"Jumping into a crypto startup should have crippled me, yet it did the opposite. It started to help me get over my imposter syndrome.
You’re not smart enough.
You’ve somehow fooled them into thinking you’re better than you are.
They only promoted you because they like you, not because they think you’re the best for this job.
Who are you to think you can do this when there’s so many other smarter, more successful people than you?
These were the types of thoughts that always flowed through my mind whenever new challenges and opportunities presented themselves. Though interested, I would hold myself back from even trying — whether it was a technical course, a new job, a volunteer opportunity or even attending an event. I would beat myself down with my doubts and insecurities until I convinced myself that it was better not to try than to risk rejection or failure.
All this to say that jumping into a crypto startup should have crippled me, yet it did the opposite. It started to help me get over my imposter syndrome.
It was late 2017, at the height of the crypto craze and Bitcoin was worth $20K USD. A friend of mine was investing all his money into Bitcoin and he was a crypto millionaire on paper. My co-founder and I were helping him buy Bitcoin, shaking our heads at his audacity while being secretly jealous that we weren’t crypto millionaires. Then in January of 2018, the price of Bitcoin came crashing down. We were relieved that we hadn’t been as bold, but we also felt somewhat personally responsible for our friend’s riches to rags story.
My co-founder decided that we should do something to help people learn about crypto and crypto trading without the risk of having to sell a kidney to cover their losses. He had a background in gaming having worked at Electronic Arts, and wanted to build a fun simulation game that would make it realistic enough to replicate the real trading markets while still being interesting and fun. Thus, Altcoin Fantasy was born.
Feeling Like a Bull in a China Shop
As any startup founder can relate to, when you launch your first startup, you’re blindly running around, hoping that you don’t bring everything crashing down. Everything is a new muscle — hiring, sales, accounting, financial statements, fundraising, marketing. As a new founder, you now not only have to do that thing that you have no experience in, but you have to excel at it in order to make your company a success. The downside? It can feel like you’re constantly failing. The upside? Getting over your fear of failure really fast because it slaps you in the face over and over until you either adapt or stop being a founder.
Having been in the startup trenches for a year and a half in a crypto bear market, I’ve had to get over my imposter syndrome, fast. While it will probably never go away completely, I’ve learned how to deal with it whenever it rears its nasty head.
How To Get Over Imposter Syndrome:
- In the words of Nike, just do it.
- Confidence comes after success, not before.
- The “unattainable” or “unachievable” thing is easier than you think.
- If you don’t try, you default fail. Success favors the persistent.
- Act like a VIP.
Just Do It
I used to think that once I felt confident enough, I would eventually get around to doing “X.” It didn’t matter what “X” was, but I felt like I needed to attain a certain level of confidence first before I could even try. What I’ve realized is that there is no perfect time and no perfect moment to get it done. If you wait until you feel ready, that moment will never come.
The first time you do something, it may feel scary or uncomfortable but just lean into it and eventually you won’t even notice the discomfort anymore. Whenever I get that feeling of discomfort now, I know it’s a sign to lean in and keep doing it because it’s complacency that’s making me pull back.
Confidence Comes After Success, Not Before
I used to think that people were born confident and that was what enabled them to take chances and put themselves out there. But you gain confidence after accomplishing things and proving that you can do something. Confidence before success is just arrogance. The more you succeed, the more confident you become in your own abilities. You’ll start taking more chances, which in turn leads to more success.
The “Unattainable” or “Unachievable” Thing Is Easier Than You Think
Tim Ferris says this best
; bigger goals equal less competition, and doing the unrealistic is easier than doing the realistic. Most people strive for attainable, realistic goals. Sounds reasonable and logical in practice right? Yet, because everyone’s going after similar “realistic” goals, the more ambitious things in life have the least amount of people going after it.
To give you a personal example, I decided I wanted to publish articles on blockchain and crypto despite having no technical background because we needed to establish ourselves as a trusted authority in the space. I have been able to publish every single article I’ve ever written and also had a chance to publish some of my articles on CoinMarketCap, the largest crypto site online. The old me would have scoffed at myself for even daring to dream about it. The new me realized there was nothing to lose in trying.
If You Don’t Try, You Default Fail. Success Favors The Persistent
I used to be so afraid of failure. Looking back, I liken this to being terrified of my mom’s anger and disapproval when I was a child. It seems silly in hindsight because I wasn’t quite sure what exactly I was afraid of (although fellow children of Asian tiger moms will probably relate with me on this). You read the motivational phrases like “you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” but you don’t internalize and take it to heart until you start taking those chances.
When I first started Altcoin Fantasy, I hated following up with people. It was like I was afraid of their disapproval coming through the network packets. But did you know that it takes at least five follow-ups to close 80 percent of sales? Once I realized that I literally had nothing to lose by emailing people to follow up, I started doing it more and it built up my tolerance for rejection.
Act like a VIP
This is one that I still struggle with sometimes, but I’ve come a long way from where I started. A lot of the times, it’s just acting like you belong. Fake it until you make it, as they say. Act like the role that you want to become and eventually it will happen.
I recently attended a VIP dinner with CEOs and founders of huge companies. I felt extremely out of place. But I sucked it up and didn’t let my discomfort show. When you act the part, no one questions you or your abilities. But when you flounder or you don’t own your presence, then that’s when others start to doubt you. It’s important to note that this is not about fake bravado. As a startup founder, especially one with any modicum of success, you’re probably smart and talented. Own your succes rather than doubt how you got there.
These were the biggest ways I was able to (mostly) get over my imposter syndrome. At the end of the day, I can pare it down to one piece of advice — just go out there and do it, especially if you don’t feel ready.