I Am Not My Talent

One of the perils of living in Silicon Valley is the way it encourages us to develop a fixed mindset.

Our vocabulary uses the language of traits.  Someone is a “Rockstar Engineer,” or an “A Player.”  Companies like Google scrutinize candidates’ resumes, discarding those who didn’t attend the right universities.

Even successful entrepreneurs aren’t exempt.  An entrepreneur who hits a home run on her first time out is then scrutinized endlessly when she tries again.  When Color failed, Bill Nguyen was run through the ringer, despite his previously long and successful career.

The danger lies in believing that our worth depends on those traits.  My friend Jody Sherman may have taken his own life because he couldn’t live with the failure of his company, Ecomom, after all the praise and buzz it had received.  More recently, Jon Mills of Motionloft was so intent on maintaining the trappings of success that he defrauded his friends out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We define ourselves by our talent, or our accomplishments, or our reputation.  All of these are examples of relying on external validation for our self-worth.

I am not my talent.

Sure, I like to think that I’m talented, but my sense of self-worth doesn’t depend on the regard of strangers.

I am the decisions that I make, the people that I help, and the experiences that I have.

If you need validation, look inside.  The most important voices aren’t the loudest or most public; I’d rather feel good about my actions and the life I lead than worry about what others think of it.

4 thoughts on “I Am Not My Talent

  1. Arik Waldman

    Chris, IMHO, entrepreneurship is first and foremost an internal struggle. The external perception of who you are or how good your startup is matters, of course, but you have to be able to deal with "no"s and "it's never going to work"s, at least initially. Dealing with one's own self-doubt and bad times is much more important, and more much more difficult.

  2. Arik,

    The easiest way to deal with the internal struggle is to make sure that your sense of self-worth isn't tied to the success or failure of your startup. Easier said than done.

  3. Chris,

    Definitely easier said than done.
    There's a very thin line between self-awareness and self-deception…

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