Dealing With Doubt

What did you do on Boxing Day? In between cuddling babies, kissing old aunties and eating my own weight in dead animal, I managed to watch a bit of cricket.

Stick with me, this isn’t a blog about cricket! You don’t need to be a fan to get something useful from the next 90 seconds of reading. I promise. But I do need to give you a bit of cricket as background information.

The Boxing Day Test is an Australian institution. Like FA Cup Final day or the Grand National in England. And it doesn’t get any bigger than when England come to town to play for the Ashes.

Australia had already won the series, but that doesn’t detract from the occasion. Almost 90,000 people crammed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to watch the action. For the most part, it was pretty dull (shock! horror! scream all you non cricket fans) but there was a really interesting interview after day three.

Cook-ing Up A Storm

Former England captain, Alastair Cook, scored 243 runs at the MCG to nudge England in front in the fourth Test.  Cook celebrated his birthday, 33, on Christmas Day and, amazingly, being written off by many people as not good enough for Test cricket anymore.

Can you imagine being told you’re finished at 33? I wasn’t even getting started by that point!

 

Embed from Getty Images

(Side note: Photo credit is for Getty Images. No, I’m not made of money. They make a huge number of photos available royalty free for embedding into posts just like this.)

To give Cook’s score a bit of context, thanks to ESPN Cricinfo, it’s the highest by any Englishman at the MCG. He’s only the third visiting batsman in history to score two or more double hundreds (the others were Wally Hammond and Brian Lara, who cricket badgers will know were serious players) and he’s now scored more runs as an opening batsman than anyone else in history. And, finally, if he keeps playing for a few more years, he may well finish with more runs than anyone in the history of the game.

To summarise those stats into a few words, Cook is one hell of a player.

The Interview

Now, enough cricket, to the interview. While discussing the “experts” who thought he was done and should retire, Cook was asked if he ever doubted his ability. His response:

“I’ve doubted myself for 12 years and I’ll probably continue to doubt myself”

Later he returned to the same theme.

“Those doubts are always there and they’ve been beating me up for four or five weeks. But I know I’ve done it before.”

Cook’s record shows him to be one of the best to have ever played the game. Yet he worries about his place in the team like everyone else.

Cook captained the England side to success rarely seen before. Yet every day he doubts himself.

Cook had just played one of his greatest innings, dragging some pride back for England on a disastrous tour. Yet there he was, discussing how fallible he feels.

Imposter Syndrome

Some people refer to this as imposter syndrome. I’m not an expert, so won’t necessarily give it that title.

But I do know that worrying about our performance is something that affects a lot of people I meet. I’ve spoken to leading experts in their field, sportsmen who have reached the very top, mentors who have helped guide my career and heroes of mine with impeccable track records and they all admit they’re waiting to be caught out as a fraud.

It gets me too. I get a strange feeling when proof reading tender submissions, under the Experience section. I’ll often look at it and wonder who the person is that I’ve written about. That can’t be me! I’m just bluffing my way through, right?

I’m reassured by online research that these feelings are just a normal part of not being a psychopath!

Handled correctly, these nagging doubts are nothing to worry about. They’re just the mind’s way of keeping us in check. The doubt forces us to put 100% in to every project, making sure that we do as much as possible to impress and keep moving forward.

But when these feelings of self-doubt start to take over they can be crippling. They become a reason not to do anything instead of a reason to do something. We become frightened about what other people might think or worry about a critical reaction to something we’ve put out heart and soul into (I’m experiencing it right now before pressing publish on this post – I added this right at the end of the final final final proof before hitting publish!)

Struggling To Succeed

Dealing with these doubts is tough. I know it is. And I don’t have a simple answer to deal with it. With anything that’s worth doing, it requires a bit of effort and dedication.

But it is entirely within your control.

For me, I handle it by reminding myself of some of the great things I’ve done before. Or look at the nice feedback I get from clients. Is that self-congratulatory? Possibly. Probably. Definitely. But it gets my mindset back into gear that I can do what I’m setting out to do.

I also watch, read and listen to smart people who talk about managing the mind. Now, lots of this stuff gets a bit heavy and hard to understand.

As a starting point, I’d like to give a shout out to Stephen Timoney, who posts videos under the title of Struggling to Succeed. In the video below, Steve talks about those WTF moments when he started his YouTube channel and how he dealt with them.

Steve is a friend of mine originally from Bangor, NI, but has lived in Canada just long enough to develop a truly horrific accent. If you can avoid chopping your ears off while listening to him, his videos are 5 to 10 minutes long and cover a range of mindfulness subjects.

He’s a big fan of stoicism, and takes what can be a weighty subject, breaks it down into small chunks and adds some personal insight into how it’s helped him overcome challenges in his life. What I like about Steve’s channel is that he regularly refers to the books he’s read or where his inspiration comes from. He’s not taking all the credit himself and makes it easy for you to go down the rabbit hole and find out more.

There are many others out there too. Just find someone you like and dive into it. I’m probably the only person in the business universe who hadn’t heard of Tim Ferriss until Steve started talking about in his videos. I’m now a fan of Tim’s video content, but still haven’t read any of his books.

One word of warning… be critical. Some people are peddling cures to problems you don’t have in this industry. I’ve stumbled across more than one snake oil salesmen. Check out sources they quote, go back to the original if you can, listen to some opposing views.  Do your research.

To be honest, that’s good advice for anyone who describes themselves as an expert in any industry.

I’ve had a few debates with Steve about some of the stuff he’s said in videos, about his love for Gary Vee and, mainly, his accent. Anyone who is any good will always take the time to reply, discuss and debate with you – especially if you’re not rude.

You Are Not Alone

When one of the greatest cricketers England has ever produced, one of the world’s best ever, has doubts about how good he is, you know you’re not alone.

My next challenge is writing my next post about marketing and not mindfulness! What’s yours?

Take a deep breath.

Remind yourself how amazing you are.

I know that feels very, very strange to most people. So do it again.

Then crack on destroying whatever you have in front of you.

You can do it.

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