Last night, I was standing underneath the shower, head bowed, water cascading down my back. I took a deep breath in, feeling my lungs expand, my chest rise. And as I slowly let the breath out, I could feel tension escape my body. In that small moment, I felt like I had permission to tell myself, “It’s ok!”
I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about imposter syndrome, a concept where people feel like they don’t belong in their situation. A great example of this is the t.v. show The Good Place, in which the main character dies and goes to the “good place”, a place she doesn’t feel like she’s worthy to have been sent.
I struggle with a version of imposter syndrome. It’s not that I feel I shouldn’t be where I am in work or life. Rather, it’s that I feel I could be further along (specifically, career-wise). Some days I feel like my career is five years behind where it could be.
And before you tell me I’m being too hard on myself, consider this: Mark Zuckerberg was just 19 when he launched Facebook, at 26 he was named Time’s Person of the Year, and at 33 he’s listed amongst the top 10 of Forbes most powerful people list. And Zuckerberg isn’t the only example. Try Adam Braun, who at 25 founded Pencils of Promise, a for-purpose organisation that builds schools in developing countries. He’s recently launched an alternative to university/college education in the form of Mission U, which offers one year, debt-free courses in career-specific areas (like Data Analysis). Or what about Lucan Patchett and Nic Marchesi, who were named 2016 Young Australians of the Year for the work as founders of Orange Sky Laundry, and who since 2014 have washed over 100,000 kg of linen and clothing for the homeless. I don’t introduce these examples to make comparisons, rather, to show it is possible to create change, even as a young person.
Having BIG dreams
When I started my current job, I sat with my boss, Dave, and we talked about the future and careers, and I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it prompted Dave to reply with a sly smile, “You are ambitious aren’t you, Burnsey?” I am ambitious. I catch myself in quiet moments thinking about ideas or about the future. I have big dreams for my career. And so this imposter syndrome I have, it’s not about regret, more so it’s about knowing what’s in my head and seeing what others have been able to achieve in those examples above. And it makes me hungry. Hungry to be working on more, creating more, influencing more.
It’s in moments like last night, when I can tell myself, “It’s ok to not be there, yet,” that help me to tone down the intensity and prioritise what really matters. And what really matters at the moment is precisely this moment. I was reminded of this when I was listening to this episode of Gary Vaynerchuk’s podcast a couple of days ago. In it, he speaks with a young woman who, similar to me, looks at all these influencers at the world and can’t help but feel like she should be there already. Gary’s reminded her (and reminded me) that it isn’t about the end result, it’s the process that matters.
The Process is the Way
Process can be a foreign concept in what I call our “fast-food mentality culture”. Fast-food mentality refers to the immediacy we’ve come to expect in our world, typified by fast-food restaurants, where the wait for your food is minimal. Now you don’t even have to speak, let alone leave your house, to order food, with Uber Eats and other food delivery apps. We’re conditioned now to expect immediate results from minimal input. Such short-termism only permits us to think no pain, all gain.
It’s something my wife and I have had to confront with our travels next year. The most common response we receive when we tell people about our plans is, “Now is the best time to go, while you’re young and before you have children!” I’ve had to stop and ask myself: are we travelling just to experience lots of things? Or is there something more to this? The answer is that there is definitely a deeper reason to why we’re travelling, as I wrote about here because arriving at each destination would feel hollow if we weren’t experiencing the figurative journey taking place in us.
If we don’t learn from the process, we won’t achieve. Literally, we need to learn from the experiences along the way to achieve whatever it is we’re working towards. The process isn’t just a stage before accomplishment, the process is everything that needs to be done to have that accomplishment. Gary’s question in the above episode was, “Are you doing everything you need to be doing right now?”
If the answer is “no” then there are three really simple steps.
1) Clean up your routine: 24 hours is a lot of time when you think about it, but we there are so many seemingly harmless things (web surfing, binge-watching t.v., hitting snooze) that shorten the day.
2) Clean up your intake: whether it’s the types of food you consume or the types of content you consume, we are constantly inputting stuff into our system. What we input is what we become. We know what we need to be eating to be primed for the day. And I’ve written before about how to curate your content.
3) Clean up your perspective: life doesn’t just happen to us. We get to whether we react or respond to the things that happen to us. The result of that choice determines if you are happy, successful and fulfilled, or become a victim of your circumstances. Create your day.
The thing about a road is that if you stare straight down it, it hits a point on the horizon where you can’t see where it leads anymore. And all the planning, all the ambitions, all the obsessing over the future — it’s all for a time you can’t even see yet. So, I take a deep breath and enjoy what is now.