1.5 million podcast downloads represent a tremendous success, but did you know I almost quit my show before releasing the first episode?

You read that right.

I almost quit the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast before I ever hit publish on the first episode.

I had recorded about twelve episodes before launching.

That way I had a 2–3 month runway of content and would never fall behind as long as I kept recording.

So there I was, exporting audio files to edit and to my horror, I was missing two audio files from interviews I recorded with two BIG NAMES in my industry.

One was the principal of the #1 high school in Illinois.

The other was an expert in diversity, equity, and inclusion space.

It didn’t matter where I looked.

The podcast episodes were gone.

They weren’t on my hard drive. They weren’t in the cloud. They weren’t anywhere.

I felt so embarrassed.

I wrote an email to both of my guests explaining that I lost the audio files and asking if they would record with me again.

Both said “No.”

I was now experiencing what Brené Brown calls a shame spiral.

Instead of feeling guilty that I made a mistake, I experienced shame instead and thought, “I am a mistake.”

Feeling like a loser, I almost quit the podcast before I ever launched.

I wonder how my life would have turned out if I decided to play small that day?

I wish I could tell you that I remember how I pulled myself out of that shame spiral, nearly quitting the podcast. The truth is, I don’t remember.

But after shipping hundreds of podcast episodes and never missing a week in six years, I have built an incredibly loyal audience I call “Ruckus Makers.”

Together we have made the show a success.

The Better Leaders Better Schools podcast has been downloaded 1.5 million times and counting.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about defeating what many call “The Imposter Syndrome.” I’d like to share those lessons today.

  • The BAD news is that the imposter syndrome never really goes away.
  • The GOOD news is that you are not alone, everyone experiences it.
  • The GREAT news is that you can defeat it.

It’s easier to quit than to show up every day and do the work. Do the work anyway.

The professional knows that Resistance is like a telemarketer; if you so much as say hello, you’re finished. The pro doesn’t even pick up the phone. He stays at work.

-Steven Pressfield

A lot of people think confidence comes first and then you hit publish.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Confidence comes from shipping.

Day after day.

No matter how you feel.

The first things you ship might be garbage. Ship anyway.

Eventually, you get better. You find your voice. You find your community (or they find you).

The Resistance and quitting is really a selfish act.

It’s based on how YOU, as the creator, feels in the moment.

Despite what your mother told you, the world doesn’t revolve around you.

Shift your focus from yourself and to those that serve.

Focus on creating value.

Focus on service.

And before you know it, you are one confident mofo.

Take the pressure off yourself by embracing a life-long pursuit of amateurism.

Because they have little to lose, amateurs are willing to try anything and share the results. They take chances, experiment, and follow their whims.

-Austin Kleon

I LOVE this idea by Austin Kleon.

It’s like embracing childlike curiosity.

We all know what can be the most annoying part of having kids around.

They ask why. And they ask why. And they ask why.

Kids also aren’t jaded like adults. A lifetime of social missteps, embarrassing moments, and failures allow them to do and say anything! What a gift.

An amateur takes risks.

She isn’t so invested in a certain “way of doing things” that she can’t see that there is a better way . . .

The amateur feels little pressure because tradition has yet to form. Everything is new. Everything is an adventure.

The amateur leaps and defeats the imposter because she has nothing to lose.

Success is scarier than failure. Success is also sweeter and a goal worth pursuing.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?

-Marianne Williamson

These days I hold failure in high regard.

Failure is my teacher.

It helps me get better and I learn from each mistake.

Failure doesn’t scare me anymore. The bigger fear I have is success.

What if I actually accomplish what I’ve set out to do?

I’m not sure about you, but I dream incredibly BIG dreams. The funny thing is that many come true.

And each time I “level up” I need to grow who I am as an individual.

That can be terrifying.

I ask myself, “Who do I need to become in order to reach these dreams?”

Dan Sullivan teaches an important idea relevant to goals and success.

He calls it “The Gap and the Gain.”

Often I feel discouraged because I am measuring my current self against my ideal future self. A gap exists. I feel like a loser.

This is the wrong focus.

Instead of looking forward, Dan encourages us to look backward.

Look at how far you’ve come.

Look at all you’ve accomplished.

When you look back and take stock of your success, this is the gain.

This is the perspective that serves you. Motivates you. Cultivates your confidence. Keeps you going.

And best of all, the imposter has nothing to say.

No one can argue with the results that you’ve created. Not even the imposter.

Ready to Level Up?

I just released my latest book with Corwin and the School Superintendent’s Association (AASA).

Mastermind: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader is a book that is changing the landscape of how school leaders are experiencing professional development.

If you are an educator, especially a school leader, I invite you to buy my book.

If you are not an educator, I invite you to gift my book to your local school leader. They could use your encouragement!

Host of the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast with over one million downloads 🚀