You are not an imposter

You’re not an imposter; you’re just in-process.

You might be a father learning to parent, an employee who is progressing in your career, an entrepreneur hustling to survive, or a couple trying to forge a healthy marriage. That’s good; that’s great.

Life is a process.

Anytime you try something, do something, go somewhere, you’re not going to be an expert, specialist, authority, master.

And it’s easy to feel like you don’t belong, like you’re “faking it.” But you’re not.

For anyone to become a master, you have to be a beginner. You have to muddle through, practice, attempt, fail, then try again and improve.

You’re in-process.

There’s nothing more real than that.

Even experts still need to learn and feel like imposters, because we’re all continuing to learn, grow, and become.

See, to do anything, everyone is an “imposter.” Everyone is between a beginner and expert, student and teacher, birth and death.

And that’s a great place to be. That’s where the adventure is, learnings are found, discoveries are made—life is lived.

So just because you don’t know as much as you want to or feel out of your depth or lack clarity on the future, that doesn’t make you lesser.

It just means you’re on a great journey to better things.

The key is to keep moving forward.


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When being imperfect can be your greatest asset

Even if you are incredibly flawed, you can still succeed and even reach great heights. You just need to be one thing: Dogged. Look at Vincent Van Gogh.

For much of his life he felt like a failure, and you might be feeling like you can’t do anything right, let alone anything good. But you can. You just haven’t found what you’re good at–that thing you should do. Your parents tell you to do this or that career. So you do it. You see your friends succeeding in that or this thing. So you do it. But none of them work for you. You fail or feel unsatisfied. And you feel defeated, unworthy, washed up. But you’re not. Don’t give up. Keep looking, like Van Gogh. You can find that thing you should do. Keep digging like a starving dog digs for a bone in a yard.  

For, persistence pays–sometimes, literally. Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings are some of the most valued pieces ever. They go for astronomical prices. He was a genius, and his work is breathtaking. But for most of his life, even after he started painting, he was filled with pain, isolation, and scorn. He was flawed, deeply.

Van Gogh failed at almost every career path he attempted. Art dealer, teacher, clerk, pastor, and missionary. All but one ended in utter failure. One of the main reasons he failed was that he had deep-seated issues. He was mentally ill, he was painfully introverted, and he had some hygiene issues, like he wouldn’t bathe for long stretches, sometimes for weeks upon weeks. And he was argumentative and combative. It was like he couldn’t help but disagree with others. It’s not hard to see why most of the friends he had left him. Saying that he was imperfect would be an understatement. 

Before I go any further, I must say that I’m not celebrating mental illness, nor am I belittling it. Van Gogh was seriously ill and needed professional help. That’s goes without argument. He was broken, but beautiful. And the purpose in this piece is to look at his journey and see what what we can learn from it. And what I see is a man who fought.

He was persistent. Yes, he fell into deep spells of depression and felt suicidal at times, especially after failing. And he would lash out at others and dive into a pool of self-pity and wallow in it. Yet, all the while, he was working to find that thing he was supposed to do. Then he found drawing. And that went to painting. And that led to painting with oils, which is the medium through which we know his masterpieces that we see hanging on the wide white walls of lofty museums. Oil painting to him was an aha moment, an epiphany. For him, the universe went from dissonance to harmony. But, when he was using them, creating his famous work, those closest to him didn’t see genius, they thought it foolish and were appalled at how different and strange it was. Nonetheless, he continued to paint. 

I am indeed a person who struggles with many things, but to focus on one that I share with the great Mr. Van Gogh is this– combativeness. I am combative. I’ve always been that way. I seem to have some kind of disease that’s incurable. I can’t help but fight. Whenever I think someone is wrong, I’m compelled to speak and tell them how wrong I think they are. I do have friends, but many of them will attest that it’s not easy being my friend. “He’s an acquired taste,” they may say. I say that I’m flawed. 

Maybe you are, too. You may not be the nicest person; you may even be incredibly broken. You may have terrible hygiene, awful smelling breath, dress poorly, be uncouth, uncool, mentally ill, terribly unpopular, incapable of fitting in, holding a conversation, or starting one. But that doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish something great, incredible, world-changing, even. 

Every time I go to the Modern Museum of Art in New York City, I’m always compelled to visit Starry Night, arguable Van Gogh’s most famous piece. Sure, all of the tourists crowd around it, like piranhas around meat, taking pictures and leaning in, contorting their heads and bodies to get that perfect selfie, but I still go. I can’t stop myself. It’s too beautiful to miss when you’re in such proximity. It’s magnetic. It pulls you in by the luscious spirals of night, the spritely stars, golden crescent moon, sleepy little town, and the silent church that seems to anchor the whole piece. It’s magnificent.

