too late, too aware, and the many forms of imposter syndrome

In creativity, inspiration, learning, motivation by Jay Clouse

Working with and being around so many creative, entrepreneurial people, I see a common “excitement arch” play out a lot.

It looks like this: someone has an idea for a project, product, or even specific niche. They get super excited, and in the span of a few hours, are totally bought in on this idea.

Then they will start doing some research, either to see the competitive landscape or for inspiration. The excitement begins to wane a little bit when they see that the idea isn’t quite as unique as they originally thought — someone else does something similar, or one person they find is doing the EXACT thing they wanted.

Then the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon starts happening. It’s like when you buy a beautiful, 2010 Ford Fusion and then notice everyone else seems to be driving it too.

At this point, a ton of great, viable ideas get dropped. The excitement is gone.

“I’m too late.”

Entrepreneurship didn’t used to be so in vogue. Entrepreneurs were just people who saw problems and got frustrated to the point of wanting to make them better. It was the handyman who wanted a better tool, or the CPA who hated her company’s processes.

It wasn’t such a “lifestyle.”

And before the internet, entrepreneurs weren’t really building communities of other entrepreneurs — they were participating in their local communities, but mostly just doing their own thing. The CPA who went independent wasn’t thinking about other CPAs who went independent, and the handyman probably wasn’t thinking about someone across the country creating the same innovation at the same time.

Historically, environmental conditions, access to technology, and so on lead to the same innovations happening simultaneously, independently, across the planet.

But now that we are so connected, we are intensely aware of those other simultaneous, independent creators doing the same thing as us!

And to make matters worse, those who do it the best are also great at retargeting. You looked at this online marketer’s website? You better believe they are retargeting you using their ad pixel.

You followed Creator A? Well, you better believe Creator B’s Instagram automation is going to comment a thumbs up on your next photo!

We find ourselves in this bubble — an echo chamber — of noise we started exploring ourselves, and then is amplified by other similar ideas. Suddenly the idea we had feels like the most common idea in the world.

But the truth is, just because there are other people who are operating in a similar space doesn’t mean that you can’t also. Sure, for software or hardware products, there is probably a near winner-take-all market. But not for creators and service providers.

Just because you are seeing all the different actors in the space doesn’t mean your customer is.

And for service providers, or people focusing in a content niche, you can still carve out a great piece of that market or even beat out those other actors in the space.

When you watch the Olympics, you don’t see the athletes looking at the competitors around them — that slows them down. They are focused on running their own race.

Don’t let the voice of “I’m too late” or “I’m not unique enough” (the voice of imposter syndrome) take away your excitement.


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