Ever felt like you’re out of depth? Got yourself into a situation you just can’t escape?
Well, you’re not alone. Even some of the country’s best and brightest have found themselves consumed by “Imposter Syndrome”.
Take Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, who admitted during his recent appearance at TEDx Sydney that even after 15 years mastering his field and countless awards he stills feels like a fraud sometimes. He still expects a knock at the door from a man carrying a clipboard who has come to tell him they’re onto him and the gig is up!
That’s despite the fact that the collaboration software company he launched in 2002 using $10,000 in credit card debt was valued at A$6 billion when it started trading on the US sharemarket in December 2015, catapulting Cannon-Brookes and co-founder Scott Farquhar into the list of Australia’s 20 richest people overnight.
Our edited talks from 2017 will be available shortly. Until then, you can watch this Talk in the player below. Mike Cannon-Brookes is the co-founder and co-CEO of Atlassian, a collaboration software company that helps teams organise, discuss and complete shared work.
More than 68,000 organisations – including some of the biggest names in media, manufacturing and technology such as eBay, Twitter, Coca-Cola, Visa, BMW and NASA – use Atlassian’s products to work smarter, faster and be more agile.
All very impressive but as Cannon-Brookes revealed, “most days I still feel like I often don’t know what I’m doing”.
“I remember interviewing our first HR manager having never worked in a company that had an HR department – I had no idea what to ask them. And sitting in board meetings in a T-shirt with a bunch of suits with acronyms flying around and feeling like a five-year-old as I surreptitiously write them down in my notebook so I can look them up on Wikipedia when I get home!
“Imposter Syndrome is being well out of your depth but already being entrenched in the situation. Internally you know you’re not skilled enough, experienced enough or qualified enough to justify being there yet you ARE there and you have to figure a way out because you can’t just get out”
“It’s not a fear of failure, it’s more a sensation of getting away with something. A fear of being discovered, that at any time someone is going to figure this out and if they did figure it out you’d honestly think, ‘Well, that’s fair enough actually’.”
Suzanne Mercier who recently spoke on “Finding the Stranger Within” at the Institute of Managers and Leaders states that according to research, 70% of people feel like a fake or fraud at some stage in their career and attribute their success to factors outside themselves such as good luck, good timing and other people’s mistakenly positive opinions of them.
She believes the Syndrome only impacts those who have experienced some measure of success. “Someone who was performing well, identified as a high potential and promoted may suddenly experience the uncertainty of being in a role he/she feels they’re not up to,” she says.
Cannon-Brookes is quick to point out, however, that “there’s a lot of goodness in those feelings” if you harness them.
“I had assumed that successful people don’t feel like frauds but I have since found out that the opposite is probably true,” he says.
“The most successful people I know don’t question themselves but they do regularly question their ideas and their knowledge. They know when the water is way too deep and they’re not afraid to ask for advice – they don’t see that as a bad thing – and they use that advice to hone those ideas to improve them and to learn.
“It’s OK to be out of your depth so as long as you’re not paralysed by fear and you can turn it into a force for good.”