Do you feel like an imposter sometimes?
#55 | Lessons from a farmer turned President about imposter syndrome
[00:00:00] I want to tell you a story about a farmer. Let's go back to the early 1900s when we're in Missouri, and a young man works on his family farm. This is the kind of farm where you take care of your crops and livestock, and you eat what you grow. You eke out a living and a life, and he's ambitious.
[00:00:24] One of the things he wants to do is go to the military academy. He applies to West Point and doesn't get in, even though he's really smart. He has bad eyesight and wears glasses. Life puts him where he needs to be, and he ends up in France in the military as a captain of an artillery regiment.
[00:00:46] He's a leader and leads admirably. He comes home, maybe not a hero, but definitely revered for what he did and by the men he did it with. He enters a new chapter of his life and opens up a store, a haberdashery that sells ties, shirts, and things like that.
[00:01:05] Unfortunately, after a few years, it's going dismally. So bad, in fact, he ends up declaring bankruptcy. This doesn't stop him. He keeps moving through life and eventually gets into politics. Some wins, a loss or two, and he finds himself in the Senate. This is a humble farmer in the middle of it all, and honestly, most of the world looks down on him. They don't understand why he is there.
[00:01:35] He's not as sophisticated as the rest.
[00:01:38] He makes a name for himself by looking at the spending during World War II and creating a committee that worked to ensure that theft wasn't occurring.
[00:01:51] Eventually, FDR would be running for his final term. Back then, the choice of a vice-presidential candidate was very different.
[00:02:02] FDR just needed someone safe, and he tapped this man. Of course, by now, maybe you recognize I'm talking about President Harry Truman.
[00:02:12] President Truman would become president shortly after the start of FDR's last term. FDR passed away, and then Truman was thrust onto the world stage, both figuratively and literally.
[00:02:26] The stage that he ended up sitting on was at Potsdam, where he was sitting around a table with the likes of Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin.
[00:02:37] I can't imagine what was going through Harry's head at that time. He had no foreign policy experience. He was not a diplomat, and honestly, I know that both of those men were looking down on him.
[00:02:51] After all, he was taking the place of a man they had worked very closely with FDR.
[00:02:58] I get asked a lot, what do you think about imposter syndrome? My opinion on it has changed over time, and maybe it's because I've changed. On one side, we have imposter syndrome. This is, I'm not good enough. I'm not supposed to be here. This is a mistake.
[00:03:18] On the other side, we have arrogance. No one is better than me. I should be here, and no one can teach me anything. I'm the best.
[00:03:28] Somewhere in the middle is confident humility.
[00:03:33] This is what I think President Truman represented specifically at that moment. He was sitting with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, and they were trying to work their way out of what was just a catastrophic scenario.
[00:03:49] How do we bring Europe back to something that's productive? At the same time, he was faced with a war still happening in the Pacific and with an incredible decision now that nuclear weapons had been created. He had to decide, do I drop an atomic bomb on Japan and try to end the war?
[00:04:12] You know the answer to that question, and that wasn't the only decision that he was faced with over the next several years that he was president.
[00:04:21] He wasn't perfect, and he made a lot of incredible decisions, a lot of them around people, some very, very poor decisions, some of them emotional, but at the end of the day, he was a farmer that became president and navigated everything in between.
[00:04:38] And what he never lost sight of was that he was just a man trying to do the best that he could, and that's what he did every single day.
[00:04:47] And I think it started on that day when he was sitting there with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin completely outmatched. He just showed up. He did the work, and he did it with confident humility. And that's all any of us can do, no matter where you find yourself. And no matter what questions you're throwing at yourself or how far to the side of imposter syndrome you are moving, just show up and do the work.
[00:05:13] No one's ever ready. You just end up where you're at, and you gotta do it. You're not alone. Confident humility. Good lesson, President Truman. Good lesson. Hope you're good. Take care. Bye.