Atz Kilcher

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When you hear the term real deal, what does it mean to you, what images does it conjure up?

I hear it mostly regarding people. Sometimes it might mean they are not a phony, not a fake, that they truly are everything they claim to be, everything their label implies.

There’s the fake cowboy, and then there is the real deal. The real deal may dress more authentically cowboy, he may have dust and cow shit on him, and drive an old beat up truck pulling a horse trailer. Or, the real deal cowboy may be dressed up at a ranchers convention. But it’s what they do, it’s how they live their life, who they are when no one is around. That’s what really defines them, makes them the real deal.

I want to use this ‘real deal ‘ phrase and apply it to a non-human realm.

Which is the real deal, a tree or the board made from that tree? Which is the real deal, that rough-cut board or the one that is sanded and oiled and stained and varnished? Which is the real deal, the half finished painting on the canvas in the artists studio, or the framed painting in the gallery? Which is a real deal, the scribbled handwritten notes in the journal of an author with all of the mistakes and crossed out lines and crumpled pages, or the glossy covered bestseller book? Which is the real deal, the recorded song you hear playing on the radio, or a recording of the band practicing and arguing in the studio, or the song as it was first being written? Which is the real deal in all of the above scenarios?

There is definitely a need and room for both. The problem is we mostly see and evaluate and have learned to enjoy that finished product. Yes the finished product is the real deal. But so also is the rough-cut plank, the half done painting without a frame, the scribbles half finished ideas full of mistakes jotted down in a journal, the band arguing and practicing at the recording studio, or the songwriter half dressed and hung over sitting on his porch with only an idea in his mind and a guitar in his hand. Yep! I say those are really the real,real deal!

I don’t know about you, but I go through life not being really sure what the real deal is when it comes to me. I fear that I am more driven by how I want others to see me, to perceive me, I want them to see the polished and well dressed well spoken and well mannered real deal me.and depending on who it is or where I am, will determine the real deal me I show them.

I’m sure I could ramble on for hours about theories and opinions, but I think it basically boils down to fear of rejection, fear of ridicule fear of being shunned,not fitting in,and being driven out of the herd.

Horse trainers take advantage of that very fear that has been bred into the instincts of a horse; the fear of being driven away from the herd. That fear of being driven out to where the mountain lion lurk where the grizzly bear rooms, is what makes the horse a herd animal, makes him do whatever it takes not to be driven out. Because of that strong instinctual need, a horse will bond with a human to keep from being driven out, to have that sense of safety and belongings. A strong need in horses and humans. One big difference. We have a choice, or should anyway.

Do you love being part of the herd? Are you there because you want to be and feel your very best? Are you afraid to strike out on your own because of what might be lurking there? And then there is also the possibility that once you leave the herd and risk the dangers of the mountain lions in the darkness, you will find another herd, perhaps smaller, perhaps more like you.

So I’m slowly beginning to learn that there are plenty of folks out there who love and accept me just the way I am, the rough unpolished real deal version of me. And I reckon in the final analysis I’d rather have 50 friends who I don’t have to get dressed up for, write or speak perfectly for, have my song totally finish for, have my writing perfectly edited for, then 1000 friends who only want the polish.

Now I don’t know if that makes me a real deal or not, maybe I’m just getting lazy. Maybe I’m just getting more comfortable going grocery shopping in my sweatpants. Maybe I’m becoming less in need of other people’s evaluation and I am coming to rely more on my own sense of self. Maybe it’s sort of like finding out who your real friends are. Those friends who can hear the rest of the song you have not finished, or see the rest of that art piece, or really get your story even through the bad grammar, punctuation, run on phrases and too many rabbit trails.

Maybe I’m just trying to finally find my tribe, those other trailblazers out there. Hell, maybe I will start a therapeutic wilderness retreat, I will call it? Hm? Let me see? ‘Finding the real you blah blah’,’Taming the wilderness within’.

Wait wait wait, I got it! Of course! Simple! ‘The real deal’.


  1. We are what each person who knows us need us to be. We wear many hats in this world…The Real Deal is in every breath of life as some part of it is truth.

  2. I think as we get older we become more comfortable with who we really are, no longer trying to impress anyone. They can either take us or leave us. For those of us who have always traveled to the beat of our own drum, this place as an elder means we’ve finally come home.

  3. I like to think that somewhere in your writing this, I came to mind at some point haha. I guess I’m a bit vain. I always thought well of you Atz, a genuine good guy, I’m glad to know you. It was fun helping you and Bonnie with your house.

    I think on some level, for artistic expression to be considered ‘real deal’, it requires the artist to suffer, to have pained and struggled. Would Johnny Cash have the respect he does if he didn’t go through some rough stuff? Kurt Cobain? Robin Williams? Van Gogh? So, I guess what I’m saying is that to be ‘real deal’, there needs be suffering and ultimately, honesty. That’s my thoughts at least.

  4. Just be yourself…warts and all! That’s my motto. I don’t need 50 friends, one or two who, “get me”, are fine. The only person who was perfect was Jesus Christ, and he was crucified. Enjoy your flaws, embrace them. If everyone was the same life would be so dull. Differences are the spices that liven up this world. Thankful and blessed to have family and friends who love me, and I wish the same for you. Sprinkle your 🌶 pepper on life!

  5. As you go through life there are several phases to experience. Early years are the learning and developing stage taking in sensory perceptions and storing them in your memory for future reference. As we get into the next phase we begin to develop a sense of self, developing the traits that make us individuals. We learn our likes and dislikes, skills and talents along with others who share our same ideas. At some point in time we must feel comfortable with where we are at and who we are as individuals. We come to the realization that we must be satisfied with our limitations and our ability to progress further. In self examination we reflect on our experience of life and how we dealt with the circumstances we faced. Our authentic self or the real deal is the accumulation of life experiences and all the factors that made us unique and then what we want to present to others. Our presentations may vary depending upon our audience but in our alone time, that period that we only have ourselves to converse with, our true nature is revealed. Can we feel comfortable in our own company? The individuals whom we share our true selves with are they that become lasting and bonding friendships.

  6. The hardest lesson I had to learn was being comfortable in my own skin. For too long I tried to be what I thought others wanted me to be. When I finally realized I was happier just being me, I found a new peace and serenity in my life.

    I have a few very close friends. They love me for who I am, with all my faults and imperfections. Life is do much easier now.

    If that is the real deal then I guess I have found it.

    Thank you for being available and present in so many lives.

  7. I choose to be me with the 50. I am a nurse in a VA hospital in Tennessee. I long to just be at home with my husband in our sanctuary. I can’t deal with the fake people. I want the real deal.

  8. I had my beautiful daughter at the age of 15 in a very small town in “73” and right then and there , I excepted me and never really cared what people thought , said , looked, etc. towards me . I am the real deal , you get what you see , which my real deal is honesty , sincerity ,love , and the best gramma in the world !!! never a sheep, always walked to my own drum. And I do believe you are a real deal kinda man . Life is very short, be kind

  9. Hi Atz, Before polling your readers, i realized the beauty of the ‘Real Deal’ can be seen in both finished and unfinished products ~ and unequivocally sir, you are clearly the “real deal”, make no bones about it!

    True story. There was a quiet & kindly old church grounds keeper i would see frequently next to where i work, & we would cordially greet each other passing in the morning. Recently, I was saddened to learn he passed away in Feb. Fortunately, the church published a wonderful bio of this man’s life. Lucky to receive a copy I thought about how we may pass one another during life & not know each other’s amazing stories, talents, or accomplishments, until after we pass ~ now where does that make sense?

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