Dear Puttylike reader, this is a classic Puttylike post. Meaning, it’s from the early days–from before I really found my voice or knew what I was doing. I’ve chosen to keep this post online for the benefit of Puttylike readers who have worked their way backward through the archives. And also to highlight the fact that everybody starts somewhere! xo, Emilie
One of the most common sticking points for people who want to pursue non-traditional paths in life and stand out in any capacity is the fear of being perceived as a phony.
I call it the “who the fuck am I?” complex.
Becoming an authority
In order to design a life that sustains itself financially, you need to embrace and feature the things that make you unique. As a Scanner, this means constructing a life that integrates your many interests. That way your day is spent doing activities that light you up and don’t feel like work at all.
Whether it’s starting a business, freelancing or even traditional employment, monetizing your passions usually requires you to hold yourself out to be an authority, someone capable of providing a unique service.
An added challenge for multipotentialites
The fear of standing up and presenting yourself as an authority is an issue for most, but especially for multipotentialites who, by definition, aren’t an expert in any particular field.
Throughout our lives, us puttylike types have been made to feel like failures and scatter brains, told to “buckle down” and “grow up”. Our unique abilities have been perceived as less valuable than our specialist counterparts.
Now, you and I both know that this is total garbage. But years of hearing this message can lead to some unhealthy internalized beliefs.
So lets eradicate this pesky “who the fuck am I?” complex once and for all, shall we?
Expertise is overrated
The first thing you must understand is that expertise is highly overrated.
What is an ‘expert’ anyway? Someone who has put in their 10,000 hours? Come on. For the vast majority of opportunities in this world, expertise (in the 10,000 sense) is not a true requirement.
For most things in life, it doesn’t matter how many hours you’ve practiced your craft or what kind of credentials you have. Naturally there is some correlation between experience and mastery, but in truth, all that matters is whether you can deliver.
Let me repeat that.
All that matters is whether you can deliver.
Are there more experienced web designers than me out there? Sure. But am I still able to give my clients exactly what they want? You bet.
Are there guitarists out there with more experience than me? Um yeah. But does that mean I can’t teach you how to play some chord patterns and maybe even master a few jazzy diminished chords? I can totally do that.
What about blogging and business coaching? Sure, you could hire an A-list blogger to teach you how to get started, but could I help you? Totally! (and at a fraction of the cost). I’ve absorbed tons of information even in the short time I’ve been doing this.
You know more than you think
If you’ve learned even a little beyond what the average person knows on a given topic, then you have wisdom to share. Don’t undervalue yourself.
Beginners often like hearing from the little guy- someone who’s just a few steps ahead of them. This kind of advice can even be more helpful than ‘expert advice’, since it comes from someone who was recently where they are.
One of the best nuggets of advice I ever encountered on this topic comes from Everett Bogue‘s book Minimalist Business. I actually copied this passage into a separate text file when I first read it because I thought it was so brilliant:
Most people spend their entire lives trying to live up to a benchmark that is one step beyond what they’re able to achieve. Don’t live like this. Instead, take the opposite approach.
Tell everyone that you’ve blown your own benchmark out of the water. Create a product around how you got your first true fan, and sell it for $10 for a day. Maybe you’ll sell ten copies, cool!
Then, write a blog post about how your $100 in a day success story came into practice.
The next thing you’ll know, you’ll be having $1000 a day success stories. A story about tiny success is a big story to the people who aren’t successful at all in the area you’re trying to be successful in. The first few steps of success are also one of the least represented areas of interest to most people. We hear every day about how a huge software company built an empire, but we don’t hear about how you sold your first consulting session.
Present every moment of every day as a success story, and you’ll start to see that every moment really is.
(That was a long passage, but I felt like it deserved to be included in full. You can check out the rest of Everett’s wonderful book right here. You should get on it fast though because he’s changing directions with his writing and I’m not sure how much longer his minimalist books will be available.)
If it feels obvious, that’s a good sign
It’s ironic. We so often take for granted those skills that seem effortless to us. We forget that they didn’t always come so easy or that other people may not have the same aptitudes as us. Information you consider to be obvious, isn’t obvious to everyone.
If something seems like a no-brainer (or better yet, is ENJOYABLE) to you, that’s a sign that it’s something you should be sharing with the world.
You’re an expert until someone says otherwise–and they usually don’t
A little secret:
There’s no national guild of experts out there, going around giving out badges to the true experts and exposing the amateurs as fakes.
The fact is that most people are looking for leadership- people who understand their particular problem and can provide them with solutions. If you present yourself with confidence, as someone who knows what you genuinely know (without elevating yourself beyond that), the people who want to learn from you will come forward. The rest will go away.
Ignore the haters. They are not your audience.
There’s someone out there who can hear only you
Okay so that was a cheesy heading… But it’s true!
It doesn’t matter whether the information you’re sharing could be discovered via google searches or in the archives of other blogs. There’s something unique about the way that YOU present it and interact with your people. It’s a quality that can’t be replicated by anyone.
See, what’s important isn’t the number of hours you’ve got under your belt. If your style and personality resonate with someone, you’ll be able to give that person exactly what they’re looking for. And that may be something that even an ‘expert’ can’t provide.
This is why it’s so important to pour your personality into everything that you do. Your uniqueness is your calling card. Feature it.
Have you run up against the ‘who the fuck am I?’ complex in the past? How have you dealt with it?