I arrived at the local library essentially to scope out new book offerings (yes, I am one of those who clings to the smell of paper and ink, the sound of pages turning, the visual harmony created by a talented graphic artist, the stimulation spilling forth into me like a latte stoking the caffeinated amongst you).  Inspiration for writing comes as much from reading other words as observing life – my timing could not have been more perfect.

As I climbed the stairs to the second floor I was met by a couple of librarians, two moms and three very little girls – one of whom had managed to stick her head between the supports of an upcoming event sign and was now STUCK.

ImageShe wasn’t hurt or crying (thank goodness) but she was bent at the waist, head through the uprights, curls tousled about her like a halo, tiny ruffled skirt balancing the horizontal image before me.  I commented to the pony-tailed woman on the floor trying to extricate the brunet china doll that her curiosity should be commended.  The mom replied, “Oh Gawd she’s not mine, I am just watching her for a friend!” and, thus, the predicament inspiration.

Not all knowledge is gained from books (despite my penchant for them) most of it is acquired by the roll-your-sleeves-up-jump-in-there methodology.  We learn hot and cold from touch and taste.  We learn to trust that internal voice from repeatedly feeling ‘off’ in circumstances, the gut instinct honed. We learn to dress appropriately (hopefully) by fashion faux pas committed when the stakes are non-existent and we are still in single digits.  We learn from observing and mimicry of our elders and mentors how to speak, walk and be kind.  And within that space of discovery is the ‘feeling an imposter’ syndrome that all of us – the Rhodes scholar and average Jane alike – go through at some point or another on the path to who were are meant to be.

 “Our bodies change our minds, and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes.” 

 Amy Cuddy, PhD, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School

Belief in self is more often realized because we keep trying at what we feel we are drawn to ‘do’; the ROI being competency in place of doubt (which may have) once existed. You are lying to yourself if you have never had a moment of absolute terror at being ‘discovered’ a fraud when faced with a challenge you had yet to tackle.  I recall sitting in the security office of a global pharmaceutical company many years with four other individuals all waiting to begin our on-boarding processes. The unknown man who would soon sit opposite me turned and in barely a whisper said “I feel a like a pretender it’s been so long that I have been looking for work. What if I can’t do this anymore?”  Two things struck me about his statement; the first was the transparency, the second was the vulnerability.  I believe we gain strength from exposing our raw underbelly – selectively. The stars might have been aligned when he chose me to express his doubts (there would never be a chance of betrayal as my own leap into the Pharma environment was just as unlikely).

Late last year I stumbled upon Amy Cuddy’s TEDGlobal speech about how our body language shapes the perception of not only those around us but also ourselves.  This brilliant woman had struggled with ‘feeling a fraud’ and was counseled to not fake it till you make it but rather fake it until you are it.

I ‘wasn’t’ an entrepreneur, or an author. Long before those choices I wasn’t in high tech, politics, Tall Ships, or boxing tournaments. All of those words, all those stories, put into communications practice because I discovered upon becoming a 17 year old tour guide in Niagara Falls that I could help people to understand things which were ‘foreign’ and unfamiliar to them. Yet, at the same time I felt a fraud in teaching 40 year old history teachers how-to be good tour guides.


It’s too soon to know what ‘discovery’ the toddler ultimately takes from her predicament of this afternoon but perhaps the cheers received on earning her freedom formed a future Cirque du Soleil star.


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