One of the first things you do when you start planning to do something dramatically different with your life is you read about people who have successfully done what you aspire to do.

If you’re building an online startup you’ll read all about the overnight successes in Silicon Valley and New York. You’ll lap up best practice from blogs and books. You’ll watch countless videos and you’ll attend talks and conferences.

If you’re thinking about going on a big adventure you’ll read the blogs and bios of those who trod brave paths before you. You’ll read their books and marvel at their feats of endurance.

The result of all this reading is that you can feel extremely intimidated by the success of others. Of course you may also feel inspired but the negative side-effect of all the noise is a nagging fear that you may not be able to do what they’ve done.

Reject imposter syndrome!

One of the main things I’ve learnt over the past few years is that there are always two stories. An external one and an internal one.

The external one is the press coverage, the twitter bio, and the headline facts of someone’s success. The internal one is the stuff that is going on inside that person’s head and the journey that led them to the events that meant that you are now aware of them.

You’ll know this instinctively about yourself. Your external story (your CV or your Linkedin profile or even your Facebook profile) is only part of the picture. There is a lot more to it right?

Back when I was a management consultant (and plotting to leave) I’d stare at my CV and wonder whether the facts that were written down (the grades, the experiences, the employers) really represented the real me at all.

Think about your own CV. Those labels probably don’t represent your passions and (if you’re on the corporate treadmill) they certainly don’t represent your aspirations.

Nor do they tell me much about the internal process that you’re going through – figuring things out, deciding what you like, don’t like, and how you want to spend your precious time on this earth.

Getting to the point…

When you hear about someone else’s success and achievements and you aspire to be like them but wonder whether you are capable – just STOP. What you are doing is comparing your internal story with their external one.

And that is a mistake.

By all means learn from and be inspired by the feats of others. But don’t fall into the trap of using someone else’s external story as an excuse for why you won’t be able to do the same.

You’ve no idea of the personal challenges, doubts and fears that they’ve been through (and are no doubt still going through) in order to get to a place where you’re now thinking about what they’ve achieved.

So just give yourself a break. Don’t be intimidated by anyone else’s external story. They’re just the same as the rest of us… muddling their way through this thing called life – with varying degrees of success at managing their own internal stories.


Rob Symington (@escroberto) is Escape the City’s co-founder. He lives on a boat, owns a double decker bus called Esmerelda and a motorbike that breaks down a lot. He passionately believes that ‘just because’ things are the way they are is no justification for accepting them. The Escape team are hard at work over on the main site building Escape Profiles that help people make big career changes.

If you want to receive Escape the City blog posts directly into your inbox just click here. We write about leaving big corporates, pursuing alternative careers, building businesses, and going on big adventures. Because life is too short to do work that doesn’t matter to you.

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