The fable of extraordinary people

How the stories we believe make us feel inadequate.

Photo by TK Hammonds on Unsplash

I could feel my heart sink when they turned to me and asked me for advice. We had a call to make and my opinion mattered. That should be a good thing, right? Then why did I initially panic when they turned to me?

When you’ve been working for a while, the experience you’ve been building will become valuable. Depending on the environment, it will come sooner or later. If you are part of a great team, it will come sooner. That makes sense, right? Then why did I feel out of place?

Contrast that with when things go wrong. When countermeasures had to be found. When mistakes had to be corrected. Why do those seem more natural to deal with? Why am I able to take those in my stride?

Why am I prepared for the worst but unprepared for anything good to happen?

Think about the stories we read and the movies we watch. They train us to think that work gets done through the extraordinary effort of one person. One hero. Someone who stands above the fray. Someone phenomenal. Someone destined for greatness. They underplay the importance of a team, of people, of a common collective. This way of thinking only feeds into impostor’s syndrome. We often feel like we don’t qualify because we expect too much from ourselves. Unless we feel like we pulled an Ethan Hunt, we don’t appreciate what we’ve done.

Photo by Austris Augusts on Unsplash

When you have a functional team, the most sensible collective direction is what will prevail. So don’t feel out of place when you start your first job or any job. Don’t feel out of place to contribute towards solving hard problems.

So don’t feel out of place. Take a deep breath. Rely on the sum of your learnings. And speak confidently.

You will start to see that great results don’t arise from people who are born to be extraordinary. Rather, they come from people who are willing to show up day in and day out. Those who show up and be diligent. Those who show up and choose to be fully engaged. Those who choose to be intentional about their work habits. Those who are extraordinary not because they are the main character in a script. They are extraordinary because of their effort to combine years of knowledge with a positive outlook.

Yes, it’s normal for people to seem destined for extraordinary feats. But often, you miss that they are human, just like you are. And there are many times when they can teach you how to seem extraordinary if you are willing to learn.

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Limichilwe Simwanza

Limichilwe Simwanza

Developer. Dabbler in design, writing, and all things creative.