Learn from Cisco co-founder Sandy Lerner and author Barbara Tuchman.
By Larry Chiang (CEO, Duck9 & Stanford University EIR)

Mis-representation is something that many truly academically qualified people fear.

I found out that that this is called the Imposter Syndrome pattern.

When we as incredibly talented, academically book-smart women enter entrepreneurship, imposter syndrome pitfalls are everywhere.

-1- That Red Sports Blazer Isn’t Me

When you’re a supermodel, you’re not allowed to utter that phrase.

If you’re working for a client that sells bright rainbow colored sport coats made of cashmere and accented with chantilly lace lining, you wear a bright rainbow colored sport coats made of cashmere and accented with chantilly lace lining.

And you embrace it.

Sometimes, in entrepreneurship, the concept of “us” is changing so quickly that embracing a temp costume change might help us overcome the imposter syndrome pattern.

-2- Will Smith’s Hitch Character

In the movie Hitch, he was encouraging a massive wardrobe update for a client that was experiencing imposter syndrome. Hitch said, “Those shoes are you. The concept of you is changing and evolving. You are growing and getting better.”

-3- Retracing Steps

Like many academically talented US high school students, I took AP chemistry. I placed out of all of my mechanical engineering requirements. At this moment when I first experienced imposter syndrome, I went and re-took all the chemistry class anyway.

My point isn’t to promote the fact that I got a job in chemical engineering with the highest starting salary that set a record for undergraduate, first year pay. It is to drive the point home of trusting a higher authority that annoint us at a certain level. We trust and embrace that new level.

-4- Dirty Self-Promotion

If there is something that makes me legendary is my ability to coach and mentor classically-trained engineers to sell something. And promote something. But the hardest thing for us women who are academically qualified and almost overly exalted… is to promote ourselves.

I cite that the imposter syndrome keeps us from selling ourselves because in the back of our mind, we know the two people in pChem that were better than is. We know the one person from Fin 254 who could NPV/WACC/TVPI better than us so we try to stay in the pecking order of a system we are no longer in. We adhere to rules from the last environment.

Female founder of Cisco Sandy Lerner, the legendary founder of Cisco told me (via Something Ventured), “First rule of a game is to know you’re in one.”

Beating the imposter syndrome requires you to know what game you’re playing and the rules of this game. Not the last game.

-5- Female Thought Leader on War

Barbara Tuchman, in her book Guns of August summarized that many generals were still trying to win the last war when they were colonels.

The point I take away from this legendary tome is prepare to transition to the next game. Set the rules of the last game aside. Voraciously learn the rules. Learn the constraints of the box and maybe venture outside the box. We play in the sandbox of entrepreneurship. We set aside our academically constrained previous game we excelled at.

We as female entrepreneurs and pre-entrepreneurs need to listen to Sandy Lerner and Barbara Tuchman.

I wish you lots of courage and luck in this road to entrepreneurship.

Editor’s note: Got a question or answer for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
Photo credit: Getty Images
About the guest blogger: Larry Chiang is CEO of Duck9. He scandalously uses his company’s credit card product to lead generate CS major founders by ‘selling’ a credit card that actually pays CS major undergrads called the “Larry Chiang Duck9ReverseAnnualFee.com” product. His fund is called “Larry Chiang Stanford G51 Fund of Stanford Founders”. He teaches ENGR 145 at Stanford as an EIR. Follow him on Twitter at @LarryChiang.