But it was borne from deep pain–guttural and soul-wrenching. If it weren’t for that, Van Gogh may not have been able to transport such feeling into his work. And his isolation and introversion allowed him to focus and concentrate in ways that others could not. His “weaknesses” were the very things that helped him create such otherworldly art. 

Deeply flawed people are often those who are profoundly wounded. If you are one of those people, you know the anguish. Every day you live in it, suffering. If so, you need to know that it’s often you who create incredible work–the art, writings, poetry, songs, paintings. Out of the womb of pain gives birth to glorious creations. 

And, not only that, the pangs that you’ve lived with have helped you become persistent. You’ve had to learn how to deal with that ache every time you take a step, breath, or just lie there. Or you constantly feel like you don’t fit and have had to learn how to deal with your flaws or the way others treat you, fighting daily. That fight–that doggedness–helps you continue, and it can fuel your work, your life. Your pain can teach you persistence and transform your deficit into an asset.

Even that incurable disease I have for confrontation is the very thing that seems to help me confront my fears, when I feel like a failure. That combativeness helps me combat the daily struggles that I have and the temptations I face when I want to doubt myself or shrink from doing the hard things in life and work to succeed. My flaw becomes a strength.

You may be flawed, too, but those deficits also make you unique and can transform into assets, and they can even propel you onto a path toward greatness. In your despair, don’t feel defeated. Persist. Continue inching forward. And I believe you can find your oil paint, your aha moment, your epiphany. And you, too, can hear the beautiful music of the universe harmonize. 

But no matter what, fight on.


Get Van Gogh’s full story here (affiliate link). It’s an incredibly well-written biography of one of the world’s greatest artists; it inspired this post.

When being foolish is the smartest thing you can do

Photo by Ian Froome on Unsplash

We should be foolish more often. For the foolish are the ones who do something new, innovate, change the world. 

It’s true; they do look stupid in the process. People laugh at them, criticize and mock them. “Look at so and so, doing that thing,” the critics will say, “I thought she was smart.”  

But it’s rarely the ones who want to look smart who do something new. It’s the inexperienced. It’s those who are willing to throw themselves in uncharted waters, explore unworn paths, look like a fool.

The ones who make a significant mark on the world didn’t know what they were doing when they were creating the thing that would leave their mark. 

They just did, tried, experimented. They made things up as they went along. 

You need to be foolish enough to fail, quit a good job, look stupid, try something you’ve never done, go somewhere you’ve never been to reach your potential. 

And you have the power to do it. It’s not about intelligence, expertise, or even education. 

It’s about trying, doing. 

In the midst of that, you will learn and grow. 

And it won’t happen in a flash. It’s progressive. 

It starts with small steps, day by day, moment by moment, failure by failure; and something new will emerge.

It will be the thing you create, but you also won’t be the same. You will change.

And the fool will become a genius, the quitter a hero, the failure a success. 

Foolish can be the smartest thing you can be. 

Stay hungry. Stay foolish

Steve Jobs

What do you think about fear?

Fear is no way to live. It keeps you from doing what you want, what you should do. 

It causes you to freeze when the moment calls for moving forward. You hide when revealing yourself is better.

Safety is not always sound. 

Sure, it protects us from risk, from possibly dying, losing. 

But living in fear doesn’t help us win. Staying alive doesn’t mean you’re living. 

Open your heart, put yourself out there, get in the game, do. 

There is more to fear than just failure, pain, and death. 

It’s not living.

Improve your life with this one simple word

“No.” 

It’s hard to say it. It’s true. 

We want to help everyone; we want them to like us; we don’t want them to think badly of us. So we say yes. 

But the truth is that we can’t help anyone very well when we are overwhelmed. And always saying yes is overwhelming. 

And that’s no way to live. We don’t want that. Yes obligates. Yes binds. Yes is busy. 

But no isn’t like that. No frees. No empowers. No opens. 

Saying no gives us the space to say yes to what we are called to do, do what we believe we ought to do, become who we were meant to be. 

Doing this is a decision. You can choose to have a manageable schedule, space to think, time to rest, freedom to be. 

Yes or no.

It’s your choice. 

The most exciting thing about boredom

Being bored is a gift; it’s an opportunity. 

Boredom is space, freedom, capacity. It’s the ability to move around, try new things, learn, and, best of all, create. 

