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Sarah Blakely - I just found a new role model

You shouldn’t always trust Wikipedia, hey.


But by and large, it’s where I go for most of the true facts I need to bolster theories, expand on research and bolster my confirmation bias.


As such, this little jewel was spat up today:


Impostor syndrome is likely the result of multiple factors, including personality traits (such as perfectionism) and family background. One theory is that impostor syndrome is rooted in families that value achievement above all else.


It is a theory, of course. But what people tell you – what your parents tell you – does play into how you see yourself, and what drives your behaviour over time. Nature over nurture, or vice versa, right?


To this theme, if you are a black minority living in the US (or a black majority living in South Africa under Apartheid), there seems to be a commonality of either your parents or some white person telling you you are not good enough to sit at their (white) table. From an early age. And this seems to doubly apply to the glass ceiling as it is defined for women.


So the world is still messed up, and lots of people are still telling lots of other people they’re not good enough. They tell their kids, they tell their spouses, they tell their employees. Occasionally, some misguided idiot in corporate might even tell their boss.


And that’s not going to change. People are mean. And those mean words, that negative messaging, will persist for our lifetimes, and beyond. As a rule.


What I reckon is, we can, at a personal level, try to be the exception to the rule. We sure are going to struggle to change the world, but I am pretty sure we can change some things in our immediate environment.


And that brings me to the heroine of this story – Sarah Blakely.

I had the privilege of hearing her speak at a recent EO conference. And she was inspiring!


The Billionaire founder of Spanx came across as authentic, vulnerable, and courageous. She struck me as someone that has overcome her fear of being on a big stage, who has learned to embrace her own insecurities. She transmitted a message of being true to your own nature, and literally attributes her success to “trusting the universe.”


I particularly resonated with her story of walking around like the bird in the children’s book “Are you my mommy?” and asking the universe for three years: “Are you my idea?”


I know that book. I loved that book as a kid. And I read it to my boys now.


More importantly, she leaned into her intuition (women are good that way). She trusted the process. And she was open to the signals.


Great lessons there, but that’s not the key takeaway.


SHE SOLD FAX MACHINES FOR SIX YEARS. Process that for a second. You know how many doors must have slammed in her face, how many men must have condescended to her, how many hours must have felt wasted chasing leads?


But she doesn’t see it that way. You see, she was raised by her dad to embrace failure. As a kid, coming home from school, it wasn’t about the great report card, or the winning team, or the social victory.


No, he would demand to know how she failed that week. If she didn’t fail at something during the week, it told her father that she wasn’t trying hard enough. She wasn’t stretching. She was staying in her comfort zone. And her dad encouraged her to step out of it. To think bigger. Be bolder. And if you fail….Well, that’s cool. In our house, that’s called winning.


Man, what a message. What a way to raise a kid.


I’m inspired. Check out the video here:

Next week, we’ll talk about the other side of Impostor Syndrome: Believing your own hype…and how that’s the road to ruin….

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