I saw Terry Bradshaw speak in Tampa about a decade ago. One of the points he made was that regardless of how much of a big shot you think you are, when you die, only your close friends and family are going to be upset. He said when he hears of a big celebrity passing on, he thinks, "Oh. He died. Hmm. What's for dinner?" I took his point to be that rare is the life that makes such a difference that people will be effected by your passing.
I've agreed with that notion until Paul Newman died a few days ago. I was truly stunned and saddened at his passing.
As great and powerful as his film roles have been, he completely changed my life over 20 years ago with an insight he shared during a TV interview I was saw.
In the interview, he said that he always had the fear that one day someone would push through the crowd, grab him by the arm, and say, "It's over. It was all a mistake. You are coming back to paint houses . . ."
I understood exactly what he meant. He was describing the underlying fear that your good fortune is going to end and that someone is going to discover that you are a fraud. Psychologists call this "The Impostor Syndrome."
It was at that key moment watching this seemingly confident superstar that I understood that I was not the only person with this unique feeling of self doubt. A feeling that your success is by luck and that you are somehow getting away with it.
I am not a psychologist nor do I play one in my book, "The Impostor Syndrome." This book is about my obstacles, experiences, and the strategies I've used and developed to overcome the self doubt I lived with for many years. I thought that once I built a successful business and was receiving international acclaim for my work the self-doubt would evaporate. Instead, my self-doubt returned with a new name, The Impostor Syndrome.
The Impostor Syndrome is the feeling of being a fraud. Regardless of what is going on around you, there is a nagging feeling people will find out that you are not as smart, skilled, or talented as they think you are. It's as though you aren't the person you appear to be to the rest of the world.
This undercurrent of self-doubt makes it hard to strive for excellence because the more you draw attention to yourself; the more vulnerable you are to being unmasked.
Studies in the mid-1980s show that as much as 70% of successful people suffered from the Impostor Syndrome in varying degrees. It's difficult to know exactly how many people have achieved less or never even tried to succeed due to the Impostor Syndrome.
Paul Newman and I had that same feeling but in real life instead of a "reality show." Regardless of our individual levels of success, lingering self-doubt cast a gray cloud on our clear blue futures.
Some of the symptoms of the Impostor Syndrome include:
1. A guilty feeling you are getting away with something.
2. A feeling you're going to be exposed as an intellectual fraud or fake at some point.
3. Inability to take credit for your success or even say, "Thank You" to praise.
4. The feeling that people think you are more capable than you think you are.
While Paul Newman touched millions with his movie roles, directing, philanthropy, and living life on his terms, his influence in that simple interview changed the course of my life and helped me, in turn, to impact the lives of tens of thousands of others.
Thank you Sir. Rest in peace.
About John Graden
An award winning speaker and writer, John speaks to corporate and public audiences on the subjects of Personal and Professional Development and inspires audiences to transform the quality of their lives. He can be reached at www.JohnGraden.com and www.JohnGradenTV.com