When you’re busy, you are trapped. You have obligations, responsibilities. You have to do such and such for so and so. 

When you’re bored, your time is open. 

The key is to fill it wisely, purposely. 

You can paint a painting, write a book, make new friends, deepen existing ones, meander through a museum, lie in the grass daydreaming, read a novel, learn something new. 

Boredom means possibilities. You get to create your adventure. 

Don’t be afraid of boredom. Find it. Embrace it. Use it. 

It means you’re free.

What is the greatest greatness in life?

In the process of becoming better, it’s easy to think we are greater than we really are. And it’s one of the worst mistakes we can make, touting our strengths and toting our accomplishments. 

But the answer isn’t to think we are lesser than we are. That won’t do; it does no good. 

For we may be great. And we can become even better. And that isn’t accomplished by looking down on ourselves or thinking that we are unworthy or incapable. No. 

So what do we do instead? 

We ought to think others better than ourselves. Hold them up, serve them, care for them, and use our greatness to help them become greater than they imagined. 

Service and love subdues pride. 

And what is interesting is in doing that, you will find that people will tout your strengths and tote your accomplishments for you. 

They will do it out of love. 

And the reward you will reap may or may not be riches, but it will be fullness. You can feel whole, blessed, rich, connected. 

Loving others is the greatest greatness.

You can conquer the fear of embarrassment

The fear of embarrassment is powerful, but it doesn’t have to overpower us.

But sometimes it does.

I know all about that.

An episode of a TV show kept me from blogging. Let me explain.

Billions, a show on Showtime, has a scene where two characters were talking about another person who got fired from their hedge fund, and one of them wanted to know where he ended up. And the other said that he thought the guy who got fired started blogging, and then they looked at each other with this smirk that said something like this—loser.

Blogging was an idea I had toyed with for months. I wanted to try it. But I was unsure of myself. Then I saw that episode. And visions of others smirking about me made me cringe. I didn’t want to be a loser. I got scared.

And I didn’t blog.

Others’ opinions about us affect us all. Parents, friends, coworkers, strangers—for me, even fictitious TV characters—can, and do, stop us from pursuing good things.

All too often, we care too much about what too many people think about us.

Dreams, goals, and hopes are squashed even before they begin because of that dynamic. A threat of a smirk halts us.

And what’s interesting (and sad) is that often it’s not the actual embarrassment that stops us. It’s our fear of it.

We don’t want the possibility of others thinking that we are a loser. But living that way robs us of reaching our potential, trying new things, becoming better.

And that fear, it’s often the fear of feeling embarrassed. It’s the fear of fear.

But we don’t need to live that way. We shouldn’t.

And this truth can set us free.

Most of what we believe other people think about us doesn’t exist. It’s not real. Most of the time, we don’t know what others think about us. It’s just our imagination, and we usually imagine something snippy or snide. It’s never anything positive, or cheery.

But really, most of the people whom we are afraid are thinking those negative thoughts aren’t thinking about us at all. They are too busy worrying about what other people are thinking about them. Their thinking about their problems, stresses—not you.

The issue isn’t them. It’s us. We tell ourselves a story of what we think they are saying about us. But it’s just our inner critic; it’s self-hate. We are calling ourselves a loser: They’re not smirking. We are.

Being aware of that is power.

Anytime we start worrying about the opinions of others, we can pause and assess the thought.
Then, we can call it what it is—a lie. It’s a false story. And we can move on. We can pursue our dreams, start that company, make a career change, be ourselves, blog.

For me, this isn’t just a battle; it’s a war. It’s fought daily. Assessing that inner critic and calling out the lies needs to happen far more than I’d like to admit. But that’s just what it is. So I fight. Many of you may need to, as well.

If so, fight on friends. It’s a practice. It’s life. And we need to get on living freely, unchained by the smirks, fear of fear, and opinions of others, free of self-hate.

Sure, there are haters out there, but that’s for another post.

For now, let’s overcome the hater within.

Failure is the secret to success

Failure doesn’t have to be the end; it can be a start to something better.  

Failing sucks—no doubt. It’s something we all want to avoid. And after we’ve failed, we may be tempted to quit, stop trying, hide. But that would be a mistake.

For greater success is forged from the ashes of failure. 

He wanted to be CEO of Apple, the company he helped start, but his board didn’t think he was ready. Then Steve Jobs was fired, setting his life in a direction he never anticipated nor planned for, at all. But his firing led him to start NeXT, buying and growing Pixar, getting married, and, finally, Apple bought NeXT which brought Jobs back to his first company and led him to become its CEO. 

