This last week saw us help volunteer at a university case competition event, where hundreds of students from a variety of institutions across the country congregate with their teams to compete in a variety of entrepreneurial formats. It had everything from fun challenges to serious debate.
I loved it—everything from a rousing game of Tchoukball to a thoroughly engaged discussion around whether taxation is in the public interest or not. It was like… part Carl Lewis and part Karl Marx.
The object of the weekend was to build spirit, challenge the students to get out of their personal ‘box,’ build collaboration, engage in teamwork, and have the experience of working for a collective goal with people you might not know well. In short, it was the perfect preparation for life after school.
One thing I see in both my clients and these students is how they come alive and face their own fears, often learning a little bit more about themselves along the way.
One of those things is learning how to ACT even when your inner critic tells you you don’t have a snowball’s chance in a scorching place to succeed. The phrase is Imposter Syndrome, which can be summed up as your inner critic getting the better of you.
This blog is part two of a series where we look at how you can improve your financial standing through actioning on growth plans and self-directed compassion. Between this article and the previous one, you will walk away with an understanding of how egos can help us grow as much as they can hold us back.
On with the story!
Imposter Syndrome in Heavy Equipment Industries
Imposter syndrome is usually rooted in fear of looking foolish or not fitting in. Everyone seems to walk around with a lightness that you can’t find. They are rocks, and you are the tide muttering “sorry” every time you bump into them.
Like most fears, imposter syndrome is little more than an internal dialogue and won’t harm anyone but yourself. You can work on it by acting to solve everyday problems (like Joe did), by surrounding yourself with amazing people (like I do—hi, reader!), by reflecting (as one wise student shared,) and, above all, by practicing.
Imposter Syndrome will hold you back from opportunities, but turning your desire to appear put together into true deception will tarnish your inner self. Like Joe, it puts you in an uncomfortable position of having to double down on a lie that could hurt your shareholders’ and banking partners’ trust—something that could also hurt your potential for other lending, like future equipment leases.
But hold on. Don’t problems come up every freakin’ day that people can’t solve immediately? If I can’t solve them, doesn’t that mean I’m falling behind? Or, if I do, doesn’t that mean I should leverage that confidence for growth, even if it means bending the truth a little bit?
Both options are too black-and-white. Between total confidence and total despair is a small amount of ego—something you’ll need to nurture to keep growing as a leader.
Are Egos Bad for Business? Not Necessarily.
Practicing greatness requires a disciplined choice to squelch the inner imposter while not straying too hard into the ‘fake it until you make it deception’ squad.
From the vantage point of a lender, this is truly half the decision we make when we decide to lend. Are you trustworthy, and how do we know that? Are you pitching your lending partner something credible and truthful, or are you building a proverbial house of cards?
Credit and credibility will be a future blog topic, but let’s keep on track with our inner critic and how that ties to self-loathing and the all-important ego—your inner butt-kicker that can and will back up what they promise throughout a life of open-minded learning.
My Experience with Self-Loathing
We recently gave a short presentation titled “Fear, Loathing and Your Inner Critic” to a group of students at the event. It was about imposter syndrome and outing your inner critic into the bright, genuine light of day.
The premise of the talk was that our own self-dialogue and the things we obsess about that cause us to feel like imposters are usually boogiemen, not truth in thought form. The person who snubbed you on the way by your desk was NOT thinking about you—they were embroiled in a debate with their own inner imposter about something ENTIRELY different.
Engaging in deception is a different story than self-doubt. We all commit to a small lie, either to clear up personal time or to avoid admitting a gap in knowledge or resources. It often isn’t really a big deal if you make it right like Joe did, but what about if deception becomes your default?
No matter how good you get at the lie, humans have a radar for these things. They are going to catch on and eventually doubt your credibility on everything. While not getting invited out rock climbing anymore because you keep cancelling plans (seriously, when did this become a thing EVERYONE does?), it can become a problem when your lending partners start to question your capacity ahead of a heavy equipment lease request.
How to Stop Lying for Your Business
When you ‘dissemble’ (a prettier word for a lie), your inner critic has just been handed some really sharp new needles to dig into your soft inner moral compass. I might be in finance, but I don’t need to be a doctor to tell you that needles and soft parts do NOT get along well. That needling makes our small deception into scar tissue significantly harder to grow out of.
Tell a small lie, and you may like a little kick in your heart. Make it right, possibly with a side helping of regret and remorse, and you are probably an improved human being—just like Joe getting his finances lined up after a quick kick in the pants.
It’s simple, so why do we all struggle? Put another way, why do we lie? After all, no one wants the world to describe them as liars.
Plenty of things happen (in our minds and possibly in real life) that might prompt us to lie. They include:
- Fear of disappointing others
- Fear of looking bad in others’ eyes
- Fear of admitting to fault
While all of those are based on fear, # 1 is grounded in caring about how OTHERS feel. #2 and #3 are driven by our EGO, or how we see (or want to see) ourselves.
Entrepreneurs Need To Have Confidence While Checking Their Egos
Success in anything— from heading into a Tchoukball game to standing up in front of a prospective customer and delivering your pitch—derives from an intersection of courage and confidence.
- Courage – comes from acting even when you are shaking in your boots.
- Confidence – comes from preparation and knowledge (and a bit of practice too).
A substantial gap exists between the EGO racetrack and the Courage/Confidence highway.
You’re setting yourself up for failure if you rely on an outsized EGO to get you through anything bigger than a risky round of karaoke at the bar. Here’s why:
Human Ego is typically not incredibly resilient, and every time we tell a little untruth, even a tiny white lie, we bruise this sensitive organ. Each transgression acts like scar tissue, building a little layer of doubt around our true authentic selves until the original is unrecognizable.
Beyond Self-Help—How You Can Transform Your Business With Accountability
If you feel embarrassed and react by defending your EGO, you are much more likely to justify the disappointment that someone else experienced by making it THEIR issue. You might tell someone who needed you to do something at a specific time, “Well, your instructions could have been clearer.”
Hold on—how did that twist happen? It takes two to tango. Did you clarify when you should have?
Deflecting accountability is the deception that builds up like scar tissue. It feels a little uncomfortable at first, but the more often you conduct yourself that way, the thicker and more numb that scar tissue gets.
Not for Joe, however. He peeled back that layer of scar tissue by coming clean and letting judgment in. In the end, his banker became a huge advocate for him! He not only trusted Joe, but went to bat for him over the years as he established branches across the country. Because he focused on problems and not protecting his ego, Joe could stay confident and courageous—not committed to appeasing his inner imposter.
Like Joe, we should always remember how our temporary transgressions make us uncomfortable. Joe prepared for moments of self-doubt by building a resilient ego, knowing that he could trust himself to do the right thing when the time came. His temporary self-loathing spurred him to get better. His strategy can work for you, too, if you admit what’s going on in the first place.
Joe still feels like an imposter from time to time, including the time when a multinational came calling to buy his business.
Having had the confidence of practice and the courage of preparation, he ended up selling his company and making it a good deal for everyone.
I have a lot of respect for Joe, and all these years later, I still consider him a mentor.
Be Joe. Be prepared and confident. Act when you’re scared; at least—that’s courage. Learn when you fail, and make amends if you cause harm.
Last, be wary of letting that first layer of denial build up. Like all scar tissue, it’s much harder to break down over time, and like with any athlete (professional or recreational), it prevents you from reaching your greatness.
This last point may be the most important because the world needs you to be great.
Ready to find out what greatness looks like for your business? Get in touch, and we’ll see how far growth can take you.