The Dirty Little Secret of Adulting and Leadership

Growing up we are told many fairy tales. We are told the tooth fairy left us a dollar, that thunder is Rip Van Winkle bowling (at least if you lived in the Hudson Valley you were told this) and that brown cows make chocolate milk. Eventually we grow up and we learn about the science of thunder and lightening, that all cows make the same milk and our teeth start costing us money instead of making it. However, no matter how old we get some of the myths we were handed seem to hang on.

As children and teens we are told we are not adults yet. We are led to believe that a point in time is going to come when we are going to feel grown up, where we will feel like we have it all together, that we know what we are doing and we will feel like “enough”. Frankly, this is a bunch of crap.

I am 47 years old. I have had careers ranging from leading biomedical research funding by NIH to directing Fortune 500 companies in how to run their businesses. People tell me all the time how intelligent I am, how talented I am, how I have it all together. I have learned to smile, thank them and laugh to myself. I laugh because on the inside I feel no more adult now than I did as a 12 year old being bullied in jr high. I feel old, my body creaks and I want to be in bed by 9pm, but I don’t feel adult. I go into ever meeting I have waiting for the “real adults” to show up and call my bluff. I sit on planes thinking how insane it is someone is paying me to come tell them how to do things better. And here is the biggest secret of all, almost everyone feels the same way! Even those people you look at who seems so confident and even cocky are usually hiding that scared little one inside. We all just “fake it until we make it” and spend a lot of time balancing the hope that no one will call us out on it and hoping someone more adult will come along and take over.

I think the greatest thing I ever did in my life was to be involved in theater in school and then in college. It prepared me better for my professional life than anything I have ever read or studied. It taught me how to step into whatever role was handed to me and to play that role. It has allowed me as an introvert to be able to step in front of 1000’s and speak, it has allowed me as an insecure fat girl to ride my horse into the area at Appaloosa Nationals and it has allowed me look a CEO in the eyes and tell him he was the problem with his company not his employees. It taught me how to quiet the voice inside me that said I couldn’t or shouldn’t and to do.

If you wait until you feel it, until you feel you are good enough or worthy enough life passes you by. Do not measure your readiness to take on a new challenge by the myths of your past or your beliefs about others. Do it. Go for it. Live life. You will find out you are lot more ready than you ever thought and heck if it doesn’t work out, go hide in your blanket fort and figure out what your next adventure is. You’ll find a lot of us in there with you!

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