“And the beat goes on.........................”
In Over Your Head?
There is a classic episode of the old Tonight Show, when Johnny Carson was the host. The guests on this particular evening were Bob Hope, Dean Martin and comedian George Gobel. For those too young to remember, these were big stars of the times. Bob Hope alone was a hard act to follow. That night Dean Martin was in great form with his drunk act, and the two of them together had the audience is stitches. It was one of the better shows. Then at the very end, George Gobel had to come out and follow that.
After telling Johnny his show would have been “nothing” without him coming on, he quipped to Carson: “You ever feel that the whole world is a tuxedo......... and you are pair of old brown shoes.” The audience, Hope, Martin and Carson roared.
You ever feel that way? That everybody else in the room is smart, and you are in over your head? That everybody else is thinking on a deeper level than you, and that you’re just winging it, shooting from the hip, faking it? You ever have the nagging doubt that like the Emperor with no clothes, you are going to found out as a fraud?
You get the feeling sometimes that everybody else is at the top of their game, and that, at best, your career trajectory is flat lined? Do you conclude sometimes that you really don’t know what you are talking about; that you are just b.s.ing like on some exam for which you didn’t study and wouldn’t have understood the material even if you had? Are you sometimes hesitant to even offer an opinion least you give proof to the suspicion that you really are clueless? You wonder just what you are doing, and that maybe this was all a big mistake? Over time, you are convinced you don't stand head and shoulders along side everyone else, and that eats away at your confidence.
Feelings of inadequacy aren’t uncommon. The notion that we don’t measure up; that other people can see nuances to complex subjects that escape us; that we are simply not operating on the same level as those around us creep into our psyches and at best depress us, and at worst paralyze us - leaving us with the inescapable conclusion that it’s hopeless.
I want to share a secret with you. We all have what Mick Jagger sang in "Sympathy for the Devil" - “Our moments of doubt and pain.” Everyone suspects that they are out of sync, pale comparisons to the best and the brightest, simply not in the same league as everyone else. Everyone - even those you think have all the answers - wonder sometimes if they just don’t have what it takes; that there is something dreadfully wrong with them; that they are the one that doesn’t belong; doesn’t “get it”, are bluffing half the time. Everyone is plagued, from time to time, with self-doubt. Everyone’s confidence wanes at some point - at least everyone who understands that learning and knowledge, let alone mastery, is a process. Artists deal with self-doubt all the time. It comes with the territory. Lasting art and transformational big ideas and thinking comes from wrestling with the self-doubt, and overcoming the nagging fears. Don't despair.
Many, if not most of us, feel we do know what we are talking about; that we do have command of the issues and their implications and ramifications - most of the time anyway. We may not think we are necessarily the sharpest knife in the whole drawer, but we certainly have opinions and aren't uncomfortable in staking out positions. But even then I think it not unusual for us to seriously question whether we know as much as we think we do, and wonder once in awhile if we aren’t faking it. And maybe sometimes we are. So what?
Of course, there are a few within our midst who probably do stand a little taller than the rest of us; those who more fully understand things, have keener intellects, and are better analysts and more persuasive communicators. But there are more pretenders to that throne than not; there really aren’t all that many of those giants. And invariably, they don’t think of themselves that way. And yes, even they have their moments of reservation.
For the most part, those who you imagine never doubt themselves, never question whether they know exactly what they are talking about, never hesitate to chime in with the right answer at the right time - those people have feet of clay too. And they really aren’t all that smart - not as smart as you might imagine. Trust me - they aren’t. We deal mostly in areas that don’t have hard and fast right answers. Throwing around buzz words, huffing and puffing about some theory, quoting lots of statistics, and opining as though one’s words are the gospel doesn’t necessarily mean someone knows what they are talking about. Strong opinions are only that - opinions. Sometimes they may be right; sometimes not. Those few who think they are smarter than everyone else, and whose egos have convinced them that they stand above the rest of us - with all the answers - are the ones who are really faking it. Feel sorry for them, not yourself. You’re smarter than you think. Don’t confuse and link the intimidation of a pseudo intellect with superiority.
It is precisely your self doubts that keep you real - that push you to be better; that keep you human -- and it is your humanity that gives you invaluable insight and perspective. It is that you are not perfect and that you question yourself that allows you to grow, to improve. Do not despair that you sometimes feel defeated and overwhelmed. It’s all part of the cycle. Time and experience will help you understand that there is an evolution to your thinking. There is always someone smarter than us out there, always someone at the gym who is in better shape, always someone quicker to give voice to what we were thinking all along. But each of them have areas in which they feel weak too.
It’s like a golf game. You really aren’t playing against any of the other players - you are playing against the course itself. Every course is different, every day. You are only in competition with yourself.
Bob Dylan sang in the song: "To Ramona":
“No one can beat you,
No one can defeat you,
Except the thoughts of yourself feeling bad.”
Have a good week, ok?