Most entrepreneurs experience imposter syndrome at one time or another: the feeling that we don’t know what we are doing, we are somehow faking it, and that at any moment we’ll be discovered to be a fraud, at which time we’ll lose everything we’ve gained. Sound familiar?
This fear is so common that many well known accomplished people admit to experiencing it. We’d argue that everyone experiences imposter syndrome, some people are just better at hiding it than others.
Given that we all suffer from it at some point, let’s talk about why that might be and how we can actually leverage imposter syndrome to increase our odds of success.
A successful entrepreneur has to constantly reinvent herself. We take on a number of different personas as our companies grow: we start off as the visionary founder, then we roll up our sleeves and build product, later we learn how to market and sell our product, and eventually we build organizations. In order to survive these transitions, we need to constantly start over, constantly be a beginner.
Beginners feel like imposters only when they think they are supposed to be experts. But here’s the secret: the last thing you want is to be an expert! As the modern Zen master Shunryu Suzuki said: “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Which would you rather be?
Experts live comfortable lives where people seek their expertise. Entrepreneurs live adventurous lives where each day is uncertain and filled with possibility.
Embrace not knowing. Welcome it and greet every day in your entrepreneurial journey as a brand new experience. You will gain a confidence in your ability to navigate the unknown when others run away from it. Be willing to let life put you into new roles constantly. Instead of feeling like you’re an imposter, realize that you are an actor always moving through different roles and giving each of them your best.
Then you will learn, grow, succeed wildly, and have a great time doing it.