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Opinion Editorials

Impostor Syndrome is your friend, really!

(EDITORIAL) Everyone gets impostor syndrome at some point in their lives but is it really all that bad? There can be some benefits to that self-deprecating voice in your head.

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My dark secret

My name is Matt Salter, and I’m an impostor.

(Don’t say “Hi, Matt!” this time. It’s a dead giveaway.)

Thankfully for me, and anyone else fighting the constant sense that they’re faking their professional skills, public identity and general adult status, so is Oz Chen.

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The tiny voice in your head that won’t shut up

I probably have a bit more “impostor” in my syndrome than Mr. Chen, a world-class coach and consultant in various business matters I couldn’t define without a dictionary. I just put words in a pretty order.

On the other hand, I’ve been putting words in a pretty order for the best part of ten years. I’ve made millions of dollars for charities as a grant writer. I’ve published poetry, and if you know anything about the poetry marketplace, you know that’s an achievement. I’ve gotten money to rewrite Shakespeare.

Really! I love the man, but he needed an editor.

But, like Mr. Chen, I still tend to start my working day with an evil little voice in my ear, whispering “you’re faking it.” As we’ve written in the past, Mr. Chen and I are in no ways alone in that respect.

Here’s something that never occurred to me to say, but did occur to Mr. Chen: good.

Impostor syndrome isn’t a bug. It’s a feature.

That soft pop you just heard was Oz Chen blowing my tiny mind.

He’s right, though. Here’s why.

It happens to everybody

Per an honest to goodness scientific study, 70% of people experience bouts of impostor syndrome at some point in their lives.

It’s particularly prominent in environments perceived as highly demanding or within a talented peer group.

According to Olive Cabana’s “Charisma Myth,” when Stanford Business School freshmen are asked “how many of you in here feel that you’re the one mistake the admissions committee made?” a solid 2/3rds put their hand up.

Debbie Millman of “Design Matters” found that of 21 great graphic designers she interviewed, all but two – Massimo Vignelli and Milton Glaser, and seriously, I’ve heard of those people and I can’t draw a curve with a protractor – said they’d experienced the fear of being “found out” as untalented or of being flash in the pan successes unable to repeat prior achievements.

So, yeah. Those people are better at what they do than you, me and any ten of our friends put together, and they still have that little jerk whispering put-downs in their ears. Literally everyone has this.

It stops you being stupid

Let us speak together of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. If you’ve been to the Internet, you know the Dunning-Kruger Effect, both in the sense that it’s a phenomenon that has been widely addressed in popular digital media, and in the sense that Dunning and Kruger are the patron saints of Internet debate.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is simply that, when you’re ignorant of something, you’re often ignorant of the fact that you’re ignorant.

If you haven’t yet run across that phenomenon in action, (most often in the form of someone who has no idea what they’re talking about nonetheless holding forth on it, at length, shaming themselves and their ancestors) then allow me to be the first to welcome you to your first day of Internet.

It’s great! Stay out of the comment sections.

Impostor syndrome is a vaccine against Dunning-Kruger. Say what you will about that jolt of anxiety that goes with making a statement of informed opinion in a public space – I’ll start; it sucks and I hate it – but it encourages you to make sure your opinion is, in fact, informed.

Ever notice my articles have a lot of links? That’s why. I don’t just write down anything that occurs to me.

I cite.

It keeps your priorities straight

I agree with Mr. Chen: impostor syndrome is a function of identity. It’s going after the ego candy of being “an executive” or “a successful person” as opposed to figuring out what you actually want to do and then actually doing it.

I am to this day genuinely embarrassed by how long it took me to acknowledge that I was “a writer” despite, you know, making my living with that skill. Years. Actual years of putting everything I have and am into writing, but I wasn’t “a writer” because, I don’t know, I don’t own a tweed jacket or something.

Eff that.

Own it

Quit trying to fit yourself into some pre-existing category. That is neither profitable nor healthy.

Focus on what you do. If you’re like me, you’ll be happier. If what you do isn’t what you want it to be, that’s even better.

It’s a wake up call.

If what you want isn’t in keeping with how you spend your time, you need to know about it. It’s so much easier to fix that than to live with it.

