith, over fearing damning disappointments of others, is what I believe is the essence of human existence.
    Unity in embracing diversity baby. That’s what makes a rainbow so fascinating. Different colours united, but each colour owning their make up, representing individuality without doubt and is all like, bitches, I put the ole in VIOLET. #boom
    As always, love the insight J. 🙂

  45. LP says:

    I experienced the same wake-up 10 years ago and it’s changed how I act and made me question my motives when I want to take over.

    After months of stumbling through it as a participant, I was finally asked to lead a 12-step class. In the first hour I took advantage of having the floor to interrupt the program and share my own story in eloquent and dramatic detail. At the break, the old man who organized the program came up to me and handed me a scrap of paper that was titled, “The Humility Prayer”. It included a phrase, “Help me remember I’m not the most important person in the room.”

    At the time it was a slap and I was humiliated. I really wanted the organizer to recognize my exceptional talents (ha), but I realized immediately that I wasn’t helping anyone else by being the show.

    In the years since, I’ve learned that the content of the class is far more healing than anything I can offer. And when I’ve retold this story, no one else has ever heard of The Humility Prayer and they all want to hear it – just like the story you told here. Thank you for the reminder.

  46. I just loved this post Jonathan. Thank you, I’m sharing it now..

  47. JF…in a recent post you said something along the lines of “I’m no poet”. In this post, I hear a staccato rhythm that’s similar to poetry. The spare use of words also strikes me as striving for concision. Trying not to be literary criticy (sic) here and maybe you’ve been writing this way for awhile, but in any case, I’m compelled to applaud the kind of blog-o-poetry-sphere nature of the writing. It makes me feel like I’m reading a new art.

    Oh…and the topic strikes me between the eyes because everyday I make an honest effort to be a more fully realized me…

  48. Scott Asai says:

    Really like this quote, “An audience stays as long as you perform. A community stays as long as you serve.” It makes me think more about what I am blogging about. Am I just trying to get readers/customers or am I building my legacy?

  49. Ravi says:


    Another excellent article that ‘prise opens’ my receptors to focus on being of ‘service’ instead of being a ‘showman’.

    Kind regards


  50. […] Less show. More soul. from Jonathan […]

  51. Ashley says:

    I adore the fact that after reading each of your blog posts I feel at peace with myself. I am reminded that as long as I am following my soul I am where I need to be regardless, of what every other internet marketer is telling me. It is such relief. Thank you Jonathan.

  52. Megan says:

    Every time I think what I am painting is good, really good, it’s ALWAYS the opposite. It’s not good.
    When I’m not thinking about myself at all is when I do good work.

  53. Judi says:

    Just the message I needed to hear!!! Thanks for sharing and letting your “ah-ha” moments inspire us!

  54. Sandra Cross says:

    Alot of us have been looking just for a audience, But its opened my mind to the bigger picture!

    Thanks Jonathan