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How to Not be a Phony

How to Not be a Phony
    Big Phony from iamkoream

    Do you feel fake? Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Someone that has convinced everyone around you that you are not what you truly are?

    In a recent article by one of my favorite podcasters and developers, Scott Hanselman, the idea of being a phony was discussed. What Hanselman discusses is how people that have a lot to learn, particularly those in IT related fields, end up feeling like they know very little.

    In fact, people can internalize these feelings and think that they know nothing compared to other coworkers or others in their field. These people end up feeling like fakes and that one day they will see that dreaded pink slip because someone has “figured them out”.

    I can relate to this.

    Being a programmer and writer I feel I can never learn enough and I’m always behind. But, instead of feeling like a failure I decided to sit down and come up with some ideas that can help me through these false feelings. If you are feeling like a phony, consider the points below:

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    Take a skills inventory

    One of the best ways to figure out exactly what you’re capable of is to take out a piece of paper (or a text editor for you nerds out there ;) ) and write down everything that you can do. Whether it be writing, drawing, being a visionary, understanding difficult mathematics, anything really; get it all down.

    After you’ve written everything, add four columns to the right of your list. At the top of these write “beginner”, “intermediate”, “advanced”, and “expert”. Go down your list of skills and mark which skill is at which skill level.

    Having a skills inventory is one of the best ways to realize who you really are and who you really aren’t. With this you can get a more realistic idea of what you need to learn and concentrate on as well as what you are good at.

    Beat down negative thoughts

    Regardless of having a skills inventory, negative thoughts and emotions are still going to be in your head on a daily basis. With you skills inventory though, you will be able to see which ones are legitimate and which ones are garbage.

    Beat down the garbage.

    There’s nothing special and magical to this. You just need to know that these are negative thoughts, that they happen to everyone, and that you can overcome them.

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    What we focus on, we empower and enlarge. Good multiplies when focused upon. Negativity multiplies when focused upon. The choice is ours: Which do we want more of?
    – Julia Cameron

    Honor the true ones

    Not all negative thoughts are garbage. In fact some of them are the issues that you have to deal with the most.

    After taking a skills inventory and listing out some of the negative thoughts you have on a daily basis, try to compare those thoughts to the inventory. See some sort of pattern? Are some negative thoughts related to how bad you are at something you want to be good at?

    If so, then these are the exact issues that you must overcome to feel less “phony-like”.

    Jack of all trades, master of one

    I remember talking to one of my favorite professors while still in college. I told him that I was understanding that being in the IT field was complicated and that I could never stop learning to make it. I told him that I felt like I had to be a jack of all trades and master of none. He said,

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    “Yeah, sort of. More like a jack of all trades and a master of one.”

    Take out your skills inventory again and see where you exel. If the things that you excel at are the things and activities that you truly enjoy then it looks like you are in good shape.

    Mastering a smaller set of skills (a niche as you “serial entreprenuers” call it) while understanding a wider set is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success.

    There’s nothing better than being good at what you love to do.

    Rise up to the challenge

    Now that you have a more honest outlook on your skill set, what you’re good at what you are terrible at, it’s now time to rise to a challenge.

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    The only time most humans grow when they are challenged. If you want to get better at what you love to do you have to constantly and willingly challenge yourself. Doing this will ensure you never have that “I’m a phony and everyone is about to figure it out” type of feeling again.

    Understanding that you’re not a phony is all about integrity. You are no better and no worse than you actually are.

    This is one of the hardest things to learn in life not just in the professional field. As soon as you realize who you are, who you want to be, and what you love to do, you can start to feel free in work and life.

    You will see that life’s challenges are just the thing you need to make yourself believe that you aren’t a phony.

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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