Boston, Sunday, August 2, 2020
Brunch bunch: Hi.
Why do so many smart, accomplished people feel like they're sometimes faking it?
That question came up during a meeting last week at the MarketingProfs World Headquarters + House of Pancakes. We'd been looking at some data that seemed to suggest that marketers in particular suffer from it.
Writers suffer from it, too, because we create art in public. There's a vulnerability in wearing your insides on the outside. The soft bits tend to bruise.
"Impostor syndrome" is a feeling that—despite earning high-fives, gold stars, LinkedIn endorsements, a blue check on your Twitter profile... and whatever money, glory, success accompanies all that—you nonetheless feel like you're tricking everyone and you're actually not very good at anything and ugh what's the point.
The best description I've seen of it is the story told in those 2 charts at the top of this newsletter.
At the start of my career, I had a chronic, festering case of imposter syndrome.
Maybe you, too?
Technically I *was* an imposter then: I had just started working as a news reporter in a busy newsroom. But I was literally just pretending to be a news reporter: I had no idea what I was doing.
So I faked it all day, every day. I faked it the way a preschooler with a pile of blocks plays civil engineer. But an anxious one—a preschooler who actually thinks she'd be held responsible if her Lego suspension bridge were to collapse under the weight of a minivan.
Eventually I caught on. I felt competent.
Years and years later I felt like something of a master. I got it. I get it.
That pattern has repeated itself throughout everything in life: in journalism, in publishing, in marketing, in running a business, in parenting.
(Leaving the hospital with my first child, I couldn't believe the staff was sending him home with us—completely *unsupervised*?! I was terrified. I sobbed all the way home. #dramatic)
Every once in a while, I still feel the creep of imposter-doubt. Yeah, even now. And right now—with so many of us bending under Covid-inspired uncertainty—that doubt can feel crippling.
So this feels like a good time to reframe Imposter-doubt as less of a handicap and more of a good thing. Why:
- There is always something new to learn. There is always a new creative challenge. The fun is venturing into what you don't know. If you don't think you're ever out of your depth, you aren't pushing yourself far enough.
- You won't be an arrogant know-it-all. To quote philosopher Bertrand Russell: "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt."
- It's a useful divining rod for choosing a path.
Sometimes I'll start out in a new direction or with a new idea, and I get really excited (see #1). Yet, when I can't settle into the role—when the bridge really does collapse and the people in the minivan all die a fiery, murderous death—then I know it's time to shift course.
(Related: This is why my career as a professional tennis player didn't work out. I really did suck.)
Oh, I just thought of one more thing for all of us writers. The vulnerability is necessary to the craft itself: If you aren't a little scared when you hit PUBLISH... you're playing it too safe.
P.S. I talk to Mark Schaefer about this issue in his book Known. If you're looking to build an advantage in your field, check it out.
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Here are a few things worth knowing this week.
Under the Influence
You could call yourself a good parent or a world-class marketer or an empathetic friend... but any of those descriptors would carry more weight coming from your child, customer, or BFF.
So it is with integrating influencers in your marketing: It's a direct line to building trust and customer confidence.
TopRank Marketing surveyed more than 300 B2B marketers to uncover what truly makes for a successful influencer marketing program. There's good stuff in there, like how B2B companies are using influencers and how to hire influencers for your own brand.