There is a famous quote that I will paraphrase, “you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.” Here’s the catch. That quote, oft attributed to Abraham Lincoln, can’t be verified. Fooled you!
There’s something about life that we’re all learned. We all get fooled, but even The Who exclaimed, “won’t get fooled again.” In other words, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Failure, fooling, falling, floundering and flopping are all part of the Earthbound experience, and nobody is immune.
Without failure, there is no triumph. To put it simply, every great story has a failure, obstacle, or setback, otherwise, there wouldn’t be any tension to release. Put another way, rational humans seek thrills, like parachuting, BASE jumping, and other extreme sports, just because the risk of death makes them feel more alive. Call it a rush of adrenaline to the head or juice.
But people are almost scared to death of failure. Why are we afraid of it?
Working Around “No”
I read an article many years ago that described young children as nature’s great product developers and inventors. Why? When children are presented with the word “no,” they immediately begin designing or engineering their way around the obstacle to get what they want. As we get older the sad truth is that we become more accustomed to hearing and accepting the word “no” and all the implied barriers. Some people simply stop resisting or looking for a workaround to the obstacle.
“The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” is a best-selling book by Ryan Holiday that unwraps lessons from stoicism to embrace the obstacle to work around it. While I certainly don’t think a toddler is quoting Marcus Aurelius while on a quest for a cookie, the lessons seem to be innate.
The world can seem to tell us no at times, and just as often it seems to tell us that now is simply not the time. There is pragmatism, and then there’s also unconditional surrender to the enemy or the obstacle. More often than not, we are the culprit. There are infinite ways we wrap up “no” in fancy language. We tell ourselves:
- “It’s not possible.”
- “It’s too hard.”
- “I’ve never done it before.”’
- “What if I can’t do it?”
- “What if I’m not (blank) enough?’
- “What if they find out I’m an imposter?”
Super Heroes have Weaknesses
Tania Katan is a consultant and speaking coach who wrote about her own experience with imposter syndrome for TED. She outlines four ways to quiet the imposter syndrome, which I will essentially boil down to one idea:
If each of us is the hero of our own story, then be the freaking superhero you have trained to be.
I highly recommend a recent HBR article by Michael Gervais titled “How to Stop Worrying About What Other People Think of You” also calls it Fear of Other People’s Opinions (FOPO), not be mistaken with Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and other phobias. I guess FOBO and FOMO aren’t quite as debilitating as fear of enclosed spaces, flying and heights, spiders, or needles, although I’ve seen the fear of public speaking in a lot of top 10 lists. In full disclosure, the anticipation of public speaking for me used to be much more onerous than the actual speech, but I’ve since cleared that hurdle too.
What I take away from the article is that each of us needs to pay more attention to what makes us tick instead of what others may or may not think.
- My talents
- My beliefs
- My values
Companies have mission statements that capture the essence of an organization’s cultural DNA and values. That mission statement should guide every interaction a company representative has with a customer, employee, investor, partner, journalist, publisher, or a stranger on an elevator.
What is your mission statement as a person?
Here are a few facts about me:
- Before I was 30 years old, I was advising CEOs and top executives at publicly traded tech firms about PR, media strategy, communication strategy, and messaging.
- I lead social media training for the top 100 executives at one of the world’s leading logistics firms. That was a fun trip.
- Today I get to work with some of the top technology executives in the world. I still think it’s an incredibly cool thing that I am entrusted to advise these folks on their professional narratives and digital engagement strategies. Make no mistake about it. I am highly-qualified, having clocked well over the magical 10,000-hour mark within the first few years of my career.
- Hand me a guitar, and I will melt some faces. I have played guitar since I was 10 years old. I still perform with bands because it feeds my soul and because it’s what I do. I don’t seek a ton of external validation, because I know what I can do. I’m comfortable in my skin, with my hands on my guitar.
The list of skills and cool moments goes on and on. This is not to brag, but rather to say that each of us has accomplishments, skills, and experiences that are valuable. As I tell my kids, my superpower was never that I was the most gifted musician or the best at anything out of the gate. My superpower was that I refused to quit. I’m also a bit competitive under the Zen-like, sheepdog exterior.
My mission statement:
“I help technology companies and their people create and cultivate connections that demonstrate their value to those relationships and contributions to society.”
My goal in writing these articles is to share some of the lessons I’ve learned with people who may not believe they have a story worth telling because of their background in science, engineering, technology, or any non-marketing or creative field.
My challenge to you is to develop your own mission statement and mantra to slay the imaginary dragons in your head because I bet you look really good in shiny armor. If a cape and tights are more of your personal style, what’s your favorite color?