Are Your Assumptions Holding You Back?

March 25, 2013 |

When you see someone who has already achieved some degree of success – perhaps they’ve written a book, or appeared on stage, or have a highly profitable business – what goes through your mind?

Do you think – Hey, I could do that! Or do you think that person possesses some qualities or abilities that elude you?

I recently attended a week-long personal branding/speaking/media training program co-led by my friend Suzanne Evans and New York Times best-selling author, speaker and frequent Fox commentator Larry Winget.

Scott Pasmore co-anchor of the KTVKs popular television show Good Morning Phoenix was brought in to give us the inside scoop on how to get on the local news shows. I must have taken five pages of notes.

Suddenly I heard my name called. Turns out I and four other attendees were selected to take part in a series of mock television interviews with Scott and Larry.

One was a parenting expert who was asked for her opinion on gun control. Three financial experts were on a panel to discuss various aspects of money. Then it was my turn to take the stage.

What question did they put to me?

“What did I think about the Supreme Court’s recent reversal of an earlier ruling in favor of the SPCAs case that the handling of elephants by Ringling Brothers Circus’s constituted cruelty to animals?”


This would be a great question for an attorney or the owner of an animal-related business. But I’m neither.

I have two areas of expertise. One of course is career change specifically for people who want to be self-employed. The other is the impostor syndrome – an all too common feeling perhaps best explained by Mike Myers’ quip that he’s still waiting for the no-talent police to show up and arrest him.

I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect of, “Well, as a confidence expert what I see are two opposing parties who had the confidence of their convictions to go all the way to the Supreme court…”

Basically I just kept trying to change the conversation from animal cruelty to human self-confidence with lines like…”We can argue the merits of this particular case all day long… but the real issue here is that far too many people feel confident enough to…” You get the idea.

In the end I got a big round of applause. A number of people told me how impressed they were at my ability to keep my cool and think on my feet.

Things Are Not Always As They Appear

What the other participants didn’t know is that all five of us were given advance notice of our respective line of questioning. For me that meant thirty minutes of freak out time trying to wrap my way too tired brain around what to do with a subject that was so out of left-field.

I knew I’d been singled out for this curve ball because Larry and Suzanne thought I could handle it. So while I was flattered, I was by no means confident. If I’d been hit with that circus elephant question cold, my jaw would have been on the floor. And if this had been live television it would have been a disaster.

I want you to know this because too many people never go after their dreams because they make false assumptions. They assume people who are where you want to be are smarter, or more talented, or more confident, or faster on their feet.

So they give up too soon. Or worse, they never even try.

They rarely take into account the countless hours that all successful people invest in their craft in order to make it “look” easy. Or in my case, how those thirty minutes made the difference between rising to the occasion and falling flat on my face.

What assumptions are you making about people who you see as successful or confident? How are these assumptions keeping you from stretching yourself? What if you knew that some of the most successful and talented people on the planet are racked with doubt – but they keep going anyway?