Ever hear of a high school student that was a raging success story? Someone who was a national merit scholarship award winner or someone who had multiple college athletic scholarship offers? This may be describing some of you, but it is not however describing my personal experience. High School was very difficult for me. There were family dynamics that were difficult, social dynamics, academic dynamics, wrap all that up with some poor choices and lets just say I am not one who wants to relive those glory days. How do you get from there to being an IT executive with an incredible organization? Sometimes I had to fake it until I made it, or became it.
There is an incredible Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy where she describes the power of body language. She was an exceptional student with a measured high IQ until she was involved in a serious automobile accident. This left her with a markedly lower IQ which she severely struggled with. She powered through somehow and eventually went on to higher education and started conducting research on body language. She discovered that not only does our body language communicate to others, it communicates to ourselves. She discovered that regardless how you feel about yourself, if you sit in what she calls a power pose for at least two minutes, it actually makes you feel more powerful. You can fake your psyche by posing. Listen to the talk, it is well worth it.
I used to think that there was no way I could get a college degree. After all, what evidence was there in my life to allow me to think I could? After high school I joined the U.S. Navy and after that still struggled with confidence. My wife convinced me to go to college even though I knew I couldn’t do it. She told me to just show up and pretend I was a good student until it happened. If they only knew the real me, I would say to myself, they would not let me in here. My wife told me that if you only knew the real you, you could do anything. At the end of the first semester my report card reflected straight A’s and I knew I could do it.
I used to think that there was no way I could make it as an executive. After all, my career choices to date would say that I believed I could not make it in that arena. As I walked into my first “real” job I said it again, “If they only knew the real me, they would never have hired me,” to which my wife replied, if you only knew the real you, you could do anything. After a few successful projects and great reviews, I knew I could do it. This happened repeatedly as I continued career progression, although it lessoned each time. When I interviewed for my current role, I knew I could do it; I’d need some help, but I knew could do it. I kept showing up until I made it, then I became what I once thought was impossible, a respected and capable leader.
There are those of you who were seemingly born with a high level of confidence and don’t need to fake it at all. You could conquer whatever challenge there was. There are those of you who may be in leadership positions, but secretly wondering if they will find out, find out who the real you is. Regardless of which category you find yourself in, you can either keep showing up, or encourage others to keep showing up. The point here is perseverance coupled with continuous learning; these are the key ingredients to the fake it and keep showing up strategy. There is no question that you, or those you lead, are capable; sometimes they just need someone to tell them. My wife’s words ring in my head frequently. It is far more important that I tell my real self that I can do it, than it is to try and hide my real self from everyone else. To some of you, this will resonate deeply, to others, realize that someone on your team is feeling this way and find ways to reach them, the real them, and tell the real them they can do anything.
What did you use to think that you couldn’t do but have since proved yourself wrong? Think about it and use that story to encourage others.