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You may suffer from 'impostor syndrome.' Lots of smart people with signs of high achievement do.

Sometimes it feels like you have to wait for some official entity's permission to do the work you feel called to do.

You may suffer from 'impostor syndrome.' Lots of smart people with signs of high achievement do.

Lots of people have projects they've been sitting on.

For some people, it's legitimately because some thing they need to move forward has stalled or because they really do have too much on their plate to get to it.

But for many people, it's something else entirely. It's this gripping fear that can set in, making you doubt whether you have any place at all trying to do the work you feel called to do.


Putting yourself out there can be a real internal struggle. Image by Andrew Smith/Flickr.

Maybe it's a book you keep meaning to write. Maybe it's a class about a very specific subject matter you know about that you would like to teach. Maybe it's an art project you don't think anyone would take seriously. That obstacle is called "impostor syndrome."

I'm going to break down what it is here and give you two easy-to-remember steps that you can use to keep working on your project in spite of suffering from this fear.

There's a tension between what comes naturally and what we value.

As Carl Richards, The New York Times' "Sketch Guy," explains:

"Two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, gave it a name in 1978: the impostor syndrome. They described it as a feeling of 'phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.' While these people 'are highly motivated to achieve,' they also 'live in fear of being "found out" or exposed as frauds.'"

Sometimes because a skill we have comes easily to us, we think it must not be that valuable. So when we try to pass it off as valuable, we think we must be fooling people.

Sketch by Carl Richards, used with permission.

Remember, what's easy to you may be really quite difficult for someone else, and that's why what you're good at has value. What's important is to try to see that fear for what it is and overcome it, even if just long enough to keep taking next steps with your work. And speaking of next steps:

There are pretty much two main steps to doing cool things.

I wish I could remember where I read this several years back because I'd love to give credit, but it's one of those things I can't seem to trace back (hit me up on Twitter if you know who coined these). But the tenets stuck with me at a time when I really needed to hear them. When you're feeling paralyzed by "impostor syndrome," it can be helpful to remember that there is a pretty simple process that nearly anyone who succeeds at anything has undertaken.

1. Create value.

Create something! It doesn't necessarily have to mean forging something out of raw materials in a crafty, artsy way. If you write, write. If you kick ass at connecting with people on social media, build a community. If you make amazing bagels, make them! If you sketch, sketch. If you have brilliant ideas for your neighborhood, start working on them. Making the crucial leap from thought to action is what's important.

2. Bring that value to the market.

Now here's the thing. "Market" implies you have to figure out how to monetize it. But that's not necessarily true. It can mean that, but it doesn't have to. Really, bringing the value you've created to "the market" just means getting it in front of people. Show it to people who are doing similar things, show it to people who might be able to benefit from it, show it to people who just might get joy out of it. You may figure out a way to monetize it, and hey, that's cool. Or you may just spark a new collaboration or open a door to some other next steps in doing whatever the thing is that you like doing.

Understanding impostor syndrome can be life-changing — hear Carl Richards discuss on his show, "Behavior Gap," the day he found out from his therapist that this feeling he was having had a name.

Richards learned how to look at his impostor syndrome as a friend and ultimately was able to manage it and make it work in his favor instead of stopping him from accomplishing his work.

With a little practice, I bet you and I could do the same.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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