It’s 2017. Social interaction is built on compulsive self-awareness. The job market demands anyone seeking success build multiple skill sets to apply in multiple ways, as the single-focus career rapidly goes the way of dodos and Pogs.

Impostor syndrome is to be expected. The trick, as with every glitch in human firmware, is to make it work for you.

Thanks, Mr. Chen.

#fakeittilyoumakeit

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Opinion Editorials

Study says women need to be seen as “warm” to be considered confident

(EDITORIAL) A new study reveals that despite progress, women are still successful when they fall into a stereotype. Let’s discuss.

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About 15 years ago, I took a part-time job in a mental health clinic handling bookkeeping and billing. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I attacked the job with what I felt was confidence. For the first few days, I simply felt as if I was an imposter. I kept asking questions and pushing forward, even though I didn’t make much progress. Within just a few days, I felt the hostility of the office manager.

It got progressively worse, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck I’d done to make her so confrontational with me. I thought I was pleasant and respectful of her position, and I was getting along with the other employees. When I talked to our boss, I was told that I intimidated the office manager. HUH? Me? Intimidating? I was a complete mess at the time. I could barely put together a business casual wardrobe. My emotional health was so fragile that I rarely went anywhere new. And she found me intimidating?

Researchers have been studying how people judge others. Susan Fiske, researcher out of Princeton, found that competence and warmth are two of the dimensions used to judge others. Based on that research, Laura Guillén, Margarita Mayo, and Natalia Karelaia studied the competence and warmth at a software company with 236 engineers.  Guillén and her team collected data at two separate times about these engineers and their confidence and influence within the organization.

They found that “men are seen as confident if they are seen as competent, but women are seen as confident only if they come across as both competent and warm.

Women must be seen as warm in order to capitalize on their competence and be seen as confident and influential at work; competent men are seen as confident and influential whether they are warm or not.”

We encourage women to be confident, but based on current research, it may not be enough to close the gender gap in the workplace. A woman must be seen as helpful and dedicated to others to have the same influence as a man. As a woman, it’s easy to be seen as the #bossbitch when you have to make tough decisions. Those same decisions, when made by a man might be considered just “business as normal.”

I guess the lesson is that women still have to work twice as hard as men just to be seen as equals. I know that I have to work on empathy when I’m in an office environment. That office manager isn’t the only person who has thought I’m intimidating. I’ve heard it from it others, but you know what?  As a self-employed writer, I’d rather be seen as undeterred and daunting than submissive and meek.

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Opinion Editorials

“Starting a business is easy,” said only one guy ever

(OPNION EDITORIAL) Between following rules, finding funding, and gathering research, no business succeeds without lifting a finger.

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While browsing business articles this week, I came across this one, “Top 10 Business Ideas You Can Start for Free With Barely Lifting a Finger.” These types of articles make me mad. I can’t think of many successful freelancers or entrepreneurs who don’t put in hours of blood, sweat and tears to get a business going.

The author of the article is Murray Newlands, a “VIP Contributor.” Essentially, he’s a freelancer because he also contributes to Forbes, HuffPro and others. He’s the founder of ChattyPeople.com, which is important, because it’s the first business idea he promotes in the article.

But when I pull up his other articles on Entrepreneur.com, I see others like “How to Get Famous and Make Money on YouTube,” “Win Like A Targaryen: 10 Businesses You Can Start for Free,” and “10 Ventures Young Entrepreneurs Can Start for Cheap or Free.”

I seriously cannot believe that Entrepreneur.com keeps paying for the same ideas over and over.

The business ideas that are suggested are pretty varied. One suggestion is to offer online classes. I wonder if Newlands considered how long it takes to put together a worthy curriculum and how much effort goes into marketing said course.

Then, you have to work out the bugs, because users will have problems. How do you keep someone from stealing your work? What happens when you have a dispute?

Newlands suggests that you could start a blog. It’s pretty competitive these days. The most successful bloggers are ones that really work on their blog, every day. The bloggers have a brand, offer relevant content and are ethical in how they get traffic.

Think it’s easy? Better try again.

