Wynn-ing Ways: Embracing Imposter Syndrome on the Path to Success

What if this could all be solved with a hack?

If you believe there’s a recipe (that some guru sells) that guarantees author success…

That’s a fallacy.

All hacks lose potency as others apply the hack.

Those “marketing secrets” are just knowledge; as that knowledge disseminates, it loses value or, worse, regresses results to the mean.

Now, no one benefits, not even the originator of the knowledge.

We see it time and time again. That is the vicious marketing cycle in all its glory.

While most authors rehash known gambits and look more and more alike, the winners will be the authors who forge a different way forward.

The difference between an imposter and a mimic

This leads me to my subject line—you should feel like an imposter.

If you’re just copying someone else, you’re a mimic, not an imposter.

The mimic always stays within the confines of waters mapped by others.

The map will dictate a mimic’s entire career.

If you’re doing something you’ve never done before, you’ll feel like an imposter.

How is this different from being a mimic?

You’re creating, not copying.

I believe it is perfectly natural to have that impostor syndrome because you’re like Magellan; you have a premise, and you’re figuring it out as you do it.

He went beyond the map.

With the hard stuff, the creative stuff, it’s always that way. Of course, you’re going to question your sanity and the legitimacy of what you’re doing.

It’s dark and scary on the path to success.

Success feels fragile because you understand the risk you took and that most don’t succeed.

You have a level of uncertainty and concern for things not going as planned because you’re not mimicking.

You’re making new things and finding new readers. You feel like an imposter because you’re realizing your goals and creating your future.

Let me be clear, there is a big difference between inspiration and mimicry.

Picasso and Braque painted as Cubists for only six years.

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They created one of the most significant modern art movements and influenced thousands of artists. After the Cubist period, both stopped painting in that style. For Picasso, it was one of many styles he created throughout his life.

Cubism was unique, but Paul Cézanne influenced it.

Picasso and Braque were inspired by Cézanne’s later works in Gertrude Stein’s collection. That inspiration and dozens of other influences (e.g., primitive art, advertising), collaboration, and competition created a new modern art movement.

Taking the ideas from this newsletter and applying them to your business is inspiration.

Copying a newsletter swipe file is mimicry.

Inspiration manifests as something new.

Mimicry is old and commodifies what you copy and paste.

As you read through the remaining articles, keep in mind two critical concepts.

They will help you think through how you create and keep you from failing.

  1. Structure & behavior
  2. Aspirations & capabilities

Structure & behavior

As you build your systems, you’ll decide how to structure your business, not as an LLC or C Corp, but in the methods and practices that define your publishing business.

Build systems that reinforce the behaviors you seek.

The behavior you desire in yourself and the behavior you seek in others. The more the system supports behavior, the easier it will be to scale those behaviors.

This is a simple concept that’s tough to execute.

Let me give you one example. A vital need for your business is the consistent production of product—story. How you establish the structure needs to fit your production style.

Are you a writer who needs a specific amount of time each day with a sequence of writing sprints?

Maybe you are a binge-writer. When the muse comes, you lock yourself in the writing cave and pound out a novel in seven days.

Whatever it is, design the business around that production to support the behavior.

If you’re a binge-writer, don’t try to be a daily writer.

Make sure the business supports your best production methods. Build the business to support the behavior.

Keep in mind goals (future attainment) result from present work. Work repeated over and over, moving towards achievement.

Some behaviors that may not come naturally to you and need to be ingrained can be adopted through structure, getting you to embrace them. By systematizing the acts, you reinforce the behaviors you seek in yourself and your readers.

This will feel unnatural when you start like you’re faking it or an imposter, but that is how it feels when you are being tugged by old behaviors while trying to adopt new ones. Use your business procedures to promote proper behavior.

There is another reason you feel like an imposter. Below your behaviors are your beliefs and identity. The things you hold true and the person you think you are.

We believe these are immutable, and when we have a conflict with them, we have a conflict with ourselves.

As I discussed two articles ago, the more flexible and teachable we are, the more our beliefs can change, but aren’t we who we are?

If that were true, then why even try to become something you’re not already? Deep down, you might think you’re not worthy. If you do this work and get the results, then you are worthy of the value you created. That means having to go back and rethink your identity. There’s that imposter syndrome again.

