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Rethinking impostor syndrome and unlocking your hidden potential
Impostor syndrome is not a clue that you're unqualified. It's a sign of hidden potential.
When you think others are overestimating you, it's more likely that you're underestimating yourself.
Others have an outside view. They can see capacity for growth that's not yet visible to you.
Hidden Potential is out today. If you don’t have a copy yet (or have already finished yours, you ratebuster), you can engage with some of the early conversations here…
Listen: My podcast with Malcolm Gladwell
In a rollicking discussion last night, my favorite sparring partner and I took the stage in NYC to explore why we overemphasize innate talent, how I grappled with impostor syndrome and perfectionism, and what it takes to chart a path toward achieving greater things. We also redefine success, discuss the evidence on affirmative action, and riff on topics ranging from humility to psychoanalysis to whether Bills or Lions fans suffer more.
In an excerpt from the book, I examine one of the surprising lessons from the world-class schools in Finland and Estonia. It turns out that students learn more when they have the same teacher again. It holds in the U.S. too: Extended relationships unleash hidden potential.
Watch: the first interviews…
You submitted some amazing questions last week. Here are some initial thoughts:
Does one’s potential have a “shelf-life”? -Inna
Many experts have written about critical periods—windows of potential that close over time. A familiar example is language acquisition. Mastering new languages is known to get harder as we transition into adolescence and adulthood. That’s the bad news. But while researching the book, I discovered some good news about the so-called critical period. It’s not a hardwired feature of our biology— it’s a bug in our education (see chapter 1). Believing that potential has a short shelf life can stand in the way of growth.
Hidden Potential implies that I have character strengths I've yet to develop, but sometimes I am exhausted by the idea that I have to continuously improve myself. How do I reconcile, or even untangle, the desire to improve from my relentless self criticism? -Hannah Dye
Skip to chapter 3. Something I should’ve said, but didn’t: Growth doesn’t always require you to criticize your weaknesses. It often comes from learning to harness your strengths. One of my favorite activities for leaders and students is the Reflected Best Self Exercise. You collect stories about times when you were at your best, and then compose a self-portrait based on the common themes. Researchers find that instead of feeling exhausted, people often discover strengths they didn’t see and come away with new confidence and energy to put them into practice.
What inspired you to write this book? -Clarence
In 1999, I was told I couldn’t write… by the writing experts at Harvard. I finally decided to clap back.
When people believe in you, prove them right. When they doubt you, prove them wrong.
Keep the questions and reactions coming, and I’ll keep chiming in.