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For professional development expert Keith Ferrazzi, career success begins with personal authenticity

Pat Loconto, the CEO of Deloitte when I worked there early in my career, was my close mentor in those fledgling years. He became my friend too -- he even helped me pay for my father's funeral. I was as vulnerable and close to him as I could possibly be with a boss, on all levels -- with one exception: I wasn't out to him.

It wasn't until I left Deloitte in 1999, after seven years with the company, that I decided to share the entirety of my life with Pat, having tired of changing my partner's name from Roel to Renee. So I got up the courage and told him. "I know," Pat replied. "I've known for a long time." This was a revelation. "Why didn't you tell me?" I asked. "I figured you'd tell me when you were ready," he said.

Looking back, had I come out while at Deloitte, I would have been more authentic, more able to connect with my staff and peers, and more of an all-around happy person. Now, as an adviser to many companies, I can say that while being closeted isn't the greatest barrier to individual business achievement, it will certainly hinder your ability to build intimate relationships in the workplace, a critical element to corporate success. Business relationships are personal relationships, and achieving success means cultivating intimate connections. Acknowledging this can be intimidating for anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, but people won't trust you if you don't come across as authentic. When people aren't comfortable in their own skin, you can feel it when they walk into a room; they don't seem like solid people.

Intimate business relationships should be developed in stages. A good place to begin is with shared interests and passions. Communicate to others what gets you excited or motivated. It could be a passion for playing polo--that happens to be my new sport of choice, but you can use golf if the horse thing doesn't thrill you -- your nonprofit work outside the office, or your dog. Whatever it is, make it known. Find out the passions of the people you work with, like a client's excitement about his son's Little League victory or a sales prospect's preparation for her trip to Thailand. You don't have to find shared passion in order to connect with someone else, but you do have to share passion.

After you've mutually shared the things that motivate you in the present, you'll find you can deepen relationships further by sharing your dreams and aspirations for the future. I find that this is a great conversation to have over a bottle of red wine. "Where are you going?" "What are your dreams?" Declaring the goals and missions that drive us in the long term takes guts -- it requires us to reveal what we value most and how we define personal success. Sharing dreams and aspirations makes us more vulnerable, but it also makes our relationships more intimate. More important, it makes us more human, and here is where we truly connect with one another.

From there, you're ready to share your struggles. Yep, struggles. As with passions, we don't all share the same struggles in life, but we have certainly all struggled -- another thing that makes us human. Coming out was just one struggle of mine. Growing up as a poor kid trying to fit in at an elite private school, most of my emotionally difficult struggles early on were economic. Whatever the case, sharing vulnerabilities deepens relationships.

At some point, your passions and struggles will overlap with your sexuality -- plenty of long stories to tell there, I'm sure -- and you've got to ask yourself: Do I want to limit my personal connections by not sharing who I really am and what really matters to me? When you've reached the pinnacle of intimacy with a business colleague, you're more capable of creating mutual loyalty by connecting through your vulnerabilities and fears because you're letting people into your life. The prejudices of others may or may not ultimately hold you back, but I know for sure that you'll be held back if you hold back.

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