“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.
Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
When an individual creates something new, shares their story, advocates for change, or participates in putting words, ideas, or businesses out into the world, more often than not there is an unseen first step – they have had to learn to get out of their own way.
For the last 48 hours, I’ve been in the company of 150 of the brightest young minds in Australia at Junket 2017. The delegates were artists, scientists, and activists. They were campaigners, entrepreneurs, performers, and educators. They were marketers, researchers, and writers. They were talented and accomplished experts and change-makers.
Yet, despite being hand-selected to attend and named as Australia's ‘best and brightest’ – or perhaps in consequence of such a title – there was a shared whisper amongst many Junket attendees, “I feel like I don’t belong here.”
It's a striking experience to be filled with awe by someone’s ideas, actions or impact on the world, and simultaneously feel comforted to hear they have their own insecurities, just like you.
In this way, Junket was a rare peep behind the highlight reel and a look at the complexities and insecurities facing a diversity of young people today. They, too, feel like an imposter at an un-conference for the ‘best and brightest’. They, too, feel like they have made mistakes and slips in their work and daily life. They, too, feel like they’re not doing enough. They, too, lie awake at night worrying about that embarrassing conversation they once had with a stranger seven months ago.
How then, with the similar experience of feeling like an imposter, a fraud, a fool, have these incredible individuals managed to get out of their own way – even for a moment – to go on to do great things?
Our insecurities, our failures, our fears, our perceived shortcomings, our disadvantages and privileges can seep into a myriad of interactions in our daily lives. But what I learned most profoundly when listening to various discussions at Junket was that they can also be overcome.
Be it for a second long enough to introduce yourself to a stranger at a conference; be it for days or weeks to create art; or be it for the months and years required to sustain a career, a business, a project, a campaign or a push for an issue of social justice, people are capable of changing and embracing ourselves long enough to do what we set out to – even when we don't know what we are doing.
There was so much discussed at Junket, and it would be an impossible undertaking to capture the nuance and complexity of many of the discussions. But if there was one personal takeaway, it’s that individual growth makes way for positive growth in relationships, workplaces, communities, and the country.
If we can learn to get out of our own way and use our own perceived weaknesses as strengths, we can have a positive impact on the people, places, and community around us. Here are just a few thoughts from various conversations at Junket on how anyone can take small steps to get out of their own way.
Notes on how to get out of your own way from the ‘best and brightest’
+ Feeling as if you’re faking it is an okay state to be in – it often means you can be open, you can listen, you can learn.
+ There is strength in vulnerability – but that doesn’t mean you have to be demonstrating either all the time.
+ You don’t always have to be “on” – it’s okay to tap out.
+ People are more complex than their public persona, their work, their achievements, as well as their mistakes and shortcomings – try to remember that in yourself too.
+ Try to understand the difference between an experience and identity, and the interrelation between the two.
+ Don’t be afraid of saying "I don’t know.”
+ Learn to ask for help.
+ Sometimes you just need more time to do the thing.
+ Pick your battles.
+ Don’t beat yourself up for doing what you need to do to take care of yourself – be it leaving a party early, putting away your phone, setting boundaries – that’s the true meaning of self-care, not expensive luxuries.
+ Forgive yourself when you make a slip or a mistake – "chalk it up, don’t beat yourself up."
+ You can be high achieving, and still have times when you struggle.
+ Consider the standard you’re setting for other people by being hard on yourself.
+ Follow through on ideas, even the ones you think are stupid. It could be your jafflechute.
+ Learn to prioritise what is serving you, and see what you can do to change what isn’t.
+ Don’t mistake growth, change or the expiration of an idea as failure.
+ Farm out the things you aren’t good at, but know there will always be less enjoyable aspects of your work.
+ Champion the process over the outcome.
+ Negativity can be contagious, but small acts of kindness can cut through.
+ Remember everyone cries at work.
+ Ask more questions.
+ Shaming others and ourselves isn’t helpful.
+ To get out of your head or the current moment of fear, remember that we are all going to die. What do you want to do with the days you have?
Many thanks to the great minds at Junket 2017 who offered their ideas, thoughts, and insights.