I could go on. Every idea he puts up there is a decent idea, but if he thinks it will increase your bottom line without a lot of hard work and effort, he’s delusional.

Today’s entrepreneurs need a plan. They need to work that plan, rethink it and keep working. They have to worry about liability, marketing and keeping up with technologies.

Being an entrepreneur is rewarding, but it’s hard work. It is incredibly inappropriate and grossly negligent to encourage someone to risk everything they have and are on the premise of not lifting a finger.

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Opinion Editorials

New age stranger danger: teaching kids about AI

(OPINION EDITORIAL) The world is changing and so is technology. As tech changes so must we, in teaching kids about the dangers about AI.

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When I was younger, when my siblings and I would come home from school, we were required to nourish our minds for an hour (study, homework, read, do math practice, whatever we were feeling that day) and then we were banished from the house until dinner.

We had to go outside and create our own fun. We rode bikes to friends houses, we went “fishing” in the creek, sometimes before we left the house we’d search the couch for loose change and go to our favorite corner store and share a bag of skittles.

Our neighborhood was a safe one — it was one of those ideal 90s neighborhoods where our house was seated on the end of a cul-de-sac so there was little traffic and there were enough kids on the street to field two kickball teams.

Each parent on the street was allowed to reprimand us and there were rarely any locked doors. As a 10 year old it felt like ultimate freedom. But, with that freedom came a very important lesson in strangers and what to do if we were ever approached by one.

I’m sure stranger danger is still a thing taught by parents and schools alike but we went from don’t talk to strangers online or get in strangers’ cars to getting online to request a stranger to drive us somewhere.

With the advancement of technology has come a readiness to bring strangers in (/near / to) our homes. The most invitations coming from those personal assistants many homes can’t seem to function without.

Alexa, Google Home, Bixby or whatever assistant you may use are all essentially strangers that you are willingly bringing into your home.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a college kid that didn’t know that the microphone on those things are always on — as such is true with the Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger apps.

In a recent article from Rachel Botsman (BOTSman, hmmmm), she describes the experience her three year old had with an Alexa.

Over the course of the interactions, her daughter asks the bot a few silly questions, requests a few items to be bought, asks Alexa a few opinions, she ultimately sums up her daughter’s experience as saying, “Today, we are no longer trusting machines just to do something, but to decide what to do and when to do it. The next generation will grow up in an age where it is normal to be surrounded by autonomous agents, with or without cute names.”

I’m not a mother and I’m definitely old enough to be extremely skeptical of machines (iRobot anyone?) but the effects smart bots will undoubtedly have on future generations have me genuinely concerned. Right now it seems as harmless as asking those assistants to order more toilet paper, or to check the weather or to see which movies are screening but what will it become in the future?

A MIT experiment cited in the Botsman article 27 children, aged between three and 10, interacted with Alexa, Google Home, Julie (a chatbot) and, finally, Cozmo (a robot in the form of a toy bulldozer), which are all AI devices/ toys.

The study concluded that almost 80 per cent of the children thought that Alexa would always tell the truth.

Let me repeat that — 80 PERCENT OF THE KIDS BELIEVE THAT THE AIS, CREATED BY COMPANIES WHO WANT TO SELL PRODUCTS, WILL ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH.

The study went on to conclude that some of the children believed they could teach the devices something useful, like how to make a paper plane, suggesting they felt a genuine, give-and-take relationship with the machines.

All of these conclusions beg the question, how can we teach kids (and some adults if we’re being honest) about security and privacy in regards to new technology? How do we teach kids about commercialism and that as innocent as they may seem, not every device was designed altruistically?

We are quickly approaching an age where the strangers we introduce our kids to aren’t the lurkers in the park with the missing dog or the candy in the van, but rather, a robot voice that can tell a joke and give you the weather and order +$70M worth of miscellaneous stuff.

So now, it’s on us. Children of our own or not, we have to start thinking about best practices when it comes to teaching children about the appropriate time to trust in a computer. If the 5 year olds with smart devices are any indicator, teaching kids to be stingy with their trust in AIs will be an uphill battle.

This story was first published here in October of 2017.

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