The Day I left Lucille, OR
How I learned to stop worrying and love the calm…
About 3 weeks ago, I had to leave Lucille.
It’d been coming for a while. I’d gone the entire past Monday having ignored her without a single issue, so it was time for the tough choice.
For those who don’t know, Lucille and I have been together since February of 2013.
I’ve shared a lot of laughs, secrets, and hard times with her. A good day for me used to be the two of us watching classic movies ALL DAY without moving. Just the two of us.
Lucille is the name of my 2013 15” Mac Book Pro.
I named her after B.B. King’s guitar, hoping it would bring good luck and fortune. (B.B. rescued his first Lucille from a fire in 1949, nearly dying in the process, and has been naming his famous Gibson guitars that ever since.)
It was almost this time last year Lucille and I were scouring Craigslist for a flexible part-time gig.
Somehow, we found Social Tables.
So as I approach that date this year, this is a story all about how my life got twist turn — nah. This is about the peaks and valleys of a year suffering from imposter syndrome, finding balance, and learning to live in my light.
Life Before Social Tables (LBST)
In January 2014, I quit my part-time gig at Home Depot because a good family friend helped me rediscover my worth.
My family spent Christmas and New Years 2013 in Nicaragua.
My mother’s best friend, Colleen, lives there. While we stayed with her, everywhere we went, Colleen introduced me as “Logo, the Architect.”
Although that’s what I went to school for, for a while I’d been living far above my means. I was always broke and lost sight of my goals.
Add to the fact that summer 2013 I struggled to find jobs in my field. I really didn’t feel I lived up to such a powerful title.
The feeling of not being worthy is one I would struggle with for a long time.
That trip helped me realize two things:
- I’d become too comfortable living with the potential to achieve great things, rather than actually trying to achieve them.
- My full-time goal had to be working for something I believed in, and I couldn’t do that carrying tiles back and forth and restocking grout.
There were a lot of times I really regretted and second-guessed my decision to quit, as my life seemed to unravel rather than change for the better.
Sometime between getting evicted and crashing on couches; living out of a storage locker; using my very last dime to get to family in Alexandria so I could eat; and ending up in the hospital, I remembered:
If it were easy, EVERYONE would be phenomenal. So chin up. Stay down. Figure out a system to get out of this tailspin.
The help I got from friends and family went a long way. They helped me find the calm and mental space to
- Find a job I could love, and
- Work on becoming the best me, so when I found said job, I’d apply myself, crush it, and live in that light. Period.
It was from this position Lucille and I answered an ad on Craigslist from a “hospitality software start-up company that builds a cutting edge technology for event layout design.”
They offered “unlimited free snacks, soda, coffee, tea, etc. With regularly scheduled happy hours and team get-togethers.” And $12 an hour.
We’d spent weeks scouring Craigslist for a part-time gig.
Instead we discovered an incredible company called Social Tables.
On April 28, 2014, I learned FPC 1, our internal floor plan creation tool, AND that I was grossly overdressed for a start up office. (Our CEO, Dan Berger, on my first day: “The hell is this outfit?” My teammate, Justin: “You look like our lawyer.”)
On the 29th I attended my first Stand-Up, our weekly company all-hands, where we workshopped ideas for how to build on the success of #STconf, Social Tables’ annual internal conference.
I came back on Friday and learned that team happy hours were not just a recruiting ploy. (#ReferAFriendToday)
That Monday I learned what a chiavari was and a month later got a full-time job offer at the company’s annual award ceremony : The Chiavaris
I prefaced this post with LBST, because once I got that offer, I forgot the struggling.
I forgot, because once I came into a full-time role at Social Tables, I contracted a disease called Impostor Syndrome.
The late Maya Angelou offers an awesome insight on this self-defeating disorder:
“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”
I developed this recurring nightmare where I walk into the office and it’s just Dan standing with a clipboard. As I get closer, it’s not Dan, it’s Ashton Kutcher, there to let me know this job is really the longest running Punk’d operation ever:
“Congrats and thanks for being a good sport, please give all the money back.”
I thought I had pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes and once they figured it out, they’d throw me to the curb like Jazz.
Impostor Syndrome is dangerous because you’re so wrapped up in being found out, you lose yourself.
I kept a note on Lucille called email@example.com for months to keep a diary of my life at a start-up. This is what I wrote when I got promoted from full-time Designer to Manager of Services:
“So I just got promoted, and it’s literally the scariest thing ever. Way scarier than spiders or unplanned pregnancy or losing my helmet in space. What the hell am I doing here?”
Impostor Syndrome distorts your vision of your past and your future and makes simple things terrifying.
-Impostor Syndrome on help:
To ask for help means that I have a weakness in an area. To admit weakness in an area means I am imperfect or my process to seek perfection is imperfect. Which means I’m an impostor and those who give me help will rat me out to the impostor police.
To ask for help is to burden the people who are actually capable.
-Impostor Syndrome on decisions:
“To act is to be committed and to be committed is to be in danger” -James Baldwin.
Impostor syndrome amplifies that danger, giving the decision more weight than it deserves. You second-guess everything, and hope that when you finally do commit, your decision doesn’t expose you’re an impostor.