You are a creator, and you create the identity you want. I’ll go deeper into this and social engineering in the next series. Just understand that parts of your current identity don’t want to give way to your new identity of being a successful writer, resulting in you feeling fake or like an imposter.

Aspirations & capabilities

This is one of the biggest killers.

You may aspire to become a millionaire author, but you may not be capable of doing so.

The gurus and experts won’t tell you this because of the lucrative market that would become endangered by scaring aspiring authors. They sell easy magic spells, not rituals.

Here’s the conundrum:

It’s difficult and never was supposed to be easy.

There is no map when you sail past the edges of the map.

That means you have to develop the capabilities to meet your aspirations.

Learn while doing

Doing hard stuff or things you’ve never done requires you to figure it out as you go along.

This isn’t a bad thing.

It’s what most of life is—figuring it out as we go along. What I offer you is how to build a continuous scaling process, not just learn some hack that’s destined not to work in the future.

In the author risk model, I showed you that time is on your side. The longer you can play them in the tournament, the better your chances of becoming a world-class champion.

To become a world champion, you’ll need to play in multiple tournaments.

Your career is made up of numerous book launches.

You may say you want to write full-time, but that requires full-time writing, not just writing a book or two and then sitting back and collecting checks.

This is the difference between pros and amateurs.

All the authors I know who make a million dollars a year are dedicated to the hard slog of writing books. They constantly push to get better and better in all aspects of the game.

Let me illuminate this in the world of sports…

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Michael Jordan’s field goal percentage was 49.7% and LeBron James’ is 50.4%.

Two legendary players miss half the shots they take.

The league average is 40%. That means most elite basketball players miss 60% of the shots on goal.

Superstars are 24% better but still miss half of their attempts.

But that’s not what we remember.

We see a career of making shots that count. We forget about all the ones that we missed.

We ignore the years of getting capabilities to match aspirations.

While Jordan and James are naturally talented, what makes them great is their continued work to improve game after game, season after season.

Now, if we look at LeBron, he is a case of talent. Few players get to be a number one draft pick coming out of high school. He was a natural talent.

However, he didn’t win a championship until 2012.

That’s nine years later.

Time was needed for his capabilities to meet up with his aspirations of winning an NBA championship.

On the flip side, we can become overconfident and learn the hard way that our capabilities don’t meet our aspirations.

Napoleon was a strategic genius and had beaten larger armies. Yet his aspirations were bigger than his capabilities when it came to the Russian campaign.

This means striking a balance between learning while doing and not going beyond your capabilities.

When learning by doing, you create capabilities. Like LeBron, it just took time playing at the professional level to develop capabilities he didn’t have as a young, talented player.

He was learning by doing and developing the capabilities to achieve his goals.

Embracing imposter syndrome

Let’s take what we’ve learned and build an author business system focused on the right things.

I’ve shared my ideas that customer delight and investor needs trump everything else.

A new way I’ve been thinking about the concept is through funds and fans—we need to build a system that creates funds and fans.

Here is the challenge: put aside everything you know about publishing.

How would you build an anti-fragile, sustainable publishing company that produces funds and fans today?

Think about how I would do it or your favorite author. There is your inspiration.

Of course, you’re going to feel like an imposter. That’s because your current you needs to gain the capabilities to become the you of the future.

What systems and structures must be in place to ensure that your publishing business has the capabilities it needs in the future?

This is a mindset shift—you must embrace the feelings that lead to you feeling like an imposter.

Yes, you’re doing someone you’ve never done before.

Yes, you may lack all the abilities you need to meet your goal.

Yes, there will be many unseen obstacles.

Of course, there is uncertainty in the outcome.

And that is how it should be, not because you’re an imposter but because you’re creating a future for yourself beyond what you have today or are capable of now.

You’re going beyond the edges of the map. Beyond mimicry.

By working on yourself and your publishing business, you can improve both, and your vision will manifest in reality.

Even after succeeding, you may still feel like an imposter, but you certainly won’t be a mimic.

Read: Decide on a Purpose-Driven System to Gain a Competitive Edge