suffer with impostor syndrome?

Bigger than you think you are

We live in a moment when anyone can build and launch a business with relative ease. The days of asking permission from the bank manager are long gone. If you want it, and you have the time, talent or money then it’s within the grasp of anyone.

But what about the fears of launching in the first place? Launching is the tip of the entrepreneurial iceberg. Have you ever asked yourself the following?

  • Can I do this?
  • What happens if I fail?
  • What happens if I succeed?
  • What happens if people think I’m something I’m not?
  • What happens if I don’t know what I’m doing?
  • What if someone calls me out as a fraud?

Often we’re frightened to put ourselves out there for fear of what others will think.

So what do we do? Typically we pretend we know nothing. I did this for years when I was designing for clients. I was just a designer. All the business knowledge I’d accumulated over the years was left on the sidelines gathering dust. I hid behind the anonymity of client work hoping that good things would just happen.

They didn’t. Good things don’t just happen.

You’re bigger than you think you are

When we launched Nusii at the end of 2014 we almost immediately saw interest from people who thought we were in the big leagues. We must have hit the proverbial nail on the head with our design, blog, messaging or whatever (who knows). Less than 6 weeks after launch we were contacted by one of the largest VC firms in America. They, like others presumed we were bigger than we were…they believed what we were projecting.

Not long after, other offers started to trickle in. Offers of partnerships, podcast interviews and features alongside hugely successful entrepreneurs. I can hear what you’re thinking, “Boo hoo, you poor sod”.

And you’d be right. The opportunities weren’t the problem, it was the little devil on my shoulder screaming at me;

“You? You don’t have a clue. What are you doing here?”

I really felt like a fraud, like I didn’t belong.

They’ve made a mistake, right?

I’ve never been comfortable with praise, and you have to be in a very comfortable place to not feel like a complete fraud if you write, teach or otherwise help others. As I write this I’m questioning whether I should be writing this post at all.

So why do people continue to teach, write and build when every time someone makes a nasty comment it crushes them, and every time a compliment comes their way it washes off their back?

They do it because they have to, they do it because there is no other option. I could never go back now, I wouldn’t know how.

Having the huevos to stand behind something

I truly believe in what we’re doing at Nusii. I know from conversations with our customers that we’re making a difference and that helps give me confidence. So with Nusii on the up and up, where is all this angst coming from?

My struggles are internal. They’re rooted in things that I wouldn’t even know how to write about, but I’m learning to push them aside. I can push them aside long enough to create a window, a window in which I can ship, write, interview or do whatever it is that’s scaring the hell out of me that day. I have too many years of shitty jobs behind me to stand still and stay quiet.

Where is this going Nathan?

Some look at Nusii and think I’m an expert on proposals. Others think that Michael and I are now buying our coffees with golden Nusii notes. But the changes are incremental. We’re the same people, we’re just doing something.

If you want to build a business then there’s no question that you will have to work your ass off. It’s also more than likely that you’ll find yourself outside your comfort zone on a regular basis.

You’ll sweat, be tempted to quit (over and over) and you may even shed a few tears along the way. To cap it all, the second you push “Go” all that hard work suddenly defines you. You’ll become someone who has an opinion or an idea. Owning that idea, and standing behind it takes courage.

There’s so much crap surrounding products and startups. Everyone is successful, and no-one struggles. If you take to heart the hundreds of “How I made $150k in 3 minutes” articles then you’ll be in for a rough ride.

Everyone struggles, and everyone doubts. Some just push as much as they doubt.

I didn’t start building Nusii because I was an expert. I did it because I hated writing proposals. I also did it because I wanted to build a business. And while we’re being honest, of course I wanted to make money as well.

After years of working as a consultant, and after speaking to hundreds of other professionals, and non-professionals, my knowledge has grown to the point where I can speak with some authority on design, clients and proposals. I’ve learned by doing something.

Fear of failure can halt you in your tracks. It can lead to procrastination, continual “learning” and ultimately stagnation. The only way I’ve found to overcome this is to say screw it. Just do something.

Only now after nearly a decade am I starting to accept that maybe I do know what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s time I see in myself what others say they see. Maybe it’s time you saw in yourself what others do too.

“You must be the person you have never had the courage to be. Gradually, you will discover that you are that person, but until you can see this clearly, you must pretend and invent.”

― Paulo Coelho

photo credit: Mini Cooper via photopin (license)

7 Comments

  1. Really resonated with this, great post man! Glad to hear you’ve overcome those struggles or at least know how to deal with it all now.

    • Nathan Powell

      Thanks man.

      Ye, it’s a tough one to deal with. I’ve no doubt I’ll continue to struggle, but it does get easier to keep that window of opportunity open a little longer each time.

      Good luck!
      Nathan

  2. HildaMoreno

    So inspiring! It felt like words coming out of my head when reading this honest article. Congratulations and may the success always finds you 🙂

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