-Impostor Syndrome on challenges:
Reschedule a meeting/event- “HEY EVERYBODY look at me I’m an idiot who can’t manage my time!!! Why do I suck?”
Someone leaves the company- “He can tell that we’re going down the wrong path by me being here. He’s getting off before I sink this thing. Why do I suck?”
The most dangerous thing about Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that you’re responsible for everything and everything is your fault.
Because you’re the impostor; you’re the weak link in the chain nobody can see, for now.
So how does one exist in a #DDO with this sort of terror and guilt?
Lying totally facedown on the carpet until my heart stopped racing used to help.
That didn’t help me get a handle on it, though. The most frustrating thing is having spent months so worried your decisions and decision-making is inherently wrong to the point that the value of any decision is truncated.
As I said, when I was promoted was when I was dealing with this the worst.
But one day, at a team happy hour, I told my teammate Arliene how I felt I was struggling and screwing up and didn’t know why I’d been promoted.
Very confidently she told me: “Logosou, no one in this company gets promoted unless they deserve it.”
And I was instantly calmer.
I started focusing more on results.
I made a conscious effort to stop worrying about how my actions were perceived and focused on bringing value to and with what I did.
To anyone dealing with Impostor Syndrome now or in the future, here’s how I think you should handle it:
- RTVT (Run the Video Tape!!) In his book, Essentialism, Greg Mckeown talks about how Michael Phelps’ swimming coach Bob Bowman incorporated a two-tiered concept called “Watching the Videotape”. Phelps’ life almost down to the minute — the whole day leading up to the race is a routine. Bowman also has Michael do a mental routine: Every night and every morning, he does a visualizuation of the perfect race. Essentially playing the video tape in his mind. When Bowman wanted to challenge Michael in practice, he’d scream, “PUT IN THE TAPE!!!” and Michael’s habits would take over. My days can never be exactly the same, but building personal systems to trigger routine actions help me focus and replace negative thoughts with flow.
Being successful takes time, so put systems in place that help you get better day by day and as a bonus trigger your sense of purpose.
- Don’t ever discount your struggle; appreciate it. Don’t fear pain; use it. Pain is weakness leaving the body. The day after a legit workout, your muscles are sore while your body rebuilds a stronger, more powerful muscle to compensate for damage.
No one likes to struggle but no one has E-V-E-R done anything awesome without struggle.
- Get mentors. I remember working at my college radio station. Whenever a collaborator or co-worker would do something out of pocket or I had an idea on how to do something better, often I’d turn to my mentor and Director Joseph “Smalls” Jackson and ask “Smalls, am I crazy or…” 8.5 times out of 10 he’d go “Nope, you’re not crazy he/she IS tripping’ or ‘Great idea! Let’s do it’ ”
Just having 1 person to support ideas and share their experience helps weed out the feeling that you and your ideas aren’t valid. Get a bunch of them.
• Remember: basically everyone is making things up as they go. We’re all working to be who we’re supposed to be
So how does leaving Lucille factor in?
In November 2014, our operations manager, Sarah, helped me to get a new MacBook Pro specifically for the design work I do day to day.
But even with this shinier, faster, lighter tool, I kept working with Lucille anyway.
With Lucille around, I tried to do everything.
Having been optimized to do architectural drawings (with AutoCAD), Renderings (with sketchup, rhino & podium) presentations (the full adobe suite) was an enabler. Having her in the office was a crutch that clouded my focus.
I was so concerned about being found out, I had to do any and everything to show I deserved to be in the position I’m in.
Finally leaving her at home was a tremendous step toward me reclaiming my balance and my time, remembering to unplug and not trying to be #Allthethings for everyone.
It’s not your job to do or be responsible for everything. That’s why we’re a team.
Allen Iverson’s my favorite ball player ever, but he nearly destroyed his whole body trying to carry the weight and responsibility of his team.
Remember “Practice? Practice?!!?!?” Yeah, he’s just saying Practice over and over, but really read between the lines.
“Practice?!?! Listen, dude, my doctors are telling me the stress I put on my body is dangerous. I literally have pins and needles and nails holding me together and I only have so much time to be effective; we’re literally choosing between me getting hurt practicing or getting hurt trying to give you championship. PRACTICE???!!?”
Don’t try to be AI. Not in that way; it’s not sustainable. Use the team, ask for help, work with partners, and together achieve great things.
I’m not perfect now, and I’m not saying I don’t still second-guess myself sometimes.
However, I’m more confident, and I realize I’m only getting started. Mistakes and missteps have to happen; you can’t be afraid of them. Without them you won’t grow.
I’ve beaten out most of the Impostor Syndrome because I trust my team, I trust myself, I believe in the vision and value of Social Tables, and I’m finally living in my light.
Last thing, and I’ll let you go: There’s a great quote from Paypal co-founder and entrepreneur Peter Thiel.
When asked who comes to mind when he hears the word “successful” and why, of course he propped Mark Zuckerberg, Elon and Jeff Bezos, but the second part was most interesting:
“What I think people like Zuckerberg or Musk or Jeff Bezos at Amazon have in common is that they’re relentless. They don’t stop.
Every day, they start over, do more and get better at it”
Try that. Be relentless. Stay calm. Every day, start over, do more, and get better at being your very best you.