That’s not how Jobs scripted his life. But it ended up being better than he planned it, all because he got fired and didn’t give up. 

Failure, for Jobs, was the beginning of something new, something better. He didn’t know it at the time. But he continued to take risks and try to add value to the world. He continued to work. And he accomplished more than he would have if he would have stayed at Apple.  

Jobs’ failure multiplied his successes. Later in his life, Jobs called getting fired the best thing that happened to him. If he stayed at Apple would we have Pixar, Toy Story, and all of the other animated movies that we love? Probably not. 

When we fail, we must remember that failure isn’t the end. It’s painful, yes; it’s embarrassing; it sucks. But if we keep moving forward and pushing ourselves, we can still succeed. But even more so we have a higher chance of multiplying our successes. 

You may not become a CEO of one of the most valuable companies in the world, instrumental in and largest stockholder of the best animation studio in the world, or even an entrepreneur. But failure can still shape a life you never imagined for yourself. 

It happens because failure creates change. Just as it did in Jobs’ life, failing changes your life and work. It shakes things up. Your career, work, trajectory, etc. is forced in directions you never saw coming. But, in that lies opportunities to see things afresh, gain learnings, try new things. And you will be surprised by what you can produce, who you can become.

What changes will, or should, occur for you isn’t for me to say, but there is one thing for sure that will change. And it’s this.  

You. 

You will be different. Failure wounds, and you will have scars. Forgetting what happened is a fool’s errand. The memories won’t leave you. But that can be a good thing. 

You will see the world, others, yourself differently. The pain you experienced will be a part of your story irrevocably. And, after you’ve survived the agony, you will see yourself anew. You can be stronger, better, more capable. 

And as life presents new bumps and bends in your path, you will find navigating them easier. And you will be able to do things you never thought you could do. 

If you don’t allow failure to crush you completely, it can become an experience that helps you soar to heights you never thought you could reach. Because you are changed, better, greater. 

Pushing through failure helps us become the people we are meant to be. It’s an essential part of reaching our potential, the potential we never even knew he had, nor ever could have achieved without the pain of failure. 

C.S. Lewis is one of my literary heroes. He is one of the greatest thinkers and writers ever to marry ink to paper. 

But, he was a loser. 

Well, he wasn’t really, but he did lose. And it did something to him. 

He considered himself a Christian apologist, which is a fancy word for someone who defends his or her faith. Lewis wrote some of the best works that articulate what Christians believe about Jesus and why. 

Then in a public debate, in a club Lewis was president of at Oxford, he and a new female professor debated on one of his positions that he wrote about in one of his books. 

And he lost. 

It’s hard to say what it did to him. Some say that he questioned his ability to be a Christian apologist and had a lot of self-doubt. Others doubt that. Whatever happened to Lewis, we can be sure that it did do something to him and his work. It changed him. Just look at his bibliography. 

He was on a tear, writing a lot of Christian nonfiction. Then, after the debate, he stopped. And he started writing children’s books. 

Chronicles of Narnia to be precise. 

And Narnia became his most successful work in terms of popularity. If Lewis never lost that debate, it’s hard to know if Narnia would have ever existed. Out of the ashes of defeat, Lewis wrote his most beloved work. 

C.S. Lewis didn’t know what his failure would produce at the time. He probably did feel humiliated, embarrassed, or bad, at least. Losing hurts. 

Lewis stopped publishing nonfiction for a long time, but he didn’t stop writing. He was knocked down. But he got up and started anew. And children all over the world were (and continue to be) blessed. 

Failure can kill. It can destroy our drive, our will, our hopes, our loves. But we can’t let it snuff us out. We must move forward. Writers must continue writing, even if they are “just” children’s books; entrepreneurs must continue starting businesses; we all must continue moving forward. 

Remember that failure is a part of the process toward success. It’s an invitation to progress. 

In my life, there have been many times when I just wanted to pack up all of my toys and check out. I wanted to quit. I didn’t just want to stop school, work, relationships; I wanted out of life. 

I do not doubt that you’ve had your fair share of pain. You’ve lost. You’ve felt shame. You’ve felt stupid. And all you want to do is hide and never come back out. 

Failures will change us. And, if we let them, we won’t just become different; we will be better. If we continue to push forward, we progress to not only to becoming better than we were before but better than we could have ever imagined ourselves to be. 

Failure isn’t just falling down.

It’s where we rise up.