I'm a founder and CEO, a startup investor, an advisor and mentor for Techstars and a speaker for the U.S. Speaker Program. I've raised millions of dollars in my life, advised hundreds of startups, found myself on the Inc. 5000 list twice, appeared on live national television, and keynoted in front of an audience of thousands.
By all accounts, I should feel like a modern-day success story -- a superhero in a business suit -- but instead, I feel like a total and complete fraud. A hack. An imposter.
Those with Imposter Syndrome (also known as Imposter Phenomenon) have persistent feelings of being inauthentic, compounded with a fear of being identified as a fake. You can have millions of dollars to your name, multiple businesses under your guidance, and an objectively impressive life trajectory-- but when you have what I have, all of it seems like a charade.
Like chronic anxiety or depression, there are myriad ways to battle Imposter Syndrome -- medication, counseling, self-affirming mantras. But for me, none of that stuff ever kept me from feeling like a hack. When I finally confronted my demons and decided to do something about it, I knew I had two choices on the road to recovery: allow myself to fall victim to this enfeebling syndrome or fight back. I chose the latter. Here's how I did it.
Focus your anxious energy by making yourself legit.
If you feel like how I feel -- out of control, under prepared, and unsure -- make yourself legit. If you aren't as versed in a subject matter that you need to know for your job, learn about it.
You think I was born knowing how to manage a team of hundreds? Absolutely not. Technology is vastly on your side: Youtube, Audible (which I listen to at triple the speed), DuoLingo; there are endless opportunities at your fingertips that can give you a fast-tracked education for cheap or free.
Take advantage of these opportunities and legitimize yourself, because if I don't know what I'm supposed to know, I'm sure as hell gonna know it by the end of the week.
Remember that you're not alone.
If you think Bill Gates or Steve Jobs were born knowing they were going to be among the most successful and influential people on earth, you are dead wrong. Everyone feels self-doubt at one point in their lives, I promise you that.
Consider this quote: "I don't believe anyone ever suspects how completely unsure I am of my work and myself and what tortures of self-doubting the doubt of others has always given me."
That quote comes from not some failed artist or CEO, but famous playwright Tennessee Williams. The greatest people on earth have felt like failures at one point, but if you're putting in hard work, you deserve to be proud of yourself.
If you fall, pick yourself back up.
I've failed before. A lot. I lost the reigns of 20 plus companies. I've gone broke half a dozen times, and every time I think about myself as an imposter, I think about every failure that got me to my place of success.
Never, ever discount failure -- learn from it, ask yourself what you did wrong, and challenge yourself to use your knowledge to get it right this time. Real imposters don't fail only because they don't try.
If you've failed even once before, you've tried, and you shouldn't forget that. Never forget your roots and let your blood, sweat, and tears fuel your journey to the top.
Believe the cliched idiom: 'fake it 'till you make it.'
I know, I know, it's such a hackneyed phrase. But there's a reason it's stayed within our lexicon for so many years. You're standing at the bottom of a mountain, staring at the summit. You're tired, you're sore, you have no idea whether or not you're going to make it to the top.
Guess what? You are.
And you know why? Because you're going to tell yourself you can do the impossible. Nobody on earth is going to "fake it" by instilling a do-nothing attitude onto their brains. You're faking it by putting on an air of confidence, trust, and resilience.
I never allowed myself to feel like a complete failure, I just told myself my past defeats were nothing more than temporary roadblocks, and now, here I am. The best in the world have faked it, I promise you that.